How did Israel get so sinful? It must not have happened in all one step. Few would jump from saint to terrible sinner in one step. There had to be a wrong pathway, that they somehow chose, and then traveled, and ended up in the wrong destination.
7 STEPS IN ISRAEL'S NATIONAL DOWNFALL
1. THE FIRST STEP = LACK OF KNOWLEDGE
"... there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. ...My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge..."
Many of God's people stay ignorant of God's will, and His plan for their lives. Our minds need filled with the things of God. In the days of Hosea's prophecy, the sexual revolution of the day, and the alcoholism had stolen away whatever common sense and wisdom they had possessed. Our day is similar, with drugs, pornography, abortion, perversions, alcoholism, and new age religion stealing away much of the morality the nation once knew...
"Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart..."
Much of the trouble in churches today is caused by a lack of knowledge. Many only know part of the truth. Many know there is a hell, but do not know there is a way provided by a loving God to help us avoid it. Others know God is love, but do not know that He is also just. Some know of the ten commandments, but do not know how the Lord fulfilled those and provided an easy way for us to keep all the laws. Whenever the people of God are not fully informed, the devil can easily defeat us.
There is a definite study of the Word of God that is necessary for the people of God. I listened to a Christian radio minister who made the claim that the people of today do not need any more Bible study. Perhaps he was not thinking of what he was saying, and trying to say that simple Bible study is not enough. (We do need to "be doers of the Word, and not hearers only.")
The saints of God must be hearers of the Word. It is vitally necessary. To infer that any of the saints of God have mastered an understanding of the Word, and can do without it in these "perilous" times, is the utmost of presumption and pride. Even if this pastor thinks he has found all the vital information that his congregation needs to hear, and now if they just obediently follow him, they "have it made"... he is very wrong. The Word of God must be studied, and studied again. It is more than a college course...
The Word of God is our daily sustenance. I may have had a "big mac" yesterday, but my body will insist on more food today, and in every one of the coming days. In the same way, the Word of God must be studied and fed upon by our spirit, on a daily basis... If we do not... our spiritual man will become weaker and weaker. The devil and the old nature of man will easily defeat the weak spiritual man.. if the Word of God is not fed upon...!
II Timothy 2:15
"Study to shew thyself approved unto God..."
II Peter 1:10
"Give diligence to make your calling and election sure... if you do, ye shall never fall..."
Today, many do not know the Bible. It is no longer taught in the public schools. It is not taught in the homes. Many do not attend Sunday School. Few attend in-depth Bible studies. Few children even see their mother and father read the Bible. Many churches do not stress Bible study. The pastors of many churches can tell you exactly how much every member contributes, but cannot tell you how much Bible study anyone is doing. The Bible is our spiritual food, and our spiritual medicine. It will guide us aright in all our situations of life. How can we afford to neglect it? The neglect of it will lead us down a path toward destruction.
II Timothy 3:15
"From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures which are able to make thee wise unto salvation..."
Can we say the same sentiment as the above verse? Too many have been "saints" for years, and still know little of the Word of God.
"For I desired mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings."
Many people of Hosea's day, brought offering after offering to the Temple as a sacrifice. The Lord is clearly stating here that He would rather they gain a knowledge of God... than to have many offerings. Yet, many preachers today will emphasize the need of tithing, of great offerings, etc... They will not ever make such a statement as God did here in Hosea. They do not want to take a chance of having a smaller offering.
Instead, they allow the people to think that if they attend the church, and give greatly in the offering, they will be blessed and saved. They allow ignorance of God and His ways to continue, and do not care.
Too many preachers only are concerned with the amount in the offering plate.
If the amount is continually growing, some will not concern themselves with the ones who go down the path toward backsliding because of a lack of knowledge.
If a backslider is not a tither, some will not seek that "lost sheep".
This sounds harsh, and it is meant to sound that way. It is time that the church wakes up to this form of spiritual abuse. God spent much time warning the children of God about "false shepherds" who would be only concerned with their gain of money, and care not for the flock.
II Peter 2:1-3
"...false prophets... through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you..."
"There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things..."
"Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them which are fed: but you do not feed the flock. The diseased have you not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have you bound up that which was broken, neither have you brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost..."
"Woe unto them! for they have gone the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core."
II Peter 2:14
"an heart they have exercised with covetous practices..."
II Timothy 3:2
"For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous..."
More important than offerings, more important than the landscaping of the front lawn of the church, more important than the color of the church carpet... is the teaching of the Word of God to the congregation. The congregation needs directed from God's Word. The hurting need its comfort. The wounded need its healing balm. The wayward need its warning. The lost need its convicting power.
"Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free."
"That I may know Him..."
We all need to know God in a more intimate way. We need to look afresh daily into His written revelation to us of:
His standard - I Peter 1:16,
His will - John 7:17,
His power - Matthew 28:18,
and His love - Matthew 9:36.
2. THE SECOND STEP - PRIDE
"And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face; therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity..."
Arrogant children of God are headed down a path toward sin and apostasy. Too often people measure their success by money, property, education... instead of by their relationship with God. These people can become proud of their other things, but in God we are all humbled as we approach a holy God.
Peter, and the other disciples, made the mistake of pride.
"Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended of Me this night... Peter answered and said unto Him, Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny Me thrice. Peter said unto Him, though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee. Likewise also said all the disciples."
Some boast in various ways in our day. These boastings reveal pride.
"I can stay close to the Lord, without all that Bible study."
"I don't need to go to church to be a good Christian."
"I can have those friends and not stray from Jesus."
3. THE THIRD STEP - INSTABILITY
"...for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away..."
There are many unstable children of God. They can worship on Sunday, and sin on Monday. They are up... then down... Reuben is described in Genesis 49:3-4 as "unstable as water, thou shalt not excel..." None of can be great in the Lord of we are "up and down" Christians. If we are constantly on a roller coaster ride in our Christian relationship, we will find it hard or impossible to be of great service to the Lord.
Many children of God, in our day as well as in Hosea's time, fight bad tempers, depression, anger, etc. Whenever we get sidetracked by these sins, we are turning our pathway back toward spiritual downfall.
4. THE FOURTH STEP - WORLDLINESS
"Ephraim is a cake not turned."
Can you imagine grilling a hamburger, and not turning it over. The one side would be cooked, but the other side would still be raw. In the same way, some children of God try to be Godly in one part of their lives, and still remain worldly in some other areas. We are saved by the mercy of God when we repent. We are not saved by our deeds, and our Godly living. However, the Lord does expect us, after our salvation, to separate from the things in life that come between us and our relationship with Jesus.
II Corinthians 6:14-18
"Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the Living God: as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
God's continuous presence is conditional on separation from that which defiles our relationship with Him. Sin will defile, being like the world, rather than like Him, will defile. There is a necessity for checking our lives for things which hinder our relationship and development in the faith. Some in Hosea's time, as now in our time, try to maintain both a Godly nature, and a bit of the old worldly nature. It will lead us down a path of destruction if we do not clean up our lives of the defilements.
5. THE FIFTH STEP - SEXUAL CORRUPTION, PERVERSION, AND DEFENDING OF SUCH EVILS
"They have deeply corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah; therefore He will remember their iniquity, He will visit their sins."
In Judges chapters 19, and 20, the people corrupted themselves with the sexual perversions of the day. Those who did not succumb personally to such sins became tolerant of sexual sins of others. In our times we see the same tendencies.
The government wants to teach homosexuality as an alternate life style.
The passing out of birth control devices is done in many of our schools.
Talk shows, situation comedies on television all promote sexual license and perversions.
Some legislators want to legalize pornography.
These corruptions even reach into churches.
Some denominations are ordaining homosexual ministers.
Some are calling or a "re-defining" of the family into structures that are condemned by God in the Bible.
Over and over in the Bible, God has warned us of sexual downfalls, and sexual concepts contrary to His plan. We had better beware even letting these wrong concepts have acceptance into our minds.
II Peter 2:2, 10, 14
"And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of... But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness... Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin..."
II Timothy 3:2,3
"For men shall be lovers of their own selves... without natural affection... from such turn away..."
6. THE SIXTH STEP - BACKSLIDING
"And My people are bent to backsliding from Me..."
Backsliding has been a habit for many of the children of God down through the ages. There is a story told of a person who attended a new church of which he was unfamiliar. He asked one of the parishioners if the church believed in "backsliding." The parishioner answered, "We not only believe in it, we practice it!" How true this is in many congregations.
God still loves the backslider, as Hosea loved Gomer. The Lord is the Good Shepherd that seeks out the lost sheep.
"How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel?"
God does not want our backslidings. We break God's heart when we walk away from Him. Gomer broke Hosea's heart when she returned to her harlotry. Jeremiah complained that the people had come to a place of "perpetual backsliding." (Jeremiah 8:5) We must beware allowing our besetting sins to become the norm, and cease fighting the urgings of the devil to forsake God. Too many Christians think they can constantly run from God and run back, time after time.
"My Spirit shall not always strive with man."
I Thessalonians 5:21
"Hold fast to that which is good."
II Peter 1:10
"...give diligence to make your calling and election sure..."
7. THE SEVENTH STEP - IDOLATRY
"And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen; they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves..."
Many will think here, "Well, we do not worship idols..." Yet, an idol is anything we place above God in our love... Idolatry is putting something else in the position of God. It may be the "Super Bowl",... or a new car, ...or a camp site, ...or a vacation, ...or a loved one, ...or money, ...or a vocation, ...or an avocation... etc. Anything that we love more than God is our idol... With such idols, we destroy ourselves...
"O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself..."
The answer for all these wrong steps in life is to return to the Lord. We must admit our sins, and return humbly to a loving, forgiving God.
"O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God: for thou hast fallen by thy iniquity... say unto Him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously..."
That is a 'sinner's prayer', spelled out for any who find themselves with one or more of the steps outlined above. If we pray such prayer, God tells us how He will respond:
"I will heal their backslidings, I will love them freely; for Mine anger is turned away from him..."
THESE STEPS SHOULD NEVER BE FOLLOWED... TOTAL SPIRITUAL DOOM OCCURRED TO THOSE WHO FOLLOWED THESE STEPS... EACH STEP TOOK THEM FURTHER AND FURTHER INTO SPIRITUAL DEFEAT.... BEWARE ! AND IF YOU HAVE, SPEAK THE PRAYER ADVOCATED BY GOD...