Friday, January 29, 2016

God’s Offer Still Stands

Hosea 14:1-9

“O Israel, return unto Jehovah thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.  Take with you words, and return unto Jehovah: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and accept that which is good: so will we render [as] bullocks [the offering of] our lips.  Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, [Ye are] our gods; for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.” (Hosea 14:1-3)

Israel had turned completely away from God, and were almost to go into captivity.  Even at that point God would be willing to forgive and prevent their being taken into captivity. But it would require action on their part.  Their deliberate sin was destroying them, but if they would turn back to God, asking forgiveness.   They had never stopped ritually offering the sacrifices, but they would need to begin to actually praise God, not just go through the ritual motionsThere needed to be a change in attitude and overall lifestyle, similar to what Hebrews 13:15-16 tells Christians.  “Through him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to his name.  But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”  The sacrifices mean nothing without the proper attitude and actions.   They needed to realize the Assyrians or other Gods could not save them and quit worshipping idols their own hands made.    God is a merciful God and will care for those who have no one else to turn to. 

“I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely; for mine anger is turned away from him.  I will be as the dew unto Israel; he shall blossom as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.  His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive-tree, and his smell as Lebanon.  They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive [as] the grain, and blossom as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.” (Hosea 14:4-7)

When Israel turns to God, he promises to heal heal their backsliding, literally to stop their sliding backward into trouble.  Like a loving father, if they are obedient, he can demonstrate his love freely, instead of constantly scolding or punishing them because he would no longer be angry at what they were doing.    God could bless him like a thick dew in the morning, causing Israel to bloom like a lily and spread their roots like a tree when there is plenty of water.  They would grow strong and reach as far as Lebanon under the Phoenician empire, and people would be drawn to them like smelling the cedars of Lebanon or seeing a healthy olive tree loaded with fruit.   The surrounding countries would benefit from Israel’s recovery like a field suffering from drought revives after a rain. 

“Ephraim [shall say], What have I to do any more with idols? I have answered, and will regard him: I am like a green fir-tree; from me is thy fruit found.” (Hosea 14:8)

When they turn to God, and experience his blessings, Israel and Ephraim will wonder why they ever turned away and decide they want nothing more to do with Idolatry.  Listening to God is so much better, changing from a steady decline and increasing poverty to a vibrant and growing society.   Thye will see God is the source of their blessings. 

“Who is wise, that he may understand these things? prudent, that he may know them? for the ways of Jehovah are right, and the just shall walk in them; but transgressors shall fall therein.” (Hosea 14:9)

The question is not whether God knows what he is talking about or can do what he has promised.  It is who is smart enough to listen and act on what he says.  His ways are always right and those who do right will live with the rewards of obeying him.  Those who refuse to obey will find their lives destroyed.  There is still hope as long as the destruction is not complete, but once a person dies, hope is gone.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Going Their Own Way

Hosea 13:1-16

“When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died.” (Hosea 13:1)

Jeroboam, the first king of Isr5ael after the nation split was from Ephraim.  When God promised him the kingdom as a result of Solomon’s turning to Idols in I Kings 11, he was quiet and humble.  When Solomon’s son, Rehoboam became king, he was chosen to represent the people and request an easing of the taxes.  When Rehobaom refused, Israel rebelled, making Jeroboam king.  His attitude changed, and he deliberately set up idols and began to worship other gods to prevent Israel from going to Jerusalem to worship God.  Instead of Making his family kings forever, God took the kingdom away from them.    

“And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen: they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves.  Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney.” (Hosea 13:2-3)

Subsequent rulers of Israel were even worse than Jeroboam, going even farther into idolatry and sin, worshipping an ever increasing stable of gods.   Later kings tried to destroy the worship of God in favor of Baal.  As a result, God said they would evaporate like the clouds just as sunrise or the dew when the sun comes out.  They would be driven away like crumbled leaves in a whirlwind or smoke coming out of a chimney. 

“Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside me.  I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought.” (Hosea 13:4-5)

As part of their covenant or contract with God, Israel had promised to worship no other gods, because there was no other one to save them but God.  They had been his people from the time in the wilderness, when they were dependent on him to supply water and manna for them to eat.  He had not changed. 

“According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me.  Therefore I will be unto them as a lion: as a leopard by the way will I observe them: I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart, and there will I devour them like a lion: the wild beast shall tear them.” (Hosea 13:6-8)

When they are hungry, cattle and sheep flock to the nearest patch of grass and eat until they are full.  When they are satiated, they begin to wander around looking for their favorite plants to eat, giving rise to the saying, “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”  With enough of everything, Israel had time and energy to look around and forgot about God.  As a result, he would be like a predatory animal lingering outside their pasture waiting for them to get far enough away to attack them.  Israel would be destroyed like a cow or sheep that strayed from its home pasture. 

“O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.  I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes?  I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath.” (Hosea 13:9-11)

Israel’s suffering is the result of their own action.  If they will return to their God, and let him lead them, He will gladly help them.  There is no one else who can.   They had demanded human rulers and leaders to show them the way and protect them, and God gave them some, but when they led the people into trouble, he removed them. 

“The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid.  The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him: he is an unwise son; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children.  I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.” (Hosea 13:12-14)

Ephraim is like a person who has been injured but as soon as a bandage is placed over the wound, he acts like nothing is wrong.  They are like a man whose wife was in labor and decided to go camping anyway.  Despite that, God will save them from utter destruction. Although his judgment will seem almost worse, and he will not quit until just because of a few promises.   He will demand actual change.

“Though he be fruitful among his brethren, an east wind shall come, the wind of the LORD shall come up from the wilderness, and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up: he shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels.  Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.” (Hosea 13:15-16)

Though Israel and especially Ephraim appears to be doing better than the other tribes, They will be like a crop smitten with the storm from the east that dries out the crops and prevents the rains from coming.  As a result their richness will disappear, and the fountains of water will dry up.  The entire land will become like an empty desert, because they have rebelled against God.   They will be defeated in battle, their children murdered, and unborn babies killed in their mother’s womb.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Not Above The Law

Hosea 12:1-14

“Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt.” (Hosea 12:1)

Ephraim, the home of Israel’s capitol, had a established an ongoing pattern of rebellion against God, following false prophets and idols.  Rather than turning to God for help against their enemies they depended on treaties with the Assyrians, even while they negotiated with the Egyptians. 

