Grievous Consequences of Israel’s Infidelity, part 1 (Hosea 2:6-8)

Over the last couple of weeks here on Grace Still Amazes we’ve been looking at God’s Charge against Israel’s Infidelity.  Israel, like Gomer, was pursuing other lovers, believing that those lovers provided for her the necessities and even the luxuries of life.  In reality, however, it was Yahweh who had provided these things for his bride, Israel and He was about to take them back.

Keep in mind that even in judgment, God would be gracious to Israel.

So we’re going to start in verse 6 this morning, and we’re going to be looking at the grievous consequences of Israel’s infidelity.

6 Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths. 7 She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them.  Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.’ 8 And she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal. 9 Therefore I will take back my grain in its time, and my wine in its season, and I will take away my wool and my flax, which were to cover her nakedness. 10 Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall rescue her out of my hand. 11 And I will put an end to all her mirth, her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts. 12 And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees, of which she said, ‘These are my wages, which my lovers have given me.’ I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall devour them. 13 And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the LORD. 14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 15 And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.

Verses 6, 9 and 14 all begin with the word “therefore,” indicating that what is predicted here is God’s judgment upon Israel’s pursuit of other gods, in particular the Baals.  God’s first judgment against Israel was to place obstacles in her way, painful obstacles, that would hopefully cause her to turn back to God.  This is the purpose of God’s discipline in our lives as well—not to drive us away, but to encourage us to turn back to Him.

Verses 6-8 describe the futility that characterizes infidelity.

The obstacles in verse 6 are the “hedge” and the “wall.”  Job employs the term “hedge up” to refer to God’s providential care for His people (Job 1:10; 10:11-12), and this same providential care is in evidence in Hosea as God chooses to remove all temptations from his wife.  Thus, any attempt to pursue other lovers will be met with frustration.

Hedges

Albert Barnes says…

“Thorns” then may be the pains to the flesh, with which God visits sinful pleasures, so that the soul, if it would break through to them, is held back and torn; the “wall” may mean, that all such sinful joys shall be cut off altogether, as by bereavement, poverty, sickness, failure of plans, etc.

Keil and Delitzsch believe that this refers to the distress and tribulation of exile…

in which, although Israel was in the midst of idolatrous nations, and therefore had even more outward opportunity to practise idolatry, it learned the worthlessness of all trust in idols, and their utter inability to help, and was thus impelled to reflect and turn to the Lord, who smites and heals (Hosea 6:1).

Notice the “I wills” of God here—“I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her…”  This is in response to what Israel said in verse 5—“I will go after my lovers…”  It is the will of sinners to rebel against God and pursue other gods; it is the will of God to make it hard on His people to run after other gods.  Israel would be shut in to “paths of righteousness” instead of veering off to run after her lovers.

“How like the unfulfilled desires of contemporary persons: individuals who appear to have everything but who have nothing that brings genuine satisfaction.  To a restless, searching, unsatisfied generation, the words of Hosea are uniquely appropriate: Failure to live out a dynamic relationship with God and with the community of faith brings an accompanying lack of satisfaction” (Roy L. Honeycutt, Hosea & His Message, pp. 13-14).

Of course, we don’t like hedges and walls placed in our path when we are intent on sin.  We would prefer a clear path towards sin.

God will guarantee us a path out of temptation, but never a path towards temptation.  He will not make it easy for us to sin, but difficult.

In 1 Corinthians 10:13 Paul tells us

13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Thorns, since the initial curse, have signified the difficulties resulting from sin.  But, there is often mercy even in God’s harshest judgments.  Without the “thorns” of difficulty that scratch us, pierce us, and pain us, would we ever hate the sin which caused them? Would we ever want to be free from the sin of this world?  Would we ever cry out for our wounds to be healed and our pains relieved?

Keil notes:

All such hindrances to idolatry and wickedness, as visible here in the case of old Israel, have their counterpart in God’s cursing of the ground for Adam’s sake (Genesis 3:17, 19), and the continuation of such divine interference with nature as a means of human discipline throughout history, a divine action still visible today.  The wretchedness of the entire world, groaning in the anguish of sin, debauchery, idolatry, violence and poverty at the time when “The Dayspring from on High” entered our earth-life in Bethlehem, is but a larger picture of what is here primarily focused upon the old Israel.

Our great and good Shepherd sends pain-filled difficulties into our lives to frustrate our sinful desires and directions.  Perhaps your ambition made an idol of your job.  But now you have lost your job.  God has hedged up your way with thorns.  Perhaps you were proud of your family.  But now a son has rebelled against you.  God has hedged up your way with thorns.  Perhaps vanity was puffing you up.  But now God has sent disease into your body.  God has hedged up your way with thorns.

These are painful experiences which pierce deep into our hearts and minds.  But they are sent in love to stop us from going farther away, to make us examine our wounds, to cry for help and healing, and to turn us back to God’s pathway.

Times of plenty, when “everything’s going my way” dull our senses to the illusory nature of these gods and their gifts.  Like Israel, we mistake God’s gifts for the work of our hands, the ingenuity of our minds, the luck of our gambles.  Especially in our scientific, secular world, we are unlikely to attribute to God what we can imagine might come from human innovation and technology.

Only when life falls apart and health fails and relationships dissolve and people turn their backs on us do we begin to see the shallowness and emptiness of what this world and its gods can give us.

And notice again God’s purpose in all this.  It was not to destroy Israel, but to restore her.  “One way of persuading Israel to return to Yahweh was to convince her that the things she longed for would never be realized through the Baalim” (David Garland, Hosea, p. 27)

God doesn’t want Israel to “find her paths” back to the Baalim.  Her familiar pathway to her gods was now altered by hedges and walls, all to keep Israel to himself.

Stuart finds in this metaphor of the hedge and the wall an allusion to the confining of “a dumb animal who tends to wander off from its owner (cf. 4:16 where Israel is called a ‘stubborn heifer;’ 8:9)” and suggests that the threatened restraining will be realized in progressive foreign encroachment, which eventually will lead to Israel’s subjugation.

And John Trapp notes…

Man is fitly compared to a wild ass’s colt used to the wilderness, snuffing up the wind at her pleasure, rude and unruly, untamed and untractable, Jeremiah 2:24, Job 11:12.

He goes on to say…

To be kept by hedges and fences within a pasture, seems to such no small punishment: neither count they anything liberty but licentiousness; or a merry life, unless they may have the devil their playfellow: but the devil plays at no small games:  he plays indiscriminately, he lies in wait for the precious life, as that harlot, Proverbs 6:26; nothing less will content him.  In great wisdom, therefore, and no less mercy to men’s souls, doth God restrain, and bind them by afflictions that they may not run wild as they would nor feed upon the devil’s commons, which would fatten them indeed, but for the slaughter.

Israel’s God, and our God, is a jealous God.  He told Israel at their beginning, “You shall not no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).  No other gods—no rivals, no colleagues.  He will not share His glory with another and He will not share us with another.  Just as no husband shares his wife with another, God will not share us with another.

He will hedge up our ways and wall us off from other lovers so that we will be frustrated and feel the emptiness of our pursuits.

Verse 7 goes on to say…

7 She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them.

The words rendered “follow after and seek” (רדך, בקשׁ ) are intensive (Piel form) and express “eager, vehement pursuit,” and “diligent search.”

Thus, Albert Barnes comments:

She shall seek far and wide, minutely and carefully, everywhere and in all things, and shall fail in all….The sinful soul will too often struggle on, in pursuit of what God is withdrawing, and will not give over, until, through God‘s persevering mercy, the fruitless pursuit exhausts her, and she finds it hopeless.  Oh the willfulness of man, and the unwearied patience of God!

According to John Calvin, this verse shows just how hard and obstinate their hearts were.  Though it be more difficult now to pursue other gods, pursue them they will.  In “mad zeal” (like an animal in heat) they will pursue their lovers, but to not avail.

Like the blinded Sodomites groping at the door, or Pharoah pursuing Israel into the wilderness after ten plagues, or Balaam who had an angel stand in his path, they do not learn from their sufferings, but instead push stubbornly on.

