Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel: for the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.
2 By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.
3 Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.
4 Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another: for thy people are as they that strive with the priest.
5 Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother.
6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
7 As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame.
8 They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity.
9 And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings.
10 For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the Lord.
11 Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart.
12 My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them: for the spirit of whoredoms hath caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God.
13 They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof is good: therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses shall commit adultery.
14 I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses when they commit adultery: for themselves are separated with whores, and they sacrifice with harlots: therefore the people that doth not understand shall fall.
15 Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend; and come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Bethaven, nor swear, The Lord liveth.
16 For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the Lord will feed them as a lamb in a large place.
17 Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.
18 Their drink is sour: they have committed whoredom continually: her rulers with shame do love, Give ye.
19 The wind hath bound her up in her wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.
Right from the start of salvation history we find the picture of God as One who is relentless in His pursuit of mankind. When Adam and Eve sinned, God did not ignore them; He came searching for them. He also came searching for Cain in spite of his hideous sins. The children of Israel would also witness this grace of God in His relentless pursuit of them.
In this chapter, however, some of the saddest words in scriptures are recorded. “Ephraim is joined to idols, leave him alone” (4:17).
The rebellious practice of idol worship eventually benumbs the senses. The person becomes deaf to the pleading voice of the Holy Spirit; they become blind as they trudge upon the path of self-destruction and reasonable warnings are ignored. This is what would later make Jesus remark to the Pharisees that they should also be left alone, for they had gone too far (Matthew 15:14).
How do we keep this from happening to us? It begins by allowing Jesus to search our hearts and rescue us from the self-delusion of sin. He will point out ways in which we might be joining ourselves to idols which deaden the sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. We cooperate with Him to get rid of them. Have you knowingly or unknowingly joined yourself to any idols?
Pastor, Allegheny East Conference, USA