יהוה = YHWH/Yahweh; יהושע = Yahushua (Yahweh is our Salvation/Saviour)
Shabbat Shalom, praise יהוה – Tehillim/Psalm 111:1 “Praise Yah! I thank יהוה with all my heart, in the company of the straight and of the congregation.” I am in the company of the straight and of the congregation, am I not – well praise Yah – can you thank יהוה with all your heart? Or are there parts of your heart that have devotion to another in a form and dilemma of mixed worship? For many it often becomes extremely hard to give full attention and devotion to יהוה in all areas of their lives, especially as the world throws so much in your face to draw your worship and obedience away from living set-apart unto יהוה our Elohim. What we ought to realise is that despite the on-going attack for worship from the enemy, we as children of the Most High El are to be single minded and devoted in our love for Him. And as we all know that love for Elohim is to guard His commands – that is to be fully committed and devoted to walking fully in His Instructions no matter what tries to draw our worship away from Him. יהושע tells us clearly that He is the Vine and we are the branches and we can bear no fruit without Him – yet we ought to be bearing much fruit – fruit that lasts and that is for the benefit of the body and others to taste as see how good our Maker and Saviour is. The reality for most today is that they assume that they are in fact in the Vine and producing fruit yet the fruit they may think they have is being used for self as they lend themselves over to a lifestyle of compromise in mixing their worship with the love for self and the flesh, always seeking a means to gain more ‘stuff’ that they think strengthens who they are and in the process they are lending themselves over to idolatry and the love of mammon, not realising that their form of mixed worship is in fact a destructive path of profane worship in their half-hearted attempts at worshipping the Father in spirit and truth! With – ALL OUR HEART – ALL OUR BEING – ALL OUR MIGHT – we are to love the Father, anything less is not worship but merely ‘religion’ that lacks power! In a message tonight called, “The Vine and the Calf – The Destruction of Mixed Worship”, I would like us to look at the description of Yisra’ĕl in their degenerate state of mixed worship and the call to repentance in stripping away all form of mixed worship. The title should say it all – The Vine and the Calf cannot go together – We know as I have said that יהושע is the Vine, and in Scripture we have a number of accounts of ‘calf’ worship – a picture of idolatry – the two cannot go together, so with that in mind please turn with me to Hoshěa/Hosea 10 (Read).
A very descriptive chapter indeed, one that follows on from chapter 9 in revealing the sin of Yisra’ĕl who had completely profaned their worship and mixed it with pagan idolatry, and the theme or call of this chapter is the desperate need to set things right with יהוה in having the right priorities in place in living set-apart lives and being a light to the nations – there is a stern call for repentance and it is a very stern call that is clearly going out today. As we look at these verses we can clearly see a very clear description of the false worship going on today and so there is much we can learn and take warning from in this chapter.
This chapter in referring to Yisra’ĕl is in fact referring to the House of Yisra’ĕl – the Northern 10 Tribes, also referred to as Ephrayim. In following on from the previous chapter we see here the description of this now corrupt and idolatrous nation – they are described as being a ‘degenerate vine’. The Hebrew Word used here for degenerate is בָּקַק ‘bā∙qǎq’ (Strong’s H1238) and can mean ‘to be in a state or condition of destruction; a degenerating withering vine i.e. the state or condition of lacking moisture in a plant and indicates poor health’, and it can also mean, ‘ to be growing and fruitful as a healthy plant’. This can sound contradictory that the same word can mean two opposites – but what we have here is a nation who by all accounts are fruitful, yet what we see is that they fruit they were bearing was in a sense, empty fruit – as their ‘fruit’ had quickly turned to false worship. A picture of false worship of Christianity – has the appearance of ‘fruit’ and increase yet it is empty, void and vain and in a state of lacking moisture!
Tehillim/Psalm 128:3 “Let your wife be as a fruit-bearing vine within your house, your sons like olive plants all around your table.”
