From the promise of mercy and salvation in the last chapter, we get right back to judgment and condemnation in this one. The first verse tells us what’s to come:
Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites,
because the Lord has a charge to bring
against you who live in the land:
“There is no faithfulness, no love,
no acknowledgment of God in the land.
That’s really all we need to know because every kind of evil flows from this. Here is what life was like in Israel before their capture by the Assyrians:
2 There is only cursing, lying and murder,
stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
As a result the land becomes a dystopian hell hole:
3 Because of this the land dries up,
and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
and the fish in the sea are swept away.
Sin, which is the antithesis of who God is and of who we are when we are not connected to him, is destruction. Then we get to the heart of the matter, of why there is faithlessness, and no love or acknowledgment of God in the Land:
6 my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.
“Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also reject you as my priests;
because you have ignored the law of your God,
I also will ignore your children.
Isn’t that interesting. There are consequences for thinking knowledge of God, and of his law which is a reflection of his being, is optional. Too many Christians today, however, are ignorant of the Old Testament, and have never read these words. Then only being familiar with the New Testament, when they hear the word “knowledge” they think of Paul’s words in I Corinthians 8: “knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” Ignoring the context, they think “knowledge” is the problem, when it is clearly the human heart and pride.
The implications extend to what should make the heart glad:
because they have deserted the Lord
to give themselves 11 to prostitution;
old wine and new wine
take away their understanding.
It is clear from the rest of the chapter that this prostitution does not necessarily have to do with sex, although in ancient pagan religions it often could. It is more the spirit of running after other gods, worthless idols. I love the way the Lord through Hosea puts it:
12 My people consult a wooden idol,
and are answered by a stick of wood.
What an insult to the living Creator God of the universe! They embrace the lie when they could have the truth! If they would only seek it. But by nature, of course, none of us do. Proverbs tells us that fools hate knowledge. That is why we should pray for ourselves, and those we love, to hunger for knowledge. As Proverbs further implores us to choose knowledge above choice gold, lest we ourselves are deluded into thinking a stick of wood can answer our deepest fears and desires. If we do not hunger and seek knowledge, then idols will be our lot and the Lord’s prediction will come true:
a people without understanding shall come to ruin.