This led Matthew Henry to note:

Crosses and obstacles in an evil course are great blessings, and are so to be accounted.  They are God’s hedges, to keep us from transgressing, to restrain us from wandering out of the green pastures, to withdraw man from his purpose (Job 33:17), to make the way of sin difficult, that we may not go on in it, and to keep us from it whether we will or not.  We have reason to bless God both for restraining grace and for restraining providences.

The reality is, Israel and Gomer would still try to pursue their lovers, but would no longer be able to overtake them.  There is emphasis on sustained, aggressive and intentional action on the part of Israel.  No initiative is pictured from the lovers, no seduction from them.  How pathetic!  Her lovers are not seeking her out, not seducing her to do something she doesn’t want to do.

They would always be out of reach.  Israel would seek them but not find them.

Yes, Israel might be able to burrow her way through the hedge and climb over the wall, but even then, those gods will not be found.  They will not answer, like the Baalim on Mount Carmel.  They cannot be found.  They have “left the building.”

As James Burton Coffman reminds us, a non-entity cannot be found.

How different from pursuing God, for He promises flirtatious Israel in Jeremiah 29:

12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

On the other hand, the Baalim would never provide anything but constant disappointment.  Contentment would only result from covenant faithfulness to Yahweh.

“I escaped not Thy scourges,” says Augustine, as to his pagan state, “for what mortal can?  For Thou wert ever with me, mercifully rigorous, and with most bitter alloy all my unlawful pleasures, that I might seek pleasure without alloy.  But where to find such, I could not discover, save in Thee, O Lord, who teachest by sorrow, and woundest us, to heal, and killest us, lest we die from Thee” (Conf. ii. 4).

Israel’s attempts to get what she needed from foreign nations and their gods would come to naught.  But that disappointment is a blessing.  At the end of verse 7 says…

7b Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.’

At first glance this seems a glad and direct contrast to verse 5.  There Israel had said, “I will go after my lovers” with a rebellious heart; but here “I will go and return to my first husband” with a repentant heart.  Similar words, but worlds apart, for they represent a 180 degree change.

This is God’s desire, and why he treats them with severity.

It anticipates what will ultimately happen, the promise of verse 16

16 “And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’

Israel will ultimately be restored.

Given the context, however, I believe this is an incomplete or insincere repentance.  It has the language of repentance, to “return to my first husband,” but neither Israel nor Gomer seemed to follow through.  As David Hubbard says, “Much has to happen before that repentance is a reality.”

She only “says” that she would return.  Unlike the Prodigal, who “came to his senses” and started the journey home, she seems to toy with this thought in her mind but never follow through on it.

Exposed to the meaninglessness and futility of life apart from God, she seems to decide to return to her “first husband,” to Yahweh, as opposed to the Canannite gods.  But this doesn’t seem to be the reality, yet.  They would have to suffer more in order to truly return to Yahweh.

Notice also the reason that she thinks about returning….” for it was better for me then than now.”  She was only interested in going back because it was better for her, more to her advantage, more convenient to her.  She was ever looking after her own advantage, not the glory of her covenant God.  (Although this is similar to the prodigal’s own desire to find food in the Father’s house.)

If her repentance was real, as with the Prodigal, God would come running.  But instead, he will afflict them with further judgments until they truly repent.

Again, this is the form of genuine repentance…”I will return.”  Albert Barnes, quoting someone, says…

“Mostly, when we cannot obtain in this world what we wish, when we have been wearied with the impossibility of our search of earthly desires, then the thought of God returns to the soul; then, what was before distasteful, becomes pleasant to us; He whose commands had been bitter to the soul, suddenly in memory grows sweet to her, and the sinful soul determines to be a faithful wife.”

Notice finally the sad refrain of verse 8

8 And she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal.

This is the reason that Israel’s repentance, at this stage, is but a fleeting aspiration.  They still believed it was the other gods who had been good to them, not Yahweh himself.

Israel, due to their zeal in pursuing idols, really believed that their grain, wine and oil, came from these agricultural gods, rather than Yahweh.  They were deluded into thinking that their “silver and gold” came from either their devotion to their gods, or their own efforts.

And beyond that, they then turned around and used God’s gifts to worship Baal.  As James Burton Coffman says…

[The] very wealth which God had bestowed upon Israel was used to build, ornament, promote and worship the vulgar old god of the Canaanites, Baal!  Gold was used for images of that so-called `god’, as when Jeroboam I manufactured and installed the golden calves at Dan and at Bethel.  Such wealth was also lavished upon the building of pagan shrines, the support of the pagan priesthood, etc.  Thus, the very wealth which God had bestowed upon them became, in their hands, the instrument of their dishonoring him.

This word “know” is an important one in the theology of the book of Hosea.  To “know the Lord” is the true goal.  Here, however, they are ignorant, willfully ignorant of God and his goodness, believing instead that other lovers had been the source of blessing.

It sounds eerily like the words of Jesus, crying out to a nation that rejected Him again, the true God…

41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.  (Luke 19:41-42)

Israel didn’t know, because they chose not to know.

I want to end today with a prayer from Scotty Smith’s book Heavenward:

The Gift of Precious Providential Thornbushes

Posted: 25 Feb 2017 08:55 PM PST, Scotty Smith

I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, “I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.” Hosea 2:6-7 

Lord Jesus, I’ve praised you for the kaleidoscopic foliage decorating the mountains of Switzerland, the wind-dancing sea oats covering the dunes of Florida’s Gulf, and the über-intense green painting the cliffs of Northern Ireland. But today, I praise you for the gift of thornbushes. They’re not pretty, but they are precious—as you make quite clear in these verses from Hosea.

Jesus, you love us so much that when we love you less, you come after us with bulldog-tenacity and uncomfortable providences.  You are unrelenting in your commitment to rescue our hearts from broken cisterns and worthless idols—from anything to which we run and cling, when your love and grace don’t seem to be enough.

Continue to block our path when we begin chasing after lesser gods and other lovers.  Hedge us in like a formidable fortress, when we let our longings or lusts, pain and fear have more power over our hearts than the gospel.  When we set our heart’s GPS for any destination but you, Jesus, cause us to lose our bearings and way.

That you are jealous for us is the greatest compliment you could ever pay us, Jesus.  Who are we that the Lord of glory would make us his Bride?  Who are we that you would rejoice over us with the festive joy, the impassioned delight, and the desire-filled gaze of a Bridegroom?

We long for the Day when we’ll never again need to say, “I will go back to my husband as at first“—the Day you return to finish making all things new.  Until that Day, Lord Jesus, keep us sane, centered, and satisfied, through the riches of the gospel.  So very Amen we pray, in your holy and loving name.

 

Links I Like

Here are some links from this week…

Self-Control, the Leader’s Make-or-Break Virtue, by Drew Dyck

Something that we all need.  A fruit of the Spirit, yes, but also a virtue that we don’t hear enough about, that we can build through habits.

More Than a Game, Less Than a God–A Christian Perspective on Celebrating the Super Bowl Together, by Bruce Ashford

How appropriate for Super Bowl Sunday, especially after preaching on Exodus 20:3 today!

What We’re Missing in the Ralph Northam Scandal, by Russell Moore

There’s been a lot said about Ralph Northam’s statement and whether he really was advocating infanticide.  Russell Moore reminds us of another important point–that the abortion culture and racial injustice are the same issue.

I Learned to Read the Bible through Tears, by Vaneetha Rendall Risner

Martin Luther once said that true Bible reading or study consists of Oratio, meditatio, tentatio” (prayer, meditation, trial).  This article from Vaneetha Rendall Risner is her testimony of the value of trials in helping her understand Scripture.  This article is from Desiring God and I could include a helpful link from them every week!

 

M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, February 6

Today’s Bible readings are from Genesis 38, Mark 9, Job 5 and Romans 9.

Genesis 38 moves away from the Joseph story (Gen. 37-50) and highlights the character and line of Judah, the Messianic line.  Through his Adullamite wife Hirah, Judah has several children.  The firstborn, Er, he procured a wife, Tamar (38:6).  But Er was wicked and the LORD put him to death, so Judah told Onan to fulfill his Levirate duties (Duet. 25:5-10) and bring forth a grandson (and a son for Tamar), but God put him to death too.  They were both wicked.

