Monthly Archives: August 2017

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 because only 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 tells 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.

Hosea 2 – Israel’s Unfaithfulness Highlights God’s Necessary Initiative in Salvation

Hosea 2 starts with punishment and ends with restoration, with justice and then mercy. The Lord seems always to want to remind us that his justice has a purpose, that it is displayed in the life of Israel and brought down to us in Scripture for a reason. What might that purpose be? Maybe that sin and rebellion and worshiping other God’s have a price attached to them, that sin’s wages is death, and that death and judgment must come. In other words, God will never turn a blind eye toward sin because he can’t turn a blind eye. His ontology, his being must judge sin.

For the first 13 verses of the chapter we read lurid details of Israel’s unfaithfulness, and the consequences the Lord will bring on them as a result. Then almost whiplash like, verse 14 completely changes the tone. All of a sudden the Lord is wooing her back, and restoring her “as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.” The reference to Egypt is a reference to the Lord rescuing Israel from slavery and captivity, and the very large metaphor for his coming rescue of his people from the slavery and captivity of sin.

We know this because he uses the phrase, “In that day” three times in the last seven verses. He speaks in verse 18 of a covenant he will make with them, and that:

19 I will betroth you to me forever;
    I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
    in Love and compassion.
20 I will betroth you in faithfulness,
    and you will acknowledge the Lord.

In the ancient world when a couple got engaged a transaction took place by the bride’s family to the husband, and the husband’s family basically took possession of the woman. This seems strange to modern individualistic sensibilities, but it actually protected the woman. She was now part of the larger family or the clan, and partook of all of the rights and responsibilities of it.

And notice that the Lord is not asking permission from his people to be betrothed to him. In that culture the woman didn’t have the “right” to say no. The initiative was all the man’s, and once he decided he wanted a woman, the process started. This isn’t to say that the dynamic was always necessarily one sided, but the process of a couple getting married was nothing like it is today. As in that ancient passage of a woman going from one family to another, so the Lord takes the initiative to betroth us to him. And he does it not arbitrarily, but with both righteousness and justice, and love and compassion because he must act according to his nature. And we know this could only have been done in Christ. The end game which he points to here is what we live now:

23 I will plant her for myself in the land;
    I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’;
    and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”

This radical relational reversal, as I’ve called it, comes only from the sovereign saving power of Almighty God. The words just prior to this last verse say that his people “will respond to Jezreel.” And the name Jezreel means “God plants.” Can it be any more clear that salvation from sin is God’s work in the soul of man, not man’s response to God’s work in his soul? The latter only happens when God’s supernatural power raises us spiritually from the dead. Praise the Lord!

 

Hosea 1 – Just and Justifier: God’s Promises Endure Through Judgment

Hosea is the first of the so called “Minor Prophets.” He lived in the 8th century BC, so was a contemporary of Isaiah. It was during the time of the northern kingdom Israel’s downfall and capture by the Assyrians. We read in this first chapter the purpose of his prophetic life is a metaphor for Israel’s unfaithfulness to the Lord:

When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” 

As we’ve seen, being a prophet in ancient Israel was a tough job. Hosea marries a woman named Gomer who bears three children. each named for some message the Lord wants to send to Israel. There is some question whether the children are Hosea’s given Gomer is a “promiscuous woman” (ESV calls her a “woman of whoredom”), but that’s speculation. Here are the names and what the Lord is conveying through each:

  • A son, Jezreel, because the Lord punished the house of Jehu for a massacre at Jezreel, and he will put an end to the kingdom of Israel.
  • A daughter called Lo-Ruhamah, for the Lord will not show love to the house of Israel, that he should at all forgive them.
  • And another son, Lo-Ammi, which means not my people, and the Lord says he is not their God.

I was reminded of something from the most recent White Horse Inn. Some people think “the God of the Old Testament” is harsh, mean, judgmental, etc. But when you think about it, God’s covenant of works, and the promises of blessings and curses associated with it, was maybe 700 years prior to the time of Hosea and Isaiah. I think in most people’s book that would be considered patient. That’s not exactly how a “petulant God” would act.