“The LORD hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him.  He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God: Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us; Even the LORD God of hosts; the LORD is his memorial.  Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.” (Hosea 12:2-6)

While they were not as bad as the ten northern tribes, Judah was not serving God properly either.   God would punish the entire nation of Israel, the descendants of Jacob for what they were doing.  When Jacob and Esau were born, in Genesis 25:24-26 tells us that immediately upon his birth, Jacob grabbed hold of Esau’s heel and refused to turn loose.  Later when he wrestled with the angel in Genesis 32:24-31, he displayed that same determination to get his way.  Still later, in Genesis 35:6-14, God spoke to him, telling him to follow him.  Jacob set up a memorial to the Lord there. 

“He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress.  And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance: in all my labours they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin.” (Hosea 12:7-8)

From the very beginning, Jacob was constantly trying to get ahead by taking advantage, whether trading a bowl of pottage for the birthright, or his labor for Laban’s cattle, and the Jews had the same attitude.  They loved to take advantage and get power over people.  Unfortunately that is the attitude of many businessmen.    Ephraim had done it so much and made so much money they considered themselves above the law, much like Hillary Clinton or other political and  business leaders. 

“And I that am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast.  I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets.
” (Hosea 12:9-10)

For a week each fall, Israel was to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.  For a full week they were to camp out in tents or brush shelters celebrating the forty years in the wilderness, and being reminded how God had provided for them.   The same God who delivered them from Egypt will again cause them to recognize his power and provision, just as they did in that feast.  God has used the prophets and visions and illustrations by the prophets, such as having Hosea marry a prostitute to warn them what was coming. 

“Is there iniquity in Gilead? surely they are vanity: they sacrifice bullocks in Gilgal; yea, their altars are as heaps in the furrows of the fields.  And Jacob fled into the country of Syria, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep.  And by a prophet the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved.” (Hosea 12:11-13)

While they considered themselves above condemnation, even the outliers in Gilgal were guilty.  They were offering bullocks in forbidden places and the unacceptable altars were like piles of rocks in their fields.  They had gone into Syria to escape judgment, much like Jacob went to Syria to escape Esau’s wrath, keeping Laban’s sheep to earn his wife.  They had forgotten it was by the leadership of one of God’s prophets, Moses, that they escaped Egypt and survived in the wilderness. 

“Ephraim provoked him to anger most bitterly: therefore shall he leave his blood upon him, and his reproach shall his Lord return unto him.” (Hosea 12:14)

By refusing to listen to God’s prophets, Ephraim had greatly angered the Lord.  They would be held responsible for the consequences of their sin, and the implication that God had not kept his promise would be shown to be their fault. 


Monday, January 25, 2016

Reviewing Their Past

Hosea 11:1-12

“When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” (Hosea 11:1)

Nearly a thousand years before, God had brought the nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt because he loved them.  Seven hundred years in the future, Joseph and Mary would be forced to take the baby Jesus to Egypt to protect him from Herod, as described in Matthew 2:14.  When it was written, this verse had both a historical and a prophetic element.     

“As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.” (Hosea 11:2)

Less than a month and a half after they agreed to God’s covenant, while Moses was till up on the mountain receiving the final draft on the tablets of stone, the people decided to make a golden calf similar to one of the Egyptian gods and worship it rather than God. 

“I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them.  I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.” (Hosea 11:3-4)

For forty years in the wilderness, God taught all twelve tribes, including Ephraim to serve him, then gave them the land of Israel, using the different judges and kings repeatedly to deliver them from captivity and supplying their needs.   God repeatedly demonstrated his love for them.    Many times they didn’t even realize what God had done to save them. 

“He shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return.  And the sword shall abide on his cities, and shall consume his branches, and devour them, because of their own counsels.  And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him.” (Hosea 11:5-7)

Even while they were in the wilderness, the Jews had wanted to go back to Egypt where they could enjoy the luxuries, even though they had hated the slavery.   God said they were never to go back to Egypt, as a nation.  They were trying to play Egypt and Assyria against each other, but the Assyrians would win and rule Israel.  Their double dealing would result in Israel’s defeat and destruction, with the entire population being displaced.   They would ignore God’s advice to follow their own ideas, deliberately disobeying God and turning away from him, even as they called him Lord. 

“How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.  I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city.” (Hosea 11:8-9)

Even after all their rebellion, God could not turn on them and destroy them like he had other groups, for their wickedness.   He still loved them and, like a father forced to punish a child, was troubled at the need.   He would not execute the maximum punishment he could inflict, wiping them out completely, because he was able to control his anger and frustration.   He would not enter into the city and allow them to further provoke his wrath. 

“They shall walk after the LORD: he shall roar like a lion: when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west.  They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria: and I will place them in their houses, saith the LORD.” (Hosea 11:10-11)

One day in the future, they will again turn to God, when he comes in power as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.  Like birds trembling in fear of being caught they will return from the west, from Egypt, and from Assyria. 

Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit: but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints.” (Hosea 11:12)

Uzziah, also known as Azariah, was a good king who followed God and led the nation of Judah to serve the Lord.  Jeroboam II was a wicked king who led Israel farther into the sin where Jeroboam I started them.  His successors were even worse, pretending to serve God while worshipping a vast array of idols. 

It is important to understand that past actions determine what happens in the present and what we do now determines what will happen in the future.  Israel and Ephraim refused to make any changes. 


Friday, January 22, 2016

More On Israel’s Destruction

Hosea 10:1-15

“Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself: according to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars; according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images.” (Hosea 10:1)

Israel was like a seedless grape vine.  The fruit had no seed and thus could not reproduce naturally.  They cannot be propagated except by special techniques, and if left to themselves will die out.  People often prefer seedless grapes, because they don’t have to deal with the seed, and people preferred Israel”s practices because they didn’t have to deal with God’s commands.  Just as many people today think those seedless grapes are normal, Israel thought their religious practices were right.   

“Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty: he shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images.  For now they shall say, We have no king, because we feared not the LORD; what then should a king do to us?  They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant: thus judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field.” (Hosea 10:2-4)

When God intervenes, Israel will begin to realize there has been a problem.  God will destroy their altars and idols, and take away their independence, and they will finally understand it is because they have not feared him.  They had promised to serve God, but not kept their vow.  As a result God’s judgment was coming like poisonous weeds growing in the furrows of plowed field because they tend to collect the water. 

“The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear because of the calves of Bethaven: for the people thereof shall mourn over it, and the priests thereof that rejoiced on it, for the glory thereof, because it is departed from it.  It shall be also carried unto Assyria for a present to king Jareb: Ephraim shall receive shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel.” (Hosea 10:5-6)

The destruction of the golden calves at Bethaven, the House of Idols, would cause fear among the rulers of the tribe of Ephraim and the nation of Israel.  The priests and worshippers would be saddened that there was no longer respect for their beliefs, and that gold would be given as a present for the Assyrian king.  Ephraim and Israel would lose their pride. 

“As for Samaria, her king is cut off as the foam upon the water.  The high places also of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us.” (Hosea 10:7-8)

The king in Samaria would be destroyed as if he were no more substantial than a little foam.  The high places where they worshipped idols would be destroyed and the altars overgrown with thorn bushes and weeds.  In total depression, they would cry out for and earthquake or landslide to kill them. 

“O Israel, thou hast sinned from the days of Gibeah: there they stood: the battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity did not overtake them.  It is in my desire that I should chastise them; and the people shall be gathered against them, when they shall bind themselves in their two furrows.” (Hosea 10:9-10)

The tribe of Benjamin tried to protect the men of Gibeah from punishment in Judges 20, and four hundred years later, Israel was still protecting people from the consequences of their sin.  It was God’s purpose to chastise and correct them, and he would bring the people against them like israel came against the tribe of Benjamin when they joined themselves to Gibeah. 

“And Ephraim is as an heifer that is taught, and loveth to tread out the corn; but I passed over upon her fair neck: I will make Ephraim to ride; Judah shall plow, and Jacob shall break his clods.  Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.  Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men.” (Hosea 10:11-13)

Ephraim was like a young cow that had been trained to pull the threshing sled around the threshing floor.  It was relatively easy work and they could eat as much of the grain as they wanted.  Now they are going to be put to much harder work pulling the plow with someone riding them while Judah would guide the plow and the rest of the nation of Israel would break up the dirt clods.  They needed to get down to the business of serving God and put away their sin.  They had gotten lazy and rebellious, convinced they could just keep on like they had done before. 

“Therefore shall a tumult arise among thy people, and all thy fortresses shall be spoiled, as Shalman spoiled Betharbel in the day of battle: the mother was dashed in pieces upon her children.  So shall Bethel do unto you because of your great wickedness: in a morning shall the king of Israel utterly be cut off.” (Hosea 10:14-15)

There would arise a great conflict among the people of Israel, and they would be destroyed as completely as Solomon had destroyed some of the cities of Ammon, Moab, and Syria.  The house of God would turn on them just as they had on others because of their sin, and in a brief battle, their king would be captured and killed.  

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Israel’s Destruction

Hosea 9:1-17

“Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as other people: for thou hast gone a whoring from thy God, thou hast loved a reward upon every cornfloor.” (Hosea 9:1)

God’s promises to Israel were conditioned on their obedience.  Israel had gotten greedy, wanting a bumper crop every time without concern for what God wanted.  They had turned to other gods, like a wife who isn’t satisfied with what her husband gives her becoming a prostitute to get extra money.
“The floor and the winepress shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail in her.  They shall not dwell in the LORD'S land; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean things in Assyria.  They shall not offer wine offerings to the LORD, neither shall they be pleasing unto him: their sacrifices shall be unto them as the bread of mourners; all that eat thereof shall be polluted: for their bread for their soul shall not come into the house of the LORD.” (Hosea 9:2-4)

Like a husband who catches his wife cheating on him, God would refuse to support Israel any more.  Their crops will fail and they will be forced to leave the land of Israel, scattering to Egypt and Assyria. Where they will be forced to give up their traditions.  They will no longer offer the wine offerings of celebration to the Lord, and because they no longer obey him, the sacrifices he demands will become a burden and a reminder of what they no longer have.  Their desires will be things that are unacceptable to God. 

“What will ye do in the solemn day, and in the day of the feast of the LORD?  For, lo, they are gone because of destruction: Egypt shall gather them up, Memphis shall bury them: the pleasant places for their silver, nettles shall possess them: thorns shall be in their tabernacles.  The days of visitation are come, the days of recompense are come; Israel shall know it: the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred.” (Hosea 9:5-7)

When that time comes, and Israel wants to maintain their traditions, they will find it difficult because their temples have been destroyed and they are living in Egypt, where their customs will lead to their being arrested and segregated from the rest of the people.  The pharaohs in Memphis will pass laws against their traditions, effectively burying them.   Their finest neighborhoods will become slums and ghettos.  God’s judgment has come and they consider the prophet who tries to correct them a fool and the man who tries to obey God crazy, because they have turned so far from God, hating what is right.

“The watchman of Ephraim was with my God: but the prophet is a snare of a fowler in all his ways, and hatred in the house of his God.  They have deeply corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah: therefore he will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins.” (Hosea 9:8-9)

There were men who warned Ephraim and Israel that they were doing wrong, but they chose to believe false prophets whose teachings were like snares set for birds by a man who hated them.   As a result, they had gone as far from God as the city of Gibeah did in Judges 19-20, when their sin led to Israel destroying most of the tribe of Benjamin.  God will not ignore such sin.

“I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time: but they went to Baalpeor, and separated themselves unto that shame; and their abominations were according as they loved.” (Hosea 9:10)

When God chose Israel, it was like a hungry hiker finding ripe grapes or other fruit in the woods.  He picked them out and treasured them.  Unfortunately, they chose to go to the Moabite cities and worship their gods instead.  It was like finding that beautiful piece of fruit was rotten inside. 

