Hopeful but not Presumptuous

Today’s reading:

Hosea 12:1- Joel 2:27

My Selection:

I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.  (Joel 2:25)

This quotation from the prophet Joel exudes the greatness of God’s grace and power.  He sent an invasion of locusts on His people, but He also promised that in the end He would restore to them the losses of that devastation.   God is able to replace what we lost through the consequences of our sin.  It’s never too late to come to the Lord.  We are never beyond His power to save.

A Warning against Two Dangers

Grace and mercy should not lead us to a presumptuous attitude toward God’s commands to holiness.  We must not say, “My sin doesn’t matter.  God can restore the years that the locust has eaten.”  I recently asked the students in my Sunday school class, “which is liable to be more dangerous to your spiritual life: presumption or hopelessness?”  After some discussion, the consensus seemed to be “both are dangerous.”

Beware of hopelessness and of presumption. Both are dangerous to our walk with the Lord.

[For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

[Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.]

 

 

Minor Prophets are Profitable

Today we begin our readings in the minor prophets, the 12 relatively short books that come at the end of our Old Testament in the standard English versions used by most evangelicals and protestants.  The books are not in chronological order so it is helpful to consult the notes in a good study Bible or Bible handbook.  See my resources for Bible readers tab here for suggestions.

Saturday, September 17, 2016 Love so Amazing, so Divine

Reading: Hosea 1:1-5:15

My selection:

“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’”  Hosea 3:1

Sunday, September 18, 2016   How we look to God

Reading: Hosea 6:1-11:12

My selection:

“Like grapes in the wilderness,
I found Israel.
“Like the first fruit on the fig tree
in its first season,
I saw your fathers.
“But they came to Baal-peor
and consecrated themselves to the thing of shame,
and became detestable like the thing they loved” Hosea 9:10.

Keep reading.  You will find the profits here are not minor at all.  See you again on Monday.

[For reflections on these passages, see the corresponding readings in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

[Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.]

Seeing God’s Presence in the Daily Grind

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 17:1-18:30

Godly men and women trust in the Lord’s presence and guidance in the day to day details of life.  They don’t need extraordinary circumstances to spring into obedient action. They do what God calls them to and He makes it turn out for His glory.

Have you learned this truth?

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

The Danger of Prosperity

Many can handle adversity, but few prosperity. Are you aware of the danger of prosperity?

Today’s reading: Hosea 12-14; Revelation 3

But I am the Lord your God
from the land of Egypt;
you know no God but me,
and besides me there is no savior.
5 It was I who knew you in the wilderness,
in the land of drought;
but when they had grazed, they became full,
they were filled, and their heart was lifted up;
therefore they forgot me.                                                        Hosea 13:4-6

17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.                                                                              Revelation 3:17-18

It seems to be the experience of many that in difficult times faith flourishes and good character is strengthened, while in times of ease and plenty laziness and arrogance grows. Can we handle prosperity?

Hosea delivered God’s brutally honest message to Israel and Judah. The Lord told them that He was with them in the wilderness and in the land of drought, but, when they got to lush pastures and were filled, they grew proud and forgot God. This led them to a spiritual wilderness and desert and to the need to recognize their sin and unfaithfulness.

In the letter to the Laodicean Church, the Lord made similar comments to those who were rich and prosperous. They were actually spiritually blinded by their apparent success and security. He diagnosed their true condition as being “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” They felt comfortable, but God found them lukewarm. Of course, being cold or hot does not feel comfortable. We prefer a moderate temperature, like lukewarmness. But God hates lukewarmness, spiritual lukewarmness, that is,  in those who claim to be His.

God in His grace and mercy sends His truth to His people. There is always a remedy for prosperity-induced laziness, arrogance, and lukewarmness. That remedy is repentance and confession of sin.

If these are not easy times, if you are in the wilderness or in dry lands, remember that the worst thing that can happen to you is not to suffer adversity but to forget the Lord. If these are good times in your life, be sure you are handling prosperity with humility and a God-glorifying focus. Beware the danger of prosperity.

A Time to Love; a Time to Hate

To hate what God hates is good, but not if we do not love what God loves.

Today’s reading: Hosea 9-11; Revelation 2

8 How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.                                                     Hosea 11:8-9

4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.                                                                                         Revelation 2:4-6

God’s love for His people is relentless, though He reveals in His Word how His heart recoils with the sinfulness of His people. Ultimately, God restrains His justice against His people and does not destroy them.

Hosea was sent to warn Judah and Israel of her impending judgment. This intervention by the Lord was another act of His patience and mercy. He gave them a chance to repent. He showed them through the sad, painful marital relationship of Hosea and Gomer, how God saw the unfaithfulness of His people toward Him. They repaid His goodness and blessing with idolatry and worship of false gods. Even after all that, God’s compassion toward them was aroused. As He said through the prophet Ezekiel, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” ( Ezekiel 18:23).

The Lord gave the Apostle John messages for seven churches of Asia Minor. Most of them contain warnings of impending judgment for their sin. In the letter to the church in Ephesus, He commends them for several qualities including their hatred of an heretical group called the Nicolaitans. While it was good to hate evil, they were also found to have abandoned the love they had shown earlier. Jesus tells them to repent of this attitude lest they lose their standing as a church completely.

Let this be a warning to us as well. Do not let hatred of evil drive out the love of God for those He is graciously calling to Himself. There is a time to love and a time to hate. (Ecclesiastes 3:8).

