Hosea 4:4-8 “Now let no man contend, or rebuke another; for your people are like those who contend with the priest. Therefore you shall stumble in the day; the prophet also shall stumble with you in the night; and I will destroy your mother. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. The more they increased, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame. They eat up the sin of My people; they set their heart on their iniquity.”
a. Your people are like those who contend with the priest: In passages like Deuteronomy 17:9-12, God clearly commanded His people to listen to and submit to the priests, who would lead and help the people with the Word of God. But because the people cast off the knowledge of God, truth, mercy, and restraint, they wouldn’t listen to the priests, and contended with them instead.
i. This helps to explain the opening of the verse: Now let no man contend, or rebuke another. The idea is “They won’t listen to the priest, but they contend with him instead. So don’t waste your time trying to contend or rebuke them yourself.”
b. Therefore you shall stumble in the day: It’s bad enough to stumble in the night, but at least we can understand it. But when God’s people cast off the knowledge of God, restraint, and guidance from leaders then they shall stumble even in the day.
c. The prophet also shall stumble with you in the night: God paints a picture so bleak that even the prophet is dragged down to the level of the people and stumbles. Perhaps the prophet thought he was safe or immune because of his spiritual standing or reputation, but he is not. The prophet also shall stumble with you.
d. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: When God’s people are destroyed and waste away, it isn’t because God has lost either His love or strength. It’s because His people lack . . . knowledge.
i. It isn’t that God says His people are completely ignorant. They have some knowledge, but not enough. They may have just enough to make them think they know it all.
ii. What kind of knowledge do they lack? In the context, the first answer must be they lack the knowledge of God (Hosea 4:1). They know God some – perhaps a little – but not enough. Perhaps they felt they knew God well enough already.
iii. The second kind of knowledge they lack is the knowledge of God’s Word (you have forgotten the law of your God). They know the Word of God some – perhaps a little – but not enough. Perhaps they felt they knew God’s Word well enough already.
iv. It should not surprise us that there is a connection between knowing God and knowing His Word. Some people think that Bible knowledge is boring and brainy and not necessary for a real walk with God. But God and His Word are vitally connected. Psalm 138:2 says, You have magnified Your word above all Your name. When God sought for a term to express His nature, He calls Himself “The Word” (John 1:1).
v. When we know God for who He really is, it affects our conduct. “Where there is no knowledge of God, no conviction of his omnipresence and omniscience, private offences, such as stealing, adulteries, and so forth, will prevail.” (Clarke)
e. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me: Here we see who is responsible for the lack of knowledge among the people of God – the priests who rejected knowledge, the knowledge of God and His Word.
i. Teaching was an important duty of the priests (Deuteronomy 33:10, Ezekiel 44:23, Malachi 2:7). Their neglect of this demonstrates what an important place the minister, the pastor, the preacher has in presenting God and His Word to the people. If he neglects his duty to preach the word (2 Timothy 4:2), then he can’t lead the people into the true knowledge of God, and will lead them into destruction.
ii. I will also forget your children: God will hold the unfaithful minister, pastor, or preacher accountable. They have much to answer for before God.
iii. Priest for Me reminds us that the priest didn’t only serve on behalf of the people, but also on behalf of the Lord. The priest represented the people to God, but also represented – through the preaching of the word – God to the people.
f. The more they increased, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame: God blessed the priests with increase, but they took God’s blessing for granted and only sinned against God all the more. Blessing is a two-edged gift; it is obviously wonderful to be blessed, but it also brings more accountability and more opportunity for sin.
g. They eat up the sin of My people: “They did this by enjoying the benefits of the people’s sins, such as taking bribes and eating the sin offerings. So the priests actually relished Israel’s wickedness.” (Wood)
2001 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission