Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 1 December 18:
Note: Here is a short video overview of Hosea: https://youtu.be/kE6SZ1ogOVU
The story of Hosea (and his marriage to Gomer) is absolutely shocking but not nearly as shocking to us to read as it no doubt was to the Israelites who witnessed this minor prophet’s verbal and visual testimony and indictment. Hosea’s life was a living object lesson to publicly proclaim the awfulness of the infidelity of the adulterous northern kingdom and to proclaim the incredible mercy and fidelity of the Lord God. Imagine the very real pain, shame, and anger that Hosea must have felt. Yet, consider his response to his spouse who deserved death according to the Law. Like a marriage, God established, and has established, a covenant relationship with His people before a watching world, that His people would be faithful and loyal to Him and Him alone. The metaphor of the Church as the Bride of Christ is used several times by Jesus and throughout the New Testament. Does our infidelity to Jesus shock us as much as Gomer’s infidelity to Hosea? Do we fully appreciate the grace that we have received as adulterers? If so, what is our response to that grace? I appreciate RC Sproul’s comments below that smack in the face of the world’s message today:
“That there is a deep and profound chasm that separates believing in the total depravity of man and our own understanding of the depth and scope of our own sin is a potent sign of the depth and scope of our own sin. ‘Total depravity’ is a true and sound biblical doctrine about how the fall has impacted mankind. We are sinful in every part of our being and utterly unable, precisely because we are unwilling, to embrace the work of Christ on our behalf unless He changes us first. Because we are totally depraved, however, we see this as a doctrine about man, rather than an actual self-description. We distinguish between the problems of ‘man’ and our own problems. It is safe to speak ill of man, but dangerous and sad business to look too closely into our own hearts of darkness. So instead we think ourselves as partaking in a general sense of this depravity thing, but see it manifest in our own lives in nice, clean ways. We have a high view of God’s holiness, of His law, and so confess with all due piety that we are sinners indeed, rebels against the living God, in a nice, clean, abstract sort of way. The living God, however, has a far more accurate and potent picture of what we are. We are whores. We are shameless, self-degrading, crass and crude. We throw ourselves at strangers, selling our dignity for cash. Worse still, after He has redeemed us, washed us, even married us, we go back for more. We turn tricks before the all-seeing eyes of a Husband who suffered hell for us. Again He comes and washes us. He holds us. He confesses His love for us. He promises He will never leave us. He makes us new again.
But because we are still proud, we parade around in the beautiful gown with which He has covered us, suggesting that it surely had a few spots, a wrinkle or two on it before He found us. But they were nice, respectable spots and wrinkles. What we should be confessing is that it was once stained through with our whoredom. The joy of the Lord is not that He took we who were mostly clean and made us wholly clean. The joy of the Lord isn’t that because He worked in us no one needs to know our former shame. The joy of the Lord is that while we were out walking the streets He came for us. While others paid to pollute us, He paid to redeem us.
Our Father told us a story so that we would know what we are. He gave us a prophet, Hosea. And we, sinners that we are, instead of confessing to being Gomer, thought He was telling us to be more like Hosea. ‘Oh,’ we humbly confess, ‘we should be so much more compassionate towards the really bad people. Please forgive us for not being more loving toward the unseemly ones of this world.’ The truth is He is confessing that we are the unseemly ones. That’s what we are, the people Jesus died for and married, the people adopted and loved of the Father, the people indwelt and being cleansed by the Spirit — God in three persons, consorting with such as we.
1. Hosea 1:2 – “When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.’” Throughout the Bible, God calls sin spiritual whoredom. God will use the lives of Hosea and Gomer as a living metaphor to show the people the truth of their sin. Hosea marrying Gomer would have been a shock to the people because Gomer was a prostitute, likely a temple prostitute, but the people who were shocked by Gomer were unmoved by their own sin against God.
2. Hosea 1:9 – “And the Lord said, ‘Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.’” God’s people had sinned to the point where they essentially were no longer God’s people. They were still religious, but their religion had no power.
3. Hosea 1:10 – “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ it shall be said to them, ‘Children of the living God.’” God did not abandon the unfaithful people and had an ultimate plan of revival and renewal after discipline and repentance.
