Remembering God as God

Posted: May 25, 2017 in Hosea, Uncategorized

Hosea 12-14, “Remembering God as God”

Can a prophecy of judgment have a happy ending?  Yes!  Especially when the grace of God is involved with the people of God, the answer is yes…always yes!  There can be no denying that much of what has been proclaimed in the book of Hosea has been harsh, and more will be seen as things draw to a close.  But what is also undeniable is the magnificent love of God towards His people.  They had forgotten Him, abusing the love & provision He had given them – and yet He still held out to them a future of forgiveness & restoration.  Whatever judgment they would face in the present, they had a God-given promise of healing.  Why?  Because the grace of God is amazing.  It always is.

Remember the background to the book: the northern kingdom of Israel (also known as Ephraim or Samaria) was nearing the end of its independence.  After generation upon generation of idolatrous sin & rebellion against God, the Lord was bringing His judgment down upon them.  Soon, God would bring in the Assyrians as a weapon of His holy wrath, thoroughly punishing the 10 northern tribes for their sin.  They would be all but completely destroyed, mostly bred out of existence by the Assyrians (though a remnant would remain through the centuries).  So thorough would this destruction be, that in the years and centuries following, God’s people would be known as “Jews,” in reference to the southern kingdom of “Judah.”  The northern tribes of Israel were barely known at all (and won’t be, until the days of the Great Tribulation).

For something that intense, can anything good be brought from it?  Yes!  Throughout the book of Hosea, God repeatedly promised to restore His people, knowing that one day they would come to a full knowledge of Him, worshipping Him in truth.  It may take a while, but it was certain – God declared it to be so.

All of this was mirrored in the marriage relationship of Hosea the prophet and his wife, Gomer.  Like Israel, Gomer had been repeatedly unfaithful to her husband, yet Hosea purchased her back in grace, and restored her and her children to a place of faithfulness and purity with him.  This is what God promised to do with Israel.  Although they had acted like they were not His people, having received no mercy from God, being divorced from God – all of this would change.  God would shower them with mercy, restore them as His people, taking the nation back as His betrothed bride.

All of this is emphasized once more as Hosea’s prophecies come to an end.  All through the book, there have been repeated cycles of judgment-to-mercy, and that is seen once more.  After warning the nation of the judgment that was due them because of the things they had sown (they had sown to the wind & would reap the whirlwind), God reiterated His loving heart and compassion towards His people.  His sympathies were stirred for them, and promised to call them back to their land, restoring them to their dwelling places.

At this point, the next (and final) cycle of judgment-to-mercy begins.  Israel had forgotten God, having ignored all of His gracious provision on their behalf.  Yet God had not forgotten them – God knew exactly the relationship He was supposed to have with His people, and yet did not have.  He would do what was necessary to get their attention.  One day, He would have it, and the love of God would flow freely upon them.

We never want to forget God as God!  We have been given grace & blessing…it’s not something to take for granted.  Remember the Lord, and dwell in His grace.

Hosea 12 – Israel forgot God, part 1
11:12 “Ephraim has encircled Me with lies, And the house of Israel with deceit; But Judah still walks with God, Even with the Holy One who is faithful.

  1. Remember that the chapter breaks are not inspired – the Hebrew text actually includes 11:12 with chapter 12, actually being the 1st verse.  It makes more sense in that position, as it’s the first verse of the next cycle of judgment.
  2. Remember as well that although Hosea was primarily a prophet to the northern kingdom, he has occasional words for the southern kingdom of Judah as well.  Here in 11:12, it seems that Judah is seen in a good light, but 12:2 makes it clear that Judah had fault of her own.  The primary observation God makes here is that although many of the same sins were shared by the sister kingdoms, they were on two different timeframes.  At the time that Israel was conquered by Assyria, King Hezekiah reigned on the throne of Judah – one of the best kings in all of Judah’s history.  It was no exaggeration at all for God to declare that Judah was walking with Him in faithfulness.  In fact, God would sovereignly protect Judah from the Assyrian empire in a miraculous fashion, destroying 185,000 soldiers of Sennacherib in a single night. (2 Kings 19:35)  Because Judah was walking with God, God would protect His people according to His covenant promise.
  3. But it wouldn’t always be that way.  Like Israel, Judah would also turn again to sin, facing their own judgment of God – this time, by the hands of the Babylonians.  It’s to this that the prophecy refers, as the English versions of Chapter 12 begin…

1 “Ephraim feeds on the wind, And pursues the east wind; He daily increases lies and desolation. Also they make a covenant with the Assyrians, And oil is carried to Egypt. 2 “The LORD also brings a charge against Judah, And will punish Jacob according to his ways; According to his deeds He will recompense him.

  1. In addition to all of Israel’s instances of idolatry, their lack of trust in the Lord was confirmed by all of their attempts at various alliances.  When facing their enemies, they did not seek out God, as Hezekiah had done.  Instead, they tried political solutions, all of which were futile.
  2. Not that the southern kingdom of Judah was too much better.  They may not have sinned the same way as Israel at the same time as Israel, but they certainly engaged in the same sins at different times.  Thus, God brought a charge against them as well.  The whole Hebrew nation (both northern and southern kingdoms) is guilty and would be punished by God.
  3. How would He do it?  He promised to punish them “according to his ways.”  That’s a frightening thought!  If the wages of sin is death, how much needs to be dealt out for each additional sin?  A single quick death would be too good!  To punish according to our ways would mean an eternity of deaths…which is exactly what hell provides.  It is horrendous, it is terrifying, but it is right.  It is an expression of God’s holy justice. 
    1. This is why we need mercy!  This is why we need the cross!  Jesus endured the full, infinite wrath of God when He hung on the cross & died for us.  Because Jesus is the Son of God, His death fulfilled an eternity of deaths for all mankind – which is why His death is sufficient for you & me.  So we cry out for mercy – we put all our trust in Jesus Christ alone.

3 He took his brother by the heel in the womb, And in his strength he struggled with God. 4 Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed; He wept, and sought favor from Him. He found Him in Bethel, And there He spoke to us—

  1. This is the first of several brief historical recollections, as God basically recounts how Israel became Israel.  The full story is found in Genesis 32:22-32, as it shows Jacob wrestling with the Angel of the Lord the night before Jacob’s return to the Promised Land.  He had schemed and trusted himself his entire life until he was finally forced into a position where he had no other choice than to trust God.  From the womb onward, he struggled – until that night in Bethel.  Finally, Jacob wrestled with the Lord & refused to let go…and that was the moment he came to true faith.
  2. Keep in mind this is exactly what Israel did not do.  They weren’t wrestling with the Lord; they were wrestling against His will for them.  They did not want to cling to God; they had no desire to hold to God at all.  They turned away from their national foundation, and they were about to experience all of the consequences that came with that.
    1. Cling to God!  Take hold of Jesus, and don’t let go.  He doesn’t let go of you, so don’t you let go of Him.
  3. To whom did Jacob cling?  The Angel of the Lord – the pre-incarnate Jesus – the Lord God Himself.  Vs. 5…

5 That is, the LORD God of hosts. The LORD is His memorable name.

  1. Interestingly, on the night Jacob wrestled with God, Jacob asked God His name & received no answer. (Gen 32:39)  This goes to demonstrate the further blessing that the nation of Israel had received, even beyond what their ancestor had.  God had not revealed His name to Jacob, but Israel later knew it.  They had a greater revelation of God in their lives, yet they still despised the Lord.
  2. Literally: “And YHWH God of Sabaoth/Armies.  YHWH, His memorial/remembrance.”  The ever-existent I AM is God of all the heavenly armies.  “I AM” is the name He has given us to remember Him.  Again, the whole idea here is the grace of revelation.  Israel did not merely know just any god, or one of many gods; Israel knew (and was known by) THE God – the Everlasting All-powerful Mighty God.  This was the God who revealed Himself to the nation. And this was the God they chose to forget.
    1. Remember the name of your God!  Keep Jesus ever before you, praying at all times in the Spirit.  We have received even greater revelation than Israel – cherish it!
  3. In light of that, what were they supposed to do?  Repent!  Vs. 6…

6 So you, by the help of your God, return; Observe mercy and justice, And wait on your God continually.

  1. They needed to repent – to return to God.  It needed to take place spiritually, “by the help of your God,” for they were unable to do it on their own.  It was to take place practically, as they “observe mercy and justice,” living out their lives as people called to be the people of God.  It was to take place devotionally, as they were to “wait on your God continually,” seeking Him in prayer and worship.  IOW, every bit of their lives was to be affected through repentance.  This wasn’t a call for lip-service & religious motions; this was a call to a life-change – a true turning back to God.
    1. If that doesn’t describe repentance in your life, you need to ask yourself if you’ve really repented.  Turning to God is far more than praying a “sinner’s prayer” – it’s a dedication of our lives to Jesus as our Lord & Savior.

7 “A cunning Canaanite! Deceitful scales are in his hand; He loves to oppress. 8 And Ephraim said, ‘Surely I have become rich, I have found wealth for myself; In all my labors They shall find in me no iniquity that is sin.’

  1. This sort of attitude was the very thing Israel had been warned of.  Deuteronomy 8:11-20 spoke of the day where the Hebrews would get cocky, taking credit for the blessings of the Promised Land.  God knew that they were self-righteous, thinking they could accomplish everything on their own, enriching themselves without the help of the Lord.  So God warned them…which they promptly ignored.  (Just like us!)
  2. The bottom line is that they had forgotten God.  Well, God hadn’t forgotten them!  Vs. 9…

9 “But I am the LORD your God, Ever since the land of Egypt; I will again make you dwell in tents, As in the days of the appointed feast. 10 I have also spoken by the prophets, And have multiplied visions; I have given symbols through the witness of the prophets.”

  1. God was still God, and He was still sovereign over Israel.  Just as He brought them out of Egypt into the Promised Land, He could take them out again. 
  2. This was no rash decision.  God warned them about this repeatedly through the prophets. …

11 Though Gilead has idols— Surely they are vanity— Though they sacrifice bulls in Gilgal, Indeed their altars shall be heaps in the furrows of the field.

  1. They had trusted idols, but their idols were useless.  Soon they would be tossed aside.  Sadly, this isn’t so much a prophecy of their future repentance as it is a prophecy of the destruction of the kingdom.  The pagan altars weren’t going to be destroyed by the Israelites experiencing revival; they’d be reduced to rubble due to the warfare in the land.
  2. A bit of word-play & alliteration in Hebrew.  Gilead (גִּלְעָ֥ד ), Gilgal (גִּלְגָּ֖ל ), Heaps (גַלִּ֔ים ).  The idea is one of ruins or even a heap of stones upon a grave.  Interestingly, there’s only a slight bit of difference between “heap of stones” and “human feces.”  The words are differentiated only by their vowels (which the original Hebrew text did not contain).  This doesn’t argue for a different translation, but it certainly is a strong indication of what God thinks of idolatry!

12 Jacob fled to the country of Syria; Israel served for a spouse, And for a wife he tended sheep. 13 By a prophet the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt, And by a prophet he was preserved.

  1. More historical reminders.  (1) God made Israel a nation.  Although it was Jacob’s scheming that forced him to flee to Syria, it was there that he met his wives, and fathered his 12 sons.  All of it was due to the provision of God.  Israel (as a nation) would not exist apart from the graciousness of God.  (2) God gave Israel a home.  The people had been enslaved 400 years in Egypt, finally ruled over by a Pharaoh seeking their destruction.  There’s no way Israel could have survived apart from the Lord God, and God did it.  Not only did God bring them out of slavery, He brought them out rich, having plundered the Egyptians on their way. (3) God gave Israel protection.  For 40 years, the nation wandered through the wilderness, led by Moses.  They could have been picked off by other nations larger than them – they weren’t.  They could have starved – they didn’t.  They could have had their provisions run out – they didn’t.  Their preservation was by the gracious hand of God.  He had been truly evident in their lives.
  2. How did Israel thank God for all these things?  They despised Him, provoking Him to wrath. Vs. 14…

14 Ephraim provoked Him to anger most bitterly; Therefore his Lord will leave the guilt of his bloodshed upon him, And return his reproach upon him.

  1. Time after time, Israel engaged in idolatry.  They sought other gods, acted in unrighteousness, and became just like the pagan nations surrounding them.  Despite the provision of God for them, they provoked Him with their sin.
  2. How many times can someone provoke God and think nothing will happen?  Sooner or later, there will be consequences.  (With them & with us!)

Hosea 13 – Israel forgot God, part 2
1 When Ephraim spoke, trembling, He exalted himself in Israel; But when he offended through Baal worship, he died.

  1. Ephraim” is normally another name of Israel, but contextually here it seems to refer to the individual tribe.  Ephraim was one of the largest tribes in the northern kingdom, providing many of its kings.  Ephraim may have been powerful among his brethren, but he was weak before God.  His idolatry brought only death.
  2. Too bad it didn’t stop, vs. 2…

2 Now they sin more and more, And have made for themselves molded images, Idols of their silver, according to their skill; All of it is the work of craftsmen. They say of them, “Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves!” 3 Therefore they shall be like the morning cloud And like the early dew that passes away, Like chaff blown off from a threshing floor And like smoke from a chimney.

  1. The people multiplied their idolatry, getting deeper & deeper into sin.  Not only did they make more & more images, but they acted more & more ridiculous.  They engaged in every pagan ritual they saw, modeling themselves after the world around them rather than the word of God that had been given to them.
  2. Thus they would be wasted.  Not only was all of their “religious” acts wasted time, but they themselves would be blown away by the judgment of God.  That’s the whole idea of vs. 3: it’s filled with all kinds of images of fleeting things. There’s nothing of substance – nothing that will last.
    1. That’s what sin is: fleeting pleasures with eternal consequences.

4 “Yet I am the LORD your God Ever since the land of Egypt, And you shall know no God but Me; For there is no savior besides Me.

  1. Reiteration of 12:9, the first clause actually being the exact same wording.  Again, God never forgot His people.  He knew precisely the terms of their covenant, and He would act in accordance with it.
  2. Even with the general background of judgment, there’s still a plea for repentance in it.  God was their God, and their only God.  They had no hope at all without Him.  Salvation does not exist without Him.  It can only be found in the Lord.  (That hasn’t changed!)
  3. God gives an example of His deliverance/salvation & provision in vs. 5…

5 I knew you in the wilderness, In the land of great drought. 6 When they had pasture, they were filled; They were filled and their heart was exalted; Therefore they forgot Me.

  1. Again, there’s a reminder of how God intervened in their history.  For 40 years, God provided for their every need.  Yet they still forgot.  They still turned aside from God.
  2. Keep in mind, all this happened when times were good (relatively speaking).  It’s not that they Israelites didn’t struggle along the way – they had many trials & tests of faith.  Yet from a broader perspective, they had everything going for them.  For a time, the entire nation of Israel could visibly see the manifestation of God’s glory on a daily basis as His cloud led them through the wilderness.  Once the Israelites finally got to the Promised Land, there was no doubt that God alone gave it to them.  Things had gone extremely well for Israel!  It’s not as if God had hidden Himself from them, or had held back His blessings.  But they still forgot. 
    1. Do we forget God when things are going well?  What will it take for us to remember?

7 “So I will be to them like a lion; Like a leopard by the road I will lurk; 8 I will meet them like a bear deprived of her cubs; I will tear open their rib cage, And there I will devour them like a lion. The wild beast shall tear them.

  1. Terrible truth!  God promised to ambush them in fury.  Like a wild animal, He would tear them limb from limb.  It’s graphic & it’s awful – but it was fully deserved.
  2. But, that’s not all…

9 “O Israel, you are destroyed, But your help is from Me.

  1. Israel would be destroyed by God, but they would also be healed by God.  He would be the One to help them.  It’s like the surgeon who has to perform life-saving emergency open heart surgery.  He/she cracks open a person’s chest – an act that would normally kill someone, being incredibly traumatic.  Yet that same surgeon performs the operation, heals the wound, and helps the person live again.  There’s a similar idea here, though combined with God’s righteous wrath.  Yes, God would rip open the nation & bring them to death & destruction – but He was also their help & their healer.  He would kill, but He would bring life.  There was destruction in the future for Israel, but there was also restoration…but only when they were in a right relationship with the Lord God.
  2. He would also be the One to lead them. Vs. 10…

10 I will be your King; Where is any other, That he may save you in all your cities? And your judges to whom you said, ‘Give me a king and princes’? 11 I gave you a king in My anger, And took him away in My wrath.

  1. God Almighty is their true ruler & king.  In the past, He gave them other kings because they asked for them (and God took them away, too), but originally they had been led by God Himself.
    1. That’s the way it will be in the future kingdom as Jesus sits on the throne of David.  God Himself will be their King!
  2. That’s for the future.  In the present, their sin was building.  Vs. 12…

12 “The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; His sin is stored up. 13 The sorrows of a woman in childbirth shall come upon him. He is an unwise son, For he should not stay long where children are born.

  1. The nation was pregnant with sin & iniquity.  They were ready to burst.  The consequences of their sin would come violently forth, and it wouldn’t be pretty.
  2. What they needed was help – and that’s what God promised to give.  Vs. 14…

14 “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction! Pity is hidden from My eyes.

  1. Commentaries are split as to how this ought to be translated & interpreted.  Because of the overall context of judgment, some believe this should not be read so much as a promise of grace, but as a question of how much God should allow the people to be disciplined. The idea might be “Shall I redeem them from the power of the grave?  Shall I redeem them from death?”  Yet, there’s some question about the grammatical basis for that interpretation, which is why most English translations (apart from NASB) have it like the NKJV.  Contextually, there’s really no problem with a quick jump to a promise of mercy – that sort of quick back & forth has been rather common in the book of Hosea.  And, considering the way Paul uses a translated version of this verse in 1 Corinthians 15:54-55, it would seem he saw this as merciful & victorious, rather than foreboding.
  2. No matter how bad His people sinned against Him, God is more powerful than their sin.  No matter how much they had incurred a death sentence against themselves, God is bigger than death.  All they needed to do was to turn to Him in faith, and live.
    1. This is the promise we have in Jesus! 
  3. It’s a brief look into God’s mercy, but Chapter 13 concludes with a reiteration of the certain judgment that faced the nation.  Vs. 15…

15 Though he is fruitful among his brethren, An east wind shall come; The wind of the LORD shall come up from the wilderness. Then his spring shall become dry, And his fountain shall be dried up. He shall plunder the treasury of every desirable prize. 16 Samaria is held guilty, For she has rebelled against her God. They shall fall by the sword, Their infants shall be dashed in pieces, And their women with child ripped open.

  1. Just as vss. 7-8 told of a violent destruction of the nation, it’s reemphasized here again in vss. 15-16.  Israel may have been “fruitful” and prosperous at the time, but it wouldn’t last.  The wrath-filled wind of God would soon blow, and the kingdom would be decimated.
  2. Is it a big difference from the promises of God’s victory over death?  Sure…and for good reason.  Vss. 15-16 is what Israel (and we) deserves.  Vs. 14 is what we receive in Christ.  Vss. 15-16 is justice; vs. 14 is grace.

That’s a lot of judgment!  But that’s not how the book of prophecy ends.  It concludes with an appeal to repentance and a promise of restoration.

Hosea 14 – Israel will remember God
1 O Israel, return to the LORD your God, For you have stumbled because of your iniquity; 2 Take words with you, And return to the LORD. …

  1. Here’s the plea: turn around – come back!  This is what repentance is: a turning – a change.  Remember from 12:6, repentance is a dedication of our lives unto God, and that’s what Hosea once more implores Israel to do.  Basically saying, “Come back from the sinful place you’re in!  The only thing your sin is accomplishing is your downfall.  Come back to the Lord – the door is wide open!”
    1. That same invitation is open to anyone stuck & stumbling in sin.  Return to the Lord!  Come back to the One who called you by His grace.
  2. How to do it?  Hosea gives them a prayer…

…Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity; Receive us graciously, For we will offer the sacrifices of our lips. 3 Assyria shall not save us, We will not ride on horses, Nor will we say anymore to the work of our hands, ‘You are our gods.’ For in You the fatherless finds mercy.”

  1. Summarize the requests.  “Forgive us our sin.”  The first thing we need is forgiveness.  Our sin stand between us & God, and must first be resolved before we can move on to anything else.  Thankfully, the promise is clear that if we confess our sin through Jesus Christ, God is faithful to forgive us & to cleanse us. (1 Jn 1:9)  He will take away our iniquity & receive us in His grace and love.
  2. “We will praise You.”  This is the “sacrifices of our lips.”  Their hearts would turn toward the Lord in praise & devotion.  Through their songs & prayers, they would proclaim the praises of God.
    1. Repentant people are people ready to praise God.  Sure, there is godly sorrow for the moment, but when forgiveness is granted, praise erupts!
  3. “We will trust You.”  For so long, Israel had depended upon themselves, but no longer.  They were to declare their trust in God – the one who had always provided for them.
    1. Repentant people are people who trust God.  After all, He is our only hope for forgiveness.  If we can trust Him for that, we can trust Him for everything else!
  4. “We will worship You.” Not only had Israel trusted themselves for decades, they worshipped every god but God for as long (or longer).  Now their worship was to solely be in the their true God, their covenant-keeping God – the God they knew by His memorial name.
    1. Repentant people are worshipful people.  It’s not just our lips that praise God, it’s our lives.  Everything that we are is dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ, living for His glory.
  5. “You are good.”  God is the merciful God, giving His love and compassion to the orphan…and we’re it.  We had orphaned ourselves away from God in our sin, and He still extended His merciful compassion to us.  God gives His forgiveness to the rebellious.  He is good.
    1. Repentant people know, trust, and declare the goodness of God.  We are amazed at His nature, ever-astounded by His grace.
  6. That’s a great model for prayer!  When you pray, ask for forgiveness, then declare your praise, trust, and worship of God, while you acknowledge His goodness.  (You’ll never be at a loss for words!)
  7. This is a prayer that God answers.  Vs. 4…

4 “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from him.

