In our study of Hosea chapter four, we look at what happens when teachers stop teaching the Word of God. In the first three chapters of this book, we saw how God's people had turned away from His ways and turned to every kind of religion and idol. Here we will see what caused this and what effect it had upon God's people.
Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: 'There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgement of God in the land.'
God sent the prophet Hosea to the people of Israel as an example and also to call them to repentance. He begins to share the message that God gave him for them and it includes a charge against them. He begins with a call to turn back to the Word of God when he says "hear the word of the Lord". They had turned away from God's Word and so had no knowledge of His will and His love. They had all kinds of religious ritual but they had no mercy. It is much the same way in the world today as many people do not know what the Bible says and don't even want to know.
'There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.'
The people have ignored God's Word and broke the Ten Commandments. If you go down the sins listed here, you could say the same thing about the world today as it is every man for himself and the world goes from one conflict to the next.
'Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying.'
Because of the disobedience of men, the earth and everything in it has been under the curse of sin. When sin entered the earth, death did as well but Jesus defeated sin and death on the cross. Therefore, one day there will be a new heaven and a new earth that is not tainted by the effects of sin.
'But let no man bring a charge, let no man accuse another, for your people are like those who bring charges against a priest.'
As men, we like to point the finger and blame others but here God makes it clear that they were all guilty of turning their backs on Him.
You stumble day and night, and the prophets stumble with you.
Now, God begins to explain that those that were supposed to be teaching the people His ways had not been doing so. Because of this fact, the people stumbled and all are guilty. This verse is just as true for us today as it was in Hosea's time as many who are supposed to be teaching the Word of God only teach a very small part of the Bible. This in turn causes the people to stumble and to disappoint God in their daily walk.
'So I will destroy your mother - 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.'
A mother is supposed to care for her children and teach them how to live. In the same way the priests (leaders) of God's people were supposed to teach them about the things of God. Since they did not do what they were supposed to do, God said that He rejected them as priests (leaders). God also held the people responsible as He says here that He would also ignore the children. It is easy for us to say that this is all from the Old Testament and has nothing to do with us because of Christ but that is not true. We still should have the desire to learn the things of God and want to be holy and pleasing to Him. Like the priests of Hosea's time, many pastors and leaders of today are neglecting to teach their people all of the things of God and so the people miss out on many blessings.
'The more the priests increased, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their Glory for something disgraceful. They feed on the sins of the people and relish their wickedness.'
God continues to state the charge against the people and here we see that, no matter how many priests there were, not a single one stood up to stop the wickedness that was going on. In fact, they enjoyed the sin and wallowed in it just as much as the rest of the people. They exchanged their walking closely with God (glory) for the walking in the fleshly things. This passage applies even more today than it did during Hosea's time as we see many spiritual leaders who join in with the things of the world instead of standing up and proclaiming the very Word of God. My friends, it is going to get even worse as we see in Revelation 17 where everyone that is left on the earth has turned to false religions and the ways of men.
And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds.
Those false prophets and priests that were not telling the people of the things of God will be punished alongside of the people. This is what Jesus was talking about when He told of the false prophets in "sheep's clothing". (see Matthew 7:15 - 23).
'They will eat but not have enough; they will engage in prostitution but not increase, because they have deserted the Lord to give themselves to prostitution, to old wine and new, which take away the understanding 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.'
In this passage, God tells of how He will remove His hand of provision from the people that have abandoned Him. Because they forgot that God is the source of all good things, He will stop providing the food they need and will even stop giving them children. They have abandoned the pursuit of righteousness and turned to satisfying the flesh with sex and alcohol. They even turned to idols for answers instead of the Creator of the universe. The same "spirit of prostitution" described in this passage is at work today and even more so as we have so many more things such as cars, homes, and other possessions that can become idols if we do not guard our hearts. God removed His blessing from the people of Israel at this time and we can be sure that He will do the same thing today. God loves us enough to take away some of our possessions if they start to become more important to us than He is.
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.
The people stopped wanting to hear of the things of God because it made them uncomfortable and they wanted to worship God in their own way. They did not teach the things of God to their children and so the "daughters turn to prostitution". You could say the same thing about the way things are today as many want to do their own thing and pull Jesus out of the closet every now and then for worship. They are not daily walking with the Lord and teaching their children to do so. Therefore, we have all the problems with teenage sex, drugs, alcohol, and everything else that we can think of. Just as God has said that he was going to hold the priests of Hosea's day accountable, He is also going to hold parents accountable for not teaching their children about the things of God.
'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!'
God continues to explain that He will not bring down His wrath on the children but they will still come to ruin. The men (leaders) were a bad example for the children so it is no wonder that the children did the same type of things that they saw their parents doing. The old saying "Do as I say and not as I do" does not work in parenting as the children usually follow the ways of their parents and develop the same type of habits.
'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!"'
God warned that He was going to deal with the northern kingdom which had separated themselves from Judah and no longer worshiped in Jerusalem. Once again, God pleads for them to turn back to Him and worship Him in the way that was prescribed. He also warns them to not swear by the Lord as He will not be with them. This is a reminder to us as well that we should continue in the ways of God even when many around us seem to want to go their own way. On the final day, God will judge what is right and wrong and we all will give an account of our actions.
'The Israelites are stubborn, like a stubborn heifer. How then can the Lord pasture them like lambs in a meadow?'
As any rancher will tell you, it is much easier to take care of a lamb than it is a cow. A lamb will usually stay close to the flock and will also respond easily to a small correction. On the other hand, a cow sometimes will just refuse to do what you want them to do and they will go where they want to go. They sometimes require more aggressive actions to get them into line. God is asking the question of how can you treat a cow like a lamb when they are so different in their attitudes. We are reminded that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and a shepherd tended sheep not cows. Therefore, if you want to have a close relationship with God (be a part of his flock of sheep) you must respond as a lamb and not a stubborn cow.
Ephraim is joined to idols; leave him alone!
When God uses the name Ephraim to refer to the nation of Israel, it is a sign that He is not happy with them. Here, we see that He is not happy with them because they have turned from Him to worship idols and God says to "leave them alone". Like the stubborn cows in the previous verse, you just have to let them go and wait for them to turn on their own and that is what God is saying here. It is easy for us today to say that we would never turn from God to worship man made things but every day we need to examine our hearts to see if that is true or not. Idols can come in many forms (houses, cars, family, fame) and not as just wooden statues.
Even when their drinks are gone, they continue their prostitution; their rulers dearly love shameful ways.
Even when they see God removing His blessing from them, the people (even the rulers) love the sin and hang onto it. This verse reminds us that we have to come to a point where we see how awful sin is in God's eyes before we can repent and ask for forgiveness.
A whirlwind will sweep them away, and their sacrifices will bring them shame.
Without repentance which is a change of heart, there will not be any way to be saved from the coming judgment. All of the religious activities will do no good and, in fact, will bring shame on them as they cannot say that they did not know any better.