Court was in session. It was God versus Israel. Israel had broken covenant with their God and there was a penalty due. The sad part of this situation is that Israel was without defense, yet they didn't seem to know or care. They were without excuse and they stood before God the Plaintiff who happened to also be the judge.
The book of Hosea makes a transition in chapter four. While the first three chapters were personal regarding Hosea and his family who were a picture God used as a prophecy, he would now prophecy to Israel this unfaithful and harlotous wife and to her children.
God has brought His charge. This charge is directed to the children of Israel. These children were characterized by Hosea's children of Harlotry. Remember them from chapter one: Jezreel meant "God will scatter"; Lo-Ruhamah was "no mercy"; Lo-Ammi was "not my people". They were a picture of unfaithful Israel who had turned away from God.
The word of the Lord is a case for the prosecution of Israel's children of harlotry. There are more than just three. First we see listed the sins of omission. There is no longer truth, no mercy, and no knowledge. Then the sins of commission: there is swearing, lying, killing, stealing and adultery. We hear these things and it might sound like our neighborhoods, family or at leasty the evening news.
The knowledge of God came by way of the covenant and law God had given them. Their knowledge of the Lord came by the prophets and priests. From generation to generation they were to speak of what God had done for them, through them and among them.
6 "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Read Deuteronomy 29 & 30. God gave them two futures; a future of faithfulness and one of unfaithfulness. God's way was on of hope and stability and blessing; a home with a faithful family and a Heavenly Father who watched over them. But they lived in a sinfallen world that chased after other gods that would attempt to draw them away. The life apart from them God was a life of curses and wickedness and wrath. The people would be scattered and without hope while the land was left desolate. This was a life that lacked direction and purpose.
When God brings his charge to the people, it wasn't at the first sign of trouble. After all the first sign of trouble happened before they left Egypt. They grumbled and complained. Then at the mountain of God they made a golden calf. And it went on and on across the years. God didn't call them because they were perfect. He loved them and would correct them and grow them and be patient with them. They had been guilty of disobedience but they had still remained His people. The law provided for sacrifice for the covering of sin. The law provided for fellowship and worship with God along with feasts of celebration and remembrance.
The children of Israel no longer acknowledged God and therefore had no knowledge of Him. They were for the most part ignorant of Him by choice. They chose to follow other gods. They had broken covenant.
Because the children lacked knowledge of the Lord, they lacked truth. They had no anchor point in their life. There was no moral compass, no boundaries of behavior. No laws to keep us from the trouble we are quite good at making for our selves. If the truth of God is rejected, then one man's truth is as good as another. Everyone feels the freedom to pursue the truth that best suits their life. This is a truth that accomadates all the desires of the flesh and the sinful ways of man. This life is self centered, self serving. This life is without mercy. Mercy doesn't exist without knowledge of God and truth.
The further fruit of a life with no knowledge of God is listed in verse two. The cursing is to invoke harm on another. This is normal for life centered in self. After all others might get something you don't have, they might horn in on your territory, you might have to divide the good things of life with them. Deception by lying was commonplace. And if it is all about you and your truth then why not lie to have your way? And if there is no moral compass then murder and stealing and adultery become acceptable. The last half of verse 2 sums it up:
They break all restraint,
This is one Hebrew word meaning to break our or burst forth. They had thrown off any boundaries. It seems very close to the idea of Jezreel, the scattering of the people.
With bloodshed upon bloodshed.
This breaking all restraint brought violent crime upon violent crime in their streets. The Hebrew phrase means bloody deed touches bloody deed, as if they were connected. And they were connected; all rooted in the throwing off of restraint.
This will bring a mourning on the land. The word 'mourning' means 'to dry up'. No knowledge of God brings a barrenness to the land. The animals are affected, the crops, the fish. Every aspect of life is tainted and dried up. The sin of the people pollutes the land and nature.
This is further outfall from throwing off all restraint. Having rejected God, they rejected all authority of the priests of God. To 'contend' was to involved in a legal argument; the priests were keepers of the law and the people were rejecting the law and rejecting the authority to inforce the laws God put them under.
With no rule of law; no set of standards they all lived under, every many sought his own truth and own law. There was no use in any man contending with another or rebuking another. To rebuke the actions of another became a matter of opinion. The response might be, "Who are you to judge my actions? You see it as sin and wickedness, I see it as a life choice!"
The next word in verse five then is 'therefore'. The outcome of this is a stumbling and bumbling through life. This is an unsteady walk of the people. We might be able to just ignore this if it were just at night, stumbling in the dark. But they stumbled in the day. It could not be disregarded. Even the prophets who might seemingly be exempt from this are brought down with them.
Their mother, the harlot Israel, would be destroyed. This lack of knowledge would destroy the people. While destruction closed in on them on every side, in their ignorance they might say, "What lack of knowledge? We are wise. We know what we are doing." God rejected the nations, the priests of the nation and the people. And the sad thing about it is they were okay with that.
