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.

The Secret of Contentment (Philippians 4:10-20)

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Contentment is a rare thing. We are bombarded by a myriad of multi-billion dollar advertising campaigns that reach into every nook and cranny of our conscious lives. These campaigns have saturated our senses with images and taglines all carefully designed to breed discontentment to fuel sales.

And so, whatever device or vehicle or shoe or item of clothing we have or holiday we had is quickly superseded by a new one we now desire.

Against this background, from prison, Paul’s statement strikes a stark contrast;

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” (Philippians 4:11-12)

Wow! As we have seen before in Philippians, it is the “whatever” that makes this sentence remarkable. It is easy to be content in good situations or in blessed situations – therefore ‘whatever’ is code for being content in bad situations.

Before you rock back and think this is impossible for me, note that Paul wrote that this had been a process for him. He had ‘learned’ how to be content in whatever situation he found himself in. This was something he had grown in as he followed Jesus.

How content are you at the moment? What is causing you to experience discontentment? Not just materially, but in the stage of life, you are in?

How might God want you to grow, to learn to be content in that situation? How might God want to mature you, or grow your character in the situation you are in right now?

Paul could testify that he had learnt to be content in plenty and in lack – but how? What was his secret?

 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

The secret Paul had learnt, was to tap into the empowering presence of God in all circumstances in his life. God, in him, was enough. The awareness of God’s presence with him was the single biggest X-factor that enabled him to endure all things with contentment.

It’s not written here outright, but the sub-text of this section is Paul’s underlying resolute trust in the sovereignty of God. He believed that God had either brought about the circumstances he was presently facing or God had allowed them to happen – God was not having any crisis meetings to work out what to do next; instead the plan and purpose of God was relentlessly moving forward even when he could not understand it or see how it was doing so.

We see this belief and trust in his statement in vs19 and his worship in vs20.

19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen

The Tale of Two Hills (Psalm 24)

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The God of Psalm 24 is almighty (vs10), glorious (vs7), Holy (vs3) and He owns everything on the planet – because He made it all! (vs1)

So who can approach this God? Who can ascend His hill, or enter into His presence?

  • Only those who like Him are holy and pure (vs3).  
  • Only those of who have ‘clean hands and a pure heart’ (vs4).  
  • Only those who have never been deceitful or lied to anyone (vs4)

But who can truly claim such things? Who could honestly claim that they have not done anything or even thought anything sinful or impure? No one can – not even one.

So no one then can ascend Almighty God’s hill.  Our sin has separated us from God (Isaiah 59:2). No one can approach Him on their own merit.

But praise God, there was another hill that was ascended for us! Jesus, God Himself ascended Golgotha’s hill leading to his death on the cross on our behalf.  

And because Jesus ascended that hill for us, because Jesus was like us in every way and yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15), and because Jesus gave His life as a ransom to pay the price for our sin in our place…

Because of that, because He ascended that hill for us now, we who have put our trust in Him can ascend the hill of Almighty God with confidence.

Our hands were not clean, and our hearts were not pure, but Jesus made us clean, spotless and pure by His substitutionary sacrifice for us, which took our sin away when we believed in Him.

So now, we can walk right into the holy of holies, stand at peace before the King of all the earth (Romans 5:1). Our hope is not in our righteousness but in His; we stand now secure as God’s children, those who belong in our Father’s presence – amazing grace!

It’s the tale of two hills. It’s the incredible story of our Saviour’s love for us.

Rich Application… (Philippians 4:1-7)

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“Therefore…” (vs1). With everything that’s been written already in this letter in your minds, ‘therefore’ – do the following things, live in the following way.

Deep community & love (vs1)
‘My brothers & sisters’ (NLT) – the New Testament and this letter, in particular, is littered with the language of relationship, deep community, love, shared experiences – family. Paul said he ‘loved and longed for’ the Philippians, there is deep affection on display. May we be provoked by this language, to not settle for mere crowds in our churches, or isolated disconnected people in our meetings. Such deep community and relationship require sacrifice and intentional investment of time. But such depth of relationship is exactly what Jesus desires (John 13:35 & John 17:22-23).

My joy and my crown (vs1)
God has connected the health of the members of a local church to the life of the leadership in a remarkable way. Paul clearly loves these Philippian believers and is joined to them at a heart level. They are a joy to him.

Paul knows that as a leader their steadfastness in following Christ in the midst of opposition is in some way connected to not just their eternal rewards but to his!

They are his crown and his future reward. His eternal future is intrinsically intertwined with their present steadfastness. And so when he urges them to remain steadfast, to do so benefits both the Philippian believers and Paul himself. So he urges them to keep standing firm.