  1. God will heal.  He will bring them back from the edge of apostasy.  He will restore them as His people, bringing them back into His covenant graces.
  2. God will love.  It would be enough for God simply to turn from His wrath, but He promises so much more than that.  He will freely love His people!  Those who were once His enemies, He will embrace as His family.
  3. God will forgive.  Instead of pouring out His anger upon those who deserve it, God turns it away.  He releases them from their debt against Him, allowing them to be fully restored back to their relationship.
  4. All of this is what God does with us through Christ!  Praise the Lord!
  5. There’s one more promise: God will bless.  Vs. 5…

5 I will be like the dew to Israel; He shall grow like the lily, And lengthen his roots like Lebanon. 6 His branches shall spread; His beauty shall be like an olive tree, And his fragrance like Lebanon. 7 Those who dwell under his shadow shall return; They shall be revived like grain, And grow like a vine. Their scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

  1. God promised to strengthen the nation.  Though the kingdom had shrunk dramatically (to the point of being non-existent), it would grow once again.  It would experience blessing and vitality in their miraculous restoration.  (We have to acknowledge it as a miracle, for how else would this be possible?)
  2. Not only would the kingdom be restored, but so would their reputation.  They would be a blessing to the other nations of the world.  They will “dwell under his shadow” – a certain picture of the Millennial Kingdom to come.

8 “Ephraim shall say, ‘What have I to do anymore with idols?’ I have heard and observed him. I am like a green cypress tree; Your fruit is found in Me.”

  1. Finally, after all that time, Israel will be done with idols.  Their only provision is found in the Lord God, and they will (at long last) acknowledge Him as such.
  2. The only sad part is how long it will take!  Even today, Israel does not yet truly follow the Lord God in faith, because they reject Jesus as Messiah.  It could even be said that many in Israel still are idolaters, for they worship a God of their own making, from the traditions passed through the centuries. 
    1. Don’t wait too long!  Make the decision now to be done with sin.

9 Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right; The righteous walk in them, But transgressors stumble in them.

  1. The conclusion.  Pay attention!  Know the Lord – walk in His ways.

Conclusion:
The promises of God towards His people were so wonderful!  All they needed to do was turn to Him in true repentance & faith.  They needed to remember their God. 

Of course, that’s exactly what they did not do.  They had forgotten the Lord, having turned away from Him.  Despite all of His gracious provision for them through the centuries – His personal intervention on their behalf – they shut their eyes to the things God had done, and chose to go their own way in sin & idolatry.  They had acted every bit of the unfaithful spouse, just as Gomer had done to her husband Hosea.

Was God right to judge them?  Absolutely – no question about it.  All of the many prophecies of the coming Assyrian invasion were well-deserved, as are all expressions of God’s divine justice.  But what makes Hosea’s prophecies so wonderful is that this wasn’t all the Lord God promised.  God didn’t only promise judgment; He promised mercy – He promised restoration – He promised healing.  That is what the Israelites will experience when they finally turn to God in true remembrance and faith.

Beloved, this is what we experience through Jesus right now!  We don’t wait for the eventual outpouring of God’s mercies; we live in them!  Every single thing spoken to Israel in judgment is something we ourselves deserve, but it is something that Jesus already endured for us.  Now we live in the blessings of those who actually know the Lord.  Right now, we have God’s mercy, His restoration, and His healing.  Praise God!

Perhaps the question is whether or not we’re walking in those mercies.  Like Israel, we also have personally seen the provision of the Lord God on our behalf.  Every single born-again believer in Jesus Christ has had a person experience with the Living God.  You know God is God…do you walk as if you do?  Do you walk as if you remember Jesus, or if you’ve forgotten Him?

All of us have days we act as if we don’t know Him.  There are moments that pop up in our lives where we shut our eyes to the cross of Christ & shut our ears to the pleading of the Holy Spirit.  Be careful those days don’t become the norm.  Where God makes you aware of those things, confess them to Him, turning back to the Lord in true repentance.  He’s made His forgiveness freely available through Jesus – all we need to do is ask.

May every day be a day where we strive to remember the Lord!  May we be the wise & prudent ones warned by Hosea to walk in the ways of our Lord, ever-mindful of the grace of Jesus.

Division and Discernment

Posted: May 21, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 12:49-59, “Division & Discernment”

For all that people know about Jesus, there are still times He can surprise us.  Some of what Jesus says in this text seems so much the opposite of what we generally think of Him.  Jesus will bring fire and division?!  Jesus calls the multitudes (rather than the Pharisees) hypocrites?!  Whatever happened to the meek & mild Jesus?  Whatever happened to the gracious, forgiving Jesus?

He hasn’t gone anywhere.  This is all still Him.  Remember that Jesus isn’t one-dimensional.  Just because He showed grace to the lost, openly invited people to come to Him in faith, and offered the forgiveness of God to the unlovable (and more!) doesn’t mean that it was out of character for Jesus to proclaim God’s judgment.  This isn’t evidence of a split-personality; it is simply a fuller picture of our Lord.

Besides, who says warnings of judgment are unloving?  If a friend screams at you to get out of the road, it’s not because he hates you; it’s because he loves you & doesn’t want to see you flattened by a Mack truck hurtling down the street.  If God warns us of His judgment, it’s because He doesn’t want us to experience it.  He loves us, and wants us to be ready for that day.

That was the case here.  Some of the things said by Jesus may seem harsh, but they are necessary for us to know.  There were all kinds of people following Him around, but they hadn’t yet come to faith.  They were in the presence of Jesus, witnessed the miracles of Jesus, but had not yet discerned who He was.  It was time for a wake-up call, and that is exactly what Jesus provided.

Contextually, Luke had been writing about Jesus among the multitudes, in the process of His trip to Jerusalem.  He had encountered all kinds of issues with Pharisees along the way, calling them out for their hypocrisy & warning them (along with everyone else) of the need to be ready for the judgment of God.  All people will be called to give an account to our Creator, and we need to be ready for that day.  We trust Him & His provision for us, but we always keep our judgment in mind, in order to be ready.

It’s with all that said that Jesus says what might seem to be surprising things.  Actually, they shouldn’t be surprising at all.  If we need to be ready for judgment, then it’s only right for Jesus to speak of the urgency of it.  We’ll need to prioritize our lives regarding the things that truly matter, which might include some uncomfortable division along the way.  But most of all, we just need to do what it take to be ready.  There’s nothing more important that we will face then when we look Jesus in the eye.  Be wise & be ready!

Luke 12:49–59

  • Division guaranteed (49-53)

49 “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!

  • There is a “fire” and a “baptism.”  This isn’t necessarily (or likely) a reference to the baptism of fire, as John the Baptist prophesied of Jesus. (Mt 3:11)  These are two different & distinct events, though linked together by the work of Jesus.
  • First, Jesus “came to send fire on the earth.”  What kind of fire?  Fire can be symbolic of several things: holiness, God’s work of purification, etc. – but it is probably most often refers to judgment.  Fire was essential to the Hebrew offerings made to the Lord – the day of the Lord is described as a day of fire – Hell is described as having a lake of fire – Sodom and Gomorrah were consumed by fire & brimstone, etc.  So Jesus says that He came to bring the fire of judgment upon the earth, and He wished that it had already begun.
    • Question #1: How is this reconciled with John 3:17, where it is said that the Son was not sent to condemn the world?  Simple: this is the difference between the 1st and 2nd Advents.  The first time Jesus came to the world, it was to offer grace, forgiveness, and salvation.  The second time Jesus comes, it will be to bring judgment & wrath, as the fullness of His kingdom is seen upon the earth.  This is a crucial distinction in Jesus’ ministry, and it will be seen again in vs. 51.
    • Question #2: If this is indeed a reference to the judgment of God at Jesus’ 2nd Coming, why was Jesus so eager to see it already kindled & underway?  Didn’t Jesus want to see people get saved?  Of course!  God’s desire is for none to perish, but for all to come to repentance, which is one reason why Jesus had not returned already. (2 Pet 3:9)  Jesus most certainly wants people to be saved!  (All people…even you!)  That said, the Son of God still wants to see the eternal plan of God fulfilled.  The sooner His judgment comes, the sooner we move to the kingdom, and then to the eternal state.  The sooner His judgment comes, the sooner it will be that every creature in heaven & on earth sees Him as God & glorifies Him as such.  We should want to see that day soon!  Marantha!  Come, Lord Jesus!
      • But it means we ought to be ready!  That’s the point that Jesus will drive home.
  • Second, Jesus also had a “baptism to be baptized with,” something else He was determined to see done.  Many English translations use the language of being “distressed,” which can possibly give the wrong impression.  It wasn’t that Jesus was overly stressed out about this, dreading the moment until it happened.  The word speaks of seizing, grabbing hold of, constraining, controlling.  It could be said (especially in context) that Jesus was consumed with this coming baptism.  This was the thought that held His holy attention.  This was His singular focus.
  • What was it?  The cross.  This baptism was not a baptism of water.  That, He had already received through the ministry of John the Baptist at the outset of His ministry.  This was a baptism of suffering.  Jesus spoke of this baptism to James & John, as their mother tried to jockey for their prominent position in Jesus’ future kingdom.  He asked them if they were able to be baptized with the baptism that He was about to receive. (Mt 20:22)  They lied, saying yes, not really having a clue as to what would be involved.  Jesus affirmed that they would indeed suffer, but all of this only served to emphasize the servant role of Jesus.  Yes, He is the King, but He was about to suffer tremendously – for their sakes, and for ours. … But this was His baptism.  It was a cup of suffering at the cross, and He endured it willingly for you & me.
  • Like the fire, He wanted it done.  He was constrained by it until it was accomplished / completed / finished.  It would be!  What was it that Jesus declared from the cross?  “It is finished!” τετελεσται – the same root word used here (τελέω).  Jesus wasn’t going to stop until the work was done, and He did it.  The work of salvation is finished – guaranteed by the suffering & sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
    • What does this mean for us?  There is no more to do!  After you put your faith & trust in Jesus as the Son of God for the forgiveness of sins, you can’t make yourself any more saved than you already are.  You cannot add to your spiritual birth – you cannot make yourself any more a child of God than what Jesus already did.  It is finished!  Obviously, this doesn’t leave us an excuse to do nothing – we never come to a point in this life of sinless perfection.  We still strive to walk worthy of the calling with which we were called.  But the work of justification is done!  Jesus has made us right in the sight of God, and not a single thing we do can change or add to that.  So…stop trying to save yourself!  If you trust Christ, then trust Him.  Rely upon Him & His work to save you.  He is the one who justifies us, so we can stop trying to justify ourselves.

51 Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.

  • This sounds strange!  How can Jesus say that He did not come to “give peace on earth”?  Isaiah prophetically called Him the “Prince of Peace,” (Isa 9:6) – the angels announced His birth with a proclamation of peace (Lk 2:14) – Paul writes how Jesus is our peace, reconciling Jew & Gentile into one Church body & also reconciling the Church to God (Eph 2:14-17).  A huge part of Jesus’ ministry is to grant us peace where we had none.  We were at enmity against God (Rom 8:7), but now we have been reconciled, given grace & peace through Jesus Christ our Lord.  So again: how can Jesus claim He did not come to “give peace”?  Answer: it all depends on what type of peace is in mind.  Between God & man, Jesus certainly gives peace.  In fact, apart from faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, we have no other way to be made at peace with God.  He is our only hope.  Also, between Jew & Gentile in the Church, again, Jesus gives peace.  Only in Christ can former enemies be made brothers & sisters.  Rich & poor, slave & free, male & female, we are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28), because He creates peace and a loving bond between us.
  • What Jesus does not give is earthly peace…at least, not yet.  Earthly peace was not Jesus’ mission at His first coming, though it was what many expected of Him.  At that time, Jesus did not come to set up an earthly kingdom & establish a worldwide peace.  But He will!  When Jesus comes back, that is exactly what He will do!  Jesus will be given all the nations as an inheritance, and they will serve Him as He rules over them. (Ps 2:8)  During that time, the peace of Christ will be so tangible that even wolves and lambs will feed together in quietness. (Isa 65:25)  Satan will be imprisoned for 1000 years (Rev 20:2-3), and for the first time since the Garden of Eden, there will be true peace on earth.  It will be glorious, tangible peace!
    • But that’s all future; it isn’t today.  We need to be careful to remember which of Jesus’ promises are for today, and which are for the future.  Those who come to faith in Christ expecting Him to make their current lives better in the present are likely to be disappointed.  Don’t misunderstand!  Yes, our lives are better when we serve Jesus – after all, we’re finally living life in the way that we were created to live it.  How could it not be better when we have a real relationship with the Living God, and we are filled with the actual presence of God the Holy Spirit?  It is wonderful to be a born-again believer in Christ – there is nothing like it in all the world!  BUT…that doesn’t necessarily equate to health, wealth, and prosperity in the present.  Our earthly problems don’t magically disappear the moment we come to faith.  We still have difficult relationships – we still have money problems – we still get sick, see warfare in this world, etc.  Will Jesus solve these things?  Yes!  But those are promises for the future kingdom; not for today.
    • With that in mind, what do we do for today?  We don’t look for the absence of problems; we look for the presence of Jesus in the midst of them.  One of the crucial differences between a born-again Christian & an unbeliever is that although we all still face the same difficulties, we don’t face them alone.  We don’t face them with only the help and advice of other men, which isn’t really any help at all.  At mankind’s best, it is well-intentioned – usually it’s empty – at its worst, it is downright harmful.  Instead, Christians face the same earthly problems with the God who created the heavens and the earth.  We face them with the power of the Holy Spirit, and the truth of God’s holy word.  So do we have problems?  Without question.  But we also have Jesus…so hold to Him!
  • In the present, Jesus said He wasn’t bringing peace, but “division.”  Interestingly, this is the only time this Greek word is used in the New Testament, and it seems to be a variant of another word that could speak of either division or distribution.  With this word, there’s no question.  It is division/disunity.  IOW, there’s no room here for an alternative interpretation, as if Jesus’ words could somehow be explained away.  He meant exactly what He said, and it was preserved for us by Luke (via the Holy Spirit) that Jesus spoke of outright division.  Considering how often Jesus spoke of the need for unity (particularly among His church, Jn 17), this is striking!  How could Jesus come for the purpose of disunity?  The answer is actually found in the objection.  We object because Jesus prayed for unity in the church; here, Jesus isn’t speaking of the church.  Jesus is speaking of the division of the church from the world.  Remember that the basic meaning of the Greek word translated “church” (εκκλησια) is “called-out ones.”  We have been called out from among the world, called out to be with Christ, because of our faith in Him.  Thus, we are different.  It’s not just that we are to act different (though we should!); we are different.  We are born of the Spirit – we have a new nature, having been made new creations – we are the aroma of Christ – we are the light of the world & the salt of the earth.  We are the sons & daughters of God, and that fundamentally makes us different than others around us.  Thus, Jesus divides us from them.  That was part of His purpose: to set us apart, drawing us to Himself, gathering us together as His body.  If Jesus didn’t divide us from the world, we would still be part of the world…we’d still be lost & unsaved!  So should be grateful that Jesus came to divide?  Absolutely, yes!
    • The problem for the Christian doesn’t arise because Jesus divides us from the world; the problem arises when the Christian still lives as if he/she is part of this world.  We need to be divided – we need to be separate!  That’s not to say that we become snobs & push other people aside. (Heaven forbid!)  But there certainly ought to be a visible difference between us & the rest of the world.  What does it say about our salvation, if someone could look at us beyond just a glance & not be able to tell whether or not we’re a Christian?  Think about it: How long does it take you to distinguish a cadaver from a living person?  That’s the difference between the lost & the saved!  Apart from Christ, people are dead in transgressions, and they live as if they’re dead to God, not knowing Him…because they don’t.  But someone who has been made alive by Christ, born of the Holy Spirit – there ought to be a difference!  There ought to be a visible distinction!
    • Ask yourself: is there?  Take time this morning to do a bit of self-assessment.  If someone got a glimpse of your regular day throughout the week, would they be able to know you’re a believer, even without you saying a word?  What in your life would reflect back upon the work of Jesus within you?  May God help us reflect more of Him & less of us!
  • This division even takes place within the family.  Vs. 52…

52 For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. 53 Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

  • Name the family relationship, and people will be divided over Jesus.  This is just the way it is.  As close as fathers & sons may be, when they are split in their faith, they will be divided against one another.  Likewise with mothers & daughters, in-laws with in-laws, and every other family relationship imaginable.  Testimony after testimony could be given of children who come to faith that are later ostracized or even disowned by their unbelieving parents.  In some cultures, some parents have gone so far as to attempt to murder their children for leaving the previous faith of the family.
  • But again – that’s just the way it is.  As much as the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation, it also clearly divides those who believe from those who do not.  Family relationships can be forever changed by the gospel.  As drastic as that is, Jesus is worth it.  Jesus explicitly makes that point later on in the gospel of Luke: Luke 14:26, "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple."  Does this negate the 5th Commandment to honor your father & mother?  Of course not – but it does put things into perspective.  Our standing with Jesus is more important than our standing with our parents…far more important!  Our relationship with Jesus is of infinite value, because our entire eternity rests upon it.  So in a way, we “hate” our parents, at least in comparison with our love for Christ.  A similar point is made here.  Should the case arise where a choice needs to be made between Jesus & our families, we should choose Jesus every time.  Adherence to the gospel brings division – there’s no two ways around it.  The Bible says that Jesus is a stone of stumbling & rock of offense (1 Pet 2:8) – when homes are divided in their faith, we have to expect loved ones to be divided from us.
  • Question: Does this mean we are to cut ourselves off from them?  Absolutely not!  To be sure, there are some cases that are more extreme than others.  Where there is abuse and/or other physical danger (which is a very real issue in some parts of the world), Christians should seek safety.  Neither should we as Christians condone sin, even though it may be done by the people we love the most.  But as much as possible, where we can reach across the divide with the gospel, we should.  Who better to share the truth of Jesus with, than your own family members?  They may not want to hear it, and they may divide themselves from us, but we can still reach out with love and grace and the gospel.
  • So Jesus spoke of the judgment He would bring upon the earth, as well as the division that would come as people made the decision whether or not to follow Him in faith.  In light of the judgment, that decision needed to be made sooner, rather than later.  People needed to discern the times – something they currently weren’t doing.  Vs. 54…
  • Discernment lacking (54-59)

54 Then He also said to the multitudes, “Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is. 55 And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is.

  • In 33AD, people didn’t have the luxury of instantaneous weather radars available on cell phones.  (For that matter, we didn’t have immediate access to those sorts of apps and smartphones until 10 years ago!  The 1st iPhone was released in June 2007.)  When most of us were younger, we at least had meteorologists on TV & radio to give us a weather report – earlier generations didn’t have that much.  They had to look at the sky, be aware of trends and patterns, and make their forecasts based on their best guesses.  That’s what Jesus points out here.  These were weather patterns specific to the topography of ancient Judea, and fairly reliable indicators of what forecasts could be expected.  For economies primarily based on agriculture, weather plays an important role, so it’s no surprise people got pretty good at the guessing game.  They could read the weather.
  • That’s all well & good, but there were more important signs to read.  Vs. 56…

56 Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?

  • What could be more important than a downpour or a heatwave?  Judgment Day.  Jesus calls the multitudes “hypocrites,” in much the same way that He called the scribes & the Pharisees hypocrites regarding their religious practices. The scribes & Pharisees majored on the minors and missed out on the majors.  They got stuck on enforcing legalistic traditions, rather than pointing people to the true heart of God.  They made their outsides look good & pious, but they were inwardly dead. (Mt 23)  It wasn’t much different with the crowds.  They were able to discern little things, but they couldn’t see the bigger picture.  They could forecast the weather & prepare their crops for what was about to come, but they couldn’t see the times around them & prepare themselves for Judgment Day.  They couldn’t discern the signs of the time, nor understand the urgency of the moment, and prepare themselves to see their Creator God.
  • That’s a big problem!  After all, of the few things in life that are absolutely guaranteed, one of them is the certainty of facing Almighty God.  People often say that there are two things guaranteed in life: death & taxes (not necessarily in that order), but the third is divine judgment.  The Bible makes this perfectly clear.  Hebrews 9:27, "And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment."  There is an appointment already made for every single man & woman on earth, though we don’t know when it will be.  And if you’re not ready, it is a big problem indeed!
    • How do you know if you’re ready?  There’s only one way to be certain: place your faith & trust in Jesus Christ for salvation.  He is the way, the truth, and the life – no one comes to the Father except through Him. (Jn 14:6)  God sent Jesus to the world so that whoever believes upon Him might have eternal life. (Jn 3:16)  Should we confess Jesus as Lord, and sincerely believe upon Him in our hearts, we can be sure we will be saved. (Rom 10:9)  You will never be ready based on how often you show up at church, how much money you put in the box, what kind of good person you believe that you are, etc. – the only way is to turn to Jesus in faith & trust Him as your Lord.
    • If you’ve done that, praise God!  But even Christians still need to be ready.  Luke 12 has been full of Jesus’ teaching about the judgment that even born-again believers will face.  We will give an account to our Lord for the things done in the body, and we want to live in such a way that we are ready.  Thankfully, we do not fear losing our salvation – but we certainly don’t want to lose out on any reward.
  • Question: Why did Jesus chastise the multitudes for not discerning the time, if He wasn’t going to be coming back for 2000+ years?  The Bible is full of all kinds of teaching that Jesus’ return is imminent, but it hasn’t happened yet.  Is it all a bunch of false alarms?  No. (1) Jesus had every right to chastise the multitudes standing in front of them for their lack of discernment.  After all, they couldn’t even discern their Messiah right there among them.  They had all kinds of reasons to put their faith in Jesus right then & there, and most of them hadn’t done it.  Their lack of discernment was evident!  (2)  Jesus still was right to warn them of the coming judgment, because they truly weren’t ready.  That much is clear from their lack of faith.  If Jesus had shown Himself in His power & glory for judgment at the time, they would have all been destroyed.  (3) The judgment of God is not something that is reserved merely for the day of Jesus’ arrival at Armageddon.  However far off in the future that may be (whether it is this afternoon, in 20 years, or longer), the very moment we die we will face God for judgment.  The second your heart stops beating & your brain stops functioning is the second you’re looking Jesus in the eye.  If we cannot discern the need to be ready, we are lacking in wisdom indeed!
  • With that in mind, was it still possible for people to look around at the world and see the signs of judgment?  Is it possible for people to “discern this time”?  Yes.  While it’s true that some prophecy teaching can be rather far-fetched (playing the “pin the tail on the Antichrist” game), much prophecy is quite clear in the pages of Scripture.  There are certain things in the world that we can see as definite indicators that Jesus’ return is very soon.
    • The existence of a modern state of Israel.  Simply that Israel exists is a reason to get ourselves ready for Jesus!  The nation of Israel is prominently featured in all end-times prophecy, yet for nearly 1880 years it did not exist.  That all changed in 1948, and much of the focus of the entire world has been upon Israel ever since.
    • Closer ties between Iran (Persia) and Russia.  Many Bible teachers have seen Ezekiel’s prophecy concerning the war of Gog & Magog against Israel (Ezekiel 38-39) as having the primary players being Russia & Iran.  For years, this was seen as impossible, (1) due to the crumbling of the Soviet Union, and (2) the historic mistrust between Russia & Iran in general.  All that has changed.  Russia has become a global power once again, and relations between the two nations have rarely been better.  From the May 20, 2017 edition of the Times of Israel paper, “Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on his re-election Saturday, calling for deeper ties between Moscow and Tehran.”  While it’s true that political alliances rise & fall, this is an alliance that calls attention to itself.
    • The pervasiveness of false doctrine within the church.  Paul wrote specifically about this issue, tying it precisely with the end-times: 1 Timothy 4:1–3, "(1) Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, (2) speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, (3) forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth."  He went on in his 2nd letter to Timothy, warning of people who seemed to be Christians heaping up teachers for themselves to satisfy their itching ears. (2 Tim 4:3)  So much of this false doctrine & other teaching like it runs rampant through both formal & informal churches.
    • Is this a comprehensive list?  No…but it ought to be enough to get us thinking!  We have reason to look around & start analyzing the times in which we live.  We have much reason to be ready to see Jesus!

