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)

    Third Day People (Hosea 6:1-11)

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    Old Testament prophecies are a little like onions in that they often have layers of meaning. They meant something in that day to those people; they often prefigure Jesus the Messiah in some way, they often have direct application in our lives in the present and sometimes they have an as yet unfulfilled future relevance too.

    Hosea 6:1-3 is one of those portions of OT prophecy that from our perspective in redemption history suddenly takes on a fuller meaning.  

    “Come let us return to the LORD” – vs1

    God’s repeated call to His people is that they would reach this point, that they would come to their senses and would return to the ONE who had covenanted to love them. Here the prophet includes himself and appeals to Israel to join him in returning to the LORD.

    The good news of the Gospel is this – is it not? God has openly displayed His love for us; God has made it possible for us to have our sins forgiven so that we could return to Him and be reconciled through faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross.

    Have you sinned? Confess your sin and then return to God through Jesus Christ, your Saviour King.

    ‘For he has torn us, that he may heal us…’ (vs1)

    God has punished Israel’s sin, purifying Israel so that healing could come to them. God justly struck them down, but God will bind them up…

    Israel was punished for their sin; they were struck down; some were killed; they were exiled.  

    We too deserve the wrath of God against our sin, our compromise and rebellion against God. And yet God doesn’t strike us!

    No. God allowed Jesus’ back to be torn by whips, ripped open by the rough wood of the cross. God allowed Jesus to be killed in our place for our sin. This all happened to Jesus so that it won’t happen to us, to those who put their trust in Jesus. Jesus was struck, we get bound up, healed by His finished work on Calvary.

    “On the third day…” (vs2)

    The prophet announced to Israel that although their sin was about to be punished, it would not last forever and they would be revived. Hosea and the people of his day could not have known what all was contained in these words of the prophet.

    But we know the story. We know that Jesus died but ‘after two days’ (vs2), ‘on the third day’ (vs2) God raised Jesus up just like Hosea prophecied!

    Jesus was struck for our iniquities, but He rose again victorious. Not even death could hold him down and because Jesus rose again from the dead we too who believe in Him have His resurrection life in us.

    This all happened so that; ‘we may live before Him.’ (vs3). This is the Gospel, hidden in the pages of OT prophecy. Jesus took on Himself the punishment that was ours and rose again victorious on the third day SO THAT we might be forgiven of our sin, cleansed from all our unrighteousness and be reconciled back to right relationship with our Holy God.

    We are a ‘third day people’. We have hope because Jesus died and rose again on the third day. It was foretold about 740yrs before Jesus Christ – this was God’s gracious plan all along.

    ‘Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD’ (vs3)

    All that Jesus did for us is worth nothing unless we take hold of the opportunity God has given us and press on, press in to know the LORD.

    Jesus has removed every obstacle, removed the sin that separated us from God (Isaiah 59:2); there is no reason why we ought to be far off from God. We can know Him.

    But will we? Will we remain far off or will we press on to know God intimately, deeply?

    About 28years ago, my Father in law was once asked by my friend who had recently given his life to Jesus on a youth camp; ‘Jeff, pray that I would know God better.’  

    To this, Jeff replied; ‘I can’t pray that!’  

    My friend (and I) were horrified at his seemingly unloving response. Then he said words that I have never forgotten; ‘I can’t pray that you would know God better, that’s up to you. But I can, and I will pray that you will WANT to know God better.’ And so he did, and now that friend leads one of the most significant churches in Cape Town South Africa.

    Do you know Jesus? Let us press on to know the LORD! The more we know, the more we will love and worship Him.

    The Danger of Closed Ears (Hosea 5:1-15)

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    Hosea Chapter 5 reads like a charge sheet or the pronouncement of the judge of the misdemeanours committed in a court proceeding against Israel/Ephraim (the Northern Kingdom).

    The priests, the royal family & the leaders of Israel have led Israel into a snare/trap with their idol worship and their ‘deep slaughter’ (vs2 in ESV might refer to child sacrifice see 2 Kings 17:17).

