It is definitely against God's ' rules of play' to covort with other gods. In the first commandment He states, "You shall have no other gods before me," and in the second commandment He instructs not to fashion idols: "You shall not worship them or serve them, for I, the Lord your God, is a jealous God..." (Of The Ten Commandments--Exodus 20:1-5)
As we know, when Moses delayed in coming down from the Mount Sinai as described in Exodus 32, the people had Aaron fashion a molten calf of gold as an idol, and "sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play." (vs. 6) Only they weren't playing with the Lord God who rescued them from slavery in Egypt, but rather corrupting themselves by sinning against Him.
God the Father was ready to unleash His wrath, but Moses interceeded for the people, and so God "smote" them, but did not destroy them.(vs. 30-35)
Many, many generations of Israelites afterwards, we come upon a similar, yet more complicated situation concerning the nation of Israel. And we also are granted another, more in-depth veiw of God the Father, who is not just a discipliner ready to strike down for disobedience to The Law. I like to think of The Law as a frame that contains a picture--but is only a frame, not a picture. To look at a frame and decide that this is all there is to God's priorities and His heart, is a misunderstanding indeed! The Ten Commandments are not just something God cooked up to keep people from enjoying life and having a good time. He WANTS us to enjoy life to the fullest--with Him and in His protective framework, for other gods are not as nice as they make themselves out to be. They will entice you and enslave you, and take life rather than give it! God *wants to be in the picture of our lives, playing with us with no intruders allowed* But how easy it is to look only at a frame, and think it is just a senseless frame! When we really 'play' with God, we will get to know Him, and not be seduced by the emptyness 'out there'. We must stay in *His* picture too, and stay on the right playground!
So let's look at a poignant picture of God's heart, when it is being broken by a nation.
Everyone is probably familiar with the unusual instructions from God given to the prophet Hosea: "When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, "Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry, and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD."(Hosea 1:2) The Lord is asking Hosea to portray God's predicament with an unfaithful nation of Israel-literally and openly-by a woman as a wife who is a prostitute, whose unfaithfulness is quite habitual.
Within the context of this living metaphor, His instructions are to "*contend* with your mother, *contend*..." (Hosea 2:2) for 'her' (representing the nation of Israel) unfaithfulness (harlotry and adultery) against her husband (the Lord), outlined in Hosea 2:2-5. God is announcing and instructing that these sins should be *contended* with, not condoned.
He is announcing a period of conflict. A period of 'tough love'.
A more complete and time-linear metaphor of the Lord's relationship with Israel as a nation, her development from helpless baby to young woman, her falling away from Him and His judgements about this, can be seen in Ezekial 16:1-43. But we will begin primarily with the book of Hosea to study God's heart as He is being betrayed. We will also study the aspects of Israel's falling away, as this lends to an understanding of what deceptions motivates to unfaithfulness against the Lord, and the going after of other gods.
Hosea 5:34: I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hidden from Me; For now, O Ephraim, you have played the harlot, Israel has defiled itself. *Their deeds will not allow them To return to their God. For a spirit of harlotry is within them, And they do not know the LORD*.
Hosea 4:1112: Harlotry, wine, and new wine take away the understanding. My people consult their wooden idol, and their diviner's wand informs them; For a spirit of harlotry has led them astray, And they have played the harlot, departing from their God.
The nation of Israel has been seduced by a spirit of harlotry, who has led them into lots of drunkeness and other hedonistic activities (mood-altering, mind altering drugs and various 'party' pursuits) and divination (consulting 'psychics' for special knowledge). They do not know the Lord, for they are too busy covorting with these demonic principalities--these other gods--, which have led them into the sin which acts as a spiritual barrier between themselves and God. Indeed, the gods themselves are between the people and the Lord God, as they are standing in the way between the them, blocking monogamous intimacy. In Hosea 4:13-14, the progression is made from their harlotry between themselves and God, to the harlotry of the daughters, the adultery of the brides, and the men who do the same as the women. Like a falling dominoe effect, the people's intimacy problems with the Lord extends into their whole society. Relationships are a mess in this nation, with covenants being constantly broken.
Hosea 6:47: What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? For your loyalty is like a morning cloud, And like the dew which goes away early. Therefore I have hewn them in pieces by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of My mouth; And the judgments on you are like the light that goes forth. For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; There they have dealt treacherously against Me.
