Month: November 2019

Future Song (Psalm 30)

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I find it fascinating to think that according to the title of the Psalm – David composed Psalm 30 for the dedication of the temple.

And yet, David was not alive for the dedication of the temple since it happened after he had died, during the time of his son Solomon’s reign.

But in faith, David wrote a song to be sung at some time in the future. A future he would not see with his eyes, but one which by faith he could see – and so prepared a song for it.

Psalm 30 itself is a Psalm of thanksgiving to God. David thanks God for deliverance (vs1), for healing (vs2-3) and the restoration of joy and thankfulness (vs11-12).

It is so important to stop and to thank God. After all, when we express our thanks publicly at least six things happen;

1. God gets glorified as the Giver, Protector, Provider, Source, Comforter, Guide, Sustainer, Forgiver, Redeemer, the ONE who answers prayers, who heals & as our loving Father.

2. We get right-sized (humility); we get the right perspective. Because by thanking God for something we are acknowledging that we did not do this thing, it was not our power or ability or cleverness.

3. We have our faith strengthened for the future – seeing past grace is the foundation for future faith!

4. Others get encouraged – if God did that for you, then others are stirred to keep trusting God themselves.

5. God’s nature & character get displayed – God stories help all who experienced them and those who heard of them to grow in their understanding of God. More than this, those who are on a journey towards faith can hear about what God is really like, not from a book but from real-life stories!

6. The Devil is defeated – Revelation 12:11 tells us that it’s by the blood of the Lamb & the Word of our testimony that the Devil will ultimately be conquered. The more we honour God, the more glorious His praise, the more defeated is the enemy.

Through his life, David had experienced God in such amazing ways that He had faith that God would do what He had promised to do – to bless David’s line and to allow His son Solomon to build God a temple (1 Chronicles 22:6-19)!

And so David in faith wrote this Psalm of thanks for the future. What have you experienced of God? What can you thank God for, and how can that become a testimony to others and a foundation of hope for the future?

Two Ways (Hosea 14:9)

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This one verse at the end of the whole book sums up the book and our response to it. There are two paths before every one of us; God’s way and the way that Israel took which the prophet has been at pains to describe.

Scripture frequently contrasts the way of the wise and that of the fool or the righteous person’s way, and the ungodly person’s way. Everyone chooses a way; it is unavoidable.

The question is, what will you choose?

Hosea 14:9 brings the book to a conclusion forcing the reader to consider their own personal response. Much of the book has been written to the collective of Israel, but now the focus is undeniably personal.

The wise person will take to heart, will understand the themes and emphases of the book; they will listen and obey God and choose to walk in God’s ways.

On the contrary, the foolish person will continue to stumble in their sinful ways, disregarding God’s commandments, His appeals of love and His repeated invitation to repent.

We all choose continually. What will you choose? Which path are you on right now and will you stay on that path?

These are the questions. Will you learn from Israel’s mistakes? Will you respond to the love of God that graciously woos us back time and time again or will you harden your heart and close your ears as the Israelites did?

I urge you to continuously keep in step with God by obeying the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25) & allowing Scripture to lead and direct you (Psalm 119:105).

Ask God to keep your heart soft and your spiritual ears open. Because the ‘paths of the LORD are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them’ (Hosea 14:9 in the NLT).

Bless you
GARETH

It’s always good to read to the end of the Book… (Hosea 14:1-8)

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I remember encountering the short story genre in senior school with Jeffrey Archer’s, “A Twist in the Tale”. You needed to read to the end of each story to work out what the whole story was about.

Hosea is something like that. If you had stopped reading Hosea a few chapters back, you might have reached an inaccurate, premature conclusion about God.

You might have felt that the God portrayed in these pages of this prophetic book seems too far removed from the God on the pages of the New Testament.

But Hosea 14, however, is a clear demonstration of the fact that God has never changed and never will (Malachi 3:6). The God of Scripture has always been the God of grace.

Hosea 14 begins with the frequent OT refrain; “Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God” (Hosea 14:1). God’s harsh words through the prophet have been justified at every point, and yet the heart of God is that His people would recognise their sin and repent, that they would repent and return to God.

God, through the prophet, invites Israel to ask God to forgive them, ‘to take away all iniquity’ (Hosea 14:2). God appeals to Israel to say to God;

  • Assyria (humankind) will not save us (vs3)
  • Abandon faith in false gods and human-made idols (vs3)
  • Say that you will never bow down to these idols again (vs3)
  • Say that in God alone will we find mercy (vs3)

And then God will respond saying;

  • ‘I will heal you of your faithlessness my love will know no bounds for my anger will be gone forever’ (Hosea 14:4 in the NLT)
  • I will refresh Israel like a refreshing dew from heaven causing flowers and fruitfulness (vs5)
  • I will be like shade to Israel, and so Israel will flourish again like the vine I originally intended it to be (vs7)
  • ‘O Israel, stay away from idols! I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you.’ (Hosea 14:8 in NLT)
  • At the end of the book of Hosea, what is clear is that the desire in the heart of God is for His people to choose to repent so that they can return to Him. God wants to forgive; God wants to lavish His love that knows no bounds on them. That is His desire to lavish love on us.
  • The question is, will we repent, will we stop our sinful ways and love and worship God only? Only we can respond to God’s invitation – I urge you to respond and to keep responding to God daily.

