BE CAREFUL WHO YOU FELLOWSHIP WITH
"Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone" Hosea 4:17
In the last 11 chapters of this book we have carefully edited notes, rather than verbatim reports of the prophetic utterances. These may be divided into three sections. The first (4:1-6:3) described the pollution of the nation of Israel, and dealt with its cause. The cause was that of the pollution of the priests; which issued in the pollution of the whole nation (the stream never rises above its source). In the course of his prophesying to Israel, Hosea's mind turned to Judah, and he interpolated a message to the southern nation to beware of any complicity with Israel. This is the meaning of the words we have stressed. Ephraim was at the time the dominant tribe in Israel, and that accounts for the prophet's constant references to it (37 times the name occurs). This word has often been interpreted as constituting a sentence on Ephraim, as though Jehovah declared that He, abandoned the nation altogether. But that were to CONTRADICT ALL THE TEACHING OF THE PROPHET. It was rather a solemn word to Judah, warning her against any POLITICAL ALLIANCE WITH ISRAEL. The distinction is revealing. God does not abandon His people wholly, even when they are unfaithful to Him, BUT THROUGH DISCIPLINE AND TROUBLING BRINGS THEM BACK TO HIMSELF. Nevertheless, those who are loyal to Him must stand aloof from the disloyal; they cannot have fellowship (koinonia) with those who are joined to idols. We are not to judge others (Matt 7:1) but we certainly are to judge who we fellowship with (vs. 17-21). To the Christian Church the word of the apostle of love involves this, as indeed all his letter shows. We are thinking of that final injunction of this first epistle (1 John 5:21), "Little children, guard yourselves from idols."