The Sin Business

Efficient in all things.

Hosea 8:7–14 (NKJV)

“They sow the wind,
And reap the whirlwind.
The stalk has no bud;
It shall never produce meal.
If it should produce,
Aliens would swallow it up.
Israel is swallowed up;
Now they are among the Gentiles
Like a vessel in which is no pleasure.
For they have gone up to Assyria,
Like a wild donkey alone by itself;
Ephraim has hired lovers.
Yes, though they have hired among the nations,
Now I will gather them;
And they shall sorrow a little,
Because of the burden of the king of princes.

“Because Ephraim has made many altars for sin,
They have become for him altars for sinning.
I have written for him the great things of My law,
But they were considered a strange thing.
For the sacrifices of My offerings they sacrifice flesh and eat it,
But the LORD does not accept them.
Now He will remember their iniquity and punish their sins.
They shall return to Egypt.

“For Israel has forgotten his Maker,
And has built temples;
Judah also has multiplied fortified cities;
But I will send fire upon his cities,
And it shall devour his palaces.”

There’s something creepy about this verse.

Because Ephraim has multiplied altars for sinning,
they have become to him altars for sinning.

What is this saying?

For starters, Ephraim was only supposed to have one altar for the sin offering. Why build more?

To handle the caseload, of course. Atoning for sin has become a big business in Israel. They’re just balancing supply and demand.

They’re so efficient at processing sin that they’ve become like altars themselves.

If this is reminding you of indulgences, or of Jesus clearing the temple, you’re on the right track.

But don’t think of this as someone else’s descent into factory level processing of sin. It’s universal. Most of us just don’t have the resources to pull it off on a grand scale.

We have an innate tendency to see God as different from the Lord revealed in scripture. We want a God who’s always forgiving and never condemning. We want the cross to be a permanent Get Out of Jail Free card.

Freedom in Christ is one of the most important concepts in Christianity, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be abused.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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