A Tale of Holy Love, Unfaithfulness, Justice, Mercy, and Grace
As we dive into chapter four, we find a sudden shift in the focus of the message. No longer centered on Hosea and Gomer’s side of the story, from chapter four on, the rest of this book is entirely devoted to God’s relationship with Israel, His love for that wayward people, and the controversy He had with them.
“Hear the word of the LORD, O children of Israel, for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land;
there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;
they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.”
These first two verses are like the opening paragraph of a five-paragraph essay. They include a succinct introduction to the issues and topics expounded upon throughout the entire chapter. God had a controversy with Israel, one that needed addressing and had driven a division and alienation between the two.
But what is a controversy? What does that big, old-fashioned sounding word really mean? Disagreement, difference in opinion, dispute, argument, debate, dissension, contention, disputation. These are just a few of definitions. In short, it’s something that God takes issue with but we don’t think is a problem. It is sin, and God’s reasoning behind why it is sin and where it is evident in our lives.
So God had a controversy with Israel. However, it wasn’t just a single issue called into question, it was multi-faceted and simply summed up in three points: no faithfulness, no steadfast love, and no knowledge of God. These are three attributes necessary and vital for a healthy and successful Christian life. Faithfulness allows us to walk in obedience to God and sustains our devotion to Him through the difficult and trying times. Steadfast love gives us the strength and motivation to remain faithful to God and spurs us on to develop a personal relationship with Him. Finally, the knowledge of God and who He is opens our eyes to the powerful and unconditional love that He has for us. It captivates our hearts and stirs in us a desire to faithfully follow and steadfastly love the One who gave so much to us. Without the knowledge of God, we would not have a reason to serve and worship Him. Truly, knowledge is square one in the Christian walk.
However, all these things were lacking and non-existent among the people of Israel. During Hosea’s day, the generation did not know the Lord and walked in idolatry, spiritual unfaithfulness, and fickle, self-centered love. They sought pleasure for the moment, were only interested in their own desires and needs, and worshipped whichever god promised the most gratification.
Thus, the land was full of falsehood, deception, murder, backstabbing, profanity, blasphemy, and adultery. Verbal and physical bloodshed was commonplace as each man looked out only for himself. Doesn’t sound like a very pleasant place, does it? But this is what happens when a people and society no longer possess faithfulness, steadfast love, and the knowledge of God.
It’s no wonder that God has a controversy with such a lost people!
But how similar is the description of Israel’s moral climate with ours? How closely does the society of our day and age match that of Hosea’s? Are the people of America lacking faithfulness, steadfast love, and the knowledge of God?
We are catching up, if not beyond the spiritual and moral conditions of Israel. As a whole, we are a people who have forgotten the God of our fathers, the God of the Pilgrims and Revolutionaries who saw the Lord’s mighty hand in the protection and shaping of this country. We have lost sight of the belief of our Founding Fathers that only under submission to God and His moral code can a people successfully self-govern.
Nevertheless, though our nation has fallen away from faithfulness, steadfast love, and the knowledge of God, the Lord has graciously saved a remnant. For though God speaks and refers to people and nations collectively, He holds each one of us accountable for our actions individually.
So the question for each of us personally is…have we gone the way of Israel? Does God have a controversy against us? Do we possess, exercise, and pursue faithfulness, steadfast love, and the knowledge of God? How closely does our life and spiritual condition resemble that of Israel?
Finally, let us remember that God voices His controversies with those He loves so that they may see and realize their sin and God may bring healing and restoration. He wants to give us an opportunity to repent and turn around before His holy anger brings judgment and wrath down upon our sin. That is the whole goal and purpose. So let us humble ourselves and allow the Lord’s controversy with Israel and potential controversy with us, accomplish its good and perfect work.
“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”