Archive for February, 2017

Hosea 7

Hosea 7 points out one of the issues we have as people – a short memory.  God doesn’t suffer from that at all.  In fact, sin is never forgotten.  “They do not consider in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness. Now their deeds are all around them; They are before My face”. The problem among the people and leaders of Israel was they forgot – willfully – that the Lord saw and remembered their sin. We often deliberately forget that the Lord sees and remembers when we sin too. It may be secret before men, but not before God.

We tend to want to believe that God will somehow just overlook our sin.  But He can’t.  His nature doesn’t allow that.  So we need to ask ourselves some difficult questions. Do you think God doesn’t see? Do you think God is blind to your adultery or pre-marital sex? Do you think your pornography habit goes unnoticed? Do you think God’s eyes are closed when you get drunk or take drugs? There are many church-going people today who sit in a pew on Saturday night or Sunday morning and think that God forgets or never sees such things, because they do them and then they come to church and make a profession of godliness, pretending that those things are never part of their life. It doesn’t work like that.

Sin can only be forgiven through the shedding of blood.  And since we don’t have the sacrificial system like they did in the Old Testament – we’re down to one option – well actually two.

  1. Live a life without sin and walk in perfect obedience to God and His commandments.  (Scripture tells us that is not going to happen for anyone)
  2. Receive forgiveness through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross.  Confess, repent, receive and believe in His shed blood as the only forgiveness of sin.

That’s the only answer to our sin problem.  Only the atoning substitute of Jesus, crucified in our place under the New Covenant makes God forget our sin.

Sin is a real problem for all of us.  “For their hearts are like an oven As they approach their plotting”.  In Hosea’s time, they were inflamed with desire around idols.  But we all face a number of things that derail our walk with God too.  Sin never ends well for anyone.  “Woe to them, for they have strayed from Me! Destruction is theirs, for they have rebelled against Me! I would redeem them, but they speak lies against Me”.  God’s desire is always restoration and forgiveness.  But it requires us to come back to him through confession, repentance and receiving the gift of grace He freely offers us through Jesus Christ.  We’re no different than God’s people in Hosea’s time.  Sin will cost us everything if we don’t deal with it!

Hosea 6

Hosea 6 has our prophet calling on God’s people to return to Him.  “Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us”. Hosea prays with the right heart in response to the chastening hand of God. Instead of arguing with God, or resenting His correction, Hosea leads Israel in humble prayer. This is a prayer that trusts the love of God, and sees His loving hand even in correction.  God must deal with our sin and rebellion.  He can’t just look the other way because of His character and nature.  So rather than blaming Him for punishment and correction, we should run to Him in repentance.

He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him”.  Hosea prayed this full of confidence in God’s love and power to restore. In the prayer, there is a glimpse of the prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection on the third day. We get a picture of what happens on the cross where Jesus was torn and stricken for our sake, yet He was also gloriously raised up on the third day.  God is in the restoration business. And he is victorious over evil.  He wants that in our life just as it was for Jesus!

Here come the marching orders.  “So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord”. Hosea leads the people to repent but then to pursue God.  We should know that when we pursue the knowledge of the Lord, He blesses it. It must be more than superficial, it must be a pursuit. But when we endeavor to know the Lord, especially through His Word, He reveals Himself to us.  God wants us to know Him and His name to be known throughout the world.  That only happens if we pursue Him with all our heart.  God alone is worthy of our praise.

Hosea tells us what God wants in a relationship with us.  “I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings”.  God would rather have right hearts, full of truth and mercy than sacrifice.  The people missed the heart of God, focusing on the wrong and superficial things. Israel brought animals for sacrifice, but they never brought themselves as a living sacrifice. They missed what God really wants: a deep, close relationship with Him.  If we want to connect with God completely, it has to be all of us being given to Him.  He doesn’t want a part, or sometimes.  He wants us to be in relationship with Him fully and always!

Hosea 5

Hosea 5 has the prophet calling out the leaders for the situation that Israel is in – deep in sin.  “Hear this, O priests”!  No sugar coating.  No, let’s take accountability for our sin collectively.  God saw the sinful state of the nation of Israel and makes it clear it will not be tolerated.  He saw that it had happened because the leaders did not lead in a godly way. It would be tempting for the priests to blame the people, but it was really the fault of the spiritual leadership (priests) and political leadership (house of Israel) of the nation.  The people are like sheep that merely follow those in charge.  That’s not an excuse, but God holds leaders to a higher standard.

