But let no one dispute; let no one argue, for my case is against you priests. You will stumble by day; the prophet will also stumble with you by night. And I will destroy your mother. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I will reject you from serving as my priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your sons. The more they multiplied, the more they sinned against me. I will change their honor into disgrace (4:4-7 CSB).
In our two previous posts we considered God’s indictment against Israel. The Lord brought three charges of a lack of godliness and five charges of breaking the law covenant. Then he presented the consequences of Israel’s breaking of the covenant.
We humans are masters of blame-shifting when faced with charges of guilt. Instead of admitting our sinful ways and consequent guilt, we are quick to point the finger at someone else. This does not resolve our spiritual problems but complicates them, adding self-deception and false peace. Like a slip cover on an old couch, things seem more presentable, but underneath the old person remains.
In this follow-up to the indictment, the Lord pushes the finger-pointing aside to warn Israel of her serious danger. Israel was ripe for serious judgment. Time for a change of mind was being wasted in excuse making. Israel needed to return to the Lord immediately. Though the tone of this section is stern, we should honor the love and compassion that issues the warning. The Lord warns people to lead them to experience his goodness. God begins this section by removing Israel’s excuses.
Their root problem was a blameworthy lack of knowledge (4:6a). The priests, who were supposed to teach the people, rejected and ignored God’s law, the written revelation of God’s person, will and redemptive activity. Biblical worship begins with the mind (Romans 12:2; 2 Peter 3:18; Matthew 22:37). There is no secret knowledge for the gurus or the favored few. God speaks plainly through his word, and we are to tell it plainly, purely, and publicly.
The lack of knowledge is destructive. Whatever we do not know, we do not value. What we hold in low esteem, we neglect and perhaps despise. How many parents threw out their sons’ baseball cards that were collected during the 50s and 60s and that later became valuable? How many people have tossed out old furniture or dishes that someone else recognized as valuable antiques? Something can be old and worthless, but it might be old and extremely valuable. The Scriptures are in the second category.
They followed a path of those who reject truth.
- They substituted an idol for the God of glory (4:7); see Romans 1:21-25. People cannot live as humans without an object of worship. Those who try not to worship become machines or animals… or simply desperately deceived!
- They increased their rebellion against God (4:7; cf. Romans 1:24-31). Opposition to God’s will is habit-forming but with a twist. Every sinful experience darkens the heart, creating a lust for something more opposed to God and dulling the heart to what is truly beautiful.
- They delighted in the sins of others (4:8; cf. Romans 1:32). Has anyone ever heard of television or the internet?
The Lord brought the threat of judgment. Whatever the pretenses of the priests, the Lord would not acknowledge them as his priests. They were wolves in sheep’s clothing. Too many people call themselves “Christian ministers” while they promote antichristian ideas and religions. Both people and priests would face punishment together. Why? Everyone is individually responsible to the Lord! God’s witness in creation, the conscience and the Bible combine to make everyone without excuse. Did the preacher lift up the name of Jesus as Lord and Savior? Did he present God’s word as absolute truth? Did he tell you that the only way to be right with God was by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone? Did he urge you to live godly? If he did, then you should have repented and believed. If not, then why did you listen?
Everyone brags in some way about how smart they are, until they want to make excuses for not understanding the Bible. God sees through such deep and deadly hypocrisy (cf. Mark 4:24).
Grace and peace, David