Category Archives: Bible

Accusation and Rebuke (Hosea Part 5)

Last week we walked through Hosea chapter 3: we saw that God pursues us in the midst of our sin and redeems us from it in a precious demonstration of his redemptive love.  Chapter 3 ends with a sweet promise of restoration and hope as we look forward to a coming King (Jesus) who will bring healing and unity to God’s people.  As we leave that brief glimpse of a bright future, God wrenches Israel’s heads back around to see their sin so that he can directly confront her leaders who have led her astray.  We’ll pick up the action in Chapter 4.

Accusation and Rebuke

God introduces the next section of Hosea by way of a ‘controversy’ that he has with the inhabitants of Israel (verses 1-3).  This does not bode well for those inhabitants.  And I don’t know if you know this or not, but God – who is all-knowing and all-sovereign and all-awesome doesn’t lose or give up ground to those he has controversies with in the Bible.  Ever.  Which is pretty cool, but also lends an utterly serious tone for where we’re going today.

The grounds of God’s contention with Israel is that there is no faithfulness, no honoring of the covenant, no love on Israel’s part.  Furthermore, there is no knowledge of God in the land, denoting that the leaders (parents and priests) have not commended the Lord to the next generations.   So the first thing that we can really dig into and run with Is that when there is a failure to lead spiritually, moral failure is close behind.  We can see this in families, churches, my own personal life, and a whole ton of other contexts.  Whenever those who lead abdicate their responsibilities, it’s only a matter of time before that one sin leads to whole host of others.  It’s what we see in the Garden of Eden (Adam not leading like he should), throughout Scripture with evil kings and priests, and we see it everywhere around us in daily life.

Who does God hold responsible for these sins?  Who does he call out to in the Garden of Eden?  Who does he say is the head of the household and the elders of the church?  Spiritual leaders, husbands, and elders, respectively.  God’s indictment is that Israel is full of inappropriate oaths, lies, murder, stealing, adultery, and many other generationally compounded sins.  He levels that indictment at the priests in this particular context – the spiritual leaders of Israel (verse 4).

Men, as the spiritual head of your household how are you leading your family? Single men, how are you preparing to lead your family? God tells us very plainly in the examples given and also in James 3:1 that we will be held to a higher standard, and that God expects us to lead well for his glory and the good of those under our leadership.  Let us act accordingly by the power of the Spirit under the authority of Christ.

So God announces a judgment for the spiritual leaders of Israel – he will punish those who have not led his people correctly.  To be clear, this isn’t God just being angry because of sin.  He is expressing the highest concern for his people, which isn’t reflected in the leaders’ lives.  Therefore God will bring the gravity of the situation to them by taking away what is most dear to them – their children (verse 6).  One very important aspect and reason for God’s judgment is the people’s (including the leaders) rejection of knowledge.  Rejection of knowledge in this context is a rejection of God because the people have no knowledge of God.  We must know our God!  And the primary means by which he has allowed us to know him (and the only authoritative one, I might add) is Scripture.  He has put himself in us, and we do live in community, and he has given us good minds with which we can worship him.  But the only authoritative self-revelation of God is his Word – the Bible.  So then, we as Christians must study, we must dig and learn and get to know our God more deeply so that we grow in him and reflect his glory in our lives.  This must not be seen as some legalistic pursuit for self-righteous purposes; quite the opposite, in fact.  Our pursuit of God’s self-revelation and self-expression in Christ and Scripture must be for the growth, for sanctification, for encouragement, for sharpening.  We study and we pursue that we may know him more deeply and be impacted by that relationship.

We know and learn about things that we love – think about what you know about your wife and/or girlfriend, your kids, your job whatever you’re passionate about… for me it’s history and theology and a bunch of other random stuff.  I study these things (to clarify I’m not talking about your wife or kids… I’m talking about history and theology and stuff), I enjoy knowing more about and keeping up with things that interest me.  So why do we who profess the name of Christ and claim his lordship over our life not take the time to know him more deeply in prayer and study of what he has spoken to us in Scripture?

Do you study the Word for the glory of God in your life?  Do you know Christ?  Are you conforming your life to Scripture, or are you bending Scripture to what you want it to be?

As a quick aside, I would also say that if you have absolutely no desire to study Scripture and know God more deeply, then your walk cannot be growing in a Scriptural way, and you will remain stagnant in your faith.

Getting back to Hosea, the accusation that God levels at the priests and his people is that they have forgotten the Law, which is the equivalent of forgetting God.  Now, even though we have the New Testament and Christ, we must be mindful not to repeat this sin and forget the Law that God has revealed himself in.  You see the Law expresses God’s character and holiness, and it is in the Law that God gives us our understanding of the need for Christ and the grace we receive in him.  Also, we have no biblical grounds to disregard or forget the Law – Christ fulfilled it; he in no way abolished it.