Sin is a personal choice.  We can be influenced in many ways.  By others individually, by the culture, by an ungodly worldview, by the enemy himself.  But at the end of the day, no one else can be blamed and no one else will stand before God to address our sin.  It is ours when we choose it, and it will be ours when judgment day comes.  God says “I will chastise all of them”.  Like all sin, which is really simple rebellion, Israel’s rebellion was centered on pride.They arrogantly thought that what God said didn’t really matter compared to their own opinions and desires.

That’s usually the heart of it.  We push God off the throne and His Word or His Holy Spirit no longer are the source of truth in our life.  We allow our own mind, will and emotion to step onto the throne of our life and follow that very flawed direction.  It will always lead us into sin, because we are not holy or righteous as God is.  Our only hope for a life of holiness is to let God drive our life.  Any other approach will cause us to fail. “Israel and Ephraim stumble in their iniquity; Judah also has stumbled with them”. Sin can often drag others with it, and it was certainly the case with Israel and Judah.

Ephraim sinned by living by man’s standards and opinions instead of God’s. We can’t walk by human ways unless we first reject God’s ways, and that was exactly what Israel did. Israel was foolish enough to trust in man – her eventual conqueror – instead of trusting in God. So punishment comes, and God focuses on how to win back the hearts and lives of His people.  Sin always creates a separation, and while God may appear to move away, He never goes far.  “In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me”. This was the goal of God’s judgment against Israel. The goal was not destruction, but restoration.  Are you walking in harmony with God, or in your own wisdom and strength without him?  One choice is far better than the other!

Hosea 4

Hosea 4 has the prophet speaking God’s truth to His people.  “The Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land, because there is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land”.  Each of these three points is connected. When people forsake the knowledge of God, soon faithfulness and kindness are both gone. Faithfulness must be rooted in something more than personal opinion, and kindness means going beyond self-interest to putting the good of others ahead of our own.

Things quickly fall apart when God is no longer the focus.  “There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery”.  People put self on the throne when God is pushed aside.  And things deteriorate badly.  You make your own rules. You answer to no one. You are the one that matters. Your universe revolves around you. You should only restrain yourself if you want to.  All of those things are wrong.  God alone can be on the throne.  He alone can make the rules.  He alone is the authority in life.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children”. Bad leadership creates real problems.  The priests were not doing their job of leading the people into a close relationship with God.  When God’s people are destroyed and waste away, it isn’t because God has lost either His love or strength. It’s because His people lack . . . knowledge. Knowing God is paramount to our successful walk with Him.

Once sin gets a grip, it just keeps on going. “The more they multiplied, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame…. they have stopped giving heed to the Lord”. And our sin can cause us to go deaf to God’s cries to stop and repent.  We have to do that if we’re going ot get back in right standing. If we don’t get right, we stand alone and unprotected. We don’t want God to leave us alone because we need Him to protect us against our spiritual enemies. We also don’t want God to leave us alone because we need Him to protect us against ourselves. Left to ourselves, with our own sinful hearts, we will surely drift away from the Lord.

Hosea 3

Hosea 3 has God asking Hosea to do the impossible.  “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes”. God directs Hosea to go back to his wife, even though she is committing adultery. It isn’t in the past; it is in the present; yet he is commanded to go back to her and to love her. This shows us an important principle about love: Hosea is directed to love, even when it would have been extremely hard to love.  His wife certainly doesn’t deserve it according to human standards.

But God has a different way.  While we are filled with many romantic illusions about love, one of these illusions is that love has very little to do with our will – we are just “captured” by love and follow whatever course it leads. But in principle, God’s Word shows us another way: That love is largely a matter of the will, and when we direct ourselves to love someone God tells us we must love, it can and will happen. This is why “We’re not in love anymore” isn’t valid grounds for a bad relationship or divorce. It assumes that love is something beyond or outside of our will.

Then Hosea does something unbelievable.  “So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley”. Hosea didn’t really need to “buy” His own wife, to hire her as a prostitute. She was his wife after all! But as a display of love and commitment, he goes the “extra mile,” beyond what is expected or even reasonable.  In providing this way for his own wife, Hosea also showed her: “I can give you what the others can. You don’t need them. Let me show you how I can provide for your needs.”