Since Judah never provided a son for Tamar to bear children with (perhaps he thought she was a black widow), she pretended to be a prostitute.  Judah went in to her.  He gave her a pledge of payment.  When she was found to be pregnant and Judah condemned her, she brought forth the pledge and Judah acknowledges his own fault in not taking care of her.  She gave birth to Perez and Zerah.

Mark 9 begins with the transfiguration of Jesus.  Some would see Jesus in (partial) glory, and of course John would see Him in greater glory in the vision of Revelation 1. Jesus also heals a demon-possessed boy that His disciples could not.  Jesus seems to rebuke both the crowds and His disciples as “faithless.”

The response of the father to Jesus’ statement that He could do anything for one who believes is a classic, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

Isn’t that what we all feel?  We all experience a mixture of faith and doubt.  We do need Jesus (or the Spirit) to help us “overcome” our unbelief.

Jesus once again predicts His death (9:30-32) and explains to his disciples, who were jockeying for position and status, that the first will be last and it would be better to be a servant.  Jesus then points out the folly of their sectarian attitude (vv. 38-40) and the serious danger of causing “little ones” to fall into sin (vv. 41-48).

Job 5 is more of the same, the continuation of Eliphaz’ speech from chapter 4.  On and on he goes, trying to prove that–since Job was suffering, he must have sinned.

Eliphaz reminds Job that God will graciously restore those who repent of their sins and turn to him.  This, of course, is absolutely true.  The problem is that Job had not sinned.

We should learn from this speech not to judge another person”s relationship with God by what they may be experiencing, whether it be adversity or blessing.

The reliability of God’s Word is foundational to our hope of justification, sanctification and glory (Romans 1-8).  God’s Word also hasn’t failed with regard to Israel (Romans 9:6) and that is what Romans 9-11 is about, showing how God’s Word towards Israel is true, even though much of Israel at that time was unsaved.

Although Paul’s primary concern is to vindicate God’s righteousness, he prefaces his remarks by expressing his own deep sorrow over Israel’s unrepentant state (9:1-5).  Then he details how God has dealt with the nation in the past (9:6-33).  In essence, God’s choice was completely sovereign and gracious (9:1-29), as can be seen in Israel’s very history (9:6-13), as well as on the basis of the principle of God’s sovereignty (9:14-29).  Further, they have rejected their Messiah by clinging to the Law (9:30-33).

Notice the questions in Romans 9, and the answers God gives:

  • To the question—Is God unjust?—he replies with Moses’ words that God will be merciful and compassionate to whomever he chooses (v. 15; citing Exod. 33:19).
  • To the questions—“Why does he still find fault?  For who can resist his will?”—Paul replies that we have no right to question God or his ways (Romans 9:20).

Although some believers hold that God chooses us because he foresees our choice of him, Paul excludes both human will and effort in salvation (v. 16).  Instead, he asserts God’s freedom to show mercy to or harden “whomever he wills” (v. 18).  God is the One with the will and effort that can effect salvation.  God has rights as Creator to choose as he desires.  He is the divine potter who fashions “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” and “vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” (vv. 22-23).

 

M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, February 5

Today’s readings are Genesis 37, Mark 8, Job 4 and Romans 8.

Jacob and his family are living in Hebron (35:27).  In Genesis 37 Joseph gives a bad report on his brothers (v. 2).  Jacob’s favoritism and Joseph’s dreams made him more hated by his brothers (37:3-11).

When Joseph’s brothers are watching their flocks near Shechem, Joseph is sent to see how they were doing (opportunity for another bad report??).  Joseph found them at Dothan.  Tell Dothan is located in the northern Samaria Hills on the eastern side of the Dothan Valley some 13.6 miles north of Shechem.

Bible Atlas

Image result for dothan israel

A view of the west side of Tel Dotan.  Ferrell Jenkins

They initially conspired to kill Joseph, but threw him in a pit.  Reuben thought he would later return to rescue Joseph, but in the meantime the brothers sold him to some Ishmaelite/Midianite traders on their way to Egypt.

They put some blood on Jacob’s garment, returned it to Jacob and said, “This we have found; please identify whether it is your son’s robe or not” (v. 32).  And Jacob believed that his son was dead.

Here are five symptoms of a dysfunctional family:

1. Estrangement—Family members who avoid other family members.

2. Anger—It may be expressed or repressed.

3. Lack of Trust—Seen in faulty patterns of communication.

4. Deception—Inability to speak the truth to other family members.

5. Unhealthy Secrecy—Refusal to face the truth.

Do you see all of these in Genesis 37?  But take heart, God can redeem dysfunctional families.

The chapter ends with Joseph in the house of Potiphar, “captain of the guard” and apparently wealthy (he had many slaves).

Didn’t Jesus just do this miracle, feeding thousands of people with a small amount of food?  And the disciples still hadn’t learn to trust Jesus fully (Mark 8:1-19).

Again he takes them in a boat “to the district of Dalmanutha” (v. 10).  Some believe this is in the same area as Magadan, in the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee.  There, Jesus is challenged to give a sign, to which Jesus refuses (vv. 11-12).  Then He instructs His disciples to beware of the leaven (bad teaching) of the Pharisees, which they misinterpret (maybe they were hungry) (vv. 13-21).

When they reach Bethsaida, Jesus heals a blind man in two stages (vv. 22-26).  Why?  I believe it was to illustrate that the Jewish people, including the disciples at this point, were not understanding, they didn’t yet have spiritual sight and a further work must be done to open their eyes.

Jesus and his disciples continued traveling north (vv. 27-29) from Bethsaida toward Caesarea Philippi, where Herod Philip lived, that stood about 25 miles away.  The disciples confessed their belief that Jesus was Lord near the place where the pagans confessed that Caesar was Lord.  According to Matthew’s gospel, Peter’s ability to correctly confess that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, was because God revealed it to him (Matthew 16

The timing of this question in Jesus” ministry was very important.  The disciples had believed that Jesus was the Messiah from the beginning of their contact with Him (John 1:41, 51).  However their understanding of the Messiah then was the traditional one of their day, namely, that of a political leader.  The multitudes likewise failed to understand that Jesus was much more than that. The religious leaders were becoming increasingly antagonistic.  The disciples were about to receive new revelation regarding Jesus that would have costly implications for them.  Therefore it was necessary for them to confess Jesus’ identity clearly and unmistakably now.

Jesus then teaches them about discipleship,  Just as He was destined for the cross, so each of them must “deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).  Be willing to give up your life for greater gain.

Job 4 begins the first cycle of speeches between Job and his friends.  Each cycle consists of speeches by Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, in that order, interspersed with Job’s reply to each address.  This pattern continues through the first two cycles of speeches (chs. 4—14 and 15—21) but breaks down in the third when Zophar failed to continue the dialogue.

Throughout the three cycles of speeches, Job’s friends did not change their position.  They believed that God rewards the righteous and punishes sinners in this life, the theory of retribution.  They reasoned that all suffering is punishment for sin, and since Job was suffering, he was a sinner.  They believed that what people experience depends on what they have done (cf. John 9:2).  While this is true often, it is not the fundamental reason we experience what we do in life, as the Book of Job proceeds to reveal.

Job 4 is Elphaz’s first speech.  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Eliphaz makes three false assumptions:

  1. Good and innocent people never suffer (see v. 7).
  2. Those who suffer are being punished for their sins (v. 8)
  3. Job, because he was suffering, must have done something wrong in God’s eyes.  Job must repent (5:8)

Romans 8 is the Mount Everest of this great epistle.  The first part (vv. 1-17) deal with the contrast between the flesh and the Spirit.  It gives the secret for overcoming the struggle presented in Romans 7–the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  The second part (vv. 18-39) deal with the contrast between suffering and glory.  We may suffer significantly now, but we will definitely experience greater glory in heaven, because of that suffering.

Romans 8:1 tells us we are free from the guilt of sin.

Romans 8:2 tells us we are free from the power of sin.

What we could not do for ourselves, God did for us (v. 3) so that now, through union with Christ, all the requirements of the law are fully met in us (v. 4).

Those who live according to the flesh or have the mind of the flesh are unbelievers.

The Spirit indwells us at conversion (Romans 8:9), frees us from the law of sin and death (v. 2), puts life in our bodies (v. 11), mortifies the flesh (v. 13), leads us (v. 14), bears witness with our spirit that we are indeed God’s children (v. 16).

