************ Sermon on Hosea 4:8 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 16, 2003
"Feeding on Sin"
Topic: DrunkennessUsing the words of Hosea, we would have to say that the liquor store and the liquor industry were feeding on sin.
A man froze to death in Baltimore just before Christmas. What a terrible tragedy in a land of plenty!
TV people bemoaned the awful society that permitted such to happen. Warm houses were nearby, but no one took the poor man out of the cold. Where were the city, state and federal governments? Why didn't the churches provide more shelters?
An autopsy revealed the man was drunk at the time of death. The state of his body indicated he was an alcoholic.
The media blamed almost everyone. But they did not blame the liquor store that kept taking the man's money for drink though he was obviously an alcoholic. They did not blame the beer companies that spend millions pushing their beer upon this man and others. They did not blame advertisers who promote wine, beer and other alcohol as the ideal beverage for happy living.
Of course, they are not the only ones who feed on sin. The Mafia and other criminal organizations feed on sin. Our governments feed on sin when they promote the lottery. We would have to say that drug-dealers feed on sin when they sell illegal drugs. Casinos feed on the sin of greed. And, the abortion industry feeds on the sins of adultery and pre-marital sex and greed and selfishness.
This evening we hear Hosea making a similar charge. During his time too there were those who fed on the sins of others.
I Feeding on Sin – the Priests
A Feeding on sin. Hosea doesn't make this charge against drug dealers, liquor stores, or prostitutes like his own dear wife. Speaking on behalf of the Lord, Hosea makes this charge against the priests:
(Hosea 4:8) They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness.One would expect the priests of Israel, of all people, to hate sin. But it seems they don't.
What were the priests of Israel doing that was so wrong? Hosea is quite merciless in his criticism. He throws the book, so to speak, at the priests. Hosea says, -they have rejected knowledge
-they have ignored the Law of God
-they sinned against God
-they exchanged Glory for something disgraceful
-they feed on the sins of the people
-they relish wickedness
The Lord's resulting judgment is devastating: "I reject you as my priests" (verse 6).
I want to make three observations about these sins of the priests.
B First, we have to remember that things were pretty bad in Israel during the days of Hosea. Theft, murder, adultery, injustice, unfaithfulness, greed, and idolatry were all too common and even accepted. Listen to what Hosea says about this:
(Hosea 4:1-2) "There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. (2) There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed."
Now, why did the people commit such sins? Through Hosea the Lord cries out: "my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge" (vs 6). The people don't know the Law of God. They don't know what they can or cannot do. They don't realize they are breaking God's commands.
The Lord is angry at the priests because this was in large part their fault. It was the task and calling of the priests to instruct the people in the Law, but they failed to do this. They neglected to teach the people the ways of the Lord and the result was rampant sin and evil.
Sin and evil is the result whenever a people don't know God's Law and Word. Unrighteousness and injustice is the consequence whenever a people knows nothing of God's directives. This is true in Israel, this is true in America, and it is true in the church as well. God's people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. God's people stop being God's people when they aren't taught and don't know His will.
Topic: BibleThis story shows us the result if people don't know God and His ways: death and destruction. But it also shows us the result when people do know God and His ways: salvation and preservation.
Subtopic: Furnishes a Light
Title: Cannibals or Christians
The story is told of a college professor who visited the Fiji Islands. Being agnostic, he critically remarked to an elderly chief, "You're a great leader, but it's a pity you've been taken in by those foreign missionaries. They only want to get rich through you. No one believes the Bible anymore. People are tired of the threadbare story of Christ dying on a cross for the sins of mankind. They know better now. I'm sorry you've been so foolish as to accept their story."
The old chief's eyes flashed as he answered, "See that great rock over there? On it we smashed the heads of our victims. Notice the furnace next to it? In that oven we formerly roasted the bodies of our enemies. If it hadn't been for those good missionaries and the love of Jesus that changed us from cannibals into Christians, you'd never leave this place alive! You'd better thank the Lord for the Gospel; otherwise we'd already be feasting on you. If it weren't for the Bible, you'd now be our supper!
"My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge." We don't want that to happen in Trinity United Reformed Church. That's why sermons sometimes have to be blunt and need to step on some toes. That's why adults are encouraged to attend Bible Study. That's why we have GEMS, Cadets, and Youth Society. That's why children and youth and adults are in church school. That's why families are encouraged to have devotions. That's why we want all of our members to attend both worship services every Sunday. That's why we encourage our parents to give their children and youth a Christian education.
The failure of the priests to give instruction in the Law was a very serious matter. That failure had pushed an entire people to the brink of destruction.
C The priests, then, neglected to teach the Law. We would have to call this a sin of omission. But, second, we also have to say they are guilty of sins of commission. They not only neglect the Law but they also disobey it. This is what Hosea says:
(Hosea 4:7) The more the priests increased, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their Glory for something disgraceful.The priests, those teachers of the Law, actually participated with the people in the breaking of God's Law. Many times they were leading the way. God's priests, the leaders of His people, should be leading the way – in righteousness, in prayer, in Bible reading, in attendance at worship, in holy living but NOT in evil and wickedness.
D My third observation focuses on the words of our text for this evening. Hosea has this to say about the priests:
(Hosea 4:8) They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness.
How can the priests feed on the sins of the people? What is Hosea talking about here? Hosea is talking here of the sacrifices brought for sin. Now, you need to realize that the flesh of the animals offered as sacrifices for sin was given to the priests as food. Hosea finds nothing wrong with the priests eating the sacrifices brought by the people – after all, this is the portion assigned to the priests by the Law of God. Instead, Hosea accuses the priests of feeding on sin.