Even in the midst of God commanding these names upon Hosea’s children, and thus the rebellion of his people, we read these words of promised blessing from the Lord:

Yet I will show love to Judah; and I will save them—not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but I, the Lord their God, will save them.”

and

10 “Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ 11 The people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together; they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.

The promise of “sand on the seashore” points back to Abraham, and specifically this in Genesis 22:

“I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

The words given to Hosea are the same Messianic promise given to Adam and Eve, Noah, the Patriarchs, Moses, and David. It is only through that “one leader” that we can become “children of the living God.” Jesus was the only way that the Lord our God could save us. He had to judge sin to remain just, but how then not to kill us all? He would ingeniously and mercifully pour out his wrath and judgment against our sin on Jesus. As Paul tells us, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Good news, good news indeed!

Daniel 10-12 – Speculation Isn’t Necessary: Jesus Will Reign Forever!

These chapters which end the book of Daniel are a prophecy speculator’s delight, especially chapter 12. Chapters 10 and 11 describe the warring kingdoms that will come in the next several hundred years after Daniel, but chapter 12 is a vision of far off into the future.

Daniel starts chapter 10 with an amazing vision of a man that is almost impossible for him to describe. He was with a group of men, but he was the only one who saw it, and however he was acting it freaked them out and they fled and hid themselves. The man tells Daniel something that all Christians should take to heart:

Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.

To set our hearts means we have a passion, a hunger, a yearning for understanding, which can only be had through a pursuit of knowledge and prayer. We know Daniel knew his Scripture, and I bet he was familiar with Proverbs. The first nine chapters are a long exhortation to pursue wisdom and knowledge above all else. An example from chapter 3:

13 Blessed are those who find wisdom,
    those who gain understanding,
14 for she is more profitable than silver
    and yields better returns than gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies;
    nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
    in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways,
    and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
    those who hold her fast will be blessed.

Then Daniel gets a further peak into an angelic world where Michael, who we know is an archangel, is referred to, and princes of Persia and Greece can detain angels like the one talking to Daniel, and so must themselves be angels. He says of Michael, that he is Daniel’s prince. There is a spiritual reality that we can’t see and of which we have no idea, simpletons that we are. In fact most of us live most of the time as practical materialists, as if the material were all that is. It isn’t.

Chapter 11 is a long recitation of wars to come, which everyone seems to agree eventually ends up with Antiochus Epiphanes, who was also referred to in an earlier vision of Daniel’s. He was not a good man, and many Jews suffered as a result.

Finally chapter 12 gets into future events that very few agree on exactly what they mean. We learn that Michael is the “great prince” of Daniel’s people, and he will “arise.” We’re never told what that means. We assume it has to do with a “great distress” never before seen in the history of the world that is to come. Then we read of a general resurrection of the dead followed by judgment:

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.

I’m pretty sure this is the first reference to a resurrection of the dead in Scripture, and an unequivocal affirmation of eternal life and eternal death. No annihilationism or universalism here.

The book ends with the angel giving Daniel some time frames as to when this will all happen. He mentions “the abomination that causes desolation,” which the dispensationalist pre-mills think refers to a literal Antichrist. Who knows, and really, who cares. We know how it all ends:

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Amen!

Daniel 9 – No Guesswork About What the Lord Accomplished For Us

Chapter 9 is a prayer by Daniel, followed by Gabriel making another visit to interpret an apocalyptic scenario for him. This chapter is a prophetic speculator’s delight, specifically the last four verses. But if we are determined not to lose the forest for the trees, it’s very clear what’s being referred to.

Daniel starts by telling us he’s familiar with Jeremiah’s prophecy that “the desolation of Jerusalem would last 70 years.” He’s telling us this in the first year of Darius’ reign, so Babylon had fallen and the year would be 539 BC. In other words it’s time to go back, for the exiles to be exiled no more. But the promise God made was always contingent on Israel’s repentance, and turning from their wicked ways. So Daniel prays, and he confesses Israel’s sin (and his own), which is why Jerusalem lies desolate. His familiarity with Scripture means he knows exactly why all this has happened. If God’s people are treated according to their works, there will never be hope for the exiles, so he prays thus:

17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”

Daniel mentions Moses twice in the preceding verses, referencing the blessings and curses of the law. The problem with Israel, and us, is that we can never obey the law perfectly, and thus enjoy the promised blessings. If all we have is the covenant of works, we are doomed.