    Israel was so thoroughly gone, so far from God that reconciliation at that point seemed impossible; “Your deeds won’t let you return to your God. You are a prostitute through and through, and you do not know the Lord” (vs4 in NLT).

    They might go and seek God to make sacrifices with their livestock, but they will not find God for ‘he has withdrawn from them’ (vs6). Nothing is more terrifying than this! That God removes Himself from us, that He won’t reply any more to our calls. That is the very definition of hell – existence without God, without the possibility of God, listening, without God willing to respond to our cries for mercy, grace or help. Hell, CS Lewis said was a monument to human freedom – people want nothing to do with God and so that is what God eventually gives them.

    The leaders of Israel are full of dishonesty, corruption & injustice like those who move their neighbour’s landmarks (stealing land from people) (vs10 in ESV).

    And because of all of this the day of judgment is coming, war is coming, and Israel will be reduced to a pile of rubble (vs 9 in NLT), ‘The people of Israel will be crushed and broken by my judgment because they are determined to worship idols.’ (vs11 in NLT). 

    When Israel realised the terrible moth-eaten state of her clothes, when they saw that destructive rot had set in to eat away their wooden things (vs12) – they called out for help.

    But they did not call out in repentance to God the only One who could truly help them. Rather they sought political & military alliances with surrounding nations to secure protection. They paid money to Assyria (2 Kings 15:19) to buy protection – but these nations, these men can’t help Israel (vs13)! 

    We are like this sometimes aren’t we? We have made some mess of our lives, wandered from God, and when we realise our predicament we don’t repent and turn back to God the only One who can truly help us, we make a plan, seek wisdom, solace or solutions from those around us. And yet we know, God is the One we need. Christ Follower, don’t be like Israel was.

    Foreign nations will not be able to stop what God has determined. Israel and even later Judah too are going to be punished by God (vs14). God is going to ‘tear them to pieces’ and ‘carry them off’ like a lion does it’s prey (vs15). Israel will be judged, punished and taken off into exile for God has finally declared; ‘enough!’ (see 2 Kings 17). 

    And yet even this terrible day that awaits Israel is not the end of the story;

    Then I will return to my place until they admit their guilt and turn to me. For as soon as trouble comes, they will earnestly search for me.” (vs15 in NLT)

    God is anticipating that judgement will produce repentance in the future and a change of heart and a longing for God again. There is a flicker of hope still as God vs15 hints at God’s desire for this to be restorative justice that will re-unite His people to Him in the future.

    What does this mean for you and I today?

    • Remember that God is slow to anger and abounding in mercy. This judgement of God on Israel was a long time in coming (approximately 200yrs and the reign of 13 kings).
    • God had spoken over and over and over again to Israel through the prophets (2 Kings 17:13-14); however, they would not listen but rather were stubborn in their idolatry and unbelief.
    • Decide today not to be like Israel was! Decide today to listen to the soft inner promptings of the Holy Spirit, the whispers of God through your own Bible reading and listening to Bible-based preaching, listen and repent, turn back to God when He whispers to you. Because if you don’t listen to the private whispers, God will eventually raise the volume and what was private will become more and more public.
    • What’s God been trying to whisper to you about that you’ve maybe been shutting your ears too? Speak to God now, repent now, return to Him the only One who can truly help.

    Costly Love (Hosea 3:1-5)

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    How long was Gomer waywardly unfaithful to Hosea? We don’t know exactly, but it was long enough to have conceived and weaned two children – so presumably a minimum of 4-5yrs!

    All that time, Hosea must have cycled through the whole exhausting range of conflicted emotions. Then God spoke to the prophet; “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 loves cakes of raisins.” (Hosea 3:1)

    This woman who is not named, who is not even called Hosea’s wife she is so estranged relationally from him (see Hosea 2:2), is still rightfully understood to be his wife Gomer for this is the dominant illustration of the book.

