The town of Gibeah was infamous for its association with corruption and destructive immorality: it was Israel’s very own Sodom and Gomorrah (Judges 20:1-11). Sadly, the shocking events at Gibeah were no isolated incident; Hosea’s contemporaries were no better than their ancestors. The Israelite tribes had united to carry out Yahweh’s judgement on Gibeah; but now the whole nation was apostate, so God would have to bring in outsiders to judge them for their political and spiritual treachery.
It would be nice to think that Christians were immune from such problems. Yet churches can present a nice exterior, but be rotten at the core. And if a church doesn’t discipline its own members, it will be judged harshly by the outside world.
The right response (verses 11,12)
For too long Israel had been trying to enjoy all the benefits of being God’s people without putting any effort into cultivating that relationship. Threshing was relatively easy work, with an immediate reward; but there can be no threshing without the preliminary hard labour of ploughing and sowing. The hard ground must be broken up before the seed can be sown; similarly, the stubborn human heart must be broken down by repentance (and perhaps by suffering) before it can accept the transforming word of God.
“Sow righteousness for yourselves,
reap the fruit of unfailing love,
and break up your unploughed ground;
for it is time to seek the LORD,
until He comes
and showers His righteousness on you.” (verse 12)
Every act of obedience is a sowing of righteousness (Galatians 6:7,8). It can be a hard thing to do; real repentance demands sweat and sacrifice. But the time to repent is now, and the benefits will be enormous. If Israel submitted to God’s will and invested in holy living, she would once again enjoy His favour and He would make her righteous.
The alternative (verses 13-15)
The Israelites, however, persisted in sowing the seeds of their own destruction. And those who invest in sin reap a bitter harvest. They thought that they could do without God’s help – and so they would not get it. The atrocities that they had already suffered were a terrible warning of what lay in store for the rest of the country. Everything that they relied upon – military defences, religion and king – would fail them in the end.