Hosea 5:12 Therefore I am like maggots to Ephraim, and like rottenness to the house of Judah.
Sometimes its hard to be a parent – or so I imagine – especially when children are naughty. There seems to be a temptation these days to let the children just be naughty – because discipline is a lot of work – and take wisdom and energy. But just as children are a gift of God, so discipline is the responsibility that God give parents with respect to children, and it is one of those things we will answer for, come judgement day. And just as discipline is a hard responsibility for parents, so also there is a corresponding responsibility given to children, that there should love, honor and obey their parents. Children will have to answer for this also come judgement day.
Now when it comes to the commandments, there are 2 reason why we keep them – something we all know for when we explain the commandments we do so using the phrase "we should fear and love God." Now when we talk about fear, we usually think of consequences or punishment for sin – for example, if you are caught speeding, you must may a fine. Now while the fines may seem inconsequential – if you keep on speeding there is something greater than a fine – you loose your license – and that is the greater but unspoken fear.
When I was young, after my father died, my mom would take us 4 kids on trips, and kids being kids, we didn’t always sit nicely. I don’t know whether we knew we could get away with it, or whether it was just the temptation – especially as that was back in the days before seatbelts – back when most cars had no air-conditioning – so what can you do when your driving to take care of misbehaving kids? One hand over the seat and you could slap whoever was within reach – usually whoever was stuck in the middle. But the biggest threat and the greatest danger was the highway patrol, which seemed to be everywhere. They were a danger because my mom would say, if you don’t behave, I’ll pull over, and let the Highway patrolman deal with you, and we were certain that they probably put kids in prison for causing reckless driving. Usually that was all she had to do, but sometimes, if we didn’t start behaving right away – she would begin to pull over to the shoulder – and then everyone all of a sudden was on their best behavior. For the thing we feared more than any punishment was the though of being lost or abandoned.
As you have probably gathered, neither Israel, nor Ephraim were very well behaved – and we’ve heard a lot of colorful language to describe just how bad they were – I want you to note – God did not thing it was funny or cute! Anyway, things had gotten so bad that Ephraim was calling God "maggots" – which is not a nice thing to call anyone – who would like to be called a maggot, living off death and decay – and that is what it made is such an insult. God, after all, is the author of life, the creator of all things – the only one who could be said to live of death and decay would be the devil, the lord of the flies – or lord of maggots.
And that brings us to the challenge which faces us, for we also do not take our sin as seriously as we ought – and we by our sin, whatever it might be – are doing the same thing – calling God a maggot – something we don’t need, and don’t want. Calling anyone bad names is never a good thing, and is always a sin, that is why parents work to stop it, and why God also works to discipline his children as well.
So what is God’s answer? Children always need their parents in times of trouble, they might turn to others first, but when they find that they are of no help, they turn to their parents. That was God’s plan, he knew a time of need would be coming, he knew that others were not able to save and so God turned from Ephraim and Israel until such time as they would repent.
It doesn’t take children long to repent – for pride has no deep root in their lives. Sometimes all it takes is a threat, or the nearness of punishment and we will mend our ways. But if you continue in sin, it takes root and the roots grow deep – and then it becomes harder to repent, harder to turn away from sin, harder to return to God. So that the best answer is never to leave.
But the thing that is most likely to keep a child going on the right path, is not a threat, or punishment or a fear of being abandoned – No, the thing that is most likely to keep people doing the right things is love, for once we see how much God loves us, see how Jesus suffered for us, we do not want to do anything to hurt the one who has loved us so much.