In verse 7 God declares that he will turn the priests’ glory (money, popularity, etc.) into shame by exposing the fleeting pleasures of their sin as ashes.  They’ve been feeding off the sin of the people (verse 8) – that is, literally getting fat from eating their portion of the sacrifices, fueling their greed and spiritually manipulating people for their own personal gain.  I wonder how this would read if God were to address the more modern examples of this idea: televangelists selling prayer shawls to ‘make people’s prayers more effective’ or even the pre-counter-reformation Catholic Church who profited from people’s sin by selling indulgences to free souls from purgatory and ‘absolve’ sins.

Or if I were to bring it closer to home for me (and many others), what about pastors of churches (the modern-day priests) who are caught up in scandals and moral failures?  Could we classify this as an example of those men having their own glory turned into shame?  Those men who thought they deserved the fleeting raptures of sin, or who considered themselves impenetrable bastions of God’s glory for the church – were they brought down because of that pride?

In the next part we’ll dig into the rest of the chapter and revisit the theme of God’s redemptive purposes in discipline.  So get excited!  Just kidding – tune in again soon, and let me know what you think and what questions you might have.

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Restoration and Hope (Hosea Part 4)

Restoration and Hope – Hosea Part 4

It has definitely been a while since I’ve posted anything in the Hosea series, so I’d like to return to that this morning.  So far we’ve seen God and – by way of allegory – Hosea take prostitute wives, care for them, love them, and pursue them in their sin in order to rescue and restore them.  We’ve also seen that the loving disciplining hand of the Lord toward his people (Israel) as they walk in sin is an extreme form of love that he uses to bring them back to himself.  His jealousy over his wife is a precious example of his perfect spiritual leadership, and his mercy in alluring his wife is an excellent picture of redemption and restoration.  But that wasn’t enough – Israel and Gomer both return to their idolatry and are neck-deep in it when God decides to act again, and decides to send Hosea to depict yet another aspect of God’s love as he pays the price for his bride.  Let’s pick up the story in Hosea chapter 3.

The Redemption Price

The first thing we see in verse 1 upon learning that Israel and Gomer have returned to their prostitution and adultery is that God’s love is pursuing – he commands Hosea to ‘go and love’ his prostitute wife.  So even in her sin, even in her junk God sees something of worth and value – he issues a command, but it is a command to love, a command that affects the heart and emotion.  And it is also an act of redemption.

So we see that Hosea obeys because of his great love for her – and he doesn’t do it begrudgingly or with resignation.  In verse 2 he goes and pays the redemption price for his bride because he loves her, she is his, and he wants to see her come out of the pitiful circumstances she’s put herself in.  Hosea redeems his wife – he buys her out of prostitution for fifteen shekels of silver and some barley, which isn’t very much cash, showing the sort of worthless state she has fallen into.

God also redeems his prostitute wife out of slavery in Egypt, and he paid a dear price to redeem the Church from its bondage to sin with Christ on the cross.  Where Hosea paid just a small amount to buy his wife back, God paid the ultimate price – he sent his son to die in a shameful way so that his people’s sins would be atoned for and so they would be redeemed and reconciled to him.

Men who are married, what might your wife be struggling with or running to that you need to help lead her out of?  To be sure, Jesus is our redeemer, but as her leader, pastor, and spiritual head it is your duty to shepherd and steward her to flourish under your leadership.

Women who are married, what might your husband be struggling with that you can help him walk through as a helpful, wise, crown to your husband?

What slavery has God redeemed you from?  What does the redemption price that God paid in Christ on the cross mean for your sin?

Covenant Restoration

The second main topic we see in verse 3 is that God restores the covenant between himself and his bride – he claims what is rightfully his.  This ‘you are mine’ language – how does it hit you?  Do you see this as an oppressive husband cutting into his wife’s freedom and fun?  Or perhaps do you see this as a great example of a husband loving his wife for her own good and removing her from her sin so that she doesn’t lead herself into destruction?  Israel, as God’s bride, is rightfully and solely God’s.  Gomer is solely and rightfully Hosea’s wife.  They are covenant brides, not flavors of the week.  When – like in this case – the going is very difficult (a wife is turning to prostitution and destroying her marriage), the faithful covenant husband fights for his marriage, fights for his wife, and fights for what is rightfully his.

Men and women – are you fighting for your marriage?  Do you see your spouse as your covenant bride or groom to whom you are devoted?

