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God the Accuser… Hosea 4

February 5, 2012

I wonder how many of you have been in a court room? No I don’t mean necessarily as the defendant, may be you’ve just been on a court room to visit? I for many years wanted to be a lawyer, I loved all the legal dramas on TV, and read every John Grisham thriller I could get my hands on. I studied Law at A-level and so got to visit the Magistrates Court here in Leyland, and the Crown Court in Preston. But whether you’ve visited a courtoom or not, you’ll all know the routine! Out comes the defendant and he is forced to stand before the judge and jury whilst the charge is read out.

Now the court room is the place we find ourselves in as we come to the 4th Chapter of Hosea. If you’ve read the first 3 chapters of Hosea you will have heard of the Prophet who took an unfaithful woman as his wife as a kind of visual illustration of how God’s people have been treating Him. Now however, the metaphor is changed, the illustration is dramatacially altered as we move from marriage to the Old Bailey.

THE CHARGE (v1-3)

Hear the word of the LORD, you Israelites,
because the LORD has a charge to bring
against you who live in the land:

The prophet crys out to the people.

Facing a judge and jury is one thing but when it’s God, who is accusing you, now that’s serious!!! And then God Himself speaks:

There is no faithfulness, no love,
no acknowledgment of God in the land.
There is only cursing, lying and murder,
stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

What an awful thing to hear. Imagine being God’s people, you tell everyone that you are and then God shows up and says that to you! Israel, God’s people, are not listening to Him, not following Him, instead says God there is only law breaking and breaking the ten commandments at that! And what is the result of the peoples’ trespass?

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.

God’s glorious promised land and everything in it is spoilt. The land wastes away and the animals die! An awful picture of what it look likes when you turn your back on God. The courtroom is hushed, the charge is clear and it’s awful but who is to blame? You can imagine the Israelites, turning to one another and pointing the finger.

“It wasn’t me LORD honest! It was him.. it was the foreigners, it was erm it was those people who never go to Temple, it was the criminals! It wasn’t me – honest! No I’m very religious!!!”

But God knows exactly who He blames for the problems amoungst the people and its not those who usually get the blame!

GOD ACCUSES… THE LEADERS v4-9

The first group that God blames for this awful state of affairs are the leaders. Now verse 4 could be translated a number of ways but I don’t think the Church Bibles do that good a job. The ESV does the best in saying:

Yet let no one contend,
and let none accuse,
for with YOU is my contention, O priest

this makes most sense and lines up well with verse 6, have a look down:

Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests

God is absolutely clear that the leaders of God’s people have a lot to answer for. What is lacking in Israel as we’ve just seen from verse 6 is knowledge of God and obedience to His law. The very people who are supposed to provide this, that are supposed to teach the nation, and counsel the common man, are the priests and the prophets and they have turned away…

It’s like turning up for a Maths class at school, to find the teacher can barely count, the driving instructor who can’t get out of first gear, or the dentist who starts his consultation by examining your feet. The Israelite priests, the supposed spiritual teachers, don’t know one end of the Torah from another. instead they have chosen to follow the crowd v9:

Like people, like priests,

Instead of leading and teaching, they’re following and acquiescing. If the people want idols and festivals, then idols and festivals they will have. If Baal’s popular then they’ll go with him, whatever will bring in more sacrifices, which of course means more meat for the priests to eat. That’s is what is going on in verse 8:

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

When the people sinned they brought forward sacrifices, and the priests didn’t want that to stop, not when that would mean less food for themselves. No wonder God is angry with the priests. A great honour has been bestowed upon them, in being set aside to teach God’s word. No slaving in the fields for these guys, no hard manuel labour, no God commanded that the people were to provide for them, so they could dedicate themselves to God, and lead His people, but instead they sit around getting fat, and the only place they’re leading the people with their teaching is to their destruction. The priests are meant to teach, admonish and rebuke. But instead they’re sinning, and allowing the people to do the same.

And today do we not find ourselves in a similar position. Ruth Gledhill, The Times Religious correspondent revealed that a survey done by her paper showed:

Six out of ten clergy said they believed in the Virgin Birth..

Which of course means 4 out of 10 don’t, she continued:

More than half the clergy said they believed in the physical resurrection of Jesus. God the Father scored highest, with eight out of ten clergy confessing to belief in Him. Jesus Christ as the “only way to salvation” scored lowest, which barely half of all clergy believed.

