M’Cheyne Bible Reading, January 5

Today’s reading is Genesis 5, Matthew 5, Ezra 5 and Acts 5.

Death, death, death, that’s what Genesis 5 is about.  Truly, “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (2:17).  Death is as certain as taxes.  These people lived long lives, but eventually they died.

It ” is appointed for man to die once” (Hebrews 9:27).  Our life is in God’s book (Psalm 139:16b) and “the end” will come.  This reminds me of a story, this version retold by W. Somerset Maugham, and then a couple of slight changes by me.  It is called “Appointment in Samarra.”

There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, ‘Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.” The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and saw the woman standing in the crowd and he came to her and said, “Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?” “That was not a threatening gesture,” she said, “it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”

Image result for generation of adam

Adam was the only ancestor who did not see Enoch taken up to heaven. Adam died around 57 years before Enoch was taken up to heaven.

Methuselah is the person with the longest life in the Old Testament. Note that his death correspond exactly to the date of the flood. God used Methuselah to warn the generations before him that God will judge the people for their sins. And note that God gave the warning 687 years after his creation, while giving them over 900 years to repent.

The promises given in Matthew 5:1-12 are kingdom related.  Notice that Jesus doesn’t talk about “eternal life,” what we would regard is the primary promise of salvation.

Note that four beatitudes speak of emptiness (poor in spirit, mourn, meek, hungering and thirsting), but once filled the next four beatitudes speak of a life that is filled.  All good, except the inevitability of being persecuted.

We live out our new identities (salt, light) in the world, not in the cloisters of the church.  People need to see our new and different lives to give God the glory.

Jesus came to “fulfill” the law.  His perfect life and substitutionary death means that when I trust in Christ, the righteous requirements of the law are fully met in my stead.  His righteousness is credited to me.  He fulfilled the law by keeping it perfectly and by dying, the just for the unjust, on the cross.

Jesus then turns right around and says that his disciples must have a righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:19-20).  He then goes on to give several examples of how the law is meant to deal not only with external behaviors, but with inward motives and desires.  That makes keeping the law all the more difficult.  In v. 48 we are told that we must be “perfect as our heavenly father is perfect.”

How is this even possible?  It goes back to the reality that we cannot keep the law, as Romans 8 says…

7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Only Jesus Christ lived a perfect life.  One function of the law is to reveal to us just how impossible it is for us to fully and consistently obey it.  An unbeliever “cannot” (Romans 8:7) keep it.  But Jesus Christ did, and offered his life as a sin offering.  Go back to Romans 8:3-4, one of my favorite passages…

3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled [NIV, fully met] in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.



Kings Reigns Scripture
Cyrus II (the Great) 559–530 Ezra 1:1; 4:5
Cambyses 530–522  
Smerdis 522  
Darius I 521–486 Ezra 5—6; Haggai; Zechariah
Xerxes (Ahasuerus) 486–464 Ezra 4:6; Esther
Artaxerxes I (Artashasta) 464–424 Ezra 4:7-23; chs. 7—10; Nehemiah; Malachi
Darius II 423–404 Neh. 12:22

Acts 5 starts with the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira after bringing their offering to the apostles.  We are told in vv. 1-2 that they kept back a part of it for themselves.  They must have presented it, promoting that it was the full amount.

So, you don’t have to be afraid of presenting your offerings to God, just be honest about it.

Ananias and Sapphira presented an appearance of commitment to God that was not true of them.  They were insincere, appearing to be one way but really not being that way.  Had Ananias and Sapphira never professed to be as committed as they claimed when they brought their gift, God probably would not have judged them as He did.  They lacked personal integrity. (Thomas Constable)

I love this “cheerful giver”

The result of this is that “great fear came upon the whole church” (Acts 5:11) and “more than ever believers were added to the Lord” (Acts 5:14).

Even when brought to court, Peter preached Jesus! (vv. 29-32).  After being beaten, they went out “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (Acts 5:41).  And they kept doing (Acts 5:42) what they were told not to do (Acts 5:40).

