Sunday, June 18, 2006

Matt's Messages - Lack of Knowledge

“Lack of Knowledge”
June 18, 2006
Hosea 4:1-5:15

Raise your hand if you have ever in your life heard a sermon from Hosea chapter 4. I know that I never have! Hosea 1, 2, 3 and 11, yes, but Hosea 4, I don’t think so. So, we’re breaking new ground today for most of us.

This is our fourth Sunday in the book of Hosea. We’ve been learning about the prophet and his unhappy family. Hosea had an adulterous wife named Gomer who stood for the spiritually adulterous nation of Israel. And he had poster-children named Jezreel, Lo-Ruhamah, and Lo-Ammi whose names sent messages of impending judgment, cancelled compassion, and crushing disownment.

And all along the way, we’ve been astonished at God’s jealous love and amazing grace.

Last week, God sent Hosea to buy Gomer back. How would you like that assignment? He did it as a picture of God’s redeeming love for God’s wayward wife.
And chapter 3 ended with a confident prediction of Israel’s eventual restoration.

Now, you’ll want to keep that in mind for the next several weeks as we go backwards now and find out just how bad it had gotten in Israel to get Israel to this place where the prophecies and billboard-family of Hosea were so necessary.

Chapters 4 and 5 are all about God’s charge against Israel. Chapters 4 and 5 explain some of the background of how Israel had gotten to be like Gomer. And how God had decided that He must now act in discipline, wrath, and judgment.

Chapters 4 and 5 are kind of like a law court. Maybe a divorce court, where the offended husband, the LORD, presents His charge, His case against the defendant, in this case, Israel. And the charge is undeniable.

It is the “Lack of Knowledge” of God.

Hosea says, “Here’s the problem with Israel: Israel doesn’t know God, and it shows!”

“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.’”

Israel doesn’t know God, and it shows.

They live in the Promised Land but they don’t act like the “children of promise!”

There is no faithfulness, meaning no trustworthiness. They can’t be counted on.

There is no love. No love for God, no love for people, no steadfast love at all.

And there is “no acknowledgment of God in the land.” Notice the word “know” (K-N-O-W) in the middle of that word “acknowledgment.”

The King James simply says, there is “no knowledge of God in the land.”

Instead (v.2), “There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.”

Israel doesn’t know God, and it shows.

It shows in the worst of ways. Israel, instead of keeping covenant, breaks the covenant every way she can. Notice how many of the 10 commandments are broken in just one verse! Commandments 3, 9, 6, 8, and 7 in order: “...cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.”

This is where Israel had sunked to...and everyone was going to suffer for it. V.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.”

I don’t know if that is poetic language or if the whole creation was literally falling apart, but either way, everyone and everything was suffering for this lack of the knowledge of God.

But don’t point fingers! V.4

“But let no man bring a charge, let no man accuse another [It’s his fault!], for your people are like those who bring charges against a priest. [Everybody is in this one, especially the leaders!] You stumble day and night, and the prophets stumble with you. So I will destroy your mother [what mother? The whole nation of Israel. The people.] – my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.”

Israel doesn’t know God, and it shows. And it will mean destruction.

Now, what does that mean that Israel doesn’t know God? What does it mean by “lack of knowledge?”

It doesn’t mean that Israel didn’t know anything about God.

Israel knew more about God than any other nation on the planet!

This is talking about intimate knowledge of God. Relational knowledge of God. We might call it “Covenant Knowledge” of God.

Not just knowledge about God but knowledge of God.

Do you know God?

Israel was God’s “wife.” They were in covenant together. There was to be a special bond of trust and intimacy and confidence and closeness and growing knowledge between Him and her.

But instead, there was a “lack of knowledge.” And it led to bloodshed following bloodshed and stumbling following stumbling and the blind leading the blind and eventually destruction.

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

Do you know God?

Not just about him, but know Him personally, interpersonally, in covenant love?

In Hosea’s day, Israel didn’t. They had a lack of knowledge of God, and it showed.

Not knowledge about Him (though I’m sure that that was diminishing, as well), but a “lack of knowledge” of Him.

How did this happen? Where did the lack come from?

You know what a “lack” is, don’t you?

When I was in the third grade, my teacher, Mrs. Warrens, had a thick southern accent, that I didn’t always understand. And for a couple of months, I kept reading the same book in our reading class because I thought she wanted me to. She kept telling me to read the book that I “lacked.” But I thought she was saying read the book that I “liked.” So I kept reading the one I really enjoyed and got behind. We had a fun time figuring out what the problem was there.

I didn’t know what that word “lack” meant, anyway. It means a deficiency, an inadequacy, an insufficiency.

Israel didn’t have the knowledge of God that she should have.

She lacked the knowledge of God.


It wasn’t just something that happened to her. It was something that she chose. V.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.”

First, notice that they rejected knowledge. They ignored knowledge. It’s not just something that happened to them, it’s something that they chose.

How did this occur?

