A Modernity Moment in Hosea 4
I wish I could just put the whole book of Hosea up here but I know that's asking a little much from people who want a quick slant blog post. So here I'll give the critical six verses that stood out while listening through this short book. I highly recommend setting some time aside to digest this valuable book,
1 Listen to the word of the Lord, O sons of Israel,
For the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land,
Because there is no faithfulness or kindness
Or knowledge of God in the land.
2 There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery.
They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed.
3 Therefore the land mourns,
And everyone who lives in it languishes
Along with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky,
And also the fish of the sea disappear.
4 Yet let no one find fault, and let none offer reproof;
For your people are like those who contend with the priest.
5 So you will stumble by day,
And the prophet also will stumble with you by night;
And I will destroy your mother.
6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you from being My priest.
Since you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children. - Hosea 4:1-6 (NASB)
As much as it would be fitting to just dive right in and apply this to the modern world, it is worth sitting back and enjoying the words historically. Only understanding it in that context can we be sure that we are applying it correctly in our context. The basic element of the passage that stands out is "knowledge." This small section has the word as its bookends. The people have refused to acknowledge the law of God. The people of God have refused to remember the law of God and as such their children will be forgotten by God. This is a slap in the face. It is a deceleration that God's covenant promises will not be remembered as applying to the children. It is also a rhetorical device to communicate that the covenant community would be utterly destroyed.
It gets worse. Their status as a "nation of priests" (Exo 19:6) is being revoked. They will no longer be the bearer of reconciliation between God and the world. Jesus is referring to a similar concept in Matthew 5 when He refers to the people as the "salt of the earth" (Lev 2:13; Matt 5:13). Far from being a description of merely "preserving the earth," this is a liturgical and levitical reference to making it acceptable as a sacrifice to God. The salt makes the sacrifice worthy of being consumed by the fire. Here in Hosea, the people have ceased to be priests before the Lord and the judgement and destruction of the world is coming about swiftly.
After these two things major elements the rest of the text makes sense. The awful depiction of the land, people and wildlife are symbols of God removing His covenant blessings and bringing about the judgment of His people. The land is effected. Resources become scarce. Animals suffer. Human disobedience to God inflicts these things up His creation and ultimately he will redeem it (Rom 8).
Take a look around. Do we have a modernity moment? Remember the source, it's when the covenant people neglect the knowledge of God.