57 “Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right?

  • The people didn’t just lack discernment; they lacked wisdom.  Because they didn’t understand the imminent nature of God’s judgment, they didn’t understand the need to prepare themselves to face His judgment.  That’s why Jesus said they didn’t “judge what is right.”  Not only did they not judge what was righteous & just, but they didn’t judge the right thing to do.  Jesus goes on to give a practical example…

58 When you go with your adversary to the magistrate, make every effort along the way to settle with him, lest he drag you to the judge, the judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. 59 I tell you, you shall not depart from there till you have paid the very last mite.”

  • On the face of it, this seems pretty simple & straightforward.  If you’ve got someone with a legal case against you, it’s best to settle out of court than to risk the harsher punishment doled out by the judge.  We want to be reconciled with our brothers, even doing what it takes to be reconciled with our enemies, rather than face a stricter judgment from which there is no escape.
  • It’d be easy to leave it at that, and some commentators do so.  But that misses the broader context and the more important point that Jesus makes.  This isn’t simply free legal advice – it’s not even a mere proverbial teaching on how to act according to wisdom as we live among men.  What has been the whole context leading up to this point?  The judgment of God.  So what’s the idea here?  It’s also the judgment of God.  Perhaps it’s better to think of this as a parable, rather than a proverb.  There is a specific point made by Jesus: be reconciled!  Understand the dire need that you face, and do what it takes to be reconciled prior to judgment.  That has far less to do with interpersonal relationships than it does with eternal salvation!  We need to understand our dire need to be reconciled with God, and we need to get it done before we face Him for judgment – because when we do, it’ll be too late to do anything about it.
  • Does God drag us to judgment?  No.  Be careful not to make this an allegory, looking for a parallel on every point.  It’s not necessarily a straightforward parable, though it is certainly to one.  The main idea is clear: we have terribly offended God through our sin, and we are deserving of judgment.  Thus we need to take the opportunity we have now to settle with Him, because there will come a point when that opportunity is lost.  If it’s important to settle out of court with an earthly adversary, how much more with Almighty God?  There ought to be a sense of urgency here.  We need to be forgiven, and now is the only chance we have to receive forgiveness.  Why would anyone push it off & procrastinate?
    • Yet that’s what so many people do!  They push it off & push it off, saying, “Next year, I’ll get right with God…  As soon as I get through this mess, I’ll go to God… I’ll just enjoy this period of time, and then I’ll go back to Him…”  They find all kinds of excuses as to why they can’t do it right here & right now, and sooner or later they find they’re out of time.  Car accidents don’t schedule appointments with us.  Heart attacks don’t check our calendars before hitting.  Jesus certainly will not clear it with us before He returns.  If you’re putting off getting reconciled with God, the only person you’re fooling is yourself.  Hospital ICU units are filled with people who thought they had more time, only to learn differently.
    • Don’t put it off!  And don’t think that you can make yourself “right with God.”  There is only one who can: the Lord Jesus.  The only thing you can “do” is to turn away from your sins & trust Him as Lord, and that’s not an action so much as it is a response to Jesus.  But that’s not something you can afford to put off.  Do it today.
  • BTW – in the lesson/parable, Jesus told of an adversary who would accuse the person before the judge.  As Christians, we do have someone who accuses us (Satan), but we also have Someone who stands in our defense!  Jesus Christ the righteous is our Advocate (1 Jn 2:1), and there is none better!  He truly did pay every last penny of our debt, when He shed His blood for us at the cross.  Praise God for our Advocate!

Conclusion:
Put it all together, and what does Jesus say?  He speaks of His work to be done, both at the cross & the future judgment.  People would need to choose sides, having enough common sense to understand what was going on around them & the wisdom to start making preparations.  From that perspective, what Jesus says isn’t unusual for Him at all.  It’s basically the same message He preached from the very beginning of His ministry: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Mt 4:17)

Are you ready?  Have you made your preparations?  It might mean some separation from the world – it might entail being divided from friends and family.  Jesus is worth it!  Once we know the truth of Jesus, how can we possibly give it up just to maintain the “status quo” with others?  Sometimes we say, “I just don’t want the relationship to change – I don’t want to rock the boat.  They’re offended by God & religion, so why bring it up?”  Because there’s nothing more important!  The status quo for an unbeliever is an eternity of hell.  By all means, rock that boat!  They need to know the difference that comes with a born-again believer in Jesus…and if that brings division, so be it.

As for us, we want to ensure that our own accounts with the Lord are clean.  We can look around at world & our culture & understand the times in which we’re living.  It ought to be clear that our world doesn’t have much time left before Jesus calls the church home in the rapture & the Great Tribulation begins.  At the very least, we need to be mindful of our own mortality, knowing that any one of us could be looking at Jesus by lunchtime.  So be ready! 

Hosea 10-11, “Consequences and Compassion”

We call it “the law of unintended consequences.”  It is what happens as a result of one action that was totally unforeseen when another action was taken.  Sometimes this can be good, such as how sunken ships often create coral reefs, benefitting the ocean environment.  Other times, it can be bad, as when the kudzu plant was introduced to the southeastern USA, and subsequently took over vast swaths of land.  Examples can also be found in modern warfare, with far more tragic results.  These are things that were unforeseen originally, but it doesn’t mean that all of these things were unavoidable.  Sometimes, a little more research and planning (and openness, particularly in bills debated by Congress) would uncover some potential consequences.  And in those cases, if people would simply heed the advice they received, some consequences could be avoided altogether.

Such was the case with Israel.  They were in the middle of receiving a slew of unintended consequences as a result of their years of idolatry and rebellion against God.  Chronologically speaking, they were at the tail end of their history as an independent kingdom, on the verge of being conquered & assimilated by the vast Assyrian empire.  And according to God, it was their own actions that brought them to this point.  This was their consequence, unintended as though it may have been.

It was unintentional, but it wasn’t unavoidable.  If the northern kingdom had simply listened to God, humbled themselves in repentance, and knew God in true fear & worship, they would have experienced something totally different.  Yet it wasn’t to be.  They (like us) doubled-down on stubbornness and stupidity, and charged headlong to the very place they did not want to be: slavery.  It was the simple consequence of their actions – they would reap what they had sown.

That said, don’t think for a moment that this did not grieve the heart of God.  It did!  He loved His people, and the last thing He wanted for them was suffering, slavery, and death.  They brought this upon themselves, but God desired so much better for them.  He wanted them to know Him in spirit & truth, to worship Him in sincerity, and to live in a right relationship with Him…just like He desires the same thing from each of us.

The issue comes down to a matter of choice: are we going to listen to ourselves, or will we listen to God?  If we choose to ignore God & His word while proceeded headstrong into our own preferences, then we can expect to experience all the consequences that come from it – whether these things are foreseen by us, or not.  How much better it is when we make the choice to listen to our Lord God!  He loves us, and we can trust His will for us.  As we look forward to what He has planned for us in the future, we can walk with Him in humility and repentance today.

Hosea 10 – Israel’s consequences

  • From prosperity to poison (1-4)

1 Israel empties his vine; He brings forth fruit for himself. According to the multitude of his fruit He has increased the altars; According to the bounty of his land They have embellished his sacred pillars.

  • Alternate translation of vs. 1: “Israel is a luxuriant vine” (NASB, ESV).  The Hebrew word in use is a homonym with multiple definitions, context being the key to translation.  The ancient Greek and Latin translations each render it according to idea of luxury, lushness, fruitfulness.  Even so, the KJV/NKJV translations still work.  After all, a vine must first be fruitful, if it is to be emptied.  The whole idea here is one of prosperity.  There was a time that the northern kingdom of Israel was doing quite well for itself.  Sure, they were in sin & rebellion against God, but they were still prosperous.  They had their share of political problems, but they still experienced some times of economic boom & wealth.
    • Note: that didn’t mean that they were blessed or favored by God.  Quite the opposite: Hosea was in the middle of pronouncing God’s judgment against them!  We need to get past the idea that wealth = God’s blessing/favor.  We have a tendency to tie too much together with relative peace or material prosperity.  When things are going well for our nation, we think ourselves “blessed” & when we struggle, we wonder about being “judged.”  No – that’s using the wrong standard.  The standard for whether or not we are blessed or judged by God is faithfulness to Christ; not temporary circumstances.  If Paul judged his standing with the Lord Jesus solely by his circumstances, he might have easily thought himself punished!  His life was in constant danger – he often lived in poverty – his message was rejected by untold numbers of Jews, etc.  Yet Paul certainly considered himself blessed!  Even when Jesus purposefully allowed Paul to suffer, Paul still considered himself blessed.  2 Corinthians 12:9–10, "(9) And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (10) Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong."  For Paul, the sign of blessing wasn’t whether or not his circumstances were good or bad; it was whether or not he was in Christ.  As long as Jesus could be magnified through him, that was enough.
    • Likewise for us.  We need to stop looking at American political trends, economic indicators, and our personal health records or bank accounts to determine God’s blessing.  Instead, we need to look to Christ, ensuring that we are walking with Him in the power of the Spirit.  If we are doing that, we are blessed indeed!
  • How can we know Israel was not blessed in the midst of her prosperity?  Just look at what she did with her wealth.  Israel “increased the altars” of false gods, and erected sacred “pillars” for idols.  Instead of going to Jerusalem to the one altar of God that was acceptable, Israel forsook the true God to go after the false.  Thus all her wealth did her no good.

2 Their heart is divided; Now they are held guilty. He will break down their altars; He will ruin their sacred pillars.

  • The time had come for judgment.  The heart of Israel was divided, false, faithless, devious, or deceitful, depending which translation you read.  Any one of those ideas is accurate, the word again being a homonym that could be translated a number of ways.  But contextually, none of the ways are good!  All of them signify a heart that has turned away from the Lord God, either unable or unwilling to worship Him alone in truth.
  • Thus God would act.  All of the altars they had multiplied & pillars they had built would be brought to nothing.  God would ensure their destruction as judgment came upon the nations.
    • God doesn’t share worship space.  He doesn’t take second place to anyone or anything.  He is either worshipped by us, or He’s not.  At this particular point in Israel’s history, they tried a bit of worship-by-buffet, thinking they could pick & choose whatever they wanted to worship when they wanted to worship.  At times it was the Baals, and other times it was at least lip-service to God.  That’s not the way true worship works.  In real worship, we recognize God as God.  There’s a reason that the 10 Commandments begin with God’s declaration that He is the Lord, and that Israel should have no other gods before Him. (Exo 20:2-3)  There are no other gods but Him, and He will not compete for attention.
    • This is one reason it’s such a problem when we engage in idolatry of our own.  When we erect false ideas of God in our minds, or when we worship our jobs or families or hobbies on the same level of God, we’re not just putting Him in second place; we’re not giving Him a place.  As Jesus said, no one can serve two masters (Mt 6:24) – we either worship God alone, or we’re not worshipping Him at all.
  • Yet that was exactly what Israel did.  They despised God in their worship, and they despised the covenant they had made with Him.  Vs. 3…

3 For now they say, “We have no king, Because we did not fear the LORD. And as for a king, what would he do for us?” 4 They have spoken words, Swearing falsely in making a covenant. Thus judgment springs up like hemlock in the furrows of the field.

  • At the time of Hosea’s prophecy, the nation did have a king…but they wouldn’t have one for long.  Soon, Assyria would come in, take the nation into slavery, and the Israelites would experience all of the consequences that came with disobeying the covenant they had originally made with God.  They didn’t fear God in worship, they didn’t obey a godly king when they had one, and they rejected their previous covenant commitment.
  • Their faithlessness to God produced one thing: poison.  They sowed the poison of their sin into the ground, and poisonous weeds (“hemlock”) sprung up all around them in the form of national judgment.  The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23) – this is something that Israel would learn firsthand.
  • The futility of idolatry (5-8)

5 The inhabitants of Samaria fear Because of the calf of Beth Aven. For its people mourn for it, And its priests shriek for it— Because its glory has departed from it. 6 The idol also shall be carried to Assyria As a present for King Jareb. Ephraim shall receive shame, And Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel.

  • A couple of reminders of identifications: “Beth Aven” = Bethel (house of idolatry vs. house of God), seen earlier in 4:15 & 5:8.  “King Jareb” = likely the king of Assyria, seen in 5:13.
  • The idea here is that the famous idols of Jeroboam (one of which was set up in Bethel) had failed Israel and was taken captive along with the nation.  Just like the real glory of God would soon depart from the real temple of God in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 10), so did the false glory of the false idol depart from the people, as it was shown to be ineffective and void.  What would Israel receive as a result?  “Shame.
  • Idols always lead to shame.  Anything we worship other than the true God is always going to disappoint us.  We worship pleasures, but pleasures are fleeting.  We worship wealth, but wealth is empty and unfulfilling.  We worship self, and find it to be an illusion.  All of it brings shame.  Even if we lie to ourselves in the present, it will be impossible to do so at the final judgment.  What idol can truly be fulfilling to us when we see God face to face?  The only one worthy of our worship is Almighty God.  Only when we worship Him will we find we are not put to shame.  He’s the only one who gives real peace, lasting joy, eternal salvation.  There is no shame in the name of Jesus!

7 As for Samaria, her king is cut off Like a twig on the water. 8 Also the high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, Shall be destroyed. The thorn and thistle shall grow on their altars; They shall say to the mountains, “Cover us!” And to the hills, “Fall on us!”

  • All in Israel were judged.  Israel’s/Samaria’s king was to be “cut off,” destroyed as easily as a twig floating on water’s surface.  The idolatrous places within Israel would be destroyed.  Desolation and waste would come to the land – God’s judgment upon His people for how they had rejected Him.
  • The things spoken of regarding the northern kingdom in that day will be repeated later on by those who endure the Great Tribulation to come.  Jesus specifically quoted Hosea to the women mourning over His torturous road to the cross.  Luke 23:28–30, "(28) But Jesus, turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. (29) For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ (30) Then they will begin ‘to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” ’" The people who live to see the day of the wrath of God will want to find shelter even in rockslides, so horrible it will be.  John seems to write of the fulfillment of these events during the beginning days of the Great Tribulation, as the sixth seal is opened: Revelation 6:15–17, "(15) And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, (16) and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! (17) For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”"  What makes rocks preferable to God’s wrath?  It’s God!  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God. (Heb 10:31)  When a person comes to grips with the fact that every single sinful thought, word, and deed will be measured next to the infinite perfection of the Righteous God, that ought to send a tremor down one’s spine.  Without help, without covering, we’re doomed.
    • But because of Christ, we’re not!  No one has to experience the judgment of God!  This is exactly what Jesus offers to save us from.  He gives us His help – He covers us in His righteousness.  For a born-again Christian, the thought of seeing our Lord is not terrifying; it’s tremendous!  We have received the grace of Jesus, and now we have no need to run to the hills.  We just run to Him.
  • Israel to be bound (9-11)

9 “O Israel, you have sinned from the days of Gibeah; There they stood. The battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity Did not overtake them.

  • Gibeah had been mentioned in 9:9 in reference to the scope of Israel’s sin, and the point is re-emphasized here.  Judges 19-20 recounts the story of the Levite’s raped & murdered concubine & the civil war against the Benjaminites, which followed.
  • The point?  Israel had not improved since those days.  They were just as sinful as they had ever been.  Although they should have learned from past mistakes, they didn’t.  Like a dog returning to its vomit, so did Israel return to their sin.
    • Not that we’re much better, sad to say.  Sometimes it seems that we never learn.  Praise God for the grace of Jesus!  Without Him, we’d have no hope.
    • BTW – it is possible to break the cycle of repeated sin.  How?  Again, through the grace of Jesus!  When we remain humbly dependent upon Him, ever-mindful of His love and grace towards us, then we’ll find that we don’t even look to the sin which once attracted us.  The more we look to Jesus, the less we look to the lusts of the flesh.  Look to Jesus – be continually filled with the Spirit – walk in freedom from sin.
  • Of course, Israel had not done this – that was what God pointed out in His comparison with Gibeah.  Thus, God’s judgment was certain to fall.  Vs. 10…

10 When it is My desire, I will chasten them. Peoples shall be gathered against them When I bind them for their two transgressions. 11 Ephraim is a trained heifer That loves to thresh grain; But I harnessed her fair neck, I will make Ephraim pull a plow. Judah shall plow; Jacob shall break his clods.”

  • Verse 10 can be a bit misleading.  It wasn’t God’s “desire” to chasten/punish His people.  His desire was for their repentance (as is seen in verse 12).  The idea here is that the timing of Israel’s judgment wasn’t up to Israel; it was up to God.  He would punish them when and how He saw fit to do so.  God disciplines in His time & in His way.  It was only His mercy that gave them plenty of warning & plenty of opportunity to repent.
  • God even tells Israel how they would be judged: slavery.  Likening the nation to livestock that once roamed freely, it would now be “harnessed,” and both Israel and Judah would be forced to serve (i.e. pulling a “plow”).  Each of the nations would be forced into slavery, though at different times to different empires.  But it would happen, no doubt.
    • Remember from last week: sin leads to slavery.  Israel would have to learn this lesson firsthand.
  • Again, that wasn’t God’s desire for them.  His desire was for their repentance…
  • Appeal for repentance (12)

12 Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.

  • If the principle of sowing/reaping is true, then what we sow makes a huge difference in what we reap.  Israel had chosen their sowing poorly in the past (as vs. 13 makes clear), but this is what they should have done.  They could have sown “righteousness,” obeying the Lord, caring for the orphan & widow, serving the Lord God in truth and sincerity.  If they had, they would have reaped “mercy,” lovingkindness, the loyal love of God. (חֶ֔סֶד )
  • What did they need to do it?  (1) Brokenness – humility. “Break up your fallow ground.”  Fallow ground is ground needing to be tilled, to be broken up in order to be ready for planting.  That’s what Israel needed to do among themselves: be broken.  Their hearts had become hard, and unable to receive the instruction of God.  Thus they needed to be broken up, becoming the good soil of which Jesus spoke in His parable. (Mt 13)  (2) A desire to “seek the LORD.”  Actually, this goes hand-in-hand with the first.  A person who softens his/her heart to the Lord is someone ready to seek the Lord – but it still takes intention.  A person can humble him/herself from pride and never actually seek God (though the reverse is never true).  We don’t humble ourselves and do nothing, as if we should empty our minds and never fill them again.  No – humble AND seek.  Humble yourself in order to seek Jesus.  You won’t find God in pride, because God resists the proud.  But He gives grace to the humble.  That’s when we find the Lord.
  • What would be the result if they did?  God would “rain righteousness” down upon them!  That which they sowed, they would receive.  God would give it to them in abundance.  They would live as righteous people of God, glorifying the righteous God, being in a right relationship with Him.  This is what God desired for them – all they needed to do was to humble themselves in humble repentance.
  • Sadly, although this was their invitation, this is not what they did…
  • The harvest of wickedness (13-15)

13 You have plowed wickedness; You have reaped iniquity. You have eaten the fruit of lies, Because you trusted in your own way, In the multitude of your mighty men. 14 Therefore tumult shall arise among your people, And all your fortresses shall be plundered As Shalman plundered Beth Arbel in the day of battle— A mother dashed in pieces upon her children.

  • They sowed sin, and reaped judgment.  They lied to themselves & lied to others.  They trusted themselves instead of God.  Their hope was “in the multitude of [their] mighty men,” rather in the power of the Almighty God.
  • Thus their downfall would come from themselves, or at least from the same sort of “mighty men” they had trusted.  Armies would invade the land, and they would be lost, experiencing terrible physical destruction within the land.

15 Thus it shall be done to you, O Bethel, Because of your great wickedness. At dawn the king of Israel Shall be cut off utterly.

  • Why had it all come?  They brought the judgment upon themselves.  “Because of your great wickedness…
  • Question: Is this all a big “I told you so” by God? No.  Considering the judgment that was about to fall on Israel, it was only right for God to tell them both what they would experience, and why they would experience it.  Just like the accused has the right to know the crime of which he is accused, so Israel needed to know the reason for their judgment.

