Last week we walked through Hosea chapter 3: we saw that God pursues us in the midst of our sin and redeems us from it in a precious demonstration of his redemptive love. Chapter 3 ends with a sweet promise of restoration and hope as we look forward to a coming King (Jesus) who will bring healing and unity to God’s people. As we leave that brief glimpse of a bright future, God wrenches Israel’s heads back around to see their sin so that he can directly confront her leaders who have led her astray. We’ll pick up the action in Chapter 4.
Accusation and Rebuke
God introduces the next section of Hosea by way of a ‘controversy’ that he has with the inhabitants of Israel (verses 1-3). This does not bode well for those inhabitants. And I don’t know if you know this or not, but God – who is all-knowing and all-sovereign and all-awesome doesn’t lose or give up ground to those he has controversies with in the Bible. Ever. Which is pretty cool, but also lends an utterly serious tone for where we’re going today.
The grounds of God’s contention with Israel is that there is no faithfulness, no honoring of the covenant, no love on Israel’s part. Furthermore, there is no knowledge of God in the land, denoting that the leaders (parents and priests) have not commended the Lord to the next generations. So the first thing that we can really dig into and run with Is that when there is a failure to lead spiritually, moral failure is close behind. We can see this in families, churches, my own personal life, and a whole ton of other contexts. Whenever those who lead abdicate their responsibilities, it’s only a matter of time before that one sin leads to whole host of others. It’s what we see in the Garden of Eden (Adam not leading like he should), throughout Scripture with evil kings and priests, and we see it everywhere around us in daily life.
Who does God hold responsible for these sins? Who does he call out to in the Garden of Eden? Who does he say is the head of the household and the elders of the church? Spiritual leaders, husbands, and elders, respectively. God’s indictment is that Israel is full of inappropriate oaths, lies, murder, stealing, adultery, and many other generationally compounded sins. He levels that indictment at the priests in this particular context – the spiritual leaders of Israel (verse 4).
Men, as the spiritual head of your household how are you leading your family? Single men, how are you preparing to lead your family? God tells us very plainly in the examples given and also in James 3:1 that we will be held to a higher standard, and that God expects us to lead well for his glory and the good of those under our leadership. Let us act accordingly by the power of the Spirit under the authority of Christ.
So God announces a judgment for the spiritual leaders of Israel – he will punish those who have not led his people correctly. To be clear, this isn’t God just being angry because of sin. He is expressing the highest concern for his people, which isn’t reflected in the leaders’ lives. Therefore God will bring the gravity of the situation to them by taking away what is most dear to them – their children (verse 6). One very important aspect and reason for God’s judgment is the people’s (including the leaders) rejection of knowledge. Rejection of knowledge in this context is a rejection of God because the people have no knowledge of God. We must know our God! And the primary means by which he has allowed us to know him (and the only authoritative one, I might add) is Scripture. He has put himself in us, and we do live in community, and he has given us good minds with which we can worship him. But the only authoritative self-revelation of God is his Word – the Bible. So then, we as Christians must study, we must dig and learn and get to know our God more deeply so that we grow in him and reflect his glory in our lives. This must not be seen as some legalistic pursuit for self-righteous purposes; quite the opposite, in fact. Our pursuit of God’s self-revelation and self-expression in Christ and Scripture must be for the growth, for sanctification, for encouragement, for sharpening. We study and we pursue that we may know him more deeply and be impacted by that relationship.
We know and learn about things that we love – think about what you know about your wife
and/or girlfriend, your kids, your job whatever you’re passionate about… for me it’s history and theology and a bunch of other random stuff. I study these things (to clarify I’m not talking about your wife or kids… I’m talking about history and theology and stuff), I enjoy knowing more about and keeping up with things that interest me. So why do we who profess the name of Christ and claim his lordship over our life not take the time to know him more deeply in prayer and study of what he has spoken to us in Scripture?
Do you study the Word for the glory of God in your life? Do you know Christ? Are you conforming your life to Scripture, or are you bending Scripture to what you want it to be?
As a quick aside, I would also say that if you have absolutely no desire to study Scripture and know God more deeply, then your walk cannot be growing in a Scriptural way, and you will remain stagnant in your faith.
Getting back to Hosea, the accusation that God levels at the priests and his people is that they have forgotten the Law, which is the equivalent of forgetting God. Now, even though we have the New Testament and Christ, we must be mindful not to repeat this sin and forget the Law that God has revealed himself in. You see the Law expresses God’s character and holiness, and it is in the Law that God gives us our understanding of the need for Christ and the grace we receive in him. Also, we have no biblical grounds to disregard or forget the Law – Christ fulfilled it; he in no way abolished it.
In verse 7 God declares that he will turn the priests’ glory (money, popularity, etc.) into shame by exposing the fleeting pleasures of their sin as ashes. They’ve been feeding off the sin of the people (verse 8) – that is, literally getting fat from eating their portion of the sacrifices, fueling their greed and spiritually manipulating people for their own personal gain. I wonder how this would read if God were to address the more modern examples of this idea: televangelists selling prayer shawls to ‘make people’s prayers more effective’ or even the pre-counter-reformation Catholic Church who profited from people’s sin by selling indulgences to free souls from purgatory and ‘absolve’ sins.
Or if I were to bring it closer to home for me (and many others), what about pastors of churches (the modern-day priests) who are caught up in scandals and moral failures? Could we classify this as an example of those men having their own glory turned into shame? Those men who thought they deserved the fleeting raptures of sin, or who considered themselves impenetrable bastions of God’s glory for the church – were they brought down because of that pride?
In the next part we’ll dig into the rest of the chapter and revisit the theme of God’s redemptive purposes in discipline. So get excited! Just kidding – tune in again soon, and let me know what you think and what questions you might have.