#1. The Lack of Knowledge Came Because the Leaders of God’s People Hadn’t Led God’s People to Know God.

By this point, Hosea is speaking for God and addressing the priests.

“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you [priests] have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.”

The leaders of God’s people hadn’t led God’s people to know God.

They had done the opposite. V.7

“The more the priests increased, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their Glory for something disgraceful. They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness.”

What’s wrong with this picture?

You’d think that an increase in leadership would mean an increase in godliness. But it was the opposite. More and more priests, more and more sin. And it was shameful.

They had actually gotten to the point of loving it when the people sinned! V.8

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

Now that was spiritually true, but it was also probably literally true. Remember, the priests got to eat a lot of the sacrifices. They were probably saying, “Yum. I’m glad business is good this year! Let’s lead them to sin some more. Pass the lamb chops.”

They weren’t just asleep at the wheel of leadership, they were steering it in the wrong direction.

And the LORD won’t stand for it. They are going to get it, too. V.9

“And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds. They will eat but not have enough; they will engage in prostitution but not increase...”

The leadership will not be blessed. They will be thwarted.

No privilege, no exception, no excuse. They will be punished.

Here’s the application: Leaders, lead people to know God.

If you are a Christian leader, a Sunday School teacher, a Kids for Christ leader, a Uth Group Leader, a Ministry Intern, an Elder, a Deacon, whatever, you have (we have) a huge responsibility.

We need to lead people to know God.

Not just about Him, but to know Him in covenant relationship.

We all have this responsibility because we are all leaders in some sense. In the New Covenant, we’re all priests!

We need to lead people to know God.

And because today is Father’s Day, I think of that responsibility the most.

Ephesians 6:4. Dads, do you have that one memorized?

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

That’s your biggest responsibility as a Dad.

Not to provide, not to protect, not to fix things, not even to kiss the boo-boos. Though all of those are part of it.

But we Dads are called primarily called to lead our children to know God.

And we will have to give an account. Are you ready to give an account?
Israel’s “fathers” didn’t lead Israel to know God.

That’s the number one reason for the lack of knowledge of God.

I think that’s the number one reason for the lack of the knowledge of God in America, as well.

We leaders are not leading people, like we should, to know God.

Here’s the second reason and it was just as big as the first.

#2. The Lack of Knowledge Came Because the People of God Had Deserted God for Other Gods. V.10 again.

“They will eat but not have enough; they will engage in prostitution but not increase, because they have deserted the LORD to give themselves to prostitution [like Gomer!], to old wine and new, which take away the understanding 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. [Idolatry is spiritual adultery. V.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.”

So many words that talk about adultery in these few verses.

Idolatry is spiritual adultery.

And why would you want to know God when there are all of these other “gods” to get to know?

The greatest sin of Israel has always been unfaithfulness with other gods.

And it inevitably leads to a lack of knowledge of the one true God.

The People of God Had Deserted God for Other Gods.

And notice, their spiritual prostitution also took the form of literal prostitution with shrine prostitutes. V.13 again.

“Therefore your daughters turn to prostitution and your daughters-in-law to adultery. 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!”

Notice that he says there will be no double standard. Men getting away with it when women don’t.

No, the men are more responsible for it. Remember that, men, the Bible holds us as leaders in our homes, churches, and communities to a higher standard of accountability.

We don’t just bemoan what our girls end up doing and not take any responsibility for it. It’s a big responsibility to be a Dad.

All of this adultery, both physical and spiritual issues into a warning to the southern kingdom and to us. V.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!' The Israelites are stubborn, like a stubborn heifer. How then can the LORD pasture them like lambs in a meadow? Ephraim is joined to idols; leave him alone!”

This is the application: Put away your idols.

Hosea is telling Judah to not fall into the practices of Israel. Don’t go to the famous shrines at Gilgal and Beth Aven (House of Wickedness). And don’t take the LORD’s name in vain. “As surely as the LORD lives!” And don’t be a stubborn cow. Don’t get hooked up with Ephraim because Ephraim is hooked up with idols.

Put away your idols while you still can.

Do you have any idols?

I doubt that many of us have a wooden idol in our home that we bow down to and ask to bless our crops.

But the Bible has another category of idols, idols of the heart, which are just as dangerous, just as insidious, maybe more so.

Idols of the Heart.

They are desires that we have that may be for a good thing but have become too great a desire or desired in a bad way.

Idols of the heart.

We need to put them away, as well.

What’s yours? Don’t yell it out!

But you can probably tell by answering this question:

What do I really think that I need?

If I had this, I would be happy.

What do I really think that I need?

If your answer isn’t Jesus, you’ve probably just identified an idol.

Because it has taken Jesus’ place in your life.

Now, you might say, “but it’s a good thing!” I’m sure it is. It’s probably a good desire, but it makes a bad demand. It’s a good servant, but it’s a bad master. Only Jesus should rule your heart.

And you know when it’s ruling your heart when bad stuff comes out you because of it. Bad roots, bad fruits, you know.

