My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge I will reject you from priestly service for me. You have forgotten the instruction of your God; so I too will forget your children. Hosea 4:6 (translation J. A. Dearman)
Forget – When you think of the Hebrew verb forget, think of Robert Frost, the American poet. “Fences make good neighbors,” wrote Frost. In Hebrew, shakah does much more than make good neighbors. To forget is to tear down the fence that provides life. The pictograph of Shin-Kaf-Chet is “what destroys the fence around the open palm.” God fences us in on purpose. The broken world is a dangerous and unhealthy place. God protects with His instructions, often in ways that we cannot comprehend. When we forget, we tear down the fence that keeps life and chaos apart. When we forget, we let sin in. When we forget, we open the door (as Paul says) and life tumbles.
You’ll say, “I haven’t forgotten the Lord. I pray. I read my Bible. I am involved in a believing community. God is real to me.” Wait a minute. Let’s step back and take a deeper look at this verse. Of course, these are words of the prophet Hosea to Israel, so in the historical sense it isn’t written to us. But the principle applies. We can experience the destitution of silence if we reject the Way. There is something here for us in spite of the fact that the words are thousands of years old. Here is the principle: “measure for measure.” Forgetting works both ways. If we forget, God forgets. Now look closely at what we are likely to forget (and what Israel is accused of forgetting). Hosea doesn’t say, “You have forgotten Me!” That would be a non sequitur. If the people actually forgot God, then His words to them would be like hearing thunder in the distance. Who knows what that means? No, YHWH says, “You have forgotten My instructions!” Now we have specificity. Now we know exactly what has happened. These people claim to follow YHWH but they do not do what YHWH tells them to do. The bell tolls for them, not because they don’t have a “relationship” but because they don’t act according to the obligations of the relationship. They have a “saving knowledge” but their lives are examples of sinful acts. Consequently, they are forgotten.
We learn a very important linguistic (and spiritual) lesson here. The opposite of forgetting is not remembering. The opposite of forgetting is obeying. In the cognitive world of Greek epistemology, forgetting is a mental state. Therefore, its antonym is also a mental state. In the Greek world, forget is the opposite of remember. But in Hebraic metaphysics, forgetting is not about a mental condition. It is about a moral failure. To forget is to tear down the fence between chaos and life. Forgetting is failing to bring something into action. Forgetting is the failure to respond to the demands of the Lord. It’s not mental. It’s moral.
Now we can ask ourselves if we have forgotten God. How? By comparing our lives with the standard of His instructions. Where we find a mismatch, forgetting should come to mind. Check out the 613 for starters. If you want to see the rest of the obligations, take a look here. You might be surprised to find that there are more commands in the New Testament than there are in the Torah. Then ask yourself if you are remembering or forgetting.
Topical Index: forget, shakah, measure for measure, Hosea 4:6