Monthly Archives: August 2017

Hosea 9 – Israel’s Punishment is Ours Without Christ

Hosea 9 is more of the same. Because of their unfaithfulness to Yahweh, they will be taken away and the land become desolate. It got so bad that here is what happens to God’s messengers:

Because your sins are so many
    and your hostility so great,
the prophet is considered a fool,
    the inspired man a maniac.

As I’ve said, being a prophet in ancient Israel was a tough job. It almost cost Jeremiah his life, several times. But that’s how upside down a people’s perceptions and judgments can become when they reject the source of all life, the Creator who not only made them, but determines by his very nature what is and is not, what is right and wrong, what is good and evil. Paul tells us in Romans 1 what happens when people spurn the knowledge of God:

28 Since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. . . . 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

They cheer those who do evil, and mock those who do good, especially those who have the temerity to proclaim the name of the Lord. Look at the upper reaches of secular American culture in the 21st Century. Those of the household of faith are mocked at best, and can be put in jail and their lives ruined if they don’t toe the secularist line, especially in matters of sexual morality.

The final verse of the chapter is specifically written to the people of Israel, but as Paul indicates this applies to all who reject God:

17 My God will reject them
    because they have not obeyed him;
    they will be wanderers among the nations.

God has to reject everyone because, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” By nature not only do we not obey God, we don’t even want to! Ironically, we think obeying God by being “good” is no big deal, and that God should accept us. But the more we rely on the law to try to curry favor with God, the more we heap up our own condemnation. No, the answer to acceptance before God is not obedience because perfect obedience is impossible for sinners; Christ is the answer. Paul tells us this explicitly in that same chapter :

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. 

If we are willing to clothe ourselves in Christ’s righteousness we don’t have to be wanderers wondering what the heck life is about (stuck with just puzzle pieces and no puzzle), or wanderers wondering if God accepts us or not. We simply believe and trust that “the righteousness of God” is ours. Thus we have peace with God depending on what he did for us in Christ, and not on anything we do or don’t do, can’t or can’t do, could or couldn’t do, would or wouldn’t do, should or shouldn’t do. Period.

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Hosea 8 – Those Who Sow the Wind Will Reap the Whirlwind

In chapter 8 we read the following words that speak to the utter futility of the idolatry Israel continues to commit:

“They sow the wind
    and reap the whirlwind.
The stalk has no head;
    it will produce no flour.

In the previous verses the Lord tells them that the idols they make of silver and gold will only lead to their destruction. He has to tell them, as he has over and over and over again, that something a craftsman has made “is not a God.” Duh!

How can something that human hands make transcend those hands and be worthy of worship and supplication. It makes no sense! But human beings do it all the time. Our idols today are much more slick and enticing, and of course we don’t call them idols, so it’s much easier to worship them without feeling like a religious fool. Nonetheless, these idols (wealth, money, fame, power, sex, sports, thrills, entertainment, hobbies, career, another person, etc.) are as empty as planting wind, and in due course all we’ll get is a whirlwind of destruction.

Prior to these verses the Lord says:

Israel cries out to me,
    ‘Our God, we acknowledge you!’

And this is followed by a “But.” They talk a good game, but their lives are idolatry in action. Later verses in the chapter confirm this:

11 “Though Ephraim built many altars for sin offerings,
    these have become altars for sinning.

The name Ephraim is basically another name for Israel. The people go through the religious motions, but instead of truly being repentant for their sin, they use the altars to seek foreign gods. The next verse tells us why:

12 I wrote for them the many things of my law,
    but they regarded them as something foreign.

The true people of God yearn for God’s law, for his words. Their lives reflect what the Lord commanded back in Deuteronomy 11:

18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates,21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

Unfortunately Israel (and Judah) did not do this, but did what the Lord warned against in the same chapter:

16 Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. 17 Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you . . . 

They can’t say they were not warned. Life, abundant life, as Jesus promised, is in the words of the living God. We seek and know him through those words because, “In the beginning was the Word . . . “

Hosea 7 – They do not cry out to me from their hearts, but wail on their beds.

In this chapter we find a theme that is common in Isaiah, Israel seeking the help of Egypt and Assyria, instead of the Lord their God. And again we find a litany of Israel’s sins, seemingly ad infinitum, and definitely ad nauseam. One verse stands out to me among the litany:

14 They do not cry out to me from their hearts
    but wail on their beds.
They slash themselves, appealing to their gods
    for grain and new wine,
    but they turn away from me.

Instead of calling out to God in their need, which they obviously realize, they complain. Instead of turning to God in humility, they go through radical religious ululations to their (false) gods. The phrase “They slash themselves” in some Hebrew manuscripts and the Septuagint could simply mean “They gather together,” but the sense is definitely of their imploring these (false) gods earnestly.

