Hosea 4:1–9; 5:13–15
The Reality of Sin (4:1–3)
The scene painted by Hosea is that of a courtroom in which God sues His people for breach of contract/covenant. In this case however, no well-groomed, well-spoken, sophisticated lawyer can get Israel off the justice hook because God is Plaintiff, Judge and Jury. First God observes what is missing — namely, faithfulness (which can also be translated truth), kindness (which can also be translated love) and knowledge of God. These three elements are key to a genuine relationship with God. People who enter into a covenant relationship with God must first be faithful to God. They must also adhere to God’s truth, His Word, which is the only basis for faith and practice. A covenant relationship with God also requires kindness or love. We must be faithful to God not out of fear but out of love. A covenant relationship with God also requires a deep knowledge of God.
Beeson Preaching Professor Robert Smith says that “Before we say ‘Thus saith the Lord’ we must know what saith the Lord.” God in His love revealed Himself to us through His Word, and thus we can know Him by reading the Scripture. The indictments that follow are the sins of commission, swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery. And because everyone and everything is affected by sin, verse 3 points out that both humans and the rest of creation suffer because of sin.
Sin’s Consequences (4:4–9)
In verse 5 there is a shift to the second person, and God promises He will judge the people because “you have rejected knowledge.” When the Word speaks to us we tend to shift the blame to our neighbor who listens to the same sermon or reads the same Bible we do. We need to understand that God is speaking directly to us personally. The situation is complicated further because the priests, who were supposed to lead by example, are too found guilty. The ones who were supposed to impart knowledge lack it. The ones who were supposed to live righteously take bribes. Many people deceive themselves by saying their sin is their problem alone. But the Bible teaches that our sin has both eternal and earthly consequences. Our sin affects us personally and also our families, churches and society. This is especially true in the case of the pastors who will give account not just for themselves, but also for the flock they tended.
Searching for Healing (5:13–15)
Most of the minor prophets follow a sin-judgment-restoration pattern. God will judge people because of their sin, but God in His grace and mercy gives people a chance to repent and thus most of the minor prophets end on a note of hope. That’s also the case with Hosea. In Hosea 14:4–5 God says, “I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely. … I will be like the dew to Israel; He will blossom like the lily.” In chapter 5, God uses language of healing to point to Israel’s coming restoration. God promises to heal all wounds. Though sin causes wounds, God can heal them. However, we need to strive to live holy and righteous lives out of love for God.
In the book “My Heart — Christ’s Home Through the Year,” Rick Ezell wrote: “In his book ‘Fuzzy Memories,’ Jack Handey writes: ‘There used to be this bully who would demand my lunch money every day. Since I was smaller, I would give it to him. But then I decided to fight back. I started taking karate lessons. But then the karate lesson guy said I had to start paying him five dollars a lesson. So I just went back to paying the bully.’
“Isn’t that most like us? Too many of us feel it is easier to pay the bully than it is to learn how to defeat him. That’s the way many of us are with sin. Sin violates the covenant relationship with God. It is disobedience against a gracious and loving heavenly Father. The primary reason we want sin removed from our lives is to restore our relationship with our heavenly Father. But, we have neither the strength nor the moral completeness to accomplish such a monumental task. For that we have to rely on Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Why don’t you stop paying the bully, Satan, and start asking God for forgiveness and strength to move past your sin?”
(Editor’s Note: Dr. Tiberius Rata is professor of Old Testament Studies and chair of the Department of Biblical Studies at Grace College and Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Ind. This article first appeared in The Alabama Baptist and is used with permission.)