    We need a better… (Hosea 13:1-16)

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    God has been Israel’s God since the exodus when He delivered them from Egypt (vs4). Israel knew no other God’s but Him. God looked after Israel in the Wilderness (vs5) but when they entered into the prosperity of the Promised Land they did the very thing God warned them not to do (Deuteronomy 7-8) – ‘they forgot me’ says God (vs6).

    Israel’s sin, compromise & idolatry has lead them to this place they are in now and have been in for hundreds of years – Baal worship (idols) and even child sacrifice (vs1-3).

    And this is why God speaking of being is like a lion, leopard or a bear towards Israel (vs7-8), this is why God promises to ‘destroy you, O Israel, for you are against me, against your helper’ (vs9).

    God traces the problem back to the days when He warned Israel of not forgetting him when He brought them into the Promised Land, and God also traces it back to the time when they rejected God as their king and clamoured for an earthly king like the nations around. At that time, God warned them that those kings would make their lives a misery and lead them astray – and this is precisely what happened when you read the history of Israel (vs9-10).

    Israel refuses to let go of its sin & repent like a baby who refuses to be born (vs12-13). And so ‘Samaria shall bear her guilt because she has rebelled against her God” (vs16).

    Here as elsewhere in Hosea’s prophecies, we have what Mark Dever calls the riddle of the old testament; “God is Holy, and we are not!”

    We cannot be faithful to God; our kings will fail us, our prophets & priests will let us down. We need a better Saviour; we need a better prophet, priest and king – we need Jesus!

    Futile & Faithful (Hosea 12:1-13)

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    Futile. Empty. Unfulfilling. Mad.

    To live as if God is not God – is futile, empty & unfulfilling. It is like trying to be filled up in your stomach on the wind. Eating the wind, taking great gulps of air, will never fulfil the need for nutrition that your body has (vs1).

    Rejecting God, putting your trust in self or anything other than God is like chasing after the wind as if it could be caught (vs1).

    It makes no sense to reject God. It’s not rational; instead, it’s entirely irrational – like trying to feed on or catch the wind.

    By reaching out to Assyria and Egypt, making covenants with them for protection, faithless Israel has been like a person futilely feeding on the wind or chasing it.

    And so God has an indictment against both Israel and Judah (vs2). Neither of them has been faithful to God and His covenant with them but have rather rejected God and made covenants with Assyria & Egypt, which will prove futile.

    They, Israel, are acting just like their ancestor Jacob (Hosea 12:2-5) who was habitually deceitful as he tricked his father and robbed his brother of his birthright (see Genesis 25-27).

    Yet God was gracious to Jacob, and so God promised to bless Jacob with the same covenant promise that was given to Abraham (Genesis 28:10-22). More than this, when Jacob wrestled with God and asked God to bless him, God did, and at that moment renamed him ‘Israel’ (Genesis 32:22-32).

    And so God will be gracious to Israel as He was to Jacob if only they would return to God and hold fast to love and justice (Hosea 12:6) rather than ‘multiply falsehood and violence’ (Hosea 12:1).

    Israel became wealthy but did so through corrupt means and so has walked away from God’s ways. Therefore, God will humble them, reduce them back to a state of living in tents and humble accommodation (Hosea 12:7-8).

    God laments that He sent prophets to Israel, God gave visions and parables to the prophets appealing to Israel to stop, to see their sin and to repent (Hosea 12:10). God is so gracious, so forbearing to keep speaking when we are wayward.

    God was gracious to Jacob, blessed him with a wife and children as He had promised He would (Hosea 12:12). God was then faithful again to His promise to Jacob by bringing the twelve tribes bearing the names of his twelve sons out of Egypt hundreds of years later through Moses the prophet (Hosea 12:13).

    Israel’s actions have been futile, faithless, and yet in recounting the checkered story of Jacob’s, God shows Israel that He is faithful to His promises, He is gracious in spite of us.

    What does this mean for you and I today?

    • It is utterly futile to put your trust in anything or anyone other than God Himself.
    • Learn from Israel’s history, determine not to repeat their errors in trusting in Assyria & Egypt.
    • Know that God is faithful to His promises, and know that He has promised never to leave and never to forsake us (Hebrews 13:5b), and because of that, determine to trust God!
    • And so, with God’s help, hold fast to love and justice and continually wait for your God regardless of what you are facing (Hosea 12:6).
    • In so doing you’ll avoid futility & you’ll be faithful.

    Parenting Pain (Hosea 11:1-11)

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    All through the collection of prophecies in this book, God has likened His anguish and pain felt because of Israel’s unfaithfulness as being like the human experience Hosea was having in his painful marriage to Gomer.

