Knowledge of God Rejected
Hosea • Sermon • Submitted
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4 “But let no man bring a charge, let no man accuse another, for your people are like those who bring charges against a priest. 5 You stumble day and night, and the prophets stumble with you. So I will destroy your mother— 6 my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children. 7 The more the priests increased, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their Glory for something disgraceful. 8 They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness. 9 And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds. 10 “They will eat but not have enough; they will engage in prostitution but not increase, because they have deserted the Lord to give themselves 11 to prostitution, to old wine and new, which take away the understanding 12 of my people. They consult a wooden idol and are answered by a stick of wood. A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God. 13 They sacrifice on the mountaintops and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar and terebinth, where the shade is pleasant. Therefore your daughters turn to prostitution and your daughters-in-law to adultery. 14 “I will not punish your daughters when they turn to prostitution, nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery, because the men themselves consort with harlots and sacrifice with shrine prostitutes— a people without understanding will come to ruin! 15 “Though you commit adultery, O Israel, let not Judah become guilty. “Do not go to Gilgal; do not go up to Beth Aven. And do not swear, ‘As surely as the Lord lives!’ 16 The Israelites are stubborn, like a stubborn heifer. How then can the Lord pasture them like lambs in a meadow? 17 Ephraim is joined to idols; leave him alone! 18 Even when their drinks are gone, they continue their prostitution; their rulers dearly love shameful ways. 19 A whirlwind will sweep them away, and their sacrifices will bring them shame.
As we come to this text, recall that the scene has been set in verses 1-3 of Hosea 4. In those verses, we found that a courtroom setting was presented. God was coming as judge, and was about to pronounce judgment on His people Israel because of their waywardness.
The picture of harlotry unfaithfulness that was presented through the marriage of Hosea to Gomer has given way to the details of Israel’s unfaithfulness now being presented to them.
As we go through this first section of God’s judgment against Israel, what we will find is that Israel had forsaken God, particularly in the sense that they had lost sight of who God is. Their knowledge of God was lacking, and thus their worship of God had failed.
As we begin our study from this passage, we must notice firstly the...
1. Deluded People and Priests (vv.4-9)
1. Deluded People and Priests (vv.4-9)
Both the people in general, along with the priests who were tasked with leading the people of Israel, had become deluded and duped into self-centered, idolatrous worship.
In Hosea 4:4 we read...
4 “But let no man bring a charge, let no man accuse another, for your people are like those who bring charges against a priest.
This verse is directed at the people of Israel as a whole. The language that Hosea uses demonstrates that his charge is against all the people of Israel, at the very least a significantly large portion of Israel. All the people had together gone astray from the living God.
They are here commanded not to bring a charge, or bring an accusation against another. The people of God saw themselves as righteous. They were a people who believed that they were right, and everyone around them was in the wrong.
They did not want to hear the person who sought to bring them moral guidance - they spoke out against the priests, who were to teach them God’s ways.
When it speaks of those who “bring charges against a priest”, it is reminding the people that such charges that they are bringing are worthy of the death sentence.
12 The man who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the Lord your God must be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel.
But these people spoke out and brought charges against the priest, thinking that they were living acceptably even before God. The stability of the entire society was at risk due to their rebellion against God’s moral decrees.
The people of Israel had regressed to a state as found in the time of the judges, when each person did what was right in his own eyes.
In verse 5, we read...
5 You stumble day and night, and the prophets stumble with you. So I will destroy your mother—
Stumbling for these Israelites was a full time activity. Both day and night, they stumbled along, without the light of the Word of God to guide them.
But not only were the people stumbling, but the prophets were stumbling with them. Whatever visions they were claiming to receive were false visions. They had abandoned a true knowledge and revelation of God, and they had started proclaiming things that pleased the people, all the while claiming them to be from God.
Recall that the prophets were men that were supposed to proclaim the revelations of God in truthfulness for the people. They were to direct God’s people in His ways, and speak with clarity to them concerning God’s desires. But instead, they were themselves deluded.
