What do you think of the church? Your answer will probably depend on whether you are thinking about the ideal or the reality. In the ideal, the church is the most marvelous new creation of God. It is the new community of Jesus, enjoying a multi-racial, multi-national and multi-cultural harmony which is unique in history and in contemporary society. The church is even the 'new humanity', the vanguard of a redeemed and renewed human race. It is a people who spend their earthly lives (as they will also spend eternity) in the loving service of God and of others. What a noble and beautiful ideal! In reality, however, the church is us (if you will pardon the bad grammar) -- a disheveled rabble of sinful, fallible, bickering, squabbling, stupid, shallow Christians, who constantly fall short of God's ideal, and often fail even to approximate to it. - John Stott
Tuesday, November 29, 2022
Sunday, November 27, 2022
HOSEA 7: THE NATION CRUMBLES
Lament Over Israel’s Unfaithfulness
God speaks here in a medical metaphor. When he wanted to heal Israel, their iniquity was revealed. Iniquity is gross immorality. Their iniquity is described generally as “evil deeds”, and more specifically as false dealing and open lawlessness.
False dealing means unfaithfulness to the covenant while still performing the outward rituals. Lawlessness means committing crimes against each other.
The words Israel, Ephraim, and Samaria all refer to the same thing: the northern kingdom. It is a synonymous parallelism, saying the same thing different ways to drive home the point.
Lament Over Israel’s Politics
Evil makes the king and his officials happy. (3) This evil may be the intrigue that occurred during the reigns of the last several kings of Israel. Several were assassinated by others who wanted to take the throne.
An example is Pekah. He assassinated King Pekahiah. (2 Kings 15:25)
He had been Pekahiah’s chief officer. Pekah was then assassinated by Hoshea son of Elah.
All of these were adulterers in the spiritual sense; they worshipped other gods. The passion of the kings and princes for intrigue and sin was strong as an oven that is so hot the baker does not have to tend the fire.
The king and the princes, or officials, we taken over with this passion for intrigue as they assassinated each other. Alcohol helped them supress their consciences & welcome those who mocked God.
God says all of the kings are fallen. This again is consistent with the last days of Israel when many kings were killed by their successors. Only one king, Menahem, was not assassinated after the death of Jeroboam II. And none of these called upon the Lord. They had turned away from him.
In contrast, the king was to be responsible for keeping God’s law and leading the nation to do the same. The requirements for the king are set out in Deuteronomy 17:14-20. He was to copy and study the law. Instead, these kings abandoned the law and led the nation into sin.
Lament For Bad Foreign Policy
Since Israel had turned away from God, they did not seek him for protection from their enemies. The kings sought alliances with other countries instead, such as Egypt and Assyria. (11). They did not trust God and were unwilling to return to him.
They had to pay tribute and accept other conditions that weakened them. Israel was a cake not turned, what we might call going off half baked. (8) They were also without common sense, like a dove. (11) They were weak and getting weaker, but still did not seek the Lord. (10)
Israel’s pride became a testimony against it. (10) God had told them, as part of the covenant curses, that their refusal to repent would result in God disciplining them sevenfold for their sins and he would break the pride of their power. (Leviticus 27:18-19)
Because of all this, God said he would bring them (12) down and discipline them. We know he did that very thing.
Lament for Israel’s Doom
This section begins with a cry of woe. (13) It is a sort of lament at a funeral. It speaks of the destruction of the nation as you would the death of a loved one. Israel would be destroyed because it rebelled against God. It revolted against his authority.
God could have redeemed them, but they lied against him. They had sworn fidelity to God, but actually pledged themselves to other nations and relied on them for protection. They were not loyal to God as their sovereign.
This lack of loyalty was demonstrated by the lack of genuine belief in God to act. They offered sacrifices, but not not call on God from the heart (14)
They complained about their lack of grain and wine, but did not turn to God. Their beds refer to the practice of Canaanite worship, where they would make a sacrifice then eat the meal while lying on cushions near the altar.
Therefore, God would cause their princes to fall by the sword. They would return to subjugation similar to that they had in Egypt. Deuteronomy 28:47 instructed them that their refusal to serve God would mean they would serve their enemies. They would have a yoke of iron on their necks until they are destroyed.
They would be held in derision by Egypt, which is symbolic of the nations Israel pursued for protection instead of God.
God does not lose track of the unbeliever’s sin; there will be judgment. (Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 20:11-15)
When we turn away from God, we turn to all kinds of unhelpful things.
