It is a sad and sore judgment for men when God has to say,
“let them alone” (Matthew 15:14) giving them up to their own heart’s lust to walk in their own counsels until the measure of their iniquity is filled.
Man’s doings will surely return upon him,
and his sins against God will be called over to him, either to his humiliation or to his condemnation.
1 Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.
2 By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.
3 Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.
4 Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another: for thy people are as they that strive with the priest.
5 Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother.
6 ¶ My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
7 As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame.
8 They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity.
9 And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings.
10 For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the LORD.
11 Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart.
12 ¶ My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them: for the spirit of whoredoms hath caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God.
13 They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof is good: therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses shall commit adultery.
14 I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses when they commit adultery: for themselves are separated with whores, and they sacrifice with harlots: therefore the people that doth not understand shall fall.
15 ¶ Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend; and come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Beth-aven, nor swear, The LORD liveth.
16 For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the LORD will feed them as a lamb in a large place.
17 Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.
18 Their drink is sour: they have committed whoredom continually: her rulers with shame do love, Give ye.
19 The wind hath bound her up in her wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.
Hosea 1 – J. Vernon McGee
Hosea 4:1-10 – ”Like People, Like Priest.”
This chapter contains a terrible indictment against the whole kingdom. There was neither truth nor mercy in the land, but swearing, lying, and adultery. Apart from the restraints of religion, such would be the condition of human society today. Even atheists have been known to remove from mining-camps, where there was no semblance of religion, to places within the sound of the church-bell. Notice in v. 3 how man’s sin seems to affect even the animals. “The whole creation groaneth and travaileth…waiting for…the redemption of our body” as the recognized sons of God (Romans 8:22-23).
Rightly enough, the prophet remonstrates with the priests. They were drunken and sensual; they rejected the knowledge and rule of God; they promoted outward ritual in order to fatten on the offerings of the people; and as it was with them, so it became with the deluded worshipers. What a solemn lesson is contained in the proverb which originated in this passage, Like people, like priest! It is not what we teach, but what we are, that really affects men. The colorless rays of the sun, lying outside the prismatic band of color, give health. (Meyer)
Hosea 4:1, 3—The LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.
Throughout the Old Testament the sin of the people and the prosperity or otherwise of their country are closely conjoined. If the people please God, harvests are plentiful, and the seasons of the year pursue their round in unbroken bounty. If the people backslide, the land is smitten. There is probably a much deeper connection than we suppose between the moral condition of our nation and its prosperity. It is at least remarkable that ever since the Indian Government has legalized impurity in India, and has made money out of the vices of Chinamen, that empire has been smitten with drought and pestilence. So with Africa; the injustice with which the natives have been treated has been terribly avenged in the rinderpest which has swept over the land. And may there not be a close connection between the vice, Sabbath-breaking, and drunkenness of Great Britain, and the agricultural distress which has so long driven our people from the open country to life in the cities? It is an awful thing when God has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. Sin is then terribly avenged.
One noticeable feature with all the prophets is their intense devotion to God on the one hand, and their ardent patriotism on the other. They never scrupled to denounce the sins which were bringing their land to desolation, and to indicate the inevitable result. In the present instance, Hosea turned on the priests and showed how accountable they were for the desolation of the country.
On a wider scale still, we remember that creation groaneth and travaileth in pain because of sin; and its emancipation awaits the advent of the Lord, and the manifestation of his saints (Romans 8:21). (Meyer)
Hosea 4:11-19 – ”Joined to Idols.”
The prophet does not mince his words in describing the morals of his time. We are reminded of Bunyan’s words: “My original and inward pollution was my plague. It was always putting itself forth in me, and I was more loathsome in my own eyes than a toad, and I thought I was in God’s eyes also. Corruption bubbled up in my heart as naturally as water in a fountain, and I thought that every one had a better heart than I.” Of course in Christ “we have redemption through his blood” (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14), and that means more than forgiveness; it implies the deliverance of the soul from the love and power of evil. But if the soul of man refuses this, obstinately and persistently, a time arrives when God gives him up to reap as he has sown.
The greatest gift we can make to our generation is that of unblemished character. Sir Leslie Stephen, the brilliant agnostic, in his mature life, went back to the grave of an undergraduate, who had been his pupil and had died in early life without having distinguished himself in his studies or athletics, but had lived the Christian life with transparent simplicity and lovableness. (Meyer)