The consequence would be that their mother would be cut off. We know from the context of Hosea 2:2, 5 that this refers to Israel as a whole. They would be cut off as a result of their waywardness.
But as Hosea goes on, we see what it is that is causing these people to go astray. And this is extremely important for us...
6 my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.
God tells these people through the prophet Hosea that they are being destroyed because of a lack of knowledge.
This is no ordinary knowledge of general subject matter that is being spoken of. Rather, it refers to a deep and essential knowledge of God.
10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Israel had no knowledge of God.
But notice further that God now turns his accusations towards the priests themselves.
He writes, “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests.”
The priests themselves had rejected a knowledge of God. God’s charge against them in verse 6 is, “you have ignored the law of your God.”
The priests ought to have been those who led the people of God into deeper understanding of God and His ways.
7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction—because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty.
But here, both the people and the priests had chosen a path wherein they no longer desired to walk in wisdom and in a knowledge of the Triune God. They had rejected His ways. They had forsaken his laws. They had forsaken the study of God’s law.
In doing so, they had abandoned the very God that called them by His own name.
We must take caution in this.
As goes our knowledge and understanding of God, so goes our walk with God and obedience to God.
The time that we spend learning of God through the study of the word, will determine the extent to which we walk with God in holiness and obedience as He calls us to.
A life lived in this world as a Christian requires us to keep on pressing on to know God more. We must deepen our knowledge and understanding of who God is, otherwise it’s impossible to live our lives here as we ought.
How foolish we would be to deceive ourselves into thinking that we don’t have enough time to read Scripture and pray. Friends, the study of God’s word must be our delight and joy - to know God, so that we would know how we ought to live day by day.
As we go on in verse 7, we read...
7 The more the priests increased, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their Glory for something disgraceful.
The priests were increasing in number, but so too were their sins. They had become corrupt. That which ought to have been their glory - the teaching of the profound truths of the Almighty God - they had exchanged for something disgraceful - the mere teachings of men. Saying things to please the people around them.
Let us be sure that when those who ought to proclaim the glorious revelations of God in Scripture, turn away from this truth and start proclaiming ear-tickling lies, destruction is the result.
Verse 8 goes on to say...
8 They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness.
The priests failed to call the people to God’s Holy Law. But they still took their sin offerings. They made as if God were pleased with them, allowing the people to continue to a state of wickedness.
The prophet Micah addressed this...
11 Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they lean upon the Lord and say, “Is not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us.”
And Isaiah said:
11 They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, each seeks his own gain.
Dear brothers and sisters, if we ever see this taking place today, preachers who have been commanded and tasked with preaching the deep truths of God, proclaiming the whole counsel of God, if we see them wandering away, we must be grieved.
When we see hordes of people, gathering around them teachers merely to teach them what their itching ears want to hear, we must be grieved. These people set themselves up against God. And God will not be less accept such false worship today as He did in that day.
Friends, how this should stir up our hearts for evangelism and sharing the truth of the Word.
This leads us to consider the second main point...
2. Deserved Punishment (vv.9-10)
2. Deserved Punishment (vv.9-10)
In verse 9 we read...
9 And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds.
God says that he will not allow their sins to go unpunished. He will not allow a willful abandonment of the knowledge of Him to go without the just consequences.
Both people and priests have forsaken a knowledge of the living and true God, and have willfully rejected Him and His laws, and they will thus come under His judgments.
In Jeremiah 5:31, we read...
31 The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?
It’s one thing to live for a moment without God. It’s one thing to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of false worship for a time. But what will you do in the end?
Israel did not consider the consequences of her ways.
In verse 10, we read then of those consequences...
“They will eat but not have enough; they will engage in prostitution but not increase, because they have deserted the LORD...”(Hosea 4:10, NIV84)
As a result of their sin, God says that they will not increase, and they will not be satisfied.