Anger, lust, fear, sin, etc.

We need to put away our idols. Or else, we will lack the knowledge of God.

This book, Hosea, has been relentlessly attacking our idols for the last month. Have you made any changes? Are you any different?

We make the mistake of thinking that there are lots of kinds of people in the world.
But there are really only two (with some degrees of spectrum): Jesus-knowing-people and idolaters.

The purpose of our church is to bring people into a love relationship with Jesus Christ as our God.

That’s another way of saying that we exist to help people put away their idols so that they have knowledge of God through Jesus.

Hosea is a warning to us (just like it was to Judah) to put away our idols while we still can.

What drastic action to you need to do to put away the idols of your heart?

Because they are drawing away from your knowledge of God. Guaranteed.

A lack of knowledge of God leads to destruction.

“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” V.18

“Even when their drinks are gone, they continue their prostitution; their rulers dearly love shameful ways. A whirlwind will sweep them away, and their sacrifices will bring them shame.”

#3. The lack of the knowledge of God leads to destruction.

And judgment. That’s the point of chapter 5. Judgment is coming. V.1

“Hear this, you priests! Pay attention, you Israelites! Listen, O royal house! [Leaders!] This judgment is against you: You have been a snare at Mizpah, a net spread out on Tabor. [Famous sites in Israel.] The rebels are deep in slaughter. I will discipline all of them. [Judgement is coming.] I know all about Ephraim; Israel is not hidden from me. Ephraim, you have now turned to prostitution; Israel is corrupt. [Israel may not know God but God knows Israel. And they can’t escape. V.4] Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not acknowledge the LORD. [They don’t know the LORD.] Israel's arrogance testifies against them; the Israelites, even Ephraim, stumble in their sin; Judah also stumbles with them." [Sad.]

And judgment is coming. It takes 2 forms. Withdrawal and Warfare.

“When they go with their flocks and herds to seek the LORD, they will not find him; he has withdrawn himself from them.”

This is the worst kind of punishment. God withdrawing. And on top of that, war comes. V.7

“They are unfaithful to the LORD; they give birth to illegitimate children. Now their New Moon festivals will devour them and their fields. Sound the trumpet in Gibeah, the horn in Ramah. Raise the battle cry in Beth Aven; lead on, O Benjamin. [It’s war time!] Ephraim will be laid waste on the day of reckoning. Among the tribes of Israel I proclaim what is certain. [And both kingdoms will eventually feel it. V.10] Judah's leaders are like those who move boundary stones. I will pour out my wrath on them like a flood of water. Ephraim is oppressed, trampled in judgment, intent on pursuing idols. I am like a moth to Ephraim, like rot to the people of Judah. [They will fall apart because of the LORD’s judgment.] 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. 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.”

Do you see how sad this is?

“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.”

This is what’s going to happen to Israel–discipline, punishment, wrath, and judgment.

Withdrawal, and warfare, and exile.

They will lose their precious Promised Land.

All because of a lack of knowledge of God–where there should have been knowledge of God.

What’s the application? Repent while you still can.

Notice that Israel couldn’t repent. V.4 again.

“Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God.”

They were so deep in it, that they couldn’t turn it around.

Don’t think that you can just stop whatever you have been giving yourself to!

The Lord is saying, “You can’t keep these idols and come back to me at the same time.” And you might not be able to give up your idols later.

Repent now, while you still can.

Lack of knowledge leads to destruction.

The good news is that repentance would come eventually. All of this would ultimately have the effect of leading Israel into repentance. V.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.

It’s a sad reality that they had hit the absolute bottom before they would turn to the LORD.

But like we’ve seen every week so far, God’s jealous love will get them there, no matter what it takes!

“They will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.”

But you don’t have wait today.

You can repent right now and save yourself a lot of grief.

If you are not yet a follower of Jesus by faith, you are being called right now to turn from your idols and begin to trust and follow Jesus.

The Bible calls that repentance and faith. Turning and trusting.

You are being called to do that right now.

Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Nobody else can help you. The people of Israel turned to their enemy for help before they turned to their God!

But he is not able to cure you, not able to heal your sores. And neither are you.

But God is.

And He is amazingly gracious.

All of this is meant, not to sadistically hurt His people, but to graciously, if painfully, wean them from all of their idols that have created a lack of knowledge and keep them from ultimate destruction. Ultimately, to win them back.

Ultimately, to restore them. “They will seek my face...They will earnestly seek me.”

Seek Him!

Seek Him while He may be found.

Turn from your ways and put your trust in Him and what He did on the Cross.

Because, you know what? On that Cross, He absorbed all of the destruction that we deserved for our lack of knowledge of Him.

And He calls us now to trust Him and know Him in covenant love once more.

But He won’t stand any rivals.

He won’t let you date around.

It won’t be God and your personal idols.

It must be God alone.

As a leader of God’s people, I’m trying to lead you to know Him.

Put away your idols and know the Lord.