One thing I also noticed that is not in the text is that with God and Hosea there is no turning of the head, no sidelong glances at another who isn’t their wife.  They have only wholehearted devotion, love, and pursuit of their respective wives.  This is not a wooden response to an order, but rather a conviction based on a commitment or covenant to have their bride as a lily among thorns – the only one desirable for them.  From what we can see in this particular instance, we can see that this particular lily in question is not looking like a lily; she looks more like a prostitute.  She has found herself running back to the shameful activities, unsanitary surroundings, and wicked people from whom she was redeemed.  This lily, though, is seen as a precious lily in a couple of ways.  First, she is his standard of beauty, his devotion, the object of his faithful covenant love.  Second, to her husband, all other women are thorns – she is the only desirable one for him.  If you’re married or engaged, all other women aside from your fiancée or wife are thorns to you.  That doesn’t mean you can’t be cordial and talk with them, but I does mean that your wife is the recipient of your love and affection.  Period.  Not most of it, or some of it, but all of it.  We’re reminded that God’s love is the pattern for us – he does not command us to go where he has not already been.  When he says ‘so I will be to you’ he is renewing his covenant, demonstrating his faithful covenant love yet again, and ensuring his devotion to his bride.

How might you make all other things thorns and make the Lord your true devotion?

How might you make all other women or men thorns and make your husband or wife your devotion?

Undivided Attention

After saying that he will secure Israel and renew the covenant with her, God then declares in verse 4 that he will arrest her undivided attention for her good.  She will have no king, no princes, no household gods or priestly garments.  This is to prevent her from being distracted by anything other than her faithful covenant husband – all temptations will be silenced. There will be no ruler over her, save for her King.  There will be no temple activities and there will be no idolatry in her homes.  Essentially God is removing everything that Israel has struggled with or been led astray by – he will have her devotion because it is for her good and his glory.

So God purges his wife’s life of her idols.  This will most definitely cause much pain and turmoil, but as he said in verse 3, he will be with her throughout the process.  God does this same thing with us personally.  He whittles down our lives at certain times and chips away our sinful tendencies in order to show us how much we truly need him.  He demonstrates how we must be devoted to our loving King and Bridegroom; it is painful, but he is with us and he is for us.

Have you ever been exhausted by God and led into the spiritual desert?  Has he taken things away in your life that led you away from him? What were those things, and what was that time like?

Future Restoration

The third chapter rounds out with verse 5, a precious promise of future restoration – all Israel will seek the Lord and will have the hope and expectation of a King like David (Jesus).  Now, Hosea is written quite a while after David reigned and died.  Furthermore, this kind of a reference is also strange because it’s written to the northern kingdom (Israel) who revolted against the south.  The cool part about it is that it denotes God’s plan of redemption, healing, restoration, and reunification for the whole nation of Israel.  He will reconcile his people both to each other and to himself.  The first half of the verse states that Israel will return to seek the Lord – they will turn their affections to him because he has wooed them in this peculiar but perfect way.  The second half of the verse prophesies that Israel will come to fear – or ‘revere’ and know the awesome power of – the Lord and his goodness.

God’s realignment of Israel’s thinking mainly affects the way his people fear him.  They had grown entirely too comfortable with the fact that God loved them, and they had taken him for granted to the point that they led themselves astray and had completely rejected their faithful covenant King.  So the Lord loves his bride to the extent that he will give her what is best for her – himself.  This is why the prophecy of the King like David is so immensely important – we see that God will provide for his girl and he will bring lasting joy to her in Christ Jesus.  This is the love that we experience as those who claim the name of Christ, and this is the joy that we have in our God.  Not only do we have joy in him right now and hope in his goodness while we dwell on this earth, but one day we will see him and dwell in his presence forever.

I long for that day, and I look forward with eager anticipation for those who claim the name of Christ to join in worship of our true King.  Then will we truly be home at last.  But in the mean time there is much sin and tribulation, and God still has much to say to us about it.

More on that coming soon…

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Redemptive Love (Hosea Part 3)

So the last post was pretty tough in a that we saw a wife (Gomer and/or Israel by way of allegory) running back to her sin in spite of her husband’s faithfulness and protection.  Her husband then pursued her in a quite unusual way – he gave her over to her sin and let her run herself down but didn’t let her be satisfied apart from him.  We see that God’s jealousy sent his wife to her humiliation, despair, and pain – ultimately leading her to repentance and began the process of their reconciliation.

