The End of God’s Patience

Hosea 10:9-15 From the days of Gibeah, you have sinned, O Israel; there they have continued. Shall not the war against the unjust overtake them in Gibeah? 10 When I please, I will discipline them, and nations shall be gathered against them when they are bound up for their double iniquity.

11 Ephraim was a trained calf that loved to thresh, and I spared her fair neck; but I will put Ephraim to the yoke; Judah must plow; Jacob must harrow for himself. 12 Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.

13 You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your own way and in the multitude of your warriors, 14 therefore the tumult of war shall arise among your people, and all your fortresses shall be destroyed, as Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle; mothers were dashed in pieces with their children. 15 Thus it shall be done to you, O Bethel, because of your great evil. At dawn the king of Israel shall be utterly cut off.

For some reason a good number of my childhood memories are fuzzy. There are, however, a few things that are etched in my mind. One in particular is a phrase I heard constantly, “David, I’m running out of patience with you.” I’m told that I was a squirrely kid who loved to push boundaries and buttons. As I recall, my parents were, for the most part, patient with me. Eventually, however, I’d crack their patience and they’d crack down on me.

I remember one time in particular in which we were playing indoor bocce ball and I had decided to do the crappie flop around the living room every time I had a bad shot. I’m not sure how many times I got away with it before my dad eventually had enough and put my shenanigans to an abrupt end.

I have one main point this morning: God’s patience is limited as well. We must, therefore, repent of our sin because the end of God’s patience is devastating. Let’s pray, then, that God would cause us to look to Jesus today and therein find an end to our rebellion against God and peace with God.

Our God is a patient God.

Exodus 34:6 The LORD [is] merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love…

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you…

Here’s something that might be a bit hard to swallow for some, but is nevertheless the unmistakable teaching of Hosea and the rest of Scripture: Apart from Jesus every breath that you and I take is an expression of God’s patience. You see, from the beginning God has told us that sin requires death. In the Garden God told Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed him (if they sinned), they “would surely die” (Genesis 2:17). In the New Testament Paul reiterated this truth proclaiming, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). When you add that to the fact that you and I have sinned (by nature and choice; in thought, word, and deed), it’s not hard to understand that if God’s justice were all that was at work in the world, we would all already be dead. Again, one of the central teachings of the bible is that it is the patience of God that kept us alive.

To impress this point upon Israel Hosea mentioned (in 10:9) the “days of Gibeah”.

The story of Gibeah is in Judges 19. It is one of the most horrific stories in the entire bible. It concerns a nameless Levite, his concubine, and his servant. After a strange scene involving the concubine and her father, the three main characters headed out on a journey. As evening came, instead of stopping in a gentile village, the trio pressed on to Gibeah (a city within the tribal land of Benjamin). Custom required that the people of Gibeah provide lodging for the travelers. Eventually an old man took them in and cared for their needs. Here’s where things really got out of hand.

Judges 19:22-30 As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.” 23 And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. 24 Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous thing.” 25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. 26 And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, until it was light.

27 And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up, let us be going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey, and the man rose up and went away to his home. 29 And when he entered his house, he took a knife, and taking hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. 30 And all who saw it said, “Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak.”

The rest of the tribes of Israel heard this horrific news and demanded that the “worthless fellows” be handed over for justice. Everyone outside of Gibeah recognized the heinousness of the crime and demanded just punishment. Nevertheless, in spite of the obvious wickedness of the men’s actions, the tribe of Benjamin refused to hand them over. Consequently, a great civil war followed that resulted in the tribe of Benjamin nearly being completely exterminated (25,000 men were killed, leaving only 600).

That brings us back to our passage for this morning.

9 From the days of Gibeah, you have sinned, O Israel; there they have continued.

For Hosea to mention the Israelite’s sin in the same breath as the sin of the men of Gibeah was about as shocking of an accusation as he could make. It would be like you or I referring to a leader as Hitler or an event as the Holocaust.

Hosea’s point was that just as everyone outside of Gibeah could see the obvious wickedness of the men’s actions (and the complicit wickedness of their Benjamite harborers), it was equally obvious that the Israelites in his day were acting in vile, vile ways. The nation had not learned her lesson from Gibeah, but from the days of that terrible event, “you have sinned, O Israel.”