    And yet God commands Hosea to love her again. Since this is what God does to us, His people, loves us even when we are unlovely.

    Hosea obediently goes and buys his wife back from some form of slavery or bondage she has gotten herself into. The fact that Gomer had to be purchased back reveals the desperate situation she has sunk into. No detail is given as to how she got into this situation but for Hosea to reconcile her back to him would cost him the guiltless one.

    Forgiveness always precedes true reconciliation, and forgiveness always costs the one who was wronged.

    Hosea’s having to pay a ransom price to be able to be reconciled with his wife foreshadows what it cost God to be reconciled back to right relationship with us wayward sinners (Rom. 5:6–11).

    God was going to purify Israel through exile in a foreign land – a time when they would have no king of their own. In exile, they would be removed from what had become their everyday idolatry so prevalent in the Northern Kingdom during the years preceding this. (Hosea 3:4)

    But after that appointed time, Israel would; ‘return and devote themselves again to the LORD their God and to David’s descendant, their king’ (Hosea 3:5 in NLT). God would reconcile them to Himself after this time of exile. The wayward tribes of the Northern Kingdom who had been in rebellion against God’s appointed line of kings will have to return to be included in the covenant promises to David’s line and the ultimate King of kings who will come from that line – King Jesus!

    What does this mean for us today?

    • God is patient, merciful and forgiving!
    • God loved us and still loves us even when we are unlovely & ungodly.
    • God wants a real relationship, a loving, committed relationship with us, and because of that God paid the ransom price by sending Jesus the Son to die on the cross in our place for our sin SO THAT we could be freed from the penalty of our slavery to sin and be reconciled back to right relationship with God.
    • What a love story! What a King, what a Saviour. Worship and love Him with all you have for He is worthy.

    The Pain of Unfaithfulness (Hosea 2:1-13)

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    [All Scripture references today are from the NLT translation]

    Hosea’s painful ordeal as a spouse who’s marriage partner is openly unfaithful represents another pain – God’s sorrow over Israel’s idolatry & unfaithfulness toward God.

    Hosea, the husband, stumbles through conflicting thoughts and emotions towards his unfaithful wife.

    One moment he wants nothing more to do with her or her children; ‘for she is no longer my wife, and I am no longer her husband’ (vs2); ‘for their mother is a shameless prostitute and became pregnant in a shameful way.’ (vs5)

    The next moment he wants her shame to be exposed and wants his anger vindicated (vs3) for she has longed after her lovers and the perceived material benefits she has gained from loving them (vs5).

    Then he wants to build a hedge around her, to keep her from them, to stop her path to these lovers, so that she won’t be able to catch them anymore and will lose her way to them (vs6-7).

    He does this because he thinks, maybe then she will come to her senses and think; ‘I might as well return to my husband, for I was better off with him than I am now.’ (vs7)

    Hosea is still hoping, still willing to forgive her and take her back and begin to rebuild their marriage – if only she would come back to him!

    But his hurt is deep, she thinks these lovers of hers provided for her, but it was he, Hosea her husband all along but she took all the gifts he provided her, and she sacrificed them to Baal! (vs8)

    God had provided for Israel his people had provided for them even when they were chasing after other gods, and yet Israel took the very provision God lovingly gave them and sacrificed these things to Baal. What a tragedy! What pain. What an offence.

    Hosea cycles back into thinking – enough! I will remove that which I provided for her; I will strip her naked, I will put an end to her celebrations and parties. I will remove from her the material things she thinks came from her lovers (vs9-12).

    I will punish her for all those times she loved others. God is speaking through Hosea’s experience about Israel who he has eventually decided He will punish for all her Baal worship and the fact that she; “‘forgot all about me,’ says the LORD.” (vs13)

    Can you feel the terrible confusing pain of Hosea, the whole range of emotions and thoughts experienced? The anger, the desire to still be reconciled and to protect and yet the tiredness that’s come from repeated rejection.

    What does this mean for us today?