Daniel seems to get that because he’s pleading with God to not treat them as their sin deserves. The problem for Daniel, and any other saint prior to Christ, is on what basis would God be merciful? Why would he forgive one transgression, and not another? Without Christ all you are left with is something like the God of Islam. You hope he’s merciful if you jump through all the right hoops, but you have the sneaking suspicion he won’t be. To us what might be his justice or his mercy seems completely arbitrary.

Thus the elegant beauty of the plan of Almighty God to make Jesus Christ the chief cornerstone of our salvation. No guesswork here:

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Or here:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Or here:

13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.

Of course I could go on, and on, and on. Our salvation, and thus peace with God, is not based on what we do or don’t do, but what God has done for us in Christ! Now that is good news! The peace Isaiah mentions above means God’s wrath has been fully satisfied for us in Christ. He is no longer our judge, jury, and executioner, but our Father who loved us so much he gave up the life of his Son. Nothing arbitrary about that!

When we get to Gabriel’s interpretation of the vision, there is little need to speculate because he tells us what it all means:

24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.

This is exactly what Jesus came to do, so whatever else these verses mean, and whatever the time frame might be, this is the end game, and exactly what Jesus accomplished.

 

 

Daniel 8 – And Truth Was Thrown to the Ground

In this chapter Daniel has another vision, this one of a ram and a goat. The angel Gabriel is sent to Daniel to interpret the vision, which is about kings and kingdoms to come (Media-Persia and Greece). The focus of the vision is a king who will stop the temple sacrifices, and set himself up as the one to be honored in the temple. Most seem to agree that this man is the one referred to:

Antiochus Epiphanes was a Greek king of the Seleucid Empire who reigned over Syria from 175 BC until 164 BC. He is famous for almost conquering Egypt and for his brutal persecution of the Jews, which precipitated the Maccabean revolt. Antiochus Epiphanes was a ruthless and often capricious ruler. He is properly Antiochus IV, but he took upon himself the title “Epiphanes,” which means “illustrious one” or “god manifest.” However, his bizarre and blasphemous behavior earned him another nickname among the Jews: “Epimanes,” which means “mad one.”

The article linked to describes what he did and why it was so horrible. The Lord’s message through Daniel’s vision? That evil, even of this kind, will not be allowed to stand against God and his people. As Gabriel tells Daniel, “he will be destroyed, but not by human hands.” In the Lord’s perfect time, even though there will be suffering, evil will be judged and God’s reign restored.

A part of one verse stands out to me. In verse 12 it says in everything this horn (king) did it prospered, “and truth was thrown to the ground.” I wonder exactly what was in Daniel’s mind as he wrote this. Or, what exactly he was seeing when he wrote it. The Hebrew word translated truth can also mean firmness or faithfulness. I found this commentary, with which most seem to agree:

And it cast down the truth to the ground – The true system of religion, or the true method of worshipping God – represented here as truth in the abstract. So in Isaiah 59:14, it is said: “Truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.” The meaning here is, that the institutions of the true religion would be utterly prostrate. This was fully accomplished by Antiochus. See 1 Macc. 1.

I’ll have to familiarize myself with the intertestimental period and the Maccabees sometime.

I get the sense that the truth thrown to the ground means everything that is right with the world, as if it were a beautiful vase, is thrown down and shattered all over the ground. This king displays a hostility to the truth, or what makes the basic nature of reality real. And nothing is more real, and right, and true than to worship the true and living God. Those who deny that there is truth, such as many do in our post-modern relativistic age, are also denying the God who is the ground and basis of all existence. When we honor truth we honor him. Even those who do not honor him, but honor truth do in some way honor him. Which is why we boldly stand for truth!