Hosea 8:1113 : Since Ephraim has multiplied altars for sin, They have become altars of sinning for him. Though I wrote for him ten thousand precepts of My law, They are regarded as a strange thing. As for My sacrificial gifts, They sacrifice the flesh and eat it, But the LORD has taken no delight in them. Now He will remember their iniquity, And punish them for their sins; They will return to Egypt.
Apparently the nation is giving nominal recognition of God along with all their other gods. But religious services or rituals are an afront without the relationship with God that these things are supposed to represent. They are indeed an insult to God's sensibilities. Plus, the people did not keep His commandments, and then had the gall to worship the Lord in complete hypocrisy. This hypocrisy is stated best by the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 7:1-11. And the briefest indictment of ALL those involved in this display of false loyalty to God in His temples and meaningless sacrificial offerings can be found again Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 5:3031 ""An appalling and horrible thing Has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule on their own authority; And My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it?"
Hosea 7:13-16: Woe to them, for they have strayed from Me! Destruction is theirs, for they have rebelled against Me! I would redeem them, but they speak lies against Me. And they do not cry to Me from their heart when they wail on their beds; For the sake of grain and new wine they assemble themselves, They turn away from Me. Although I trained and strengthened their arms, Yet they devise evil against Me. *They turn, but not upward*, They are like a deceitful bow; Their princes will fall by the sword Because of the insolence of their tongue. This will be their derision in the land of Egypt.
A deceitful bow makes a grave error in tragectory when the arrow is actually lauched. Instead of going upward (vertical) as the stated intent, the arrow goes astray (diagonal or otherwise). When the people are in distress and cry, they do not really mourn for the presence of God. Instead, they come together as an excuse for another great party. They do not mourn in repentance, but instead occupy and distract themselves with more sin--deadening and medicating their pain with a temporary 'fix'. Because they do not turn (vertically) to Him, but to their hedonistic activities and to their gods of divinition -- He cannot answer.
This is much like the scene in Exodus when after Aaron made a golden calf for an idol, "and they said, "This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, " and then later was the ironic proclamation of "Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord." (from Exodus 32:4-5) What a contradiction! Since they, as a 'young' nation, was delivered from the slavery of Egypt, God declares they will be returned to Egypt--again to slavery.
Hosea 11:7: So My people are bent on turning from Me. Though they call them to the One on high, None at all exalts Him.
The below scripture is an example of what Lord thinks of their parties and revelry:
Hosea 9:1: Do not rejoice, O Israel, with exultation like the nations! For you have played the harlot, forsaking your God. You have loved harlots' earnings on every threshing floor.
A DECEPTION: Just Who IS the Provider?
Hosea 10:1: Israel is a luxuriant vine; He produces fruit for himself. The more his fruit, The more altars he made; The richer his land, The better he made the sacred pillars.
Israel became prosperous, and in Hosea 2:5-13, the Lord reveals what is going on in His faithless 'wife's' heart and mind, and His solutions to correct each deception. Remember, He has announced it is time for Him to contend with her, and He is announcing how. In verse 5, she obviously wants to go after other lovers for the gifts they give her. The Lord responds by planning to block her way to her lovers, so that she cannot even find them, and so she will say, "I will go back to my first husband, For it was much better for me then than now!" Doesn't this remind you of when the prodigal son was tired of the pig pen, and decided to return to his father's house? In verse 8 the Lord states her confusion about Who actually gave her all these things: "For she does not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the new wine, and the oil, And lavished on her silver and gold, Which they used for Baal." Idols are just foolish images of wood, gold and silver. They do not have any power to deliver anything but deception. (Please see Jeremiah 10:1-5 for a good mockery of these 'helpless gods') In order to give a rude awakening regarding Who really provides, God plans on retracting His provision as stated in Hosea 2:9, removing the very things that she desired from her lover!
Hosea 9:2: Threshing floor and wine press will not feed them, And the new wine will fail them.
The strategic plan from the Lord continues to step up in intensity as Hosea 2 continues, where God says He will strip Israel down, "in the sight of her lovers" (vs. 10), making it impossible for any nation or idol to rescue her. He will end all "her gaiety, her feasts, her new moons, her sabbaths, and all her festal assemblies" (vs 11) He will wreak agricultural disaster, because Israel had thought agriculteral success came from the provision of "my lovers." (vs.12) He promises a punishment for "the days of the Baals" and for following her "lovers, so that she forgot Me. (vs.13)
Hosea 13:6: As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, And being satisfied, their heart became proud; Therefore, they forgot Me.