What does this mean? The priests enjoy it when the people sin and eat it up. They lick their lips at the thought of sin. It makes their mouths water. Do you sense what is going on here in the hearts of the priests? The priests are thinking to themselves, "I hope the people sin a lot, for then we'll have a lot of meat on the table." That's why Hosea can say the words of our text:
(Hosea 4:8) They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness.This is an Old Testament version of what Paul writes to the church at Rome:
(Rom 6:1) What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?In this case, the priests want the people to keep on sinning so they can have lots of meat.
A true priest of God would rather have a little less food on his table than hope for lots of sin offerings. A true priest would rather starve to death than wish the people to sin. A true priest of God hates the idea of living off of sin and tries his best to prevent that sin.
Compare these priests of the Old Testament to our great High Priest, Jesus Christ. Jesus died for sin, but the priests feed on sin. Jesus weeps over sin, but the priests delight in sin. Jesus prays to do God's will, but the priests pray to break God's will. Jesus is horrified by the consequences of sin, but the priests line their pockets with the wages of sin. The priests were supposed to prefigure and foreshadow the work of Christ upon the cross; instead, they made a mockery of it and fed on the sins of the people.
II Feeding on Sin – Today
A In the introduction to this sermon I indicated some of those who feed on sin today: the liquor industry feeds on sin; drug dealers feed on sin; the government feeds on sin with the lottery; prostitutes feed on sin; the pornography industry feeds on sin; organized crime feeds on sin. However it is done, the result is the same: there are those who feed on the sins of the people; they line their pockets with what leads others to destruction.
B Our news media and magazines like the National Enquirer have made millions feeding on the sins of the rich and the famous. Sin is money and big sin is big money. Think of the feeding frenzy that took place regarding Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, or Gary Condit and Chandra Levy. At times like that we too often feed on the sins of others and delight in every sordid detail.
A couple of weeks ago someone told me – and it was mentioned to me again this morning – that lots of people go to the Indian casinos scattered around this area. Some go to gamble and many others go there just to eat and be entertained. But in supporting this industry do you know what they are doing? They are feeding on sin!
Just before Christmas it was reported that Jack Whittaker, a born-again Christian who won the $170 million Powerball lottery, was tithing 10% or $17 million to 3 or 4 churches and pastors. One of the pastors called Whittaker's gift a "blessing." Those churches and pastors, I am afraid, are feeding on sin – and I hope and pray we as a church will never do that by accepting lottery winnings.
C Do you know what is even worse than this? What is even worse is that there are Christians who feed on the sins of the people. These Christians, like the priests, delight in the sins of the people.
You know how it goes. Someone says, "Have you heard about so-and-so?" To make it sound more Christian they call it "sharing" and quickly mention what a shame it is that the name of the Lord and the reputation of the church is being dragged through the mud. Then they "share" every sordid detail of the sin. Every sinful episode is seized on as a welcome opportunity for talk. They feed on those sins. What I am trying to say is that too often we have problems with talking, with gossip, with delighting in the sins of others.
Topic: GossipIt's so easy to talk about others, isn't it?!
At a church camp, an ugly rumor about two of the counselors quickly became the talk of the camp. The next day, at morning prayer, the minister read the story of the adulterous woman, in which Jesus told the crowd that any person who had no sin could cast the first stone. And one by one, those who had come to stone her to death walked away.
Then the minister passed around a bucket of stones and insisted that each take one and carry it in their pocket throughout the remainder of camp. Any time a camper felt like criticizing someone else, or talking behind another's back, or passing on an ugly rumor, they were to reach into the pocket, touch the stone and ask themselves if they were without sin.
Would you try something for me? Find a small stone to carry in your pocket or purse as a reminder that we are not to talk about others. Instead we are to pray for them. And, we are to pray for ourselves, "Lord, keep me from casting stones." That way we don't feed on the sins of others.
D What we all need to remember is that we too are priests. Filled with the Spirit we are anointed as prophets, priests, and kings. Unlike the priests of Israel we are never to delight in sin nor savor it nor smack our lips about it.
If we are true priests of God then our hearts will bleed and our eyes will weep for the sins of God's people. The hearts of Jesus' disciples, for instance, were full of sorrow when they heard one of the Twelve was going to betray the Lord. Are we then to derive enjoyment from sins and use them to enliven our conversation over dinner or coffee? That's not what a priest is called to do!
Someone who has properly understood the office of all believers will NOT speak ill of sinners in public conversations. Instead, he or she will pray for sinners. He or she will not gladly open ears to hear all about the sins of God's people. He or she will not be eager to discuss those sins with others. Instead, he or she will discuss those sins with the Lord. True priests of God tremble over sin and beg the Lord to bring repentance to those who are fallen and to forgive them their sin.
Also, a true priest of God never forgets to look at his or her own life. He or she realizes, "I too am a miserable sinner." He or she prays with the tax collector, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner" (Lk 18:13). And says with the psalmist,
(Ps 139:23-24) Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. (24) See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
When this happens, God will not say about us twentieth century priests what He said about the priests of Israel:
(Hosea 4:8) They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness.
The priests of Israel fed on the sins of others. They delighted in those sins and grew rich and fat on those sins.
I hope and pray that we, as priests, will never feed on sin or delight in sin. I hope and pray that we, as priests, will be like the great High Priest, Jesus Christ, and weep over sin and pray about sin.
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