You have to wonder how ignorant these people have to be to think that they could find help or satisfaction from these (false) gods rather than the true and living Creator God of their fathers. I have to believe they don’t know anything about this true God. How could they if they think these (false) gods more powerful. Do they know nothing of their history? Do they think these prophets are just liars? Or maybe they do know, but just refuse their God:

15 I trained them and strengthened their arms,
    but they plot evil against me.

Again the thought comes to me, how pathetic it is that a people would write a book about themselves and their great religion, and cast themselves in such a pathetically horrible light. It’s as if the metanarrative, the big picture story, is that you guys have a very serious problem and no solution for it. The solution seems to be, obey, live a life that honors God, seek him, return to him, but they can’t do it.

This is why the OT ends and the Jews must wonder, that’s it? The story is finished? What about God’s promises of salvation? I suspect that the most pious Jews (well, it’s a human nature thing) think this salvation is in obedience to the law. But the 1500 plus year message of the Jewish people is, they can’t do it! Even worse, they, we, don’t want to do it! We need a radical relational reversal, as I’ve come to call it, from God’s side. From him being our judge, jury, and executioner, to our Father.

There are 186 instances of the word “father” in the OT, and only two of these instances refer to God. One in Psalm 89 is clearly Messianic in context:

26 He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father,
    my God, the Rock my Savior.’

The “He” is the one who will sit on the throne of David and rule forever, and thus not to us. And the other is Isaiah 9:6, where the child is to be born will be called, “Everlasting Father.” Yet God planned all along that he would to us one day become Abba, Father. John tells us in the first chapter of his gospel:

12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

And Paul in Romans 8:

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

How incredibly thrilling is this! It is our right having been legally adopted in the perfect justice of God that he is now our daddy. From Strong’s:

5 Abbá – “Father,” also used as the term of tender endearment by a beloved child – i.e. in an affectionate, dependent relationship with their father; “daddy,” “papa.”

So it is clear to me that the message of Israel’s history is that living according to the law can never change the nature of the relationship to our holy, Creator God. This is all made abundantly clear by the NT. God grants to us what is required, perfect righteousness (apart from the law), and he himself accomplishes this for us. Apart from humbly accepting his gift of his own righteousness, we are stuck with trying to live up to an impossible standard, knowing we can’t, but deluding ourselves in thinking we can. Then we think God owes us, captured perfectly in the verse (14) above. That’s a sad treadmill to live on, and the gospel is the answer to get us off. Amen!

Hosea 6 – God Will Restore His People, But Not Through Religious Ritual

Chapter 6 starts with what appears to be Hosea imploring the people to return to the Lord, although some commentators think it’s the people of Israel themselves. Then we read these words:

After two days he will revive us;
    on the third day he will restore us,
    that we may live in his presence.

Some commentators think this refers to the resurrection, and others do not because using numbers of days like this could be trope (a figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression) to express a short passage of time, as we see elsewhere in the OT (although with different numbers). The phrase “third day” is very common in the OT as well, and just the word “third” is too. It’s not surprising, though, that given the prominence of third, that Jesus predicted and actually did rise on the third day.

But I’m inclined to think the meaning is the latter. Either way, the message is to always let us return to the Lord because it is he who restores us that we may live in his presence. And we, unlike OT saints, can do that knowing what Christ did for us, that “there is now therefore no condemnation for those who Christ Jesus,” ought we to “live in his presence.” In fact, his presence is in us! 

But alas, the rest of the chapter tells us that Israel will do no such thing, at least prior to the Assyrians and Babylonians dragging them away and destroying their country. In the midst of more judgment we read this:

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
    and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

As is typical of sinful human beings, the people of Israel thought they could buy off God with their religious rituals. The Lord would rather have their lives reflect mercy in their relationships (we see throughout the prophets that their relationships reflect everything but mercy) because love is the summation of the law. And instead of acknowledging God, they sought idols. But I suppose the people thought they could do whatever they want, go through the religious motions, and God would save them. It doesn’t work that way.

Hosea 5 – God’s People Will Earnestly Seek Him When Their Guilt is Atoned For

The warning of judgment continues, but again it is mixed with mercy to come at the end. Hosea says something here that we see explained further by Paul in Romans 1:

“Their deeds do not permit them
    to return to their God.
A spirit of prostitution is in their heart;
    they do not acknowledge the Lord.

In Romans 1 Paul says:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness

Sinful human beings are naturally so invested in their sin, in the self and its gratifications (envy, greed, lust, anger, pride, etc.), that it refuses by nature to acknowledge God. The natural inclination of the human heart is to do everything we can to shove truth back under the water, but like the beach ball the truth just won’t stay under. Yet, we try. Until, that is, the Lord transforms our hearts from stone to flesh, from enmity to gratitude, from loving sin to shame for it. Even then we still try, but over time we lose the muscles to keep the beach ball of truth under the water, and pretty much lose the desire to do so.

I think Israel’s history is a picture of this struggle, but instead of a physical temple which could never atone for sin in any ultimate way, we are God’s temple. And instead of the blood of bulls and goats, we are cleansed by the blood of our Savior God.