Links I Like

January 5

Every Saturday I intend to post some links from other blogs that I enjoyed.  Others do a great job of this, like Tim Challies (A la Carte), Mike Kelley (Wednesday links), Aaron Armstrong (Links I Like–I didn’t borrow from him, seriously!), Stephen Bedard (Midweek Apologetics Roundup and Weekend Leadership Roundup) and Mike Leake (Read This!) among others.

Some of the links I read and liked this week were these.  Click on the blue title and a link will pop up, then click that.

Practical Tools to Grow Your Love Bank

Kavitha Goldowitz says “What do relationships and financial planning have in common? Both need constant monitoring, attention and consistency. You don’t just open a bank account and then lay back, relax and say, “well, I’ve done it…that’s it”. We all know that opening a bank account is only the beginning of a long and continuous process of monitoring your spending and making consistent deposits to grow your balance.

She offers three ways to grow your love bank.  I wish she had fleshed out the first one more.

Come Away and Rest

It is only January 3, but some of us already need to hear Jesus say, “Come away by yourselves… and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).  Jeremy Bailey, writing for Evangelical Magazine, says we need the sabbath.  He says that our sabbath is not a particular day and has been invested with “a greater and more glorious meaning.”  I think what he means is that through Jesus Christ, we can rest from our efforts to please God.

Mary Poppins Returns: Echoes of the Gospel?

Seven Things to Know about Mary Poppins Returns

Becky and I had the opportunity to go see Mary Poppins Returns at the Silver Screen in Mena, Friday night.  It is a great family movie, as full of magic, creative music, and family values as the original (with even a cameo appearances by Dick van Dyke–not as Bert but as Mr. Dawes Sr. (he had double roles in the original), a role he picks up in Mary Poppins Returns.

In Mary Poppins Returns: Echoes of the Gospel? Steven Ingino explores some of the possible intersections between the movie script and music and the gospel.

Seven Things to Know about Mary Poppins Returns is a good introduction to the film, how it differs from the original and how Julie Andrews intentionally distanced herself from the movie so Emily Blunt could develop her own persona.

Caring for a Friend with a History of Promiscuity and/or Abortion

I included this one by Brad Hambrick because he always has good insights on counseling.  My favorite insight was his fifth point that “redemption is as eager to see suffering comforted as it is to see sin forgiven, because it reflects the heart of a Good Father.”  In counseling people who have entangled themselves in this lifestyle, it is just as important to comfort them in their suffering as it is to confront them with their sin.

Another article mentioned in the above article by Brad Hambrick is…

How Do I Find a Counselor Who Is a Good Match for My Needs?

There are seven steps to identifying a counselor who is a good match for your needs.

M’Cheyne Bible Reading January 4

Today’s Bible readings come from Genesis 4, Matthew 4, Ezra 4 and Acts 4.

Genesis 4 is about Cain’s sin (4:1-8), judgment (4:9-15) and progeny (4:16-24), with a final statement (of hope) about Adam and Eve’s third son Seth (4:25-26).

This reminds me of a joke that Marcus Herod made a couple of Christmas ago: “How long was Cain mad at his brother?  As long as he was Abel.”

Why did God not receive Cain’s offering?  We know from Hebrews that Abel’s offering was “by faith” (Hebrews 11:4).  Was it because Abel followed God’s lead in killing an animal as a substitute for himself, acknowledging how serious sin was, whereas Cain’s offering was a nonchalant view of sin.

For further reading:

The Offering of Abel__A History of Interpretation, Jack P. Lewis (JETS)

Cain and His Offering, Bruce K. Waltke (WTJ)

Notice the image of temptation in verse 7: when we don’t do what is right, sin crouches at the door ready to spring on us.  Sin doesn’t lie passively waiting for us to pick it up and try it on.  No, it is always crouching right outside the door.  We let sin in and entertain it.

[For an alternative understanding of Genesis 4:7, one which I just received today among the blogs I subscribe to, is one by David Schrock.

‘sin crouching at the door’ or ‘a sin offering at the gate’__michael morales on genesis 4 7, david schrock]

Cain was a whiner (v. 13-14) and God had mercy on him (v. 15).  While he complained that he would be driven from God’s presence, his real fear was in being killed.  That is shown by Cain going away from God’s presence (v. 16).