Yisra’ĕl was to be a fruitful wife, a betrothed bride bearing great fruit within the house, yet they had adulterated themselves with the nations and were corrupting their worship by mixing in pagan practices and so this ‘fruitful’ wife was actually a degenerate wife. Why were they worthless and void and empty – in other words – why was their worship empty and in vain? Because they wasted their ‘fruitfulness’ on idols and pagan altars and directed that worship unto יהוה – which as we know in Scripture that this form of worship is not worship but rather an abomination in the eyes of Elohim. The more that Yisra’ĕl increased and bettered their land the more they profaned themselves by making pillars, which were erected as huge monuments, pillars or standing stones and were often built in a prescribed form that had cultic meanings to them along with pagan altars. This traces back to Nimrod worship, as these were actually phallic symbols of fertility. When Constantine, the father of the church and mixed religion of Christianity issued a decree and mandated that everyone in the Roman Empire was to become a Christian, many temples were turned into churches and tall pillars were placed on top of the buildings for added visibility – known also as ‘steeples’ – something we know and see very clearly all around us in every city and suburb today! The Bride has profaned her worship and integrated pagan idolatry as a means and form that ultimately led to formalised religion!
As a result their heart was not fully devoted to יהוה, but was slippery and was guilty as a result. Notice here that the singular form of heart is used in speaking of a group or nation – and clearly the unity that ought to have been – being one heart and one mind was not evident. There was no unity and as a result what did they do – multiplied their pillars – in other words they kept making more and more pagan alters and erecting steeples to cater for the needs of all! I see this clearly as a picture we see in the profanity of Christianity – as it gains ground more pillars are erected and more pagan altars are built – different denominations – it is estimated that there are over 34000 different denominations of Christianity today!! ! Clearly a picture of division and a divided heart! This gives the whole concept of ‘church planting’ a new meaning – the more ground they are gaining the more pagan worship centres and pillars/steeples they are erecting!
Mattithyahu/Matthew 6:24 “No one is able to serve two masters, for either he shall hate the one and love the other, or else he shall cleave to the one and despise the other. You are not able to serve Elohim and mammon.”
Ya’aqoḇ/James 4:8 “Draw near to Elohim and He shall draw near to you. Cleanse hands, sinners. And cleanse the hearts, you double-minded!”
Melaḵim Aleph/1 Kings 18:21 “And Ěliyahu came to all the people, and said, “How long would you keep hopping between two opinions? If יהוה is Elohim, follow Him; and if Baʽal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.”
If יהוה serve Him – if Ba‘al (The Lord) serve him! Why do I say the Lord in brackets? Well because the Hebrew word Ba’al means ‘husband, land owner, or lord’ and when referred to in the context of Scripture in reference to profane worship unto pagan sun-god worship then Ba’al was the pagan title for their deity and to translate it to English would in fact be, ‘The Lord’. You have to ask yourself why it is that translators did not translate this into English. Ba’al is not a name so why then keep it in the Hebrew when all the other text is in English? Well I think we all know the reason for that – too many today do not realise this dangerous mix of pagan deities and truth – it does not work!!! Too many today are divided in their worship being all mixed up with pagan idolatry and this is not worship, but rather a twisted form of man-made religion that seeks to satisfy self.
Their hearts were slippery – the Hebrew word used here is חָלַק ‘ḥā∙lǎq’ (Strong’s H2505) and means ‘to be smooth, or being deceitful in giving misleading opinions or thought about what is true and often encouraging wrong behaviour, and also means to flatter or seduce’. Wow – how sad it is today to see how so many have been seduced in following ‘misleading opinions’ and are being ‘encouraged to be disobedient’ by the ‘smooth talkers’ – beware of the smooth talkers! And even more importantly – do not be a smooth talker – be a truth talker!
There is coming a day when יהוה will destroy all the steeples and pillars and pagan worship places! Yisra’ĕl were so steeped in mixed profane worship that they said they no longer had a king – well they did have a king – yet did not respect him. They did not fear יהוה – who was to be their King and so were actually acknowledging their sinfulness here and by not fearing יהוה they were right – they had no king. The fear of יהוה is the beginning of wisdom – there are too many fools in the kingdom because they do not fear יהוה and therefore do not subject themselves to the Kings instructions. In not subjecting themselves to the Highest Authority what would an earthly king be able to do for them! Today you may hear the sad saying by many fools – I say fools as they do not fear יהוה and therefore cannot begin to walk in wisdom – They say things like, “We cannot keep the whole Torah, so why bother with any of it!” – That is the talk of fools! The destructive nature of mixed worship will cause hearts to be greatly deceived and believe the deception. Many will say “Oh but He knows my heart!” Well they are right – the word says that the heart is crooked above all and desperately sick. Many are sick and they do not know it.