We have just discovered the first dominoe in this dominoe effect of sin and falling away from God. The nation of Israel had become prosperous and became *proud* because of it. This pride was the *basic foundation of the deception* which led them to forget their true Provider. The devil is the father of lies and his deceiving spirits seduce and entrap with lies, BUT there must be a foundational reason or motive for the lie to be appealing in the first place.
But wait! Before we go on, there is one dominoe in this row that cannot be forgotten. It is almost obscure because of the grossness of the sin of idolatry of the people, but it is still very, very important. There is little said about in the book of Hosea, but here it is:
Hosea 10:13 NASB "You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice, You have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your way, in your numerous warriors,"
This is a far cry from what King David wrote in Psalms 20:6-7: "Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven, With the saving strength of His right hand. Some boast in chariots, and some in horses; But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God." WHY has Israel eaten the "fruit of lies"? Because they have trusted *in their own way*.More about this is said in the book of Jeremiah:
Jer. 17:58: "Thus says the LORD, "Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the LORD. For he will be like a bush in the desert And will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of salt without inhabitant. Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit."
The dominoes of this part of the heart attitude to sin to deception are strung together well in the following passage:
Jer. 13:910: ""Thus says the LORD, 'Just so will I destroy the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. This wicked people, who refuse to listen to My words, who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts and have gone after other gods to serve them and to bow down to them, let them be just like this waistband, which is totally worthless."
So here they all are:
1) Prosperity and blessing that really came from God, but not acknowledged.
2) Pride in the flesh- in their own ways and their own armies
3) Forgetting God, and disregarding His words and laws.
4) Stubborness of heart as they persistently pursue other gods, whom they trust to provide.
5) Meaningless, worthless, and corrupted religious activities and rituals in the name of the Lord.
6) A multiplication of sins in the moral decay which are of a disloyalty and pleasure-seeking nature, including lies, trickery and deceit, greed, cheating of wages, religious hypocrisy and apostasy, harlotry and adultry, and murder (The book of Jeremiah provides much of list)
NOW A LOOK AT GOD'S HEART IN THIS:
Hosea 11:14 : "When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son. The more they called them, The more they went from them; They kept sacrificing to the Baals And burning incense to idols. Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in My arms; But they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love, And I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws; And I bent down and fed them."
Hosea 11:810: How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart is turned over within Me, All My compassions are kindled. I will not execute My fierce anger; I will not destroy Ephraim again. For I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, And I will not come in wrath. They will walk after the LORD, He will roar like a lion; Indeed He will roar, And His sons will come trembling from the west.
The Lord has rescued the nation of Israel out of Egypt, delivering them from bondage and oppression and providing everything the nation needed. He also led them and guided them with care and embraced this nation, even while Israel continued to be faithless. But He was never acknowledged as the doting father, and now God's heart is broken from the betrayals. He is torn up inside, for He does not want to destroy them as He did the wicked nations around them. And so He decides to withhold His 'fierce anger', and instead disciplines them with medicine that wounds but does not kill, with the purpose of ultimately bringing them back to Him. He describes Himself becoming 'like a lion' to do this.
Hosea 13:4-9: Yet I have been the LORD your God Since the land of Egypt; And you were not to know any god except Me, For there is no savior besides Me. I cared for you in the wilderness, In the land of drought. As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, And being satisfied, their heart became proud; Therefore, they forgot Me. So I will be like a lion to them; Like a leopard I will lie in wait by the wayside. I will encounter them like a bear robbed of her cubs, And I will tear open their chests; There I will also devour them like a lioness, As a wild beast would tear them. It is your destruction, O Israel, That you are against Me, against your help.
Hosea 5:1415: For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, And like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear to pieces and go away, I will carry away, and there will be none to deliver. I will go away and return to My place Until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.
God is saying He will pounce upon them and tear them up, and then leave until they turn back to them. None of the judgements pronounced and carried out upon the nation of Israel are pretty or gentle, by any means. But the point is that God has to match their depravity with devastation that will finally get their attention, while stopping short of completely destroying the nation. He HAS taken other steps before this, and He HAS exhausted every other means, for as we shall see in the following passages first from Jeremiah and then from Hosea, that He has sent His prophets for a very, very long time to warn and call to repentance, and to promise grace if they do:
Jer. 7:25 "Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have sent you all My servants the prophets, daily rising early and sending them.
