“God and His Word are Vitally Connected”
Hosea 4:1-19

After hearing the Word of God I wonder if Hosea would feel right at home were he here today? 

It’s like Hosea is writing about the very things I heard on the evening news. 

Lying, murder, stealing, adultry, bloodshed. 

People who stumble, prophets who stumble. 

Actually, Hosea could be writing about any generation. 


Because, like the Israelites, people are stubborn. 
Humans want things their own way, or the highway. 

We read in the first three chapters of Hosea of how God called Hosea to take a prostitute as a wife, so that he could personally relate to the feelings God was having with His people. God asked Hosea to be a living example for the people He was called to serve. This set up the main ideas we will be reading about in the remainder of the book, which are:

Israel rebelled
They were allowed to receive the severe consequences of their rebellious choices
BUT…. God reveals He is a God of second chances and that God’s love & mercy are more powerful than Israel’s sin
The remaining chapters of Hosea consist of two sections, chapters 4-10 and chapters 12-13, which provide God’s accusations and warnings for Israel. 
They are just as appropriate for us today. Think of them as “Yield” signs in the process of life. 

One of Hosea’s prime focuses in the next seven chapters will be on the concept of knowledge. God wanted His people to have more than an intellectual knowledge of Him. Rather than just knowing facts about God, He wanted His people to know Him relationally. 

That is still one of God’s prime focuses for us today. So many Christians grow up in the church and learn about God. They follow the do’s and refrain as best as they can from the don’ts. They have learned that when they mess up they can ask for forgiveness, receive it and go on. All of this is fine and good, except, God wants more. He wants us to be in a relationship with Him so that we know Him personally. 
God wants us to take the knowledge we read about Him in His Word and establish a relationship, where we walk and talk with Him, through our day, through the good and the bad, or just hanging out.  When we really know God relationally then we know His love. We feel His love. That’s amazing! 

Hosea was called to bring the Israelites of his day, back to a personal relationship with God. May his words do so for us today. 

Hosea chapter four begins with God giving a charge against the Israelites. Today we would say God brought a lawsuit against them. God was the plaintiff and the Israelites were the defendants. The case of “Jehovah vs. Israel and Judah.” God had three complaints:
There was no faithfulness
There was no love
There was no acknowledgement of God in the land. 
It stands to reason that with no acknowledgement of God in the land, there would be no faithfulness and there would be no love. 

God continues to lay out his case against them in verse 2, where He states “that they break all bounds.”  Eugene Peterson translates this, in “The Message,” to read, “sheer anarchy.” Step up to the 21st Century. We live in a culture today, much like the Israelites with Hosea, that is set against the idea of any type of restraint. We see it in the modern advertising slogans: 

Outback Steakhouse – “No rules, just right”
Niki – “Just Do It”
One of the top reads for 1999, First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. Here is a brief explanation of the book. “The greatest managers in the world seem to have little in common. They differ in sex, age, and race. They employ vastly different styles and focus on different goals. Yet despite their differences, great managers share one common trait: They do not hesitate to break virtually every rule held sacred by conventional wisdom. They do not believe that, with enough training, a person can achieve anything he sets his mind to. They do not try to help people overcome their weaknesses. They consistently disregard the golden rule. And, yes, they even play favorites. This amazing book explains why.”
All of these present the same message:

You make your own rules.
You answer to no one.
You are the one that matters.
Your universe revolves around you.
You should only restrain yourself if you want to. 

According to Hosea, when we set no boundaries, “bloodshed follows bloodshed.” Which in Hebrew translates literally as, “bloody deed touches bloody deed.” 

Verse 3 tells us the results of forsaking the knowledge of God, and having no faithfulness or love, 
“all who live in it waste away.” 
How deceptive Satan is in making us think that by seeking no boundaries we gain freedom, when in reality what we gain is a path to destruction. 
Hosea goes on to reveal other negative results of the Israelites not acknowledging God. They chose not to acknowledge God’s priests as well. Which was neither here nor there, because it turns out the priests were stumbling along with them. To make matters worse, they weren’t just stumbling at night, when one would have an excuse, they were stumbling in the daylight.  