Be Reconciled (vs2-3)
This disagreement or disunity was quite possibly the reason for the letter. Two significant women, two women who have laboured alongside the apostle Paul in the ministry of the Gospel are not seeing eye to eye. So Paul entreats/pleads/appeals that they desist and choose rather to ‘agree in the Lord’. Their disagreement is not just a private matter but is impacting the church and so one named ‘true companion/Syzygus’ is urged to intervene, to help them by mediating in their disagreement.

Rejoice always (vs4)
These two unsettled believers (vs2-3) are charged (as are all the believers in Philippi) to; ‘Rejoice in the Lord always’ (vs4). Sometimes when we are in some disagreement, all we can see is the issue or what they did or did not do. Paul urges them to lift their eyes to Jesus again, doing so brings perspective and transforms our hearts. The challenge of this command is the breadth of its application. ‘Always’ is the problem for us here. We have no problem rejoicing when something goes well for us, ‘rejoice always’ is code for; ‘rejoice even when things are not going well or according to your plan.’ It is only possible to obey this command by repeatedly meditating on Jesus and what He has done for us on the cross.

Let your reasonableness be known (vs5)
True unity and reconciliation are only possible when people choose to be reasonable/gentle/considerate. Once again there is one word which makes this hard for us – ‘everyone’.

It is easy to be nice to people who are nice to you, to be gentle when people are being helpful to you, to be considerate when people reciprocate your consideration of them.

It is much harder to be these things when those God has placed in our lives are not like this to us. Yet the motivation for our living like this is that the LORD is at hand.

So do not be anxious about anything, rather pray
Because the LORD’s second coming is imminent, and because God is an ever-present help in trouble we don’t have to be worried or anxious about anything in life but rather ought to pray calling out in every situation (vs6) to the One who loves us.

May the peace of God guard you (vs7)
As believers, we can access peace from God that makes no sense in the natural. We can know a peace that surpasses our understanding that will guard our hearts and minds in Jesus. Pray for yourself to know this sort of peace, let it shape your thinking in al you do.

Who are you following & who’s following you? (Philippians 3:17-21)

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Having just described how he had abandoned all trust and pride in human lineage or achievements (vs1-7) so that he could place all his trust in Jesus Christ and progress in knowing Him better (vs7-11).

Paul then clarifies that he knows that he hasn’t arrived yet. He knows that he hasn’t finished his faith journey but is pressing on to lay hold of all that Jesus laid hold of him for (vs12-16).

Then he says some thing which can sound out of place to the modern ear; “Brothers, join in imitating me” (vs17).  

He urges the Philippian believers to imitate him in all that he has just described regarding his personal faith journey.

This is not the only place Paul says things like this;

  • Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
  • to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. (2 Thessalonians 3:9)
  • What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9)

Paul unashamedly calls people to imitate his followership of Jesus. Essentially he says, imitate me, don’t be like those who ‘walk as enemies of the cross of Christ’ (vs18) who’s god is their desires, who glory in their shameful acts & who’s minds are fixated on earthly temporal things (vs18-19).

There are plenty of examples of people around us who deny the power of the cross. They live as though Jesus never died for them, they live as though Jesus is not the King of kings or that He ought to be loved, worshipped and obeyed.

As a result, such people live to satisfy their own desires and so celebrate whatever feels good to them regardless of how shameful such things might be. Because they deny the truth about God, they can only see the present (vs19b), but in so doing, they fail to see where the path they are on is leafing – destruction (vs19a).

Paul doesn’t want the Philippian believers; God doesn’t want you and I to be like such people. And so we are called to imitate Paul, to imitate his faith and his walk with Jesus.

All around us, people are looking for a sense of identity and belonging. But we who have believed in Jesus can be secure knowing that we belong already, that our identity was secured the moment we believed in Jesus.  

We who have believed in Jesus all have dual citizenship. We belong to the country of our birth or our adopted country & we are citizens of the kingdom of heaven (vs20).

This world, therefore, is not our home forever. We are visitors here; we are passing through. However, the best is yet to come. We have incredible hope in Jesus; we have something to live for! We belong to God and His kingdom.

We know that Jesus is coming back and His second coming will usher in a new era. There is a day when God will declare; ‘behold I am making all things new’ (Revelation 21:5) and that bright future is ours as believers in Jesus (vs20-21)

So don’t lose heart. Remember who you are and who’s you are. Remember that this life is just the dress rehearsal for the main event – eternity. Don’t undervalue eternity and in so doing make some monumentally bad decisions because your timeframe was way too short.

Find someone to imitate. We shouldn’t place people on pedestals but we ought to imitate the faith we see in others so that we can learn how to have robust faith and so that we don’t walk alone.

Who are you going to imitate? Why don’t you speak to someone today? Or who are you going to say; ‘imitate me’ to? Who are you going to invest your life and faith journey into? This doesn’t mean you’ve arrived, just that you have made some progress and if you want others to mentor you, you should be willing to mentor others too maybe.