April 3, 2012 David Balzer

Hosea 4-7: The Problem of Ignorance

A Canadian called David Organ tells this eyewitness story. It shows THE PROBLEMS THAT COME FROM A LACK OF KNOWLEDGE.

“This happened to me in 1990, in Wainwright, Alberta. I was a soldier in the Canadian army, and we were hosting elements of the British army for military manoeuvres.

We took some of our new British friends to town, to party at the Wainwright Hotel bar. Around 1:00 AM, we decided to save cab money and walk back to the base. This was a trek of about three miles, with a detour around a large, fenced pasture.

That field holds some of the last Plains bison in Canada, a herd of about 40 animals. Bison are not the friendliest animals on the planet. Safety signs are posted every ten feet along the fence, and warnings read, “Unless you can cross this pasture in nine seconds, do not attempt it. The bison can do it in ten.”

We reached the pasture and started to walk around it, but one of our drunken Brit companions decided that the warnings were fake. “Real, live buffalo don’t exist!”

Despite our protests, he opted for a shortcut. He hopped over the five-foot fence and disappeared into the dark field.

We watched and waited.

Seconds later, a high-pitched and very un-British profanity was heard from the pasture, and our friend came tearing back towards the fence at top speed. A fully mature and quite unhappy Plains bison thundered behind him.

The only reason the young gunner survived was sheer, adrenaline-fuelled fear. He vaulted the five-foot fence without breaking stride. His rear foot caught the top rail, sending him spinning into the grass on the safe side, half a second before two thousand pounds of extremely unfriendly hamburger meat smashed into the fence at full steam.

The fence is constructed of extremely solid steel pipes, yet the two-foot dent made by the bison remains to this day. The animal staggered, snorted, shook his head, and rumbled off with a splitting headache.

Our friend escaped with a broken ankle, moderate concussion, a dislocated shoulder, and a great deal of bleeding from his uncontrolled landing. Had he not cleared the fence, he would have been pile-driven to smithereens by the huge bull.

We were still laughing too hard to be too sympathetic as we gave him first-aid and summoned help.”

1. The Problem: Ignoring God (4:1b,6,10c; 5:4)

The problem that comes from a lack of knowledge. The Englishman didn’t believe in buffalo, refused to accept the signs, and suffered the consequences.

And in Hosea’s time, Israel was the same. They refused to acknowledge God. And refused to accept the signs. Look at v1 of Ch 4.

(Hosea 4:1 NIV)  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 ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF GOD in the land.

Failing to acknowledge God, and the demands he makes. It’s a theme Hosea comes back to again and again. Down in v10.

(Hosea 4:10-11 NIV)  “…they have DESERTED THE LORD to give themselves {11} to prostitution,

And again in Ch 5 v4

(Hosea 5:4 NIV)  … A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; THEY DO NOT ACKNOWLEDGE THE LORD.

a. begins with ignoring God’s revelation (4:5-6)

And it begins by ignoring God’s revelation. Just like the buffalo guy who ignored the signs, Israel was ignoring GOD’S signs. His law. His prophets. And it was DESTROYING them. Look at Ch 4 v5.

(Hosea 4:5-6 NIV)  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.

b. means replacing him with other gods (4:10b-13)

And when you block your ears to what GOD is saying it ALWAYS means you start listening to someone else.

Ignoring God means REPLACING him with other gods.

Look at Ch 4 v 10 again.

(Hosea 4:10-12 NIV)  “…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.

Turning away from God  ALWAYS means turning TOWARD something else.

Everyone serves someone, or something. No-one is TRULY independent.

It may not be RELIGIOUS. Look who ELSE Israel turned towards. Over in Ch 5. V13. Things are going badly. And who do they turn to? Not to God whose causing all the problems. But to OTHER NATIONS. Human Mr Fix-its.

(Hosea 5:13 NIV)  “When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his sores, then Ephraim turned to ASSYRIA, and sent to the great king for help. But HE IS NOT ABLE TO CURE YOU, not able to heal your sores.

 

How foolish to turn away from God for help to fix the very things he’s brought. Things he’s engineered so that you might turn to him!

 

And yet isn’t that what WE do all the time? God brings trials along. Things designed to make us depend on him more. And to make us more like Jesus. And we try to “FIX” them ourselves.