Jer. 26:26: "Thus says the LORD, 'Stand in the court of the LORD'S house, and speak to all the cities of Judah, who have come to worship in the LORD'S house, all the words that I have commanded you to speak to them. Do not omit a word! 'Perhaps they will listen and everyone will turn from his evil way, that I may repent of the calamity which I am planning to do to them because of the evil of their deeds.' "And you will say to them, 'Thus says the LORD, "If you will not listen to Me, to walk in My law, which I have set before you, to listen to the words of My servants the prophets, whom I have been sending to you again and again, but you have not listened; then I will make this house like Shiloh, and this city I will make a curse to all the nations of the earth."'"
(Also see Jer. 28:19, 35:15, and Jer. 44:4-10)
BLOODSHED FOR BLOODSHED:
The most grievious charges against the nation of Israel, and the Lord's retribution for it, are recounted in the following scriptures from Ezekial and Jeremiah:
Ezek 16:2021: "Moreover, you took your sons and daughters whom you had borne to Me, and you sacrificed them to idols to be devoured. Were your harlotries so small a matter? You slaughtered My children, and offered them up to idols by causing them to pass through the fire.
Ezek 16:3639: Thus says the Lord GOD, "Because your lewdness was poured out and your nakedness uncovered through your harlotries with your lovers and with all your detestable idols, and because of the blood of your sons which you gave to idols, therefore, behold, I shall gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, even all those whom you loved and all those whom you hated. So I shall gather them against you from every direction and expose your nakedness to them that they may see all your nakedness. Thus I shall judge you, like women who commit adultery or shed blood are judged; and I shall bring on you the blood of wrath and jealousy. I shall also give you into the hands of your lovers, and they will tear down your shrines, demolish your high places, strip you of your clothing, take away your jewels, and will leave you naked and bare.
Jer 19:27 Then go out to the valley of Benhinnom, which is by the entrance of the potsherd gate; and proclaim there the words that I shall tell you, and say, 'Hear the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, "Behold I am about to bring a calamity upon this place, at which the ears of everyone that hears of it will tingle. Because they have forsaken Me and have made this an alien place and have burned sacrifices in it to other gods that neither they nor their forefathers nor the kings of Judah had ever known, and because they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind; therefore, behold, days are coming, "declares the LORD," when this place will no longer be called Topheth or the valley of Benhinnom, but rather the valley of Slaughter. And I shall make void the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem in this place, and I shall cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies and by the hand of those who seek their life; and I shall give over their carcasses as food for the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth."
GOD'S CHARACTER IS NOT LIKE A MAN'S
This study of the gross moral and spiritual depravity entrenched in the nation of Israel as a result of them departing from God to 'play' and serve other gods, plus God's heart cry, and His response to this delimma of His faithless and troubled chosen and beloved people gives a good perspective on what is the 'whole story'. Remember, through the prophet Hosea, God said of Himself that He is "God and not man, the Holy One in you midst,.." and that because of this He "will not come in wrath" (Hosea 11:9) He is saying that a man would've destroyed the entire nation for their betrayals and transgression--in reaction to the pain caused by them. I have found that all of us tend to look at the Old Testament writings, especially because of the accounts of wrath given about God, with our own perspective of how we think God is. We tend to either look at Him as though He is either unbearingly harsh and unforgiving, or very unconcerned and soft on the problem of evil, depending on our own perspective and mental tendencies--depending on whether we look through dark-colored glasses or rose-colored glasses. It is also not a stretch of the imagination to assume that the Hebrew people by and large had little capacity to understand the character of their God, who they probably easily assumed was much like the gods of the cultures from which they came. Therefore, the only reliable perspective really comes from the words of the prophets who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to portray God's motives and intent, plus the actual events that took place after these words were spoken. Being careful to take into consideration that the people themselves are coming to their own conclusions, we can see that they had an immature veiw of the character of God, much the same as we tend to do while we are reading these accounts!
But the Lord gave His *own* definition of His character, at the beginning, to Moses on Mount Sinai:
So he cut out two stone tablets like the former ones, and Moses rose up early in the morning and went up to Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and he took two stone tablets in his hand. And the LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD. Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations."
