Hosea: Spiritual Ignorance

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Hosea 4:6—11

Israel was in deep trouble.  Hosea’s marriage was on the rocks because the unfaithfulness of his wife.  Out of the heartbreaking experiences in own life, Hosea the prophet well understood how God felt.  God loved Israel, yet Israel had been behaving just like Hosea’s adulterous wife; she was cheating on God!  Like Gomer, Israel had become no better than prostitute.  The wisdom literature of the Old Testament talks a lot about two things:  how to live in harmony with God and the importance of avoiding prostitutes.  The two issues are not unrelated and Hosea demonstrates the wisdom of wisdom literature.  Consider Proverbs 23:26—28,

O my son, trust my advice—stay away from prostitutes. For a prostitute is a deep and narrow grave. Like a robber, she waits for her victims as one after another become unfaithful to their wives.  (TLB)

Love that doesn’t cost the lover anything is not real love.  Both Hosea and God paid a high price to love.  Hosea sought out his wayward wife and literally bought her back.  God seeks out sinners and brings them back from their broken lives.  Hosea and God paid the whole price with real love.

Chapter 4 of Hosea delves further into the problems of His sinful people.  The more God spoke through Hosea’s words, the more the religious leaders opposed him.  Religious leaders are frequently unable to deal with the true Word of God.  Amos, another minor prophet, faced similar opposition from a priest at Bethel named Amaziah:

“The idol altars and temples of Israel will be destroyed, and I will destroy the dynasty of King Jeroboam by the sword.”  But when Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, heard what Amos was saying, he rushed a message to Jeroboam, the king: “Amos is a traitor to our nation and is plotting your death. This is intolerable. It will lead to rebellion all across the land.”   (Amos 7:10, 11  TLB)

If you want to get the ire of religious leaders up, just preach the simple Word of God!  Nothing drives them crazier than that.  Why?  It’s because while they may know a lot about their brand of religion, they know little of the Word of God.  And frequently, Biblical doctrines are at odds with religious doctrines.  Ignorance is not really bliss, especially when it comes to God.

1.  Ignorance of God is very common

The Lord has filed a lawsuit against you…  (Hosea 1:1a  TLB)

This is pretty serious!  God was angry and hurt with His people, and the only way He could get their attention was to “file a lawsuit” against them!  In all, the Lord lists three things in His suit against His people:  they showed no faithfulness , no kindness (or mercy), and there was no knowledge of God in the land.  How could this be?  These were God’s people, after all.  How could there no longer be knowledge of God in the nation?  Where did all that knowledge go?  How many generations does it take for memories of God to fade away?  The first two charges—no faithfulness or kindness—are completely natural results of not knowing about God.  A person’s actions begin in his mind, and if he has no knowledge of God, how can his actions be godly?

In years gone by, Israel had enjoyed many manifestations of God’s presence, wisdom, and power.  They witnessed supernatural demonstrations of God and heard His word through the prophets.  In spite of such blessings, the people had for generations drifted further and further away from God.

The same is true today, even in our “Christian nation.”  In terms of knowledge of God, this present generation is probably the most ignorant ever.  Ask many people about whether they “know God” or not and often you’ll get a response similar to, “God is unknowable.”  While this sounds like an intellectual, progressive thing to say, it’s actually dumb and flies in the face of what the Bible declares:

Christ is the exact likeness of the unseen God. He existed before God made anything at all, and, in fact, Christ himself is the Creator who made everything in heaven and earth, the things we can see and the things we can’t; the spirit world with its kings and kingdoms, its rulers and authorities; all were made by Christ for his own use and glory.  (Colossians 1:15, 16  TLB)

How can anybody claim that knowing God is impossible?  If you can read, you can read the Bible and get to know God.  If you can hear, you can listen to the audio Bible and get to know God.  So, of course you can know God.  The problem is, most people don’t want to know Him, and so there is widespread ignorance.

2.  Ignorance of God is usually willful

My people are destroyed because they don’t know me, and it is all your fault, you priests, for you yourselves refuse to know me; therefore, I refuse to recognize you as my priests. Since you have forgotten my laws, I will ‘forget’ to bless your children.  (Hosea 4:6  TLB)

The very root of Israel’s sin was a lack of knowledge of the Word of God.  If you are a Christian, you are doomed to mediocrity at best if your knowledge of the Word is lacking.  Regardless of how many camp meetings, Bible conferences, evangelistic revival meetings you go to, or the number of hours you spend listening to KLOVE, if you don’t know what’s between the covers of your Bible, there is no way you can live a successful Christian life in this world.