Today I’d like to finish out chapter two, which is, as we’ll see, quite different from yesterday.  We’re still in the middle of a section of heavy prophecies from the Lord to his prophet Hosea.  These prophecies have two aspects – one is an immediate message for Hosea with his wife Gomer and the second is a message for his people as a whole.  In the first part of chapter two we saw how he will discipline his people and hand them over to their sin; today we’ll see how he plans to redeem her from the rough place she’s taken herself, and we’ll see his covenant love expressed in his restoration of his bride.  It’s a precious text, so let’s dive in to Hosea 2:14-23.

Redemptive Love

The tone of chapter two shifts dramatically from the first thirteen verses to the last ten – God goes from expressing judgment and his bride’s future despair to working her out of her muck, expressing his faithful covenant love, and redeeming her to her former place of favor that she so willfully rejected.  He says in verse 14 that he will ‘allure her,’ that is, he will woo her and reclaim her affections by speaking tenderly to her in the wilderness, showing her his love in light of her disobedience.

He goes on to say that he will restore her vineyards and make her Valley of Achor a door of hope.  At first glance, this phrase seems a bit odd, but let’s backtrack to Joshua chapter 7 see exactly what the Valley of Achor was, and why it’s significant.  Honestly, this one verse is probably one of the most beautiful parts of Hosea to me.  Let’s dig into why.  Back when Israel was beginning the conquest of Canaan, they defeated Jericho (… ‘and the walls came tumbling down…’), and the Lord commanded that they destroy everything, including the pagan temple items.  One man named Achan didn’t obey – he kept several things for himself and hid them in his tent – nobody knew about it.  When Israel went out to their next battle at Ai, they were beaten soundly because the Lord wasn’t with them – he had withdrawn because of Achan’s sin.  So Joshua eventually finds out what happened, and everyone in Israel stoned Achan and his family for their sin and disobedience.  The place where he was buried under those stones was called the Valley of Achor – it was a blight on the history of Israel, and a reminder that secret sin was not to be tolerated.  Joshua then leads Israel to defeat Ai with the Lord’s blessing and the conquest continued.  So fast-forwarding into Hosea, when God says that he will make his bride’s Valley of Achor a door of hope, he means that Israel’s past sins will be redeemed and become a source of hope for her, that they will no longer be a reminder of shame, disobedience and punishment.  He will gain glory in spite of our sin because he will redeem it.

And this is where we sinners have much hope and peace – God will redeem and restore.  If we are God’s in Christ Jesus, we cannot out-sin his grace, and we cannot sin in such a way that he cannot redeem it.  Nothing is outside of his sovereignty.  This is definitely not a license to sin, but a precious hope in the midst of the message of condemnation from Satan that would lead us to despair in our sin.  I would remind you that “there is now NO condemnation for those in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:1).

Has God ever done this with/for you?  Has he redeemed your sin and made it a part of your story of redemption for his glory?  This is the hope that we have in Christ Jesus… our scars, like the death of Christ, though shameful, will be beautiful in light of God’s redemptive love.

So God will restore the sexually promiscuous and give them fruitful intimacy.  He will restore the disobedient and give them the perfect obedience of Christ.  He will redeem our idolatry and show us that our greatest treasure is in him because it is him.  This concept directly mirrors Christ – his scars are our victory, his shame is our boasting, and his death is our hope and life.

Do you believe this?  Do you have faith in the future grace and redemptive purposes of God?

What does this look like for you in your sin?  What does it look like to be redeemed?  Not just sin-free, but redeemed and Christ-focused?

The Lord goes on to give a prophecy of the restoration of his bride’s purity in verses 16-17.  He says that he will purify her theology and religious practices by removing her Baals (idols, false gods), and the memory of those idols.  He is essentially saying that the knowledge of past sins will stay, but the shame and pain are gone in light of the peace and joy in his redemption.  This comes with having the right perspective – that we will see our idols for the false gods that they are, and not our providers.  It also involves a realigning of our affections both toward God and away from our idols.

In verse 18 we see that God restores their relationship and brings ‘shalom’ (a holistic peace) between them to where everything is returned to the way it should be.  And in verses 19-20 we see that God will marry his whore; he will accept the unacceptable, redeem the unredeemable, and resurrect the dead (see also Ephesians 2).  This redemptive love is everlasting, displays his righteousness, justice, hesed (that faithful covenant love), and mercy.  He truly redeems every aspect of their covenant because his love is long-suffering, and it is perfect.  It also shows God’s faithfulness in light of his bride’s unfaithfulness.  He has never broken a covenant, but Israel has never kept one.

Another note of significance is that God is making the covenant for both of them – he acts, Israel receives.  Israel is incapable of making a covenant that she will stick to, so God steps in and takes on the weight of making their marital covenant and then empowers Israel, by his grace, to accomplish and fulfill it.  He restores Israel/us for his glory, for our good, and for our intimacy with him (see verse 20) so that we can and will glorify him in our daily lives.

