Hear the word of the Lord, people of Israel, for the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land: There is no truth, no faithful love, and no knowledge of God in the land! (4:1 CSB)
People love to follow court proceedings. We are apparently fascinated by judges, juries and plaintiffs, defendants, and especially lawyers. From Scopes to Sam Shepard to O.J. Simpson to Scott Petersen to Bill Cosby, we love to watch and to debate about people on trial. We even bring this into Christmas stories; namely, “Miracle on 34th Street”.
However, we love it as long as it is the other guy. We don’t like to contemplate going before the law ourselves. Most people do not want the consequences of breaking the law, however inexpensive they may be. And when we think in spiritual terms, most refuse to consider their guilt as violators of God’s laws.
The prophet Hosea records God’s charges against his covenant people Israel. They were bound by obligations of law and love to walk in God’s ways, but they turned aside to the ways of rebellion against him. Therefore, in this section of Hosea, the Lord quickly lists his charges against them and then displays the consequences of their sins.
Old covenant Israel lacked godliness. Many view sin only as glaring transgressions of a very short list of laws, if they accept the concept of sin at all. God first examines people according to his demand for positive, righteous qualities.
First, they lacked truth or faithfulness. What is meant by faithfulness? It is “common honesty or reliability”. Are you dependable? Are you worthy of trust, especially when the going gets tough? When this quality is lacking, interpersonal relations rapidly decline. People begin to expect backstabbing. Cynicism rules the day. All that remains is trust in one’s cleverness or strength to avoid hurt.
Second, they lacked love. Consider the meaning of the Hebrew word translated “faithful love” (hesed). It means “steadfast love” or “lovingkindness”. Love is crucial. God pointed to the love and loyalty expected of partners in a covenant with each other. Think of David and Jonathan, who were very good friends and made a covenant with each other. Israel failed to fulfill her marriage vow to the Lord (cf. Deuteronomy 5:27). Every Christian is in a covenant relationship with the Lord. We are responsible to be faithful to him and to love him. How would the Lord evaluate you?
Third, they lacked knowledge of God. Let me explain. All people know the existence of God, even if they deny him. No one can escape from God’s revelation of himself (Psalm 19:1-6). Yet people strive to suppress that knowledge by various means, like substance abuse, sexual pleasure, and intellectualism (Romans 1:18ff).
But all people do not know God as the covenant Lord, as the Controller of all things who also cares deeply about his people. Israel knew this in a formal sense, because they had received God’s very words (Romans 3:1-2). But they did not know the Lord in a personal sense, like a husband and a wife know each other.
This is important. Knowledge of God is necessary for eternal life. As Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3 NIV).
This kind of knowledge of God is guaranteed in the new covenant. Now all the people of God know the Lord. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:34 ESV). Everyone in Christ knows the Lord.
If you think you’re okay because you’re not a notorious sinner, you’ve misunderstood what sin is. God requires faithfulness, lovingkindness, and knowledge of God.
Grace and peace, David