The gods of fertility that Israel had turned to worship were said to provide food and children. But God says that he will put a stop to those very things that their false gods were claiming to provide. He would cut off their food such that they hungered. He would cut off their offspring.
This formed part of the covenant curses that God pronounced to Israel in the event that they would forsake Him.
26 When I cut off your supply of bread, ten women will be able to bake your bread in one oven, and they will dole out the bread by weight. You will eat, but you will not be satisfied.
Israel had forsaken the knowledge of God as presented through the law and writings that they had, and they were walking in their own ways. They lived for themselves. All they could think about was themselves and their own increase and their own prosperity, which they hoped to gain by means that were contrary to God’s ways.
It was thus that God would punish them. And the punishment would be deserved!
Just by way of application, we need to keep bringing ourselves to know God and His ways and His decrees in Scripture. So often we can start to walk down our own paths, forsaking the ways and the commands of God.
We must be careful that we do not walk in these ways. God’s ways are pure and holy. God’s ways are true. Are we seeking Him first and foremost in our lives. Is our greatest priority to know Him, and to thus live in obedience to Him?
We must worship God and seek first His righteousness, and then trust Him to add to our lives as He deems fit according to His wonderful grace and mercy.
Thirdly from our passage, notice their...
3. Detestable Sins (vv.11-14)
3. Detestable Sins (vv.11-14)
As a result of their lack of knowledge of God, they were indulging in various and grievous sins that were in opposition to God.
The first sin was that of prostitution and drunkenness.
From verse 10… “they have deserted the LORD to give themselves...”
11 to prostitution, to old wine and new, which take away the understanding
“…of my people...”
The prostitution that they engaged was that with temple prostitutes of the fertility cult. They were living according to the lusts of the flesh, rather than living in self-sacrificial obedience to God.
They had also given themselves to the old wine and new. They were given to drunkenness which formed part of their self-indulgent worship of pagan gods.
We get a graphic picture of this through Isaiah...
7 And these also stagger from wine and reel from beer: Priests and prophets stagger from beer and are befuddled with wine; they reel from beer, they stagger when seeing visions, they stumble when rendering decisions.
The priests were deceived and led astray even by strong drink
But further to this, we see that they indulged in the sin of idolatry. In verse 12 we read...
“...They consult a wooden idol and are answered by a stick of wood. A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God. ” (Hosea 4:12, NIV84)
And in verse 13...
13 They sacrifice on the mountaintops and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar and terebinth, where the shade is pleasant. Therefore your daughters turn to prostitution and your daughters-in-law to adultery.
These words speak of the way in which the priests and people were seeking to find direction in life. They would turn to idols, to sticks of wood. They would worship gods that they fashioned from their own hands. They would worship gods that could neither see nor hear, and they would ask these gods for direction.
19 No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, “Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”
How deceived the people were!!!
They would also go up onto the mountains in order to worship these false gods. That was their place of worship.
6 During the reign of King Josiah, the Lord said to me, “Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there.
That was the place that they would prostitute themselves to false gods, and turn to these false gods in order to find direction, and seek blessing.
Paul, when writing to the Romans, spoke of such people who are led astray.
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
The results of this blatantly evil conduct by the Israelites, particularly the men as the leaders of the people, had disastrous consequences. At the end of of verse 13, we read...
“…Therefore your daughters turn to prostitution and your daughters-in-law to adultery....”
There was no longer any moral compass to guide the people. Because they had abandoned the knowledge of God, and refused to know Him and His law, they had opened themselves up to all evil, and even their daughters and daughters-in-law had become engrossed in the prostitution and adultery of the land.
Verse 14 depicts the entire nation as having descended into this sorry state...
14 “I will not punish your daughters when they turn to prostitution, nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery, because the men themselves consort with harlots and sacrifice with shrine prostitutes— a people without understanding will come to ruin!