The lesson Hosea lives is explained in terms of God’s people. “For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince….Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king”. God is in the restoration business, for His people, and between husbands and wives.  God wants us to love each other and to love Him. In this time of political and spiritual ruin, Israel will return and seek the Lord again. This will mark their restoration – and there will be no restoration until they turn back to the Lord.  That’s always God’s plan – to restore us to Him and to one another.

Hosea 2

Hosea 2 continues the story of the prophet and the prostitute.  God begins by showing just how broken the relationship is with His people.  “She is not my wife, and I am not her husband; And let her put away her harlotry from her face And her adultery from between her breasts, Or I will strip her naked And expose her as on the day when she was born”. God paints Israel as an adulterous wife, who is no longer worthy to be compared to a wife. This shows that relationship is broken. Though relationship is broken, blessing continues – but will be taken away if Israel does not turn.

I will have no compassion on her children, Because they are children of harlotry”. If Israel as a whole is represented as an unfaithful wife, then her children represent the individual people of Israel. If they do not turn back to the Lord, they will personally experience His judgment. We often forget the impact of sin on future generations.  Scripture is clear that it doesn’t just impact the sinner, but those who follow.  Being unfaithful in our walk with God will have effect for many to come.  How we live truly does matter.

God has a plan to try and help Israel stay the course.  “I will hedge up her way with thorns, And I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths”. To bring Israel to repentance, God promised to set a hedge of thorns on the sides of her path, so that it would hurt whenever Israel went off the correct path, and so the wrong paths would be hard to find.  God promises that we will never be tempted beyond our ability to control the temptation.  But there are times in life we may be so far off course we can’t even see the path.  God is intent on helping us find our way.

But God is always in the business of restoration.  “It will come about in that day….That you will call Me Ishi (my husband) And will no longer call Me Baali (my master).”  With great anticipation, God looks forward to the day when relationship is genuinely restored with His people. He wants an intimate love-relationship with His people, and longs for the day when His people will have a marriage-like love and commitment to their God. God was not satisfied with a fear-based, obedience-focused relationship with His people where they thought of Him primarily as Master. He wanted a relationship where they thought of Him primarily as Husband.  God wants us back.  He is all about relationship and having us in right standing with Him!

Hosea 1

Hosea 1 has a new prophet coming on the scene. “The word of the Lord which came to Hosea”.   Plainly said, Hosea was a prophet. He spoke the word of the Lord, and applied that word to his life, and to the people and circumstances around him. Hosea was a man, but he was a man God used to speak through. The name Hosea means “salvation.”It comes from the same Hebrew root (hoshea) as the names Joshua and Jesus.Throughout the book, Hosea will show us that salvation is found in turning to the Lord and away from our sin.

God’s first word to Hosea was something for his own life. This is how God almost always works. Hosea probably would have preferred it if God gave him a word for someone else. But before the prophet can speak to the nation, he first has to hear from God for himself.  “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord”.  Through His command to Hosea, God brings to life a consistent picture used throughout the Old Testament. In this picture, the Lord is the husband of Israel, and their passionate, constant attraction to idols was like the lust of an adulterer. His people were as unfaithful as a prostitute was.

In this vivid picture, we see how our idolatry and rejection of the Lord feels to God. When we put anything in front of the Lord, it hurts Him like unfaithfulness hurts the victim of an adulterous marriage. “He went and took Gomer….she conceived and bore him a son”.  We can assume that Hosea would never marry a prostitute except by the commandment of the Lord. It showed a lot of obedience for him to actually carry out this difficult command.

When Hosea and Gomer first married, she probably promised eternal love and devotion. She probably showed every sign of being committed to Hosea. But after a while, and in difficult circumstances, she fell back into prostitution.  They have a few children along the way.  God shows that He is in the restoration business with His people, but before that happens, they have to go through some difficult times.  “I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I would ever forgive them….You are not My people and I am not your God”. Though God has promised judgment, the days of judgment won’t last forever. After judgment, there will come a day of prosperity, increase, and blessing.

Credit to David Guzik’s commentary for many of these thoughts

Daniel 12

Daniel 12 wraps up the prophecy of this man.  Israel is destined for some trouble.  There is a battle brewing between good and evil. “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people”.  Michael, who is often associated with spiritual battle and is called the archangel prepares.  He is Satan’s true opposite. Satan is not the opposite of Jesus; he is the opposite of Michael, this high-ranking angel. In addition to his role as a spiritual warrior, Michael has a special job in protecting Israel. God appointed Michael as a spiritual guardian over Israel.