    Now in the eleventh chapter, God uses another human experience to communicate the pain He feels over His people’s rejection of Him – parenting.

    Israel is a beloved child who has walked away from the parent who raised it (vs3), turned its back on them despite the incredible love and parental care (vs4) that has been shown.

    God’s anguish is evident; ‘My people are bent on turning away from me’ (vs7). The God of Scripture, our God is not aloof, untouched or cold. The language of the whole book of Hosea is of profound human experiences that help us to understand how God feels when we are in a state of sinful rebellion or rejection of Him, living and acting as though He were not our God who has loved us.

    Because of Israel’s refusal to turn back to God (vs5), ‘the sword will rage against their cities’ (vs6) and God will not answer them anymore when they do call out to Him (vs6).  

    God’s heart is in pain and conflicted like a parent who has had to discipline their child; ‘My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender’ (vs8) and so God will not totally destroy Israel when He sends them into exile because of their sin.

    God promises a future day when a remnant of Israel will be gathered back to God from the nations they are about to be scattered to in exile;

    They shall go after the Lord; he will roar like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west; they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria, and I will return them to their homes, declares the Lord. (vs10-11)

    God will remain faithful to His covenant promises; God is faithful even when we are unfaithful.

    What does this mean for us today?

    • All the language of human experiences throughout this book of prophecies reveals the profoundly personal nature of God and our relationship with Him.
    • How we live really matters to God, God feels pain when we live as though He doesn’t exist, when we spurn His words to us, when we live in sin and compromise, when we give our hearts trust to other things or people.
    • Ephesians 5:10 in the NIV translation instructs us to ‘find out what pleases the LORD’ and Ephesians 4:30 urges us; ‘do not grieve the Holy Spirit’. May we live to please God, live in such a way that we do not grieve God. May we bring joy to our Father, not tears!

    Compromise & Judgement (Hosea 8-9)

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    Israel’s sin of idolatry is described in detail in Hosea 8-9, while enemies are waiting like a vulture readying itself to descend upon Israel in judgement (Hosea 8:1). Why?

    Because these people cry; ‘My God…we know you’ (Hosea 8:2) However, the truth is that they had continually spurned the one true God (Hosea 8:3) and so they will be pursued by the enemy and taken off into exile in the nations.

    Israel had appointed kings without asking for God’s guidance, appointed princes without God’s approval (Hosea 8:4 in NLT). They were worldly, no different from the nations around them, they lived and led as though God was not on His throne and as though God had no authority in their lives.

    To make matters worse, Israel had made idols for themselves from their silver and gold. And because of this, they had brought about their own destruction (Hosea 8:4).

    When the kingdom of Israel was divided (see 1 Kings 12) Jeroboam sinfully built altars for sacrifices in Bethel & Dan and had two golden calves built for these places of false worship. “And he said to the people, ‘You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.'” (1 Kings 12:28)

    In Hosea 8, God expresses His righteous anger at this sinful offensive act and how it had been perpetuated in Samaria for nearly 200yrs – ‘I have spurned your calf, O Samaria. My anger burns against them…the calf of Samaria shall be broken to pieces.’ (Hosea 8:5-6)

    The beginning of the Ten Commandments reads;

    “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God…” (Exodus 20:1-5)

    This idolatry with the golden calves was outright rebellion against God, and it was going to be punished by Him.  

    The ‘worship’ and sacrifices in Samaria mimicked the worship God had ordained for the temple in Jerusalem. There were similarities, therefore. But God refused to accept the syncretistic compromised worship of the northern Tribes at their self-made temples with their golden calves – ‘but the LORD does not accept them.’ (Hosea 8:13).

    So their external ‘religious’ actions had no effect; their sins were not going to be forgiven; rather, their sins would be remembered by God and punished by God (Hosea 8:13).

    ‘Israel has forgotten his Maker’ – (Hosea 8:14). A chilling echo of this passage is found in Romans 1:18-32 where also there is judgement coming because of the willful decision to exchange; ‘the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator’ (Romans 1:25).

    Because of Israel’s idolatry, they will be exiled to Assyria and Egypt for; ‘the days of punishment have come; the days of recompense have come.’ (Hosea 9:7) ‘Woe to them when I depart from them!’ (Hosea 9:12) ‘My God will reject them because they have not listened to Him; they shall be wanders among the nations.’ (Hosea 9:17)

    These are sad chapters. There is no good news in them, no ray of hope as in earlier chapters.

    So what does this mean for us?

    • Warnings are important to take heed of! In life, we ignore warnings at our peril.
    • I thank God for passages like this. Although you don’t find them on Christian bumper stickers or the like, they are essential.
    • Passages like this contain solemn warnings. May we not be like these people who willfully disobeyed God’s clear commands, who compromised and mixed true worship of God with idolatry.
    • Is there any way in which you are ignoring a clear command of Scripture?
    • Is there any way in which you are dabbling in trusting in anything or anyone other than Almighty God?
    • If you are, repent now, don’t delay even a minute.
    • “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27)