    • Not all jealousy is wrong. God is rightfully jealous for our exclusive love and worship, just as married people are rightfully jealous over the exclusive love of their spouse.
    • God’s command to His people was; “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). This Jesus said was the first and the greatest commandment.
    • So, is your love and devotion exclusively for your God? Anything less than everything is a painful sinful rejection of God. Don’t be like Gomer or the Israelites towards your God. Love Him, adore Him, live for Him only.

    Three Ominous Names yet Hope for the Future (Hosea 1:4-11)

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    We already know from Hosea 1:1-3 that God told Hosea to marry a prostitute (named Gomer) as a prophetic picture of how Israel had been unfaithful to God who had only loved her.

    In Hosea 1:4-11, we read about three children born to Gomer. God instructs Hosea on what to name each of the children born to his wife. Each of the names has a significance for the future of Israel and what God is about to do.

    Jezreel (Hosea’s son)

    ‘Jezreel’ is Hosea and Gomer’s firstborn son. His name is foreboding – God is going to punish the house Jehu. Seemingly for the massacre of Ahab’s whole household at Jezreel (see 2 Kings 9-10) and probably also Jehu’s compromise with the ‘golden calves’ at Bethel and Dan, and for his carelessness to not; “walk in the law of the LORD, the God of Israel, with all his heart.” (2 Kings 10:31)

    God promised to ‘put an end to the Northern Tribes of Israel who had been in constant sin, idolatry and rebellion since the days of Jeroboam 1.

    Lo-ruhama (not Hosea’s daughter)

    Reading between the lines, we understand that Gomer was unfaithful to her husband Hosea and gave birth to a daughter. ‘Lo-ruhama’ was not Hosea’s daughter. The name God told Hosea to give her means; ‘No Mercy’.

    The reason for this God-given name is that God was saying; ‘for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel’ (Hosea 1:6).

    God is slow to anger and abounding in love (Exodus 34:6) but after 13 kings in the North with almost none being godly – God declares; ‘enough’. No more mercy!

    Lo-ammi (not Hosea’s son)

    There is such personal pain in the name of the next child born to Gomer.  It seems as though once again Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea and she conceived a son whom God named; “Not my people”.

    You can imagine Hosea feeling; this isn’t my son! And that feeling was what God felt about His people Israel;

    “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.” (Hosea 1:9)

    This is a stark contrast to the normal way the phrase ‘my people’ is used in Exodus. It is used as a term of endearment by God towards Israel 17 times in Exodus alone.

    As James E Smith writes; “This name signals the climax of Israel’s doom. The Lord would no longer recognize Israel as his people. They would be as Gentiles to him. If they were no longer his people, then Yahweh declared “I am not your God.” They would no longer have any claim on God (1:9).” – Old Testament Survey Series: The Minor Prophets

    Hope for the Future (vs7&10-11)

    God declared that there would be no mercy for the Northern Tribes of Israel, but there would however be mercy for Judah because God is the covenant-keeping God (vs7). Hence, God promised to save Judah miraculously rather than by any conventional means.

    God then reminds Judah of his covenant promise to Abraham; ‘the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered’ (Hosea 1:10).  The covenant still stands.

    God then promises that the name ‘Not my people’ will be overturned in the future and Judah will be called ‘Children of the living God’ (vs10).

    Although there are dark days ahead for the Northern Tribes of Israel, God is the covenant-keeping God and so there is hope yet for Judah and the line of David.

    Lastly, there is a promise of future unity between Jew and Gentile who would both be gathered together under one leader (vs11). Later in the book (3:5) Hosea will identify that leader as “David” (i.e. a descendant of David). The reference must be to Christ, the greater son of David. – James. E.Smith

    ‘Not my people’ (Gentiles) & ‘my Children’ (Jews) will be united together in Jesus Christ the Messiah at some point in the future. And this is exactly what we see happening at Pentecost in Acts 2 and then in all the NT Churches and the great crowd before the throne of Jesus in Revelation 7:9-12.