Let us be sure that God saying he will not punish the daughters or the daughters-in-law is punishment in itself. The destruction that comes through such practices is great, and instead of drawing them back to Himself, or disciplining them in that, God says that he will leave them to their ways.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
Ultimately, they would come to ruin as God’s people as a result of their sinful conduct. They would be destroyed for lack of knowledge of God, and a life of wanton pleasure.
Finally, from this passage, notice with me the…
4. Divine Caution (vv.15-19)
4. Divine Caution (vv.15-19)
We see in verse 15 a caution to the Southern two tribes, known as Judah...
15 “Though you commit adultery, O Israel, let not Judah become guilty. “Do not go to Gilgal; do not go up to Beth Aven. And do not swear, ‘As surely as the Lord lives!’
At this stage, Judah may still avert such divine judgment as will come upon Israel. At this stage, Israel serves as a warning to Judah to not go down these paths, but rather to stay true to the Almighty and Holy God.
They are told to avoid worship at Gilgal and Beth Aven, which were places of idol worship. Beth-aven means house of idols, wickedness, or trouble. These were the religious centers which led the way in terms of the worship of the people. These were the places that the surrounding people took their cue from as they sought to engage in worship.
But God warns them to steer clear of these idolatrous places that have led even Israel astray. If they went to these places and got their cues from them, they would inevitably follow down the path of Israel, and would themselves be destroyed.
They are warned also not to “swear, ‘As surely as the LORD lives!’”
This was what Israel did, even as they worshiped false gods. They would declare in their oaths that The Lord lives! They would invoke His name. But their worship practices denied the very God they served!
As our text continues, and as part of this warning to Judah, God now proceeds to give the tribes of Judah a description of Israel from His own perspective.
In verse 16, we read...
16 The Israelites are stubborn, like a stubborn heifer. How then can the Lord pasture them like lambs in a meadow?
The picture of a stubborn heifer is appropriate. Israel was attracted by a bull, and worshiped this idol. In doing so, they had become stubborn, and they refused to heed the call of their true owner and master, God.
As a result of this, God asks of them, how can he pasture them when they refuse to listen to Him? God’s warning to Judah is that if they rebel, they too will become stubborn, they too will be rebels against God, and He will abandon them to their own desires.
The warning is sounded clearly in verse 17...
17 Ephraim is joined to idols; leave him alone!
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.
That’s the same kind of language that Paul used in Romans 1.
Dear friends, let us at the very least learn from this that we must not resist the will of God. We must not stubbornly go our own way, ignoring the calls of God through the Scriptures to turn to Him, and to keep in His ways. If we continue in sinful rebellion against God, He will eventually leave us to go our own path - and friends that is a path of destruction.
Verses 18 and 19 of our text demonstrate the extent of the depravity of Israel, as they indulged in continued idolatry and wicked practices.
18 Even when their drinks are gone, they continue their prostitution; their rulers dearly love shameful ways.
What a sorry state, when God leaves people over to indulge in their own shameful lusts. The heart of man is sinful indeed, and without the restraining grace of God, without the saving work of Christ, what would become of us.
As Christians today, we must live deeply thankful lives as we consider God’s unmerited grace and mercy towards us. The fact that He has given us such grace and mercy in Christ; that He has made our hearts alive to Him; sensitive to His leading; that He doesn’t leave His children in their ways - what praise we ought to give to Him.
For the Israelites of that day, destruction would certainly come. Verse 19...
19 A whirlwind will sweep them away, and their sacrifices will bring them shame.
Application / Conclusion
Application / Conclusion
Just very briefly in terms of application....
A lack of the knowledge of God leads to terrible sinfulness and shameful ways.
I urge each and every one of you, know the Lord! Know the Lord!
If you have not turned to Christ in repentance and faith, then I exhort you with the words of the prophet Isaiah...
6 Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
To those who know Christ, continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. This is our only hope of close unity with God. This is our safe hiding place - knowing God, and knowing His word.
May God grant us all a desire to know Him more, and so to live lives that bring great glory and honour to Him!