“As for Ephraim, their glory shall fly away like a bird, from the birth, and from the womb, and from the conception.  Though they bring up their children, yet will I bereave them, that there shall not be a man left: yea, woe also to them when I depart from them!  Ephraim, as I saw Tyrus, is planted in a pleasant place: but Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer.” (Hosea 9:11-13)

All Israel’s national pride will be destroyed and the country destroyed.  Many of their children will not survive infancy, and most of those who do will not live to become adults.  There will be terrible suffering and sorrow when God pulls away from them.  They originally had as nice a place as Tyre and Sidon, but their children will be killed just because they are Jews. 

“Give them, O LORD: what wilt thou give? give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.  All their wickedness is in Gilgal: for there I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of mine house, I will love them no more: all their princes are revolters.” (Hosea 9:14-15)

What can God give them as a punishment that is fitting for what they have done in prostituting themselves to other gods?  They will suffer miscarriages and be unable to nurse their children who survive birth.  They will lose their home, and God will no longer demonstrate his love.  He hates what they done and that all their leaders insist on having their own way.

“Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit: yea, though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb.  My God will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto him: and they shall be wanderers among the nations.” (Hosea 9:16-17)

The Northern kingdom, ruled by Ephraim was to be destroyed, and would be like a tree whose roots were dried out, unable to produce any fruit, and even if they did develop some it would be destroyed before it could mature.  God would cast them away because they refused to listen to him, and they would be homeless. 

Historically the nation of Israel, the Northern Kingdom, had no place to call home since the Assyrians conquered them about 700 BC, until the re-establishment of Israel in 1948.  Even today, many of them have not returned.   Despite all their rebellion, God Still loves Israel and will one day regather them, but not until they turn to him.    

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Unacceptable Religion

Hosea 8:1-14

“Set the trumpet to thy mouth. He shall come as an eagle against the house of the LORD, because they have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against my law. ” (Hosea 8:1-2)

Hosea is to sound a trumpet to get Israel’s attention, warning them that God is going to attack the house of God like and eagle attacking a rabbit hole when he sees them come out, because they have ignored his law and broken their agreement with him. 

“Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee. Israel hath cast off the thing that is good: the enemy shall pursue him.  They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off.” (Hosea 8:2-4)

When they are attacked, Israel will call out for God to honor the treaty, ignoring the fact that they have broken it.  They have rejected every provision of the treaty, choosing kings who were not pleasing to God, and conducting business in ways that violated their agreements.  They had taken their wealth and used it to make idols, which God warned them would be grounds for ending their treaty and destroying them. 

“Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off; mine anger is kindled against them: how long will it be ere they attain to innocency?  For from Israel was it also: the workman made it; therefore it is not God: but the calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces.  For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.” (Hosea 8:5-7)

Jeroboam I had set up golden calves for the people to worship instead of God, and they continued to worship them throughout the existence of the northern kingdom known as Israel or Samaria.   The calf was made by Jewish artisans, and was not God.  It would not be able to save them, and would be destroyed as proof.  They could not claim innocence because they had deliberately made the calf, and would have to live with the consequences of their actions.   The results of their actions would be completely unsatisfactory.  It is hard to live on the wind, and even what good developed would be taken by people who had no right to it. 

“Israel is swallowed up: now shall they be among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein is no pleasure.  For they are gone up to Assyria, a wild ass alone by himself: Ephraim hath hired lovers.  Yea, though they have hired among the nations, now will I gather them, and they shall sorrow a little for the burden of the king of princes.” (Hosea 8:8-10)

Israel had tried to establish a treaty with the Assyrians, giving a great amount of money in an attempt to buy them off.  The Assyrians took the money and would use it to outfit an army to conquer Israel.  The Assyrians lost respect for them.  Israel was like a wild male donkey breaking into people’s fields to mate with their females.  Like the owners, of those females. God would lie in wait to capture or kill them when they saw them again.

“Because Ephraim hath made many altars to sin, altars shall be unto him to sin.  I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing.  They sacrifice flesh for the sacrifices of mine offerings, and eat it; but the LORD accepteth them not; now will he remember their iniquity, and visit their sins: they shall return to Egypt.  For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples; and Judah hath multiplied fenced cities: but I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour the palaces thereof.” (Hosea 8:11-14)

Led by the tribe of Ephraim, Israel had deliberately built altars to other gods for them to use in sinning against God.  To them altars would not be a symbol of God, but only of false religion, much like church buildings are today.  They had the Word of God, but to them it was considered irrelevant or and some of its standards absurd.  They offered the offerings and partook of them, but God would not honor them because of their unrepentant attitudes.  Instead he would hold them accountable for what they had done, and they would go to Egypt in an effort to escape judgment, literally turning to the world instead of to God.  Israel had forgotten God in the process of building great temples, and Judah had built large religious communities or organizations, but God was going to destroy them and their leadership.    

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Refusing to Yield

Hosea 7:1-16

“When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria: for they commit falsehood; and the thief cometh in, and the troop of robbers spoileth without.  And they consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness: now their own doings have beset them about; they are before my face.  They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their lies.” (Hosea 7:1-3)

God had set out to cure Israel’s problems, until he saw the deliberate sin of her leading tribe and the wickedness of the rulers.  The government was based on falsehoods, and their policies allowed favored groups to rip off the people.  The leaders simply assumed God was unaware of what they were doing.  Since such corruption was allowed the people began to develop a similar attitude.  This pleased the rulers, because the worse the people were, the easier it became to justify or conceal their own actions. 

“They are all adulterers, as an oven heated by the baker, who ceaseth from raising after he hath kneaded the dough, until it be leavened.  In the day of our king the princes have made him sick with bottles of wine; he stretched out his hand with scorners.  For they have made ready their heart like an oven, whiles they lie in wait: their baker sleepeth all the night; in the morning it burneth as a flaming fire.  They are all hot as an oven, and have devoured their judges; all their kings are fallen: there is none among them that calleth unto me.” (Hosea 7:4-7)

The nation was dabbling with other gods and religions.   He uses an illustration of an oven that heats the room so hot the baker doesn’t even have time to do anything else between the time the bread is kneaded and has risen enough to bake.  Lobbyists and business interests had donated so much the rulers were unaware of what was really happening and were involved with ungodly and crooked men.  Like the overly hot oven, they burn and destroy those who try to do anything to control the heat or bake something.  They had reached a point where nobody could control them, but apparently no one cared because they were not calling for the Lord.  It reached that point because the ones who were supposed to get the benefit of the oven have gone to sleep. 

“Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned.  Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not.  And the pride of Israel testifieth to his face: and they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek him for all this.” (Hosea 7:8-10)

Ephraim, the ruling tribe had just gone along with the corruption of the others and was like a cake that had not been turned.  One side was burned beyond use, while the other side was raw.  They had been taken over and were controlled by people who were not interested in the country, but he didn’t even realize what was happening.  When God warned them what was happening, they made no effort to change or turn to him, regardless what happened to them. 

“Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria.  When they shall go, I will spread my net upon them; I will bring them down as the fowls of the heaven; I will chastise them, as their congregation hath heard.  Woe unto them! for they have fled from me: destruction unto them! because they have transgressed against me: though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against me.  And they have not cried unto me with their heart, when they howled upon their beds: they assemble themselves for corn and wine, and they rebel against me.” (Hosea 7:11-14)

Like a bunch of doves who are disturbed a person who feeds them, they flit from position to position to escape God’s presence.  They don’t seem to realize it is their flight that brings them into the net.  They would be safe if they would just stay where they are supposed to be.  Their efforts to get away from the one who is trying to help them will result in their being injured or killed.  They want the food he provides but they refuse to come to him.  . 

“Though I have bound and strengthened their arms, yet do they imagine mischief against me.  They return, but not to the most High: they are like a deceitful bow: their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue: this shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.” (Hosea 7:15-16)

God had treated Israel like a bird with a broken wing, splinting it and caring for them until the wing healed.  Some never learn to trust the person caring for them, fighting every time.  As soon as they are able they return to the wild and never go back to the person who cared for them.  Like that bird who returns to wild, they are often more susceptible to, and less aware of the dangers.  Their decision to leave the safety and care is a source of derision to others.  .

While this was written as a warning to Israel, according to I Corinthians 10:1, they were written as an example to us.  “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”  To ignore the examples because they were not written specifically for us is foolish.    

Friday, January 15, 2016

Hosea’s Plea

Hosea 6:1-11

“Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.  After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.  Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.” (Hosea 6:1-3)

In the middle of telling the Jews how God felt about their actions, Hosea cried out for them to surrender to God and follow him.  The things they were suffering were the result of his punishment.  If they would turn back and obey him, in just a few days they would  start to see changes in their situation, and they would be able to tell it was God causing their suffering.    If they would do so, the blessings would fall like rain on the earth. 

“O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.  Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth.  For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”  (Hosea 6:4-6)

Israel and Judah really looked good when they started out, serving and obeying God.  In just a little while their obedience evaporated like an early morning cloud or the dew when the sun comes out.   Because they turned away, God sent prophets to warn them and try to get rid of their sin, like a nurseryman pruning fruit trees.  When that didn’t work, he allowed them to be attacked and many killed.   Other nations were impressed how fair their laws were.  The Queen of Sheba had been impressed in Solomon’s day, and Hammurabi wrote his code during the time of the judges.   Those laws showed what God really wanted, that he loves mercy, a willing ness to forgive when people ask rather than efforts to buy off his anger.  He loves a desire to know and please God more than all the offerings we could ever give.  

“But they like men have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me.  Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity, and is polluted with blood.  And as troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way by consent: for they commit lewdness.  I have seen an horrible thing in the house of Israel: there is the whoredom of Ephraim, Israel is defiled.  Also, O Judah, he hath set an harvest for thee, when I returned the captivity of my people.” (Hosea 6:7-11)

Instead of trying to please God, obeying what he said, the entire family of Israel has betrayed God.  In the area east of Jordan, there was hardly any moral standard and almost anything was ignored.  The priests had become like a band of robbers, offering asylum to murderers and other criminals and being involved in sin themselves.  What Hosea was seeing was horrible, with the leaders of Israel worshipping other things instead of God, and the entire nation being involved with sin as a result.  Even worse, the nation of Judah was going along with it to the point God was fixing to judge them as well, causing them to go into captivity along with the others.   They were acting just like other people instead of like God’s chosen people.    

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Don’t Let Others Pull You Down

Hosea 5:1-15

“Hear ye this, O priests; and hearken, ye house of Israel; and give ye ear, O house of the king; for judgment is toward you, because ye have been a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor.  And the revolters are profound to make slaughter, though I have been a rebuker of them all.” (Hosea 5:1-2)

The nation of Israel needed to listen to what god said, and especially her king.  They were facing God’s judgment because from the time of their separation from Judah, they had worked constantly to drag Judah into their idolatry, from the idols at Mizpeh, on the very border of Judah, to the camp meetings on mount Tabor.  They had been determined to destroy Judah and their worship of God despite his repeated warnings to both nations.

“I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from me: for now, O Ephraim, thou committest whoredom, and Israel is defiled.  They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God: for the spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them, and they have not known the LORD.” (Hosea 5:3-4)

God knew exactly what Ephraim and the nation of Israel were doing.  Their efforts to fool him by making a show of their love were wasted.  The tribe of Ephraim led and the entire Nation had turned away, refusing to follow God.  They had a rebellious and unfaithful attitude and had no clue about God’s love for them. 

“And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity; Judah also shall fall with them.  They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the LORD; but they shall not find him; he hath withdrawn himself from them.  They have dealt treacherously against the LORD: for they have begotten strange children: now shall a month devour them with their portions.” (Hosea 5:5-7)

They still bragged about being God’s chosen people but he was so frustrated with their attitude he would testify against them openly, knowing it result in their destruction.  The worst part was that Judah would be pulled down with them.  They would Go with Israel to seek the Lord but not find him because he has withdrawn from them like a husband who refuses to go toe the bar where his wife is flirting or making out with other men.   They have betrayed their God and taught their children to worship other gods, and their destruction is only a short time away. 

