is a tool God uses.

Hosea 10:1-6 (NKJV)

Israel empties his vine;
He brings forth fruit for himself.
According to the multitude of his fruit
He has increased the altars;
According to the bounty of his land
They have embellished his sacred pillars.
Their heart is divided;
Now they are held guilty.
He will break down their altars;
He will ruin their sacred pillars.

For now they say,
“We have no king,
Because we did not fear the 
And as for a king, what would he do for us?”
They have spoken words,
Swearing falsely in making a covenant.
Thus judgment springs up like hemlock in the furrows of the field.

The inhabitants of Samaria fear
Because of the calf of Beth Aven.
For its people mourn for it,
And its priests shriek for it—
Because its glory has departed from it.
The idol also shall be carried to Assyria
As a present for King Jareb.
Ephraim shall receive shame,
And Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel.

In the study of Hosea 8:1–6, we noted that Israel had made another calf-idol and had built many altars for sacrifice, though there’s only supposed to be one. Now we see them building even more altars. They’ve also started up some nonsense with sacred pillars.

The altars and sacred pillars will be destroyed, but God has something special planned for the calf. It will end up being carried to Assyria as a present for King Jareb, who turns out to not be such a great ally.

Ephraim shall receive shame,
And Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel

That will bring this whole idiotic calf project to a fitting end.

God has a way of mocking bad ideas. It’s painful to watch a pet project fail spectacularly but compared to other forms of punishment it’s actually quite gentle. Losing a golden calf is small potatoes compared to the suffering that’s coming. Still, it serves a great purpose by getting everyone’s attention.

There’s something about embarrassment that freezes the moment in our memories. In a curious way, it feels more painful than it actually is. Remember, repentance is the goal. Embarrassment seems to be the perfect tool for that.

Maybe God wired that emotion into us for this very purpose. I don’t see it in the animal kingdom. Dogs do something with their eyes that looks like shame, but the experts say that’s not what it is.

The LORD’s mercy is a thing of wonder. His goal is to teach, not to inflict pain. He even installed a special emotion in us to help with this.

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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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