Near the end of that very difficult passage is a statement that a few months ago in my Bible reading really took ahold of me — verse 19,
“A wind has wrapped them in its wings.”
A wind has wrapped them in its wings. Say that with me if you would. A wind has wrapped them in its wings. What does that mean? Before we try to identify what the wind is and what it means to be wrapped up, confined, carried along, let’s just imagine for a moment the experience that is being described here.
When I was young, I was at my grandparents’ … they lived on a lake in Maine … when a hurricane came through. I remember peering out of the basement across the lake, and you could see boats being tossed like toys, huge trees thrown down. Anything in the way of this wind was swept away.
Or if you’ve ever been caught in a rip tide, a rip current, where you could be a very strong swimmer, but suddenly you’re going in a direction you did not intend.
Or if you’ve ever been caught in a crowd panicking. Some of us from church were in Ethiopia when the Ethiopian national team beat the South African national team in soccer. And if we were on the street … Fortunately at that moment we were in a car … But in a moment, the entire street was full and heading in a particular direction that you could not go any way but the direction that that crowd was going, or you would be crushed. The wind has wrapped them up in its wings.
Now, in order to understand what this is … this is where I’m going to need your help … the camera needs to pull back, and we need to look at what is Hosea about anyway? What was the time like as a book as a whole? And then chapter 4, what is he talking about? Could he possibly use the word “whore” more? Please! And then we need to move a little closer to the immediate context where this statement is made. So, can you hang with me as we do that broad look and then move closer to try to answer the question “what does it mean when a wind has wrapped someone in its wings?”
So, Hosea is a Hebrew prophet ministering 8th century BC. So, this a little over seven hundred years before Jesus, during the reign of Jeroboam II, king of the northern kingdom. So, think of Israel as, this time northern kingdom, southern kingdom — southern kingdom, Judah, northern kingdom called Israel. And the book of Hosea tracks the northern kingdom’s dying days from the heights of prosperity under Jeroboam II to the depths of captivity when Assyria wipes out Israel and takes them away into bondage. So, that’s the over-arching setting.
Now, the book of Hosea begins with what could be called a prophetic parable in chapters 1-3, or an enacted parable, a sermon with sandals. Hosea is called by God to marry a prostitute in order to act out what Israel is doing in their relationship with God. Her name is Gomer, and we don’t know if she was a prostitute when he married her, or God is telling Hosea she will become one. But she has three children who embody the unfaithfulness of Israel. And yet in the midst of that, you’ll see, in the first three chapters, the key to understanding the message of Hosea — that yes, Israel is unfaithful; God is faithful in the midst of their unfaithfulness. A prophetic parable, chapters 1-3.
Then the second half of the book, 4-14, could be called a prophetic lawsuit. And that is God’s legal case against his people Israel for their violations of the covenant. It moves from indicting to sentencing, the punishment, to restoring and all the blessings. You can see these throughout the book. Let’s move closer. Chapter 4, what is that about?
It describes the high point in Israel’s prosperity. Under Jeroboam II Israel experienced a time of prosperity unlike any since Solomon, primarily because their greatest foe, Assyria, was currently distracted with internal and other international problems, and so. They left them alone. So, Israel was allowed to expand; their military expanded their borders. The economy was also booming. Archeologists have discovered from this period what are known as “Sumeria Ostraca.” These are pieces of pottery with ink writing that were used as letters or receipts for financial transactions. They described the purchasing and shipping of fine wine and high-quality olive oil. And if you look really closely at the letters, you can see a store by the name of ABC. It’s not obvious, but it’s there. The economy is booming. But their souls are shriveling, and their society is spiraling into social and moral chaos. And so, God comes as a prosecuting attorney, and he levels some serious charges that are outlined, as we just heard read in chapter 4. Let’s summarize these.
First, the three general charges. Verse 1,
“Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel, for the Lord has a controversy.”