Remember, that it didn’t have to be this way.  These things were the consequences of their actions, surely unintended – but God had so much more for them.  His desire for them was so much greater, which is what Chapter 11 goes on to emphasize.

Hosea 11

  • God’s past love unrequited (1-4)

1 “When Israel was a child, I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son.

  • This statement actually has two fulfillments.  Fulfillment #1: Israel at the Passover.  When God sent Moses to bring Israel out of Egyptian slavery, it was as if God Himself was calling His lost son back home.
  • Fulfillment #2: Jesus after His birth.  This is specifically told us in Scripture: Matthew 2:14–15, "(14) When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, (15) and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”"  How does Jesus fulfill the prophecy?  Jesus is the Better-than-Israel – Jesus (in many ways) is to God what Israel ought always to have been.  Jesus is the obedient one, the worshiping one, the praying one, the humble one.  Jesus is the fulfillment of the covenants made to Abraham, Moses, and David.  All of the promises of God are “yes & amen” in Christ Jesus, and so many of the prophecies given to the nation find their ultimate fulfillment in Christ.
    • Which fulfillment is correct?  Both.  It is not uncommon for prophecies to have dual-fulfillment.  We cannot always determine this in advance, but hindsight makes some of them perfectly clear.  Our best guide is Scripture.  When the Bible shows clearly dual-fulfillment (as with Jesus being the Son of David & Solomon being the Son of David – as with Jesus & Israel both called out of Egypt, etc.), then we are on safe ground.
  • That all said, don’t miss the forest for the trees.  What an amazing love God had for His people!  Not only did He use family language relating husband to wife, but He used the language of father to son (just like He does with us).  God loved His son, and He called His son out of Egypt.  The Lord God did not see Israel as His slave (though he was), nor just as a friend (though he was) – God saw Israel as a son, just like He sees us through Christ.  We have been given the spirit of adoption to where we can call God our Abba, Father (Rom 8:15) – we have given the right to be the children of God (Jn 1:12) – we have been made joint-heirs with Jesus because we are true sons & daughters of God! (Rom 8:17)  He loves us, and He loves us as His children, for so we are.
  • How was this love returned to God?  It wasn’t…

2 As they called them, So they went from them; They sacrificed to the Baals, And burned incense to carved images.

  • This was how Israel repaid God.  He gave them everything; they gave Him nothing but idolatry.  He taught them how to worship, but “they sacrificed to the Baals.”  He gave them a temple where they could burn incense, but they chose to offer their incense “to carved images.”  Have you ever had a gift so despised by the recipient that it was as if they spit in your face?  Such was the case with Israel and God.
    • Be careful it’s not the same with you & me!  Treasure the gifts given you – value the grace of Jesus – worship in spirit & truth – pray always with thanksgiving, giving glory to God.

3 “I taught Ephraim to walk, Taking them by their arms; But they did not know that I healed them. 4 I drew them with gentle cords, With bands of love, And I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them.

  • Such compassion!  Such personal interaction!  The Hebrew actually emphasizes God’s personal work here, “I Myself taught Ephraim…”  God didn’t outsource it to an angel; He got personally involved.  Again, this is the love of God in action.
  • The language here is so amazing.  There’s such gentleness, love, and compassion.  No matter if the picture is of a father to son, or of a gentle farmer to his beloved livestock, God cared for His people in wonderful ways.
  • All of this was unknown by Israel.  Or rather, they knew it, but ignored it.
  • Result of apostasy: slavery (5-7)

5 “He shall not return to the land of Egypt; But the Assyrian shall be his king, Because they refused to repent. 6 And the sword shall slash in his cities, Devour his districts, And consume them, Because of their own counsels.

  • Remember that Egypt had been a general picture of slavery – it is specified here.  Israel was about to go once more into bondage, but not in the land of Egypt; in the land of Assyria.
  • Why? “Because they refused to repent.”  They had the invitation to humble themselves, break up the fallow ground of their hearts and seek God – but they didn’t do it.  They “refused” to do it.    This was not a misunderstanding or lack of awareness; this was an outright refusal to turn towards their God & King.  They didn’t want the Lord, so they would receive a different ruler, one who would not love them as their God had done.
  • They had conspired among themselves, but their own counsel backfired against them.  They thought they knew better than God, and they found out differently. (The plans of men will always be inferior to the plans of God…always!)

7 My people are bent on backsliding from Me. Though they call to the Most High, None at all exalt Him.

  • To say that the people were “bent on backsliding” is to say that they were hung up on apostasy.  It emphasizes their refusal.  They were bound & determined to sin against God, to reject Him & turn away from Him.  They might call upon Him with their lips as “the Most High,” but God knew the state of their hearts.  They did not truly intend to “exalt Him;” they wanted to turn away from Him & run the other direction.
    • Ever know someone like this?  Ever be someone like this?  Running away from God never solves anything.  Why do people do it so often?  Fear – shame – sheer willfulness.  We want our ways to be the best ways, when they so rarely are.  What we need is submission to God, a full-fledged trust of Him.  What we’ll find is that He truly does know best. 
  • Again, all of this judgment and consequence wasn’t what God wanted for His people.  He didn’t want them running away from Him; He wanted them running to Him.  He loved them & wanted the best for them.  Vs. 8…
  • God’s present love: sympathy (8)

8 “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboiim? My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred.

  • Incredible compassion!  It tore God up to think of His people’s destruction.  They deserved the full onslaught of God’s wrath against them.  They deserved to be wiped off the face of the earth like the ancient cities of Admah & Zeboiim, cities such as Sodom & Gomorrah, erased from history.  That’s what they deserved, but God didn’t want to do it.  His heart (poetically speaking) was turning over in His chest, stirring His sympathies for His beloved people.  They deserved infinite judgment; God desired to show them mercy.
  • This is His same desire with us!  This is the gospel of Jesus!  What we deserve is utter destruction, an eternity filled with nothing but the torments of hell.  We deserve eon upon eon of regret, pain, and sorrow, for all of the ways we have sinned against the God who loved us, knew us, created us, and gave us life.  But God didn’t want that for us.  His heart was churned for us, and His sympathy stirred for us – and that is why He sent Jesus.  He doesn’t want us to be handed over to sin & death; He wants to receive us for life & eternity!  Praise God that through Christ, we can.
  • God’s future love, promised (9-11)

9 I will not execute the fierceness of My anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim. For I am God, and not man, The Holy One in your midst; And I will not come with terror.

  • Although at first glance, it would seem that God turned from His judgment of Israel, we know that Assyria did indeed invade the land & conquer the northern kingdom.  So how can God’s promise of mercy be true?  Because this is what He will do in the future.
  • Actually, there was an element of it that was true in the present.  In a sense, God did notexecute the fierceness of [His] anger,” at least, not fully.  If He had, Israel would not have been enslaved by Assyria; they would have been completely destroyed.  God had allowed other nations to be erased from history – He could easily have done the same with Israel.  But He didn’t.  He certainly judged them in His wrath, but He didn’t let the fullness of it fall upon them.
  • Even more than that, it is evident that this is a future promise from the 2nd line: “I will not again destroy Ephraim.”  He will not turn back in the future to destroy them.  What was accomplished was accomplished – no more was necessary.
  • How could Israel be certain of the promise?  Because God was the one who made it!  He isn’t a man – He isn’t double-minded and deceitful like us.  (Hallelujah!)  He is the “Holy One,” and though they needed to fear Him in worship, He would not come to terrorize them with judgment.
  • How will Israel react in that future day?  They will follow Him in faith!  Vs. 10…

10 “They shall walk after the LORD. He will roar like a lion. When He roars, Then His sons shall come trembling from the west; 11 They shall come trembling like a bird from Egypt, Like a dove from the land of Assyria. And I will let them dwell in their houses,” Says the LORD.

  • God will call His people back from slavery, and they will return from every corner of the world to the land of Israel, as they dwell in their land.
  • Some of this can be seen in this present day with the restoration of the nation of Israel.  Now we wait & pray for the day that they see Jesus in faith as their Messiah!

12 “Ephraim has encircled Me with lies, And the house of Israel with deceit; But Judah still walks with God, Even with the Holy One who is faithful.

  • In the Hebrew text, verse 12 is actually included as the 1st verse of chapter 12.  Remember that chapter breaks are not inspired, and different manuscripts follow different traditions.  English translations typically follow the example of the Latin Vulgate on this particular chapter break, although for what reason the Vulgate differs from the Greek LXX, I do not know.

Conclusion:
The love God had for Israel was amazing!  Just imagine what they could have experienced if they hadn’t rejected Him to go follow after idols – if they hadn’t chosen to live in rebellion and sin.  They had an open invitation back to Him through repentance and humility, but God wasn’t going to make the choice for them.  They needed to do it themselves.  Otherwise, they faced dire consequences, reaping the things that they had sown for themselves.

These words were written to Israel, but they are preserved not only for Israel, but for us.  We can learn from their mistakes!  Be careful that you don’t try to force God into second-place – be careful that you don’t engage in buffet-style worship, picking a little bit of everything to form a God & religion of your own making.  Most of all, don’t fight against the love of God!  He has done so much for you & for me, if we would but open our eyes to see it.  He has cared for us, provided for us, showered us with compassion & grace, all through the Lord Jesus Christ.

So love Him!  Worship Him – serve Him – know Him.  Where your heart has been hardened, break it up, humble yourself, and seek the Lord & His kingdom.  If that is what we are sowing, the harvest we will receive will be unimaginable!

Be Wise; Be Ready

Posted: May 7, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 12:35-48, “Be Wise; Be Ready”

An amazing feat happened in the world of running yesterday: someone came within 25 seconds of breaking the 2-hour barrier on the marathon.  Currently, the official world-record for the men’s marathon is 2:02:57, set by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya at the 2014 Berlin Marathon.  Early yesterday morning, Eliud Kipchoge (also of Kenya) ran 2:00:25 at Nike’s Breaking2 event, where they set up a “moon-shot” attempt to see what might be possible with the right athletes, the right technology, and the right conditions.  Although the barrier wasn’t broken, history was made, and no doubt someone will soon succeed in the future (perhaps at Adidas’ own sub2 event, date TBA).

Not everyone thought it was possible, some predicting flat-out failure with all the athletes “bonking” and producing sub-par performances, even under “normal” conditions.  Others obviously had hope.  Eliud Kipchoge was one of them, and took concrete actions to prove it.  It’s one thing to talk about possibilities; it’s another to take the steps necessary to bring them to fruition.  People can talk all they want, but at some point, the rubber has to meet the road.

A similar thing is true in regards to our faith.  Do we really believe what we say we believe?  If we did, our actions ought to reflect the things we say.  Take Jesus’ return, for example.  People say all the time that they believe Jesus is coming back, but do they really believe it?  They do, if they ensure that the rubber meets the road.  They do, if they actually prepare themselves for Jesus’ return, and live every day as if that day might be THE day.  That’s true faith, and it’s also true wisdom.  After all, if we really can see Jesus at any time, then it would be prudent for us to get ready.

Wise Christians are Christians ready to see Christ.

This was the point Jesus drove home with the disciples as He continued speaking with them through the events of Luke 12.  Jesus had mentioned the idea of a personal judgment from God already, originally in the context of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, but also in the process of telling the Parable of the Rich Fool.  That parable was primarily designed to point out the sin of selfishness and greed, particularly to a man who had brought Jesus into a family dispute regarding his inheritance.  To him, Jesus told the story of a rich landowner who made many preparations for his future years on earth, but none for eternity.  This man was going to see God for judgment, and he wasn’t ready.  He had laid up treasure for himself, but none towards God.

Jesus followed that up with an exhortation to the disciples to have the right perspective: an eternal one.  The material things of this world didn’t need to consume them or stress them out – they could trust that they belonged to God & that God would care for them.  Their ultimate home is the kingdom of heaven, and that is where their (and our) treasure needed to be.

Jesus apparently continued speaking at this point (Luke does not indicate a break of any sort), and it would seem that the subject changed – but it hadn’t.  All that really happened is that Jesus went back to the idea of judgment, and being ready to see God.  By believing in Jesus, the disciples had already taken the first steps towards building treasure in heaven – now they needed to be encouraged to keep at it.  Their eternity was certain, but work still needed to be done.  They needed to be ready to see God at any time, for they could be called before Him at any time.

It’s no different with us.  Whether by death or by rapture, any one of us could look into the eyes of our Lord Jesus at any moment.  Not a one of us is guaranteed another heartbeat.  Would we be ready to see Him today?  If we truly believe we can see Him at any time, are we living as if we might?  Does the rubber of our faith meet the road of reality?

Luke 12:35–48

  • Parable #1: The Ready Servant (35-40)

35 “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; 36 and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately.

  • What does it look like to wait for Jesus?  It looks like servants who are ready to respond at a moment’s notice.  We don’t often use words like “girded” anymore, so it’s no wonder many other English translations say something like “be dressed in readiness” (NASB) or “stay dressed for action” (ESV).  Yet the literal wording is as the KJV/NKJV, and it paints a very specific picture of a man hiking up his robes/tunic through the middle of his legs & tucking in the excess cloth through his belt.  It’s as if he fashions some make-shift pants, clothing uncommon in the ancient near-east.  The benefit is that it makes it easier to run.  There’s a reason marathoners aren’t clothed in full-length tunics: they’d trip up pretty quick!  Instead, they wear clothing that allows for maximum amount of movement.  For ancient near-eastern cultures, the way to do it was to gird up their loins – to hike up their robes to be ready to run.
  • Not only were their waists to be girded, but their lamps were to be lit.  Remember that these weren’t flashlights that could be turned on with the click of a button – these were oil-filled lamps, lit much like candles.  Thus, these needed to be oiled-up and lit, already in use.  Lighting it might not take long (especially in a culture that used them daily), but during a time when every second counts, it was better to have them already lit.
  • Why all the preparation?  They were waiting for their master.  Their master (literally “lord,” but in a non-divine sense) was away at a wedding, and they didn’t know the precise moment of his return.  When he came knocking at the door, he wouldn’t want to wait in the dark streets waiting for his servants to finally come shuffling to the door half-asleep.  They wouldn’t want to open the door to their master in a manner that caused him to wait while they got their stuff together.  These house-servants wanted to be ready at a moment’s notice to open the door to their master.  The moment he knocked, they wanted to immediately respond.
  • “Great illustration!  So what’s the parallel to us?”  Remember that with parables, we’re not looking for point-by-point parallels; we’re looking for the main point.  Obviously Jesus doesn’t use the word “parable” here to describe this scenario, but from vs. 41 it’s clear that Peter thought of it in this way.  So we don’t really need to look for a line-by-line type/antitype with the girding, the lamps, the opening, etc.; we just need to look for the main point.  What’s the main point?  Readiness.  These servants actively waited for their master, expecting him to come at any time, and they were ready to respond at any time.
    • Have you ever been in a situation when you needed to be prepared to drop everything and leave at a moment’s notice?  Parents sometimes do this towards the end of pregnancies.  They don’t know the precise moment of their baby’s arrival, so bags are packed & ready to go at any time.  The point?  If you want to be ready to move, then you need to prepare yourself.  There’s always something you do to ensure you’re ready to respond.
    • What have you done to ensure you’re ready to respond to Jesus?  What steps have you taken to prepare yourself to see Him, should He call you today?
  • Those were the servants, but what about the master?  Vs. 37…

37 Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. 38 And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.

  • The master found them “watching.”  He knew their readiness.  They were awake & alert, ready to respond, and the master knew it because that’s how he found them.  How pleased do you think he was with his servants at that time?  They were exactly as he would have desired…he would have been overjoyed!
  • Thus he treated them appropriately – even going over-the-top in his appreciation of them.  Arriving home after a long day (even after a wedding feast), it would have been expected for the master to be hungry & the servants would have had food waiting for him.  Yet here, the master not only invites the servants to recline (sit) at the dinner table with him, but he actually gets up to serve them the meal!
  • It’s no wonder he was so pleased: he did not tell the servants exactly when to expect him; he only told them to expect him.  Be it the “second or third watch” of the night (i.e. the middle of the night), the master might arrive at any time.  He wanted them to be ready at any moment.  And they were ready, so the servants were “blessed”!
    • Isn’t this what we desire: to be blessed of the Lord?  Not necessarily “blessed” as in riches, health, and prestige – but “blessed” as in happiness and joy.  As Christians, we want our Master to be happy with us!  We want to live in His joy, knowing that He is pleased with us.  Most children just want their parents to be proud of them & it is so good to hear those words from their mom & dad.  How much more with our heavenly Father?  When God is happy with us, we are happy ourselves – it couldn’t be any better!  To have God happy with us – that is true blessedness!
  • So the servants were watching – and for good reason.  They needed to be ready for anything.  Vs. 39…

39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.

  • The scene changes a bit, and it’s no longer the servants who are watching, but the master.  And the master is not waiting for an honored guest to arrive, but he’s waiting for a thief. Again, be careful of trying to match the parable point-by-point.  The main point is still the main point: watchfulness & readiness.  Whether the disciples Jesus was speaking to saw themselves more as masters or as servants, everyone had a reason to maintain a sense of readiness & expectation.
    • Jesus is actually going to tie into the idea of a thief in just a moment, but consider the fact that we do have an enemy who is actively looking for ways to take us down.  We don’t necessarily know when the next spiritual attack will come, or in what exact way it will present itself – but we know it will come.  Just as we need to be ready for Jesus, we also need to be ready and prepared for attacks from our enemy.  It’s when we get spiritually lazy that we most often fall to temptation.  We may not always be watching our enemy, but it’s almost certain that he (and his minions) hardly ever stop watching us.  The devil roams about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  He’s actively looking for Christians to destroy.  Be active in your vigilance against him!
  • But again, the thief in vs. 39 is just an illustration.  Jesus actually uses the idea for Himself.  Vs. 40…

40 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

  • Who else is coming at a moment’s notice?  Jesus!  “The Son of Man is coming,” so be “ready.”  Be always ready!  The word in Greek means exactly what it’s translated as in English & most English Bible versions render it the same way.  Something/someone is prepared – is fully ready to do or endure the task ahead.  In this case, the disciples were to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man.
  • Notice Jesus’ use of His favorite title: “Son of Man.”  The last time Jesus used it was earlier in Ch. 12 regarding blasphemy against Him and blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. (12:10)  The arrival of the Son of Man in power & glory (in judgment & to inherit the earth) is actually the term is originally introduced in regards to the Messiah. Daniel 7:13–14, "(13) “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. (14) Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed."  The point?  This is how the disciples expected to see Jesus.  Every time Jesus used the title “Son of Man” (which was often!), this was the picture brought to mind.  This was the moment for which they waited.  Now Jesus references it in context, telling them what to expect when it happens.  And what He tells them is that it’s unexpected.  We might say that Jesus’ coming is anticipated, but unexpected.  We know for a fact that He is coming; what we don’t know is when He will arrive.  This is the doctrine of imminency.  I.e., the events surrounding Jesus’ 2nd Coming are imminent – they can happen at any time.  There is not a single thing that absolutely needs to take place before Jesus can call the church home in the rapture, which kicks off all the events following.  Thus we know He’s coming back – we just don’t know the exact timing of it all.
    • And we won’t know!  This is something that people get wrong quite often.  People often think that if they just piece together enough Bible prophecy, they can somehow guess the actual date of Jesus’ coming – and it’s impossible.  Most recently, Harold Camping famously predicted the date of the rapture to be May 21, 2011, and was obviously proven wrong.  (Camping later repented, publicly saying that his prediction was sinful and that no one can know.  He died in 2013.)  In a similar teaching in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus went so far to say that not even the angels know the day or the hour of the 2nd Coming of Christ – this is something that only the Father knew. (Mt 24:36)  Thus date-setting is an exercise in futility – it will always be wrong.
  • That’s not to say we know nothing about the timing.  Jesus will actually go on in Ch. 12 to discuss the need to discern the times around us, looking for His return – so there are some things we can know. We can know the general state of apathy towards God – we can know how much prophecy has been fulfilled.  What we can’t know is the specific moment.  We don’t know the day or the hour that His trumpet will sound, signaling the resurrection of the saints and the rapture of the church.  Even with a timeline of a 7 year tribulation, we don’t know the exact day or hour that King Jesus will return to planet earth in power & glory, conquering the armies of Antichrist at the battle of Armageddon.  Beyond those things, we certainly don’t know the timing of our own death.  No matter what your personal eschatology might be (i.e. your own personal view of the end-times), there is no getting around the imminency of seeing the Son of God.  It could literally happen at any moment.  Thus you need to be ready for any moment – for every moment.
    • Are you?  Are you sure?  There’s much we can say about Christians being ready to see Christ (which Jesus will soon address), but the first step is being a Christian in the first place.  Without being born of the Spirit, no one will even see the kingdom of God. (Jn 3:5)  The first step for anyone is repentance and faith in Jesus Christ – it’s to receive the new birth He offers, and to be saved.  Only then is someone ready to see God at a moment’s notice.
  • Clarifying Question (41)