Sick hearts speak falsehood! Verse 4 we see that Yisra’ĕl had spoken falsely – they made insincere promises. We are fellows workers with Elohim, called to work in the field of Elohim, the building of Elohim (1 Corinthians 3:9) and a divided heart will only be slack in its duty and make promises that are quickly broken. We must not use idle words – יהוה takes our words seriously, even when we do not!!! Let you yes be yes and your no be no and do not swear falsely – your words will come back and bite you.
What we have thus far is a nation so twisted in its attempt at worship that they are lying and cheating and twisting words to cover up their wickedness and so they have put more trust in self and their worship programmes and idols rather than in יהוה. They were more afraid of losing their calf to the enemy than actually stripping away the lies!
When Yaroḇʽam, the king of the northern tribes, had built Sheḵem in the north as the capital of Ephrayim, he did not want people to go to Yerushalayim to worship in fear that they would return to Reḥaḇʽam, the king of Yehuḏah, and so he made two calves of gold, setting one up in Bĕyth Ěl and another in Dan, made high places of all sorts and made many priests from all sorts of people who were not from Lĕwi. And this became the focus of their worship – calf worship – they had not learnt from the incident in the Wilderness many years before when Aharon built a golden calf proclaiming a festival unto יהוה, while in יהוה’s eyes it was an abomination (Shemoth/Exodus 32). This time was no different – יהוה does not change!
Yisra’ĕl was more concerned about their calf being captured due to the tightening grip of judgement was coming upon them and here we see the place Bĕyth Ěl being called Bĕyth Awen. Bĕyth Awen means ‘house of iniquity/ house of wickedness/ house of vanity’. What we see very clearly here is the fact that the House of El had now become the House of iniquity!!! False worship taking place and the people leading the services were false priests! The word used here for priests is כֹּמֶר ‘kōmer’ (Strong’s H3649) and describes ‘Idolatrous priests’ or priests in idol worship!!! How did this happen? Well remember that Yaroḇʽam made anyone a priest and this is the result!!! It is יהוה who calls not man, and today there is a man-driven system of appointing priests that adhere to man-made standards which will only as a result end up in priests who are engaged in idolatry and teaching others likewise! The word for idolatrous priests comes from a root word that can mean ‘black’ giving reference to the black garments of idolatry as opposed to the white robes of righteousness!!! Well you do not have to look too far to see some black robed priests!!! Black robes have also developed into very expensive suits and ties and more often than not dark ones at it too, apart from those who are masquerading as messengers of Truth who come in their sparkling all white apparel – beware of these wolves in sheep’s clothing!
False priests – false worship and the people were afraid they would lose their idols – sad picture – yet so real in the world today. Let me ask you at this point – are there any golden calves in your life? What do I mean by that? Well, are there things that you are afraid you might have to lose or give up as you strip away idolatrous and vain teachings and traditions? Their calf would be given to the enemy king and Ephrayim would be put to shame – as their wickedness is exposed! There are some things that many have ‘made’ and worship that they must let go and ‘give it back to the world’ so to speak – after all render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to Elohim what is Elohim’s!!! Golden calves are not Elohim’s. Idols belong to pagans and must have no part in the life of a set-apart child of Elohim – what idols are you struggling to let go of? Are you hiding them in fear of exposure and shame? Give them up now before יהוה Himself exposes you!
Yisra’ĕl’s sites of idol worship would be destroyed and the ruins would become overgrown with thorns and thistles – the very places of worship they were commanded to destroy when they entered the Promised Land they had failed to do and יהוה used a foreign army to accomplish His purpose. In utter desperation the people would cry out for the rocks to fall upon them! This is also a foreshadow of what is to come as יהושע quoted verse 8 on His way to death in Luqas/Luke 23:30 and this verse also places its timing for us in the last days when the wrath of יהוה comes:
Ḥazon/Revelation 6:15-17 “And the sovereigns of the earth, and the great ones, and the rich ones, and the commanders, and the mighty, and every slave and every free one, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, 16 and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him sitting on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 because the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
Those covered in the shame of idolatry and false worship will cry out to be hidden and crushed by the rocks, hidden from the wrath of Elohim.
