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Book of Hosea
Chapter  4

Hosea Chapter 4
Commentary by Ron Beckham

Verse 1. "Listen to the word of the Lord, O sons of Israel, For the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land, because there is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land."

This Scripture fits perfectly into our place, time, and land, just as it did in relation to Israel. The phrase "There is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land", applies just as precisely to us, as it did to them. We, as a people, need to "LISTEN to the Word of the Lord," for He is indeed bringing charges (a case) against us – against the people of our land. Knowledge of God is lessening, and we are in trouble.

We have thrown away TRUTH in this place, because we have forsaken Jesus Christ, who is the truth (John 14:6 – "I am the truth"); we’ve attempted to throw Him out of our schools, out of our government and out of our hearts. All the kindness of God is summed up in Him, and we, as a people, have cast Him out of our lives. And all of our knowledge has become incomplete, because we do not read the Word of God. As Israel went wrong; we are wrong, also.

Verse 2. "There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed."

"Swearing and deception, murder and stealing and committing adultery, are rampant in our time. Profanity is as common in the office as it use to be at the construction site. People lie so much that they no longer know truth from fiction. Jesus related angry thoughts to murder (Matthew 5:21-22) and there is so MUCH anger around us. People take whatever they want (from their employer or by cheating on taxes) and somehow feel it’s O.K. It’s not.

Adultery is actually PROMOTED within our motion picture "entertainment" industry. Note this is part of the "case" or "charge" He has been leveling against us (see verse 1). To break the restraints He has around us (around our behavior) is wrong, for the restraints of God are there to protect us. God views all this as "bloodshed" and if you don’t agree, recall James 2:10, where we find that to "keep the whole law and yet to stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." The adulterer is a murderer in the sight of God.

Verse 3. "Therefore the land mourns, and everyone who lives in it languishes along with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky, and also the fish of the sea disappear."

"The land mourns" is a reference that a people’s resources will gradually be done away, as a judgment on their sin. If we don’t repent, our cattle will be decimated by some kind of "mad cow disease." The birds (the ones we eat to live) can be gone in a moment, and the fishing industry may suddenly be gone, as we continue our strange attempts to murder our oceans by polluting them.

Though all of this is of our own doing, God will bring a good outcome from the disasters that will surely come. The very ground we walk on was judged because of our sin (Genesis 3:17) and this was done "for your sake" (on your behalf). The troubles in our lives are like sharp scalpels in the Hands of our wondrous Surgeon, for they cut into our unbelief and leave the healthy tissue (faith in Him) behind.

Verse 4. "Yet let no one find fault, and let none offer reproof; for your people are like those who contend with the priest."

Our human tendency when things go wrong is to point at someone else and say (for all to hear), "It’s THEIR fault!" God is saying here, "Don’t do that! – Don’t blame those around you, when things go wrong in your life. The fault is ours – every one of us. "ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

To "contend with the priest" is a reference back to Deuteronomy 17:12, where someone who "will not heed the priest" is considered in the sight of God to be an "evil person" who should "die" from our midst. We should listen to our pastors (and to one another, for all who love Him are priests in the sight of God). We do not always have to agree, but if we do disagree, we should take our concerns to God and not damage others with our words.

Verse 5. "So you will stumble by day, And the prophet also will stumble with you by night; and I will destroy your mother."

Our sins will cause us to stumble. Cheating on income tax forms may seem to give us more money for the moment, but in the end, we have less than we need. If you are in court, and manage to win your case through lies on the witness stand, you will be judged for it by a Higher Court. We need our prophets, our people of vision, and there are few in this land - perhaps the reason is because we, as a people, have decided to be a nation of sinners.

Our "mother" is a representation of us as a country; a people. Through our sin, we gradually destroy all we hold dear. Never think there is such a thing as a "victimless" crime. God will judge us for our sins, and if we do not repent, He will destroy our land, if necessary, in order that we might at last come to faith in Him. He loves us far too much to allow us to continue in darkness.

Verse 6. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children."

The nation of Israel had been intended to collectively be a nation of priests to the world. The phrase "priesthood of all believers" applied first to them, for they were intended to bring the world to God, by presenting Him to the peoples around them.

Yet they neglected His Word, and destroyed themselves for lack of knowledge (when it was plainly available to them). They ultimately were (temporarily) rejected from this role as priest to the world, and lost their nation as well. In our modern world, we should take note of what happened to them. Many have been given much by God, and should KNOW that much is expected – we have been blessed for a PURPOSE.

Verse 7. "The more they multiplied, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame."

I have seen "successful" people turn away from a close relationship with God. I did the same thing years ago, during 1969-70, when I finally read the whole Bible for the first time. Something good happened in my life, which made me happy, and I stopped reading – closed the Book! I may well have stayed that way, but everything that was "good" went very bad, and then at last, I opened up His Word again (and was blessed).