41 Then Peter said to Him, “Lord, do You speak this parable only to us, or to all people?”

  • Poor Peter.  You can almost hear the concern in his voice.  Although we’re not told specifically why he asked Jesus this question, it’s not difficult to imagine.  Perhaps he’s afraid that Jesus thinks he’s not ready.  After all, Jesus had been speaking to the disciples.  Although the original Parable of the Rich Fool was told to all the crowd who surrounded Jesus, it was to the disciples that Jesus went on to speak of God’s love & care for them, more than ravens & flowers.  It was the disciples that Jesus instructed to have an eternal perspective & build up treasure in heaven.  And seemingly, it was still the disciples who Jesus addressed.  So Peter probably had a natural & reasonable concern.  Was he & the other disciples ready?  Did Jesus believe they were unprepared?  Or was this something that now needed to be said about the crowd in general?
  • It begs a good question for us today: Can born-again Christians be unprepared to see Jesus?  Yes!  Just because you’re eternally saved doesn’t mean you’re fully ready to see Jesus face-to-face.  Sure, you have forgiveness – but what about a clear conscience?  We still engage in sin, though hopefully rarely & occasionally.  But what if Jesus came at that moment?  Maybe you have unfinished business because you’ve put off stuff you know that God has told you to do.  Maybe you’ve become complacent about the things of God in general.  Maybe you’ve become aware of a lack of compassion towards others & you haven’t changed.  Are you sure you’re ready to see Jesus today?
    • None of this undermines your salvation.  We aren’t saved by the grace of God, but then fully reliant upon our own works to keep us saved.  We are saved by grace, and kept by grace – all to the glory of God.  But our works do matter.  Our attitudes matter.  How we live as born-again saved Christians matters to our Lord & God.  We will be judged for those things at what is called the Bema Seat / the Judgment Seat of Christ.  Paul described it to the Corinthians, contextually writing of the gospel that had been given to them, how they were built up in Christ: 1 Corinthians 3:12–15, "(12) Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, (13) each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. (14) If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. (15) If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."  The foundation is the same for all born-again believers: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ & the gift of His grace.  What gets built upon that foundation is what varies from individual to individual. Those are the works we do in this life after we’ve been saved.  And at the Bema Seat, a lot of those works are going to be burned away.  (And it’s a good thing, too!)  What isn’t burned?  Our foundation.  Born-again Christians remain born-again Christians, to the glory of God.  It’s just that some Christians will find that they’ve wasted much of their lives.  That’s exactly what we want to minimize – that’s what we’re trying to refine in order that we’re ready to see Jesus.
  • So Peter asked the question.  Did he receive an answer?  Yes & no, depending how you look at it.  He certainly didn’t receive a straightforward answer from Jesus (at least, none that was recorded by Luke).  But Jesus did answer in a roundabout way.  Was Jesus speaking this parable to them?  It all depended on whether or not they were prepared for His return.  If they were ready, then Jesus was speaking to everyone else in earshot.  If they weren’t, then yes – it applied directly to them.  So…how would they know if they were ready?  That’s where the second parable comes in…
  • Parable #2: The Wise Servant vs. the Evil Servant (42-48)

42 And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has.

  • What Peter (and all of us) wanted to be was the “faithful and wise steward.”  Before we get too far, break down that description.
    • He was a “steward.”  ESV & NIV both render this as “manager,” which helps clarify the idea a bit.  The Greek word is οἰκονόμος, where we get our word “economy,” meaning “the management of resources.”  In the case of this Greek word, it referred to a special servant who would be the manager of the household, or someone entrusted as an able administrator.  The term is actually a compound word of house + law, thus someone who has authority over the house.  There are two key ideas here: (1) The steward was not the owner of the house; just the manager of it, and (2) The steward was entrusted with responsibility.  There was a task expected of him.
    • He was “faithful.”  Although the translation is accurate, it could just as easily be translated “believing.”  It not only could refer to someone who is trustworthy, but someone who is trusting.  In this case, it happens to be both.  The faithful steward is a faith-filled steward.  He believes his master/lord.
    • He was “wise.”  Think “sensible, prudent, thoughtful.”  This steward didn’t just merely react to things as they happened – he didn’t just let life roll past him.  He thought things through, knew what he was doing, and acted according to plan.
  • The faithful & wise steward is made a ruler.  He is appointed with more responsibility.  He was already entrusted with the household, but due to the pleasure of his master, he will be entrusted with more.
  • The faithful & wise steward is active.  He didn’t simply sit around, waiting to be told what to do; he took the initiative in giving out food.  When the master found him, the steward was “doing” (pres act ptc) – he was actively serving in the role assigned to him.
  • The faithful & wise steward is blessed.  Like the servants in the earlier parable, this steward experienced the happiness & good pleasure of his lord.  His master would have been overjoyed to bless him as the master honored him with even more responsibility than what he had before.
  • We want to be faithful & wise stewards!  Although the context is different, this is the same general idea from the famous Parable of the Talents.  Matthew 25:20–21, "(20) “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ (21) His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’"  Whatever it is that God has entrusted to us, we want to be faithful to use it for His glory.  Contextually to Luke’s gospel, we have been entrusted with a ministry until the coming of Christ.  We want to be found faithful, and thus find the blessing and joy of our Lord Jesus.
    • So put it together: the faithful & wise steward was a ruler, was active, and was blessed.  If you know you’re a born-again Christian, then you know you’re a “ruler” in the sense that you also have been entrusted with certain gifts and resources.  Every Christian is a steward of something, God the Holy Spirit having given to each one according to His will.  As far as blessedness is concerned, that is also in the hands of God – something we can experience both today, but mostly in the future when we receive the confirmation of blessing.  The only real question is whether or not we’re active.  Are you using what the Lord has given you?  Are you a faithful steward of the gospel – the gifts – the resources – the opportunities which God has placed in your hands?  May we be active, and thus assured of hearing the words “Well done, good & faithful servant!”
  • The faithful & wise steward is contrasted with an evil servant.  Vs. 45…

45 But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.

  • The thoughts of the evil servant.  This servant knew just as well as the faithful servant that his master was due to arrive – he just chose to ignore the imminent nature of it.  He did not truly believe the reality of his master’s arrival, which affected everything else he did.
  • The actions of the evil servant.  Thinking himself to be totally unsupervised, he acted out his evil desires.  He beat his fellow servants, men & women who were beloved by the master. (The Greek terms imply almost a child-like relationship between the servants and the master.)  In addition to his violence towards others was his laziness & selfish living.  He used the resources of his master for himself, considering it his own personal party-time. 
  • The outcome of the evil servant.  When the master came, the servant was punished…and severely!  The servant wasn’t expecting the arrival of his master, having talked himself out of the possibility, and when the master came, he acted in force.  The servant was actually dismembered, slain as an enemy of his lord…which he was.
  • Notice how this evil servant is treated: he is given a “portion with the unbelievers.”  The word used for “unbelievers” in vs. 46 is basically the negated version of the word translated “faithful” in vs. 42.  None of these people are faithful to the desires of their master.  They don’t believe him in the first place, and neither did the evil servant.  He was counted among their number because he acted the same way.  Actually, he acted worse.  He knew the goodness of his master, having lived in his home.  But he despised the goodness of his master, and acted as if he was his own master.  It’s no wonder he was punished so severely.
  • Question: Is the evil servant a Christian or non-Christian?  Good question.  He certainly would have the appearance of a Christian, being that he is seen as a servant of the same Master, and be around the other “male & female servants” of the Master, but he is treated as an unbeliever in the end.  The most likely scenario is that he represents a false convert.  He is someone with the initial appearance of a believer, but in reality, has no faith.
    • Sadly, this is a common occurrence today – especially in American churches.  We are blessed in our culture to be surrounded with so many Christian influences & other God-honoring things.  The downside to it all is that it becomes very easy for someone to hide among the church, claiming he/she is a Christian when they’re not.  Not that it’s always intentional…some people don’t know!  Maybe he/she was baptized as a baby & was told that made them a Christian.  Maybe he/she signed a decision card somewhere & was told that was what made them a Christian.  Maybe he/she has always gone to church, and figured that made them a Christian.  Whatever it is, his/her confidence is in the wrong thing.  The only way someone becomes a Christian is through active faith in Christ.  We must intentionally trust Him as Savior & Lord, and that’s the only way we are saved.  Romans 10:9, "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."  Do you believe?  Have you told God you believe?  Do you actively trust Jesus today?  If your hope for eternity is not actively based in Him, you have no hope of eternity at all.  Trust Christ!

47 And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.

  • There is another comparison here, still including the evil servant, but the faithful & wise steward is not in view.  Instead, there are other evil servants, though perhaps less evil than the one initially described.  Everyone mentioned here deserves punishment of some sort, but not everyone receives the same punishment.  What determines the difference?  Knowledge.  Ignorance of the law is no excuse, but flagrant rebellion against the law that is known only makes things worse.
  • People are responsible for what they know.  Anyone without faith in Christ will be punished in eternity, and rightfully so.  The Bible makes it clear that God has revealed Himself and His righteousness to all the world. (Rom 1:20)  It tells us that the law of God is written upon our hearts, so that all cultures everywhere inherently have a sense of right & wrong. (Rom 2:15)  It tells us that one of the jobs for the Holy Spirit in the world today is to convict people of sin, righteousness, and judgment. (Jn 16:8)  Even the resurrection of Jesus is proof to all who hear that Jesus is the Son of God & the one through whom God will judge the world. (Rom 1:4, Acts 17:31)  Put it all together, and it answers the commonly asked question of “What happens to people who never hear the gospel?”  The answer is that they still have enough evidence of the perfect & holy God for them to seek out the perfect & holy God in repentance, and those who don’t face God’s righteous judgment.  — That said, as bad as that is, what’s worse is for people to fully know and understand the gospel of Christ, and still choose to reject it. Those who know more will be responsible for more.  Those who knowingly reject the grace of Jesus will be judged for what they rejected.  They were given much, and much will be required of them.
    • That includes everyone in this room – everyone within the sound of my voice.  You have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ.  No doubt you heard it long ago in many other places, but there is no doubt that you have heard it today.  To reject it is to place yourself in a terrible position.  Think of Pharaoh and Moses: Pharaoh repeatedly saw the works of God with his own eyes, and continually hardened himself against the Lord.  As a result, he experienced terrible judgment.  How much more for those who knowingly reject the Son of God?  Don’t make that mistake!
  • This applies to more than just basic salvation.  It applies to all kinds of Christian stewardship.  What has God entrusted to your care?  What knowledge has He given you?  Skills?  Finances?  Family?  How are you using those things for God’s glory?  How are you applying those things to being ready for Jesus’ soon appearance?  And it can get even more basic than that.  Each one of you have a Bible in your hands (or one in the chair in front of you).  How many Bibles do you own?  Have you ever read even one of them all the way through?  Why not?  It’s not as if you haven’t had enough time.  Several Bible reading plans can be accomplished in a year, and some intense plans can be completed in just a few months.  How long have you been a Christian?  Surely you’ve had enough time to read God’s word by now.  None of this is said in order to weigh anyone down with guilt – but sometimes we need a bit of kick in the pants. (I know I do!)  We have been entrusted with much…especially as American Evangelicals!  We have zero excuses for not using our resources in faithful stewardship.  Comic book fans know the classic charge to Peter Parker as Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.”  With all due respect to Stan Lee, Jesus said it first (and better): “To whom much is given, much is required.”

Conclusion:
Are you ready?  Are you wise in how you use the time & resources you’ve been given?  Are you a faithful & wise steward?  If you truly take Jesus at His word that He’s returning, then you’ll be living as if He actually is.  If you believe you might see Jesus today, then you’ll make preparations to see Him today.  That’s where the rubber meets the road.  Two people can be told about an approaching airplane jump.  Which one actually believes it?  The one who puts on his parachute.  If you believe it, then you’ll act upon it.  That’s true wisdom.  Wise Christians are Christians who are actually ready to see Christ.

Some of you aren’t ready.  Sure, you’re saved – you know you put your faith in Christ believing Him to be God crucified for your sins & risen from the grave.  You know you trust Him for your eternal salvation & have no hope without Him.  But if you’re being honest, you know you’re not ready to see Him.  There’s more to do, and you know what God has been telling you.  What are you waiting for?

Still others of you aren’t ready for a more fundamental reason: you’re not saved.  Maybe you know you’re not saved & you’ve never pretended otherwise.  Today, you can put your faith in Christ Jesus and have your life forever changed.  Or, maybe you’re more like the 2nd servant in the 2nd parable being a false convert.  You might have looked like other Christians on the outside & even associated with Christians at church & other places.  But inside, you know your heart is evil, untouched by the grace of God.  Today, everything can change.  You can be transformed from the inside out, move from unbelieving to believing, and have the assurance that one day you will enter into the joy of the Lord.

Return for Real

Posted: May 4, 2017 in Hosea, Uncategorized

Hosea 6-7, “Return for Real”

When kids want to ensure something is true, they sometimes ask “Is this for real? For realsies?”  They make people swear & pinky-promise, or go through all kinds of hoops because even from a young age, they understand something clearly: people are fickle!  We’ll say one thing & do another.  Sometimes it’s because we’re flaky & forgetful – other times it’s because we’re double-minded, and decided differently – still other times it’s because we weren’t sincere in the first place.  Because we didn’t really mean what we said the first time we said it, we didn’t follow through when time came to pass.

That may have been somewhat the case here in the 6th & 7th chapters of Hosea.  The people knew of their opportunity to turn to the Lord in repentance, and even though they talked about it, it wasn’t sincere.  It wasn’t “for real.”  God didn’t just want Israel to go through the motions of repentance; He wanted it to be sincere.  He wanted their repentance to be “for real.”

Contextually, we’ve passed the biographical part of Hosea, where the prophet and his family (sadly) reflected God’s relationship with Israel.  Like an adulterous spouse, Israel had consistently wandered away from God, worshipping idols & acting as if they were not His people.  In response, God declared His divorce from the nation, prophesying of her future judgment.  Yet that wasn’t all – God also prophesied His reconciliation with Israel, saying how He would woo the nation back to Himself, and they would once again be betrothed to God as His spouse & holy people.

Chapter 4 transitioned from biographical prophecy to prophetic oracles, as Hosea declared the word of the Lord directly to the people.  As if in a courtroom, God laid out His charges against Israel, serving up their indictment.  As a Judge, He pronounced their verdict & the future punishment.  The nation had forgotten God, but He would pursue them in such a way that He could not be avoided.  Eventually, they would seek His face, and they would do so in earnest truth.

So what next?  The book of Hosea is arranged in a cycle of judgement-to-mercy.  God declares His judgment, and then a promise of mercy is given.  The last cycle of judgment ended at the end of Chapter 5, thus Chapter 6 opens up with mercy…at least for a while.  God’s judgment comes again, and for good reason: although the nation will eventually seek the Lord in sincere truth, that’s not how they always seek Him.  Some of their repentance is half-hearted, and God knows the truth.  God doesn’t want half-hearted, insincere repentance; He wants the real thing.  And He knows the difference!  He knows the extent of our sin – and He also knows our dire need for grace and mercy.

Hosea 6

  • Invitation to repent (6:1-3)

1 Come, and let us return to the LORD; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up.

  • Note that this is the nation speaking (3rd person plural, “us”).  Whether it was to be in the present or some future time, they called out to one another to “return to the LORD” – to repent.  This is what repentance is: a turning, a change.  It is a recognition that we have gone the wrong direction doing the wrong things, and we make a conscious decision to turn around and act differently.  Israel had (or will have) realized that they had departed from the Lord, and needed to return to the Lord.  This hasn’t changed for today.  Repentance takes place when (1) people recognize the need, (2) make the decision, and (3) act upon it.  We can feel remorse about something (feel badly) without ever engaging in repentance.  We can be sorry something happened & just ignore it.  OR, we can confess to God that we truly did sin, express our heartfelt remorse to Him in prayer, and purpose to walk differently.  That is true repentance.  That was what Israel recognized for themselves, and that is what we still need to day.
  • What is the promise to those who truly return to God in repentance?  Restoration!  Israel knew that God (YHWH, their Covenant-keeping God) would “heal” them & “bind” their wounds.  Even though God was the one who had wounded them through His acts of judgment & discipline, God would be the one to comfort them & grant them the healing they needed.  Never did Israel need to wonder if God would turn away from them or tell them to “pound sand” if they repented.  They knew beyond doubt (prophetically speaking) that God is good to His word.  He said He would heal & restore, and He would.
    • He does!  Jesus is faithful to forgive us, when we humble ourselves in repentance.  That’s a promise straight from the word of God. (1 Jn 1:9)  Trust Him! 
  • In the case of Israel, they believed that God’s restoration would come to them quickly…

2 After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will raise us up, That we may live in His sight.

  • Two, three days at the most, and it would be done.  It would be absolutely complete.  They would first be revived from the dead & then raised back up to life in the sight of all.  This is literally true, from a broader perspective of history.  The nation of Israel was dead in the eyes of the world.  After the destruction brought on by Rome, there was no more Israel.  There was always a remnant of God’s people in the land, but never a fully-formed nation…not until 1948.  Then something that was dead came back to life.  When God restores, He restores fully! 
    • In regards to sin which leaves us dead, He still restores us fully, bringing us from being dead in our transgressions, back to life.  We had nothing before we had life in Christ, and now we have everything.  That is restoration & revival!
  • It’s worth noting that although there’s no question that the immediate context & interpretation belongs to God’s relationship with Israel, there is more than a slight parallel to the resurrection of Christ.  When was Jesus raised?  On the third day.  We cannot take this as a direct prophecy of the resurrection, but we can certainly see how it fits a general pattern.  All through the Scripture, God points to the work of His Son…and it’s seen here, as well.
  • Again, what happens in this restoration?  We live in the sight of the Lord – we know Him in spirit and truth…

3 Let us know, Let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, Like the latter and former rain to the earth.

  • Israel (prophetically) understood that they needed to know God.  In the past, they had forgotten Him (Hos 4:1,6), but now they want to know Him.  They want to know Him fully, in truth.  They want to know everything about Him, fully engaging in that spousal relationship, as a wife is known by her husband.  Obviously we don’t want to push the analogy too far, but the general idea is true.  Israel (finally) understood that they needed to know God in every way – and that was exactly what God wanted from them.
  • How were they to know the Lord?  They had to “pursue” Him.  No one gets to know God merely by osmosis; He needs to be pursued!  Sometimes Christians get the idea that once we come to faith in Christ, all of a sudden the knowledge of God comes descending upon us from the heavens & that we somehow “magically” have a close, intimate relationship with Jesus & a deep knowledge of the Scriptures.  That may happen for some, but it’s not the norm.  We are to pursue our God – we are to seek after our Savior.  Just as the only way to get to know any human companion is to spend time with him/her, so we need to spend time getting to know our God.  There is no substitute for the Scripture & prayer.  Bible studies are good (this one, too!  Hopefully! J), but they aren’t a replacement for personal devotions.  Christian radio is wonderful, but it’s not a substitute for real time spent with our real God.  Pursue Jesus!  Get to know your Lord & King!
  • And the good news is that God can be known!  His blessing is certain & sure, just as much as the coming of the dawn & the latter rains.  Israel knew that if they sought the Lord in true repentance, that God would surely respond to them & come to them (figuratively speaking).  He would not hide Himself from them – if they sought Him in faith, they would know Him in truth.
    • It’s no different with us.  When we seek God, we find Him.  When we pursue our Jesus, He is known by us.  He will not hide Himself from you…so seek Him!

This would happen sincerely in the future – for the time being, any purported return to the Lord was half-hearted & insincere.  Remember that God is giving these oracles to Hosea during the latter years of the northern kingdom of Israel/Samaria.  This was a period of terrible decline & sin, during which kings were routinely assassinated & the people were “Israelites” in name-only.  All of the kings of Israel were at this point known for doing “evil in the sight of the Lord,” continuing in the sinful idolatry of their forefathers.  If there was indeed anyone truly seeking God in the north, they were far & few in-between.  As a whole, any attempts towards holiness were surface-level & insincere.  God knew it, and He wanted the people to know that He knew it.

  • Lack of repentance (6:4-11)

4 “O Ephraim, what shall I do to you? O Judah, what shall I do to you? For your faithfulness is like a morning cloud, And like the early dew it goes away.

  • Faithfulness” = חֶ֫סֶד , often translated “lovingkindess/mercy,” or even “loyal love.”  When it came to the חֶ֫סֶד of Israel (Ephraim) & Judah, their “loyal love” wasn’t very “loyal” at all!  Like clouds & dew, it was transient & temporary.

5 Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets, I have slain them by the words of My mouth; And your judgments are like light that goes forth.

  • God’s word cut them – it killed them.  This is a good thing!  Jerusalem was cut to the heart on the day of Pentecost when they heard the gospel…and that was the right response.  The time to worry about our reaction to the Scripture isn’t when we perceive that it cuts us; it’s when we don’t have any reaction to it at all!  If God’s word convicts, it’s a good thing.  It means your heart is still soft enough to be convicted.
  • Depending what translation you’re reading, the 3rd line might read “and My judgment goes forth as the light.”  There’s a bit of disagreement between the ancient versions on how this could be translated, and the difference comes down the placement of a single letter (whether it is attached to the end of one word, or the beginning of another).  Contextually, it seems better to think of these judgments originating in God, shining forth like light – or even shooting forth like lightning.  The overall point is plain: God’s word, His judgments, His will – it is perfect.  His word is a lamp unto our feet & a light unto our paths (Ps 119:105).  His word is all sufficient to equip us for every good work (2 Tim 3:17).  His word is one of the primary tools God uses in the lives of His people to make us into the men & women He desires us to be.  Sometimes it may cut in correction – but praise God for its active work in our lives!

6 For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

  • Once again, the word is חֶ֫סֶד , and this is God’s delight & desire!  This is what He wanted from His people: not sacrifice, but mercy.  Not offerings, but the knowledge of Himself.  Eventually, when the nation repented, they would pursue the knowledge of God (6:3) – this is what God wanted from them right now at the present.  He wanted them to know Him in truth, and to know His love, faithfulness, and merciful kindness towards them (as they in turn demonstrated it towards others).
  • Question: Is God telling His Israelite people that He wants them to disregard the Levitical sacrifices?  Not at all!  Part of the problem with the northern kingdom was that they totally ignored the Mosaic covenant & all of the proper worship practices that accompanied it.  But the core of the issue was that they didn’t know God.  They didn’t worship Him.  They missed the broader picture of what it was like to be in a relationship with the Almighty.  God didn’t command the sacrifices in order to have a bunch of dead, bloody animals – He commanded it for what it was supposed to represent in the hearts of His people (and to point to the only true sufficient sacrifice of Jesus).  What God wants isn’t ritualism; it’s a repentant heart!  Psalm 51:16–17, "(16) For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. (17) The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise." 
    • Is this what you offer God in your worship?

7 “But like men they transgressed the covenant; There they dealt treacherously with Me. 8 Gilead is a city of evildoers And defiled with blood. 9 As bands of robbers lie in wait for a man, So the company of priests murder on the way to Shechem; Surely they commit lewdness.