And this isn’t just a redemption of his bride.  Remember the last post when God said his judgment would pass to Gomer’s children as well?  We now see that God’s redemptive love is expressed toward her whole family – her children are reconciled as well.  God will restore and reverse the judgment and curse that he placed on them (their names).  The heavens and earth are reconciled, and God will sow the seed of Israel for himself as an expression of his love and for his glory.  This is the gospel in our lives.  You see, just as Israel’s redemption wasn’t an end in and of itself – it was meant to show God’s infinite love and glory – our salvation and reconciliation as Christians is also not an end in and of itself.  To be sure, we do benefit very directly, but ultimately we are redeemed for God’s glory and to spread the gospel in this world.  2 Corinthians chapter 1 talks about how we as Christians participate in the ministry of reconciliation because we were reconciled.  So because we have been given grace, we give grace to others; because we’ve been saved, we help bring others to faith; because we have been given peace, we help spread peace in as much as we are able to.  We are indeed for God, for worship, to bear his image – he bought us with a price, and we are his.  But that isn’t the end goal.  His glory is.

Now, in a historical context, this passage foretells Israel’s exile and return.  In a contemporary context, this tells us about our own rebellion, discipline, and reconciliation (propitiation – turning from wrath to favor) to God.  This immediate context is for Hosea and Gomer – Hosea is redeeming and cultivating his wife for himself.  This is a beautiful biblical concept – a man’s wife is the barometer of his leadership, and in this God gives us the capability and the role of helping to reconcile and lead our wives to deeper walks with God.

Men, how are you cultivating your wife for yourself and for God’s glory?  Is  your marriage righteous, just, full of faithful covenant love, merciful, compassionate, and understanding?  How might you prepare yourself to lead this way, and how might you steward your marriage to reflect God’s glorious redemptive covenant in your own context?

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A Pleading Jealous Husband (Hosea Part 2)

I think one of the biggest things that I’ve seen thus far in my journey through Hosea is the blueprint that God lays for us as men and women to follow his example.  His character and actions toward his people model how we as men must relate to women, and how we as a people must submit to his leadership.  Today’s section that we’ll walk through has given me much pause in how God relates to and disciplines us as a jealous father and husband, and the sorry state of affairs that ensues when we reject his loving, gracious headship.

The main concept I’ve grappled with in the past few weeks has been the difference between the way that God leads and the way that I would likely lead in these various situations.  I honestly don’t know how I would endure what God has, but his example of doing what is truly for our good in spite of our ongoing sin is a precious testament to his faithful covenant love (the Hebrew word is ‘hesed’ – usually translated ‘lovingkindness’ in the Old Testament).  It is his initiating, sustaining, faithful pursuit of his passionate love toward his people for their benefit and his glory.  It is this love that endures forever, blesses us to the utmost, and demonstrates his glory in the world.  But let’s be completely clear here… that doesn’t mean that he excuses or overlooks or downplays sin.  God’s true love is seen in his full-on relentless address of sin so that his bride is pure.  This concept seems to be the best way to frame this passage that we’ll walk through today – Hosea 2:1-13.

A Pleading Jealous Husband
At this point in the narrative, Hosea has married his prostitute wife Gomer and they’ve had some kids.  Surprise surprise, she’s a sinner.  And not only that, apparently she has returned to her former ways and hasn’t killed that sin in her life.  So then by way of allegory, God has taken his people for himself, and they just happen to be sinners as well.  They have forsaken their Lord and turned back to their old idolatry and systematic unrepentant sin.  God then instructs Hosea to demonstrate a heavenly reality in his earthly context by confronting his wife’s ongoing sin, and to warn her as a (rightfully) jealous husband should.

The opening verse in this rebuke is very tough, but very necessary.  It starts off with an interesting play on words – the children’s names are promised in reverse.  Their names meaning ‘not my people’ and ‘no mercy’ are reversed to say that God has accepted his people and that he has given mercy – that God’s love will provide open arms for his people should they repent of their sin.  But the Lord quickly turns to pleadingly rebuke his wife for straying away from his faithful covenant love (verse 2).  Because of his love he is warning her of impending consequences of her lifestyle.  Therefore, God says that he will send his bride out into the desert, and make her barren and thirsty, driving her to understand the humiliating and shameful nature of her sin (verse 3).  She will also understand what she has (or doesn’t have) without her husband.  Though it is hard to see, this is the hidden smile of God, an act of mercy that will hopefully yield the precious fruit of repentance and reconciliation.  Without her dissatisfaction and understanding of her hopeless estate, she would continue on unabated in her sin, leading herself more and more astray.  It is God’s love that pushes her into the desert to stoke the fires of repentance.

