Hosea 10:7 - Poohsticks
Samaria and its king will float away like a twig on the surface of the waters.Hosea 10:7
We’ve all played poohsticks. You might not have called it that, but I’m sure you’ve played it just as I did. Winnie the Pooh invented that game. You can read about it in The House at Pooh Corner. Winnie the Pooh and his friends would stand on the upstream side of the bridge in the Hundred Acre Wood and lean out over the creek. Each of them would drop a stick into the water and then race to the other side of the bridge to see whose stick came out first. It’s a fun and simple game. Try it some time.
I remember my aunt in Edmonton taking her grandchildren out into the back lane behind her house to play poohsticks. Like many Canadian cities, the older part of town where they lived had many back lanes and those lanes were never cleared of snow during the winter. The cars packed the layers of snow down all winter, until sometimes that ice was more than twenty centimetres thick. And then the spring thaw would come. Those narrow back lanes would quickly become rivers of melt water rushing down to the storm sewers.
My aunt would come out with her grandkids to race popsicle sticks down those streams and eddies in the back lanes. Convoluted streams flowed down the lane, this way and that, but always directing the water to the drain cover. Grandma and her kiddies were out there, racing sticks on the water. Their hands were in the ice-cold water; the warm sun was on their necks. What fun! Each would try to find the fastest stream so that their stick would be the first to the drain cover, the first to disappear down into the earth, never to reappear again.
If you’ve played this game, you’ll know how the flow of the water always controls the stick. Perhaps you have tried this in a mountain stream. Throw in a stick, or branch, or twig, and violently the stream carries it away. It’s pulled under; then it leaps out in the rapids, until it plunges over the falls and disappears. If it is slower water, a twig, branch, or leaf bobs along on the current, gets caught in the eddies, and then aimlessly rounds the bend of the creek, never to be seen again.
Hosea knew about this. He used this image to describe the fate of Samaria and its wicked king. Hosea was the Lord’s prophet in the final years of the northern kingdom of Israel. The king and Samaria, the capital city, were in open rebellion against God. They were steeped in their sins and did not heed the preachers that God sent to them.
The prophet, therefore, declares that Samaria and its king will be like a twig on the surface of the waters. They will be swept away, like so many poohsticks. A branch in a mountain stream has no rudder. It’s caught in a whirlpool and goes under; it floats into a back eddy, comes out again, then plunges over a falls. My aunt’s popsicle sticks had no control in those back-lane rivers. Winnie the Pooh and his friends’ sticks were driven by the stream. In all their power and pretension, the rebellious Samaria and its king were but twigs on a stream. Sweep them away!
Men may think they have built up mighty empires and kingdoms, but without God in Christ, they are rudderless. They have no sail, no engine, no propeller, and the current of time draws them along like twigs on the water. The Lord will sweep them away on the streams of history. Through his prophet, God declares that mighty powers and institutions, nations and kings, can be and will be swept away. They have no anchor, no power.
The same is not true for God’s people. In Isaiah 43:2, the Lord promises safety for his own. He says,
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers you will not be swept away!
When we walk with the Lord Jesus Christ, we are not twigs on the water. We are not anchorless, rudderless, and powerless. We will not be swept away. Instead, it is our sins and our iniquities that are removed. The water of baptism is a symbol that He has already taken them away. God in Christ is the anchor of our soul, the captain of our lives. His Word is our rudder. In Him we have strength and power.
When springtime comes and the snow melts, or perhaps this summer at a mountain stream, throw a twig into running water. Watch the stream sweep it away. That is how God deals with those who stand against Him in their sin. But when you trust in God, you will never be swept away. Instead, that twig will be like your sins: washed away around the bend in the stream, never to be seen again.