Hosea 12 & Psalm 135-136

Hosea

Chapter 12

    Ephraim feeds on the wind
        and pursues the east wind all day long;
    they multiply falsehood and violence;
        they make a covenant with Assyria,
        and oil is carried to Egypt.
    
    
        The LORD has an indictment against Judah
        and will punish Jacob according to his ways;
        he will repay him according to his deeds.
    In the womb he took his brother by the heel,
        and in his manhood he strove with God.
    He strove with the angel and prevailed;
        he wept and sought his favor.
    He met God at Bethel,
        and there God spoke with us—
    the LORD, the God of hosts,
        the LORD is his memorial name:
    “So you, by the help of your God, return,
        hold fast to love and justice,
        and wait continually for your God.”
    
    
    A merchant, in whose hands are false balances,
        he loves to oppress.
    Ephraim has said, “Ah, but I am rich;
        I have found wealth for myself;
    in all my labors they cannot find in me iniquity or sin.”
    I am the LORD your God
        from the land of Egypt;
    I will again make you dwell in tents,
        as in the days of the appointed feast.
    
    
    I spoke to the prophets;
        it was I who multiplied visions,
        and through the prophets gave parables.
    If there is iniquity in Gilead,
        they shall surely come to nothing:
    in Gilgal they sacrifice bulls;
        their altars also are like stone heaps
        on the furrows of the field.
    Jacob fled to the land of Aram;
        there Israel served for a wife,
        and for a wife he guarded sheep.
    By a prophet the LORD brought Israel up from Egypt,
        and by a prophet he was guarded.
    Ephraim has given bitter provocation;
        so his Lord will leave his bloodguilt on him
        and will repay him for his disgraceful deeds.

(Hosea 12 ESV)


Psalm 

Chapter 135

    Praise the LORD!
    Praise the name of the LORD,
        give praise, O servants of the LORD,
    who stand in the house of the LORD,
        in the courts of the house of our God!
    Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good;
        sing to his name, for it is pleasant!
    For the LORD has chosen Jacob for himself,
        Israel as his own possession.
    
    
    For I know that the LORD is great,
        and that our Lord is above all gods.
    Whatever the LORD pleases, he does,
        in heaven and on earth,
        in the seas and all deeps.
    He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth,
        who makes lightnings for the rain
        and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.
    
    
    He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
        both of man and of beast;
    who in your midst, O Egypt,
        sent signs and wonders
        against Pharaoh and all his servants;
    who struck down many nations
        and killed mighty kings,
    Sihon, king of the Amorites,
        and Og, king of Bashan,
        and all the kingdoms of Canaan,
    and gave their land as a heritage,
        a heritage to his people Israel.
    
    
    Your name, O LORD, endures forever,
        your renown, O LORD, throughout all ages.
    For the LORD will vindicate his people
        and have compassion on his servants.
    
    
    The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
        the work of human hands.
    They have mouths, but do not speak;
        they have eyes, but do not see;
    they have ears, but do not hear,
        nor is there any breath in their mouths.
    Those who make them become like them,
        so do all who trust in them.
    
    
    O house of Israel, bless the LORD!
        O house of Aaron, bless the LORD!
    O house of Levi, bless the LORD!
        You who fear the LORD, bless the LORD!
    Blessed be the LORD from Zion,
        he who dwells in Jerusalem!
    Praise the LORD!

(Psalm 135 ESV)


Psalm

Chapter 136

    Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
        for his steadfast love endures forever.
    Give thanks to the God of gods,
        for his steadfast love endures forever.
    Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
    
    
    to him who alone does great wonders,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
    to him who by understanding made the heavens,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
    to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
    to him who made the great lights,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
    the sun to rule over the day,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
    the moon and stars to rule over the night,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
    
    
    to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
    and brought Israel out from among them,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
    with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
    to him who divided the Red Sea in two,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
    and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
    but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
    to him who led his people through the wilderness,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
    
    
    to him who struck down great kings,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
    and killed mighty kings,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
    Sihon, king of the Amorites,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
    and Og, king of Bashan,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
    and gave their land as a heritage,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
    a heritage to Israel his servant,
        for his steadfast love endures forever.
    
    
    It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
    and rescued us from our foes,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
    he who gives food to all flesh,
        for his steadfast love endures forever.
    
    
    Give thanks to the God of heaven,
        for his steadfast love endures forever.

(Psalm 136 ESV)

For the Love of God

D.A. Carson

 

SOME PSALMS GIVE US A glimpse of ancient Israelite worship, and Psalm 136 is one of them. Probably this was sung antiphonally: either a restricted part of the choir, or one part of the congregation in the temple would sing the lead line of each cycle, and the whole congregation would burst out and respond with “His love endures forever.” Comparing 136:18-22 with 135:10b-12 suggests that some other psalms were sung this way too. In Jewish tradition this psalm is known as the Great Hallel, “the Great Psalm of Praise.” The refrain itself celebrates God’s “love”: the Hebrew word is hesed, notoriously difficult to render consistently by one English word. The King James Version opts for “steadfast love.” It is bound up with God’s faithfulness to the covenant, and in various contexts might properly be rendered “grace,” “love,” even “covenant-fidelity” — with overtones of a reciprocal obligation.

What makes this psalm so thought-provoking is not the compactness of the refrain but its connection with a vast grounding of evidence — evidence that God’s love endures forever. The psalm speaks of God’s character (136:1), the sweep of his sovereignty (136:2-3), his creative power (136:4-9), the extraordinary displays of his might when he redeemed his people from Egypt (136:10-22), and his mercy displayed alike to his elect and to every creature under heaven that needs food (136:23-25). Contrast this specificity with more than a few contemporary praise choruses that endlessly exhort us to praise the Lord, without telling us why we should praise the Lord, or perhaps giving us only a reason or two. In the choruses, the emphasis tends to be on worship; here, the emphasis is on the One who is worshiped, such that the worship has the flavor of being no more than the inevitable response to so great a God. The one focuses on what we do, the other on who God is and what he has done.

Some final reflections: (1) The expression “Give thanks” that opens the first three verses and the last suggests more than a casual “Thanks a lot.” It has to do with “confessing” (in the old-fashioned sense), “acknowledging” (with thoughtful God-centeredness), with grateful worship.

(2) This God brooks no rivals. He is the God of gods, the Lord of lords (136:2, 3). (3) Informed as they are by pluralism, our ears find it strange to append the refrain “His love endures forever” to such lines as “who struck down great kings” and “[h]e swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea.” But these actions were expressions of God’s elective love for his chosen people. The notion that God loves all people exactly the same way and in every respect finds little support in Scripture.