An Indictment with Three Counts

Hosea 4:1-5

Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood touches blood. Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away. Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another: for thy people are as they that strive with the priest. Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother.

Introduction — 

  • Hosea’s life (especially his marriage) is a sign or parable to the children of Israel. (ch. 1-3)
  • Now straightforward preaching (ch 4-14)

Explanation and Interpretation

  • Hear the word of the Lord
    • the whole people, their prophets and priests, 
    • God would condescend, Himself to accuse them, 
    • And He would hear their defense.
  • Ye children of Israel
    • The title is an appeal to their gratitude and their conscience,
    • The title “Christian” among us is an appeal to us, by Him whose name we bear.
    • Our Lord says, “If ye were Abraham‘s children, ye would do the work‘s of Abraham” John 8:39;
    • and Paul, “let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity” 2 Timothy 2:19.
  • For the Lord hath a controversy (indictment)
    • In all His dealings with us His creatures, God wills to prove even to our own consciences, the righteousness of His judgments, so as to leave us without excuse.
    • Now, through His servants, He shows people their unrighteousness and His justice;
    • Hereafter our Lord, the righteous Judge, will show it through the book of people‘s own consciences.
  • With the inhabitants of the land – 
    • God had given the land to the children of Israel, on account of the wickedness of these whom He drove out before them.
    • He gave it to them “that they might observe His statutes and keep His laws”
    • This land, the scene of those former judgments, given to them on those conditions, they had filled with iniquity.
  • Because there is no truth, nor mercy
    • “Truth and mercy” are often spoken of, as to Almighty God.
      • Truth takes in all which is right, and to which God has bound Himself;
      • mercy, all beyond, which God does out of His boundless love.
    • When God says of Israel, “there is no truth nor mercy,” He says that there is absolutely none of those two great qualities, under which He comprises all His own Goodness. 
      • “There is no truth,” none whatever
        • no regard for known truth;
        • no conscience,
        • no sincerity,
        • no uprightness;
        • no truth of words;
        • no truth of promises;
        • no truth in witnessing (bear false witness);
        • no making good in deeds what was said in words
  • Nor mercy – The word has a wide meaning; it includes all love of one to another, a love issuing in acts.
    • It includes loving-kindness,
    • piety to parents,
    • natural affection,
    • Forgiveness,
    • Tenderness,
    • Beneficence,
    • Mercy,
    • Goodness.
    • Whatever could be comprised under love, whatever feelings are influenced by love, of that there was nothing.
  • Nor knowledge of God
    • The union of right knowledge and wrong practice is hideous in itself; and it must be especially offensive to Almighty God, that His creatures should know whom they offend, how they offend Him, and yet, amid and against their knowledge, choose that which displeases Him.
    • He has created us, so that when our acts are wrong, our knowledge becomes darkened Romans 1:21.
    • The “knowledge of God” is not merely to know some things of God, as that He is the Creator and Preserver of the world and of ourselves. To know things of God is not to know God Himself.
    • We cannot know God in any respect, unless we are so far made like unto Him.
    • “Hereby do we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him. Every one that loveth is born of‘ God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love” 1 John 2:3-4; 1 John 4:7-8.
    • Knowledge of God being the gift of the Holy Spirit, he who hath not the Spirit, cannot have that knowledge.
    • A certain degree of speculative knowledge of God, a bad man may have, as Balaam had by inspiration, and the Pagan who, “when they knew God, glorified Him not as God.”
    • But even speculative knowledge is not retained without love. Those who “held the truth in unrighteousness” ended by corrupting it.
    • “They did not like to retain God in their knowledge, and so God gave them over to a reprobate,” or undistinguishing mind, that they could not.
    • Certainly, the speculative and practical knowledge are bound up together, through the oneness of the relation of the soul to God, whether in its thoughts of Him, or its acts toward Him.
    • Wrong practice corrupts belief, as misbelief corrupts practice.
    • Ignorance of God, then, is a great evil, a source of all other evils.
  • Application
    • No Truth
    • No Mercy
    • No Knowledge

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