This is repeated in the Old Testament *eight* times! (Footnotes: Num. 14:18; Nehemiah 9:7; Psalms 86:15; Psalms 103:7-11; Psalms 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2, and Nahum 1:3)
Jeremiah served as prophet to Israel for over 40 years, between the years of 626-586 B.C., spanning a number of government changes before the downfall of Jerusalem, when the Hebrew people were finally carried into exile to Babylon. He boldly prophesied a very unpopular and ill-received message to the kings, false prophets, false shepherds and priests, and people--from the rich to the poor during that time. From a thorough study of this book, it is almost amazing (to me, since I'm not holy like the Father) the patience God demonstrates in repeating Himself, always offering grace should they repent to the very last, and restraint God has while He pleads with this wicked people for them to accept redemption from His coming judgements upon them. In chapt. 11 of Jeremiah, we see that Jeremiah, to the breaking point, is even asking for vengeance upon those plotting to kill him. We see in Jer. 11:14 and other passages in this book how the Lord releases Jeremiah from interceeding for the people as Moses would do when the nation of Israel was younger. He tells him even not to grieve or comfort when destruction comes (Jer. 15:5) Jeremiah faces intense persecution and is rescued from death a number of times--He expresses his frustration with the wicked in chapt. 12:1-4, and praises Him with prayer in chapt. 17:12-18. (You might want to take a quick look at Hosea 9:7, to see the suffering of the prophet)
It is clear how the Lord works with His discipline and wrath: He does as much as is needed, and as little as is required. Like in a chess game, He matches point for point--with no excesses or overeaction to His responses to the problem and depth of the sin. Indeed, the nation of Israel before their exile was so sick spiritually and morally, that it could be likened to a noncompliant patient being wheeled in to surgery against his will, to perform emergency and radical surgery to save from complete death. History demonstrates that nations and governments which are on these kind of declines are often found no more later. The Lord spiritually likens them to Sodom and Gommorrah in Jeremiah 5:1, as He challenges to find just one righteous person through the streets of Jerusalem, so He can pardon the whole city.
GOD'S PERFECT PLAN:
We will end with just some of the scriptures, taken only from Hosea, in which God predicts the results of His 'medicine'--the complete recovery of His sick 'patient'. In the first passage quoted, we can see that the Lord's ultimate goal is *to change the relationship between Himself and Israel*, so that Israel sees Him as more than just like the idols which demand to be called 'master', and instead have an intimacy with Him as one would have with a 'husband'.
Hosea 2:1423: "Therefore, behold, I will allure her, Bring her into the wilderness, And speak kindly to her. Then I will give her her vineyards from there, And the valley of Achor (or "trouble") as a door of hope. And she will sing there as in the days of her youth, As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt. And it will come about in that day," declares the LORD, That you will call Me Ishi (or "husband") And will no longer call Me Baali (or "my master").For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, So that they will be mentioned by their names no more. In that day I will also make a covenant for them With the beasts of the field, The birds of the sky, And the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, And will make them lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, In lovingkindness and in compassion, And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD.And it will come about in that day that I will respond," declares the LORD. I will respond to the heavens, and they will respond to the earth, And the earth will respond to the grain, to the new wine, and to the oil, And they will respond to Jezreel.And I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, 'You are My people!' And they will say, 'Thou art my God!'"
Hosea 6:13: Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. "He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day That we may live before Him. "So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth." (In next verse is stark contrast to God's loyalty as compared to Israel's)
Hosea 14: Return, O Israel, to the LORD
your God, For you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take words with
you and return to the LORD. Say to Him, "Take away all iniquity, And receive
us graciously, That we may present the fruit of our lips. Assyria will
not save us, We will not ride on horses; Nor will we say again, 'Our god,'
To the work of our hands; For in Thee the orphan finds mercy." I will heal
their apostasy, I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from
them. I will be like the dew to Israel; He will blossom like the lily,
And he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon. His shoots will sprout,
And his beauty will be like the olive tree, And his fragrance like the
cedars of Lebanon. Those who live in his shadow Will again raise grain,
And they will blossom like the vine. His renown will be like the wine of
Lebanon. O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? It is I who answer
and look after you. I am like a luxuriant cypress; From Me comes your fruit.
Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; Whoever is discerning,
let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, And the righteous
will walk in them, But transgressors will stumble in them.
by Teri Lee Earl © 1996
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by Teri Lee Earl, Copyright 1996, HarvestNETwork
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