    What does this mean for you and I today?

    There is real pain in these verses. Pain for Hosea, and Gomer who are in a terrible mess of a marriage. This pain is indicative of God’s pain over His people in the Northern Tribes of Israel and their unfaithfulness to Him.

    How we live really matters. We can and do grieve God greatly when we sin, compromise or live as though God is not our God. God is loving and merciful but we need to be careful of presuming on that mercy as Israel did.

    However, we know that God is the covenant-keeping God.  He keeps His promises to Abraham & David. And because of that, we have an incredible hope, the best is yet to come, God will unite the nations under the King of kings – Jesus.

    A True God-Follower (Hosea 1:1-3)

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    Are you a Christ Follower? Not in name but in reality! I am drawn to ‘Christ Follower’ as a way of identifying believers in Jesus because it speaks of movement – it’s not simply an idea but a lifestyle that can be observed. 

    And so if Jesus said ‘go left’ and you’re going right at the moment then you can justifiably be challenged to alter your current trajectory.

    Being a Christ Follower also necessitates looking for Jesus, His will, His ways (laid out for us in Scripture) and listening for His voice in Scripture and also in all of life.

    Now Hosea was a prophet in the Old Testament times. And he was a remarkable God Follower (since Jesus had not come as our incarnate Messiah yet) as we shall see from the shocking first three verses of the book bearing his name.

    In the days of the evil king, Jeroboam 2 of Israel’s Northern Tribes God spoke to Hosea (1:1). And it’s a rather shocking thing God said to him;

    Hosea 1:2 (NLT): “Go and marry a prostitute…”

    Gulp! I can imagine some of Hosea’s dialogue with God.

    Hosea: Who’s this speaking to me LORD? 

    Hosea: It sounds like the enemy again unsettling me.

    Hosea: Or maybe I’m having a bad dream, indigestion not inspiration!

    God: Nope, it’s me speaking Hosea. Go and marry a prostitute.

    Hosea: But Lord! That wasn’t my plan for life and marriage.

    Hosea: You want me to be happy, right?

    Hosea 1:2 (NLT): “Go and marry a prostitute…”, so that some of her children will be conceived in prostitution. This will illustrate how Israel has acted like a prostitute by turning against the Lord and worshipping other gods.” 

    Remarkable. God as God, is entitled to ask us to do anything for Him. How we react to this command of God to Hosea says something about our perspective and how we are relating to God. Is God in His rightful place in your life or is God not much more than a ‘genie in a bottle’ for you, someone who must come and do what you command when you summons Him in prayer?

    It’s easy to say Jesus is your LORD, easy to label yourself as a God/Christ Follower until Jesus tells you to do something that will require serious sacrifice, discomfort or challenge.

    • What’s Jesus calling you to do about your commitment to His church?
    • What’s Jesus calling you to do about using your time/talents for His plan & purposes?
    • What’s Jesus calling you to do about that relationship that’s not honouring Him or that relationship that needs restoration?
    • What’s Jesus calling you to do about the money He entrusted to you?
    • ….

    What makes us Christ Followers is not what we say, but what we do when God has spoken to us through His Word or some other means.

    Hosea 1:3 (NLT): “So Hosea married Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she became pregnant and gave Hosea a son.”

    Hosea was a true God Follower because he did what God had said; he obeyed God. Even though he must have had questions about how this was all going to work out to accomplish God’s purposes which clearly transcended his comfort and convenience.

    Now, it is a relief that Hosea is the only guy in the Bible that God told to marry a prostitute. So we imitate not his action as our pattern, but his heart and his obedience and trust displayed. 

    May you and I be like Hosea who trusted God enough to obey even though he could not have understood fully.  

    May we be like Jesus who likewise trusted and obeyed the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane and so destroyed our enemies of sin, Satan and death and won for us our freedom.

    Christ Follower, trust and obey. For then, we shall see God’s plan and purposes unfold in and through our lives, and God will be glorified in us.