That’s lawsuit vocabulary. He has a legal case with the inhabitants of the land. Three things —
“There is no faithfulness,”
Hebrew word “emeth,” which literally means no firmness, usually translated no truth or no faithfulness, and no “hesed,” no loyal love, no
So, there’s no truth, no love. Why? Because thirdly, there’s
“no knowledge of God in the land.”
And therefore, six specific violations —
“swearing, lying, murder, stealing, committing adultery.” [Hosea 4:2]
They break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. So, their worship disorder leads to social disorder that results in the most vulnerable being discarded.
“Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens, and even the fish of the sea are taken away.”
What does that mean? That is a picture of shalom-lessness. Are you familiar with the Hebrew word for peace? It’s “shalom.” And peace wasn’t, in a Hebrew sense, just an inner tranquility. It is a wholeness. Things are the way they’re supposed to be. And so, when you have no shalom, the picture that’s being painted is everyone is harmed, right down to the animal kingdom. The whole thing is twisted. These are the charges.
Then second, he moves closer to talk about the sins of the leaders. Verses 4-11,
“Yet let no one contend, let no one accuse, for with you is my contention, O priest. For you stumble by day; the prophet also shall stumble with you by night; I will destroy your mother.”
Now, we all know it’s easy, especially in a culture that doesn’t have streetlights, to stumble at night. The picture here is you’re tripping up even in the bright of day, at times when you should not stumble. And it is part of … If you look back at the curses for covenant disloyalty, this is one of them. You will stumble even when you shouldn’t be stumbling. Verse 6,
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of God, I also will forget your children.”
Now, this is a vivid picture of the difference between a Western view of knowledge and a Hebraic view of knowledge. We’re going to get into this in a few weeks as we start 2 Peter, which is huge on that. In the Western mind, you can know things; it just doesn’t translate into action. We think of knowledge as “I got to get another degree. I got to learn more facts. I got to Google.” You know, that’s knowledge. But from a Hebraic perspective, if you think you know something and it doesn’t translate into a change in the way you live, you don’t really know it. And that’s what he’s talking about here. You’ve rejected knowledge, but they could have had many degrees. But you’ve rejected knowledge, and you’ve forgotten. What does that mean?
Now, he’s not talking there about a little cognitive lapse like happens to some of us when we walk out of Walmart. It’s like, where’s my car? Not that kind of forgotten. This is more like when you get home late at night and your wife says, “Where have you been? I’ve texted you. I’ve called you.” “Well, I was on a date. I was hanging out with this woman at the bar, and it suddenly occurred to me halfway through the evening … I’m married. I totally forgot! Can you believe it? But I’m home now.” Would your wife respond, “Oh, it happens to everybody. I lost my keys the other day. We have those senior moments”? That’s not what it’s talking about. It’s not like “oops, I forgot to feed the dog.” This is covenantal forgetting. You don’t forget a covenant. But you have forgotten the law of your God. As their bank accounts grow, their spiritual amnesia swells. Verse 7,
“The more they increased, the more they sinned against me; I will change their glory and into shame.”
“They shall eat, but not be satisfied; they shall play the whore, but not multiply, because they have forsaken the Lord to cherish whoredom, wine, and new wine, which take away the understanding.”
Are you starting to get the picture? A wind has wrapped them in its wings. In verse 12, he moves more specifically into the sins of the people. And in verse 12 he says the people are guilty of “rhabdomancy,” rhabdomancy, which is the divination with sticks and rods. Verse 12,
“My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles. For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the whore. They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth, because the shade is good.”
Now you can just hear the broken heart of God. I gave you my words. They speak life. And you’re turning to sticks, dead sticks that you throw on the ground and hope they point in the right direction. You choose your worship because of the shade?! You know that hill with the view and the tree and the breeze? That’s where I connect with myself. That’s where I feel, right? And God is saying there has to be more as a standard of truth than the shade, the comforts, the way it fits you personally, the way it helps you in the moment. A wind has wrapped them in its wings.