Have you ever felt this discipline from the Lord?  Has he driven you into the desert to see the stark reality of your sin?  How have you responded?

We also see that God’s judgment in this case doesn’t just affect his bride – it affects their children as well (verse 4).  Her sin has incurred many consequences and has affected many people.  And that’s another good point – our sin never affects just us.  It affects everyone, including future generations.  Think about that… parents who pass their insecurities and temptations on to their children are passing their sin and its consequences along.

Let me be both clear and blunt.  Sin never stays within the boundaries you set for it.  It always spills its banks, always costs more than you think, and cuts far deeper than you can imagine.  Its desire is for you – to consume you, to rule you, to make you its slave.  And when you are enslaved to sin, you drag many others – especially those you love and who love you – down with you.  While your sin is your own and you are the one who is responsible for it, its effects are far reaching and broad ranging.  Take a sober look at your life and your sin and you will (I pray) be humbled at the effects of your sin.  I weep at the hurt I’ve caused others.  I pray you do as well.

Moving along in the passage, we see that the prostitute wife (Gomer/Israel) continues on seeking wrongly attributed benefits from sinful relationships (verse 5).  She is pursuing sin and looking to it to provide only what God is capable of providing.  How many times do we do this?  In what ways to we look to gain God’s provision outside of the means that he has chosen to provide it?  When we seek other means by which we can experience sex, for example (adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, pedophilia, etc.), we go against his design and incur many consequences that are too numerous to dig into here.  The same goes for money – when we seek illegal or illegitimate gain, it never works out in the long run.  When we desire children, provision for our families, or anything that supersedes our desire to stay within the way God has wired the world to work, we are essentially the harlot wife looking to ‘clients’ to whom she has wrongly attributed her husband’s provision.  This is ugly, and it is real.

God’s response in this situation is to hedge his bride (verse 6) – to keep her from her own sin – for her own good.  This shows his wisdom and love for his bride.  It is analogous to when we keep small children from playing in a busy street, or slap their hand away from a hot stove.  God’s love for his children and his infinite wisdom drives him to restrain her from her sin.  So the Lord goes on to show that his bride will be hemmed in, that she will desire sin and not be allowed to pursue it or act on it.  She will eventually become discouraged and downtrodden, exhausted from the fruitless pursuit of shortsighted lust.

How does that hit you?  What do you make of God directly contradicting his bride’s ‘free  will’ to protect her?

The text takes an interesting turn here (verse 7) – God’s prostitute wife, at her wits’ end, will then return to her husband, not from love or repentance, but because she realizes that things were at least better with him.  I think we (or at least I) do this all the time.  It is the beginning of the process that leads to repentance.  Though it is not repentance, it is at least an acknowledgement of the fruitless pursuit of sin, and the realization that God is ready and willing to receive us.  Now, that in no way means that the road back will be easy or straight, or even make sense most of the time, but it does mean that the Lord is waiting at the end as our reward.

In the following verse, we see a really interesting concept that seems peculiar at first, but I think opens up into a much larger understanding of God’s sovereignty and love (verse 8). God shows his hand, stating that he was the one who provided the various things mentioned in the passage, not his bride’s lovers.  This is another precious grace that in spite of our sin his love is unwavering, his resolve unshaken.  God is much bigger than that, and his purposes for us far exceed the effects of our sin if we are his in Christ Jesus.  Just because we sin against him on a daily basis doesn’t mean that he isn’t at work around us, in us, through us, and in spite of us.  He is our ultimate provider, not our jobs, not our own hands, not ‘luck’.  So it is not a company that provides my paycheck – rather, God gives me plenty to steward for his kingdom.  It is not the locks on my doors that keep me secure at night – God restrains evil at my doorstep.  And in order for us to appropriately live in this world we must see that even the most seemingly random events are at the hands of God’s sustaining and provisionary grace.  So we must give him the glory in providing for us, even and especially if we’re in sin.

I think the best biblical example of this is found in Romans 5:8 – “… but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  So before you and I ever took a breath or sinned, while Paul was still a Pharisee who would go on to murder Christians, while we were hardened desperate sinners, Christ died for us so that we might be free to love him and glorify him in our lives.

How has God provided for you when you’ve been far from him in sin?  What provisions have you taken for granted that God can take away at any time?  How does that make you feel about or respond to the Lord?

