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Bible evangewomanblogspotcomHere is another forbidden Bible passage, the kind that makes priests, pastors and congregations uncomfortable because it delivers some hard truths about the consequences of turning away from God.  For past entries, click here.  God is love, but God is also just.  Persistent transgressors can expect punishment.  

Today’s reading comes from the New International Version (NIV).

Hosea 4

1 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.

 2 There is only cursing, lying and murder,
       stealing and adultery;
       they break all bounds,
       and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

 3 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.

 4 “But let no man bring a charge,
       let no man accuse another,
       for your people are like those
       who bring charges against a priest.

 5 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.

 7 The more the priests increased,
       the more they sinned against me;
       they exchanged their Glory for something disgraceful.

 8 They feed on the sins of my people
       and relish their wickedness.

 9 And it will be: Like people, like priests.
       I will punish both of them for their ways
       and repay them for their deeds.

 10 “They will eat but not have enough;
       they will engage in prostitution but not increase,
       because 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.

 13 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.

 14 “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!

 15 “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!’

 16 The Israelites are stubborn,
       like a stubborn heifer.
       How then can the LORD pasture them
       like lambs in a meadow?

 17 Ephraim is joined to idols;
       leave him alone!

 18 Even when their drinks are gone,
       they continue their prostitution;
       their rulers dearly love shameful ways.

 19 A whirlwind will sweep them away,
       and their sacrifices will bring them shame.

Hosea has a warning for God’s people, the Israelites: ‘Listen up, folks — God knows you’re sinning.  He sees you’ve turned from Him!’

Hosea frames the scene in judicial language: ‘a charge to bring’ in verse 1.  Then, come the crimes the Israelites have committed in verse 2: pronouncing oaths against people, lying, murder, theft, adultery.  By committing these acts, they are breaking God’s commandments as delivered to Moses.  And, Hosea warns that the sins will compound until there is bloodshed — and that blood will reach the highest and best families among them.  Further, they are so morally polluted that the life around them might as well be dying, too.  And, if the people do not repent, they, too, shall lose their salvation and also die. 

In verse 4, he accuses the people of not showing a good example to each other and refusing to criticise one another’s sins.  Instead, they take issue with priests, who are trying to lead them on the path to good.  Because the people enjoy their sins, they ‘stumble day and night’ — they cannot walk in the light of truth and mercy.  They live in a haze of sin and cannot see the right way forward.  In verse 6, God through Hosea accuses them of lacking knowledge because of sin.  Sin precludes God’s truths.  God threatens them all with desertion — even extending to failing priests (His own representatives) and children (the future).  In verse 9, God says he knows that as the people go, so go the priests!  In verses 10 – 14, He says that the people will be able to survive, but only just. They shall continue in their idolatry and debauchery, thinking they have the answers when they are further from the truth. 

In verse 15, the people of Judah are warned not to follow in the footsteps of the Israelites. Hosea explains in verse 16 that God cannot shepherd sheep which do not follow His lead.  He repeats that the Israelites — Ephraim’s descendents — are knee-deep in transgression (verses 17 and 18) but the day is coming when a ‘whirlwind’ (war against the Assyrians) is coming and God will leave them alone to fight their own battle without His help.  This is a recurring warning in the other chapters of Hosea, such as last week’s passage.   You would think that after all the warnings, the Israelites / Ephraim would repent.  But, no.  We shake our heads in disbelief, but are we any different?   

Hosea’s warning — although delivered in an age before Christ — is pertinent to us today.  Most of us grew up in a feel-good, pleasurable era.  ‘If you enjoy it, do it’.  ‘It’s all about you.’  ‘Go on — you deserve it.’  If Hosea were among us today, he would likely say, ‘Uh, hello?  Haven’t you forgotten God?  Don’t you see that your love of pleasure and deceit pulls you down deeper and deeper every time you sin?  You’re distancing yourself further from God.  You’ve ceased paying attention to Him at all.  And then you wonder why you have family breakdowns, increasing crime rates, corrupt public officials, disingenuous employers and indifferent clergy!  You’re all sinning — you’re all guilty.  It’s all-encompassing, from the lowest levels to the highest.  You read about it every day, you see it for yourselves — and, yet, you wonder why?  People — get a grip.  Turn back to the LORD.  The LORD will help you, if only you look to Him.  He alone is your salvation.’

You can read more here.

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