In the past several days I have come across a particular passage of Scripture several times. Each time I see it, it grabs my heart. The passage is Hosea verses 1b – 6 which reads:
There is no truth or mercy
Or knowledge of God in the land.
By swearing and lying,
Killing and stealing and committing adultery,
They break all restraint,
With bloodshed upon bloodshed.
Therefore the land will mourn;
And everyone who dwells there will waste away
With the beasts of the field
And the birds of the air;
Even the fish of the sea will be taken away.
“Now let no man contend, or rebuke another;
For your people are like those who contend with the priest.
Therefore you shall stumble in the day;
The prophet also shall stumble with you in the night;
And I will destroy your mother.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
The words that most grab my attention are in the final verse. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Hosea, as a prophet of God, was called to expose the sin and waywardness of Israel and one of the predominant themes of his ministry was the knowledge of God and what it means to know Him. In speaking of God’s mercy he speaks these words on behalf of God: “I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord.” (2:20) When he explains why God is going to judge the people he says “They do not direct their deeds towards turning to their God, for the spirit of harlotry is in their midst and they do not know the Lord. (5:4) He calls them to repentance, saying “Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord.” (6:3) Speaking for God again just a few verses later he says “I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (6:6)
Clearly, God demands that we strive to have knowledge of Him. What, then, does knowledge of God involve? I believe knowledge has at least three aspects -intellect, will and practice.
Intellect. We cannot know God without knowing Him with our minds. Psalm 100:3 reads “Know that the Lord, He is God.” This passage echoes Deuteronomy 7:9 which says “Know that the Lord your God, He is God.” We are to know the truth of who God is. In the Old Testament the Israelites knew God to be the God of the covenant who loved His chosen nation. Today we know Him as the God of the new covenant who proved His love for us in sending His Son to ransom us. We must know not only that God is, but also know who He is and what He has done.
Will. We need to trust God. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) We need to obey Him and there are so many passages of Scripture that speak to obeying God that I hesitate to choose just one. We need also to worship God as He has commanded, for our worship flows from a trusting and obedient heart. These are all acts of the will – I need to choose to trust Him, to obey Him and to express my love for Him in worship.
Practice. Knowledge of God will express itself in action. If I truly know who God is and what He expects of me, I will necessarily want to obey Him with my actions. Jeremiah 22:16 reads “He judged the cause of the poor and needy; Then it was well. ‘Was this not knowing Me?’ Says the Lord?” And in the New Testament, 1 John 4:8 tells us that “He who does not love does not know God.” Showing love for others is an absolute requirement of those who know God.
Do we truly know God? Are our minds filled with knowledge of God? Do we desire to know more about God as a parched land cries out for rain? Do we see our will and our lives displaying the knowledge of God?
Hosea taught the people that they were destroyed for lack of knowledge. They had turned away from God and had lost their love and respect for Scripture. His call to repentance involved telling the people that they needed to return to the basics – to simply know God. The knowledge of God has to begin in His Word, for the Bible is God’s primary revelation of Himself to us. Those who desire knowledge of Him and those who truly want to live out His purposes must be people of the Word. We must continually submit ourselves to the teaching and authority of God’s Holy Word. It is only then that we can have knowledge of God that will express itself in our will and in our practice.
So many professed Christians today display an alarming lack of knowledge when it comes to God. So many can recite the previous day’s box scores or recite their portfolio from memory, but how many truly commit themselves to acquiring a deeper, more intimate knowledge of God?
God calls us, even today, to repent and to turn our attention to His Word, where the knowledge our Lord must begin.