As we have seen that the people were ensnared, now we learn in Hosea 5:4-5 that they were stumbling. He says, “They do not direct their deeds toward turning to their God, for the spirit of harlotry is in their midst, and they do not know the Lord. The pride of Israel testifies to his face; therefore Israel and Ephraim stumble in their iniquity; Judah also stumbles with them.”

 Here we hear the same accusation that we heard at the beginning of chapter 4. The people do not know the Lord. They claim to be seeking God and to know God but the evidence tells another story. The fruit we inspect in their lives and in the nation prove their claims to be false. They do not seek God and they do not know God. He is a stranger to them. But notice, He is a stranger to them specifically because “They do not direct their deeds toward turning to their God.” They are not seeking Him. They are seeking self-fulfillment and self-satisfaction. They are not seeking God no matter how much they think that they are.

How then are they directing their deeds? They are doing what they want to do because it is what they want to do. They will determine for themselves how and where to worship – never mind what God says about any of it – because we truly believe at times that what we want to give God is what He wants us to give Him, right? Instead of asking what He wants, and searching His Word to see what He wants, we give Him what we think He wants, which usually just means we are giving Him what we want and not what He wants.

The people are refusing to return, they are rejecting rebuke, they will not repent or even put any effort into coming back to the Lord. Hosea says, “The pride of Israel testifies to his face.” It is plain for all to see. Everyone who looks at Israel can see what is happening. So he adds, “therefore Israel and Ephraim stumble in their iniquity; Judah also stumbles with them.” They fall into sin and can’t get out. They can’t find their way back to God because they are not seeking a way back – they are expecting God to come to them without them turning back toward Him. The truth is that they have stumbled, they have fallen away, and they don’t want to come back. Coming back means repenting of their sin and rejecting it. And they love their sin too much to do that.

Paul addresses this in Romans, this idea that we want to go our own way and do our own thing. He tells us that  there are those who profess to be wise, but they became fools (Romans 1:22). How foolish indeed to profess to know what to do and how to do it and yet in reality to have no clue.

What we tend to tell God when we are confronted with our sin that surely things are not that bad, right? Surely our sin is not as serious as some would have us believe. It is just a failure. A mistake. An error in judgment. Or a disease. A weakness. A character flaw. I mean seriously, we are ok, we are at heart basically good, right? No! Our hearts are deceitful. Our emotions lie to us all the time. Our minds manipulate us. Our flesh pressures us. We, on our own, without Christ, we, by ourselves, we are not good, not good at all. It’s Romans 3:10-12 again, “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.’”

There is only One who is good and that is God and the only way we find goodness or walk in it is to have Christ live in and through us. We, if left to ourselves, would do exactly what Israel is doing here – we would go our own way and do our own thing.