During the time of Hosea the prophet, the Lord had something to say to a group of people who really thought that they knew Him:
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” (Hosea 4:6).
This may seem like it was a harsh and even a strange statement. After all, it was directed at those who were considered to be the Lord’s people. Even the Israelites were shocked by this statement, as they cried to God, “My God, we know you!” (8:2), and throughout their rebellion boasted that they were the children of God (cf. Romans 2:17). Yet here God says that they do not know Him.
They were not really a people who knew the Lord, however. They were a people who should have known God, but yet were corrupt in many ways. Hosea was sent to preach to these people that were steeped in moral and religious corruption, “swearing, lying, murder[ing], stealing, and committing adultery; break[ing] all bounds, and [causing] bloodshed [to follow] bloodshed” (4:2).
All their faults and ultimately their downfall stemmed from one important thing that the Israelites lacked and willingly overlooked – they did not truly know God.
Called to a Different Kind of Knowledge
It is interesting to note that the “knowledge” mentioned here is of a deeper meaning than simply a knowing that something is. It is not simply an intellectual knowledge that can be obtained by reading a few verses a day and professing that God exists. The word “knowledge” in this verse stems from the word used for when Adam “knew” his wife intimately:
“Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD” (Genesis 4:1).
The Israelites knew about God, but this word “know” was used by the Hebrews to denote a deep knowledge – a knowledge deeper than a head knowledge. It represents a deep and intimate kind of knowledge – the kind of knowledge that stems from having a relationship with the one you know.
The whole of the book of Hosea is about relationship. The Lord uses the marriage relationship of Hosea and Gomer to illustrate the point. Just like Hosea would take back Gomer who had been unfaithful to him, so would the Lord take back unfaithful Israel. Hosea an illustration of how the Israelites had an amazing relationship with the Lord until they turned to idolatry and forsook Him – but yet the Lord would still try and win them back despite their rebellion. Though they had rejected a deep, relational knowledge of Him (4:6) they could have a relationship with the Lord again. He would always have them back.
“And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD […] And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.'” (Hosea 2:19-23).
Sadly, at this time the Israelites had no such relationship with God. They didn’t want the Lord back. We see the sad account of how the Israel treated the law of the Lord in the Lord’s following statement to them:
“Were I to write for him my laws by the ten thousands, they would be regarded as a strange thing” (8:12).
Looking into the Mirror
While we are removed by many years from Hosea and all he dealt with – we have many things we can learn from Hosea’s work amongst them. How is our generation like the people of Hosea’s day?
We have His laws in the tens of thousands and even millions – and yet for many a knowledge of the Lord is as a strange thing. The Bible is owned by most households in sometimes even multiple copies–yet many are completely ignorant of what the Lord really says, and even fewer hold His law in such a way that they have a working and intimate knowledge. Verses are quoted for comfort and solace, ideas that the Lord would never have condoned are said to have been “exactly what Jesus would have done,” and important passages of scripture are left neglected or misused in favour of what people really want to hear.
Many know God, but do not really know God. There is a difference between knowing someone and really having a deep relationship with them. I may know the man who makes my coffee at the coffee shop every morning, but I don’t really know him. He makes my coffee, and we exchange a few words, but there is no real deep, life-changing relationship there (although, you could argue that a person who makes you a good coffee certainly is life-changing to a degree!). You may know the Lord exists and made the earth – you may even know what He has said and share a few verses on Facebook now and then – but until that knowledge of the Lord becomes deeper and changes your life, you do not truly know God.
But, the same as we are faced with the harsh realisties, we are also faced with the same hope – as long as we have breath, it is never too late to seek a deep, relational knowledge of the Lord. If until now you have been the kind of follower that relies on God only in time of trouble, perhaps throws a few scriptures out on Facebook every now and then, takes a few verses here and there for comfort, neglects to apply knowledge, and/or leaves the in-depth Bible study to other more “qualified people” – it is never too late to change. The Lord is always willing to receive those who truly turn to Him.
We Can Know That We Know Him
Just like the Israelites, we can know that we know Him. We do not have to wish or hope that we were right. We can have a deep relationship with our Lord that goes deeper than a casual head knowledge and truly changes our lives.
“And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:3-6).
This means having a relationship that goes beyond merely seeking His help when only when we are in trouble (Hosea 8:2) – and a faith beyond a mere belief in His existence. It means going beyond a surface level knowledge and digging deeper into the depths of His word to truly know Him and have a relationship with Him by applying that knowledge to our lives in the form of service.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1, 2).
Hosea tells us of how He seeks us like a loving husband seeks a straying wife – if we love Him and want to truly know Him, we will cling to Him with the commitment of a faithful spouse. Hosea is a story of unrequited love from an all-loving God – but Hosea is also a story of the possibility of redemption if we seek Him with everything we have. Just like the Israelites, when we truly repent – when we pledge to have Him first in our lives – He will restore us to a full relationship again.
“I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them” (Hosea 14:4).
In turn for His benevolence and steadfast love, we must seek Him – wholeheartedly. It is not enough to simply know He exists. It is not enough to stay a spiritual youth – never moving past the milk of the Word. It is not enough to have His laws change some things about our lives.
We must strive to know who He is and what He wants of us with our heads – and then we must make it our life’s pursuit to know, love, and follow Him with every ounce of our being. We must know Him by walking with Him. When we are walking daily with Him, striving to stay pure and in His light, and embracing His will for us in every aspect of our lives – that is when we will truly know Him as He asks. Deeply, intimately, relationally.
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A deep, intimate, and life-changing knowledge is necessary – are you willing to do what it takes to achieve it?
If you have been seeking Him with any less than your whole being, what has been keeping you from fully committing to Him?
I pray that He strengthens you and gives you wisdom and understanding as you seek to know Him.
“Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the LORD are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them” (Hosea 14:9).