ISRAEL INDICTED Hosea 4–6
“The Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land” (Hosea 4:1).The Old Testament mirrors the heart of God. In the charges brought by Hosea, we can see those issues of justice and righteousness which we must deal with in our society today.
After preliminary charges (4:1–4), Hosea detailed the sins of priests (vv. 5–11) and people (vv. 12–19). He warned individuals (5:1–7) and the nation (vv. 8–15), but there was only superficial repentance (6:1–3). Thus God’s indictment of His people goes on (vv. 4–11).
Understanding the Text
“A charge to bring” Hosea 4:1–3.
After the first three autobiographical chapters, this chapter samples Hosea’s preaching. This section, in the form of legal charges against Israel, begins with a general description of Hosea’s society. The itemized charges are: there is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God; instead there is cursing, lying, murder, stealing, adultery, and bloodshed. Out of curiosity I picked up this morning’s newspaper, and glanced at the headlines found in the section dedicated to our Florida county. Here are some of the stories that were featured: * 13 mall stores robbed. * Extra forces planned for Labor Day weekend to prevent drunk-driving accidents. * Van window shattered by bullet. * Armed robber arrested. * Crack sweep nets four more. * Teen charged with trying to run down boy with car. * Ex-fire fighter charged with forgery. * Man charged with DUI-manslaughter in 1988 accident. * 18-year-old leader of a group of 15 charged with threatening three with bats and tire irons. * Man 18, girl 14, charged with burglaries. I didn’t look closely at the stories. And I didn’t include the more spectacular big-city headlines, like the one reporting the life sentence given a woman who turned her 13-year-old daughter over to a convicted rapist for a one-time sexual assault, to pay for the mother’s crack cocaine. In a way, the local stories are more frightening. They suggest that the corruption has spread further in our society than we might suspect. Perhaps we should listen closely to Hosea, for our own times are very much like the times in which Hosea ministered! “I reject you as My priests; because you have ignored the law of your God” Hosea 4:4–11. The spiritual leaders of Israel were the first group to be indicted. They were to lead His people to godliness; instead they gave “themselves to prostitution, to old wine and new.” They even relished “their wickedness.” The TV today showed a stooped Jim Bakker being led into a North Carolina courtroom. Yesterday damaging testimony against him was given by a former PTL staff member. Today his lawyer described him as “huddled up in a fetal position, lying on the floor of my office with his head under the sofa, saying that bad people were trying to hurt him.” The Lord needs to protect me from my first reaction, which is that he deserves whatever he gets. Instead I need to be crushed. Crushed and humbled that a spiritual leader of my own day could have “exchanged the glory” found in faithful service to God for contemptible things like millions of dollars, luxury homes and cars, and sexual trysts with church secretaries. Jim Bakker’s indictment is an indictment of us all. “They are unfaithful to their God” Hosea 4:12–19. Hosea continued with an indictment of the whole population of Israel. They chased after idols and permitted their daughters to become cult prostitutes. Their very worship was corrupt. They used religious jargon in their speech (v. 15), but they loved their shameful ways. It’s fine to shout, “Praise the Lord.” But unless our shouts of praise are matched by an equal enthusiasm for obeying the Lord, our religion too is meaningless. “Hear this” Hosea 5:1–7. God brought charges against the priests, the people, and Israel’s royal house, and convicted them. “This judgment is against you.” What did the “guilty” verdict mean? It meant that the divine sentence had been imposed, a sentence that involved the Lord’s withdrawal from His people (v. 7). When troubles came, and Israel looked desperately for God to help her, He would not be found. There is really no greater penalty. Without the Lord we are helpless before circumstances, enemies, and the consequences of our own foolish choices. If God were not here to turn to, there would be nothing at all we could do. Let’s consciously reject Israel’s ways and attitudes whenever they crop up in our own lives. Let’s hold tight to the hand God reaches out for us to grasp. “He is not able to cure you” Hosea 5:8–14. Israel also renounced a national policy of reliance on God. Instead the nation relied on a treaty with Assyria to protect her against Syria. Assyria was only too happy to have this treaty as an excuse to march west. She gobbled up Syria—and then turned on her “ally” Israel. When any nation rejects God, it is in danger. It takes a national revival—admission of guilt and passionate seeking of God (v. 15)-to make any society safe.
Love Like a Morning Mist (Hosea 6)
Some people are hopelessly optimistic. “I know,” they say. “I know I did wrong, and God has punished me for it. But all I have to do is come back to Him. If I just say, ’I’m sorry,’ everything will be all right. Won’t it?” That’s the kind of blithe optimism portrayed in verses 1–3. And it makes God shake His head in frustration. These people seem to think that some superficial turning to religion is what God wants. They seem to think that if they come to God and say “please,” the Lord will be so delighted that He’ll fall all over Himself to do them good. But God wasn’t interested in superficial religion then. And He isn’t impressed by it today. God’s judgments were intended to bring about a fundamental change in attitude, not a return to church! And so God said, “Your love is like a morning mist,” and “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” What do these two phrases tell us? First, that God isn’t interested in fleeting emotions we may feel toward Him. He wants complete commitment. There’s a vast difference between the “I love you’s” breathlessly exchanged in the backseat of a car, and the “I do’s” shared at a wedding! Second, love for God is to be shown not in religious ceremonies but in daily life. Flowers are nice. But real love is better shown by helping with the dishes, changing dirty diapers, and “being there” when support and encouragement are needed. God isn’t satisfied with a bouquet tossed His way on Sunday. He wants us to show our love for Him daily by doing His will. And so God seems to shake His head, and in frustration wonder aloud, “What can I do with you, Ephraim?” Despite the testimony of God’s Law and the words of His prophets, Israel’s concept of relationship with the Lord still remained shallow. And today we also tend to have a shallow concept of God. God has no use for a “love” that is as fleeting and insubstantial as a morning mist.
Love God always, and you will always obey.