 

We’re not sure about a new career change, or financial advice. So we consult a careers advisor, or a financial advisor. Instead of praying.

 

We moan about how the bills all come together. And we re-draw on the Home Loan.

 

Or we get frustrated at all the needy people who suddenly want our time. And we switch on the answering machine.

 

Or we wallow in self-pity at some sickness or ailment that comes our way. And switch-off to needs far greater, or sickness far worse, than ours.

 

Turning to human saviours, rather than turning it all over to God. Allowing HIM to change us. To take on his perspective. His direction. His attitudes. His generosity. And grace. And peace. And patience.

 

Turning away from God always means turning TOWARDS something else.

 

It may not even be anything EXTERNAL to YOU. For many people turning away from God means putting THEMSELVES on the throne. Refusing to recognise God’s claim on them. Because they think THEY’RE the rulers of their world. The ones who determine their autonomy.

 

They KNOW that God expects a certain standard of behaviour. But they can’t see how that will make them happy. Sexual behaviour outside marriage. Or questionable business ethics. Or putting the needs of others first. Or being too busy to meet with God’s people.

 

“SURELY I’ll be happier if I just ignore God’s way THIS TIME. I know better than God.”

 

So they ignore his rules. And do things THEIR way.

 

c. leads to more sin (4:2)

And that leads us to the next point. Ignoring God leads to MORE sin.

 

Look at how it worked for Israel. Back to the start of Ch 4.

(Hosea 4:1-2 NIV)  …”There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. {2} There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

 

God’s law is summarised in the Ten Commandments. And yet when God is ignored, his LAW goes out the window too. And it’s REPLACED with all that sin. Cursing, lying, murder, stealing, adultery.

 

By my reckoning, that covers all the commandments except Keeping the Sabbath, and Honouring your parents.

 

And this from the nation who were supposed to be a light to the world!

 

Turning away from God means turning away from his rules. Guidelines given for our GOOD. And yet we treat them as if their POISON. Shrivelling up our lives. Wet blankets smothering our fun.

 

And yet it’s really the OPPOSITE. Ignoring God’s laws leads to a SECOND-BEST kind of existence. Look at how it affects the land itself. V3.

(Hosea 4:3 NIV)  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.

 

There are consequences for the land. You see, God’s design was for the people to live in the land OBEYING HIM. And while they obeyed, the land would flow with milk and honey.

 

But right from the start occupying the land was dependant on OBEDIENCE. DISOBEY turn away from God. And God would take them out of the land.

 

And it’s STILL true. Life is only second-best when we ignore his rules. Believe it!

 

THERE IS NO BLESSING IN DISOBEDIENCE.

 

NEVER, EVER!

 

the priests lead the way (4:4-9)

And while the LAND mourned, we might expect that the priests would ALSO mourn. But the REALLY sad thing was that the priests actually REJOICED at the sin of the people.

 

Their priorities were SO upside-down that they LOOKED FORWARD to people sinning because it meant more sacrifices. And more sacrifices meant more roast lamb for them. That’s what verses 7 and 8 are about.

 

How TRAGIC when spiritual leaders are more concerned for their own comfort than for the spiritual state of the people under their care.

 

Listen to what Peter says. In the New Testament. This is the attitude leaders SHOULD have. 1 Peter 5 v2

(1 Pet 5:2-4 NIV)  Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are WILLING, as God wants you to be; NOT GREEDY FOR MONEY, but EAGER TO SERVE; {3} NOT LORDING IT OVER those entrusted to you, but being EXAMPLES to the flock. {4} And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

 

There is PRIVILEGE and REWARD in serving and leading God’s people.

 

But there is also big RESPONSIBILITY. And he will hold us ACCOUNTABLE for how we look after those in our care. Listen to the warning James gives to teachers of God’s word.

(James 3:1 NIV)  Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

 

Teachers can lead people in the RIGHT direction. But they can also lead people WRONGLY. Do terrible damage. To people’s faith, to whole churches.

 

The priests who lead Israel astray, and relished their wickedness, were betraying a great trust. And God judged them harshly.

 

sexual sin (4:13-14)

Another aspect of the sin of Israel was that there was plenty of SEXUAL Sin.

