I. The Charges Made in God’s Controversy with Israel
A. The vicious and the profane everywhere (1,2)
B. Ignorance and forgetfulness of God (6)
C. Priests wicked and avid in iniquity (8)
D. Drunkenness and whoredom (11,14,18)
E. Activity in the occult – divination and witchcraft (12)
F. Bribery of rulers (18)
II. The Consequences of God’s Controversy
A. God will punish them for their crimes (9)
B. The entire earth ruined with pollution (3)
C. People and prophet fall to destruction (5)
1. The people put to shame (7,19)
2. Nothing shall satisfy them (10)
D. The worst judgment: divine abandonment (17)
1. They shall not correct one another (4)
2. God will not punish them (14)
3. Rather, He will let them prosper (16)
III. The Warning to Judah Against Apostasy and Judgment
A. Avoid places of idolatry (15)
2. Beth-aven (Bethel)
B. Avoid profane swearing
- is swearing trivially, rashly, falsely, deceitfully
2. swear as commanded (Jer. 4:2)
a. in truth
b. in righteousness
Hosea 4:1, “Hear the Word of the Lord.” In Hosea’s day this meant that the Old Testament church was to hear and heed teaching and preaching out of Ha-TeNaCh, the Torah, (the Law), the Nebhi-im (the Prophets) and the Chethubhim (the Holy Writings: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs). Today “the Word of the Lord” is found only in the Old and New Testaments 66 canonical books of sacred Scripture. This means that the Bible not only contains, but is the Word of God. This proposition is based upon the Doctrine of Scripture as declared in the Reformed Confession of Faith, III-VII, which articles, in our Protestant Reformed Churches, are absolutely undebatable. Likewise, the Westminster Confession of Faith, I, i-x, maintains that these Holy Scriptures are:
(1) immediately and divinely inspired
(3) characterized by “entire perfection”
(4) the only infallible rule of divine authority
(5) kept pure in all ages by divine providence
(6) not to be added to by new revelations of the Spirit, or by traditions of men.
Therefore, with especially (4) and (6) in view our churches, too, will not tolerate new revelations in visions, voices, dreams, “tongues” (gibberish), nor new apostles, new prophets, or new “christs” and their new charismata. Therefore we hold that the Bible is “the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” This clearly rules out any and all extra-biblical revelation.
Consider, for example, what now is being widely accepted as a new revelation, a correct interpretation of Christianity, in a three-volume work, entitled, A Course in Miracles (priced at $40.00), which Jesus is said to have lately given the world via a female spiritist medium (modern term: trance channeler), Helen Schucman, a Jewish psychologist. Why cannot we, as other churches are doing, accept this course as on a par with or superior to Scripture? For a number of reasons: (1) because of what we (and the Christian Church) have already laid down as normative in the opening words of this paragraph; (2) because the canon of Scripture is perfect and therefore closed to any additions; (3) because Jesus Himself warned against such “revelations” in Matthew 24:23f. — therefore they cannot carry His imprimatur; (4) because no extra-biblical writings claiming to be the word of Christ have evidence of Divine inspiration, but of rather the revelations (8:20); (5) because it admittedly contains teaching contrary to Scripture: (6) because it does not originate from within the bosom of the church, but from an origin outside the pale of Christianity; (7) because it denies the biblical, historic, orthodox doctrine of satisfaction through blood atonement; (8) because it teaches a heretical anthropology — man is inherently and objectively sinless; (9) because, as in the Bible, there is no golden cord of Double Predestination — Election and Reprobation — running through these three heterodox volumes: (10) because although claiming to be God-centered, it comes in almost undisguised man-centeredness, being an exposition of the old theme, “Man the Measure of All Things.” It is the ancient religion of Autosoterism.
“Hear the Word of the Lord, ye children of Israel.” Israel at this point in history was God’s own professing people who were fast apostatizing and would soon become finally apostate. Therefore, the whole organism of the church, elect and reprobate, is addressed and exhorted to repentance (Acts 17:30), while elect Israel is called to come out of reprobate Israel (Rev. 18:4), and that before Israel falls into an irreversible locked-in apostate state. Cp. 6:1.