And the impact of this cultural current is not just personal; it’s also familial, multigenerational spiritual and moral chaos. And this is why God keeps throwing out these images. We’re like what’s up with that?! Verse 5, “I will destroy your mother.” What does she have to do with it? Verse 6, “I will forget your children.” Verse 13, “Your daughters play the whore and your brides commit adultery. I’m not going to punish your daughters when they play the whore, nor your brides when they commit adultery; for the men themselves go side with prostitutes and sacrifice with cult prostitutes.” Your lusts are now defining your liturgy. Your wants define your worship. And the point he’s saying there is he is not against mothers, children. He’s saying this isn’t just about you. When you forget and turn from your covenant relationship with Yahweh, you are decimating, not just you, cultures, generations, your children, your grandchildren. He’s saying this is bigger than you in your shade, in the moment. Families are disintegrating, and covenantal love is being twisted into a customizable relationship.
He describes in verses 15 and 16 the stubbornness of these people. And then we’ve come to the immediate context where we can understand what he means by “a wind has wrapped them in its wings.” Three key elements — first, God leaves them alone. God leaves them alone. In verse 17,
“Ephraim is joined to idols; leave him alone.”
God is saying “you want to worship your own way? Okay.” And he speaks the three most terrifying words you do not want to hear from God — “Leave them alone.”
Theologians often call this God’s passive wrath. It’s when God lets us have what we think we want. Romans 1 describes it very vividly as the giving over to dishonorable passions. Jesus describes it in Matthew 15:14 when he refers to spiritual leaders.
“Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
Leave him alone.
Second, their disordered affections take over. When God steps back, desires move in. Verse 18,
“When their drink is gone, they give themselves to whoring; their rulers dearly love shame.”
God is saying here formerly you used alcohol to spice up the evening, to numb the pain, to cover the shame. But now cultural forces unite with personal passions to draw you in. You begin to conclude what’s the use? This is who I am. So, you give yourself to it. You give yourself to whoring. And no longer is it a distraction; it is now an addiction; it is now an identity; this is who I am. “Their rulers dearly love shame.” So, leaders who should be (and the word leader there is literally “shield”) who should be shielding and protecting and leading toward what is “shame-less” are now giving themselves to what is “shame-full” and leading the people into it. Their disordered affections take over.
And then finally, their spirituality adds to their shame. Their spirituality adds to their shame. Verse 19, if we skip our key phrase,
“and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.”
So, the rituals and the offerings and the religious and spiritual activities they go through to try to make themselves feel better, to connect with some force, it ends up resulting in more shame, no forgiveness. It’s like taking a bath in dirt. The remedy is increasing the malady. Do you feel the momentum heading in the wrong direction? A wind has wrapped them in its wings. So, what does that actually mean from all this momentum? You can see it means they turned from God, and God gave them over. They are turned over to the consequences of their choices. Or you could just say it shorter — they get what they want. But they’re going to realize that’s not really what they want.
“Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. For the ruach, the wind, the spirit of whoredom is within them, and they know not the Lord.”
“They sow the [ruach,] the wind … They sow the wind, and they reap the whirlwind.”
Do they feel bad? Yes. But chapter 7, verse 14,
“They do not cry to me from the heart, but they wail upon their beds.” So, even when they’re crying tears of sadness, even when they feel terrible, they don’t repent; they just wail. They’re caught up in the consequences of their choices.
How do we respond to this? Let’s start culturally. This chapter is a vivid picture of our culture. Even though their nation was a theocracy, so, therefore, very different from our nation, these powerful cultural forces are just as real in our nation. So, on this Sanctity of Life Sunday, what does it mean that a wind can wrap us in its wings? Think about this in relation to abortion, first from a big-picture perspective.