Many tend to ignore God (which is sin) when things are going well, but when He "changes (our) glory into shame" (as in this verse), we are driven by need; back into His arms once again. You may have prayed that you will have a heart for God. The very troubles that annoy you, may be the answers which will give you that heart. So it was with Israel, and so it is with you and me.

Verse 8. "They feed on the sin of My people and direct their desire toward their iniquity."

This verse is strongly reminiscent of Isaiah 56:11, where the Lord said, "the dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied; and they are shepherds who have no understanding." That Scripture, like this one, addresses both the religious leaders and the people at the same time, for "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God".

Both the priests and the people had their hearts set on sin, but the priests went everybody one better ("they feed on the sin of My people"). The priests ate the sacrifices brought to the temple, but they did not bring the people to repentance before God. In fact, they encouraged them to sin even more, by introducing them to false "gods". They are like so many today, who make their living from the Bible, but don’t really believe in it (or the One who Wrote it).

Verse 9. "And it will be, like people, like priest; so I will punish them for their ways and repay them for their deeds."

The one who sins will be judged by God. It’s dangerous to be a sinner. There are those who don’t believe in sin and teach there are actually no "sinners" at all. But God is not pleased and this "ignorance" of those who say they do not believe, will be no defense. He will apply appropriate punishment (designed to bring us to faith in Him) and He does repay each one for their deeds, both now and in eternity.

God says to us all, in this verse: I will punish them for their ways, and reward them for their deeds" (NKJV). Just as it was in the time of Hosea, it is true now: "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). But there is more (continuing Romans 6:23), "but the gift of God is eternal LIFE through Jesus Christ our Lord." He does not WANT you to be judged, as demonstrated by the gift of His Son, given for your life and mine.

Verse 10. "They will eat, but not have enough; They will play the harlot, but not increase, because they have stopped giving heed to the Lord."

We were designed to "live and move and have our being" – in CHRIST (Acts 17:28). But when a people has "stopped giving heed to the Lord" (as in this verse), they will be judged. This judgment of God (as stated previously) is curative in nature. This work is designed to rescue us from the living death of unbelief and bring us back to health of the spirit, by bringing us to faith in His Son.

In this verse, they could eat like "compulsive overeaters" and yet never have enough. They could INDULGE themselves in all forms of promiscuity, but never be satisfied. This is very much like Haggai 1:6, "You eat but do not have enough" (because they were out of the will of God). There was a song, years ago, which included the phrase "Can’t get no – satisfaction", and that’s the way of this world without God.

Verse 11. "Harlotry, wine and new wine take away the understanding."

The cry of our current generation has been, "I want to be FREE" (perhaps it is true of EVERY generation). Generally, what is meant by this desire, is: Free to commit adultery (the "victimless" crime – what a bad joke); free to marry as often as they want; free to have fun, no matter how it is obtained; free to make so much money that we don’t need ANYBODY; free to do it – "my way".

And yet, we are like the little birds, peck-pecking at the trail of bread crumbs, ever closer, and then CRASH – the box falls and the little one is in the trap! As in this verse, adultery, alcohol, drugs, and so on, are like those bread crumbs, leading to an ever deeper slavery than you could ever think possible. Ruined, mentally, physically, and spiritually and – the understanding is gone! To be really FREE on the other hand, is to know Christ and walk in His will.

Verse 12. "My people consult their wooden idol, and their diviner's wand informs them; for a spirit of harlotry has led them astray, and they have played the harlot, departing from their God."

People ask counsel from their investment brokers, and they receive information from their computers. They seek wisdom from their barbers, their beauticians, and the bartender who serves them. Often they get advice from their buddy, who deals drugs. Very much like consulting little wooden idols. To seek advice is actually a good thing, but it is here that many make a HUGE mistake.

God longs to give you – EVERYTHING! He wants to lead you into – contentment and understanding, peace and joy! Yet many would rather trust an astrological chart and don’t know what it means to pray. Most want to trust in themselves – period! And yet all such decisions and behaviors, constitute idolatry in the sight of God. As a people, we have gone "astray;" indeed we have "played the harlot", and departed from our God.

Verse 13. "They offer sacrifices on the tops of the mountains and burn incense on the hills, under oak, poplar and terebinth, because their shade is pleasant. Therefore your daughters play the harlot and your brides commit adultery."

Ritual prostitution really did play a part in the worship of that time and place. Those of Israel had picked-up this despicable practice from the nations around them. The words "harlot" and "adultery" literally did apply to them, and we of the Church must not be like them. We must always remember that Christ is sending us to change the world through telling them about Him, and it is not the other way around – the world is not supposed to change us.

But there is a greater "adultery" than the physical, when we allow our worship to become mere formalism or let it be replaced by that which is false. Religion can be very satisfying and with a heart turned toward God, a place where we can express our worship of Him. Only the Word of God, as revealed by the Holy Spirit of God, can keep us on the right track, however. There is no other way. Without Him, without His Word – we are headed for disfavor with Almighty God.