The church cannot make unholy alliances.
Sunday, November 20, 2022
HOSEA 6 - CALL FOR REPENTANCE AND PROMISE OF JUDGMENT
The Way Back
Chapter 6 begins with a change of voice. Hosea is speaking his own words, not saying it is the Lord speaking through him directly.
This does not mean it is not scripture or not the Lord’s word. It is just that Hosea is preaching, or exhorting, as a man called by God to do so, in the same way a preacher does today.
Hosea called upon Israel to return to the Lord. He pointed out that the bad things that have happened to them are the Lord’s discipline. He has done these things in order to give them the opportunity to return to a right relationship with him. He used the metaphors or tearing and healing, striking and binding up, to convey this message.
This may also be a reference to Deuteronomy 32:39 (the Song of Moses) here. Moses wrote the words of the Lord as a warning to Israel:
See now that i, even I, am he,
and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal;
and there is none that can deliver out of my hand”.
The words “he has” in verse 1 show that the Lord has brought this disaster upon them. It is not that he has just been passive and allowed it to happen.
Hosea also spoke of the Lord reviving them and raising them up so they could live for him. (2) Living for him is what they are supposed to do. If they are going to experience the blessing of a relationship with the Lord, they must live in obedience to him.
The words “after two days” and “on the third day” point to the future. The restoration of Israel will come in the future. This is not a literal two days from the day Hosea spoke. It is a set time in the future when the Lord will act.
Hosea also called for Israel to know the Lord. (3) Previously, the Lord had said there was no knowledge of God in the land. (4:1) Knowledge in this context includes Israel’s acceptance of God’s lordship over them under the terms of the covenant. When they know him again, he will come to them.
God spoke again in this passage to bemoan the lack of faithfulness of Israel and Judah. Their love for God was superficial. It was like a morning cloud that disappears in the heat of the day, or the dew that goes away. Instead, they did not obey the commandment to “love the LORD your God with all you heart and with all you should and with all your might”. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
Because of Israel’s lack of love for God, he sent the prophets to condemn them. (5) And now he will send judgment upon them. His judgment is a light that exposes the darkness of Israel in sin.
What the Lord wanted was steadfast love. (6) While he had instituted the system of sacrifices, he did not want ritual that was not based in love and true worship. He wanted Israel to know him in the covenant sense. Sacrifice and burnt offerings done superficially did not please him.
Heartless ritual does not please him today either. Jesus cited Hosea 6:6 twice: In Matthew 9:13, when Pharisees complained that he ate with sinners and in Matthew 12:7, when they condemned the disciples for plucking grain to eat on the Sabbath.
Heartless ritual may include both worship liturgy & made up rules such as the Pharisees had.
Israel broke the covenant. They were faithless toward the Lord. They also descended into all kinds of evil behavior, including robbery, murder, and idolatry. Even the priests were involved. This is what happens when men and women separate from God and reject his laws. People descend into lawlessness and depravity.
The meaning of the phrase “like Adam” is disputed. There are three possibilities: a place, mankind, and the first man.
Some think it means a place, the place where the waters of the Jordan stacked up so that Joshua could lead Israel across to the promised land. (Joshua 3:16) However, there is no mention of the Israelites going there or transgressing the covenant there.
The word translated Adam is the same as the word for man. But, mankind transgressing the covenant does not make any sense. It would add no meaning to Israel violating the covenant.
Lastly, and what seems to most likely, is that it refers to the first man. Some do not believe God made a covenant with Adam, but the elements are there. It is a covenant of works.
God placed Adam in the garden of Eden. He was to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2:15) Additionally, he was to refrain from eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
God promised Adam eternal life if he obeyed God and refrained from eating the fruit of the forbidden tree. This is the blessing of the covenant.
God also told Adam he would die if he ate the fruit. This is the curse of the covenant. Adam transgressed the covenant by eating the fruit. Israel, like Adam, transgressed the covenant. But it was the Mosaic covenant. And, like Adam, they will experience the curses of the covenant.
A Warning For Judah
The chapter ends with a warning to Judah that it will suffer like Israel if it continues in sin. The word “also” would have to mean “in addition to the harvest of Israel”. So, the harvest is a time of judgment. A similar metaphor is used in Revelation 14 for the final judgment.
God will discipline his people when they drift off into sin. (Hebrews 12:5-6, 11)
God does not value ritual worship that does not come from real love and devotion.