Then in being alive to God we struggle with the idols of our flesh, instead of embrace them as Israel did, as we continue to learn to do what Paul implored the Romans to do:

[C]lothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

The note below this verse says:  “In contexts like this, the Greek word for flesh (sarx) refers to the sinful state of human beings, often presented as a power in opposition to the Spirit.” The ESV says “put on,” so we are to put on or clothe ourselves not with an idea, but with a person! Christ himself!

But in verse 13 we see that instead of turning to God for help, Israel turns to the Assyrians. The Lord’s response:

But he is not able to cure you,
    not able to heal your sores.

Nothing else can save us because nothing else can deal with our guilt:

15 Then I will return to my lair
    until they have borne their guilt
    and seek my face—
in their misery
    they will earnestly seek me.”

Only when our guilt is dealt with will we seek his face, and only when we are convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit will we realize our misery and shame, and seek him. And think about it, we could never bear our own guilt because the wages of our sin is death. Another had to bear our guilt so that we could “earnestly seek” the living God!

Hosea 4 – My People Are Destroyed From Lack of Knowledge

From the promise of mercy and salvation in the last chapter, we get right back to judgment and condemnation in this one. The first verse tells us what’s to come:

Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites,
    because the Lord has a charge to bring
    against you who live in the land:
“There is no faithfulness, no love,
    no acknowledgment of God in the land.

That’s really all we need to know because every kind of evil flows from this. Here is what life was like in Israel before their capture by the Assyrians:

There is only cursing, lying and murder,
    stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
    and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

As a result the land becomes a dystopian hell hole:

Because of this the land dries up,
    and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
    and the fish in the sea are swept away.

Sin, which is the antithesis of who God is and of who we are when we are not connected to him, is destruction. Then we get to the heart of the matter, of why there is faithlessness, and no love or acknowledgment of God in the Land:

    my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.

“Because you have rejected knowledge,
    I also reject you as my priests;
because you have ignored the law of your God,
    I also will ignore your children.

Isn’t that interesting. There are consequences for thinking knowledge of God, and of his law which is a reflection of his being, is optional. Too many Christians today, however, are ignorant of the Old Testament, and have never read these words. Then only being familiar with the New Testament, when they hear the word “knowledge” they think of Paul’s words in I Corinthians 8: “knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” Ignoring the context, they think “knowledge” is the problem, when it is clearly the human heart and pride. 

The implications extend to what should make the heart glad:

because they have deserted the Lord
    to give themselves 11 to prostitution;
old wine and new wine
    take away their understanding.

It is clear from the rest of the chapter that this prostitution does not necessarily have to do with sex, although in ancient pagan religions it often could. It is more the spirit of running after other gods, worthless idols. I love the way the Lord through Hosea puts it:

12 My people consult a wooden idol, 
    and are answered by a stick of wood.

What an insult to the living Creator God of the universe! They embrace the lie when they could have the truth! If they would only seek it. But by nature, of course, none of us do. Proverbs tells us that fools hate knowledge. That is why we should pray for ourselves, and those we love, to hunger for knowledge. As Proverbs further implores us to choose knowledge above choice gold, lest we ourselves are deluded into thinking a stick of wood can answer our deepest fears and desires. If we do not hunger and seek knowledge, then idols will be our lot and the Lord’s prediction will come true:

a people without understanding shall come to ruin.

 

Hosea 3 – The Lord Loved and Purchased Us In Spite of Not Because of Who We Are

Chapter 3 is a short chapter, just 5 verses, but it carries a powerful message. The Lord commands Hosea to take back his adulterous wife, so he buys her and tells her to come and live with him. It doesn’t say from whom he buys her, but possibly other men who have paid for her “services.” He is to buy her back, to “redeem” her specifically because “she is loved by another and is an adulteress.” He is commanded that his love for her be a metaphor of the Lord’s love for Israel, a love in spite of, not because of:

Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”

If we put this in New Testament terms, we can say he loved Israel even when they were dead in their sins, and even when they were God’s enemies. Hosea pays to get his wife out of sin, even as the Lord paid the price of death to rescue us out of our sin. And notice Gomer could do nothing to make any of this happene because she was obviously owned by another. The Lord’s salvation is always thus, his initiative, his power, his price.

The last two verses are Messianic because the Israelites “will live many days” without any direction, but “afterward” they will “seek the Lord their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the Lord and to his blessings in the last days.” Since David is dead, one who comes in the line of David must be meant, and that would be Yeshua of Nazareth, the Messiah, the one Israel rejected. Whenever those days are, God seems to be saying, the people of Israel will eventually get it, and accept the one they rejected. I don’t think this could be interpreted to mean the Church. Paul does say that “all Israel will be saved.” Wouldn’t that be a great day, when Jews in mass come to accept Jesus as their Messiah, the son of David, the rightful air to the throne, their God and their Savior.