So just to be clear, almost 50% of clergy don’t believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus and 50% don’t believe that Jesus is the only way to be saved. I suppose we should be grateful that 80% actually believe in God, but then, of course, that means that 20% actually don’t. You kind of wonder WHY they’re doing the job in the first place!! And just as in Hosea’s day, these are the people who have been set apart to teach us about God, to explain God’s Word to us and yet it seems a large number of them don’t actually believe the basic tenants of the faith.

Many Church leaders instead have sought popularity over obedience to God’s word and just like the priests of Hosea’s day they’ve chosen multi-faith engagement over saying the unpopular things from their pulpit. What God is seeking ARE leaders who will teach His word, challenge those who are going astray, and encourage those who are finding life difficult.

What God finds in the time of Hosea, and what God finds too often now, is leaders who will do anything to be popular, and won’t do anything which the public don’t like. They CAN’T teach the people because they don’t know God themselves, they CAN’T exlpain the Scriptures because they don’t understand them. And as a result verse 6, they’re rejected by God as HIS priests. They may still wear their clerical garb, but for God they do not work!

Well what exactly can we do about this appalling state of affairs? Well firstly we can thank God for the leaders that we do have who hold firmly to God’s Word. We may disagree with them from time to time, we may find them difficult to get along with occasionally but at least we have people who believe that God has spoken, who believe that Scripture is to be taken seriously, and that God, not man is to be obeyed.

When so many church leaders, across the denominations will give us only, a ‘holy’ version of what society is saying, we should thank God that WE have leaders who will say what needs to be said. So can I thank you! Thank you for coming to this church, when you could have gone to any number of churches which would have given you an easy ride. Thank you for supporting the church leadership in the many ways that you do, for giving time and money and most of all for your prayer. We need to pray for our leaders and I know that you do. We need to pray that they wouldn’t give up on God’s Word, that they wouldn’t be tempted to go along with the crowd, that they wouldn’t be tempted to tell us what WE think we want to hear, instead of telling us what God is saying to us in the Scriptures. Secondly, we should write to our Bishops, Bishop Nicholas and Bishop John and thank them for their stand on Biblical issues and ask them to keep on making the case for the Christian faith. There is no lonlier place in the world, than as a Christian leader, who is standing against the cultural tide and telling the world what it doesn’t want to hear.

Hosea did this, as he preached and prophesied to Israel, calling them back to the God who had brought them out of Egypt. As he did this he would have cut a very lonely figure, and I’m sure HE faced much hostility, particularly from the priests and prophets, who would have wanted him to shut up and keep quiet. But we can make their burden easier, by praying for them, and standing with them. It need not only be God who is by their side, but it ought to be us, God’s people as well.

GOD ACCUSES…. THE MEN v10-14

If God’s people haven’t been taught properly then no wonder things are falling apart, no wonder Israel is walking away from God, and no wonder the church in much of todays world is doing the same, but it is not just the leaders whom God accuses. Have a look down at verses 10-14, which speak of the people:

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,
to old wine and new,
which take away the understanding of my people.

The people, no doubt partly because of the example set by their leaders, are turning to other God’s, like Baal who have shrine prostitutes, but a lack of good leadership is not the only thing to blame. The people still face a choice, as to whether to follow the corrupt leaders or not! Just because the church leader stops reading the Scriptures, doesn’t mean we have to, just because the priest sacrifices to Baal, doesn’t mean that the people of Israel need to. But the people are all for it:

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.
They sacrifice on the mountaintops
and burn offerings on the hills,
under oak, poplar and terebinth,
where the shade is pleasant.

And here at the end of verse 13 we get a clear idea of who God is blaming specifically from amongst the people, as God talks about the results of their disobedience He says:

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!

God blames the men… both husbands and fathers. Just like God first accused and blamed the priests, who were the leaders of God’s people within the nation, God next accuses and blames the men, the leaders of the Israelite families. God refuses to blame the women who go off to be prostitutes because their fathers and husbands have set them such a bad example. We understand this don’t we. When a boy has been abused by his father, he is far more likely to turn out to be an abuser, when your parents have smoked, the likelihood of you smoking goes up and if your father was an alcoholic then you’re more likely to be yourself! The men are accountable to God because they are meant to lead their wives and families. Regardless of what is going on with the religious leaders, the men should be teaching their children God’s law and setting a godly example of how to live. But Israel’s men would far rather be down the local shrine, hooking up with the religious prostitutes, than staying home and loving and leading their wives and children.