The last few verses are not easy to read or walk through, in my opinion.  It details out the way that God will discipline and humiliate his bride so that she will return to him.  This is by no means a direct correlation to our human marriages now – God is God, you are not.  But I’ll address that in a minute.  First, God expresses his disgust at what he has so graciously lavished on his bride, she has used for sin (verse 9).  His judgment, then, is to take it away from her and strip her of his provisions to show her shameful pursuits, her neediness, kill her pride, and bring her back to repentance.  Israel/Gomer will utterly at the hands of her husband (verse 10).  He will also take away her capacity for happiness apart from him (verse 11), because that is his greatest glory and her greatest good.  He will take away her money, her livelihood, her base from which she conducts her sin, and will bring disaster to her (verse 12).  He will also punish her for her sin and adultery – for letting her affections for another compromise her life as she slips further and further into sin.

What do you make of this?  How does God’s jealousy hit you?  It seems as though he’s not only jealous for his glory, but also for our love.

As a husband, what wouldn’t you do to rescue your wife back from her sin?  She’s your responsibility; if she’s heading into sin and adultery, what would you do to stop her?  Would you warn her, cut off her credit card, make it increasingly difficult to accomplish her sin? This is God’s motivation and methodology for wooing his wife back from her egregious sin.  This isn’t just a sinfully jealous boyfriend or husband stalking and controlling his wife and dictating everything she does.  It is a faithfully covenanted husband rescuing his wife from her sin for their marriage’s sake.

This is mercy and love at its finest.  Anyone can make a marriage work when things are good, when the sex is good, when the laundry is done and the food is cooked. But when you realize that people are sinners and that you’re married to one of them, and when you have your fights about sex and kids and whatever else, and when you are tempted to see that things would be different and maybe better with someone else… 1) how do you discipline your mind to come away from that temptation? 2) how do you work with your spouse to bring yourself or him/her away from their sin?  How do those conversations go, and how do you fight to protect your marriage?

And what about the more subtle sins?  How do you show the effects of your spouse’s sin in a clear but non-vindictive way?  When your spouse sins against you, do you throw it in their face with a smirk and say ‘you need to fix this’… or do you lovingly wait until they are in a receptive frame of mind and calmly express your love for them and desire to work through their sin with them?

What tempts you away from your spouse?  What tempts you away from God?  Why?

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A Prophet and His Prostitute (Hosea part 1)

Recently I’ve been studying through the book of Hosea and God has taught me quite a bit about (in order) himself, his Son Jesus, his people, and myself.  This will be the first of quite a few posts involving the main themes and my take-aways from this precious book.  Join me in this journey, add your thoughts and comments, and see what God might teach us as we walk through what he would have for us.  I’m excited – let’s get started.

Introduction

Before we get dive into the text itself, let’s go over just a bit of basic background information about the book in general and its author.  Hosea was a prophet in Israel who wrote and ministered around latter part of the 8th century B.C. At this time Israel had already split after Solomon’s reign (the last king of the united monarchy), with two tribes in the north (Israel – capital city, Samaria) and the remaining ten tribes in the south (Judah – capital city, Jerusalem).  This was a very turbulent time for God’s people – they were engaging in open rebellion against God, and wicked spiritual practices were rampant.  In response, God disciplines them for their wickedness and sends the Assyrians to conquer Samaria in the north, but before he does, he sends a very hard, very peculiar rebuke to his people through the life of Hosea, one of his prophets.  We’ll pick up the account in Hosea chapter 1.

A Prophet and his Prostitute

The word of the Lord comes to Hosea and tells him to marry a hooker, have kids with her, and love her.  There is no condition (‘… as long as she is nice and stays faithful…’), there is no incentive (‘… and I’ll give you all kinds of cash…’), and there is no other comment, save for the reason:  that Israel has become a prostitute in following other gods and turning her back on God, her true king.  So God wants Hosea to live out an allegory and an object lesson in hopes of illustrating the dire circumstances so that Israel might come to repentance and return to her Lord.

I have to wonder about what is going through Hosea’s mind at this point.  Does he question God’s plan?  Is he (like so many prophets in the Old Testament) reflecting God’s heart for his people with sorrow and grief?  If I were in Hosea’s sandals, I would be a bit scared and anxious at the prospect of marrying a prostitute.  I mean, let’s think about it… she’s going to have some serious baggage, possibly any number of diseases, she’ll be a source of ridicule, scorn, and shame for him.  This is likely way different than he expected, to say the least.  Not having a wife myself, I must say I’d be pretty intimidated and would wrestle with the temptation to follow Jonah’s example more than I’d like to admit.  I think a precious grace in Hosea’s situation is that he has an unwavering faith in his God, and he knows why he must walk through this particular type of trial.

