The guilt of Ephraim is stored up, his sins are kept on record. Pains as of a woman in childbirth come to him, but he is a child without wisdom; when the time arrives, he does not come to the opening of the womb.
When was this, that the time arrived for Ephraim to be born, and he refused? The next verse gives us a hint:
I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?
We know exactly when this happened. Death had come to us all as the consequence of Adam’s sin. And until Yeshua came; lived a sinless life; was crucified on our behalf; and then rose to life again, there was no way for us to be delivered from death – from the consequences of both Adam’s sin and our own. But through what Yeshua had accomplished for us, we now had, or at least could have, victory over death, as the Apostle Paul says in 1 Cor 15:55-57, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ephraim’s sins were barring his entrance into a real relationship with God. So Yeshua, by His death and resurrection, opened the way for Ephraim to finally be born into this new life with God, by the forgiveness of his sins. Yeshua Himself described it this way in a conversation with Nicodemus, in John 3:2-3 – “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
So it was time – time for Ephraim to be born. Then why did he hold back? Why did he refuse to be born? Why did he choose not to receive this salvation? Wasn’t this just what the nation of Israel had been waiting for and longing for?
Well… Israel had been waiting for a Savior – a Messiah, to fulfill the many prophecies which promised their deliverance as a nation. At the birth of his son John, Zechariah expressed this as – “salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us” (Luke 1:71), and then he goes on to express a second sense of this salvation – “you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:76-77)
Salvation “from our enemies”, and salvation “through the forgiveness of our sins”. What had been prophesied, Ephraim was understanding just as this first sense – salvation and deliverance of the nation. That’s what he was watching for and hoping for.
In reality both senses had been prophesied, and both senses will be ultimately fulfilled. But what Ephraim didn’t expect, and didn’t yet understand, was that what we first needed to receive was deliverance from our sin; from the power that the enemy of our souls held over us. So Ephraim is still watching and waiting – not realizing that he can be born right now.