Is it any wonder then, that their daughters seeing where their fathers affections lie, would think of becoming shrine prostitutes, the place where the men congregate, and the place where women seem to be loved. God doesn’t blame the girls, God blames the fathers.

Now this gives me much pause for thought. As many of you will know, I’m planning on getting married just after Easter, and as I read these words I know that God is setting a high bar, for my conduct, firstly as a husband with a responsibility to lead Natalie, and God willing in time to lead my children as well. I remember one of my friends from St Andrew’s who will remain nameless, who was driving along with his son in the back seat. He was having to drive slowly because of the car in front, when his son, who was about 4 years old, shouted out, ‘Come on Grandpa, speed up’ and with horror, my friend knew exactly where his son had got that phrase from.

What an awesome responsibility God gives all parents, and particularly the fathers who HE will hold responsible for the behaviour of their children. Now I know for many of you, the responsibility of parenthood has lessened, but nevertheless, the question which comes to mind as we hear God’s accusation is men are we ensuring we continue to lead our wives and families in the right way? Are we giving them a godly example to follow, in how we live life now, in how we behave as we get older, and in how we pray for them and with them, and commend God and His ways to them by our words and deeds.

And ladies, are you praying for your husbands or for the men in our congregation to be godly examples and supporting them, encouraging them to live Godly lives. Collectively are we praying for children, who’ve long since left home and are we setting good examples, not only to our biological children, but also to the young people within our church. One of the great joys I have of belonging to this church, is the many godly older men and women who are members here, they give me and my generation people to look up to and respect and encourage us to keep following Christ. Please keep being those examples, please keep praying for yourselves, walking with God and living for Him, without such an example it will be far easier for the young people to fall away.

GOD’S CRY TO US…. DON’T COPY THEM v15-19

And so finally we come to the last 4 verses. We’ve heard God’s accusations against, the leaders of the Israelites and against the people, particularly the men. We’ve understood where they’ve gone wrong, in abandoning God’s word, in forgetting what He has done for us and in turning to other religions and not setting a godly example to their children. Finally in these last four verses God calls on US not to be like such people.

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!

God cries out to those hearing NOT to follow Israel’s example! The smaller southern kingdom of Judah, which was part of Gods people and yet had become cut off they could still save themselves from Israel’s punishment. And be assured punishment was on its way for those who abandoned God’s ways. Verse 19:

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

So as God’s people in the C21st we too are called to stay the course, not to be swept up in the worlds ways. Just because one church goes in one direction doesn’t mean that we must follow, just because many leaders have compromised, doesn’t mean that we should too. That’s why we must each come to God’s word’s each day, we must each speak to Him in prayer and encourage those around us. ‘Let us not give up meeting together’ was the Apostles Paul’s cry and should be ours too. We must keep on pointing one another to God, ensuring we aren’t tempted to follow those Christians who’ve sought popularity, rather than sought to be faithful.

But secondly, we need to know that God is saying this in the northern kingdom. He is saying it to the Israelite people. He longs for them to turn back to Him, to abandon their wicked ways and become faithful to Him as well. If you’re not a Christian here today or you’re a Christian who is only TO aware of how you’ve fallen short and back sliden, then these last few verses are for you. God longs for you to turn your heart to Him, He longs that you might seek His ways, and turn to Him for forgiveness. God came into the world in the form of His Son, He lived the perfect life, He lived the way Israel should’ve done, and He did this so we might turn to Him. The apostle John says:

God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him

So this Sunday, whether its the first time we’ve turned to God and rejected the ways of the world, or whether its 5000 time, lets us all repent of our sin, repent of the times that WE have chased after other Gods repent of the times WE’VE listened to leaders who’ve lead us astray, and repent of the times when WE have NOT lived as we should and perhaps have been a bad example to those younger people around us. God in Christ longs for us to be His people, longs for us to ask for forgiveness and God doesn’t turn anyone away who truly turns to Him.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 5, 2012 8:34 pm

    Mike,

    Thank you so much for sharing this and for being the man of character that will stand up and be counted as one who holds fast to the very basic tenants of our faith. It was a blessing to read your sermon!

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