Hear the word of the LORD, you Israelites,
because the LORD has a charge to bring
against you who live in the land:
“There is no faithfulness, no love,
no acknowledgment of God in the land.
There is only cursing, lying and murder,
stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
Because of this the land mourns,
and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field and the birds of the air
and the fish of the sea are dying.
“But let no man bring a charge,
let no man accuse another,
for your people are like those
who bring charges against a priest.
You stumble day and night,
and the prophets stumble with you.
So I will destroy your mother—
my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. (Hosea 4:1-6)
How can you have a relationship with someone you don’t even know? If you don’t love other people, then you don’t love God—and vice versa. Not loving people results in all the crimes God listed. The crimes were merely symptoms of the underlying disease: an unfaithful and unloving heart.
Those who were in positions of leadership—particularly those tasked with the responsibility of teaching, had failed to live up to their calling. Priests and prophets had turned their back on God’s revelation to his people. They did not concern themselves with what God had told them: they ignored the Bible as it existed to that point, and consequently, they had no idea what it was that God expected of them. They mistreated the people around them, and had no idea who God was, what he cared about, what mattered to him.
What we know is what we will live. Christians today are all priests, with direct access to God. But to whom much is given, much is required. It is impossible for us to worship God in spirit and in truth if we know nothing about the one whom we claim to be worshiping. The religious establishment in Hosea’s day had forgotten who they were worshiping and they imagined that it didn’t matter: that all that counted was their enthusiasm, their sincerity, their rituals. But we can’t love someone we don’t know.