 

A Cloud to a Kingdom

God, by the work of His Son, changed His elect people from a cloud to a kingdom

Today’s reading: Hosea 5-8; Revelation 1

4 What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that goes early away.
5 Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets;
I have slain them by the words of my mouth,
and my judgment goes forth as the light.
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:4-6

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1: 5b-6

Hosea expresses God’s view of His people. He laments their instability. Their unstable love is like a morning cloud or dew. It melts away rapidly. Their sacrifices and burnt offerings were unacceptable for they were not done out of steadfast love nor from a knowledge of God. They went through the motions. What? Did they think God could be fooled? So the Lord, through Hosea, says “What shall I do with you?”

God Himself answered the question. What He did was to send His Son to free us from our sins by His blood. Why? Because He loves us. His love is unchangeable and unstoppable. Not only that, He desired a kingdom for His glory. His purposes are wise and good. Although Israel failed to become what He called them to be, through Jesus Christ, all the nations have been called to be a kingdom and priests to Him. And He is glorified and has dominion for ever and ever.

Unregenerate man attempts to please God with fleeting love and phony sacrifices, but God graciously acts to redeem a people who know God, who are freed from their sins and made a kingdom. A cloud vs. a kingdom, what a contrast! Give praise to God for His love and wisdom.

 

 

Contend for the Faith

Those responsible for spiritual leadership must take care to know and teach the truth as they contend for the faith.

Today’s reading: Hosea 1-4; Jude 1

6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;
because you have rejected knowledge,
I reject you from being a priest to me.
And since you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.                                                                    Hosea 4:6

3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.                                    Jude 1:3-4

In both readings today, we see God indicting those who have forsaken the truth and misled those who looked to them for guidance.

Hosea, like other prophets, had a message of warning for Israel and Judah. He was also called to demonstrate God’s wrath against His people by taking a prostitute for his wife, showing the mercy and grace of God toward sinful, unworthy people. God told them they were destroyed for lack of knowledge. The nation had not been taught God’s law faithfully. The priests had facilitated national sin.

In a similar way, believers in Jude’s day were called to contend for the faith, that is, the doctrine given by God through the Apostles and Prophets, which was under attack by false and wicked teachers. These were deceitful and treacherous. They misused God’s grace as an excuse for sensuality. They denied the Lord Jesus Christ. Among other vices, they relied on their dreams. They got their own truth by direct revelation, a practice Paul also condemned (Colossians 2:18). [1]

Truth matters. It matters what we believe, and, if we are in the position of teachers, it matters to all whom we influence for good or bad. Be sure you know the truth of God’s word and that those you learn from contend for the faith and are not relying on their own dreams.

[1] The Reformation Study Bible, Sanford, FL, Reformation Trust, 2015, p. 2292. See note on verse 8

God’s Reassurance for Fearful Followers

Today’s reading: Genesis 31-32; Matthew 10:24-42

In both readings today, we meet people who are called by God to enter uncharted territory and are understandably fearful of what looms ahead.

Although Jacob has seen God grant him material success and a peaceful parting with Laban, he is more than a little anxious about meeting Esau after so many years. A man appears to Jacob at night and wrestles with him. We understand the mysterious, unnamed man to be the Angel of the Lord as clarified in Hosea 12:4.

God is gracious to Jacob to send His angel to bless him when he most needed reassurance.

Jesus also talks to His disciples about fear (Matthew 10:26-30). He is sending them out as His messengers, into a hostile world. They will naturally tend to be fearful, but Whom should they fear? Not someone who can only kill your body and then have no further power. Not an Esau, who might be holding a grudge after 20 years. Fear God. He has power over our eternal destiny.

Jacob learns that God is with him as he goes back to his home land and his brother. The disciples learn that God will be with them and keep their souls even if their ministry arouses rejection and death.

How confident are you of God’s power to keep you wherever He sends you and in whatever He calls you to do? Do not fear Man. Fear God. He will be with His own to the end.

Restoring the Lost Years

Today’s reading: Hosea 12:1-Joel 2:27

My selection: Joel 2:25

25  I will restore to you the years

that the swarming locust has eaten,

the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,

my great army, which I sent among you.

My reflections: The same God who sent the locust plague on His people also promised to reverse the impact of that plague if His people would repent and turn back to Him. God is not time-bound as is man. He can restore what was lost.

My challenge: Never say, “I have sinned beyond restoration. There is no hope for me.” God is able to restore the years that the locusts ate. It is always best to repent, believe in Him, and to return to His ways. He is able to restore the most wasted life. It is never too late for God to redeem you and give you back the lost years.

Tomorrow’s reading: Joel 2:28-Amos 4:13

How We Look to God

Today’s reading: Hosea 6:1-11:12

My selection: Hosea 9:10b

But they came to Baal-peor and consecrated themselves to the thing of shame, and became detestable like the thing they loved.

My reflections: When you love something, you become like the thing you love. God indicted Israel for their idolatry laying out in vivid form, through the marriage of Hosea to the prostitute, Gomer, how repugnant they had become. Here He tells them that they had become like what they loved and worshiped. They had become detestable.

Romans 1:28, 29 fills this out even more. Men see themselves as wise, but have become fools. They lose the ability to enjoy the blessings of normal sexuality. They become so degenerate that all relationships are broken down into evil and selfishness.

My challenge: It is a good thing to see ourselves as God sees us: sinful, rebellious, despicable, but also, if you are a believer, chosen, loved, and forgiven by Him. Never let one of those contrasting realities about your identity overshadow the other. Do not become presumptuous of your acceptance before Him, as if He were obligated by any merit in yourself to extend forgiveness. Do not become so overwhelmed by your propensity to lapse into sin that you doubt the sufficiency of His power, mercy, and grace through Christ  to redeem and preserve you for Himself for ever.

Tomorrow’s reading: Hosea 12:1-Joel 2:27