Summary: There is no faithfulness steadfast love or knowledge of God. This is the fault of poor teaching by the priests and bad leadership by the nations secular leaders. It results in false religion and false hope.
The prophecy of Hosea begins with a dramatic enactment by Hosea of the relationship between God and his people Israel. It’s a shocking revelation of the unfaithfulness of a people who should have known better, who had had every opportunity to get their act together and to worship God faithfully but had failed at every turn. And it’s a heart-rending display of the pain felt by God at their betrayal as he pleads with them, through the experience of Hosea, to return to him.
But now the action moves from the living room to the Family Court. Ch. 3 may have appeared to have a happy ending, but it’s only a happy ending in preview. The present reality continues for now. The marriage has broken down and in this rare case there’s only one party at fault. So God brings forward his indictment of the people of Israel. Here is his opening statement of what will be a long and painful trial as he lists all the ways they’ve let him down, all the ways they’ve betrayed his love and faithfulness to them. He begins with three crucial character traits that God looks for in his people. What are they? Faithfulness, loyalty (steadfast love or loving kindness), and knowledge of God. Faithfulness speaks of the solid trustworthiness and reliability of the person of integrity. It’s one of those characteristics that used to be so highly prized in our culture. These days unfortunately it’s fallen by the wayside to a large degree as we’ve become more and more self-centred; as we’ve become people of the moment rather than people of the future.
Loyalty, or kindness, is that characteristic of God that’s often translated ’steadfast love’ or ’loving kindness’. It’s the sort of kindness and love that we’ve seen from God in this book so far. And it should be found in his followers: a love that seeks the good of the other and that results in good deeds done for the other.
Knowledge of God, of course, is the key. There’s a cognitive element to godliness that forms the basis for its practical outworking. It’s as we meditate on God’s word day and night that our lives begin to reflect his character. He’s not thinking here about mere head knowledge. This is a personal knowledge of God, the sort we saw last time, that results in and from an intimate relationship with God. And one way we develop that intimate relationship is through our minds being steeped in God’s word. This is a knowledge of God that implies a grasp of just how great God is. If we truly know God, in all his power and glory and awesome wonder, how could we possibly turn away from him to false gods. If we truly know God in his faithfulness and loving kindness, how could we not be like that too? Well we’ll hear more about these critical characteristics later on, when we get to ch6.
What’s the result of this failure of faithfulness and loyalty and knowledge of God? Look at v2: "Swearing, lying, and murder, and stealing and adultery break out; bloodshed follows bloodshed." When people turn away from godliness this is what you get: social breakdown.
You look at that list and you realise that it could be talking about today, don’t you? People wonder why our society is in such trouble at the moment. Why is it that relationships are so fragile? Why do people find it hard to trust their current life partner to be faithful? Why do people lie and swear and cheat and kill? Remember Jesus equated murder with hatred and there’s no shortage of hate in our world today is there? Why has morality become a thing of pragmatism rather than external standards?
You may have seen the news report a few weeks ago about a man who’d found a large sum of money by the side of the road and had taken it to the police to hand it in. People were surprised. In fact so much so that it made it to the news bulletins. People were asked later whether they would have handed it in and as many said no as said yes. You see our personal ethics are no longer governed by what’s right or wrong, let alone by what God thinks. Now all that matters is whether someone might find out.
Just like the nation of Israel at this time, faithfulness and loyalty, and knowledge of God are rare characteristics in our world.
And this situation isn’t just affecting the relationships between people. It’s also affecting the land itself. "3Therefore the land mourns, and all who live in it languish; together with the wild animals and the birds of the air, even the fish of the sea are perishing." We rarely connect the ecological troubles of the world with the moral failings of our culture do we? But here we see a close connection. "Therefore the land mourns." When people are more interested in their own prosperity and well-being than anyone else’s, this is what happens. The earth is pillaged. Damage is done to the environment. How many times have we seen companies, motivated by higher profits, doing ecologically irresponsible things to the earth?