They had so rejected God, they paid no attention to these warnings. The increase of the nation was supposed to be a blessing and fulfillment of the promises of God. But the increase brought an increase in sin. God's warnings through the prophets were ignored. They were just background noise in a busy life of each person pursuing the things that pleased them. Each had their special interest. All found their sin comfortable because everyone else was doing it.
Read Romans 1:18-32; Isaiah 5:8-25
The rejection of God and the rejection of the knowledge of God leaves every man stumbling in the dark seeking what is right in his own eyes. Sin and wickedness reign with basis for morality or rule of law. In casting off the law, they are a small boat in a large angry ocean with no anchor, no sail and no rudder. They are at the mercy of the waves and storms and all the time saying to themselves, "I am in control." They believe in idols, politics, or their own human ability to rememdy the situation; all the while they are tossed about.
And to the priest that stood aside shaking his head at the people, seeing himself as righteous and thereby exempt from any punishment; God said like people, like priests. They were all equally children of harlotous mother Israel. They were equally culpable for the failings. So God would bring punishment, a reward for their deeds. In their lack of knowledge of God, a reward might sound like something postiive to their ignorant ears. But the reward would a lack of joy and contentment; as if eating but never having enough.
The worship of Baal and Asherah involved male and female prostitutes. The worship included vile sexual practices. Young women who wanted to have children had sex with male priests. God said the efforts would not succeed. It was sex but no increase, no fruitfull blessing. The rewards for disobedience was the fruit of their unrighteousness.
It might be hard for us to imagine these people bowing before their wooden idols. Our idols tend to be electronic. Look at any gathering of people today and the vast majority are looking at their cell phones. This might be a picture of what idol worship looked like in their time. The stick of wood that answered them is most likely a divining rod. There is no end to our ability to honor paganism and the false gods. The men were committing harlotry. The young women followed suit. They sought after their gods, burned incense, traveled to these high places and trees to worship. They were committed to their idolatry. This wasn't something passive in their life. The bigger picture of all this was a national picture of spiritual harlotry. They had thrown away their faithfulness of God Most High and chased after another.
The women wouldn't be singled out for judgment by God for their harlotry because the men were doing the same. This temple prostitutes seemed like a pretty fun way to worship for them. Much better than just bowing before a wooden idol.
Therefore….we see this word repeatedly as the judge draws a conclusion for the charges he brought. The people who have no knowledge or understanding of God will be brought to ruin.
God speaks briefly to Judah in this prophecy. The centers for idol worship in the Northern kingdom were Gilgal and Behel. Gilgal had been a place of training prophets in Elijah's time, but now it was a center of idolartry. Hosea calls Bethel Beth Aven. This is a purposeful play on words from Hosea; he is changing Bethel, meaning 'house of God' to Beth Aven meaning 'house of deceit'. Judah was to keep their distance and not come up to the northern kingdom. The principal of evil company corrupting good habits (1 Cor 15:33) applied here.
Israel was pictures as this stubborn calf that couldn't or wouldn't be tamed. This calf had no wisdom in dealing with the one who fed and cared for it. It went where it wanted and did what it wanted. This calf that ran wilde would be left to forage on its own and fend for itself. Israel gave this no thought. They were fine with this all the while thinking they were pursuing life in their own wise way; seeking enjoyment, fulfillment. But in the open field they would be like a lamb in the open country which was easy prey for the wolves.
They didn't just worship the idols; they were joined to them. God told Judah to let them alone; its as though God said, "they made their bed let them lie in it" while warning Judah not to join them.
We started this study with the picture of a courtroom. God brought the charges and He is the judge. This is never a good place to be. The charges have already been prepared by the law of God. Compare the charges brought to Israel with the Ten Commandments. The wrath of God abides against all men. We've all fallen short of God's glory. But God is also long-suffering. He loves us and wants us to turn to Him. Some see God's patience as a sign there is no God or that there is no justices. They think God has left us alone. We don't want to ever be in that place where God leaves us alone. This is a place without hope. Israel would soon find themselves overrun by the enemy, killed, scatttered, destryed and carried off to another land. All they pursued and hoped in was brought to nothing. The false gods and idols were without power or authority. They could not deliver; they were clouds without rain.
We need to be prepared for that courtroom. We stand condemned in the charges against us. And with God being the judge and the prosecuter we seem to be without hope. The good news is that God is also the defense attorney and the propitiation. Our hope is found in Christ alone. He is The Way, The Truth and the The Life. Jesus loves us and calls to each of us to repent and trust in Him. This is to turn from our sinful ways and surrender our life to Him. We stand condemned in our sin, He paid the sin debt you owe. By trusting in the work He completed, you can be forgiven and spend eternity with Jesus. God the Son will stand in that courtroom on your behalf and plead your justification because your debt was paid by Him. Praise the Lord Jesus!
©2016 Doug Ford