  • Like “men” or like “Adam”?  Different Bible translations render this various ways.  Technically both are correct, in that the Hebrew word (אָדָם ) could be translated either way.  And, both translations actually fit, in that Adam as the first man is seen as a prototype & representative of all men.  Just as he sinned, so do all men sin.
  • One way the nation “dealt treacherously” with God was through their sin & violence.  Gilead & Shechem are specifically mentioned, most likely as representatives of the entire northern kingdom.  “Gilead” is perhaps Ramoth Gilead, and if so, there’s a bit of irony here in that both Ramoth Gilead & Shechem were originally appointed as cities of refuge – places where people accused of violent crimes to go find safety until a just trial was made.  Thus instead of them being safe havens; they are cities of blood, murder, and violence.  Gilead was “defiled with blood” – literally describing blood tracked through the city like footprints.  Even the “priests” were described as murderous in Shechem – either a literal reference to violent sin, or an illustration of their iniquity.
  • How does God sum it up?  Vs. 10…

10 I have seen a horrible thing in the house of Israel: There is the harlotry of Ephraim; Israel is defiled.

  • It was a horror for God to see.  Sin, idolatry, wickedness – it is all awful in the sight of the Lord.  It is shocking & defiling.  And it must be dealt with…which is exactly what God does through Jesus!

11 Also, O Judah, a harvest is appointed for you, When I return the captives of My people.

  • Hosea was primarily a prophet to the north, but Judah isn’t totally left out.  The judgment of God would first fall upon Israel, but southern Judah had their own appointment with the wrath of God.  They needed to pay attention & sincerely repent while they had the chance.

Hosea 7

  • God knew their sin (7:1-10)

1 “When I would have healed Israel, Then the iniquity of Ephraim was uncovered, And the wickedness of Samaria. …

  • God had healed Israel in the past, having forgiven her many times for many sins – and He wanted to do it again.  The problem was is that more sin & iniquity kept on being found.  More & more sin was uncovered, like mold that is found deeper & deeper in bread.
  • Sin is never hidden forever.  At some point, it is going to be revealed.  If nowhere else, at the very least at the throne of God.  God sees our sin…every bit of it.
    • Thankfully, the blood of Jesus covers our sin…every bit of it!

…For they have committed fraud; A thief comes in; A band of robbers takes spoil outside. 2 They do not consider in their hearts That I remember all their wickedness; Now their own deeds have surrounded them; They are before My face.

  • These things may have been committed in the dark, but it was still right in front of the face of God.  He knew it all.  They didn’t remember God in their hearts – they didn’t even consider that He would see & know these things, but He did.

3 They make a king glad with their wickedness, And princes with their lies.

  • The people didn’t merely commit sin; they delighted in it!  The kings of Israel were especially guilty of this.  They didn’t just dip their toes into the waters; they swam around, taking in all that it had to offer.
    • Do we sometimes delight in sin?  Be honest!  People don’t engage in sin because it makes them feel awful.  In the moment, it doesn’t.  It’s in the moments following that the reality sinks in, and our consciences are cut to the quick.  Those are the moments we need to remember when facing temptation.  Temptation presents itself as a thrill, but it’s false advertisement.  The reality is grief & pain.
    • Praise God this is what Jesus offers to deliver us from!  As believers, we never need face temptation alone.  We have the Spirit indwelling us, and we have Jesus interceding for us, and God the Father desiring the best for us.  When temptation rears its head, don’t let the thought of it make you glad; let the thought of your God make you glad!
  • Over the next few verses, God is going to describe the kings & princes of Israel using some kitchen analogies.  The prophecy alternates between descriptions of the leadership & that of an oven & baker…it’s so intertwined, it should all be taken together.

4 “They are all adulterers. Like an oven heated by a baker— He ceases stirring the fire after kneading the dough, Until it is leavened. 5 In the day of our king Princes have made him sick, inflamed with wine; He stretched out his hand with scoffers. 6 They prepare their heart like an oven, While they lie in wait; Their baker sleeps all night; In the morning it burns like a flaming fire.

  • Baking is rather easy today in comparison with the ancient world.  We have thermostats, constant sources of heat, precise measurements, etc.  It wasn’t all that long ago that things were vastly different.  Ancient cultures especially had to learn to maintain consistent heat, in order that goods could be baked throughout the day.  That’s the basic picture here.  Among the Israelites, sin was constant – it permeated everything they did & everyone did it.  The leadership class engaged in lies, drunkenness, conspiracies, and assassination attempts.  Again, Hosea wrote during the final days of the Israelite kingdom, during which four kings were assassinated in quick succession (2 Kings 15: Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahniah).  There was a culture of violence in the north, and it burned like a fiery oven.  This idea gets driven home in vs. 7…

7 They are all hot, like an oven, And have devoured their judges; All their kings have fallen. None among them calls upon Me.

  • How many people in Israel called upon the Lord?  None.  None of the princes, none of the kings, and apparently none of the priests or other people.  All were lost, given over to their sin.  No one sought God.
  • That hasn’t changed.  That is simply the human condition.  Quoting Psalm 14, Paul wrote to the Romans: Romans 3:11–12, "(11) There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. (12) They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one."  This is/was us in our sin!
    • But it is not us today!  What changed?  We received the sacrifice of Jesus!  Paul went on to write: Romans 3:23–24, "(23) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (24) being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,"  Praise God!

8 “Ephraim has mixed himself among the peoples; Ephraim is a cake unturned. 9 Aliens have devoured his strength, But he does not know it; Yes, gray hairs are here and there on him, Yet he does not know it.

  • How does sin come?  Sometimes slowly, but surely.  The northern tribes weren’t always given over to sin & idolatry.  When they were united with the southern tribes during the kingdoms of David & Solomon, they were apparently faithful.  But when they broke off with Jeroboam, the idolatry began, and it got worse & worse & worse.  Soon they found themselves totally “mixed…among the peoples,” no different than any other nation in the world.  God had called His people to be holy & separate, but they weren’t.  Israel/Ephraim had absorbed so much Gentile influence that they no longer looked like the people of God – and they didn’t even know it.  Despite all of the prophets sent to the north – despite the abundance of the word of God that was available to them, their ears had been shut & they had no clue how far they had fallen.  Like a man or woman who looks in the mirror one day & finds a head full of grey hair, they would be shocked!
  • Much the same could be said of our own culture.  We are not the same people we used to be.  Not even the evangelical church is the same it used to be.  To be sure, there are some things that have changed for the better (institutionalized racism, treatment of women, etc.), but there are many that have changed for the worse.  As a culture, we have turned away from the truths of God & the standards established in His word.  We have called evil to be good, and good to be evil.  As a church, there is less prayer, less fellowship, less worship, less Scripture.  Certainly there are pockets where things are different, but by & large there is not the same level of devotion in today’s church as there has been in generations past.  Did it happen all of a sudden?  No. Things creep up, and we don’t realize it.
  • But we should!  God tells us these things, just as He told Israel…

10 And the pride of Israel testifies to his face, But they do not return to the LORD their God, Nor seek Him for all this.

  • God testified straight to the face of His nation, but they did nothing.  Even when directly confronted by many prophets, there was no repentance – no contrition – no change.
  • Have you ever had a time when you were go gung-ho on the way you had chosen to go, that you were bound & determined to do it, even when you knew God said differently?  Those are times that we don’t stumble into sin, but that we dive into it…and those are times we need to beware!  When the Spirit convicts our heart, we need to listen!  How important it is for us to pay attention, ensuring that our hearts remain soft and open to the direction of God.  As it’s been often said, the more we say “no” to God, the easier it becomes.  Thankfully, the reverse is true as well!  The more we say “yes” – the more we respond immediately to the conviction of the Lord – the more we will be aware of Him when He speaks & leads us through His word.
    • BTW – the more we do this as individual Christians, the more the church will be changed as a whole.  We often pray for revival (which is certainly the call of God to Israel in these chapters), but how does revival come?  Through individuals.  Obviously it won’t happen at all without a sovereign move of God, but until individual Christians seek the Lord Jesus with all our hearts, determined to remain humbly submitted to Him, filled the Holy Spirit, we can’t expect much else.  Why would God grant revival to the Evangelical Church if Evangelical Christians are not seeking revival in their own lives?  We need to return to the Lord – we need to seek Him in Spirit and truth!
  • God knew their stubbornness (7:11-16)

11 “Ephraim also is like a silly dove, without sense— They call to Egypt, They go to Assyria. 12 Wherever they go, I will spread My net on them; I will bring them down like birds of the air; I will chastise them According to what their congregation has heard.

  • They went to other nations, but not to the Lord.  They were willing to go to Egypt for help – to Assyria for help – but not to the Lord God.  How silly (stupid) is that?  Assyria was the nation gearing up to conquer Israel, yet they were more willing to make deals with them than to humble themselves before the Almighty God who loved them.
    • Sin makes us stupid.  Always!  When we start listening to temptation, we start making deals…and we’re always going to lose.  So why don’t we ever learn?  Recognize that kind of foolishness for what it is, and stay humbly dependent upon the Lord!
  • They might run from God, but God would not run from them.  He would pursue them, disciplining them to bring them back.  If it took hunting them down like a bunch of birds, so be it.  In God’s eyes, they were too precious to allow to perish without His pursuit.
    • Keep in mind, that’s what God’s discipline is: a sign of His love.  When He chastens us, it’s because He sees us as His children, and good parents punish their children when their children do wrong.  The Lord chastens those whom He loves (Heb 12:6), which ought to be a sign of comfort.  If you’re being disciplined by God, it means He loves you!  He loves you too much to allow you to continue on the path that you’re on.  (Which means you need to turn in repentance!)

13 “Woe to them, for they have fled from Me! Destruction to them, Because they have transgressed against Me! Though I redeemed them, Yet they have spoken lies against Me.

  • Don’t flee God!  Don’t run away from Him!  Running from God only brings woe – it only makes things worse.  Running away from God only causes us to run closer to sin – and that’s the very thing God would save us from!
  • Why not run away?  Because God didn’t want to discipline them; He wanted to redeem them!  He wanted to reach out to them in grace & mercy, but they were not willing.  NKJV translates this as a simple past tense, but the Hebrew implies something that was in the desire of God – this was His will to accomplish. (Cohortative)  To be sure, God had redeemed the nation in the past – particularly when He brought them out of Egypt.  The whole Passover event was an act of redemption, as God purchased His people out of slavery. (Paralleled in the sacrifice of Jesus for us.)  But God wanted to redeem His people again.  His desire was for them to worship Him in freedom, and they had sold themselves into slavery.  Sadly, they refused God’s outreach & continued in lies and transgressions against Him.
    • Only one act of redemption was needed for us (the cross!), but God’s desire for us is still for us to live in freedom!  He doesn’t want us enslaving ourselves to sins of the past.  And we don’t have to!  We have the power of the Holy Spirit…
  • Sadly, the Israelites did not turn to God in true repentance.  Though they knew of Him, they blinded themselves to Him & refused to call upon Him…

14 They did not cry out to Me with their heart When they wailed upon their beds. “They assemble together for grain and new wine, They rebel against Me; 15 Though I disciplined and strengthened their arms, Yet they devise evil against Me; 16 They return, but not to the Most High; They are like a treacherous bow. Their princes shall fall by the sword For the cursings of their tongue. This shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.

  • When they worshipped God, they worshipped Him wrongly & insincerely.  Though God tried to help them, they worked evil against Him.  When they turned in repentance, they turned to idols & not to the Most High God.  Thus God declares they would face judgment.  The nations of the world would witness the wrath that God would bring down upon His own people.

Conclusion:
That’s what God would do, but that’s not what He wanted to do.  He wanted to redeem them.  He wanted to heal them.  He wanted them to seek Him, to know His mercy, His word, and His character.  He wanted them to know Him; they were not willing.  They might be willing to turn for a time – to repent on a surface-level…but they were not willing to turn to God for real.  They were not willing to truly & sincerely repent.

Are we? Repentance doesn’t stop the moment you’re born-again.  That’s actually when it begins! 

Don’t Worry; Seek God

Posted: May 1, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 12:22-34, “Don’t Worry; Seek God”

If you ever want to play a trick on a friend (and it’d better be a good friend!), then buy his/her child a gift that makes lots of noise.  Our daughter received one such gift that she used for years, and we absolutely hated: the Big Mouth Billy Bass.  One of the songs this fish sang was Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry; Be Happy.”  Many of us are old enough to remember when the song originally came out, and it was everywhere.  No matter where you went, Bobby McFerrin was crooning acapella of his advice not to stress out.

The song might be applied to Jesus’ teaching in Luke 12:22-34.  Not from the aspect of ignoring troubles & seeking temporary happiness, but as in reprioritizing life, not getting stressed by the little things.  Question: Can things like food, clothing, and shelter be considered “little”?  After all, these are basic necessities of life.  Yes…when we compare them with God, they’re little.  Even the biggest problems we ever face are still tiny in comparison with the infinite God.  What is impossible for Him?  Nothing.

So don’t stress – don’t worry.  We spend all our lives seeking stuff that will perish; Jesus tells us to seek the stuff that will last.  If God is our priority – if our ultimate treasure is with Him, then everything else falls into perspective.

The things Jesus teachings in vss. 22-34 are actually the second part of a larger teaching that began in vs. 13.  A man from among the crowd which was listening to Jesus asked Him to solve a family dispute.  It was not uncommon for rabbis to be asked about ethical & moral problems, and that seems to have been the case here.  The man had a legitimate issue with his brother regarding the family inheritance, but Jesus perceived there was more to the man’s motive.  He was selfish & greedy, wanting even the things for himself that did not belong to him.

In response, Jesus told the parable of the rich fool: the story of a landowner/farmer who was so consumed with himself that he never stopped to consider God’s plan for him.  This man was about to be judged by God, and he wasn’t at all ready.  If only he had been generous toward God & not for himself alone, then he would have had treasure in heaven.

It is on that idea of heavenly treasure that Jesus follows up His parable.  How might someone gain treasure in heaven?  How could they be sure of it?  What is it?  These are some of the things Jesus goes on to address with His disciples.  They weren’t to worry about earthly things; their focus was to be on their heavenly Father.

Don’t seek the world; seek the kingdom of God!

Luke 12:22–34
22 Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. 23 Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.

  1. Here’s the premise: Don’t worry.  As it’s been often said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.”  Question: Is that just some trite phrase – does it minimize real things and real troubles & just an exercise in make-believe?  Is this what Christians are supposed to pretend when real problems come knocking on our doors?  No.  Again, food & clothing are basic necessities of life.  Without these things, we will certainly die.  A person can conceivably survive for several weeks without food.  Moses & Jesus each endured 40-day fasts – Mahatma Ghandi endured a 21-day fast with only sips of water at age 74.  But at some point, the body shuts down.  Likewise with clothing.  Despite what current fashion trends might be, clothing is necessary for life to continue.  Too much sun, and our skin burns – too much cold, and we freeze to death.  So these are indeed real needs, and thus the things that provide these needs (our jobs) are real issues with real life.  It’s no wonder that people get concerned about them.  Why shouldn’t we worry about them?
  2. Because “life is more than” these things.  To say we’re not to worry about them doesn’t mean we pretend they don’t exist; it’s to understand there are bigger issues at stake.  It’s to understand that there’s more to this life than the things we can see.  There is more to life than earthly life; there is eternal life – there is abundant life – there is life in which we are reconciled and restored with our Creator God who is our loving heavenly Father.  Life is far bigger than food & clothes, as important as they are.  Life is about our fellowship with God.  When God first formed Adam from the dust, were food and clothing important?  At least for food, yes.  (Clothing was a different issue then!)  But that was all part of God’s provision.  Adam never needed to worry about food, because food was assumed.  God placed Adam in a garden with food all around him.  Food wasn’t the most important part; fellowship was.  The best part of the Garden of Eden was God walking with Adam and Even in the cool of the day – it was about fellowship with their Creator.  That was the original perspective, and the right one – all up until the day that Adam sinned & everything changed.
  3. This is still the proper perspective for us to take.  Yes, it takes work and the “sweat of our brows” to put bread on the table, but those things are the most important things in life.  The most important things are our relationships with God & with those we love.  First, we are to be reconciled to God the Father through Jesus Christ, loving Him as children to a perfect Father – then we’re to love others God places in our paths, most importantly our families & other born-again believers.  Life isn’t about stuff; it’s about people (the Person of God, and other people He created).  We’re not going to take a single item to heaven with us, but we will most certainly see other people there.  We will definitely see our God there.  That is the real stuff of life!
  4. And that’s the stuff that will last the longest!  Think about it: how long will we live upon the earth?  To say that someone lives 110 years is a monumental achievement!  But at some point, everyone dies.  In comparison, how long does eternity last?  When someone is 1000 years old in heaven, they’re still a mere infant in the long-range of things.  In heaven, we will not think of time in terms of years or decades; we’ll think in terms of eons & millennia!  10,000 years from now, how often do you think you’ll be stressed about your current job?  Never!  What problem do you have in your life today that will still exist 1000 years down the road in heaven?  None.  So why stress?  Why worry?  Anxiety about food and clothing today is utterly useless in the grand scheme of things.
  5. Keep in mind that the previous parable was about selfishness & greed.  What is worry, other than too much focus upon self?  If we’re overly worried about something, it’s because we believe we have the power to fix something that isn’t being fixed, and that we’re not doing enough.  In other words, it’s all about us and what we can do.  It’s selfishness – it’s egotism.  It isn’t about us; it’s about the Lord & what He can do.  That’s why Jesus points to a couple of examples of God’s provision…

24 Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?

  1. Example #1: Ravens.  How often do you think ravens worry about food?  Some scholars believe that Jesus is referring to a general category of birds, and it’s certainly possible.  This same teaching is included almost word-for-word in the Sermon on the Mount, and Matthew’s version uses “birds” as a category, rather than “ravens” in particular.  Of course, it’s quite possible (even plausible) that Jesus taught this idea more than once, and that at this later time, He pointed to ravens specifically.  What makes it interesting is that ravens are considered unclean, by Hebrew dietary standards. (Lev 11:15)  Ravens are carrion birds – scavengers, eating the dead bodies of animals left behind.  Thus they weren’t fit for Hebrew consumption. So what?  So God “feeds” ravens. God even cares for unclean birds.  Things we ignore or avoid are beloved by God.  They may be unclean to eat, but they are still created by God, and He cares for them.
  2. Thus Jesus’ point: if God does that for ravens, how much more for us?  We are more valuable than birds!  This is a typical form of Jewish logic, arguing something from lesser to greater.  Jesus employs it masterfully.  Ravens were a dime-a-dozen – they weren’t even birds that Jews would purchase.  We think of the grackles here (same family of birds as crows & ravens), ubiquitous in parking lots eating trash & fast-food leftovers.  We don’t want anything to do with them…but God made them, God loves them, and God feeds them.  Do you think God somehow cares less for you & me?  Of course not!  We are of infinitely more value than the carrion/garbage birds!  And that’s no exaggeration.  After all, there is only one category of created life for whom Christ died: humans.  Jesus didn’t die for the ravens or grackles – He didn’t die for the slugs or maggots – He died for you & for me.  We were purchased from sin & death with the blood of Christ Jesus, the Son of God.  We are literally of infinite worth in the sight of God!
    1. A Christian never needs to ask the question: “Does God really love me?”  Yes, without question He does!  All you need do is look at the cross.  In fact, that’s a question that no human anywhere need ask.  Yes, God loves you.  Even when you are lost in your sin – even when you are actively rebelling against God, God still loves you.  He hates your sin, and He is angry with the wicked every day.  But He still loves you.  He wants you to be changed – He wants you to be forgiven – He wants you to be made His child.  How do you know?  The cross.  Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  How much does God love you?  Enough to send Jesus to die on your behalf, all at the time when you still hated God.  God loves you.  You are infinitely valuable to Him.

25 And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 26 If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?

  1. Here’s the follow up: Worry is foolish – stress is stupid.  It’s absurd.  What do you expect to accomplish from your stress?  Do you think you can make yourself taller?  Do you think you can add years on to your life?  Little kids want to grow taller than their parents, and often stretch themselves out to extremes to make them think they’re taller than they are.  But the simple fact is they will only grow as God allows them to grow.  Other people try to go to extreme measures to add years on to their lives (which is another way some scholars interpret this phrase), yet the Bible is clear that every day is ordained for us by God. (Ps 139:16)  Those things are out of our hands.  It’s absurd to think that we can make ourselves taller or live longer.  Platform shoes and botox injections only mask the issues; they don’t solve them.  If you can’t add to your height or life (a minor task for God), how do you expect to handle anything else?
    1. As an aside: just the fact that we cannot add to our days does not give us license to live recklessly.  Some people use the excuse that “God has ordained my life” to say that they can walk out into the middle of the freeway and expect not to get hit by a car, because they are invincible until their numbered days are up.  (1) God is omniscient, and maybe He foreknew your stupidity & factored it in. (2) Our days may be numbered, but how we spend those days have a lot of latitude.  We could spend them healthy, or in traction.  God is not to blame for our bad choices; that’s all on us.
  2. The bottom line is simple: Don’t be anxious!  It doesn’t accomplish anything.  How does worrying about food put bread on your table?  How does stressing about your job solve problems with your boss?  All you can do is all you can do.  Do your work, follow through on your responsibilities, and most of all, pray and honor the Lord.  All of the rest is up to Him.  Trust your heavenly Father to do what’s best.

27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?