Yisra’ĕl had sinned since the days of Gibʽah! What happened at Gibʽah? You can read of these accounts in Shophetim/Judges 19-21 where a Lĕwite man and his concubine had travelled to Gibʽah and it was there where the men of Gibʽah from the tribe of Binyamin had raped the concubine and she died. The Lĕwite cut her up and distributed her body parts – this ended up in a terrible battle where the rest of Yisra’ĕl came up against Binyamin – a terrible account that took place between the tribes – please go and read – but that is what happened at Gibʽah. Gibʽah was also the home town of King Sha’ul and it was where his fortress palace was built and he relied heavily upon his own military might and strength, while lacking Dawid’s devotion to יהוה. So here we can in effect see the two terrible sins for which the people of Elohim had committed:
1 – They had forsaken יהוה
2 – They had relied on their own might and tried to make it on their own
Yirmeyahu/Jeremiah 2:13 “For My people have done two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew out for themselves cisterns, cracked cisterns, which do not hold water.”
They were doubly guilty and for this they would be punished:
Yirmeyahu/Jeremiah 16:18 “And first I shall repay double for their crookedness and their sin, because they have defiled My land with the dead bodies of their disgusting matters, and have filled My inheritance with their abominations.”
The two evils that made them guilty – forsaking יהוה and establishing their own ways – and that still happens today! But as one takes a look not so far back we can see the same sin happening in the form of the ‘Crusades’ in using man-driven military might to gain coverts to a false twisted religion – yet we must know that יהוה will punish for apostasy and militarism as many rely on their own might and strength and forsake following יהוה.
All that Yisra’ĕl was doing was learning the ways of the pagans instead of doing what was required in the Torah, and here in verse 12 -13 comes the call to repentance: Sowing and reaping – a man reaps what he sows – if you sow wrongness you will reap unrighteousness and eat the fruit of your lies because you trust in man’s ways rather than that of Elohim.
This is exactly the description of Christianity, whether we would like to believe it or not. They have forsaken the commands of Elohim, set up idols in worship and are eating the fruit of generations of lies – and it is now time to seek יהוה!
We are to sow righteousness: That is to guard to do all He commands us to – and our hearts must be prepared:
Yirmeyahu/Jeremiah 4:1-4 “If you do return, O Yisra’ĕl,” declares יהוה, “return to Me. And if you remove your abominations from My presence, and cease straying, 2 and shall swear, ‘As יהוה lives,’ in truth, in right-ruling, and in righteousness – then nations shall bless themselves in Him, and they shall boast in Him!” 3 For this is what יהוה said to the men of Yehuḏah and Yerushalayim, “Break up your tillable ground, and do not sow among thorns. 4 “Circumcise yourselves unto יהוה, and take away the foreskins of your hearts, you men of Yehuḏah and inhabitants of Yerushalayim, lest My wrath come forth like fire and burn, with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.”
When we sow righteousness and hunger and thirst for righteousness we shall be filled – in the doing we will be filled and so we will reap according to our loving commitment (obedience) – the more we sow the more we will reap – how lovingly committed are you? You will reap according to ‘loving-commitment’ – so how committed are you? Do you think that just because you made it to an evening fellowship service for Shabbat that you have now ‘kept’ Shabbat? What about the rest of the day that follows? Some think that by attending an evening service they have done enough and ‘done their duty’ while forgetting the rest of the Sabbath day that follows the morning after! Each week we get to rehearse entering into His perfect rest as we rehearse that which it also foreshadows in the Millennial Reign – the 7th day/7th Millennium – I therefore want to enjoy every minute ‘resting’ in Him, being gathered together as a body, immersed in His Word and fellowshipping – how about you? It will be seen in your sowing – in your doing of righteousness (in your obedience) and this takes work – our hearts must be fully committed unto Him – are you prepared to work! Notice it says ‘sow for yourselves’ – you have to do it – nobody can do it for you! Each one must work out their own salvation with fear and trembling!
Break up tillable ground: We must break up the ground that has been left and become hard – the heart is the ground and the Torah is to be upon our heart! It is time to break up the ground and dig into the Torah, each week as we come together and every day in your quiet time – breaking up the ground that is tillable in order to receive the Truth. The Torah has been in effect ‘unused’ for far too long and the ground of many hearts has become calloused in the process – and the ground must be worked – it takes effort and a lot of sweat – by that I mean it may cause many tears – but work it!
