In Hosea 4:6 the Bible says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…”
Hosea is specifically talking to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. We know by how the history unfolds, that the immediate destruction was that of the Assyrians in 721/722BC. And we can see from the context that their lack of knowledge was most apparent in their idolatry.
Their lack of knowledge didn’t come from a lack of information. God gave them every opportunity to know him and what he wanted. The Ten Commandments begin with God introducing himself to these people, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” and the very next verse tells them NOT to have idols(Ex 20:2-3). This was not unknown information.
While the law has been annulled by the cross of Christ (Eph 2:15), the principle is even more vital for us to grasp. God overlooked a degree of ignorance in times past, but not anymore (Acts 17:30). Jesus said that we “shall know the truth, and the truth will set us free” (John 8:32). He would go on to say in verse 34 that knowledge of the truth sets us free from our sins. In other words, people will be eternally condemned by their lack of knowledge.
The cure for a lack of knowledge begins with a willingness to ask honest questions. In Hosea 4:12 it says, “My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles”. The image is a silly one. A person holds a stick and treats the stick like it is something special and holy. What if that same person simply asked, “what in the world makes this stick special?”. Wouldn’t that have put the children of Israel on a better track?
How many people reading this have religious traditions that are so special and meaningful to them but have never asked, “why am I doing this”? I see these very sincere and emotional contemporary worship services and I wonder if people ever ask the question “why do I worship God like this?”. I can give one answer that I am certain of: They are not worshipping that way because it is authorized in the New Testament. You can’t find a single verse that authorizes a single instrument to be used in New Testament worship besides the heart and the lips (Eph 5:19).
Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus chapter 10, worshipped without ever stopping to ask if God authorized it. It says in 10:1 that they “offered strange fire that the Lord had not commanded”. Instead of asking questions they just presumed that God would accept it. They were destroyed for their lack of knowledge.
Asking questions is a good starting point but it does not make one knowledgeable.There are a lot of people that pride themselves in being skeptical of every single thing. While it is good to ask questions, someone who doesn’t have any answers doesn’t know anything.
People who seek knowledge must also be able to make discernments. Isaiah 44:19 says, “no one considers, there is no knowledge or discernment”. Discernment means judgement. That means we need to make a judgement on what is right and what is wrong.
The standard for right and wrong is the word of God (John 7:24, Rom 1:16-17). I need to take my questions and ask the word of God for the answer. The Bereans were noble people because they “searched the scriptures daily to see whether these things were so”(Acts 17:11). We must couple that with the attitude of, if it’s not authorized in the New Testament, I am not going to do it (Col 3:17).
But we must continue in knowledge. All too often, people are satisfied at whatever level of knowledge that they have. 2 Peter 1:3-8 teaches us that knowledge is a continual process. Many people will be destroyed because they were satisfied with an incomplete knowledge.
I want to tell two stories that really highlight the process of gaining knowledge.
I know of a man who was scared to death of his condition. He knew that he was lost and he was desperate to find out what he needed to do. He went to people he thought could help him and they told him to “Just believe that Jesus is the Lord”. This person was satisfied with that answer. He gained that little bit of knowledge and didn’t bother to look into it anymore. He shut his mind and heart to any other questions on the subject.
I know of another person who was in the same situation. He too was told that he just needed to believe. He accepted that and went on with life, but he couldn’t stop asking questions. He would say, “why does Acts 2:38 say that we need to be baptized for the remission of our sins?” He would get an answer of, “Baptism is a good thing to do but it is not for the remission of sins”. He would accept those answers for awhile but he kept coming back to those honest questions.
He started studying the issue on his own and couldn’t see it any other way. Baptism is essential for salvation. He went to church after church after church asking “shouldn’t I be baptized for the forgiveness of my sins?”. And each time he would get a “no, that’s not right”. One day he caught a T.V. program called “In Search of The Lord’s Way”. On that program, he heard a man teach exactly what he had been reading in his own bible. The man told him to seek out the Church of Christ. I remember talking to the man. He spoke of being in tears because he couldn’t find anyone who believed what the word of God simply says on the matter.
One of these men refused to have a lack of knowledge concerning salvation. That is too important of a topic to just accept what’s been said.
It is not easy to throw out the idol of what is comfortable and familiar. But may we learn a lesson from Hosea. The people in his day didn’t heed his words. They were satisfied with their sticks. They were satisfied with their religion. And they were destroyed due to their lack of knowledge.