Do the math, Paul says next, whatever sufferings we endure now, will be rewarded with glory far beyond compare.  If we put our sun on the suffering side (quite a large and significant object, because our sufferings may be quite difficult to endure), then we must put Canis Majoris on the glory side.  Now, Canis Majoris is so large that if our sun was the size of a golf ball, Canis Majoris would be the size of Mount Everest.  Even from the mountains around Mena, you would be unable to see a golf ball in the valley.

Then Paul says that all creation is up on tiptoes, awaiting that moment when we are revealed in glory (v. 19).  Why?  Because that means it will be renewed (vv. 20-21).  Also, it is the time when we come into our full adoption and receive our resurrection bodies (vv. 22-23).

When Paul says that God works “all things together for our good” (v. 28), it doesn’t mean that everything that happens to us is good.  God takes the good things (like reading our Bibles, praying, and fellowship with believers) and the bad things (trials, irritations, even temptations) and works them all together for good.  The “good” that God is working toward, according to v. 29, is that we become more like Jesus Christ.  That is the process that God has guaranteed, from predestination to glorification (v. 30).

Paul ends the chapter asking (and answering) four questions:

  • Is God for me?  Of course, He already has done the hardest thing (not sparing His one and only beloved Son), so He is committing to “graciously give us all things,” which I think in the context is “all things” that contribute to us becoming more like Jesus.
  • “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” v. 33  Some of them would be charged with treason (worshiping Jesus instead of Caesar) or cannibalism (eating the body and blood of Jesus), but it is “God who justifies.”  The highest judge in all the universe says, “Not guilty!  You are righteous.”
  • “Who is to condemn?” (v. 34)  This goes a step beyond charging with a crime.  This is sentencing.  Now, Satan is our accuser, but cannot condemn (see v. 1).  Instead, we have Jesus praying for us.  He is our intercessor, our advocate (1 John 2).  Like He prayed for Peter, that his “faith would not fail,” He prays for us.
  • Finally ” Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (v. 35)  Paul lists several things that maybe they thought proved that Christ didn’t love them–“tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword” but even though they really experienced these things (v. 36) we turn out to be super-conquerors (v. 37) because there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ! (vv. 38-39)

M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, February 4

Today is my wife’s birthday.  Happy birthday Becky!!!

Today’s readings are from Genesis 36, Mark 7, Job 3 and Romans 7.

Genesis 36 gives the genealogy of Esau’s family.

from Logos Bible Software

Back in Genesis 27 Isaac gave Esau a blessing that stated:

39“Your dwelling will be
away from the earth’s richness,
away from the dew of heaven above.
40 You will live by the sword
and you will serve your brother.
But when you grow restless,
you will throw his yoke
from off your neck.” (NIV)

And this passage shows that this is exactly what happened.  This passage shows that God was keeping His promises.  Even though Lot, Ismael and Esau were not part of the promised line, their descendants multiplied.  Also, Esau’s descendants moved away from the land, while Jacob’s (born in Padan-Aram) moved into the land.  Esau’s line developed kings long before Jacob’s did.

Mount Seir

Image result for Mount Seir

Related image

www.thealeph-tavproject.com

Mark 7 illustrates once again how the Jewish religious leaders took little things and made them extremely important, and difficult.  The issue in vv. 1-5 is that they criticized Jesus’ disciples for not washing their hands before they ate.  Now, likely your parents taught you to wash your hands before eating.  But this isn’t for health reasons, but for ritual (religious) reasons.

David Guzik explains…

For these ceremonial washings, special stone vessels of water were kept, because ordinary water might be unclean.  To wash your hands in this special way, you started by taking at least enough of this water to fill one and one-half egg shells.  Then, you poured the water over your hands, starting at the fingers and running down towards your wrist.  Then you cleansed each palm by rubbing the fist of the other hand into it.  Then you poured water over your hands again, this time from the wrist towards the fingers.

really strict Jew would do this not only before the meal, but also between each course.

The rabbis were deadly serious about this.  They said that bread eaten with unwashed hands was no better than excrement.  One rabbi who once failed to perform the ritual washing was excommunicated.  Another rabbi said that the sin of eating with unwashed hands was equal to that of lying with a harlot.   Another rabbi was imprisoned by the Romans, and he used his ration of water for ceremonial cleansing instead of drinking, nearly dying of thirst.  He was regarded as a great hero for this sacrifice.

Jesus confronted them with their hypocrisy–presenting clean external appearances but having a heart that was “far from me.”

Legalists like to take actions that are not commanded in Scripture and make them commands to obey, while at the same time ignoring (or arguing against) the real commands of Scripture (Mark 7:1-13).  Legalists want to appear righteous, but their hearts are not clean.

Jesus leaves Galilee to go to Tyre.  There, he marvels at the faith of a Syro-Phoenician woman and casts a demon out of her little girl (vv. 25-29).  Then, he goes back down to the Decapolis and healed a deaf man (vv. 30-35).

37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Job’s continued pain brought him from the silent, submissive attitude in chapter 2, to an assertive and angry expression in chapter 3.

First, he wishes that he had not been born (3:1-10).

Evidently the reason Job longed for nonexistence was his failure to understand his relationship with God or his place in the universe.  Job did not know as much about life and death as he assumed (cf. Job 38:2, 17).  Job does not aim for theological accuracy here, as much as expressing the deep agonies of the sufferer’s heart.

Second, Job wishes he had died at birth (3:11-19), and last he wishes he could die then (3:20-26).

Job was bitter (v. 20) but not out of control.  He was angry with God (v. 23) but not cursing God.

The writer used the same Hebrew word to describe Job as one “hedged in” by God with darkness and disfavor (v. 23) that Satan used to describe Job as one whom God had “made a hedge about” to protect him from evil (1:10).

Job was in despair but not defiant toward God.  He was feeling his pain intensely but not accusing God of being unjust.  His grief had not yet descended to its lowest depths.

“Where in the world will you find a sadder strain of more hopeless, uncontrolled, and unbroken lamentation and mourning?” (Bradley) Yet, “Such outpouring is a far more healthy thing for the soul than dark and silent brooding.” (Morgan)

Notice that although Job wanted to die (a common human response to pain), he did not attempt suicide.  People usually attempt suicide when they have lost all hope.  The pressure of pain squeezes out the memories of past pleasures and blessings.  The present agony becomes so overwhelming that sufferers often cannot see hope beyond it.

This might be hard to hear, but extreme pain may be the will of God for some people.  But we must remember that God will walk with us through our sufferings and that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to our future glory (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:16).

Romans 7, in its description of the person who desires to keep God’s law, yet cannot, has spawned many interpretations.

Paul first gives an analogy from marriage to illustrate the believer’s new relationship, or non-relationship, with the law.  Legally, a person is no longer married after death.  We died, and are therefore no longer legally bound to the law.  Now we are bound to Christ.

Then Paul talks about his relationship with the law in vv. 7-25.  Some believe this is an unbeliever speaking, others that it is Paul alone, or a representative Paul.  I believe that it is a believer speaking.

First of all, this person hates the sin they are doing, which seems unlikely for an unbeliever, who loves the darkness (John 3:19).  He says in verse 15, “I do the very things I hate.”   In verse 19, “the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”   In verse 21 he says, when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.”  These are the words of someone who hates sin and wants to please God.

Second, he humbly and honestly acknowledges the struggle he still faces.  He calls his actions evil in Romans 7:19, 21. He says that, “nothing good dwells in me” (Rom. 7:18). He calls himself a “wretched man” in Romans 7:24.

Third, he is happiest when he is obedient to God.  In verse 22, Paul shouts a truth that is only true for born-again believers. He says, “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being.” Like the man in Psalm 1, His delight is in the law of the Lord.  He understands that true joy is only found in those who listen to and obey God’s Word.

Fourth, he is hoping for heaven.  After walking through the despair of the Christian life, the knowledge of the fact that he will never be fully successful in his quest to put to death the deeds of the flesh, his only solution for it all is to rejoice in the deliverance found in Jesus Christ (Rom. 7:25).  Until then, he (we) will struggle with sin.

