Hosea 4:1-6, 12-14: December 9—What happened to sin?
Dec 2, 2012

Mark Rathel is a professor of theology at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.
In the early 1970’s famed psychiatrist Karl Menninger wrote the famous book, Whatever Became Sin? He argued that modern humanity’s failure to acknowledge sin produced great mental and emotional trauma in people. Certainly the denial of sin and resulting mental trauma has increased since Menninger wrote his famous book. 

What happens when people reject God and His moral standards? Let us ask a series of questions about Hosea 4. 

First, why does God brings formal charges (a case) against His people (Hosea 4:1a)? Hosea 1-3 used the analogy of marriage to highlight the relationship between God and people. Hosea 4 changes the descriptive analogy between God and people to a legal case. In Hosea 4, God brought a legal case against the Northern Kingdom of Israel. God established a covenant with the 

Hebrews, a relationship phrased in legal terms with promises of blessings and curses. Now God serves as the prosecuting attorney presenting a case against the defendant Israel. In a famed TV legal show, the defense attorney never lost a case. As the prosecuting attorney, God never has and never will lose. 

Second, what were the charges God brought against His people (Hosea 4:1b-2)? God charged Israel with forsaking Him and following after other gods. The rejection of God resulted in two tragic consequences. First, God could not find qualities of healthy spiritual life within the people. Second, the rejection of God resulted in the breakdown of society, namely violence, bloodshed, and promiscuity.

What are the qualities of healthy spiritual life (4:2)? Hosea identified three qualities conducive to spiritual health—truth, faithful love, and knowledge of God (HCSB). The quality of truth includes the recognition of the value of truth, telling the truth, and acting faithfully. Faithful love is steadfast devotion to the relationship. Hosea described personal relationship with God based on faith by means of the phrase “knowledge of God.”

What happens in a culture in which the three qualities of spiritual life are absent (4:2)? Hosea taught the absence of healthy spiritual qualities resulted in rampant social evils—the proliferation of sins against the second half of the Ten Commandments—swearing to cause hurt to others, lying for personal gain, murder, stealing, and adultery. Ultimately, violence reigns supreme.

Third, why does a culture begin the spiritual spiral downward (4:4-6)? Hosea placed blame upon the spiritual leadership of the people? People do not rise above the quality of the leaders. The people became like their leaders—like priests and prophets, like people. The spiritual leaders of the nation committed spiritual malpractice. God charged the spiritual leaders of priests and prophets with a two-fold responsibility of teaching the people and serving as models of morality. The spiritual leaders rejected the knowledge of God; the priests of the northern kingdom of Israel participated in calf worship (2 Kings 12:25-33). The spiritual leaders turned religion into a way to make a living. Since the priests were allowed a portion of the animal sacrifices, the more the people sinned, the more the priests ate. Hosea described the priests as having an appetite for the transgressions of the people. As a consequence, the spiritual leaders stumbled and the lack of knowledge of God destroyed the people. 

Fourth, if the qualities of truth, faithful love, and knowledge characterize healthy religion, what characterizes sick religion (Hosea 4:11-14)? First, when people have lost their way spiritually and morally, they often turn to the “gods” of sexual promiscuity and drunkenness to fill the empty void of life (4:11). Second, when people have lost their way spiritually and morally, they turn to false gods created by humans (4:12). Third, when people have lost their way spiritually and morally, the greatest blame belongs to men (4:14). 


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