4. Hosea 2:6, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20 — “I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her…. I will take away my wool and my flax, which were to cover her nakedness… I will uncover her lewdness…. I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees…. I will punish her…. Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her…. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.” In His perfect love and fidelity, God deals with us BOTH positively and negatively. We like to praise God’s grace and mercy when He does not give us what our sins deserve but rather ‘allures’ us by ‘speaking tenderly.’ However, we are usually not as joyous when God painfully removes from our lives those things we have allowed to become idols and substitutes for Him; we don’t usually display an attitude of thankfulness when He punishes us for our infidelities. We sometimes forget that God’s discipline is also an act of love, bringing us back to His loving arms. With mercy, God deals with us from His character of righteousness, justice, and faithfulness. He calls us to reflect His righteousness, justice, mercy, steadfast love, and faithfulness in all of our actions, not strictly out of a sense of duty but because we are one with Him, perfectly united in spirit. God who is perfect Love and our Life, cannot respond to you in perfect love while allowing you to chase destructive substitutes for Him that entice you away from perfect love. Hosea 2 starts with a ‘plea’ to those ‘who have received mercy.’ Then there is a transition from a plea to great punishment because some will not listen until there is no other choice, until they hit rock bottom. What does it take for God to get your attention? Is there something getting in the way of your love relationship with God? Will you listen to God’s plea, or do you need more than that?
5. Hosea 2:7 – “She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them. Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.’” Returning to the Lord merely to receive blessings when you need them is not enough.
6. Hosea 2:14 – “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” Though they have sinned terribly against Him, God does everything He can to allure the people back to Him. He desires reconciliation. He sent His Son for the purpose or reconciliation, and we have been given the message of reconciliation.
7. Hosea 2:16, 17 — “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more.” God wants the sinner to have a change of heart and then to forget the past.
8. Hosea 2:18 – “I will make you lie down in safety.” There is security in fidelity.
9. Hosea 2:19, 20 – “And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness.” In our relationship with God, He demands righteousness and justice and will discipline us while showing love and mercy (He won’t give us all that we deserve). In our relationship with God, He is always faithful.
10. Hosea 3:1 – “And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” From Henry T. Blackaby — No human can comprehend God’s love for His children! Our limited experience of human love hinders us from understanding God’s unconditional love for us. We can see a picture of this love in the life of Hosea. Hosea was a righteous man, but God told him to marry a sinful woman. Hosea obeyed and took Gomer as his wife. He cherished her and treated her with dignity and respect. Never before had Gomer experienced this kind of love, but she soon grew dissatisfied. She began giving her affections to other men. She became so involved in adulterous pursuits that finally she abandoned Hosea altogether. Other men used her until she had nothing left to give. Then they sold her into slavery. After this, God gave Hosea an amazing command: “Go and buy her back.” Despite the intense pain and hurt that Gomer had inflicted on him, God told Hosea to forgive her and to pay any price to bring her back into his home. God’s message is clear: When we reject Him and turn our devotion elsewhere, our rejection carries the same pain as an adulterous betrayal. After all God has done for us, it is incomprehensible that we should reject Him. It is even harder to fathom that God could love us even after we have rejected, ignored, and disobeyed Him. Yet God’s love is completely different from ours. His love follows us to the depths of our sinfulness until He has reclaimed us. His love is undaunted when we run from Him, and He continues to pursue us. What incredible love He has demonstrated to us!
11. Proverbs 1:7 — “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” If your education is not grounded in faith in Jesus, you are like the astronomers of old, trying to make the earth the center of the universe.
12. Proverbs 1:19 –“Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.” Jesus said that he who seeks his own life will lose it. Self-centeredness will destroy you. Jesus said that the first step for those who would follow Him is to deny self.
13. Proverbs 1:23-25 — “If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel.” Spiritual growth involves continual humility and repentance. To grow in spirit, we must be willing and eager to listen to and obey the Holy Spirit.
14. Proverbs 1:28 — “Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me.” There can come a time when it is too late. Don’t take God’s warnings and discipline lightly.
15. Proverbs 1:31 — “Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.” Often God’s discipline is giving you what you want so you can experience the consequences and hopefully return to Him.
16. Psalm 140:1, 2 – “Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men; preserve me from violent men, who plan evil things in their heart and stir up wars continually.” Compare these verses with Proverbs 26:17-28. God wants us to call on Him to protect us from the ungodly.
17. Psalm 140:11 – “Let not the slanderer be established in the land; let evil hunt down the violent man speedily!” Eventually evil catches up to the sinner.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 1 Dec 18: Be a peacemaker. Avoid conflict and avoid adding to conflict. Avoid all gossip and flattery, speaking only the words of God. (Proverbs 26:17-28)