Blogging Through the Prophets: God’s love and justice.

Hosea 11

Hosea has up to now focused on God’s righteous anger against sin and His imminent judgment for Israel’s spiritual adultery. Yet we know that the Lord is merciful and compassionate. Here in this chapter Hosea describes how these two aspects of God’s nature seem to conflict and cause Him emotional distress. He changes his metaphorical way of referring to Israel as the bride of Yahweh to His son. God is calling Himself the Father of His people. This relationship describes in a different way the emotional longing that God has for His people, the special place they have in His heart. Yet the son has rejected the Father’s covenant. Hosea mentions Admah and Zeboiim, cities that were destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah (Deut. 29:22-28), to indicate that God must now punish Israel swiftly and severely.

The Lord seems to be torn between love and justice. Yahweh is love but He also is holy. His holiness demands that He act to judge and punish every sin and every evil deed no matter how small or insignificant. No sinner can stand in His presence without an atoning offering to cover his sin. That is impossible for human beings. We cannot redeem ourselves since we are by nature sinners. Yet God still loves the sinner and does not desire that even one be separated or cast away from Him. He chose to accomplish that atonement Himself in the work and crucifixion of Jesus. Only those who accept the sacrifice of the cross carried out by Jesus in our place can then truly call God Father.

So many people seem to have trouble with the concept of God as Father. this may be due to the fact that our own fathers were less than perfect, often harsh and cruel and in a few cases, downright sadistic. that is why so many people try to do good works in order to appease His wrath and anger. Yet this is a pointless endeavor. God our Father wants to extend His love, forgiveness and mercy to all. All we have to do is accept it.

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Hosea 10

Hosea incessantly pronounced God’s coming judgment on Israel for her hypocritical religious devotion to Yahweh. This is the theme of his prophecy. Religious hypocrisy is akin to marital infidelity because it is spiritual adultery, it is infidelity to Almighty God. Israel was Gomer but her spouse represented Yahweh. The Lord chose her and made a covenant with her. Yet, like Gomer, she did not live as if she were His bride but lived like a prostitute. She claimed to be in right relationship to God, but her actions belied her words. She pursued intimate relationships with false gods and nations who worshipped idols, while rejecting the legitimate intimacy offered by Yahweh.

Many of us in the 21st Century church engage in spiritual prostitution. More of our time i devoted to pursuing the gods of this world such as pleasure, leisure, fame, sex, money, material goods and pride. While we do this, we manifest an outward appearance of charity, goodness and piety while withholding obedience and deep love from God. In addition, we withhold love, mercy and justice from our fellow human beings especially those who poor, needy or caught up in those sins we deem particularly despicable such as alcoholism, prostitution and homosexuality. It is right to stand up for biblical theology, orthodox belief and morality but not if our obedience is a sham. Solid theology is fine but not by itself, it must be accompanied by acts of unselfish righteousness, mercy and love that exalt God and not our pride.

Jesus: A gift unto us.

Matthew 2
rembrandt07Among those who acknowledged the birth of the Messiah was a group of wise men, perhaps philosophers or astrologers from a land somewhere to the East of Jerusalem, possibly Persia. From their astronomical observations and their reading of the Hebrew Scriptures (Numbers 24:17) they discerned that a great Jewish king had been born. They came a long way to find Him, and when they did, they were overcome with ecstatic joy and worshipped him. These men had godly faith even though they were Gentiles, and not of the Chosen people.

As for the Jewish authorities, they failed to believe and so lost a great blessing. Herod, the half-Jewish, half Idumean King of the Jews and the chief priests, scribes and teachers at his court were the leaders of the Chosen people. They possessed the words of God and claimed to understand and interpret them. Yet they were ignorant of the signs and prophecies the Scriptures contained. They had no idea about the birth of the Messiah. They were deeply disturbed at the suggestion that he had been born. They did not believe. If they had believed what the Magi said, they had they would have accompanied them and worshipped as well. Instead Herod, afraid of the slightest threat to His power sought to do away with this “pretender” through savage cruelty. He did not know God at all for then he would have realized the futility of his efforts to subvert His plan.

At this time of year many people will read the scriptural accounts of Jesus’ birth. They will be proclaimed even in the media, but many of those who hear the message of salvation will not understand it. Many will misinterpret it and think that this is just a cute story for children. They will maintain that Christmas is, after all, all about the children and gifts. But it is not. Christmas is about the horrors of sin and the inability of any human being to save himself from its power. And it is about God’s mercy in atoning for that sin Himself. He is the one gift we all are offered and the only one that matters in this life.

Jesus: A humble birth.

Luke 2
Luke2Luke opens the narrative of Jesus’ nativity by relating the events that caused it to happen in the town of Bethlehem in fulfillment of prophecy. While kings and kingdoms moved forward with their own agendas and plans, the Lord was using them to accomplish His plan. The King of Heaven became man in a dirty and malodorous manger in a small insignificant village in a remote corner of the mighty Roman Empire. The one who would change the course of history, who in fact determines and sets the course of kings and kingdoms came in a quiet and humble way.

The ones who noticed His birth were a mixed assembly of witnesses. There was a glorious company of heavenly angels, of course, who put on a splendid worship service glorifying and praising God who had fulfilled His promises to man. This display was not broadcast over the media for all the world to see, but to a group of rather insignificant and crude shepherds, people who would have lacked credibility in their own society. They saw the heavenly spectacle and the baby Jesus but who would believe them if they said anything?