Joni Eareckson Tada, who has constantly battled pain throughout her life, said it best when she said,

“Don’t be thinking that for me in Heaven, the big deal after I get to see Jesus is to get my new body, no, no, no I want a glorified heart!  I want a glorified heart that no longer twists the truth, resists God, looks for an escape, gets defeated by pain, becomes anxious or worrisome, manipulates my husband with precisely timed phrases…”

The above arguments and quote from Joni is from an article by Jordan Standridge.

M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, February 3

(Actually, to be honest, this was done on February 4.)

Today’s readings are Genesis 35, Mark 6, Job 2 and Romans 6.

Genesis 35 forms the formal conclusion to the Jacob Story that began in Genesis 25.  Genesis 35 is a travelogue of Jacob and his camp from Shechem to Hebron, a severance of the marked by four burials—three actual (of those who died), and one symbolic.

Image result for genesis 35 map

Abe Kuruvilla notes:

One of the key elements of this chapter is the reappearance of God to Jacob and the reiteration of divine blessing upon him (35:1, 9–11). Yahweh had certainly been God to Jacob as he had promised in Gen 28:13–15; the problem here was that Jacob was not making Yahweh his God as he had promised he would (28:20–22). This was an important act that needed to be done, a keeping of Jacob’s prior promise to God. Jacob realizes, perhaps guiltily, that God had kept his part of the bargain, but he, Jacob, had not; it was his turn now.

In a sense, Jacob’s journey is only complete after he has kept his promise to God to worship him for what he had done for him. God’s word had now been fulfilled to Jacob, and the latter, in turn, was reminded to keep his vow to the former (28:3–15, 21; 31:3, 13; 32:12 and 35:7, 14).  And Jacob complies; God’s word (35:1–2) is precisely followed by the patriarch (35:3–4).  And part of this involved the putting away of foreign gods that Jacob’s caravan had accumulated over the years (35:2–4).  Jacob clearly recognized the implications of worshipping God (35:1), and the ramifications of keeping his word to recognize Yahweh as his God (28:20–22): no other God, but Yahweh.

Job 2 is the second test of Job.  Satan had not been successful in getting Job to turn against God.  But now he says to God…

“Skin for skin!  All that a man has he will give for his life. 5 But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.”

So God gave permission to Satan to afflict Job’s flesh, to take away his health, but not his life.

We don’t know for sure what the disease was, but it was severe, painful and lasted several months (29:2; 7:3).  Other passages in Job reveal how painful and terrible this disease was (Job 30:17, 27-28, 30; 7:4, 5b, 14; 19:17, 18, 20; 16:16).

Steven Lawson writes: “More than one person has withstood tragedy only to fall apart under the onslaught of pain.”  Is that what would happen with Job???

Still, Job did not curse God, but worshipped him (v. 10).  Satan was wrong again; God was right.

These two tests reveal much about Satan. He is accountable to God. God knows Satan’s thoughts. Satan is an accuser of the righteous. He knows what is going on in the world and in the lives of individuals, though there is no evidence in Scripture that he can read people’s minds. He has great power over individuals and nature, but his power is subject to the sovereign authority of God. He is not omnipresent, nor omniscient, nor omnipotent. He can do nothing without God’s permission, and God’s permission involves limitations on him. God remains aware of what His people are experiencing in connection with Satan’s activity.

Job actually experienced seven tests: (1) the destruction of his oxen, donkeys, and servants (1:13-15); (2) the loss of his sheep and servants (1:16); (3) the loss of his camels and servants (1:17); (4) the death of his children (1:18-19); (5) the loss of his health (2:7-8); (6) the antagonism of his wife (2:9); and the hurtful, critical, and accusatory explanations from his friends (2:11—37:24).

I love Spurgeon’s summary of this section, where he says…

As good as Job was at the beginning of the book, he will be a better man at the end of it.  He was better in character, humbler, and more blessed than before.

“Foolish devil! He is piling up a pedestal on which God will set his servant Job, that he may he looked upon with wonder by all ages. . . Oh! how many saints have been comforted in their distress by this history of patience!  How many have been saved out of the jaw of the lion, and from the paw of the bear by the dark experiences of the patriarch of Uz.

O arch fiend, how art thou taken in thine own net!  Thou hast thrown a stone which has fallen on thine own head. Thou madest a pit for Job, and hast fallen into it thyself; thou art taken in thine own craftiness.” (Spurgeon)

Enter Job’s “comforters” (vv. 11-13).  They were a good small group in these ways–they came to Job (apparently quite a distance), they sympathized (covered their heads with dust) and did not speak for seven days.

But on the other hand, these men will mercilessly attack Job’s character, and he will suffer more from their tongues than any attack of his foes.  But for now they are helpful.

The prologue (chs. 1—2) sets the stage for what follows by informing us, the readers, that Job’s suffering was not due to his sins. None of the characters in the story knew this fact except God and Satan. We also see the heavenly dimension and the spiritual warfare taking place—that were also unknown to the human characters in this drama.

Mark 6 begins with Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth.  Although the people are “amazed” (v. 2) at His teaching, they cannot accept the idea that He could be the Messiah (v. 3).  So Jesus could not do many miracles there (v. 5) and was “amazed” at their unbelief (v. 6).

Jewish unbelief (Mark 6:6) and Gentile belief (Luke 7:9) both caused Christ to marvel.

Jesus then sends out His disciples on a mission trip (vv. 6b-13).  This shows that Jesus did not merely teach His disciples in a classroom setting, filling notebooks with principles and concepts, but in real-life situations.  This was “on-the-job training,” which involved going out and doing what they had seen Jesus do, then being debriefed.

John the Baptist was beheaded (vv. 14-29) and when the disciples returned from their mission trip (v. 30), Jesus wanted to get away for awhile by themselves (v. 31).  But, people found them and followed them, and out of a heart of compassion Jesus taught them (v. 34) throughout the day.

Late in the day they needed to eat.  The disciples thought to send them away, but Jesus challenged them to feed them (vv. 36-37).  Of course, they looked only at their own resources and believed it was impossible (v. 37b).  They found “five loaves and two fish,” hardly enough for a small family.

Why did Mark mention the “green grass” in v. 39?  Possibly to call attention to the fact that this Man who had compassion on people who had no shepherd had come to be their Shepherd and lead them to “lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2).

Well, when Jesus blessed this small meal, it became more than enough to feed 5,000 men (probably up to about 20,000 total people) and with twelve baskets left over, just to remind the disciples that Jesus was able to take what little we have and make it more than enough.

When the disciples go out on the boat, a storm came up and they were in serious trouble.  So Jesus came walking to them on the water and calmed the storm, simply by his presence (v. 51).

“They were totally amazed, 52 for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in.”

Job 2

Romans 6 continues Paul’s discussion of sanctification.  Why should we no longer continue in sin?  Not because we might lose our salvation, but because our relation to sin has fundamentally changed.  We died to sin.  United to Christ by faith, we died with Him, were buried with Him and rose with Him.

That is what we are to know (vv. 6, 9) and now we are to reckon upon that reality and “present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (v. 13).

Now we have a new master.  Once we were slaves to sin, now we are freed from sin.  But we are not freed from sin to be our own master, but to obey righteousness.  Although we are no longer slaves to sin, no longer imprisoned by it, we can still listen to the voice of temptation.  Instead “present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification” (v. 19).  There are no benefits to sin in this passage.

Paul brought his thoughts on this subject to a summary conclusion in verse 23.  The principle stated here is applicable to both believers and unbelievers.  It contrasts the masters, sin and God, with the outcomes, death and eternal life.

Paul also distinguished the means whereby death and life come to people.  Death is the wage a person earns by his or her working, but eternal life is a gift free to those who rely on the work of Another.

Wages normally maintain life, but these wages result in death.  Employers usually pay them out regularly and periodically rather than in a lump sum.  Death also comes to the sinner regularly and periodically during the sinner’s lifetime, not just when he or she dies.

M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, February 2

(Actually, to be honest, this was done on February 4.)

Today’s readings are Genesis 34, Mark 5, Job 1 and Romans 5.

Genesis 34 is the sordid story of Dinah’s rape and her brothers’ act of vengeance.  One Jewish tradition has it that, after this event,  Dinah never spoke another word for the rest of her life.