In God’s controversy with Israel, the Lord, in the capacity of both prosecuting attorney and judge levels the following charges against Israel. First, they everywhere have become vicious and profane. 1-2. The word “controversy” (Heb., ribh, pronounced reeve) meant “a cause to plead”, and to contend for it in court by the legal proceedings involving prosecutor, judge, and the accused. This cause is the cause of God’s holiness and justice/righteousness which the holy and just God must uphold against all sinners, criminals and covenant-breakers. From this it is of necessity to be concluded “that judgment must begin at the house of God.” Then what shall be the end of those disobedient to the gospel of God, and where shall the ungodly appear? (I Pet. 4:17, 18).
“The inhabitants of the land” means the land of Israel, the land that then was, the Holy Land. In a more general sense this means the inhabitants of today’s Israel, and of any land where “there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.” Then “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold down the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18), no matter what land is sunk in such iniquities. Our own nation, because of the national commission of these heinous sins, and because it has no regard for either the first or the second table of the law, has the impending wrath of God hanging over its head like a sword of Damocles. We expect this of the wicked world, but it’s simply dreadful when that which is called “church” has in it “no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God.” Is the reader in just such a church? Then get out of it, the sooner the better, lest the wrath of God destroy the whole church! For these sins whole churches have been swept from off the land. (See Rev, 1-3, where today are those seven or eight churches of Asia Minor?)
Where the Ten Commandments have been removed, as in the public school system, there is, to limit ourselves to just one of these charges, “no truth”, Without a standard, God’s standard, the only standard, the inhabitants of the public school system have not the foggiest idea what truth is. In fact, the concern of this “secular humanistic” system is not with “the truth,” but with a modern pragmatism, that is, with whatever seems to work for now.
But there are “churches” where there is no knowledge of God, because they have no creed, no doctrinal basis, no theology. Such “churches” have degenerated to little more than an ethical society. However, without the standards of God’s law and gospel, one cannot really speak of anything ethical/ moral. It would be more accurate to put down these bodies, not as “churches,” but as “social clubs.” With truth, mercy and the knowledge of God gone, there is “no sense at all of the thing called honesty.” If they had a shred of honesty they might put up a sign on their building like, “New Age Meeting house.”
Now this is what had to be said of Israel then, and of much of what is called “church” now: that “by swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood” (v. 2). How does the world regard these things? The best that the world had to offer, the Greek and Roman moralists and ethicists, regarded the whole field of morals and ethics as matters of perfect indifference. To them, a la Heraclitus, good and evil were relative terms. All moral conceptions were regarded as conventional, that is, established by custom, as e.g., this or that tribal custom, as inventions of the few (rulers) to control and enslave the masses. Whereas we of the true church regard these evils as appallingly disgraceful, the Greek and Roman “moralists” maintained, “Nothing is disgraceful of itself.” So they would have regarded the black catalog of sins listed in Romans One.
“By swearing. . . .” The crimes listed here in v. 2 are sins against the third, ninth, sixth, eighth and seventh commandments. All these crimes were running rampant throughout the apostate kingdom of Israel. Good people were hidden, as we say today, “underground.” Today we are inclined to think that swearing is everywhere.
But, we are informed, swearing is, or was, “not a universal phenomenon.” Just as certain peoples were free of “white man’s diseases” until the white man came among them and infected them with diseases they never before knew, so swearing was not found among American Indians, Japanese, Malayans, and Polynesians until introduced by the “civilized white man.” It used to be that although “gentlemen” did swear occasionally, they avoided doing so in the presence of women. Now many men show their aversion to both smoking and swearing because it is so prevalent among women as to be regarded as “effeminate.”
In the Soviet Union swearing and profanity are still viewed as socially and politically unacceptable, since Communism regards these evils as marks of the decadence of Western society. Soviets ought to be embarrassed by usage since its religious implications are flagrantly out of place in an atheistical society. But as sin always degenerates, so with swearing, from debasing the name of God to employing the lowest forms of emphasis, to sex perversion, and to the cesspool of scatology. Stalin, it is said, liberally spattered his vernacular from such sources.
As for “swearing and lying”, see the Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. 113, where these sins are, in part, “the not using of God’s name as required; the abuse of it in ignorant, vain irreverent, profane, superstitious” ways. . .by blasphemy, perjury. . . sinful cursing, oaths, vows, and lots (cp. the lotteries); violating our oaths and vows, if lawful; and fulfilling them if. . .unlawful. . .perverting the Word . . .to profane jests.” Q. 145 refers to sins forbidden by the ninth commandment, as “speaking untruth, lying slandering, backbiting. . .tale-bearing, whispering. . .flattering. …”
—To be continued, D.V. —