You see, God is jealous for his glory, and he loves his people even though they (we) do not love him back.  Israel at this point is chasing so many false gods and idols that she is a prostitute who, as God says, is whoring after them.  We Christians know at some base level exactly what is going on here, because we do the exact same thing.  We may not have temple prostitutes and pagan altars on which we sacrifice goats or other animals, but consider what you sacrifice on the altar of your wants or your ‘rights.’  Consider what you turn your affections, your heart, mind, body, and strength toward.  What do you want and what will you sacrifice anything to get?  These are the affections of your heart, and they were meant only for God.  If you can see that your affections are focused on anything other than God, you have begun to spot the idols in your life.  Keep digging and you’ll see sins behind sins – lust and gluttony will fade away and you’ll see pride and self-worship rearing is disgusting head in your life.  Laziness, envy, greed – they’re all expressions of a root sin that is fueled by pride.  These are what we must put to death by the power of the Spirit if we are to begin walking that road less taken – the precious road of sanctification that choose and even fewer complete.  Take that step of faith – begin the process of examining your life and if you’re anything like me you will find sin almost immediately.  This is where the process of repentance and our grasp on God’s grace and mercy begin.

I would also be really curious about what Gomer, Hosea’s prostitute wife, thought about this whole arrangement.  What might her reaction have been?  I’ll be honest – I don’t know any hookers, personally.  But I can’t imagine any of them taking too kindly to some holy man coming up to them and asking them to participate in some grandiose object lesson for God’s unrepentant people.  Would she be taken aback?  Offended, even?  Would she see Hosea as a bringer of God’s mercy to rescue and redeem her from her life of sin?  Or would she begin to scheme and plan how to take advantage of this man for her own benefit?  The reason I wonder with these specific examples is that in my experience these are but some of the reactions that people have toward God when confronted with his marvelous offer of grace in their lives.  Some are taken aback and offended at the offer because they don’t know their pitiful state.  Some respond with gratitude, humility, and worship at the immense grace that God gives us in himself.  And still others see an opportunity to take advantage of God’s gift of grace and run off to engage in even more sin because they have their ‘fire insurance.’

To boil it down to a more personal level, let’s be honest – we’re all Gomers in some manner of speaking.  We all live lives of sin and chase the affections of our hearts after some vain object of our own temporary (fleeting) delight.  We have all sinned whether we realize it or not.  We sin by doing things we shouldn’t, and we sin by not doing things we should.  We sin in the dark, and we sin in broad daylight.  We sin in crowds of people, and we sin when we’re all alone.  Sin is an ever-present reality in every relationship and every marriage, because they both involve people, and people are inherently sinful beings.  Now, to be sure, Hosea and Gomer is a bit of an extreme example of a particular kind of sin in a marriage… but honestly, I don’t think I can make the case that my sins cause any less pain, discord, or grief than Gomer’s did with Hosea.  So I’m left considering my sin and its effects – and I’m blown away at God’s grace in restraining my sin and redeeming it in spite of its ugliness in my life and my friends’ lives.  I praise God for the reconciliation I’ve received, and that I get to participate in that ministry of reconciliation as well.

Meet the Kids

At the close of this first post, let’s finish out the first chapter by meeting the kids, Hosea and Gomer’s offspring.  First, we have Jezreel, who serves as a pronouncement of judgment and imminent doom for Israel.  Excellent.  Next, we have Lo-Ruhama (or ‘no mercy’) who is a further clarification (as if any was needed) that God will have no more mercy or forgiveness for Israel.  Even better.  And their third child, another bouncing baby boy, they named Lo-Ammi (or ‘not my people’) because God has fully rejected Israel; they are not his, and he is not their God.  That’s pretty rough.  I can only imagine the ‘have-you-picked-out-a-name-yet’ conversations and embroidered baby blankets with those names on them… goodness.  But that’s neither here nor there.

We close this first installment with a precious truth: it isn’t as though God’s grace has failed – there is a bright note to close this dark chapter… a glimmer of hope on the horizon for Hosea’s readers.  Even though this is a bleak time for God’s people, his promise is still intact – starting in verse 10, a prophecy of future unity and prosperity is given.  Though the wrath of the Lord is coming down on Israel for this time, it will not always be so.  The judgments against Israel will come to an end, and he will welcome again those whom he has turned over to discipline.  There is a prospect of future repentance, future grace, future communion with God.  But we’ll get to that soon – stick with me and we’ll see how it plays out in due time.

Thank you for reading this long first post – and let me know what you think thus far.  I’m definitely excited about where we’re headed.

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