Our job, as men, is to step up and speak out for the women in our lives.  Over the past couple of years we’ve seen and heard many cases where women have been abused in some way. In this case, Jacob did nothing and Simeon and Levi over-reacted, similar to David and Absalom in 2 Samuel 13.

Thomas Constable notes that this chapter is significant for four reasons:

1. It explains why Jacob passed over Simeon and Levi for special blessing.

2. It shows the importance of keeping the chosen seed separate from the Canaanites. [Note: See Calum M. Carmichael, “Forbidden Mixtures,” Vetus Testamentum 32:4 (1982):394-415.]

“The law [of Moses] said that Israel was not to intermarry with the Canaanites or make treaties with them but was to destroy them because they posed such a threat.  This passage provides part of the rationale for such laws, for it describes how immoral Canaanites defiled Israel by sexual contact and attempted to marry for the purpose of swallowing up Israel.” [Note: Ross, Creation and . . ., p. 569.]

3. It gives a reason for the sanctification of Jacob”s household that follows (Genesis 35:2, 4).

4. It demonstrates the sovereign control of God.

Regarding Jacob’s fear in v. 30, Gordon Wenham remarks:

“Of course, fear is natural in such a situation, but the reasons Jacob gives for damning his sons betray him. He does not condemn them for the massacre, for abusing the rite of circumcision, or even for breach of contract.  Rather, he protests that the consequences of their action have made him unpopular.  Nor does he seem worried by his daughter”s rape or the prospect of intermarriage with the Canaanites.  He is only concerned for his own skin.” [Note: Wenham, Genesis 16-50 , p. 316. Cf. 19:8.]

Mark 5 tells us about three miracles of Jesus–casting a demon out of a man into swine (vv. 1-20), and then two miracles of healing intertwined (vv. 21-43).

Mark and Luke called this area the country of the Gerasenes, but Matthew called it the country of the Gadarenes.  Gergesa (also referred to as Gersa and Kersa, Kursi) was a small village about midway on the eastern shore of the lake.  Gadara was a larger town six miles southeast of the lake”s southern end.  This incident apparently happened somewhere near both towns on the southeast coast of the lake.

Sea of Galilee towns

Miracle of the swine hill, from across the Sea of Galilee

View across the Sea of Galilee to the cliffs of Kursi

This double miracle taught the disciples that Jesus not only had the power to control nature (Mark 4:35-41) and demonic spirits (Mark 5:1-20) but also death. These were important revelations to those who had exercised some faith in Him. They learned that Jesus was more than a man and even more than the greatest of the prophets. Undoubtedly God used these revelations to enable the disciples to see that Jesus was the divine Messiah (Mark 8:29).

Job 1

Book Chart of Job, Swindoll

Job was possibly a contemporary of Abraham.  It is possibly the first book written.

Job was a righteous man of integrity and he prayed for his children as they partied.  There was nothing inherently sinful in what they were doing, but Job offered a burnt offering in case they sinned.

“What a beautiful example is furnished by Job to Christian parents!  When your girls are going among strangers, and your boys into the great ways of the world, and you are unable to impose your will upon them, as in the days of childhood, you can yet pray for them, casting over them the shield of intercession, with strong cryings and tears.  They are beyond your reach; but by faith you can move the arm of God on their behalf.”
— F. B. Meyer

Then Satan shows up and accuses Job of loyalty to God only because God had blessed Job with good gifts.  So the Lord allowed Satan to take anything away from him except his physical health.  As reports came to Job of loosing his portfolio and then his progeny, Job chose to worship God instead of blaming Him.  I love this verse…

21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.  The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

In this first round of spiritual warfare Satan was singularly unsuccessful in shaking Job from his standing in faith. Job successfully battled against spiritual attack and fulfilled the exhortation that would come many hundreds of years later from the Apostle Paul: that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand (Ephesians 6:13).  Job made his stand —

  • against fear and did not give into panic.
  • against make-believe pretending and appropriately mourned.
  • against pride and humbled himself before God.
  • against self and decided to worship God.
  • against a time-bound mindset and chose to think in terms of eternity.
  • against unbelief and did not give into vain questionings of God.
  • against despair and saw the hand of God even in catastrophe.
  • against anger and did not blame God.

— David Guzik

Romans 5 begins with five wonderful results of justification by faith.

  • If we were justified by works, we could have no peace with God.  Peace with God only comes through the reconciling work of Jesus Christ.
  • If we were justified by works, we would not stand in an atmosphere of grace (v. 2a) but be continually needing to justify ourselves before God through our good works.
  • If we were justified by works, we could not boast in our hope of being glorified with God, but would continually be worried about whether we would even be with God in eternity (v. 2b)
  • If we were justified by works we would automatically interpret our sufferings as God’s punishment, but being justified by faith we can be sure that our sufferings are for our greater good (vv. 3-4).
  • If we were justified by our works we would question God’s love towards us, wondering if we had done enough to deserve it; but being justified by grace, God’s love floods our hearts through the Spirit (v. 5).

Christ died for us while we were weak and unable to help ourselves (v. 6), while we were “still sinners” and hadn’t change one iota (vv. 7-9), and even while we were His enemies (v. 10) actively standing against Him.

The last portion of Romans 5 details what we are “in Adam” and “in Christ.”  Here is a helpful chart

Contrast of Characters (Romans 5 12-21)

We might think it unfair that we are classed with Adam in sin and death, but no one argues that it is unfair to be classed with Christ in righteousness and life.  This linkage to Jesus Christ is the foundation for our sanctification.

Quotes to Ponder

This first quote is about prayer from Ray Ortlund’s Christ is Deeper Still blog…

“Maintenance prayer meetings are short, mechanical and totally focused on physical needs inside the church or on personal needs of the people present.  But frontline prayer has three basic traits: a) a request for grace to confess sins and humble ourselves, b) a compassion and zeal for the flourishing of the church, and c) a yearning to know God, to see his face, to see his glory.”

Tim Keller, “Kingdom-centered Prayer,” Redeemer Report, January 2006.

Here are some quotes about idolatry:

“Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God, your functional savior. ”
― Martin Luther

“If you uproot the idol and fail to plant the love of Christ in its place, the idol will grow back.”
― Tullian Tchividjian, Jesus + Nothing = Everything

“By giving us control, our new technologies tend to enhance existing idols in our lives. Instead of becoming more like Christ through the forming and shaping influence of the church community, we form, and shape, and personalize our community to make it more like us. We take control of things that are not ours to control. Could it be that our desire for control is short-circuiting the process of change and transformation God wants us to experience through the mess of real world, flesh and blood, face-to-face relationships?”
― Tim Challies, The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion

“Mindset of the man too busy: I am too busy BEING God to become LIKE God.”
― Mark Buchanan, The Holy Wild: Trusting in the Character of God

“Idolatry’ is the practice of seeking the source and provision of what we need either physically or emotionally in someone or something other than the one true God. It is the tragically pathetic attempt to squeeze life out of lifeless forms that cannot help us meet our real needs.”
― Scott J. Hafemann, The God of Promise and the Life of Faith: Understanding the Heart of the Bible

“Could it be that desire for a good thing has become a bad thing because that desire has become a ruling thing?”
― Paul David Tripp

“Idolatry is attached to everything. All of our bitterness, all our impurity, all our malice, all of our problems, everything that troubles us is a result of idolatry. And what is idolatry? It’s taking a good thing and making it an ultimate thing.”
― Timothy Keller

“Possibly the most debilitating deception of all is to create a god of my own making, fool myself into believing that this limp god of mine is the true God, and then construct the entirety of my life on this flamboyantly fictional character. Possibly the most devastating realization of all is when the real God shows up, and in the showing up all of this come crashing down.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough

“Detecting and destroying idols is an ongoing battle.”
― Brad Bigney, Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols

“The true god of your heart is what your thoughts effortlessly go to when there is nothing else demanding your attention.”
― Timothy J. Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters

“If your deepest feelings are reserved for something other than Almighty God, then that something other is an emotional idol… if you get more excited about material things than the simple yet profound fact that your sin was nailed to the cross by the sinless Son of God, then you’re bowing down to Tammuz.”
― Mark Batterson, All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life

“If we love someone more than we love God, it is worse than inordinate – it is idolatry.
When God is first in our hearts, all other loves are in order and find their rightful place.”
― Elisabeth Elliot