  1. Example #2: Lilies/flowers.  The translation of “lilies” is certainly accurate, but the word can also be used in a more general sense of “flowers.”  The type of plant doesn’t make a difference to Jesus’ point – nearly every flower is beautiful.  Overall, there is nothing quite as beautiful as God’s creation, yet 100% of it is going to burn.  Figuratively & literally, that’s true.  For Jesus’ teaching, He helped people imagine how grass & flowers were culled & used as tinder for ancient Middle Eastern ovens.  Yet the Bible tells us that in the future, God will literally remake the heavens & the earth with “fervent heat” & all the earth will be “burned up” as God makes a new heavens & earth. (2 Pt 3:10-13)  It really is “all going to burn.”  Everything we see in this physical world is all temporary – it is disposable, by God’s design & plan.  And even so…it is beautiful!  Texas wildflowers are especially gorgeous in the spring, and virtually any area in the world has its own beauty to be seen, be it the forests, deserts, mountains, and more.  The best man can do cannot compare with the work of God.  Solomon was the richest man in all the world in his day, with gold and silver so abundant that it was beyond the ability to count.  He had the finest clothing, the fanciest homes – even the temple he built for God was covered in pure gold.  No king in history has come close to the opulence of Solomon…and what was his luxury and beauty compared with that of what God does within the earth?  Just to step outside certain mornings is enough to take your breath away.  That’s how much God loves His creation – He makes it so beautiful that it we cannot help but think of Him and give Him thanks.
  2. And yet, He loves us more!  We are more precious to God than flowers!  As beautiful as those flowers may be, every single one of them will burn.  But not those who belong to Christ Jesus.  God designed humans to exist forever, and those who believe in Jesus will indeed live forever in the presence of God.  The flowers & fields may be part of creation, but we are the pinnacle of God’s creation, made in His own image, bought with the blood of His Son.
  3. Thus: How would it be possible that God would not clothe us?  How could we conceive of God not providing our needs?  Of course He will!  He loves us more than we can imagine.  He knows our every need, far better than we do.  He cares for us down to the very last detail.
    1. Is this a guarantee of luxury?  Of course not.  Nowhere are we promised Italian designer suits, expensive shoes, or gold watches.  No Christian is guaranteed to wear Vera Wang or any other fancy Hollywood or Paris designer.  We may be children of the King of kings, but that doesn’t mean we’re born-again with silver spoons in our mouths.  It is a guarantee that God loves us, that He cares for us, and that He is our ultimate Provider.
  4. The examples given, Jesus begins to bring the point home…

29 “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. 30 For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things.

  1. Don’t seek stuff; don’t stress out.  Again, Jesus doesn’t ignore the fact that food, drink, and clothing are necessities – nor does He imply that honest work & labor is not required to receive these things.  He does say that these are not the things that should consume our attentions.  These are not to be our primary desires.  They aren’t to be the things upon which our hopes rise & fall.
  2. The phrase “nor have an anxious mind” (“do not keep worrying” NASB) is interesting.  What’s translated as a whole phrase in English is actually a single negated word in Greek.  It’s the only time this word is used in the New Testament, and it means “to be very concerned about, with the implication of placing too much value upon something.”  That’s the passive form of the verb (which is used here); the active form is somewhat telling, in that it means “to raise on high – to exalt.” (Our English word “meteor” is derived from it: a rock very high in the sky.)  There’s an idea of something being raised too high in our mind, suspended in mid-air, unstable.
    1. Do you ever feel like that when you’re worried?  As if you have no solid ground beneath you & like your world can give way at the slightest trouble?  That’s a sign of too much stress.  It’s a sign that you’re doing exactly the opposite of what Jesus instructs: seeking only after the temporary things of food, clothing, etc.  It’s a sign of a lack of foundation & grounding – something which Jesus specifically said would come to those people who ignored His teaching.  Matthew 7:26–27, "(26) But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: (27) and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."  The person who hears the gospel of Christ and ignores it will find him/herself without an eternal foundation, and their world will crumble at the sign of trouble…especially that of death.  But born-again Christians fall into a similar trap.  We say “Yes, Jesus” to all kind of His teaching, but we don’t believe it in our hearts.  Thus we don’t put it into practice, we worry, stress, try to solve impossible difficulties on our own, stumble into sin, and more.  If we had simply obeyed Jesus & given things over to Him, we would have avoided the problems.  Contextually here, we would have avoided the stress.
    2. God doesn’t want you stressed out!  God doesn’t want you consumed with worry about things you cannot change.  He doesn’t want you consumed with yourself and your wants, needs, and desires.  First of all, that’s not why He created you.  He created you to have relationship with Him & to give Him glory.  Secondly, all it does is cause you harm, and God would spare you from that.
  3. Ultimately, this kind of stress is godless.  It signifies a lack of faith.  This is what Gentiles do; not born-again believers.  The nations of the world try to provide for themselves.  For that matter, that’s what the pagan religions of the world try to do.  Every man-centered, works-based religion is a futile attempt to provide for a person something that can only be provided for by God: salvation.  Every religion except Christianity either ignores the need for salvation, or attempts to bribe God into granting it.  If we just “do” enough, God will see fit to let us in – if we just “give” enough, say the “right” words, perform the “right” actions, maybe God will be persuaded by all of our good qualities & allow us to come into eternity.  And who gets the glory for that?  We do.  After all, we’re the ones who did the work, so we’re the ones that should get the credit. … No!  That’s not the gospel!  In the gospel, Jesus does the work, and Jesus gets the glory.  Salvation is a gift of God’s grace, so God is the only one who gets the credit.  He provides for us; not the other way around.
    1. Do you start to see the problem with selfishly stressing over our stuff?  When we look to ourselves as our provider for the little things, what’s to stop us from looking to ourselves as our provider for the eternal things?  The logic for one is the same as for the other.  Stressing over stuff is not merely a lack of trust in God; it’s anti-gospel.

31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.

  1. Notice the conjunction “but.”  Normally, this might not be something worth too much attention as there are several ways to translate certain common Greek conjunctions, such as “and, but, so, also,” etc.  However, in this case a specific contrasting conjunction is used.  Jesus is purposefully & intentionally contrasting what He said here with what He said earlier.  It might be said, “Nevertheless, seek the kingdom of God.”  Jesus already said what the Gentiles do.  What is it that born-again Christians are to do?  Jesus emphasizes it here…
  2. Seek the kingdom!  For all of the things that Jesus said not to do, this is something we are to do.  Seek the kingdom of God – set your desire upon the Lord and upon the things He desires.  Strive for Jesus and the things that are on His heart.  As we saw last week in the parable: value the things God values.  God Himself is to be our first priority.  Remember that the first and greatest commandment is what is stated in the Hebrew Shema: Deuteronomy 6:5, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength."  Love God, seek God, worship God – give God your everything, and pursue Him with all that you are.  That’s when you’re seeking the kingdom of God. Everything else flows from that point.
    1. Question: Isn’t seeking the kingdom of God about salvation?  Yes – but it’s not just salvation.  If the only thing “seeking the kingdom” meant was to pursue Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of past sin, then that would be something would stop.  After all, He forgives us the moment we ask.  Once we put our faith in Christ, we’d be able to stop seeking Him, since we found Him (or rather, we were found by Him).  But that’s not what Jesus says.  We are to continually seek the kingdom of God. (Present Active Indicative)  This is something we never stop doing.  Thus this isn’t only talking of the forgiveness of sin; this is speaking of our ongoing relationship with God.  Truth be told, we don’t start seeking Christ until we come to faith in Him.  After that point, that’s when we begin a lifelong pursuit of Him, desiring to glorify Him in everything we do.
  3. What do we find when we seek God and His kingdom first and foremost?  We find God is our provider!  All of the other “things” that would normally be the focus of our searches and stress are things that God adds to us.  He gives us our food, our clothing, our shelter.  Just as He feeds the birds & clothes the flowers, so does He do with us, whom He loves so much more.  Again, this does not mean that we are guaranteed to be rich, nor are we given freedom to be lazy.  We still have personal responsibility.  Our fridge may be stocked, but we still have to prepare the ingredients & cook dinner if we want to eat.  Even if you’re ordering pizza, you still have to pick up the phone and have money available.  There’s no promise that these things will magically appear in our mouths.  We need to stop treating Jesus’ promises of God’s goodness as a carte-blanche for our own laziness or irresponsibility.  And of course ultimately, the provision God gives us is spiritual & eternal.  We have an eternal home in the heavens when we have faith in Christ Jesus.  We have the provision of God the Holy Spirit inside us as an eternal guarantee, power for present living, and a prayer intercessor with God the Father.  We have all kinds of provision in our God that have nothing to do with food & clothing.  Far be it from us to simply reduce God’s provision down to simple materialistic things.
  4. That said, be careful not to quickly spiritualize away the promise of God’s physical provision.  God is alive and active among His people.  He does provide physical & financial miracles in supernatural ways.  God was the one who gave Solomon his vast riches in the first place.  God was the one who put a coin in the mouth of a fish for Peter to pay the temple tax.  God was the one who fed 5000 men (plus women and children) with just a few loaves and fish.  God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) can & does provide for His people in wonderful, physical ways.  He did it in times past, and He still does it today.  Virtually any born-again Christian can remember an act of God’s physical provision if we stop and think about it.  In fact, it’s probably harder to think of times that God did not provide, than times He did. (At least, times when God didn’t provide according to our expectations.)
    1. Keep in mind that we cannot “force” God to act according to our expectations.  God may choose to allow us to have financial difficulty for some reason known only to Him.  Financial challenges to 21st century American Evangelicals are far different than what they might be to 1st century Jews in the Roman Empire, or Christians in 3rd world poverty-stricken nations today.  The way God provides for us might be through hard work, or at least the bare ability to work.  It’s still His provision.
  5. Once again, It comes down to a matter of trust.  We trust God to provide for our needs (both temporal and eternal), and we trust Him even when He acts in ways we don’t understand.  God is God; we’re not.
    1. Do you trust God in this way?  Do you seek Him in this way?  If not, why?  God has proven Himself trustworthy, and the most visible evidence is the cross.  God provided for your ultimate eternal need through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on your behalf.  If He cares for you in the eternal ways, what makes you think He is indifferent to your daily needs?  If you can trust Him for salvation, how much more can you trust Him for bread?  At a certain point, our lack of trust needs to be acknowledged for what it is: sin.  (And even here, it is a sin that can be forgiven!)

32 “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

  1. Don’t fear.  Fear is the foundation stone of stress.  And once founded, it becomes a vicious circle.  When we fear, we stress.  When we stress, we worry.  When we worry, we lose faith.  When we lose faith, we fear…and the cycle continues until we’re drowning.  There’s only one way to stop it: faith.  We’ve said it before: fear is the opposite of faith – the two are mutually exclusive.  Paul wrote to Timothy saying that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim 1:7)  John wrote that “perfect love casts out fear,” (1 Jn 4:18) – the kind of love that is evident of a person’s true faith in Christ.  A person actively trusting Jesus has no reason to fear, because Jesus ensures that fear is gone.  Fear in the life of a Christian is evidence of a shaken (or lacking) faith.  Thus Jesus tells us not to do it, and He gives three reasons why in this verse…
  2. Reason #1: We are beloved by God.  We are His sheep & He is our Shepherd.  We are the “little flock” of the Lord Jesus, people cared for personally and lovingly by Him.  Again, we are more valued than birds & flowers, truly beloved by God as His special creation and His own special people.
  3. Reason #2: God loves to give!  This is the “Father’s good pleasure.”  Paul wrote of our financial giving needing to be done cheerfully, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor 9:7)  Why?  Because He models it.  There is no giver more cheerful than God!
  4. Reason #3: Ultimately, God’s gift to us is “the kingdom.”  Again, when eternity is assured for us, everything else falls into perspective.  That said, keep in mind there is a “now & not yet” aspect to the kingdom of God.  There is much of it that we await in the future, knowing that we will experience it in its fullness when we see Jesus face-to-face.  But there’s also an aspect of it in which we live today.  When our trust is in the Lord, not in ourselves – when we’re living in faith instead of fear, then we’ll experience the joy and abundant life God desires for us as kingdom citizens.  We’ll be able to have abundant peace as the people of God even while living in a fallen world overrun with trouble.
  5. “OK – all of that sounds great.  I understand the reasons why not to fear – I understand that I’m supposed to trust God & not myself – that I’m supposed to seek God’s kingdom instead of seeking my own provision & stress.  But…how to do it?”  Great question!  Jesus answers that last…

33 Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

  1. Want to seek God first & foremost?  Want your focus to be upon Him & not upon yourself?  Get rid of the stuff that holds you back.  Contrary to what our instinct might be, the way to not stress about earthly stuff is not by hoarding up as much as possible as a hedge against trouble; it’s to rid yourself of it so that it doesn’t distract you from Jesus.  When our focus is on the stuff that we can hold & our own ability to provide it for ourselves, then we’re not looking to Christ, and that’s when we start the cycle of fear & stress.  So don’t grab onto more; get rid of what’s causing you to stumble.  Don’t hold tighter to it; get a loose grip, trusting God the Father to put in your hand the things He wants there.  Sell + give = provision.  Get rid of the stuff you don’t need, but don’t use the profits for further riches – give it to the poor & get it out of your hands entirely.  This is how we build heavenly treasure.  This is how we get our focus off of ourselves & onto eternal things.  This is when we put our money where our mouths are in seeking the Lord & His kingdom.
  2. Objection: How will selling your possessions give you treasure in heaven?  Is Jesus promoting salvation by works?  Can someone purchase eternal life by giving 100% of his/her money to the poor? (I.e. the ultimate alms-giving)  No.  The whole context is one of trust.  Where is your trust: in earthly treasure, or in God the Father?  Selling one’s possessions is a demonstration of priority.  It is a visible way of affirming one’s total dependence upon the Lord. When you get rid of your stuff, you don’t have any choice except to depend upon the Lord.  If He doesn’t provide for you, you don’t eat…and that’s exactly where God wants us.
  3. Question: Is this a command that Jesus expects us to literally follow?  I.e. should we sell off every single item of clothing & go live naked on the street?  No, of course not – that’s not Jesus’ point.  Later, on the night of His arrest, Jesus will tell the disciples to purchase a sword. (Lk 22:36)  Thus, they will at least have one possession.  Even Jesus and the disciples still walked around Judea with clothing, knapsacks, and basic provisions.  Later, Paul will write to the church regarding the expectation of personal responsibility and work. (1 Tim 5:8)  By definition, to provide for one’s family ensures some possessions of various kinds.  So here, it’s best to see Jesus’ command as hyperbole: an extreme to make a point.  It’s similar to His instruction in the Sermon on the Mount to chop off one’s hand or pluck out one’s eye in avoidance of sin. (Mt 5:29-30)  These were extreme examples (hyperboles) that made powerful points.  Likewise here.  Jesus does not command homelessness; He commands dependence.  We are to put our trust in the Lord – not in our wallets.
  4. That said, neither does Jesus endorse materialism.  Jesus may have spoken in hyperbole, but His point was clear!  Never will we find Jesus teaching us to hoard up all we can & spend our money, time, and other resources solely on ourselves or our personal pleasures.  Quite the opposite!  Being part of His kingdom means that we will be mindful of others, which will include giving freely of our possessions.  (Demonstrated by the early church in Acts 4:34-35.)
  5. Why does it matter?  It all depends on where you want your heart to be.  If you want to be wrapped up in the stuff of the earth and pass away with the stuff of the earth, then by all means focus upon earthly things.  If you want to have your life wrapped up by God, growing in your relationship with Jesus, then focus upon heavenly things.  Focus upon eternal things…

Conclusion:
Where’s your focus?  What is it you seek?  Where’s your trust?  The answer to those questions goes a long way in determining whether you’re fearful or faithful – whether you’re stressed, or solid in the peace of God.

God doesn’t want us stressed out over the stuff of the world!  He has far much more in store for us as His children.  When the whole focus of our lives becomes ourselves (how much money we can store away – how much food we can put on the table, etc.), then not only are we not looking to the Lord Jesus in faith, but we’re not telling anyone about the Lord Jesus regarding faith.  We become useless in the Great Commission, because we’re not thinking about anyone else.  Even if we did, we’re certainly not exampling what it looks like to have faith in the Lord.  Why would anyone else put their trust in a Jesus whom we obviously don’t trust? 

It seems so basic, doesn’t it?  We’re talking about stuff like food & clothing.  Yet if we don’t trust God for those things, we demonstrate that we don’t trust Him for much else…and all of a sudden, the gospel suffers & our profession of faith starts to crumble.

Christian: you say you trust God?  Then trust Him!  Affirm your faith in Him, and double-down on your dependence upon Jesus.  Perhaps for some of you, it means taking a very practical step of getting rid of stuff that is a distraction.  Maybe there’s some stuff that very clearly comes to mind as physical items that keep you from fully trusting the Lord.  Perhaps you’re in a house too expensive for your budget – or you’re upside-down in a car-payment.  Maybe credit card debt has overwhelmed you to the point of drowning, and you’re no longer focused on serving the Lord, but doing whatever you can to make an extra few dollars.  Get rid of the stuff that holds you back.  Scale down, sell stuff – do what it takes.  Certainly be responsible, but take those practical steps to ensuring your sole trust is in the Lord.

For others, it’s not financial, but spiritual.  Outwardly you say you trust God & seek Him, but inwardly, you know it’s different.  Inwardly, you’re well acquainted with fear & have a constant companion of stress and unsettled suspense.  Stop your worrying!  Where you lack faith, ask God to increase it.  Where you fear, ask Jesus for His assurance.  God loves you – He sent Jesus to die for you.  As a Christian, you have zero reason for fear…ask God for the strength to walk by faith.

Israel on Trial

Posted: April 27, 2017 in Hosea, Uncategorized

Hosea 4-5, “Israel on Trial”

Courtroom dramas can be exciting.  In the movies, we cheer for the lawyers who stand up for the little guy, and it seems that half of network TV features legal dramas of some sort.  Even in real life, we get captivated by them – a perfect example being the OJ Simpson trial of the 90’s, which was so popular that Netflix re-aired them as entertainment.  Where legal dramas become far less appealing is when we are personally involved.  At that point, it becomes stressful as we seek to protect ourselves and our loved ones from what might seem to be worst-case scenarios.

If that’s true on an earthly level, how much more on a spiritual one?  Sins against Almighty God aren’t merely inconveniences; they are spiritual crimes against the King of the Universe, and those crimes place us in serious legal trouble.  Sins against God must be legally addressed – which is one reason Jesus’ death on the cross is called the “penal substitution”.  He fulfilled our penal/legal punishment when He substituted Himself in our place.  (And praise God that He did!)

As for Israel, although the promise of the Messiah’s work was in the future, the majority of the nation did not yet hold to it.  At the time of Hosea, the northern nation was on the cusp of Assyrian invasion, the judgment for generation upon generation of sin against God.  They had committed crimes against the Lord, and the Lord was about to hold them accountable.  Thus in Chapters 4-5, He takes them to trial.  He lays out the charges against them, then pronounces His verdict.  They were guilty of not knowing the Lord, rejecting any knowledge they had of Him.  If there’s one thing the Scripture makes clear: we have to know the Lord, and be known by Him.  Without that knowledge, we have no hope.

Hosea 4 – Israel Indicted
1 Hear the word of the LORD, You children of Israel, For the LORD brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land:

  1. The legal definition of an indictment is: “a charge of a felony (serious crime) voted by a Grand Jury based upon a proposed charge, witnesses’ testimony and other evidence presented by the public prosecutor (District Attorney). To bring an indictment the Grand Jury will not find guilt, but only the probability that a crime was committed, that the accused person did it and that he/she should be tried.” (Dictionary.law.com)  In the United States legal system, it is the first step to a longer series of events that end either in a person’s acquittal or conviction & sentencing.  What can take years in the American courts can happen instantaneously in the courtroom of God.  After all, God is perfectly knowing and perfectly just.  He needs no process of discovery, nor deliberation by a jury of peers to try to determine truth.  God knows everything, and He is able to pronounce His judgment with infinite precision.
  2. That is basically what happens here.  God lays out legal charges against His own people.  They had sinned against Him and had earned the judgment they were about to receive.  But before God gave it to them, He informed them of the charges.  They weren’t just to know that they were being judged, but why they were being judged.  If they understood that, they would understand it was impossible to cry out that it was unfair.
    1. This is what the Holy Spirit does in our hearts when we sin against the Lord.  A child of God cannot continuously sin against God without having his/her heart stricken.  There’s simply no way God will allow that to continue in our lives, unchecked by Him.  The key is to respond.  Once we understand we are guilty, we need to repent – when our hearts are convicted, we need to humble ourselves and seek the Lord. (And it needs to happen quickly!)
  3. What was the charge?  Israel had rejected the Lord – they did not know Him.  This was manifested in various ways, as Chapter 4 goes on to detail…

“There is no truth or mercy Or knowledge of God in the land. 2 By swearing and lying, Killing and stealing and committing adultery, They break all restraint, With bloodshed upon bloodshed.

  1. Although the Hebrew people had long since split into two nations, theoretically, they were both the people of God.  The southern kingdom of Judah was comprised of 2 nations (Judah & Benjamin), whereas the other 10 nations resided in the north – collectively known as Israel (or sometimes Ephraim, as will be seen here).  As the people of God, they ought to have reflected the character and nature of God…but they didn’t.  Instead of “truth, mercy, and knowledge of God” being seen among the Israelites, they were known for blasphemies, violence, and idolatry.  They were the very opposite of what the representatives of God ought to have been, looking far more like the pagans than people called by God’s name.
    1. Sadly, that problem is not limited to the ancient Israelites, but is often seen among the modern church.  Instead of Christians looking like Christ, representing Him & His love & truth among the world, professed Christians often look like the world, reflecting carnal values and behaviors.  This ought not be!  It’s not a matter of legalistically and slavishly adhering to certain “acceptable” behaviors; it’s simply outward evidence of whether or not we have been transformed by the gospel of grace.  The apostle Paul is one of the most outspoken proponents of grace in all of the New Testament, and he still consistently calls for Christians to act like Christians.  We are to present our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1) – we are to pursue love (1 Cor 14:1) – we are walk in the Spirit & not in the flesh (Gal 5:16) – we are to walk worthy of the calling with which we are called (Eph 4:1), etc.  These are proactive measures we are to take – things we are to do as we stand fast in the grace of Jesus.  Behavior matters.  Action matters.  What we do, matters as believers in Jesus.  Our actions either testify of Christ or of the world…we’re called to be witnesses of Christ.
  2. As for Israel, they had gotten to the point that they testified of everything but God.  They acted like unrestrained pagans, and thus would be treated as such.  Vs. 3…

3 Therefore the land will mourn; And everyone who dwells there will waste away With the beasts of the field And the birds of the air; Even the fish of the sea will be taken away.