The time is now – not next year or whenever you think you have it all together – the time is now to seek יהוה. For some this has been going well – for others you may have started but lost the heart or energy to give it your all – hardness of heart takes a lot of ploughing in order to get rid of the weeds and thorns – getting rid of fears and worries of life and deceitfulness of wealth. The time is now to seek.
The word for seek here is דָּרַשׁ ‘dāraš’ (Strong’s H1875) and means more than just taking a peek, or more than a little curiosity! It means figuratively to ‘read repeatedly, study, search out, seek with care, investigate, practice, follow, seek with application’.
I think many do not understand the seriousness of this command – to seek יהוה is not a game – it is a matter of life and death. How are you at seeking יהוה? Are you studying His Word, reading it repeatedly, or is it boring for you? Are you investigating His Word, searching it out, practicing it – or do you think that is only for some? We all are to seek יהוה and live! And now is the time before the rains come – the ground of our hearts must be well prepared and righteousness sown before the rains come – or else we will simply be washed away with flash floods of destruction if the ground of our hearts is hard and impenetrable through lust and selfish pride.
What we can certainly learn from this passage is great and if we will learn and apply His Truth the rewards will be great – if not well you know…!
Yisra’ĕl was hard hearted – they had become calloused in their worship and the causes for this and numerous:
1 – Ingratitude – they were selfish and full of pride, looking out for themselves and had no gratitude for what יהוה had done. We must give thanks in all things unto יהוה. Too many, like Yisra’ĕl did back then, forsake giving thanks when things seem to be going well and they let pride slip in and rather thank self – do not show ingratitude toward Elohim – give thanks in all occasions!
2 – Instability – A double minded man is unstable in all his ways! A slippery heart is an unstable heart and you cannot serve two masters! A divided heart leads to a distracted life. There is sure stability in the Word – stay in it!
3 – Indifference – They had no need for יהוה or so they thought – they were ‘fruitful’ and as they grew they lost the need to cling to יהוה. So many today leave the path of obedience when things start going well – beware of the trap of indifference – no matter the circumstances, good or tough – be content in יהוה.
4 – Impotent Promises – Vain promises – empty promises – making commitments with your mouth and not keeping them. Be careful of this – disloyalty with יהוה breeds disloyalty to man!
Pride and selfishness and the lust of the flesh will cause to not bear the fruit of righteous living, do not be caught doing what Yisra’ĕl did – the more they got they more they built altars – it is a mentality of the more we get – the more we got to have! You do not need that extra pair of shoes, or that brand new TV because you got a raise – what about the body and the Kingdom, or are you about building your own?
The Vine and the calf are not a good combination – that is mixed worship – which in fact is not worship at all, but rather only a form of religion without power. We must remain in the Vine – that is to stay in Him, and to stay in Him means to walk as He walked – walking in His instructions.
Has there, or rather are there any golden calves in your life, and they have kind of had a way of being integrated into your worship through compromised living when you really know that it’s got to go? Then get rid of them! Have you lacked the ability to sow consistently and there are now more weeds and thorns than before popping up in your heart – break up that ground – do not say you cannot change – for the heart is tillable ground – it may be hard but it is tillable. It is time to sow, dig and seek after righteousness and destroy the calves that will only render you a degenerate vine.
I was shocked quite a bit when I saw on the net lyrics of a song sung by a band I have never heard of, as it struck me that even the world out there – the pagan world if you will, even know this concept that the Vine and the calf cannot go together – here are the words from a verse from the song:
“Accepting the new sacred calf of the pagans, as we die on the vine; accepting the new calf of the pagans – that’s life in hell’s motel!”
I do not know what it sounds like nor do I want to – I am simply showing you how the world out there even knows what I am talking about tonight. We are to be in the Vine, יהושע, and remain in Him and not to be found mixing our worship in any way with calf worship. Any self-made calf or man-made systematic form of worship is nothing more than mixed worship and is an abomination unto יהוה! Do not accept any form of calf worship – walk in the Truth, remain in the Truth and rejoice in the Truth. It is time to seek יהוה and live!
May we learn from this chapter and respond with great speed for the need to have a heart after יהוה!
Don’t mix the calf with the Vine – mixed worship will kill you – come out and be set-apart – and bear much fruit that will last,
יהוה bless you and guard you; יהוה make His face shine upon you and give you favour; יהוה lift up His face toward you and give you peace.