This past Sunday, Bart, preached an excellent sermon from Hosea 4 that was very convicting and encouraging. I wanted to put his manuscript up here on the blog and encourage those who didn’t hear it to either read it here or check out the audio on the sermon tab of our website.
Here is his manuscript:
Hosea – #8
Thinking About Knowing
Hosea is God’s prophet in 8th century B.C. Sent to the nation of Israel, the Northern Kingdom. Why? What’s their condition? What’s the problem? What is his message?
- Worship – Who is #1 in their lives? Who is their god? Should be true God, Maker of heaven and earth, Redeemer of Israel (Egypt to Promised Land). Idols. Baal. Golden calves.
- Sin – Morality, God’s law, right and wrong. Hos. 4:1b-2
- Relationship – Hosea’s marriage to promiscuous Gomer highlights this issue. God loves Israel in a way and to a degree that is in another category from human love. Commitment, perseverance, puts up with offenses. God is calling Israel to return to the God who loves and Husband who is committed.
- Knowledge – Israel’s lifestyle, choices, direction is foolish, self-destructive, unwise, and irrational. Not just that what you are doing is wrong, against your God, against someone who loves you, but it is stupid and suicidal.
Chapter 4 opens with “Hear the word of the Lord.” Hosea will now preach with words.
4:1 – The Lord has a controversy… Terminology of a lawsuit. Broken covenant or contract between Lord and Israel. They have egregiously, on a sustained basis, violated their part of the agreement.
Exodus 20:1 – I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. 10 commandments. And how is Israel doing?
There is… (Hos. 4:2)
- Swearing – Commandment #3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
- Lying – Commandment #9 – You shall not bear false witness.
- Murder – Commandment #6 – You shall not murder.
- Stealing – Commandment #8 – You shall not steal.
- Adultery – Commandment #7 – You shall not commit adultery.
- They break all bounds
- Bloodshed follows bloodshed
4:3 – So the land mourns. Tragic state of affairs. …languish. No one wins in this kind of society.
Problem starts with leadership. Names priest (v. 4b – with you is my contention, O priest) and prophet (v. 5). Again in v. 6-priest, v. 9-priest, v. 18-rulers. They bear an extra measure of responsibility, because they have a responsibility as leaders and people naturally just follow them where they go.
But what is the problem? Multi-dimensional, but we are going to focus on the knowledge problem. First mentioned in v. 1 – there is no knowledge of God in the land.
- The Fundamentals – “no knowledge of God in the land” – 4:1
Here is where the problem starts. The fundamental issue.
What do people need to know more than anything? Pr. 1:7 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Knowing who God is: Creator, Ruler of his world, His will is always done, I am just a man, transient, subject to God, and I take my place before Him, i.e., I bow before Him and fear Him. Or more fully stated, Pr. 9:10 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. A big statement. Know God and you are well on your way in life. Here is true wisdom and here is where true wisdom begins.
Puts me in my place. I am not God, the purpose of my existence, the center of the universe. There is a God, and He exists independently, outside of me. So the world does not collapse when I am not happy. Others do not exist to satisfy my needs.
Puts God in his place. Because God is, there is purpose in life. It is not random. What happens to me is not by chance. Life makes sense; the different parts of time and space integrate and form a unifying theme. Furthermore, God is the purpose; we live from him, for him. There is a right and wrong, and God defines it. God is holy; this has moral demands on me. God is love (2 weeks ago); this is very hopeful for me, for God makes a way to rescue man from his great dilemma. This changes everything.
What happens when there is no knowledge of God? Read Hosea 4:2. All kinds of personal and societal evils. So there may be libraries and databases and heads full of knowledge about everything else, but if we have no knowledge of God, we’re in trouble. Fundamental.
What is this knowledge of God? After all, Israelites had intellectual acquaintance with monotheism, God, the five books of Moses, the sacrificial system, etc. What were they missing? What was God looking for when he said “no knowledge of God in the land?”
Hos. 6:3 – Let us know, let us press on to know. Something more, something personal.
Hos. 6:6 – For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offering. This is all about what God wants, desires. Not just commands or mandates.
Personal rather than public.
Reality rather than empty form of religion.
The egg not just the shell.
My heart rather than my hands.
Inward (what I am) rather than outward (what I do).
This knowledge of God is insight into, a belief in and a commitment to God and His way for me.
- The Consequences – “my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” – 4:6
Priests had a particular responsibility, not just to offer sacrifices but to teach the people. Deut. 31:9-13 – Read it once every 7 years when nation assembled at Feast of Booths so they may hear, learn, fear and observe – and their children.
So what happens when there is no knowledge of God in the land? The consequences of ignorance of God are destruction. A momentous matter, not simply a matter of personal preference. Some prefer the iphone; some prefer Android. Some wear colored socks, some white and some black. Some eat only organic foods. Some believe in God, some don’t. But this is no optional matter, no mere matter of taste.
Note also, that this is not a naivete, a guiltless ignorance. They had rejected knowledge. Israelites with commandments, five books of Moses, worship of God, prophets, priests. And for us as well, we have the evidence for God. Conscience, a voice within saying this is right or this is wrong. Creation, the world around us, itself tells a story – beauty, power, intricacy of design, the presence of love and joy and relationships. Who is behind all this? Someone bigger than what has been made. What will you do with this evidence of God, this knowledge? Will you believe it? Or will you push it away and reject this knowledge of God?
This is the very thing Paul speaks of in Romans 1:19-21.
