Explore The Bible: The Sin Harvested

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Do you enjoy a glass of orange juice for breakfast or like to eat an orange or other fruit for a snack? Have you ever considered what is involved in producing this fruit? Have you ever wondered what would happen if a citrus tree produced bad fruit? Hosea uses agricultural language in the passages in Lifeway's Explore the Bible Study: The Sin Harvested, to describe the bad fruit Israel was producing because of sin.

My dad purchased a small citrus grove when he was a young man. He worked hard over the years to keep the trees healthy so they could produce good fruit. However, the trees always faced the threat of disease. Because of this he had to continually prune the trees, monitor the trees for disease, and spray the trees regularly. There were times when disease would take over a tree and that tree would have to be cut down, the roots removed, and a new tree planted. His work in the grove was non-stop.

My dad eventually sold the grove but the non-stop maintenance of the grove continued. Sadly, after decades of ongoing care the entire grove was no longer producing good fruit because of disease. The grove of trees that my dad worked so hard to keep healthy for decades succumbed to the diseases that threatened it, and all the trees had to be removed and replaced with completely new trees. 

My dad's experience illustrates what took place with the Israelites. Israel had continually ignored and neglected their relationship with the Lord. The product was disastrous. With each decision to rebel and do what was right in their own eyes, their relationship with the Lord drifted further and further away until God had to act on their sin. Just like a citrus grower who has to stop the disease that threatens his grove, God had to deal with sin because it was destroying His people.

As God’s people, we are to produce good fruit. Colossians 1:10 reminds us that, as believers, we are to “walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.” We should realize by what takes place in today’s passage, that God will not ignore our sin because He wants us to produce good fruit.

First you will see that God will identify the sin that is preventing the production of good fruit.

God will identify the sin that is preventing His people from producing good fruit – Hosea 10:5-8

The first sin that was preventing the production of good fruit was false worship. This false worship involved a calf-idol that the residents of Samaria worshipped. This idol was in Beth-aven. Beth-aven means “house of wickedness/iniquity” and was a derogatory expression Hosea used for Bethel. This sacred place where Abraham once called on the name of the Lord had now become a place where his descendants cried out to Baal.

Hosea declared that God was removing the glory of this calf-idol. The calf-idol of Beth-aven the Israelites so deeply revered was to be taken into captivity by the Assyrians. False worship was not the only sin that needed to be pruned. 

Hosea also declares that the capital, Samaria, would be destroyed and her king would be like “foam” or a twig “on the surface of the waters.” All three centers of authority in the Northern Kingdom would be pruned – the king, the capital city, and the religious false-worship.

The idolatrous priests who rejoiced as they attended this idol were going to mourn over its loss. The people of Israel would experience feelings of shame when it was carried away into captivity. When the city was destroyed it “would be accompanied by the cries of a miserable people. They would cry out to the mountains and hills for a sudden earthquake to take their lives and end their suffering and shame.” (ETB Leader Commentary)

Everything that once was good and produced good fruit had now become diseased by the sin of compromise and false worship. The Israelites' hope for security had been placed in everything but God, and now they would suffer the consequences. Hosea’s prophecy was fulfilled in 722 BC, when Israel’s king Hoshea was taken into Assyrian captivity – 2 Kings 17:4.

In what ways might believers be acting in the same manner today? In what religious practices or governmental practices might we place our security over God? Do you think believers today would recognize when God is addressing their sins? 

The sins that were destroying the spiritual and moral health of the people of God did not happen overnight. They had been creeping in for hundreds of years. God had continually been pruning and shaping the people of God so that they might not succumb to the sins that would produce bad fruit. Sadly, they didn’t learn. Now God would have to take drastic measures so they could one day produce good fruit once again.

