Last week's letter was concluded with an excerpt from 1 Corinthians 15:55; "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?" Paul quoted these words from Hosea 13:14. In its original context this text forms part of an address to Ephraim. Earlier on in the same chapter YHVH declares: "He [Ephraim] exalted himself in Israel, but through Baal [pride] he did wrong and died. And now they sin more and more, and make for themselves molten images, idols skillfully made from their silver, all of them the work of craftsmen. They say of them, 'Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves!'… "Their heart became proud; therefore, they forgot Me" (Hosea 13:1-2, 6). The sin of pride and self idolatry (as expressed in the worship of Baal) has indeed brought death upon Ephraim. Thus YHVH told them in no uncertain terms that He would tear their evil heart out of their chest (ref v.8). Ephraim's fondness of and propensity for sin caused YHVH to also decree that He would be like a lion, a bear, a leopard and a wild beast to them (ref Hosea 13:7-8).
In the book of Daniel mention was made of the same four beasts, which symbolized four major world empires that were destined to shape world history (Dan. 7:4-7). Thus Israel, being at the very center of YHVH's machinations, fell into the hands of those whom He had selected as His instruments. YHVH rejected and cast these sons away to the lion (Assyria/Babylon). Later Israel encountered the bear (Medeo-Persian empire), and then received his new identity from the leopard (Greek). Finally he was dispersed into all nations, devoured, as it were, by the wild beast of the Roman and Holy Roman empires. Yet while in this condition YHVH multiplied him exceedingly, and he became, as prophesied, "the fullness of the gentiles/nations". Was this actually the end of the identifiable Ephraim/Israel? Not according to YHVH's words of promise… However, for restoration the Almighty placed conditions upon His firstborn son: "Return, O Israel, to YHVH your Elohim, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take words with you and return to YHVH. Say to Him, 'take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously, that we may present the fruit of our lips. Assyria will not save us, we will not ride on horses; nor will we say again, 'our god,' to the work of our hands; for in Thee the orphan finds mercy'" (Hos 14: 1-2). And again, in Jeremiah, it is recorded that when Ephraim, under the chastisement of his Elohim, cries out in repentance YHVH hears and response: "I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself: 'You have chastised me, and I was chastised, like an untrained bull; restore me, and I will return, for You are YHVH my Elohim. Surely, after my turning, I repented; and after I was instructed, I struck myself on the thigh; I was ashamed, yes, even humiliated, because I bore the reproach of my youth.' "Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still; therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says YHVH" (Jeremiah 31:18-20). Thus, because of His great love YHVH enacts a "New Covenant" with the Houses of Israel and Judah.
Within the past decade or so, YHVH has been restoring Israel the orphan to his true identity. With this turn about of destiny comes, of course, the responsibility to repent, that is to go full force into a process of "smiting the thigh" and to atone for many flagrant iniquities and atrocities preformed against Elohim by our forefathers, as well as by our own doing when we were walking in darkness and ignorance. But is Ephraim fulfilling what has been foretold? Is he truly "smiting his thigh in repentance for the sin of his youth"? Or are pride and self-righteousness of youth, which constitute Baal worship, still active? Are B'ney Ephraim still worshipping the works of their hands (that is, their achievements)? And even now, is not Ephraim's blessed return to Torah marred quite often by strife, jealousy, envy, competitiveness and contention as to who has the "right" interpretation of YHVH's Word?
Our indebtedness and deep gratitude to Abba for the richness of Torah treasures that He has bestowed upon this restoration movement, should cause us all to handle them with an attitude of "kodesh" (holiness), great care, and respect. Thus, in our pursuit of Torah knowledge and the restoration of the Hebraic mindset, which is the mind of Messiah, we cannot run the race in a Greco-Roman fashion or style. Let us take our leave of the gymnasiums, arenas and hippodromes for a secure dwelling place under the vines and fig tress of the true Torah, brought about through the blood of the New Covenant.
YHVH seals off the book of Hosea with the following: "O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like a luxuriant cypress; from Me comes your fruit. Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of YHVH are right, and the righteous will walk in them, but transgressors will stumble in them" (Hos 14: 8-9 emphases added).