My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. Hosea 4:6, ESV
I was pretty sure I knew the gist of Hosea: God tells his prophet to marry a hussy named Gomer; be a father to three children (two of which may or may not be his); watch her chase after other men; and then redeem her back. All this would be one big sermon illustration that would teach Israel about God’s unfailing love to His people despite their unfaithfulness (side note as a pastor: I’m really thankful God hasn’t come up with any object lessons like this for me so far. I’m happy getting my illustrations from YouTube and Tony Evans books). By the way, you should pause and read Hosea 1-3 if you aren’t familiar with it. Greatest. Love Story. Ever.
But in Hosea 4, the book starts feeling less like a Hallmark movie and more like the powerful prophetic word that it is. Chapter 4 begins with a devastating indictment against Israel. God has a bone to pick with the inhabitants of the land, says verse 1:
There is no faithfulness or steadfast love,
and no knowledge of God in the land;
2 there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;
they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
Sounds pretty descriptive of today’s headlines, doesn’t it? Or MTV’s Video Music Awards.
Then, in language that parallels the blessing of Psalm 8:6-8 God pronounces judgment on Israel:
3 Therefore the land mourns,
and all who dwell in it languish,
and also the beasts of the field
and the birds of the heavens,
and even the fish of the sea are taken away.
But here is what stuns me as a minister. While God judges Israel, he doesn’t blame them.
He blames the priests. “With you is my contention, O priest,” he says in verse 4 (which seems to be a much more compelling and convicting translation than the NIV. I’d love for someone way smarter than me to help me understand the huge difference between the translations of verse 4, but that is a conversation for another day. If you are interested, check out the translation comparison from Blue Letter Bible.
God says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge because you [the priest] have rejected knowledge.” And because the spiritual leader of the people rejected knowledge, God would reject him as a spiritual leader. (verse 6). And you won’t find a more challenging word for a pastor than Hosea 4:9:
And it shall be like people, like priest.
In the business world, the cliche is “Speed of the leader, speed of the team.” Pastors, we cannot lead anyone where we are not going ourselves. God’s people are being destroyed for lack of knowledge. But if we as spiritual leaders are forgetting the law of our God, then the spiritual condition of the nation is on us.
God have mercy.