Knowing there is a God makes me responsible for finding out more about Him, for finding out what He expects of me and for living as He prescribes. Wisdom is living in light of God, as God would have me live (Proverbs 1), in obedience to His good Word. Rejecting God’s wisdom, God’s will, God’s way is not in my own best interest. Destructive.
Is. 5:13 – Therefore my people go into exile for lack of knowledge. They knew so much, but they didn’t know what matters. A costly ignorance. An ignorance with great consequence.
- The Catalyst – “whoredom, wine and new wine, which take away the understanding” – 4:11
Catalyst initiates or accelerates a chemical reaction. So whoredom, wine and new wine accelerate the taking away of understanding.
4:10 – “They shall eat but not be satisfied” – the hamster wheel of sin. You run so fast but you get nowhere. You consume sin and follow your desires. More and more; faster and faster. No accomplishment, no satisfaction. Wake up empty in the morning. Why is this? They have forsaken the Lord to cherish whoredom, wine and new wine. Cf. v. 12c – they have left their God to play the whore. What they left and what they left it for. What is so much better than God, so much more rewarding, fulfilling, exciting, pleasing? Sex, alcohol and spiritual adultery, i.e., idolatry.
- Whoredom, sexual pleasure outside the covenant of marriage. Adultery, addiction to sex and pornography. This is what happened to Gomer. This is the scourge of 21st century Western civilization. It becomes the major source of pleasure in life, the only source of happiness and satisfaction, the only relief in boredom and fear and sadness. You end up with nowhere else to turn other than sex or porn. Sex becomes your god.
- Alcohol or substance misuse or abuse is parallel. What is a legitimate source of joy for the heart of man takes a dominant place in his life.
- And idolatry is in the same category. Idolatry, spiritual adultery, loving and making something else the focus of my life instead of God, is the point of the book of Hosea. This is what God was saying to Israel through Hosea marrying and loving Gomer, the adulterous wife; your love affair with your idols is leaving Me (your God) for another lover. The question is what do you worship? What controls your heart? What is your north star, giving direction to the rest of your life? Could be money, GPA, publications, athletic achievement, a relationship, vocational success.
Whoredom, wine and new wine (adultery and sexual addiction, alcohol and substance misuse, and idolatry) take away the understanding. These practices begin as a choice; I’ll try this. But they end up running your life, controlling you. You become a slave to your desires, to your fixation. They take away the understanding, the ability to make reasonable decisions. You lose context (life-context, the bigger picture) in your thinking because you are so fixated on one thing, the only thing you can think about, the only thing visible through your windshield, the thing your thoughts keep returning to, the thing that drives you in life. And you make stupid decisions, hurting yourself, hurting the ones you love, hurting your future, diverting your attention from other things that matter in life, depleting your energies and resources. It’s a knowledge problem, and your understanding is being taken away.
2 Tim. 3:6 – led astray by various passions.
And if your pursuit is secret, you come to believe that no one will find out, and you become reckless and comfortable taking outsized risks. Your understanding is being taken away.
Sexual addicts, alcohol and substance addicts, create their own fantasy world and inhabit it (all by themselves). They define what is important (god) – the satisfaction of their big desire, how good it is (no matter they feel empty or guilty the next morning), what are acceptable risks to take to get what they want, how much the rest of life matters that they are sacrificing in their pursuit of their pleasure, and how easily they can leave this lifestyle at any time they want. They lie to themselves so frequently and so extensively that they begin to believe themselves and can no longer distinguish truth from lie. Take away the understanding.
And once the understanding is gone, once you are enslaved to your passions, a return to rationality, to wisdom is rare.
Proverbs 5:11f. the young man who pursues the forbidden woman. “At the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, ‘How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors.’ ”
Proverbs 2:19 – forbidden woman. None who go to her come back nor do they regain the paths of life.
2 Peter 2:14 – false teachers – They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. NASB – that never cease from sin. Can’t stop going back.
Proverbs 23:27 – For a prostitute is a deep pit; and adulteress is a deep well. Not easy to get out once you have fallen in.
Hosea 5:4 – Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God, for the spirit of whoredom is within them, and they do not know the Lord. Their passions and sins have blinded them to reality, that it was God giving them all their good things all along. Hos. 2:8 – she did not know that it was I who gave her… Hos. 11:3 – they did not know that I healed them
Remember they have forsaken the Lord to cherish whoredom, wine and new wine. Not only what they love, but what they leave. What you have sacrificed, thrown away, walked away from?
- The Outcome – “a people without understanding shall come to ruin” 4:14
So where does it all end up? Ruin. For Israel, they were on a collision course with the judgment of God, the coming of the Assyrian armies to destroy their nation. It didn’t have to be this way. God was pleading with them to turn from their idolatry and their sins and to return to him. God was warning them of the consequences of continuing in this lifestyle. But they couldn’t see it. They were blinded by their sins. They had lost understanding.
And what about you, today, here in Ann Arbor in 2017? Where are you with God? He has given you evidence that He is there, your conscience, the world around, His work in your life. Do you know Him? Would you begin seeking, Him?
Are you trapped in a course of life in which some idol, sex, alcohol, a substance is taking away your understanding? Jesus says that he who commits sin is the slave of sin (Jn. 8:34). But he also says that if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (Jn. 8:36). Jesus came to bring light into darkness, knowledge for ignorance, freedom for captivity, forgiveness for guilt, sight for blindness.