This week we continue with Great is Thy Faithfulness by looking at the book of Hosea. If you are unfamiliar with Hosea, it should only take about 10 minutes to read through the whole book. I’d encourage you to do so before our Sunday gathering. The focus of Hosea is to remind Israel (and us) of the painful consequences that come from rebelling against God, but at the same time reminding us that God’s love and mercy are far greater than all our sin.
Hosea does this by using two main images. The first is comparing Israel’s idolatry to prostitution/adultery. The second is more subtle, and involves the Hebrew root word yada which is frequently translated as “knowledge” or “acknowledge.” But yada is more than just knowing about someone. It is deeply and intimately knowing someone. In short, it’s true relationship that God desires from us. Over and over Hosea points the reader back to this truth. Let’s look at a few uses of this word in Hosea. (I’ll italicize the related word to yada in each verse.)
- Hosea 4:1 – “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land.”
- Hosea 4:6 – …my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests…
- Hosea 5:4 – “Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not acknowledge the Lord.”
- Hosea 6:3 – Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him.
- Hosea 6:6 – For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
Did you notice that last verse? Jesus quoted that on several occasions, and Mark’s gospel ties it to the Greatest Commands (Mk. 12:33-34). In Matthew 9:13 Jesus quotes this verse to explain to the Pharisees why he is eating with sinners and tax collectors. In Matthew 12:7, it is in regards to the Pharisees accusation of Jesus and his disciples breaking the Sabbath laws.
It seems to me that Jesus was trying to get the Pharisees to realize that they were acting quite a bit like the northern kingdom of Israel that Hosea was speaking to. They “knew” God, but they didn’t have the kind of relationship that He wanted them to have. They had exchanged relationship for ritual. This caused them to see Jesus’ actions as violations of rules rather than the Kingdom of Heaven on display. They became spiritually blind because they didn’t yada God.
This same sin plagues the church today. Some of us get so wrapped up in the ritual (wanting our worship the way we want it) rather than the relationship our God seeks from us. Hosea’s message is that God’s ultimate purpose is to heal and save. If we aren’t doing the same in our churches, our communities, and our families, then we don’t yada God! I’ll let Hosea have the last word.
Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.Hosea 14:9 NIV
Sermon Text for 11/10 – Hosea 11; Mark 10:13-15