“Images of the Holy easily become holy images — sacrosanct. My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks His presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leads all previous idea of the Messiah in ruins.”
― C.S. Lewis

“People make crummy gods.”
― Matt Chandler

“We are molding Jesus into our image. He’s beginning to look a lot like us because, after all, that is who we are most comfortable with. The danger now is when we gather in our church buildings to sing, and lift up our hands in worship, we may not actually be worshiping the Jesus of the Bible. Instead, we may be worshiping ourselves.”
― David Platt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream

“Idolatry, like all sin, is devastating to the soul. It cuts us off from the comforts of grace, the peace of conscience, and the joy that is to be our strength.”
― Elyse M. Fitzpatrick, Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus

“To the extent that we are trapped by the overvaluing, idealizing tendency, we are not free fully to celebrate the limited but real goods of creation. Idolatry by definition is not an accurate assessment of creaturely goods, but an overvaluing of them so as to miss the richness of their actual, limited values. If I worship my tennis trophies, my Mondrian, my family tree, my Kawasaki, or my bank account, then I do not really receive those goods for what they actually are – limited, historical, and finite – goods which are vulnerable to being taken away by time and death. When I pretend that a value is something more than it is, ironically I value it less appropriately than it deserves. Biblical psychology invites us to relate ourselves absolutely to the absolute and relatively to the relative.”
― Thomas C. Oden, Guilt Free

“Suffering always reveal idols of the heart.”
― James MacDonald, Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling: Changing Lives with God’s Changeless Truth

“Shall I say of you that you worship the image of your God that you have in your mind, but not your God?”
― Margaret Landon, Anna and the King of Siam

“The greatest idol I will never truly remove is self.”
― Pastor James Wilson

God’s Charge against Israel’s Infidelity, (Hosea 2:4-5)

God’s Charge against Israel’s Infidelity, part 2 (Hosea 2:4-5)

We’re dealing with Israel’s infidelity and God’s charge against Israel.

By Hosea’s day Israel had already formed a strong attachment to the Canaanite god Baal. Indeed, as early as their wilderness journey some Israelites had become infatuated with Baal and even indulged in the heinous rituals associated with his worship (Num. 25:3-5).

As Cole points out, “Baal … would become the primary antagonist to Yahweh for the hearts of the people of Israel from this setting to the end of the two Israelite kingdoms.” (Dennis Cole, Numbers, p. 437).

Once in the land some of the people even built an altar to Baal (Judg. 6:25-34) and by the era of the divided kingdom Baalism became the chief besetting sin of the people (e.g., 1 Kings 16:31-33; 18:16-40, etc.). Therefore, his worship is often condemned in the latter prophets (e.g., Jer. 2:8; 7:9; 11:11-17; 32:26-35; Zeph. 1:4).

The whole passage, Hosea 2:2-5 reads…

2 “Plead with your mother, plead– for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband– that she put away her whoring from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts; 3 lest I strip her naked and make her as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and make her like a parched land, and kill her with thirst. 4 Upon her children also I will have no mercy, because they are children of whoredom. 5 For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’

So in verse 3, God, instead of stoning or burning Israel because of her infidelity, “strips her naked and makes her as in the day she was born,” indicating that he will make her helpless and ashamed before her idols as well as before the nations she once trusted to save them.

Although in ancient Mesopotamia the denuding of a wife appears to have played a role in the divorce proceedings, the stripping of Israel naked may be explained metaphorically as referring to the devastating of Israel’s land in order to destroy its food supply.  Whether such was to occur through draught, plague, or by foreign invaders is not specified.  Such a sentence would make good sense because Israel is guilty of wrongly attributing the produce that she enjoyed to the false deities, which she worshiped.

John Schultz notes:

In threatening to strip Gomer and expose her nakedness, God threatens to remove the cover of sin.  When Adam and Eve fell into sin, they confessed to feeling naked before God (Gen. 3:7-10).  God provided a form of atonement for their sin by covering their nakedness with the skin of an animal.  Gomer’s nakedness represents the removal of this cover of atonement.  A human being, standing naked before God, is exposed to the fatal radiation of God’s holiness. Without the cover of the righteousness of Jesus Christ we would be hopelessly lost. Yet, sin that is exposed to the light does not survive. In the words of the apostle Paul: “But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light” (Eph. 5:13).

The severity of this punishment is expressed in the last clause, “and kill her with thirst.”  The cutting off of this most basic necessity is exceedingly dire.

The experience of thirst in the desert wanderings left a deep mark on Israel’s memories.  Some of the most severe times of testing and rebellious murmurings against Yahweh were associated with this dire lack of water.  There are two stories of Yahweh’s miraculous provision (Exodus 17:1-7 and Numbers 20:2-13) and they are often referred back to in the Psalms as proofs of Yahweh’s capacity for responsive love.

On the first of these occasions Israel accused Yahweh of bringing them up from Egypt “to kill me and my children and my animals with thirst,” exactly the words used here.  Compared to this, the measures threatened against the wife in the ensuring verses are less severe, dealing only with her possessions and circumstances.

Again, the grace of God is always there in the background.

In verse 4 her children, once graced in 1:10-2:1 will again be judged.

4 Upon her children also I will have no mercy, because they are children of whoredom.

The Lord now comes close to each individual, after having spoken in general of the whole people.

These appear to be the children born to her in her adultery, after the three children born in chapter 1.  Unfortunately, the children bear the consequences of the mother’s choices.  Since Gomer stands for the nation and her children individual Israelites this means that the judgment will extend down to individual citizens.

No one wants to admit that he is part of a society that is decadent and that he himself is decadent along with it.  They must renounce their perverse society and religion, in order to become a righteous remnant, similar to what Isaiah did when he said, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5).

We need to ask ourselves today whether our culture, even our Christian subculture, might be leading us away from God today.

“The culture of Israel, particularly its political and religious leadership, is here metaphorically the prostitute mother of the Israelite people.  This culture has given birth to a generation who has no right to call Yahweh their father….They had lost all connection with what it meant to be the keepers of the covenant.  Their “mother” had taught them nothing but greed, immorality, and idolatry.  Yahweh looked at this misbegotten generation and in effect declared them to be Baal’s offspring and not his” (Duane Garrett, Hosea-Joel, p. 79)

In the context implies that the promiscuous mother has disgraced her children along with herself.

5 For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully.

This is the reason given for the disaster which would come upon the people of Israel.

Although she had become an object of shame, there is no indication that she felt ashamed of her actions.

And the reason that Israel went to the Baals, is found is the last part of verse 5:

For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’

This sin is repeated down in verse 13, but extends even further.

13 And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the LORD.

John Calvin notes that the words “she said,” indicates that she does this with premeditation and intentionally.  She doesn’t fall into adultery mistakenly or by accident, but intentionally plans it.

Notice the intent and vigor behind the woman saying “I will go after my lovers” or “let me go after my lovers.”  It expresses intense, passionate love.  It also indicates that it wasn’t the lover who approached her, but she went after them.  Every word aggravates the shamelessness.

Albert Barnes further explains:

Amid God‘s chastisements, she encourages herself, “Come, let me go,” as people harden and embolden, and, as it were, lash themselves into further sin, lest they should shrink back, or stop short in it.  “Let me go after.”  She waits not, as it were, to be enticed, allured, seduced.  She herself, uninvited, unbidden, unsought, contrary to the accustomed and natural feeling of woman, follows after those by whom she is not drawn, and refuses to follow God who would draw her (see Ezekiel 16:31-34).

David Murray comments:

God’s “I will” is always coming into conflict with our “I will.”  Instead of, “Not my will, but your will be done,” we assert, “Not your will, but my will be done.”  Instead of asking God, “What will you have me to do?” we, as it were, look God in the eye and wonder, “What will I have you to do?” [for me]

Hosea’s repeated re-assertion of the “I will of God” was rendered necessary by the daringly disobedient “I will” of Israel.  Here, Hosea portrays Israel as a wife with a perfect husband. He lovingly brings her home all she needs.  He opens the door and puts bread, water, wool, flax, oil, and drink on the table.  She takes all these gifts and packs them away in her cupboards.  But then she walks straight past her loving husband without so much as a “thank you,” and walks out the door, saying, “I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink.”

