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What does Hosea 10:12 mean?


What is the context of this passage in Hosea?

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Hosea 10:12 Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.

The twelve tribes of Israel had split into two kingdoms when Solomon’s son Rehoboam began to reign. The kingdom of Judah in the south with its capital Jerusalem was composed mostly of Judah and Benjamin. The other ten tribes became the kingdom of Israel in the north with its capital in Samaria.

Hosea lived and prophesied in the northern Kingdom of Israel.

Hosea 1:1 The word of the LORD that came to Hosea the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.

The northern Kingdom of Israel was taken into captivity by the Assyrians in the sixth year of Hezekiah’s reign, some 32 years after Jeroboam’s death.

2 Kings 18:10 And at the end of three years they took it. In the sixth year of Hezekiah, that is, the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken. 11 Then the king of Assyria carried Israel away captive to Assyria, and put them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes,

Israel was doing evil in the sight of God and Hosea was sent to warn them of the consequences. His message was that they should turn from the evil and do that which was right in the sight of God. If they did God would reward them. He uses the metaphor of ploughing the fallow ground (changing the way they live), sowing seed (living righteously) and reaping the harvest (of mercy - forgiveness of sin) after God has given the rain (imputed righteousness to them at the end).

Some 135 years later Jeremiah was sent with a similar message to the kingdom of Judah prior to the Babylonian captivity.

Jeremiah 4:3 For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: "Break up your fallow ground, And do not sow among thorns.

Neither the ten tribes nor the two tribes took any notice collectively but the message was effective for individuals who would listen. For those who responded the eternal inheritance in the land promised through their father Abraham will be realised in kingdom of God when their Messiah returns.

Genesis 17:8 "Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."

At Christ’s return the kingdom of Israel will be re-established with Christ as their king.

Luke 1: 32 "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 "And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."

‘Till He comes and rains righteousness on you’ is prophetic of the coming righteous reign of Christ and the new covenant which will be made with Israel.

Psalms 72:6 He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing, Like showers that water the earth. 7 In His days the righteous shall flourish, And abundance of peace, Until the moon is no more. 8 He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.

Jeremiah 33:5 "Behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. 6 In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. 7 "Therefore, behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "that they shall no longer say, ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ 8 "but, ‘As the LORD lives who brought up and led the descendants of the house of Israel from the north country and from all the countries where I had driven them.’ And they shall dwell in their own land."

At that time God will make a new covenant with the nation of Israel.

Jeremiah 31:31 "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. 33 "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 "No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."

The writer to the Hebrews uses this to show that the Law of Moses has been replaced by the Law of Christ.

Hebrews 8:8 Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 9 "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD. 10 "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 "None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12 "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." 13 In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Those who hear the gospel and are baptised into Christ are under this new covenant.

The exhortation of Hosea to the northern kingdom is relevant for us today. This is seen in Christ’s parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-23). We are to examine our lives against the word of God and make the necessary changes to conform to the example of righteousness set by Christ. When he returns we will reap the reward of everlasting life in the kingdom of God.

Hebrews 2:3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
Hebrews 3:13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Isaiah 55:6 Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. 8 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. 9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 "For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, 11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. 12 "For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; And it shall be to the LORD for a name, For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."

James 5:7 Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. 8 You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

I hope this helps.

Glenn Smith

 
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