Hosea did’t stop there, though. He pressed on, arguing that if it was just for the Israelites to destroy the rapists of Gibeah as well as their protectors, it was just for God, in his day, to destroy the Israelite adulterers (“Shall not the war against the unjust overtake them in Gibeah?”). Truly, the fact that God had not already done so was due only to his patience. Israel did not deserve mercy, but for many years God had given it; and just as he was under no obligation to give it in the first place and no obligation to continue it. Indeed, God had sent Hosea precisely because His patience was quickly running out.

Therefore, we read in v.10, “When I please, I will discipline them, and nations shall be gathered against them when they are bound up for their double iniquity.” Again, just as God rightly gathered the Israelites to execute judgment upon Benjamin in the past, so here God had rightly gathered the Assyrians to execute judgment upon Israel. God is patient, but eventually, if we continue in unrepentant sin, his patience will end.

This is true for you and I as well, Grace. Our tendency is to run quickly to the cross of Jesus; and that is right and good. But we must do so in full knowledge of what that means. Too many people in the Church today have treated it as an excuse for indifference to sin. Running to the cross, however, is not a license to sin, but a declaration of war on it and a promise that it’s pull on us will be severed! Listen to the words of the Apostles to the Church.

1 Corinthians 15:34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning.

Hebrews 10:26-27 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. However, the only trustworthy way to know that we’ve received God’s grace and possess genuine, saving faith is not by remembering a day that we prayed a prayer of felt a feeling, but by the presence of a continual heart of repentance. Where you find someone persistently indifferent to sin you have found a non-Christian. The same grace that saves us from our sin, rescues us from our appetite for it. Where there is no genuine growth in holiness, there is no salvation!

This is some scary stuff we’re talking about here. Hosea just announced that there is a limit to God’s patience. At some point he will bring death to those who persist in rebellion.

Before moving on to the specific consequences that God had in store for Israel, astonishingly, we see yet another expression of God’s patience. In verse 11 Hosea drew Israel’s attention back to a different time, a time of faithfulness to God.

11 Ephraim was a trained calf that loved to thresh, and I spared her fair neck…

Again, there was a time in which the people of Israel honored God. God had trained her in righteousness and she loved to obey (“thresh”). Therefore, God did not treat her harshly, but kindly and her burden was light (“I spared her fair neck”).

Those times have past though and so apart from a return to faithful obedience, God “will put Ephraim to the yoke; Judah must plow; Jacob must harrow for himself.” That is, because of Israel’s sin and God’s nearly exhausted patience for it, if she were to continue on her current path, where she once knew rest, she will now know burden. Where she once knew blessing, she will now know famine. Where she once knew God’s help, she will now know his departing.

Again, however, Hosea pleaded with Israel to change course. In spite of all her sin and unfaithfulness God still held out an offer of forgiveness and reconciliation.

12 Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.

Grace hear these words! Even now, no matter what you’ve done or failed to do, if you will repent, turn from your sin to Jesus (“sow for yourselves righteousness”), you will “reap steadfast love,” you will know the kindness and mercy and forgiveness of God.

Hear this offer of grace another way! If you will “break up your fallow ground” and “seek the LORD,” even now, even with all the ways you’ve sinned against him and the people in your life, even now he will “come and rain righteousness upon you.” He will forgive you and free you. The sinful road that you have walked may be very fallow (hard packed), there may be a well worn trail of hurt and suffering and broken relationships, but if you turn from your sin and seek God, he will send sweet rain to soften the ground and allow you to plant seeds of righteousness again. He will restore all that your sin has destroyed.

Listen to this plea. If you are not a Christian, hear today the good news of the Christian faith, won on the cross by Jesus: As long as you have breath it is never too late to turn from your sin. Your breath equals God’s patience. You cannot have sinned so much or so badly that you are outside of God’s promise of forgiveness to all who will repent and believe.

And Christian, do not close your eyes to the example of God. Do not be an impatient, unforgiving person. Do not be quick to withdraw your love and mercy. Do not give into a hardening or embittering of your heart. Be softened by the example of God’s eagerness to forgive in spite of all that Israel had done.

Israel refused to heed this warning. Thus, in spite of centuries of patience in the face of horrendous sin, in spite of God’s continual offers of grace, Israel still chose to remain in her sin. And in the final verses of this chapter we see clearly that if we refuse to relent, if we hold fast to our sin, if we persist in our rebellion against God and refuse his grace in Jesus, one day we will know the devastating end to God’s patience.

Truly, the end of God’s patience is no small thing. I want to close this morning, then, by pointing out the three ways to exhaust God’s patience mentioned by Hosea (13) and the four devastating consequences (14-15).

