II. The Charge against Israel and tHeir Leaders (Hosea 4:1–5:15)

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II. The Charge against Israel and tHeir Leaders (4:1–5:15)

4:1-3 Like a prosecuting attorney, the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land. What are his indictments? In Israel, there is no truth, no faithful love, and no knowledge of God (4:1). That sounds like charges against a pagan people! “Truth” is the objective standard of reality by which we measure our experiences and opinions, yet Israel was full of lies. Likewise, they lacked “faithful love.” Though they may have expressed love in words, it didn’t materialize in deeds. To cap it all off, there was no “knowledge of God.” Regard for God didn’t cross their minds on a daily basis; therefore, it’s not surprising that the Ten Commandments were completely ignored (4:2). Even the land suffered under the weight of their sin (4:3; see Rom 8:20-21).

4:4-6 Though the people were guilty, God was especially angry with the priests and prophet because of their sin (4:4-5). They ought to have been examples to the people, leading them to worship and honor the Lord; instead, they rejected knowledge. As a result, God’s people [were] destroyed for lack of knowledge (4:6). When leaders pursue their own selfish agenda, people almost inevitably follow.

4:7-14 Don’t miss the tragedy behind this passage: The more they multiplied, the more they sinned against me (4:7) God had commanded humanity to “be fruitful and multiply” (see Gen 1:28; 9:7). He “multiplied” the people of Israel (Exod 1:7) and promised to multiply them further (see Lev 26:9). But, there was a condition for this blessing from God: their obedience (Deut 30:16). Thus, God would repay them for their deeds (4:9): they will be promiscuous but not multiply (4:10).

Nations surrounding Israel engaged in cult prostitution (4:14), committing sexual immorality as “worship” so the gods would bless them with children. Israel had become infected with this fertility religion (4:12-13), but it would not provide what they wanted. The blessing of children comes from God alone (see Ps 127:3). Those who follow destructive thinking will come to ruin. People without discernment are doomed (4:14).

4:15-19 Here God warns Judah, Do not go to Gilgal—one of Israel’s centers of false religion. In other words, he exhorts Judah not to follow the example of Israel, who was like a stubborn cow (4:15-16). Hosea refers to Israel as Ephraim many times in his prophecy (4:17). “Ephraim” was one of Joseph’s sons (Gen 41:52), and the tribe called by his name lived within the northern kingdom. Though Israel’s leaders loved disgrace, God would strike their consciences so they would be ashamed (4:18-19). Be open to the conviction of the Holy Spirit so that you don’t develop a stubborn spirit and fail to experience shame when you should.

5:1-7 Now Hosea attacks the source of Israel’s problems—its leadership (priests and the royal house). They’re a snare and a net (5:1), trapping the people in idolatry. As a result of their sin, they have led Israel astray.

That Israel’s actions do not allow them to return to their God (5:4) is a reminder that you can’t have fellowship with God while walking in darkness. If you want to return to God and know his favor, you have to forsake the disobedience that led you away from him in the first place. On the other hand, if you persist in walking in darkness, you will inevitably stumble (5:5). When this happens, you won’t find the Lord (5:6).

5:8-15 Ephraim and his cities think they are safe and secure, but Hosea foresees war and desolation (5:8-9). Nevertheless, Ephraim was determined to follow what is worthless (5:11). Instead of turning to God for help, Ephraim (and even Judah) sought help from Assyria (5:13). But, an alliance with Assyria cannot rescue them from the awesome power of God (5:14). Their only hope of restoration is to recognize their guilt and seek [his] face (5:15). God’s favor, blessings, and fellowship are only accessible when we submit to the road of repentance.