Thirty years ago when I preached on sanctity of life, it was not viewed as a partisan issue at all because I could name prominent Democrats and prominent Republicans who were pro-life. Today when you preach on sanctity of life, especially for young people, they’re thinking, why has the pastor gone all political? No, we’ve actually been preaching the same message for thirty years. But a wind has wrapped them in its wings. There are cultural forces that move and change everything if you are not rooted in the Word of God.
Let me give you one example of this, the most prominent. When President Biden first stepped into the Senate in 1973, seventeen days before Roe v. Wade, he was against it. He said it was wrong. That for a woman to take the life of her baby is not just … He explained it’s not just her body, it’s also a baby. But today, I know arguably he would be one of the most fanatical pro-abortionist presidents in history. What has changed? A wind has wrapped them in its wings. If we are not rooted in what is true from the One who tells us what is true, we will be carried away. And I’m not picking on him. He’s just the most prominent as the president of our country, but he’s just illustrative, not only of politicians, but of all of us if we are not rooted in the promises of God.
We’re going to actually see this vividly in 2 Peter, where in 2 Peter 2:17, Peter describes certain teachers as mists driven by a storm — same idea. And this characterizes our religious milieu/atmosphere in our country today. Let me give you just one example. I want to go into this. We’re going to go into it more in 2 Peter.
But Tara Isabella Burton in her book Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World argues that when Americans turn from God, they don’t turn from religion; they tend to turn to what she calls remixed spiritualism, and that is … It’s like someone going on the internet and shopping. A little of this religious thing; this makes sense from this denomination, from this in my past; reject that; that doesn’t make sense; I’ll take some of this. And we cobble it all together into a remixed spiritualism. She describes it this way.
“For the vast majority of Remixed Spiritualists, this new religious landscape heralds an era of untrammeled self-expression [that is unrestricted self-expression,] of spirituality conceived first and foremost as an instrument of self-betterment, a necessary and easily consumable product designed to optimize one’s life.”
Stop for a second. Think about that. So, I’m going to God to get God to conform to me. Do we see how insane that is? I’m creating a God in my own image. Our job is to be conformed to the image of God, not to conform him to my image.
“Designed to optimize one’s life. It valorizes disembodied self-making.”
I’ll let you soak on that for a second. So, it actually esteems, values, legitimizes a kind of self-creation that is disembodied from biological realities. So, you’re untethering everything about you from anything concrete or real.
“It valorizes disembodied self-making, emotional freedom, the heady possibility of writing our own script for morality, sexuality, and society, according to the dictates of our own heart. It bolsters our personal brand. It makes us our best — and most curated — selves.”
You can just feel the flexibility, the fluidity. But it leaves us so vulnerable to the fact that these flexible, fluid self-creations didn’t happen in a vacuum. They are the result of a wind that has wrapped us in its wings.
So, how do we think about this personally? Two things — 1, we must see the heart of God. When you read passages … One of my big burdens is for New Covenant believers to read passages like Hosea and see what God is really saying because so many Christians are so afraid of the Old Testament. But it’s so rich! But we miss the heart of God in the midst of judgment passages. But keep reading.
Look at one example, Hosea 11:8,
“How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? And how can I treat you like Zeboiim?”
These are Canaanite cities destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah.
“My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.”
That word “recoils” is a word that has the idea of overturns. God is saying “my heart is doing somersaults within me; I am so torn for you; my compassion grows warm and tender.”
Picture a parent. It’s been a while for me, but when my kids were little, and they directly disobeyed, and you had to send them to your … we’d send them to our bedroom to sit on our bed to think about what they’d done. We’d gather our thoughts, prepare to discipline this child. But so many times I remember walking in, and you see this little thing sitting on the bed like a lamb going to slaughter. And your heart just moves with compassion, and you’re so torn because you know you need to discipline your child because if you see that attitude in a sixteen-year-old, it’s not going to be pretty. And so, you know you must, but your heart is moved with compassion; you don’t enjoy it. It’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done. But if you love your child, you will. This is what God is going through — “I love you. I’m ready to pour out compassion. Why are you running from me? Why are you rejecting my offers of compassion? Why are you turning to sticks for guidance when my words have life?”