 

God’s guidelines about sex and marriage reflect God HIMSELF. Faithfulness, loyalty, commitment, and love. Are all aspects of God’s character. And they’re also the words which describe a marriage relationship which follows God’s guidelines.

 

And yet none of this was found in pagan idol worship. It was a case of ANYTHING GOES. Since the idols were to do with FERTILITY, the theory was that the sexual act itself would help the process of producing a good harvest, and fertile soil, and good rainfall.

 

So there were temple prostitutes. Who thought they were doing their RELIGIOUS duty. Doing their bit for a good harvest.

 

Such foolishness. Consulting a wooden idol. A stick of wood. Thinking that prostitution would give you more grain.

 

But all it was doing was leading them to ruin. Look at the end of v14. “A people without understanding will come to RUIN”

 

greater hardening (stubbornness) (4:16-18)

And the longer someone continues in sin, the more they have to HARDEN their conscience. Cut themselves off from any feelings of guilt, or wrong-doing, or error.

 

Look at the end result. Down in v16.

(Hosea 4:16 NIV)  The Israelites are stubborn, like a stubborn heifer. How then can the LORD pasture them like lambs in a meadow?

 

It’s a stubbornness which is a barrier to turning back to God.

 

It’s why it’s a terrible trap to say, “ I won’t repent YET. I’ll just wait until I’m older. THEN I’ll become a Christian”. The longer someone puts off that decision, the more set in their ways they become. The harder their consciences become. The more stubborn they are. And the barrier to God just becomes BIGGER.

 

And that’s what Israel was like. A stubborn heifer. Refusing to let God lead them like a shepherd. They know things aren’t going right. But they refuse to let God guide them.

 

And when someone is as STUBBORN as that. DRAMATIC means are called for. And the prophets are absolute EXPERTS as the COLOURFUL LANGUAGE. Words to shake people. Excite them. Blow the out of their complacency and stubbornness.

 

Now, by colourful, I mean PICTURES. METAPHORS. I don’t mean swearing.

 

The funny thing was I was on the train last night. Coming back from the Youth Group camp. And I was reading a book about the language of prophecy. The way prophets use word pictures to amuse and challenge, and provoke.

 

And a group of women got on at Dapto. They’d spent the day at the races. And they were drunk and loud. And their language was certainly COLOURFUL. But not the way the prophets language was colourful.

 

Look at some of the phrases Hosea uses. He has to. Because israle is as stubborn as a heifer. Flip over to Ch 7. And v4.

(Hosea 7:4 NIV)  They are all adulterers, burning like an oven whose fire the baker need not stir from the kneading of the dough till it rises.

 

The lust of their adultery is red hot like a baker’s oven. But not just ANY oven. Look at the description. It’s so hot, the baker doesn’t even need to stoke it from the time he kneads the dough until it’s finished rising HOURS later.

 

Burning lust. It continues 24 hours a day. It fills your dreams. Every woman is a sexual conquest. Body parts. With no personality. It takes over your thoughts. But it never satisfies. It’s never quenched. Like a red hot baker’s oven.

 

Or again. Down in v8.

(Hosea 7:8 NIV)  “Ephraim mixes with the nations; Ephraim is a flat cake not turned over.

 

What’s the picture? A half-cooked pancake. What’s that like. It’s useless. Inedible. Cooked on one side. Soft and gooey on the other.

 

And that’s what Israel’s like. They’ve mixed with the nations. But they’re caught in the middle. They’ve not done enough to be a positive influence. A shining light. But they’ve taken on enough of their sin to be useless. Idolatrous and wicked.

 

Is that what YOU’RE like? A half-cooked pancake?

 

Supposed to be out there among your friends and neighbours. Making a difference. Saying a word here and there. Standing up for Jesus.

 

But more often than not. You say nothing. DO nothing. And THEY affect YOU  more than YOU affect THEM. You take on their VALUES, their language, their topics of conversation,

 

Jesus’ prayer in Jn 17 was not that we be taken OUT of the world. But that we be PROTECTED FROM the world. Does that describe YOU? Influencing the world, but not being affected by it?

 

Or a you a half-cooked pancake?

 

It happened to Israel. And they didn’t even notice it. Look at the next picture. In the very next verse. V9.

(Hosea 7:9 NIV)  Foreigners sap his strength, but he does not realize it. His hair is sprinkled with gray, but he does not notice.