“Blow ye the cornet in Gibeah, and the trumpet in Ramah: cry aloud at Bethaven, after thee, O Benjamin.  Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke: among the tribes of Israel have I made known that which shall surely be.  The princes of Judah were like them that remove the bound: therefore I will pour out my wrath upon them like water. “ (Hosea 5:8-10)

The tribe of Benjamin had stayed with Judah and followed God to some degree, but they were next to Israel.  A cornet was similar to the hunting horn with a loud piercing sound that could be heard for a long ways.  God said they were to blow the cornet in Gibeah and the trumpet in Ramah, and shout the warnings in Bethaven, warning Benjamin that Ephraim and Israel were going to be destroyed as God had warned them   The leaders of Judah had paid no attention and were liked people who tear down other people’s fences.  God was going to punish them like a flood washing away a pile of sand. 

“Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked after the commandment.  Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness.  When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb: yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound.  For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall rescue him.  I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.” (Hosea 5:11-15)

Ephraim willingly agreed to follow God’s commandments, but they’d broken that promise.   As a result, God would flit around like moth, doing nothing to save them.  To Judah, he would be as beneficial as a rotten piece of wood, giving away just when they needed him worst.  God was upset that, instead of turning to him for help when they got in trouble, both Judah and Israel turned to the Assyrians for help, even though the Assyrians could not solve what was wrong.  Their actions had turned God against both Judah and Israel and he would attack them like a lion, leaving some badly hurt and dragging others into slavery.   He will not again come to them or try to work thing out until they admit they were wrong asd begin to want to reunite with him.  When it gets bad enough they will come back.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Letting Down One’s Guard

Hosea 4:6-19

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.” (Hosea 4:6)

Israel had reached a point where nobody dared try to show them what was right, even fighting with the priests about what God said.  They were destroying themselves because they didn’t know what they were doing.    There was no shortage of information, they simply refused to accept it.  As a result God refused to intervene on their behalf, or to accept their religious activities.  He will treat them exactly as they treat him. 

“As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame.  They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity.  And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings.  For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the LORD.  Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart.” (Hosea 4:7-11)

The bigger and more powerful they became, the less concerned they were about what God said, and the more sin was accepted.  As a consequence, God is going to use the things they were proud of to shame them.  Throughout the centuries, some of the richest “Christian” organizations have had to declare bankruptcy, and the tremendous buildings they built have become houses of worship for false religions.  This is a real danger for any large group. 

People tend to follow their leaders, their priests, and unfortunately, they also choose leaders who hold similar views.  The attitudes of the people and those of the leaders become increasingly similar.  Finally, God can no longer overlook what they are doing and is forced to punish them according to what they do.  In their efforts to maintain the status quo, they become increasingly desperate, going against God’s commands to try to prevent further losses.  These efforts fail precisely because they have ignored God’s commands.  Dabbling with other beliefs and catering to human desires distract us from serving God. 

“My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them: for the spirit of whoredoms hath caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God.  They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof is good: therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses shall commit adultery.” (Hosea 4:12-13)

God’s people were getting their directions from the trees, literally worshipping nature and the groves they planted rather than God, using their walking sticks or canes to determine what to do.   They have an attitude of unfaithful ness like a husband with a wandering eye.  That attitude leads them into sin, and ultimately unfaithfulness to God.  The start by worshipping in places and ways God forbade, and before long their children and loved ones have completely turned away from God. 

“I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses when they commit adultery: for themselves are separated with whores, and they sacrifice with harlots: therefore the people that doth not understand shall fall.” (Hosea 4:14)

When the children and mates go completely into sin, and upset the teachers and parents, God will not intervene to turn them back because they are just following the example that has been set before them.  Their religious leaders have not taken a stand themselves, and as result they don’t know what God wants and are destined to fail. 

“Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend; and come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Bethaven, nor swear, The LORD liveth.  For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the LORD will feed them as a lamb in a large place.  Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.  Their drink is sour: they have committed whoredom continually: her rulers with shame do love, Give ye.  The wind hath bound her up in her wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.” (Hosea 4:15-19)

We should not follow the spiritual fads and trends just because others do.  They are like a rebellious cow, determined not to go where they are supposed to.  It will be like a little lamb lost in huge field, while it looks like there is everything they could ever want, they have no protection at all.  We should not join with them in their places of worship, at Gilgal and Bethaven, nor go along with their religious statements.  They are worshipping false gods, and we are not to be part of it.  What they offer will not be satisfactory, although it looks good, and while they appear to be serving God, they are involved with others.  Their leaders seem to love but the whole emphasis is on you giving.  Ultimately all their efforts will fail and their religious activities will become a source of embarrassment.   Though Israel and Judah had much in common, Judah could not afford to go along with Israel in order to maintain their relationship.   We must not let down our guard, even to maintain fellowship.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

God’s Offer

Hosea 3:1-4:5

“Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine.” (Hosea 3:1)

As an illustration of what God’s relationship to Israel was like, God commanded Hosea to find a woman who had ruined her marriage by committing adultery, but not a woman who was so selfish and controlling she couldn’t maintain long term friendships with other people.   She would just want to have a good time, Like Israel wanting to enjoy all the parties those who worshipped other Gods had.   

“So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley: And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee.” (Hosea 3:2-3)

Hosea found such a woman, and hired her to serve as his in exchange for providing food and money.  In exchange, she agreed not to flirt with other men or run around with them, or prostitute herself for more money while they were together.  He promised to do the same for her. 

“For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.” (Hosea 3:4-5)

Israel was like the woman who had destroyed her marriage by having an affair.  The guy she had the affair with wouldn’t step up and marry her and she wound up being alone for many years.  When she finally gets desperate enough, she will be willing to settle for a place to live and food, and will turn again to the one she left. 

It was crucial for the purpose of the illustration that the woman be able to maintain long term friendships.  A person who is so selfish and controlling they will sacrifice their friendships to get their own way would never be satisfied with such an agreement, but would always be looking for something better.    God wanted to demonstrate his willingness to take them back despite their wickedness, but it was essential the woman be willing as well.    God makes the same offer to every person on earth, to accept them, no matter what they have done, but requires they be willing to make a firm commitment to him in return. 

“Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.  By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.  Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.” (Hosea 4:1-3)

There was a serious quarrel between God and Israel, and, like a lot of people, they were not willing to even hear the other side or consider whether the complaints were valid.  They would not be honest about what they were doing, or even consider God’s feelings and desires.  They were merciless in getting their way, they didn’t consider God’s role in swearing to pay a bill or do a job.  They thought nothing of lying or stealing or killing to get their way.  They committed adultery and walked away from their responsibilities with no concern.  Shootings and stabbings were commonplace and went almost unnoticed, even when they were so close together that the pool of blood from one touched the pool from another.  As a result the entire area would weep over the deaths of their young men, and the people would be depressed and struggling economically.  They wouldn’t even be able to supply for themselves by hunting or fishing.   

“Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another: for thy people are as they that strive with the priest.  Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother.” (Hosea 4:4-5)

It had reached a point where hardly anyone would stand up to them or try to show them what was right.  They would even fight with the priests who told them what God had said about what was right.  Even God’s own words meant nothing to them.    As a result, they would lose what they had.  The leaders and preachers who encouraged them in what they were doing would be discredited and lose their influence, and the nation that spawned them would be destroyed.  

Monday, January 11, 2016

God’s Abiding Love

Hosea 2:14-23

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.  And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt.” (Hosea 2:14-15)

Like a husband who has been betrayed by his wife, God was going to break ties with Israel, refusing to support her or yield to her demands until she realized what she had given up.   He still loved her, and when she was dissatisfied enough to show interest in returning to him, he would go out of his way to win her back.  If she responded to hi, he would again show her the love he had shown her when she was a young nation.  . 

“And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali.  For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name.” (Hosea 2:16-17)

When that day comes, Israel will no longer call God Baali, (Lord, Master, or owner).   He will take away that concept of slavery to gods such as the god, Baal.  Instead they will call him Ishi, (my husband, my darling, my love).  He doesn’t want to be thought of in any way as one we have to please to be acceptable but as one we love so much that everything we do is done for him. 

“And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely.  And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies.  I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.” (Hosea 2:18-20)

When that day comes, Will make a contract for his people with the wild creatures and will destroy the weapons and desire for war so that people can dwell safely.  Isaiah 11:1-12 describes the same time. “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.  And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.  

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.  And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.  And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den.  They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.  And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.  And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” (Isaiah 11:1-12)

This is the period Revelation 19 and 20 describes.  It starts with Christ’s victory in Revelation 19:11-16.  “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.  His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.  And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.  And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.  And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.  And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

Christ rules with a rod of iron and for a thousand years there are no problems because as Revelation 20:2-3 tells us, for a thousand years Satan is imprisoned.  “And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.”  At the end of the thousand years, Revelation 20:7-9 tells us, “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.  And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.”    Because Satan is not there during that period there is nothing to cause many problems. 

“And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the LORD, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; And the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel.  And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.” (Hosea 2:21-23)

During that thousand year period, Problems in heaven or I earth will be corrected immediately.  Attention will be paid to the needs of the various crops and individual people.  there will be no focus on the greatest good for the greatest number, but on the greatest good for everyone.  Even those who have been ignored as being beneath notice will be treated as God’s people and given the rights the world denies them.  They will honor him as their God. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Consequences of Continued Sin

Hosea 2:1-13

“Say ye unto your brethren, Ammi; and to your sisters, Ruhamah.  Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband: let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts; Lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born, and make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst.” (Hosea 2:1-3)

Hosea’s marriage to Gomer was a marriage in name only.   She continued in prostitution having children that were not his.  It is a picture of Israel’s relationship with God.  They have continually been involved with other gods and not had time for him, yet like a forgiving husband, he offers to take her back and adopt her children if they will only turn to him but if she continues to refuse, he will take everything from Israel and discard her like a piece of trash. 

“And I will not have mercy upon her children; for they be the children of whoredoms.  For their mother hath played the harlot: she that conceived them hath done shamefully: for she said, I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink.” (Hosea 2:4-5)

Just as a man whose wife has had children by other men may not be willing to take the responsibility for those children when she leaves him, God says he will not take responsibility for Israel’s children if Israel persists in her adulterous ways. , even though he cares about them. 

“Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths.  And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now.” (Hosea 2:6-7)

One of the first things a person must do whose mate leaves them it to close out joint checking accounts and credit cards and change the locks on the house, because the one leaving still thinks of those things as theirs.  They often don’t hesitate to spend the money in the account or to things without asking as a result.  They may even use those things buy gifts for their lovers.  God is effectively shutting things up so Israel will have to pay their own way, instead of expecting him to do so.    Without the money to spend she will find the lovers are less interested and life is lonely.  She may even conclude she was better off with her husband. 

“For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal.  Therefore will I return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness.” (Hosea 2:8-9)

A few years ago, several women’s groups complained it was unfair that a study showed that when women divorced their husbands, their standard of living went down while sometimes the men’s went up.   Apparently it had never occurred to them that while they were married to their husband he paid a part, and in some cases all their bills, freeing them to use what they earned as they pleased.  When they left him they had to pay all the bills he had been paying for them.    In the same way, Israel had not understood God was providing the things they offered to other gods.  God would no longer provide those things, insisting on getting back what belonged to him. 

“And now will I discover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of mine hand.  I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.  And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, whereof she hath said, These are my rewards that my lovers have given me: and I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them.  And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the LORD.” (Hosea 2:10-13)

A woman I knew regularly spent money her husband had given to pay bills for things she wanted, forcing him to work overtime and go without things he needed to cover her debts, but he kept paying until she had an affair and they split up.   When she spent a bunch of money, he refused to make it good and before long she had destroyed her credit.    God says he is going same thing to Israel, so she has to take responsibility for her actions.  She will no longer be able to claim what she had came from other gods or her own efforts.  She’ll be forced to pay for what she has obtained.   