There is a troubled time coming.  “And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book”.  The outcome is already known – God is in control of all things.  But there will be a Great Tribulation that will be a time of persecution and world calamity.  The worst is yet to come.  The fury of the devil will be directed against the people of God in that time.

Yet victory is secure.  Deliverance will come no matter how great the attack.  God is still on the throne and promises to preserve His people Israel.  The promise of deliverance is not for every last person of Jewish heritage, but for these who are found written in the book.  God will bring all people face to face with their eternal life.  “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt”.  We will all face this reality – a time when we stand before God and give account.  There are two outcomes – heaven and hell – and it is there we will live forever.  Are you ready for that face to face?  Eternity is a very long time.  Don’t be caught unprepared!

The end times will be difficult, but there’s a ray of good news here in Daniel’s words.  “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever”.  Those who live in God’s wisdom will shine. All God’s people are like stars in the sense that they radiate light and help others to see and find their way. But certainly, those who turn many to righteousness shine even more brightly, helping even more people to see the light and find their way.  After those words, God instructs Daniel to seal the book and they would be kept safely until the time of the end.  God has sealed them until His time comes.

Daniel 11

Daniel 18 contains one of the most specifically fulfilled prophecies of the Bible, predicting history over some 375 years, and to the end, with amazing accuracy.  The chapter is so specific, that many critics deny supernatural revelation and have insisted that it is history, written after the fact, fraudulently claiming to be prophecy.  But the Bible is God’s Word and Daniel correctly prophecies the events of history through it.  The angel told Daniel that there would be three more kings in Persia until a fourth arose. The fourth king would be strong, rich, and oppose Greece. This strong, rich fourth king was fulfilled in the Persian King Xerxes.

These visions and insights regarding the future of the Persian and Greek Empires were relevant because each empire attempted to wipe out the people of God at some time.  Daniel foretells what happens in Greece when Alexander is gone.  “As soon as he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not to his posterity, nor according to the authority with which he ruled, for his kingdom shall be plucked up and go to others besides these”.  After the death of all Alexander’s possible heirs, four generals controlled the Greek Empire, but none of them according to his (Alexander’s) dominion.

Daniel prophecies a marriage between enemy kings. “After some years they shall make an alliance, and the daughter of the king of the south shall come to the king of the north to make an agreement. But she shall not retain the strength of her arm, and he and his arm shall not endure”.  Joined by a marriage, the kings of the North and South would be allies for a while, but the arrangement would not last.  The chapter documents the back and forth battles between the kings of the north and south as the victories ebbed and flowed back and forth.

Daniel ends with the description of the Antichrist.  “And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished”.  There is a shift from what was going to happen in the years before Christ, to what will be fulfilled in the Antichrist, the final world dictator.  Antichrist will do much damage, but he is on a short chain and will only work into God’s plan. God’s purpose will be accomplished. In the end there is no hope for the Antichrist or for any of his followers.

Credit to David Guzik’s commentary

Daniel 10

Daniel 10 has the prophet receiving another word from God.  This chapter sets the stage for the spectacular prophecy coming in Daniel 11, which described a time of great persecution and testing for the people of Israel.  “In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks”.  He had understood the word from God and was overwhelmed by the message.  Some think that Daniel was in mourning because so few Jews had returned with Ezra from exile. Others believe it was because Ezra faced severe opposition in rebuilding the temple.

I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen…. his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude”. Commentators divide over the identity of this certain man. Some say this is Jesus, noting that the description is remarkably like what John saw in Revelation. Some others think that the certain man is an unnamed angel of high rank, noting that Jesus would not need the assistance of Michael.  So it is a bit unclear who this man is.

Daniel sees the vision and it overwhelms him.  “So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me”. As godly as Daniel was, he was undone by this vision of the glorious man. Daniel’s experience shows us that even the holiest of men fall short before God.  But it also shows that God listens to those who seek Him.  “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words….Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me”.

God responded to Daniel’s prayer the very moment he made his request known. Daniel had been in great and serious prayer for three full weeks.  An angel was dispatched because of Daniel’s prayer. This is another of many reminders in the Book of Daniel that prayer matters. It isn’t merely a therapeutic exercise for the one who prays. “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage”.  This was the second time Daniel was called greatly beloved. Each time it was in relation to Daniel’s being favored with a great and significant revelation of the future.  Daniel is connected with God and His plan for the future.  We’ll see that clearly in the next chapter.

Commentary from David Guzik included in this overview.

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