 

You know the sort of guy. Mid-life crisis. Grey and balding. But worn long, In a pony-tail. New earring in his ear. Trendy jeans stretched tight over his large beer-gut. Driving a red convertible.

 

He thinks he’s cool, and powerful. But everyone just laughs.

 

That’s what Israel’s like. A man going grey who doesn’t realise it. A laughing stock. Israel’s been weakened by political allegiances, and idolatry, and wickedness. But he thinks it makes him cool, and fun, and modern. But it’s only weakness.

 

We could go on. V11. Israel’s like a dove. Easily deceived.

 

Or v16. A crooked bow. Point it in one direction. And it ends up somewhere else. Way off target.

 

2. The Solution: Acknowledging God (6:1-3)

And it all stems from ignoring God. All problems which flow from failing to acknowledge God.

 

And you can see it even in society TODAY. Many of the same problems. All because people refuse to acknowledge God. To recognise his claim on their lives.

 

And yet the solution is not that hard. It’s the opposite of ignoring God. It’s about acknowledging him. Recognising his right to rule. Recognising, that as Creator, he has the right to tell us how life works.

 

It’s the very thing the people suggest. God’s begun to punish them. And they can see what they need to do. Look at the start of Ch 6. The people are talking to each other.

(Hosea 6:1-3 NIV)  “Come, let us RETURN TO THE LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. {2} After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. {3} Let us ACKNOWLEDGE THE LORD; let us press on to ACKNOWLEDGE HIM. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

 

They’re wonderful words, aren’t they. Of confidence that God will restore them. If they turn to him.

 

a. token, short-lived, external actions aren’t enough (5:6; 6:1-6; 7:13c)

But the problem is. That’s all they are. Words.

 

On the surface they SOUND nice enough. But what does GOD think of them? V4.

(Hosea 6:4 NIV)  “What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears.

 

They SAY one thing. Then five minutes later. They’ve changed their mind. There’s no SUBSTANCE to their repentance. It’s all words.

 

And when you go back and look at what the words SAY. Or more importantly what they DON’T say. You see why God isn’t all that impressed. Because there’s plenty about how God will HEAL them. And have them back.

 

But not too much in the way of REPENTANCE. Not too much admission of guilt.

 

c. requires repentant, God-oriented hearts (5:15; 6:6)

You see, God’s not interested in kind words. Or even in the right sacrifices. Because sacrifices offered when you’re not SORRY. Are worthless. Worse than that, they just make God ANGRIER. Look at 6:6

(Hosea 6:6 NIV)  For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

 

You see, God’s much more interested in HEARTS that are right. Than words or religious actions. He wants SEVEN days a week. Not one hour on a Sunday.

 

How are WE doing as a church? How do we show MERCY to each other? Seven days a week. What things are we doing OUT of the spotlight? The hard yards. The unappreciated things.

 

It’s THESE things that show where our heart REALLY is.

 

Sunday performance doesn’t make up for six days of ignoring God, and ripping people off. And living for yourself. It’s useless.

 

That’s the trap many Catholics fall into with Confession or Reconciliation. Confession does nothing if you’ve got every intention of going right back out there and sinning all over again.

 

God wants BROKEN people. Who recognise their WORTHLESSNESS before God. Their complete inability to meet ANY of God’s demands.

 

Look at Ch 5 v15. God will continue to punish Israel, like a lion with a carcass, until they CHANGE. And look at what the change looks like.

(Hosea 5:14-15 NIV)  For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah. I will tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them. {15} Then I will go back to my place until THEY ADMIT THEIR GUILT. And THEY WILL SEEK MY FACE; IN THEIR MISERY THEY WILL EARNESTLY SEEK ME.”

 

Is that YOU? Guilt. Misery. Complete dependence on God. Seeking his forgiveness.

 

As we’ve described Israel’s sins this morning, have you felt CONVICTED? Have you been thinking “Gee, that sounds just like the way I think, or speak, or act”

 

`Or are you HARD? Stubborn like a heifer. Is it all like water off a duck’s back? Perhaps you’ve thought of OTHER people who fit the bill instead?

 

God wants humble, repentant hearts. That’s his message this morning.

(Hosea 6:6 NIV)  For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

 

 

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