There are no gimmicks or short cuts that can replace study of the Bible.  People are literally destroyed from a lack of knowledge.  The reason is simple and has been stated all ready:  our behavior descends from our knowledge.  If our minds are filled with the Word of God, that knowledge will dictate our behavior.  But our minds are like a vacuum—something will fill that space if the Word isn’t there.  And given human nature, that “something” will be sinful.

3.  Willful ignorance of God is fatal

Destruction follows ignorance of God.  It is fatal to ignore God.

Don’t be misled; remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it: a man will always reap just the kind of crop he sows!  If he sows to please his own wrong desires, he will be planting seeds of evil and he will surely reap a harvest of spiritual decay and death…  (Galatians 6:7, 8a  TLB)

This “spiritual decay and death” involves the following:

a.  God’s rejection

…you yourselves refuse to know me; therefore, I refuse to recognize you…  (Hosea 4:6b  TLB)

This particular admonition is aimed squarely at the priests of Hosea’s day but the principle encompasses all who claim to be believers.  We have a responsibility to “know” God.  All human beings are created in the image of God, and that image of God is stamped on our hearts whether we acknowledge it or not.  All human beings therefore have a desire to worship—to get to know—God.  Romans 1 makes it clear that no one is without excuse in this matter.  Not knowing God is almost always a result of refusing to know God.  Refusing to recognize God will result in God not recognizing you.  Most of us are vaguely familiar with what Jesus said along these lines:

If anyone publicly acknowledges me as his friend, I will openly acknowledge him as my friend before my Father in heaven.  But if anyone publicly denies me, I will openly deny him before my Father in heaven.  (Matthew 10:32, 33  TLB)

To reject the call of God to salvation is to be ultimately rejected.

b.  Glory turned to shame

The more my people multiplied, the more they sinned against me. They exchanged the glory of God for the disgrace of idols.  (Hosea 4:7  TLB)

Previously, God had promised Abraham to bless the nation by causing them to multiply.  It’s undeniable that this had always happened; wherever the Jews ended up, they grew in numbers.  God declared that His people had exchanged His glory for the pseudo-glory of idols.  The “glory” of Israel was God’s Shekinah glory; the visible presence of God in the Temple.  His glory was their glory; the glory of being the one nation that worshipped the One true God while all the nations around them worshipped a multitude of idols.  That was their glory, and that glory was obvious in the world; even the Queen of Sheba came to visit!  The fame of Israel was God’s presence among His people.

But, thanks to fraudulent religious leaders who led the nation astray, the people forsook God; they ignored Him and God withdrew His presence from the Temple.  And this was to their shame.  The one thing that set Israel apart from all other nations was gone.

Israel’s decline was a result of their willful ignorance of God, but it was God who caused it to happen.  Notice how the NKJV translates verse 7:

The more they increased, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame.

Our God is a jealous God, and He will not tolerate any idol in His place.  He will not put up with any rival for our affections.  If you are determined to let any idol take God’s place—an idol could be your job, your children, your spouse, money—that idol will certainly be changed into something shameful.

c.  Fruitless effort

They will eat and still be hungry. Though they do a big business as prostitutes, they shall have no children, for they have deserted me and turned to other gods.  (Hosea 3:10  TLB)

The priests were “eating” the sins of the people (verses 8, 9); that is, their appetite for sin was literally insatiable.  But also, a real famine was coming to the land.  This famine would cause real hurt and it was a direct result of the sins the people were committing.

God’s judgment is always interesting to consider, unless it’s against you.  When you are in willful sin; when you are turning away from God and attempting to fill your life with idols, whatever you try to cram into your heart to make you feel good and satisfied will never be enough.  This is most certainly the experience of every backslider.  Those who try to find meaning outside of a relationship with Christ will always find disappointment.  Searching for love, peace, acceptance, or anything meaningful outside of God will be a fruitless effort.  Jesus said that He was the “bread of life.” If you seek satisfaction from other bread, you won’t find the life you are looking for.

Hosea’s Israel was lost and spiritually blind and had no interest in doing what needed to be done to change their deplorable condition.  Do you?  True, lasting fulfillment is found only in a relationship with Jesus Christ:

For in Christ there is all of God in a human body; so you have everything when you have Christ, and you are filled with God through your union with Christ. He is the highest Ruler, with authority over every other power.  (Colossians 2:9, 10  TLB)

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