Israel took the loving gifts and ignored the loving Giver.  Worse, she attributed the loving gifts to the enemies and opponents of the loving Giver.  And then, as if that was not bad enough, she turned her back on the loving Giver, and went to praise and party with “lovers” who were actually enemies not only of herself but also of the loving Giver.

Confused believer, surely you must confess that you have reenacted this scene many times in your life.  The Lord has been a perfect Husband to you and has richly blessed you in His love.  But, instead of saying “I will go after my Lover,” you have said, “I will go after my lovers.”  You have taken His gifts and ignored Him.

How many times have you bypassed opportunities to worship and pray in order to go after worldly pastimes and pleasures?  Are these your lovers?  What has TV ever done for your soul?  Did sport die for you?  Does music ever live to make intercession for you?  Does your investment portfolio love you with an everlasting love?  Have your friends laid down their lives for you?  Turn away from what is turning you away from Christ.  Resolve by His grace, “I will go after my Lover.” [Jesus Christ]

The plural “lovers” in v. 5 matches the “Baals” of vv. 13 and 17.  Israel was praying to and worshiping the Baals because they (mistakenly) believed that it was from them that all the blessings of life flow.

Canaanite religion offered people more apparent control over their own well-being, for the provision of food and clothing was guaranteed by manipulation of divine powers through quasi-magical fertility rites.

Albert Barnes, speaking of her “lovers,” notes…

These she professed that she loved, and that they, not God, loved her.  For whoever receives the gifts of God, except from God and in God‘s way, receives them from devils.  Whoso seeks what God forbids, seeks it from Satan, and holds that Satan, not God, loves him; since God refuses it, Satan encourages him to possess himself of it. Satan, then, is his lover.

The remedy for this faulty thinking is knowing that it is God alone who has the power of life and death, God alone who is the source of “every good and perfect gift” and to regularly thank Him for His benefits (Psalm 103).

Also, notice the repetition of the word “my” in verse 5: “my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.”

David Allen Hubbard notes that “the participial style with which she chants the list of gifts makes her words a hymn to the Baals” (Hosea, p. 82).  In other words, this statement is a worship song sung to her god.  It just shows that we worship, even when we don’t intend to.

“She is conscious that she hath not these things by her own power, but is beholden to some other for them; but not remembering Him (as was commanded) who had “given her power to get wealth, and richly all things to enjoy,” she professes them to be the gifts of her lovers.” (Albert Barnes)

The mistake made by the woman in verse 5c is twofold. First, Yahweh is the sole giver of everything, but (second) He never ceases to be the owner of everything.  It was a mistake for her to consider Baal the giver; equally a mistake for her to consider herself the owner.

We need to continually remind ourselves, because we have this tendency as well, that we are mere stewards of ALL the gifts that God has given to us—monetarily and otherwise.

We also need to consistently remind ourselves that the true source of every gift in life is not my own ability to work, my own ingenuity, even my own religious service, but the free grace of God.

Part of God’s correction of this double error, down in vv. 8-9 is to take back all that is His and to make it evident that these gifts do not come from the Baals.

The basic commodities of life are in view in 5b.  Bread and water are the simplest necessity of our diet.  The fallacy of believing that Baal controls water (the rain) will be demonstrated when Yahweh kills her “with thirst” (v. 3).

Wool and flax are the two main fibers of Israelite textiles.  They come from pastoral and agricultural sources, again denying Baal jurisdiction of animal husbandry and farming.

Oil, like olive oil was used for diet, but it could also be used for anointing (and was likely used this way in cultic ceremonies with the Baals).

“Drink” is often translated “liquors” and likely does have the sense of an intoxicating beverage.  In Hosea 4:1 Hosea complains about the abuse of intoxicating beverages.

“Oil and liquors” likely denote luxuries.

She attributed to false gods the gifts which God had given to her.  This was great ingratitude to God, and a high insult to his holy majesty.

John Gill notes that even…

in the times of Christ, they ascribed not only their enjoyment of temporal good things, but their righteousness, life, and salvation, to their observance of traditions, rites, and ceremonies, and the externals of religion.

It wasn’t an external idol they were bowing to, but the idol of themselves, their self-righteousness.

It might help us see the sense of what Hosea is saying here by reversing the order:

5c  She entertains the wrong belief about the sources of life’s necessities.

5b  She resolves to chase after these lovers who provide these things.

5a  She disgraces herself.

4b  Her children become “children of whoredom” (or a better word would be promiscuity).

4a  Her children are not to be pitied.

Matthew Henry gives this insight about the verses 4-5

She that boasted so much of her bread and water, her oil and her drinks, which her lovers had given her, shall not have so much as necessary food.  The land shall not afford subsistence for the inhabitants, for want of the rain of heaven; or, if it do, it shall be taken from them by the enemy, so that the rightful owners shall perish for want of it.

Some understand it thus: I will make her as she was in the wilderness, and set her as she was in the desert land, where she was sometimes ready to perish for thirst.  So it explains the former part of the verse: I will set her as in the day that she was born; for it was in the vast howling wilderness that Israel was first formed into a people.  They shall be in as deplorable a condition as their fathers were, whose carcases fell in the wilderness, and in this respect, worse, that then the children were reserved to be heirs of the land of promise, but now I will not have mercy upon her children, for their mother has played the harlot.

And John Schultz adds this:

After the people of Judah were taken into captivity to Babylon, Jeremiah records a similar reaction to his preaching by the people who had been left behind: “Then all the men who knew that their wives were burning incense to other God’s , along with all the women who were present–a large assembly–and all the people living in Lower and Upper Egypt, said to Jeremiah, We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD!  We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our fathers, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem.  At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm.  But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.  The women added, When we burned incense to the Queen of Heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did not our husbands know that we were making cakes like her image and pouring out drink offerings to her? ” (Jeremiah 44:15-19)

How deceived we can be!

Warren Wiersbe makes this application for us today.

Unfaithfulness to the Lord is a serious sin, just as unfaithfulness to one’s mate is a serious sin.  The man who says he’s 90 percent faithful to his wife isn’t faithful at all.  As Israel was tempted to forsake God for idols, the church is tempted to turn to the world system that hates God and wants nothing to do with God.

We must be careful not to love the world (1 John 2:15-17), be friendly with the world (James 4:4), become spotted by the world (James 1:27) or conform to the world (Romans 12:2).  Each believer and each local church must remain true to Jesus Christ the Bridegroom until He returns to take His bride to the heavenly wedding (2 Cor. 11:1-4; Eph. 5:22-33; Rev. 19:6-9). (One volume OT Commentary, p. 1395).

What I read in January, 2019

These are the books I finished in January, 2019.  Some of these books I started in 2018.

The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt (Penguin Press, 2018)

This book is one of the most important books in explaining what is happening in society, in particular the American campuses, today.  It examines what has happened on college campuses between 2013-2016 as the iGen has been in school.

The books begins with Three Great Untruths (Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you weaker; always trust your feelings; life is a battle between good people and bad people).  Although these untruths might seem innocuous, they have proven very dangerous, especially on college campuses today.  They illustrate what each of these untruths mean and how they are present among college students today.

In part 3 they examine six possible causes for a culture of safetyism:

rising political polarization and cross-party animosity

rising levels of teen anxiety and depression (with a primary link to “screen time,” especially on cell phones)

changes in parenting practices–removing anything of danger to children

the decline of free play–with teaches social skills

the growth of campus bureacracy

and a rising passion for social justice in response to major national events, combined with changing ideas about what social justice requires.

The book ends with some practical suggestions about how to produce wiser kids, wiser universities and wiser societies.

This is a book that parents and educators should read.

The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution, R. Albert Mohler (Thomas Nelson, 2018)

This book takes up the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer in a very informative and practical way.  If you want to improve your prayer life, there is no better way than to pray the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples to pray.

Overcomer: 8 Ways to Live a Life of Unstoppable Strength, Unmovable Faith, and Unbelievable Power, David Jeremiah (Thomas Nelson, 2018)

Sandwiched between chapters on David (chapter 1) and Jesus Christ (chapter 10) are eight chapters on the armor of God.  The book is full of illustrations.  Preachers will especially enjoy it.