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Children Of Whoredom

Hosea 1:1-11

“The word of the LORD that came unto Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.” (Hosea 1:1)

This introduction clearly establishes Hosea as a contemporary of Isaiah.   Uzziah became King about 780 BC, and Hezekiah’s reign ended around   670 BC.  Since Jeroboam II’s reign ended about 755 BC it seems probable that Hosea prophesied from about 760 to about 700 BC.  The defeat and occupation of the Northern kingdom known as Israel occurred near the end of his time.  After the death of Hezekiah, Judah began a steady downward spiral that led to their defeat by the Babylonians about a hundred years later.  Uzziah and Hezekiah were great kings of Judah who served God and led their people to do so.   After Hezekiah, only Josiah tried to lead the people to serve God.  The other kings just followed the crowd, or actively led them away, just as the kings of Israel did.  It is in this setting Hosea’s prophecies are made. 

“The beginning of the word of the LORD by Hosea. And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD.  So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; which conceived, and bare him a son.” (Hosea 1:2-3)

This first prophecy was made while Jeroboam was still king of Israel.  From the very start, under Jeroboam I, Israel had begun to follow other gods, spiritually committing adultery with them.   God directed Hosea to marry a woman engaged in prostitution as a sign to them.   Apparently she continued in prostitution after her marriage, resulting in children by different fathers. 

“And the LORD said unto him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.  And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.” (Hosea 1:4-5)

Gomer’s first son was Hosea’s.  They named him Jezreel, or “God will sow.”   He portrays Israel as God’s son.    Jeroboam I’s family had been wiped out because they chose to worship other Gods. being replaced by Omri and Ahab’s family.  Jehu had destroyed Ahab’s family at God’s direction, but had then copied them in turning from God .  Jeroboam II was Jehu’s great grandson.    Jezreel symbolizes the Judgment on Jehu’s family for the way they have treated God’s child, Israel, involving them in their sin. 

“And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And God said unto him, Call her name Loruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away.  But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.” (Hosea 1:6-7)

Gomer’s second child, a daughter was named Loruhamah, “no pity.”  She was a child who may or may not have been Hosea’s.  Like a husband who is not sure a child is his, God will punish severely such a child when they do wrong, but bless one who does right.  Judah will be saved By God’s power rather than military might.   

“Now when she had weaned Loruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son.  Then said God, Call his name Loammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God. “ (Hosea 1:8-9)

Gomer’s third child is definitely not Hosea’s son.  He is called Loammi, or “not my people.”   He portrays Israel as refusing to acknowledge God and consequently being disowned by him.   

“Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.  Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel.” (Hosea 1:10-11)

Despite their rejection of him and their consistent refusal to obey God still loves Israel and Judah and will one day reunite them.  In that day they will no longer be separate nations but will have one ruler and king.   It is exactly the same thing Ezekiel prophesied to Judah over a hundred years later, in Ezekiel 37:15-24. 
“ The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying, Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.
 And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not show us what thou meanest by these?

Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.  And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes.  And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all: Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.  And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.” (Ezekiel 37:15-24)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Israel In The Day Of Judgment

Joel 2:21-3:21

“Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the LORD will do great things.  Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength.  Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.  And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.

And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.  And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed.  And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed.” (Joel 2:21-27)

God has stated that if they will turn back to Him, He will take pity on Judah, and provide their needs.   Even the wild animals will have enough to eat because the crops will again grow.  As they showed their appreciation for his blessings, he would increase those blessings with the result the crops would be abundant.  Ultimately they would recover everything they had lost over the years, as they learned to be thankful.

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.  And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.  The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.  And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.” (Joel 2:28-32)

As they turn more to God, he will pour out his Spirit upon them, enabling them to speak God’s word and experience his guidance, being filled with the Holy Spirit.  At the same time God would do miraculous things in the natural world, just before God’s judgment comes on the earth.  Peter described the events on the day of Pentecost as a partial fulfilment of this prophecy in Acts 2:16-21.  Today, every believer has that same opportunity to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and be guided by him. The last part, about the signs in the heavens and the earth, with the sun turned to darkness and the moon to blood just before God’s judgment is described in Revelation 6:12-17. 

“For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.” (Joel 3:1-2)

In that day of Judgment, God will free Jerusalem and Judah, destroying the world powers that are arrayed against them in the valley of Jehoshaphat.  Revelation 14:18-20, and Revelation 19:11-21 describe this time of Judgment. 

“And they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink.  Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine? will ye render me a recompense? and if ye recompense me, swiftly and speedily will I return your recompense upon your own head; Because ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things:  The children also of Judah and the children of Jerusalem have ye sold unto the Grecians, that ye might remove them far from their border. “ (Joel 3:3-6)

The Phoenician traders of Tyre and Sidon had sold thousands of Jewish children as slaves around the Mediterranean Sea, buying them from the Philistines and selling them to the Greeks, often for little more than the services of a prostitute or a bottle of wine.   Even if they were to try to make payment, there is nothing that would make up for what they had done, and God would not accept such an attempt. 

“Behold, I will raise them out of the place whither ye have sold them, and will return your recompense upon your own head: And I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the children of Judah, and they shall sell them to the Sabeans, to a people far off: for the LORD hath spoken it.” (Joel 3:7-8)

God will cause his people to come back together from all the lands where they have been scattered.  The people who have hated them will receive the same treatment they have given God’s people,  with their own children being sold into the slavery to the Sabeans.   The Sabeans refer to the people of Saba or Sheba. 

“Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.  Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD. Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.  Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great.  Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. ” (Joel 3:9-14)

In that day there will be a huge military buildup with even the agricultural tools being turned into weapons.  There will be a united force of all the nations of the world to attack Israel and Christ.  They will come into the valley of Megiddo for the battle of Armageddon. , and as Revelation 14 describes it, the Lord will destroy them like grapes in a winepress. 

“The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.  The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.  So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more.” (Joel 3:15-17)

All the miracles described in Revelation will come to pass, and Christ will set up his earthly kingdom for a thousand years.  The people who come to Jerusalem in that time will come to worship God, not to try to take over or make a profit. 

“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim.  Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land.  But Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation.  For I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed: for the LORD dwelleth in Zion.” (Joel 3:18-21)

Even the least productive land will produce abundant crops and feed vast herds of cattle.  The rivers will flow year around, and the valley around the dead sea will be filled with water, opening into the Red Sea.  The lands that have been most opposed to Israel will be uninhabited. But Judah and Jerusalem will be blessed forever.  Even the genetic diseases will be cleansed forever.