Monday, December 31, 2007

Our Love -- Fickle or Enduring?

Why is it that we’re so fickle and our love for God seems to be short-lived? I was reading in Hosea 6 this morning and read what sounded like encouraging words. “Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us…After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.”

This almost has a modern ring to it. We’ll repent, the Lord will fix everything in two or three days and we’ll be fine. God’s response though shows the true nature of things. “What shall I do with you? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away.” Our love is there in the morning, but by midday it is gone. We’ve moved on to something else. God explains in verse 6 that He wants steadfast love and not sacrifice and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. Both of these take endurance rather than a quick plea for God to do something and the expectation that He will jump right to it, whereas we are on to chasing other gods before the day is even half done.

I know that in my life this is pretty typical. It’s hard to remain faithful in the daily disciplines and routines that will build my faith and increase my love for God. Will it be any different today?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

After Christmas -- now what!

We traveled from Michigan down to Indianapolis on Friday so that our daughter could spend some time with the man she is courting. While she was busy doing things with him, my wife and I spent some time at Walmart and Hobby Lobby looking for things that were included in the post-Christmas sale. I got kind of depressed walking the aisles looking at angels, nativity sets, decorations and trees that just a few days ago seemed bright with the coming of the much anticipated holiday. Now, they were stacked from floor to ceiling underneath signs announcing a 66% off sale. At the same time in another aisle, other workers were opening boxes of valentine cards and candies and stacking them on the shelves.

I’m so glad that the stuff is not what Christmas is about. I can see why so many people get depressed around Christmas time because they are hoping for some satisfaction in the decorations, gifts and feelings that go with it and those things all prove to be empty. What really is important, meaningful and satisfying is to realize that God Himself has visited His people. He came here as a baby, lived a perfect life and died to ransom His people. I was reading Spurgeon the other day and he was commenting on a verse that says that God remembers his people. He pointed out that God has always looked forward to having a people for His own and He came here on various occasions prior to the incarnation to promote the welfare and encouragement of specific servants of His.

Let your mind dwell on these things as the celebration of Christmas fades and our human nature begins to focus on other duties and holidays coming up.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Logic -- Is it Biblical?

I hope you each had a wonderful Christmas celebrations with your friends and families. It’s Dec 27 as I write this and my wife and daughter are out shopping and the rest of the family has gone on to visit their in-laws. I’ve got Beethoven symphonies on in the living room and it makes for a quiet day to think and write.

With the rise of post modernism, there is a tendency to question and challenge the principles of logic that was foundational to the Enlightenment and modernity. Western logic is now looked upon with suspicion and competing forms of thinking are thought to be of equal value no matter how illogical they might appear to be. It’s as though there was no logical thought before Western Civilization invented it.

As Christians we need to be careful about what we accept in the name of progress. I say this because the Bible is full of logic which, if we didn’t know better, seems to come right out of modern western thinking. For example, as I’ve been reading the Old Testament, I have noticed God’s comments about the illogical nature of idolatry.

In Psalm 135:15ff for example, “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; eyes they have, but do not see; they have ears, but the do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them.”

Isaiah 44 tells the incident of those who take a log and out of half of it make an idol and use the other half for fire wood to warm themselves. God says in verse 19, “No one considers in his heart, nor is there knowledge nor understanding to say, ‘I have burned half of it in the fire, yes, I have also baked bread on its coals; I have roasted meat and eaten it; and shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?’”

In the chapter in Hosea that I’ve been studying, God alludes to the same illogical practice when He says in 4:12, “My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles.”

God clearly sets out propositional truth in Scripture. That is, He makes statements which He claims are true and for which their opposites are false. This is all very difficult for the post-modern mind. Let’s not fall prey to its influences, but let’s stand for truth vs. error and right vs. wrong. That’s the way God’s Word assumes things to be and that’s the way we need to understand it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Cistern or a Fountain?

As I’ve been reading Hosea, I’ve been impressed with how long suffering God has been in light of the sins of His people. In chapter 4 He aims directly at the priests and challenges them with the fact that they are the ones responsible because they have been the leaders in Israel’s rebellion. The leadership has rejected knowledge and has forgotten the law of God. God describes His people including the priests as having a spirit of whoredom. These are pretty strong words and ones which we don’t easily use as Christians, but God is not afraid to use them.

It is so easy to abandon the truth and the true source of all life, joy and happiness and go looking to the world and its philosophies to bring us what we think we need. Do we have that spirit of whoredom that looks everywhere but to God to bring us the satisfaction our heart needs?