Verse 14. "I will not punish your daughters when they play the harlot or your brides when they commit adultery, for the men themselves go apart with harlots And offer sacrifices with temple prostitutes; so the people without understanding are ruined."

It was not just the women who were guilty before God (as in the "daughters" and "brides" of verse 13), for the men were guilty, too. The whole nation had become corrupt. They had all been "ruined" (literally "thrust down") because they had no understanding. Not quite all, however, because God always has His remnant among the people, such as the prophet Hosea, who wrote down the very words of this Book.

The whole people, men and women, would be judged for the spiritual and physical adultery being committed in the land. This is consistent with the Law, where we see "the adulterer and the adulteress shall (both) be put to death" (Leviticus 20:10). When the "scribes and Pharisees" brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus (John 8:1-11), they were in error, because the man should have been brought also. No matter who we are, when we sin, we become guilty before our Holy God.

Verse 15. "Though you, Israel, play the harlot, do not let Judah become guilty; also do not go to Gilgal, or go up to Beth-aven and take the oath: ‘As the Lord lives!'’"

For years, I was sad that Israel and Judah split off into two nations. When I was 16 or so, I didn’t like it when my Church split in two and half the people left. And I wondered, WHY are there so many denominations? But here we see a different aspect of these "splits": The ones who go away, often PROTECT those who remain, and vice versa. God allows this to take the leaven away from the good grain. He will protect you, just as He kept Judah safe for a time, by allowing Israel (the 10-northern tribes) to go their way.

This is not the "Gilgal" between Jericho and the Jordan river, where Joshua circumcised the people a second time and celebrated the Passover. This was in the north, where Elijah and Elisha had established a school for prophets. This place in the north had later become corrupted by the priests and people. It is important to note that we are in a war zone and the antagonists use faith and unbelief – the enemy is busy trying to enter our denominations and take them for himself, firing "bullets" of unbelief at anyone he can hit. And the Lord is continually turning sinners into saints of God, through faith in our Lord.

Verse 16. "Since Israel is stubborn like a stubborn heifer, can the Lord now pasture them like a lamb in a large field?"

I never was around sheep (they’re cute little things, though), but I’ve had a lot of dogs, and there is a characteristic about some of them which really pleases me. I like the ones that love you and stay with you, no matter what. I like it when you can remove the leash from them, and if they move somewhat away from you, they come when you call. I’m sure the Lord is pleased when we remain close to Him & run to Him when He calls.

The stubbornness of Israel is shown here. The Lord longed for them to respond, just out of love. (His heart toward them was always motivated out of love). The heifer and the lamb are both vulnerable to danger, but the shepherd protects them from harm. The Lord (as you know) is our Shepherd. The bonus is that, if you SURRENDER to God and His protection, you get to know Him well, and your life will be like finding safe pasture, or swimming in an ocean of His love.

Verse 17. "Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone."

I like Psalm 81:11-16, for this verse: "My people did not listen to My voice and Israel did not obey Me. So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, to walk in their own devices." And then He went on to express how much He would do for them – if they would only LET Him! But they would not let Him, and ultimately they were thrust away from His benefits, which is a warning to us all.

When we are allowed to go it alone, we learn how weak we really are, but this weakness MAY result in true faith in Him. Psalm 81:16 continues, He will "feed you with the finest of wheat, and with honey from the rock" He will "satisfy you." Trouble will come to the one who does not follow the Lord, and He will allow whatever it takes to bring you close to Him.

Verse 18. "Their liquor gone, they play the harlot continually; their rulers dearly love shame."

When we were young men in military service, in a country halfway around the world, we essentially had two interests: what this verse calls the "harlot" and the other stuff which we called "booze." Every one of us seemed to be the same, whether of high or low station. We were bent on lives that would lead us to shame.

And the behavior was relentlessly self-destructive. We KNEW the alcohol would destroy us, but we continued pouring it down (drinking it). There was a talented artist among us named Grodsky (his drawings were GOOD, funny and amazing to all), who contracted incurable syphilis and had to be sent to a sanitarium in Florida – for the rest of his life! We knew better, and yet we still chose lives of shame.

Verse 19. "The wind wraps them in its wings, and they will be ashamed because of their sacrifices."

The other thing that will lead you into shame (also see verse 18) is false religion (the "sacrifices" of this verse). There is a world full of religious imitations out there, but God simply wants to give you the clean, gentle, wholesome love of God which is in Christ Jesus. Watch out for the sincere-looking person, who says something like "there are MANY roads which lead to God." He is a false prophet and only wants to lead you into harm’s way.

Even if it seems like the "wind wraps (you) in its wings" through religious experiences, they are useless if they are not of our Lord – and they may ultimately destroy your life. The "sacrifices" of false religion (your time, your energy, your potential usefulness to the Lord, your witness to others) will lead you into shameful practices AWAY from where you really need to be: In the arms of our Jesus, Who died to set you free.

Ron Beckham
Friday Study Ministries


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