In verse 6 Hosea boils it down to one thing, 
“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” 

Note, God’s people did not waste away because God lost His love or strength. It was because of their lack of knowledge. Hosea wasn’t saying that God’s people were completely ignorant of Him. They had some knowledge, but not enough. Maybe they had just enough knowledge to make them think they knew it all. 
This takes us back to knowing “about” God and not really, “knowing Him in a relationship sense.” I see it all the time. In conversations with people when they find out I am a minister. So often I begin to hear all the facts of what Christianity is about. People tend to know enough Scripture to make them sound like they are knowledgeable. But when I ask them about their relationship with Jesus Christ, they look at me like I have three heads. Please don’t misunderstand me. There is a direct correlation between knowing God and knowing His Word. You can’t have a real relationship with Jesus without knowing God’s Word, in fact, in John 1:1, Jesus calls Himself, “the Word.” The proof is in the pudding. When we know God for who He really is, it affects our conduct. 
As we continue reading in verse 6, we discover who was responsible for the lack of knowledge among the people of God, it was the priests. This still exists today. When Val and the girls and I moved to Edgecomb, our neighbor invited us to go to her church. The pastor found out I had graduated from seminary and asked if we could meet. I asked him where I could be of best service to him and the church. His answer shocked me. He said it would be great if I could help with Bible illiteracy. Wasn’t that his job? I became the Children’s Minister, for a couple of reasons: one, to assist with Bible literacy and two, to have an excuse to leave the service when he began his not so literate sermons. 

Priests were supposed to lead the people, on behalf of the Lord. The priest was to represent God to the people, through the preaching of the Word. Hosea was called to say it like it was. 
The priests were given much, yet with that much they sinned more against God. Their increase was a blessing, but Hosea tells us that the priests took these blessings for granted. He says in verse 8, 

“They feed on the sins of my people and relish in their wickedness.”

How did they do this? They took bribes and ate the sin offerings. The priests took advantage of their position and relished in Israel’s wickedness. 

God promises judgement. Verses 9 and 10, tell us that both priests and people had backslidden and both received judgement. One aspect of God’s judgement was the end to their increase. They would have, but it would never seem like enough, they would never be satisfied. 
In C.S. Lewis’s allegory of the Bible, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” this judgement was given to Edmund, the selfish sibling, when the White Witch offered him Turkish Delight, his favorite delicacy. She placed her magic upon it so it was highly addictive, making it so when he ate some he wanted more and more, thus making him easy for her to control. Perhaps that is what has happened to our consumer society. We are told we need to keep purchasing more and more, in order to be happy and to keep the economy going, yet when do we really have “enough?”

Hosea explains in verses 11-14 how the spirit of harlotry had caused them to stray. Israel didn’t leave the Lord and then began following the pagan gods around them. Instead, they added the worship of pagan gods to their worship of God. 
God’s response to this practice was the same way a spouse would respond if the other spouse said, “I want you to still be my spouse, I just want to take on a few more lovers also.” The description Hosea was using fit within the context of their society. Many pagan gods were “worshipped” by the hiring of a “ritual harlot.” This was far more enticing than just praying to a statue. Because women were the ones being used as the worship device, Hosea states that God was not going to single out the women for judgement, the men had just as much sin involved. God did not have a double standard. 

Verse 14 closes with a restatement of verse 6, 
“a people without understanding will come to ruin!”

Hosea gives the southern nation of Judah a warning, in verse 15. Israel had become far more ingrained in her apostasy, so Judah was cautioned to beware and not to follow her. Hosea mentions two cities, Gilgal and Beth Aven, which were centers of idolatry. For a citizen of Judah to even travel to those cities meant they shared in Israel’s idolatry. 

1 Corinthians 15:33
“Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 

Hosea closes this chapter with a summary of God’s charge against Israel and God’s remedy. Verse 16, 
“The Israelites are stubborn,
    like a stubborn heifer.
How then can the Lord pasture them
    like lambs in a meadow?”
Cattle are able to feed on their own in the open rage, with no fear of predators. Not so, for lambs, they are vulnerable. Hosea’s point was plain: if you act like a stubborn cow, don’t expect to be protected like an obedient sheep. 

This chapter ends in a devastating manner. Verses 17-19 tell us that Ephraim joined themselves to idols, so God’s judgement was to leave Ephraim “alone.” Ephraim was the largest tribe in the population of Israel. Therefore, the prophets often referred to Israel as “Ephraim.” Ultimately this action resulted in the Assyrian army taking them captive. When God’s presence is gone, when we are left to ourselves, with sinful hearts and we surely drift away. The actual definition of hell is “without the presence of God.” 
Our prayer should always be, 
“LORD, don’t leave me alone. Keep working on me.”

Let’s pray.