  1. Remember that the land was given to Israel as a part of the covenant agreement they had with the Lord.  If they no longer held to the covenant, then God had no covenantal/legal reason to bless the land.  In fact, the covenant required that He make the land barren (Dt 28:17-18,38-42).  Their punishment was legally required to come upon them.  (Like a mandatory sentence…)
  2. Question: Can’t God just do whatever He wants?  Yes & no.  Yes, whatever God wants to do, He will do – but God won’t want to do anything that contradicts His character & nature.  For instance, it is impossible for God to lie. (Tts 1:2)  Why?  Because God is truth.  His very nature is one of truth, and He will never do anything that contradicts His nature.  Thus in the case of Israel’s punishment, God had declared the consequences of their sin, having it already written down in their national covenant.  At this point, it must come to pass, otherwise God would be a liar.  Israel had abandoned their covenant with God, and they had no atonement for their sin.  Only one option remained, and God was required to act.

4 “Now let no man contend, or rebuke another; For your people are like those who contend with the priest. 5 Therefore you shall stumble in the day; The prophet also shall stumble with you in the night; And I will destroy your mother.

  1. God takes a pre-emptive stance with Israel, anticipating their objections, and basically tells them not to argue the charges.  Whether they rebuked each other or the Lord, they were a contentious people, and God well knew that they would not receive His message.  Not that it stopped Him from giving it to them.  They needed to know, and the choice was up to them whether or not to receive it.  But God in His graciousness was still going to let them know.
    1. People need to know the gospel, despite whether or not they receive it.  At least they’ve been told.  Our duty as believers in Jesus is not to convert people to faith (that’s impossible) – it’s to be witnesses of Christ within the world.  God was gracious to us in allowing us to hear – we need to do the same with others.
  2. The nation of Israel was sure to dispute God, but they would learn a hard lesson: fighting with God only causes problems.  They were still bound to stumble & they were destined for destruction.
  3. The last line in vs. 5 is difficult to translate. Some have suggested that one of the consonants has been changed through the years, and it should read “you have destroyed your own people.”  The LXX takes the consonants as-is, but translates the Hebrew word for “destroyed” differently, since it is a homonym with two other possible meanings, saying “I compared your mother with night.”  Some suggest that God is speaking directly to the priests at this point.  Prophet & priest stumble together, and the priest’s mother is destroyed as the priestly lineage is cut off from Israel.  There’s no easy answer for the original translation – the bottom line is that this was part of the consequence the Israelites incurred for their rebellion against God.  Everyone was stumbling into destruction, from the prophets to the parents.
  4. Why did they stumble into destruction?  Vs. 6…

6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.

  1. They lacked a knowledge of God.  Worse than that – they rejected the knowledge of God.  It’s not that Israel had no access to a knowledge of God & His ways – after all, they (like Judah) were recipients of the Hebrew Scriptures!  Even if they didn’t have the full canon of the Hebrew Bible, access to all of the writings of the prophets, or even the completed compilation of the psalms, proverbs, etc., the northern kingdom of Israel at the very least still had the Pentateuch (the five books of Moses).  They had plenty of information about God; they chose to ignore it.  They chose to reject it.  They had the truth of God, yet purposed to blind their own eyes to it.  It’s no wonder they were “destroyed for lack of knowledge,” because they rejected the gift of God which had been entrusted to them.  They were left without excuse.
    1. If that’s true of ancient northern Israel, how much more is it true of our culture?  Especially in the United States, we have access to God’s truth everywhere we turn.  There’s hardly a city in America without at least one Christian radio station, and there are churches on virtually every street corner.  Obviously not every Christian church is a sound church, but the truth is available.  The problem is that people reject it.  They ignore it & purposefully blind their eyes to it.  And for that, they will be held responsible.
  2. As for Israel, keep in mind that they were supposed to be a kingdom of priests!  Exodus 19:5–6, "(5) Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. (6) And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel."  Israel was not supposed to reject God’s word; they were supposed to represent His truth & His person to all the world!  They were supposed to witness of God to all the Gentiles.  Yet they rejected their God-given role, turning aside to their own sinful desires.
    1. Those who have been given much have much responsibility.  Again, we cannot escape the parallels with the church.  Today in this present age, WE are the royal priesthood and holy nation of God. (1 Pet 2:9)  Thus WE have the special responsibility to be witnesses of God to all the world, representing the Lord Jesus to those we meet.  This is not a responsibility that we have the freedom to ignore.
  3. Israel turned away from God’s desire for them, so God turned away from them.  They rejected their knowledge of God, so God “forgot” them & their children.  Question: Can God truly forget anything?  No.  But He can choose not to remember them.  He can choose not to look upon them in grace & kindness.  If this was what Israel chose for themselves, then God would respond in like manner.
    1. This can work for good or ill.  It was bad for Israel that God chose not to remember their children, but God also chooses not to remember our sins.  Once we’re in Christ Jesus, our sins are removed from us as far as the east is from the west!
  4. If a nation turns away from God, it means they turn toward something else: sin – and that is exactly what Israel did. Vs. 7…

7 “The more they increased, The more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame. 8 They eat up the sin of My people; They set their heart on their iniquity.

  1. They became greedy for sin.  They couldn’t get enough.  This is what their soul desired, and they dove right into it as they “set their heart on their iniquity.”  When we start engaging in sin, our natural tendency will be to keep engaging in sin.  Like sharks in a feeding frenzy, we’ll swim around in blood and filth until all is consumed – or until it consumes us.  What’s our only solution?  Christ Jesus!  Only He can deliver us from this power of death – and praise God He does!
  2. As for Israel, all had sinned, so all would be judged…

9 And it shall be: like people, like priest. So I will punish them for their ways, And reward them for their deeds. 10 For they shall eat, but not have enough; They shall commit harlotry, but not increase; Because they have ceased obeying the LORD.

  1. There would be no special treatment among the nation.  Everyone would be justly punished the same way, rightly recompensed for their deeds.  They had sought pleasure in their sin, but would find that the only real fruit of it would be the judgment of God.  That would be their just “reward.
  2. Sin never satisfies…never.  No matter how much they consume, it will never be enough.  No matter how often they engage in illicit sex, it has to be more.  Name the sin, and the addiction to it always increases over time.  The little bit that initially satisfied no longer does the trick, and thus it never truly satisfies.  Why?  We weren’t made for those things.  We were made to have relationship with God our Creator.  Jesus Christ is the only One who can truly satisfy us…that’s why we are to seek Him first and His righteousness.  It’s only then that all the other things will be added to us. (Mt 6:33)

So the charge against Israel was that they rejected God.  They purposefully forgot Him, not knowing Him.  How could this charge be substantiated?  Through the evidence of their idolatry, which is what the remainder of Chapter 4 details…

11 “Harlotry, wine, and new wine enslave the heart. 12 My people ask counsel from their wooden idols, And their staff informs them. For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to stray, And they have played the harlot against their God. 13 They offer sacrifices on the mountaintops, And burn incense on the hills, Under oaks, poplars, and terebinths, Because their shade is good. Therefore your daughters commit harlotry, And your brides commit adultery.

  1. Their lust & drunkenness took away their understanding.  That was what enslaved them.  They gave themselves over to carnality, and it took them away.  Again, sin always enslaves; it never satisfies.
  2. But at the heart of their lust & drunkenness was idolatry.  In fact, “harlotry” is the consistent term used in Chapter 4 for idolatry, and it could be argued that even the reference in vs. 11 is that of idolatry.  Keep in mind that idolatry = spiritual adultery.  That was one of the main lessons of Chapters 1-3, and it will be emphasized throughout the rest of the book.  Israel was joined to God as a wife to her Husband, just as the Church is joined to Jesus as a betrothed bride to her Groom.  To give our worship to anything else is spiritual fornication, flirting, and adultery.
  3. This is what the northern kingdom had done constantly for centuries.  They may have been called “the Israelites,” but they were no different than the Canaanites & Hittites, etc., who previously inhabited the land.  They still worshiped dead statues.  The same trees under which they sought shade, they cut down to make Asherah poles & other objects of idol worship.  It was foolish, but it was rampant – and of course, it would be judged.
    1. Remember that idolatry is not limited to ancient history.  Modern American Christians do it just as readily as any ancient pagan culture (or that of ancient Samaria/Israel).  We worship our politics, our sports, our hobbies, our families, our wealth, our entertainment, etc.  We erect our own imaginary ideas of God in our mind, declaring that we would never worship a God who did “XYZ,” despite anything the Bible actually says.  Make no mistake: that is idolatry.  We need to worship God as He is – as He has revealed Himself to be: the Lord Jesus Christ.  We need to give Him first place in our lives, following Him as if He truly is the Lord God we proclaim Him to be.  When we do that, that’s when we are spiritually faithful.  That is true worship; not idolatry.

14 “I will not punish your daughters when they commit harlotry, Nor your brides when they commit adultery; For the men themselves go apart with harlots, And offer sacrifices with a ritual harlot. Therefore people who do not understand will be trampled.

  1. Why wouldn’t God punish the daughters of Israel?  It was plain that He had already seen them commit harlotry (spiritual adultery – vs. 13).  Why not punish them as they deserved?  Because there was no reason to single out the women when the men did exactly the same thing.  And in their case, it was worse.  Not only did they engage in spiritual adultery, but they added sexual fornication to it as they physically joined themselves with “ritual harlots,” or “temple prostitutes.”  It may seem incredible that the Israelites would engage in such a thing, but that’s exactly what happened.  The ancient history of Israel is not one of faithfulness towards God; it’s one of repeated rebellion.  The fact that they still exist is testimony to God’s repeated mercies & His unfailing grace & love!
    1. Please be careful not to point too many fingers.  The history of the Church hasn’t exactly been one of faithfulness, either.  There has always been a remnant of God’s people who have worshipped Him in truth (both in the Old and New covenants), but much of Christian history is filled with idolatry and all kinds of wickedness.  And again, it is also a testimony to God’s grace.  Jesus promised He would build His Church, and He has continued to do so…despite the attempts of formalized man-centered institutions to corrupt it!
  2. Keep in mind that the women would indeed be punished.  They would endure the same wrath of God as would the rest of the nation when God finally allowed the punishment to come.  All He says here is that He wouldn’t single out the women.  All the nation was guilty, so all the nation would be treated the same.

15 “Though you, Israel, play the harlot, Let not Judah offend. Do not come up to Gilgal, Nor go up to Beth Aven, Nor swear an oath, saying, ‘As the LORD lives’—

  1. Judah is mentioned here, even in regards to God’s indictment of Israel.  Israel was not to be a bad influence.  Israel was bad enough in the north; she didn’t need to rub off on Judah in the south.  (Not that Judah didn’t struggle with sins of her own – but that’s a different matter for now.)
  2. Even when Israel attempted to act ‘religious,’ it was all worthless.  Not once had they repented of their idolatry.  They didn’t need to go to Gilgal or Beth-Aven; they needed to go to Jerusalem!  That was where the temple of the Lord actually was.  These other town just had false idols.  “Beth-Aven” is probably a substitution for “Bethel,” (“house of deceit,” instead of “house of God,”), as Bethel is where Jeroboam built the golden calves that were a constant stumbling block to Israel & the original source of their idolatry.  The whole point being, even when they went to their supposed-holy places to worship & offer vows to the Lord, they were offering them wrongly!  They didn’t worship God as He commanded that they worship, and they only deepened their sin.
    1. We cannot approach God on our own terms – it doesn’t work that way.  After all, we are the ones in rebellion, so God is the one to set the terms of our relationship and reconciliation.  If we are allowed to go to God, we must go as He says to go.  What is His way?  The Lord Jesus.  John 14:6, "Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."

16 “For Israel is stubborn Like a stubborn calf; Now the LORD will let them forage Like a lamb in open country. 17 “Ephraim is joined to idols, Let him alone.

  1. Israel would be turned over to her sins – like an animal released to the wilderness.  God had been a shepherd to her, caring for her with watchful eyes.  No longer.  If Israel didn’t behave like a sheep who belonged to God, why would God keep her that way?  Better to let her be turned over to her sin, in hopes that she eventually come to her senses.
  2. God says regarding Israel that she had “joined” herself to her idols – she was allied with them, enchanted with them.  One translation of the Hebrew word implies some sort of mystical or magical connection with them, so much did she love those worthless ways.  Thus God would let Ephraim/Israel alone.  Why not let her have what she wanted?  God allowed Israel to have her idolatrous choice.

18 Their drink is rebellion, They commit harlotry continually. Her rulers dearly love dishonor. 19 The wind has wrapped her up in its wings, And they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.

  1. This was what they did – this was what they desired.  Given over to sin, sin was allowed to consume them. 
  2. Just like sin never satisfies, sin always leads to shame.  People reap what they sow – God will not be mocked. (And once more, we are grateful for the love & grace showered upon us in Christ Jesus!)

Hosea 5 – Israel Convicted
1 “Hear this, O priests! Take heed, O house of Israel! Give ear, O house of the king! For yours is the judgment, Because you have been a snare to Mizpah And a net spread on Tabor. 2 The revolters are deeply involved in slaughter, Though I rebuke them all. 3 I know Ephraim, And Israel is not hidden from Me; For now, O Ephraim, you commit harlotry; Israel is defiled.

  1. All peoples & classes within Israel are called to attention.  Whether they were priests, prophets, kings, or the general population.  All were to listen up to the verdict of God!  Just as a bailiff might say “All rise,” upon the judge’s entrance into the courtroom, and again call the accused to stand prior to the verdict being read, so did God call Israel to attention.  “All rise, and receive your judgment!”
  2. Although it’s somewhat unclear, the references to Mizpah & Tabor seem to point out places of historical victories in Israel stretching back to the days of the judges.  The idea is that Israel had been sinning for a very long time.  God had known it all along, and His judgment against them was long awaited.  The point? God’s knowledge of Israel’s/Ephraim’s sin was thorough.  He knew what they had done, and He knew the results of it.  Israel had defiled itself through her idolatry, and they were left guilty of their sin in the sight of God.
    1. It’s a sobering thing to be know the verdict of God against our sin!  As the writer of Hebrews said, it’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb 10:31)

4 “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. 5 The pride of Israel testifies to his face; Therefore Israel and Ephraim stumble in their iniquity; Judah also stumbles with them.

  1. They could have repented of their sin, but didn’t.  They turned to sin, instead of turning to God.  They could have turned to the Spirit of the living God, but instead they turned to the “spirit of harlotry,” maintaining their idolatrous/adulterous ways.
  2. It all proved that they didn’t know the Lord. And God (as the “pride/exaltation/majesty of Israel”) could personally testify to that fact.  To the face of His nation, to the face of His own people (4:12), He told them that He knew their sins, and that they acted as if they didn’t know the Lord at all. 
    1. We need to know the Lord & be known by Him!  There is no greater need than that…and yet multitudes will go into eternity not being known by the Lord Jesus.  Matthew 7:21–23, "(21) “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (22) Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ (23) And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’"  Keep in mind that during all the time of Israel’s idolatrous sin, they would have claimed to have been God’s people & God’s nation.  They would have pointed to the covenant they had through Abraham & said that they belonged to the Lord God.  Yet their actions proved otherwise.  It will be no different with multitudes of people when they see Jesus.  They will claim to have been Christian – they will claim to have done great things for the Lord.  But they will not have known Him in truth, and Jesus will say to them that He never knew them either.
    2. Don’t let that be you!  Settle that question once and forever, and ensure that you know the Lord Jesus in faith!

6 “With their flocks and herds They shall go to seek the LORD, But they will not find Him; He has withdrawn Himself from them. 7 They have dealt treacherously with the LORD, For they have begotten pagan children. Now a New Moon shall devour them and their heritage.

  1. At first glance, this seems terrible.  If Israel decided to turn to the Lord God, why wouldn’t God welcome that?  How could He withdraw Himself from him?  The answer in found in verse 7.  At some point, Israel would turn to God, but they would turn insincerely.  They would deal “treacherously with the LORD,” being truly unrepentant.
  2. Worldly sorrow brings temporary change, but Godly sorrow brings true repentance.  (2 Cor 7:9-10)  People might experience pangs of regret when they experience the consequences of sinful action, but unless that regret is based in true faith and submission to the Lord Jesus, then it’s all temporary & superficial.  Jesus doesn’t care about the motions of repentance so much as He does the sincere heart.  Granted, someone who claims to sincerely repent from sin will show outward signs of it, acting upon it – but those actions are founded upon faith.  Actions without faith are insincere – it’s worldly sorrow, and it won’t last.

The result from Israel’s guilty verdict?  They would be judged.  Thus the call goes out for them to prepare themselves…

8 “Blow the ram’s horn in Gibeah, The trumpet in Ramah! Cry aloud at Beth Aven, ‘Look behind you, O Benjamin!’ 9 Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke; Among the tribes of Israel I make known what is sure.

  1. The ram’s horn would be blown by the watchman ahead of the battle.  This was the alarm being raised – the warning sirens going off.  God declared His judgment to be coming quickly, and Israel needed to prepare themselves.

10 “The princes of Judah are like those who remove a landmark; I will pour out my wrath on them like water. 11 Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, Because he willingly walked by human precept. 12 Therefore I will be to Ephraim like a moth, And to the house of Judah like rottenness.

  1. Just because all of the judgment was proclaimed against the northern kingdom of Israel, it didn’t mean that the southern kingdom of Judah was innocent.  They had sinned as well, and they would be judged.  It would be at different times by different kingdoms (Israel falling to Assyria, and Judah falling to Babylon), but it would come.  God does not stay silent in the face of sin.
  2. Upon both nations, God’s judgment would be evident.  Like moths and bugs that descend upon decay & rottenness that sets in, so would God’s judgment be to Israel and Judah.

13 “When Ephraim saw his sickness, And Judah saw his wound, Then Ephraim went to Assyria And sent to King Jareb; Yet he cannot cure you, Nor heal you of your wound. 14 For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, And like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear them and go away; I will take them away, and no one shall rescue.

  1. People look for escapes from God’s judgment, but it cannot be found.  God’s judgment cannot be avoided.  Who can run from the face of God?  Where can we go to flee from His presence? (Ps 139:7)  It’s impossible!  God is omnipresent, meaning that He is ever-present.  God is omniscient, meaning that He is all-knowledgeable.  There’s not a single sin that will not be revealed on the Day of Judgment.  There’s not a single person who will not stand before their Creator.  God’s judgment may be delayed from time to time, but it will never be denied.  (Which means we need to prepare for it now!)
  2. Who was “King Jareb”?  It’s possible that “Jareb” is not a name, so much as an adjective.  If transliterated from Assyrian, it could be translated “the great one,” perhaps in reference to King Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria.  The later kings of Israel attempted at various times to make peace with Assyria (by paying tribute money), but it didn’t last.  Eventually the Assyrian kings came in battle with intent to conquer…just as God had said they would do.
  3. If we can’t avoid God’s judgment, what do we do?  We receive the fulfillment of God’s judgment that He made in Jesus.  God’s wrath requires propitiation – it needs to be satisfied.  That satisfaction has already been completed in Christ; we simply need to partake of it.
    1. Praise God!  Consider the promise of Jesus’ propitiation in light of the wording here in vs. 14.  God promised to go like a lion to Israel & Judah, tearing them like a savage beast.  That was what they deserved – that is what we deserve.  We earned the full, undiluted wrath of God tearing us limb from limb for all eternity.  And yet 100% of that is satisfied in the death and resurrection of Jesus!  That is what He saves us from.  What a glorious Savior!  Not a single person on earth can rescue another from the fullness of God’s wrath, but God Himself can rescue us – and He did, through Jesus.

15 I will return again to My place Till they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.”

  1. Once more, God says that Israel will seek Him – but this time, the implication is that they find Him.  What makes the difference?  Sincerity.  This time they seek God in truth.  This time, they “earnestly seek” the Lord – the look early & intently for Him.  Before, they purposed to forget God; this time they purpose to find Him.
    1. What does it take to diligently & earnestly seek the Lord?  Faith.  Hebrews 11:6, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."
  2. Objection: “I thought the Bible says that no one seeks God?”  It does. (Rom 3:11)  But that’s for a person still in his/her sin.  The unrepentant person doesn’t seek after God on his/her own.  No one seeks the Lord unless first convicted by the Holy Spirit to do so, and then he/she is simply responding to the drawing of God.  That person, who does sincerely seek the Lord in humble repentance & faith, will find God.
  3. Notice the one requirement of Israel: “they acknowledge their offense” – confession.  If we want to be forgiven by Jesus, we need to confess our need for Jesus.  We need to agree with Him that our sin is indeed sin, and that we are in need of His grace.
    1. That’s not just for the first-time believer – that’s for each of us.  Confession is not a one-time event; it’s daily, or as often as is required.

Conclusion:
Israel was placed on trial.  They were brought before God, faced their indictment & were given their verdict.  They had sinned against God in major ways for generations, and the justice of God demanded a righteous response.  They were guilty and would pay the price.

Praise God for the major difference between us and them.  We are just as guilty of our vile sin as Israel was of theirs.  We have done just as much awful, and we engaged in it just as long.  We deserve the same punishment.  So what’s the difference?  Jesus.  Jesus has satisfied the wrath of God – He substituted Himself for us, so that we might be saved.

Don’t take that salvation for granted!  Don’t revile the gift of Jesus’ grace!  Don’t reject Jesus!

Instead, know the Lord.  That was God’s desire for Israel, and that is His desire for us.  Jesus wants us to know Him, and to be known by Him.  And because we live in the New Covenant, we have the opportunity to know Jesus in a greater way than the Israelites had to know God.  We know Jesus in spirit & truth.  We know Jesus personally & intimately.  We have God the Holy Spirit indwelling us, enlightening us to God’s word & will.  We can know Jesus, and walk with Him every single day.

So take advantage of every single day!  Know your Lord Jesus – know the God who has saved you.  Earnestly seek His face…just as He desires of you to do.