The Lord also revealed Himself to other simple people. There was a doddering old man, Simeon, and an elderly widow, Anna, both of whom, though respected by the Jews, would have been dismissed as too old and senile to make sense if they had said something to others. It was these simple yet righteous people that God chose to use and to bless with the message of His salvation from sin. He still does the same today and continues to use the humble and meek to transmit His word. While the world focuses on parties, gift-giving and Santa Claus, the Christian must aim to keep the focus of the holiday right where it belongs: Jesus as our salvation from sin.

Jesus: Of royal yet humble ancestry.

Matthew 1
Matt1The men and women mentioned in this genealogy trace the ancestry of the Messiah through the Chosen people starting with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In their lifetime, none of those mentioned here saw the promise of God fulfilled, but Hebrews 11 indicates that they looked forward to it and had faith that God would provide a Savior. Here we see that promise fulfilled through Jesus, a human being descended from Abraham, Judah and David. We also note that of the 5 women mentioned in this genealogy, only one, Mary, Jesus’ mother, was an Israelite by birth. The others were all pagans by birth even Ruth who was a Moabitess, a descendant of Abraham’s nephew Lot. While we are told in Scripture that both she and Rahab exercised faith in the Lord, we are not sure about Tamar and Bathsheba. Nevertheless, their presence in the sacred genealogy indicates that Jesus is the Savior not only of the Jews, but of all mankind.

But the passage tells us something far greater and much more significant, in the words God spoke to Joseph. These words tell us that the child conceived in Mary was no mere man. He is God for He was conceived miraculously, without any human interaction, by the power of the Holy Spirit! Many today would deny this, even some who call themselves Christian, but the fact that Jesus is both God and man is one of the cornerstones of our faith. If Jesus were not really a human being, He could never properly represent us before the Father and take our punishment on Himself. If He were not God, fully divine and without sin, his death would never be acceptable to the Father, for if He would not be sinless. Because He is both God and man we can trust that His death atoned for the sins of all mankind. This is the message we share with the world today.

Blogging Through the Prophets: Getting a raw deal for the sake of God’s Kingdom.

Hosea 1

Hosea1Hosea was called by Yahweh many years before the prophet Jeremiah appeared. The Lord called him to prophesy destruction to Israel at a time when she was experiencing a time of prosperity and power, secure and safe from foreign invaders. Jeroboam II was King at that time and was as wicked as Jeroboam I, the King who rebelled against Yahweh and split the Kingdom of David and Solomon in two. The nation that was formed in rebellion rejected Yahweh and almost from the outset and worshipped the Baals, the fertility gods of Canaan. What Yahweh called Hosea to do was a symbolic depiction of what Israel had done to Him. Hosea married a woman who would be unfaithful to her marriage vows. The children that were born to Gomer symbolized Yahweh’s displeasure with Israel. She rejected the Lord so He rejected her.

It strikes us as odd that the Lord would command a good man such as Hosea to marry a woman who would prostitute herself. Yet the Lord wished to demonstrate how He felt towards His people who broke His covenant. Hosea’s life would not have been easy. He would have felt betrayed, confused and ashamed. He would be the subject of a lot of gossip and ridicule since it is likely that only the first child, Jezreel was his. He would also have been the subject of criticism for the behavior of those children who would most likely have been bad-tempered, dysfunctional and rebellious. Yet Hosea knew exactly what he was getting himself into. The lesson we learn is that the Lord often calls his servants to do things that are difficult, wearisome and depressing. Contrary to what many of we believers think or have been told, life is not one continuous up experience all the time. We Christians are called to suffer deprivation, to sacrifice personal pleasure and reputation for the sake of God’s Kingdom. Sometimes we must do this even in the context of the Christian community as we suffer at the hands of fellow believers who are interested in playing political games for the sake of power, money and prestige. Though we suffer now, those who oppress us will eventually come under God’s judgment.

Blogging Through the Prophets: The Coming Judgement.

Daniel 12

daniel12As we contemplate the words of the angel to Daniel, we probably think we have all the answers to the questions the prophet raised. But this is not so. In fact we get no details about the climactic and terrible events that will take place. We are told that the very things we crave to hear, when and how all these things will take place is not for us to know. It is sealed up. Therefore it is rather curious why so many Christians talk about the end times, about dates, times and events and harken to the voices of those who claim to be able to give the exact details of the end times. There is also a field of theology called Eschatology which purports to be able to do the same. And yet the angel Michael tells us they are sealed up. This should lead us to conclude that all such speculations about these matters cannot and should not be dogmatic. In fact, they are a waste of the believer’s time and resources because we will know only when God chooses to reveal such things.

Rather than speculate we must act on what is revealed here. We are told the same thing that Daniel has focused on throughout this book. We are told that despite the outward circumstances, despite the pain suffering and persecution that the world and sinful men and kingdoms inflict on God’s people, the Lord is in control. He will set all things right. Therefore we can rejoice in the certain hope of deliverance.

We are also told rather clearly though succinctly in verse 2-3 that there will be a final day of judgement. That will be a day of reckoning and punishment for the wicked, those who rejected the Lord and His chosen ones. But that same day will bring eternal life and rewards to those who have placed their faith in Him. This is the same message we see in the New Testament and it is the message we who are God’s chosen people are now to bring to the people in our world rather than spending time in vain speculations. It is enough to leave it all in God’s hands.