Jonathan Edwards — you know, Sinners-in-the-Hands-of-an-Angry-God Jonathan Edwards — says of this passage,
“God has no pleasure in the destruction or calamity of persons or people …. He is a God that delights in mercy, and judgment is his strange work.”
What is that saying? I know we can push this too far, but the idea is clear here. When God shows mercy, it just flows out of him so naturally. When he shows judgment, it is his strange work. He does not delight in it. It’s like he’s … You know, when you’re watching your kid make a choice and you’re just pleading, “Make the right choice! I don’t want to have to discipline you!” That’s God’s heart. Mercy just flows from his heart this morning, right now, for you. If you feel caught, swept along, and you say, “Well, those were choices I made,” his heart is compassionate for you.
Think about the wind of God. The same word for wind in the Old Testament and the New Testament — ruach and pneuma. Both can mean either wind or spirit. And when the New Testament describes this wind that has caught us, it uses similar language at times, but other times … Look at Ephesians 2:1,
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world”
It has this idea of the momentum is just taking you in the world.
“Following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body in the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
You’re following the world. You’re following the devil. You’re carrying out the desires of the flesh, the world, the devil, the flesh, these forces that wrap you up and sweep you along, taking you in directions you don’t want to go. Well, how do I break free?
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved.”
I know this is weird. This just came to me. I have this picture of Frodo on the mountain … “Call the Eagles!” … That image of we are being swept away into this darkness and God … “but God who is rich in mercy.” And the wind … We don’t have time this morning to look at it, but John 3, Jesus talks about wind and spirit in such a fascinating way to Nicodemus. The only way to resist the wind currents of any culture, even a very religious culture like Nicodemus was following, is to have a wind within you, a wind of the spirit who breathes new life into you. Like we heard from Bill, it wasn’t just “keep the rules, Bill,” it was I need the Spirit who empowers me to live out a different life, to say no and to resist this current of culture and cravings which would sweep us away.
Ezekiel promised this in the New Covenant.
“I will give you a new heart, and [a new ruach,] a new spirit, [a new wind] I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit, [my Ruach within you,] and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” [Ezekiel 36:26-27]
He doesn’t fill us with a force. He gives us himself, who empowers us from within to do what we could never do from without. We couldn’t just follow this or resist this. But he does this.
And I wonder this morning, are some of you trying to resist in the flesh, not realizing that Jesus has new life for you, and when he breathes new life, he gives his Spirit to empower, to give you what you could never do on your own?
I want to pray this blessing, just one little example of this from Romans 8 over you as we go. But please, if the Spirit has spoken to you this morning through the testimony, through the songs, through this very difficult passage in Hosea 4, we would love to pray with you. There are others around you who would love to pray with you. Don’t keep being swept away. There’s a new wind, the wind of the Lord that can fill and change us.
So, let’s stand, and if you would like to receive this blessing from Romans 8. And think about this part, a section of Romans 8 that has filled me with so much gratefulness as to the work of the Spirit. And if you’d like, if you feel comfortable, you can hold out your hands.
“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if you by this Spirit put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
Father, we are blown away by all that your Spirit is doing for us right now. If we are yours, your Spirit is interceding for us in ways we can’t comprehend, filling us, protecting us, empowering us to say no to the flesh, to resist the winds of this current age. But Lord, there are some who are trying to do it on their own. I pray that you would send a fresh filling of your Spirit, that you would pour out the gifts that we need to fulfill the calling that you issue. You don’t call us do something you don’t provide for. God, may you bring about a movement of your Spirit. At the very time when secular prophets are heralding the death of your church, Lord, we’re seeing the opposite. You are doing a great work. Start now. Start with us. We pray in Jesus’s name. Amen. Go in peace.