Jeremiah 2:13 states the situation well. “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns – broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

In other words, we tend to forsake the fountain where life is flowing continuously and generously and then we replace that fountain with a cistern, a storage tank. So rather than a fountain that flows, we prefer something that simply holds water. But wait! It’s a broken cistern so it can’t even hold the water!

I think this is an especially good time to year to look at our lives, refocus and make sure we are looking in the right place for our satisfaction in life.

Monday, December 17, 2007

God's Faithfulness to His Unfaithful People

In Hosea 2, God, speaking as the offended husband, tells his children to plead with their mother about her prostitution. Judgment is coming if she doesn’t repent of her behavior and lifestyle. God basically says that He won’t have mercy on her or her children. Her children are under judgment because they are the offspring of her lewd behavior.

The wife gives an amazing excuse for her behavior. She says that she will go after her lovers because they provide her the bread, water, clothes and other things she needs. Isn’t that the way it is so often with us? We look to the world to provide what we think we need and often justify our sin in the process.

God’s response to this is to propose a hedge and wall to keep her from going after her lovers. She will try to find them but will not be able to and in the end will say, “I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.”

In explaining this God says that she did not know that it was He who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil she needed. In other words, others were getting credit for supplying what God actually had supplied. We do the same thing, don’t we. So often we don’t acknowledge the fact that all of the good things we have and enjoy are from the hand of God. We see the world as the source and so we pursue it and the pleasures that we think come from it. All of the while, God is the one providing all of the good gifts we enjoy.

As a means of getting Israel’s attention and securing her repentance, he promises to take back the grain, wine and other things that she has enjoyed. He threatens to put a stop to the mirth and festivals that have occupied her attention.

Then comes a truly amazing scene in Chapter 2 verse 14. God says, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards….And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.”

He goes on to say, “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’” He then says, “I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.” And then in verse 23, “I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’, and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’”

What a triumphant message of grace, mercy and faithfulness on God’s part. One can’t read this and think for one moment that our salvation is our doing. God maneuvers all of the circumstances around this unfaithful wife to bring about her ultimate return, repentance and fruitfulness. In spite of her unfaithfulness, God seeks her out and sets His loving attention upon her.

Do you know God to be working in that same way on your behalf? Do you see Him hedging you in so you can't get away and then faithfully calling you to Himself?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Marry a Prostitute?

“Go marry a prostitute.” What a command from God! That is exactly what God told Hosea to do. It was to be a picture of God and Israel. Just as Hosea’s wife Gomer was unfaithful and pursued other lovers, so God’s people Israel were unfaithful and pursued other gods.

Gomer bore three children to Hosea: a son, Jezreel, a daughter “No Mercy” and a son, “Not My People”. I’m not going to delve into the reason for the first name, but the second child was called No Mercy because God said that He would no more have mercy on the house of Israel. The third child was called Not My People because God said, “you are not my people, and I am not your God.”

But then an interesting thing happens. A promise begins to appear in God’s statements. In verse 10 God tells them that there numbers shall increase and then He says, “In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people.’ It shall be said to them, ‘Children of the living God.’” So in the midst of this judgment there is the sign of mercy.

As we shall see, the primary emphasis here is on the nation Israel and its future restoration. However, Paul tells us in Romans 9 that God, “in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory, even us who he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles.” He then quotes from Hosea to show that those who were not God’s people he now calls “my people” and those who were not beloved he will call “beloved.”

What amazing grace and mercy that we should be called the children of God!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A New Approach

I have just reached the book of Hosea in my personal Bible reading and I hope to slow down my pace and instead of trying to read a certain amount in a day, I want to focus more on what I’ve been reading. Of all the portions of Scripture that I’ve read, I have probably spent the least time in the Minor Prophets. I’m not going to use this blog to do an in-depth study of the book because I have found that I don’t have the ability to stay focused on the same study for a long time. What I would like to do though is to post some thoughts and insights that come along the way.

If you’ve been reading this blog for very long you will have noticed that I try to continue steadfastly in a series for a period of time. I have found that I’m not able to do that because by the time I’m ready to write the next installment, I’ve gone well past that topic in my personal thinking and study. In order to write more frequently and yet not frustrate myself in trying to maintain continuity, I’m going to write what I’m actually working on at the time. The result may be more disconnected articles. But you’ll just have to adjust and follow along. If articles are supposed to connect with previous ones, I’ll try to title them similarly so that you can follow the train of thought.

In the next post, then, I’ll share some thoughts on the first couple of chapters of Hosea.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Blog Recommendation

If you have checked the side bar at all, you have seen that one of the recommended blogs is I appreciate the variety and depth of content which Challies posts virtually every day.

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