God takes drastic measures when sin continually prevents His people from producing good fruit – Hosea 10:9-11

Throughout the Old Testament we see how God’s people continually rebelled against God by doing only what was right in their own eyes.  Hosea points to a specific incident to illustrate this. The expression “the days of Gibeah” illustrates Israel’s religious and moral decay. It is a reference to the events recorded in Judges 19–20 related to a Levite traveling with his concubine, the Levite allowing her to be sexually abused by wicked men, and the retribution and conflict that ensued as a result between the tribes of Israel and Benjamin, Gibeah’s tribe. Thousands on both sides were killed, leaving only six hundred men from the Benjamin tribe alive.

Hosea used this incident to point out that nothing had changed. Israel had continued to be spiritually bankrupt and morally corrupt. This continued rebellion was not going to be tolerated by God any longer.

Hosea also described Israel as a “well-trained calf,” that was strong enough to thresh, most likely referring to a cow separating the grain by walking around the threshing floor. While the cows did this, they were allowed complete freedom to eat while they worked. This presented a picture of the liberty Israel was enjoying before they were taken into captivity.  

The freedom Israel experienced only resulted in more sin and disloyalty to the Lord resulting in God placing a yoke on the “fine neck” of His people. They would lose their freedom and experience the oppressive yoke of exile.

Like a farmer who had to resort to drastic measures to prevent a disease from spreading, God was going to deal drastically with the sins of Israel.

When you observe the continued downward spiral taking place today, do you sometimes wonder when God is going to say, “Enough is enough”?

If you are a believer, do you have areas in which you continually compromise? Have you ever considered when God might say the same to you?

Allowing sin to take hold results in the production of bad fruit – Hosea 10:13-15

Here is the way Hosea described the bad fruit that Israel was producing:

  • Israel plowed wickedness – What do you envision when you read this? How does one plow wickedness?
  • Israel reaped injustice – How does plowing wickedness reap injustice?
  • Israel ate the fruit of lies – In Genesis 3:1-5 we see man “eating the fruit of lies” presented by the Serpent, Satan – "Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’” “No! You will certainly not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Man ate the fruit of lies offered by Satan. Part of that lie was that man could become like God. Man has continually chosen to eat of this fruit of lies ever since, including the people of God, Israel. They quit depending on God and set themselves up as the center of their universe.
  • Israel trusted in their own way and their soldiers (military might) –The ETB Commentary describes “their own way” like this: “It was everything their society was built upon. It was their syncretistic worship of calling out to the Lord while worshiping false gods, their disloyalty to their covenant with Him, their installation of kings without any consideration of God’s will in the matter, their seeking foreign alliances instead of seeking the Lord, their trust in their own military fortifications instead of in the Lord, their promiscuity, injustice, and violence.”

Read Hosea 10:14-15 again. What are your thoughts regarding how God was going to deal with their sin? Is it harsh? Is it not harsh enough? If you were holy God, how would you respond?

Read Matthew 7:16-20.  How does this help us understand the priority for producing good fruit if we profess to be followers of Christ?

How to Produce Good Fruit Again

There is one more passage we need to examine because it reminds us of what it takes in order to produce good fruit once again. Hosea 10:12 says this is how we can once again produce good fruit: Sow righteousness for yourselves and reap faithful love; break up your unplowed ground. It is time to seek the Lord until he comes and sends righteousness on you like the rain.

How do we sow righteousness for ourselves?

If we sow righteousness, what will we reap? (God’s faithful love)

What does it mean to “break up your unplowed ground”? How do we go about breaking up unplowed spiritual ground?

What actions would reveal that we are seeking the Lord until He comes?

When you see God’s promise to “send righteousness on you like the rain,” what does this communicate to you?

Galatians 5:22-26 reminds that the “fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Colossians 1:10 challenges us to“walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

When we compare these passages to the judgment brought upon Israel by God, we should be reminded that we should be producers of good fruit that honors God and points people to Jesus for their salvation. 

Examine your life this week and consider the areas in which you are producing good fruit. Thank God for the blessings of the fruit that is evident in your life because of your commitment to Him. If God has revealed to you areas in which you are allowing sin to destroy your ability to produce good fruit, confess that sin, make a commitment to sow righteousness, break up the unplowed spiritual ground, and seek the Lord!

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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