Ways to Exhaust God’s Patience

  1. Sow Iniquity and Reap Injustice (13). “You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice…” As we saw last week, we will reap what we plant. Here Hosea warned the Israelites that God’s patience had ended because they continued to sow (plow) sin and reap injustice. In Galatians 6:7-8 the Apostle Paul worded it this way, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” If you want to find the limits of God’s patience, persist in sewing sin and reaping its fruit of injustice.
  2. Eat the Fruit of Lies (13). “…you have eaten the fruit of lies…” Sin always involves a lie. It always results from believing in something that goes against the Word of God. To believe and spread lies, then, is to be a friend of the Evil One and an enemy of God. If you want to find the limits of God’s patience, persist in eating the fruit of lies.
  3. Trust in Your Own Ways and Strength (13). “…Because you have trusted in your own way and in the multitude of your warriors…” God’s blessing had made Israel confident in the blessing instead of the Blesser. For centuries she had been repeatedly warned of this, but steadfastly refused to listen. To the prophet Ezekiel God said it this way, “Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered, but in his injustice that he has done he shall die” (33:13). If you want to find the limits of God’s patience, persist in trusting in your own ways and power or anything else other than God himself.

Because of these things, because of Israel’s refusal to repent of them, God’s patience had been exhausted. He would, therefore, destroy them. Look with me at vs.14 and 15 to see what that meant.

Consequences for Exhausting God’s Patience

  1. War Would Come (14). “…therefore the tumult of war shall arise among your people…” As Hosea prophesied to Israel, she was living in the last remnants of the blessings God had given her fathers for their faithfulness. She had known peace, but was soon to know the unbearable devastation of war. That is, she was soon to know suffering on all sides. Because she’d exhausted God’s patience, nothing but anguish, destruction, and chaos were at hand.
  2. Every Defense Would Be Destroyed (14). “…and all your fortresses shall be destroyed, as Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle…” We don’t know who Shalman was or what the battle of Beth-arbel was, but we do know that God would remove from Israel everything that she has wrongly placed her hope in. In her sin Israel felt safe because her walls and armies were big. But Hosea’s message to her was that those things can only hold back a gnat because of the strength of God; and God would soon remove it all because Israel had exhausted his patience. She would now be entirely exposed and vulnerable.
  3. Mothers and Children Would Be Crushed (14). “…mothers were dashed in pieces with their children…” It’s hard to imagine a more horrific picture of the judgment that awaited Israel. Hosea verbally held Israel’s head up and forced her to consider the slaughter of her women and children. Many have rejected the very existence of a God who would ordain such a thing (and it’s important that we wrestle through this), but the simple reality is that Hosea believed in such a God and that such consequences were just for those who’d exhausted God’s patience by their centuries-long treason.
  4. Rulers Would Be Cut Off (15). “…Thus it shall be done to you, O Bethel, because of your great evil. At dawn the king of Israel shall be utterly cut off.” God’s patience was gone and therefore even the most powerful among the people of God would taste death and destruction. None would survive.

What devastating news! Israel had finally reached the end of God’s long-suffering. The Assyrians, as an extension of God’s hand, were at the doorstep of Israel and would soon, as an extension of God’s judgment, force Israel to experience the justice she’d long avoided.

Grace, do not believe for a second that anything more bearable awaits us if follow Israel’s path of unrepentant sin and rebellion. Don’t believe for a moment that our fate will be better if we refuse to turn from our sin and to Jesus. Don’t believe for a moment that God’s patience for us apart from Christ will outlast those to whom Hosea prophesied.

The message for you and I, once again, is this: Your sin and mine mean that we deserve the fullness of the wrath of God. We are alive today only because of the patience of God. But Hosea and Paul both remind us of the danger of presuming God’s patience.

Romans 2:4-5 do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

And yet, once again, in spite of all our sin and rebellion God nevertheless offers—not merely to continue to be patient with us but—to completely wipe away every trace of our sin and begin to remove every appetite for it. God offers those things to everyone who will receive them in his Son, Jesus Christ. Wherever you’ve been and whatever you’ve done you can find rescue today—right now—in Jesus. He will forgive you and wash you clean. The great invitation of God in Christ is this: instead of continuing to test the patience of God—which will eventually run out and bring with it devastating consequences—“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.”

From the Word of God this is our warning and offer of rescue. Let us all find it today in Jesus even as we turn to the meal that he gave to us in remembrance and proclamation of his offer of life.