Occasionally, people become interested in the environment, usually when there is some “health scare” or someone suggests putting a landfill for toxic waster in their immediate area or they watch a video about environmental disasters. Suddenly everyone becomes an environmentalist… for two weeks or a little more! “We must keep our land or air or water pure!” But our subject of purity is hardly one that will excite much interest in our time.
Previously, we considered the Biblical concept of covenantal purity, as seen from God’s design in creation and God’s law (his word). As God made man and woman to commit to a covenantal relationship with each other and to remain faithful to each one in the marriage relationship, so God has called his people into a covenant relationship with him, and we are to be faithful to the Lord. In both cases we need a high “marriage esteem”.
Hosea wrote about Israel’s violation of covenant purity. He set forth Israel’s transgressions.
- Israel was unfaithful to the Lord (4:10-13). Israel was married to the Lord in the old covenant, but they were turning away to false gods. To grasp the foolishness of their action, read Isaiah 44:9-20, where idolatry is graphically exposed. They had a spirit, a heart desire for prostitution. This was deep within them, influencing their inner person. Their core was in terrible shape.
- Israel was deeply involved in sexual immorality. The pagan religions of their day practiced sexual immorality as part of their worship. They believed it was a way to seek favor from their gods (4:13-14). Note the equal treatment of men and women before God’s law. Males throughout history have tried to hide their sexual sins by setting up a low standard for males and another, purer standard for females. The living God has no part in such foolishness and hypocrisy.
Israel’s judgment: God abandoned his people to her sins.
First, Israel’s place of worship, Bethel (“house of God”), was renamed Beth Aven (“house of wickedness”, 4:15). God rejected any pretense that they worshipped him. People in our time need to realize that much of what they call the worship of God is really empty worship, because worship that is not in conformity with the Scriptures is empty worship (Matthew 15:7-9). To worship in conformity with human traditions is empty worship. To worship while condoning sexual immorality is empty worship (Ephesians 5:3-7).
Second, God rejected Israel (also called Ephraim, after the prominent northern tribe) by abandoning her to the idols she had chosen to love. Let them deliver her from the coming whirlwind of judgment (4:17-19)!
- The word in verse 17 is chilling! How hopeless is someone’s situation when God abandons that person to his or her sins!
- Notice carefully that physical troubles failed to move people to repentance. The drinks might be gone, but the spirit of prostitution in the heart is deeply seated. After the Black Death of 1347-1350, also called the Great Mortality, people did not live in a godly and holy manner. They might have become religious, but their lifestyle was wicked. Do not expect judgment to reform the western world. Our only hope is a new great awakening.
- The only expectation for unrepentant people is judgment. A whirlwind would sweep the northern kingdom of Israel away.
God warned Judah to stay clear of Israel’s guilt (4:15). Building your house near a toxic waste site is a poor idea, regardless of how cheap the land is. People have been making human life cheap by pursuing cheap religion and cheap sex. Why not invest in something really worth having, instead of what makes you cheap and useless and empty?
Consider our current crisis. We must understand how deep our problems actually are.
Spiritually, since the 1960s, there has been a growing fascination with eastern religions among Americans. The greedy and the pleasure-seeking and those longing for physical wholeness have heard them promise peace and prosperity without consideration. However, a careful look at the poverty and degradation of the east would have disclosed the emptiness of their promises. Now what should we say about the American evangelical? If the Lord has designed us for a covenant relationship with him, our covenant Lord, do people sense this? Do we know what this means?
For example, a married woman is concerned about how she can please her husband (1 Corinthians 7:34). Since the church is married to Christ, we should be showing such love to him. Are we? Or has the church become a woman separated from her professed husband, more concerned about her career than her husband? Think on Colossians 2:19.
Sexually, our people accept and approve of sexual immorality that opposes God’s design and God’s laws. Such immorality is not an alternative lifestyle but rebellion against God. We must know what is contrary to God’s purposes and reject it. God’s purpose is our holiness. When I go to Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia, I want to watch a major league baseball game. I do not want to watch people acting silly who are dressed in clown suits, who hit a volleyball with a broomstick and run the bases backwards. Neither does God want to watch us make a mockery of his worship and human life.
What is the way out? First, there must be repentance, a change of mind. We must understand that what we believe about God determines our moral character. God cannot be treated with contempt. He does punish people by letting people experience the depths of their rebellion against God (Romans 1:24-27).
Second, true repentance produces reformation. We must practice pure devotion to the Lord. This includes recognition of his ruling providence, instead of luck or astrology. It also means the pursuit of sexual purity (1 Corinthians 6:13b-20).
The only way to purity is through Jesus Christ and his shed blood. Today is the day to have Christ purify your heart and life.
Grace and peace, David