Mankind has repeatedly shown the inability to obey God. Only Christ did so, and we can only be seen as righteous when we are in Christ.
Sunday, November 06, 2022
HOSEA 5: PUNISHMENT COMING
Judgment on the Leaders of Israel
The Lord continued his condemnation of the priests in these verses, but expanded his judgment to include the leaders of government, the descendants of David. They were the royal family of the time, the “house of the king”. (1) So both the religious and secular leaders are condemned.
Mizpah and Tabor are also symbols of the priests and the royals. Mizpah is where the first king of Israel was proclaimed. (1 Samuel 17) Tabor was part of the land allotted to the Levites (1 Chronicles 6:77).
These leaders had become a trap for the people of Israel. The Lord used the image of a snare and a net. Both are types of traps set to catch animals. The leaders of Israel led the way into the worship of idols and snared the people into it. That is the specific accusation of verse 4.
As they revolted against God, they participated in the worst rituals of the pagan gods. They went “deep into the slaughter”, which may mean they practiced child sacrifice. Psalm 106:37-38 says they sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons, the idols of Canaan.
Because the leaders revolted against God, he will discipline them. (2) This means he will impose the curses of the covenant, but may also mean he has extra punishment in store for the leaders. We saw this in chapter 4, where he said he would bring shame on the priests and forget their descendants.
God Knows Their Sin
People often believe God does not notice or see their sin. But here God says he knows them and their sin is not hidden. They are so mired in their sin that they cannot return to the Lord.
God Will Withdraw From Them
Israel cannot recognize and repent from its sin because of its pride. They were arrogant in their rebellion against God and his law as they practiced a false religion and conducted an unjust society.
The Lord further expands his judgment to include Judah, saying it will stumble just as Israel will. (5) At this point, this is a warning to Judah.
Further, when those in Israel realize their plight and seek the Lord, they will not find him for he has withdrawn from them. “Flocks and herds” in verse 6 indicates the people coming to offer sacrifices to seek God’s favor.
However, those sacrifices, if made somewhere other than Jerusalem, would not be acceptable. God chose Jerusalem as the place for the offering of sacrifices. (2 Chronicles 6:6)
Additionally, they will be coming to God too late to escape judgment. When Assyria invades, God will not protect Israel as he protected Jerusalem under Hezekiah. (2 Kings 19)
This judgment is because they have been faithless and have children who are faithless. They will not have abundant harvests to be celebrated with new moon festivals. They have forfeited their right to live in the land.
What Will Happen
God foretold the results of the idolatry of his people. The picture in verse 8 is the watchman blowing the horn to alert the people to the approach on an enemy army. Here it is sounded to herald the coming of judgment in the form of the Assyrian army. God will make Israel a desolation. ((9)
Gibeah, Ramah and Beth-aven are near the border of Israel (Ephraim) and the land allotted to Benjamin. They were in the path of the invading army.
Again, the Lord includes Judah, saying its princes are subject to the Lord’s wrath. (10) They are cursed like those who remove landmarks, or boundary stones. Deuteronomy 19:14 says “You shall not move your neighbor’s landmark, which the men of old have set, in the inheritance that you will hold in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess.”
God will pour out his wrath like water. (10) Deuteronomy 27:17 says “Cursed be the one who moves his neighbors landmark.” Since each family’s allotment was set by the Lord as their inheritance, changing the boundaries stole part of the other family’s inheritance. Judah will face God’s wrath just as Israel did and will not get special privileges that exempt it.
Israel (Ephraim) was crushed by Assyria. (11) The metaphors of verse 12 show that God is the one who brought it about. He has weakened them as a moth eats away at cloth or rot in the wood of a house.
Although both Israel and Judah were sick, they did not seek the Lord, but sought relief from Assyria. It did not help. (13) But Assyria could not stop the hand of the Lord bringing destruction on these nations like a lion to its prey. (14)
In fact, God used Assyria to fulfill his word. In verse 14, he said he will carry off. He used Assyria to carry off the people into exile.
2 Kings 17:6 says:
In the ninth year of Hosea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Harbor, the river of Gaza, and in the cities of the Medes.
There is a small message of hope in verse 15. God could be found by them in the future if they confessed their sin and earnestly sought him.
God sees and knows are sins. Hebrews 4:13 says “No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account”.
God calls us to repent of our sins. (1 John 1:8-10)