My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;
This verse is a poignant criticism of ancient Israel by God's prophet, Hosea. Yet the similarities between God's indictment against His people then, and what He would say to us today, are like looking in a mirror.
Israel had divided into the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern kingdom (Judah) and both had been enjoying a period of general prosperity when God instructed Hosea to begin prophesying. Their borders had increased, and their armed forces had defeated their enemies. But then signs of trouble began appearing on the horizon. The northern kingdom turned from God and embraced idolatry; political turmoil ensued and they suffered several decades of declining power.
The mighty Assyrian Empire began flexing its muscles and looking westward. They were able to take the northern kingdom of Israel into captivity and they never regained their power. Meanwhile, the southern kingdom of Judah was also spiritually declining and was torn by political dissension. History records that King Ahaz rejected the prophet Isaiah's offer of Divine protection and instead embarked on a pro-Assyrian policy of appeasement that facilitated the takeover of Judah and drained the nation's economic wealth. Sound familiar?
God is a jealous God, and just like these ancient kingdoms, He established this country as His nation and took delight in us when we adhered to His commandments and were loyal to Him. But we turned away, just as they did, and began worshipping other idols. Wealth, power, and self-interest became our little "g" gods, and we no longer desired our covenantal commitment to the Lord of our fathers.
And what's worse, those whom God had ordained to instruct us in His Holy Word -- our preachers and pastors -- began minimizing the strength and effectiveness of His commandments. They began to "bend the rules", so to speak. They no longer emphasized the precise and accurate interpretation of God's religious and social standards as proclaimed in His covenant. They taught and preached a more "tolerant" understanding, so as to pacify their critics and get along better with the increasingly rebellious population.
The end result is that God's people don't know Him or how big He is, because they haven't been properly instructed by the very men whom God entrusted them to. And now we are reaping the consequences of this "lack of knowledge". When God establishes a binding relationship, as He did at the founding of this nation, He demands and expects absolute loyalty. That is His Holy character! And we failed Him.
During the 8th century B.C., God announced through Hosea, that He would use severe judgment to free His people from their spiritual stupor and get their attention. Another of God's character traits is His Immutability; He never changes. And we see today that He is using His judgment to wake us out of our own spiritual daze. I don't know about you, but He has certainly got my attention!
He will entertain and tolerate no rivals for our affections. We must turn from the path down which our own carnal desires and the improper teaching in our churches have led us. While this judgment on our land may seem harsh and some of us don't personally deserve it, we know that God will allow nothing to ruin the relationship He has with those who love Him. It is His desire that we will come to our senses; return to worshipping, glorifying and loving Him, so that we may avoid the "destruction" that this verse warns us about. It is incumbent on each of us to pray that the people of this nation, our nation's leaders, and our churches will be restored to the covenantal relationship that God established. That is His fervent desire, and should be ours, too!