Years ago, I heard Bill Gothard say that “what parents do in moderation, their children will do in excess.”  This was certainly true of Lamech (v. 24).  By the way, that is not always true, but generally so.

Unlike Cain and Israel, Jesus was doing everything right–following the lead of the Spirit and fasting (Matthew 4:1-2).

Matthew 4 shows Jesus successfully dealing with temptation.  Cain failed when sin crouched at the door, Jesus did not.  Again, sin is active, “the tempter came [to him]” (Matthew 4:3).

The use of the first class conditional sentence here by Satan, “If you are the Son of God” means that Satan was not casting doubt on whether Jesus was the Son of God, rather Satan was trying to get Jesus to illegitimately use his sonship, to abuse it.  He was trying to get Jesus to act independently of His Father, to pursue a crown without a cross.  He was prompting Jesus to prove Himself in the wrong ways.

Jesus succeeded against Satan, unlike Eve and Adam, and Israel, unlike the best of us.

Was it a legitimate offer, Satan promises to give Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” (vv. 8-9).  I believe it was.  Under God’s authority, Satan is the “god of this world” and the “prince of the power of the air,” so he can legitimately promise power, prestige and possessions.  Of course, Jesus will eventually reign over all the earth, a promise made by His Father (Psalm 2), but the path to the crown lead through the cross.

When Jesus began to preach, he picked up on the same theme John the Baptist was preaching on (compare 3:2 with 4:17)–“repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Ezra 4 records outside opposition to the rebuilding of the temple.  First, outsiders desired to join with the returned exiles, to help them rebuild the temple.  Me, I would have accepted their help.  But Zerubbable and Jeshua had more discernment than I, of the true motives of these people.

Being rebuffed by the leaders in Jerusalem, they trumped up charges against them and brought them before the king of Persia, thus stopping the rebuilding of the temple.  The prophet Haggai’s ministry occurs at this juncture, rebuking the people for building their own homes when God’s house lay unfinished (Haggai 1).  Zechariah’s ministry also occurred during this time. (Preview of coming attraction: Ezra 5 shows the people resuming the work and finishing the temple.)

Acts 4 shows that Peter, who had cowered before the servant girl only a few months before, stood bravely before the very group that had sentenced Jesus with blasphemy and called for His crucifixion, and proclaimed Jesus.  What made the difference?  The filling of the Spirit (see Acts 4:31).

The religious leaders were amazed at the boldness of Peter and John (Acts 4:13).  I love what is said about them.  They were uneducated, common men, but they had “been with Jesus,”  That is our primary qualification for ministry–that it is obvious to others that we have been with Jesus, spent time in His presence, learning from Him.

Notice that miracles cannot be denied (Acts 4:16).  They were the way that God established the apostolic message as truth.

While the religious leaders couldn’t hold them (due to their popularity), they commanded them to stop preaching Jesus.  While Peter said, we cannot but speak about what we have seen and heart, when they returned to their brethren, they prayed that God would “grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29).  That is certainly what we need today–boldness to speak.

M’Cheyne Bible Reading, January 3

Today’s reading is from Genesis 3, Matthew 3, Ezra 3 and Acts 3.

Genesis 3 recounts the fall of mankind into sin.  I find it interesting that the temptation, which involved the lust of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and pride of life (1 John 2:16) said,,,

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (3:6)

That description of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is almost exactly like every other tree in the garden.  Genesis 2:9 said…

And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

So all the trees were pleasant to look at and good for food.  The only difference is that the name of the tree and Satan’s temptation, offered to “make one wise.”  Isn’t it amazing that Adam and Eve had access freely eat of any tree of the garden, and they were all beautiful and delectable…and they chose the ONE tree God about which said, “Keep out”?

Satan’s temptation was first to question God’s word (3:1, “did God actually say…?”), then directly denied the truth of God’s word (3:4, “You will not surely die”), then Satan questions God’s goodness, spinning it as if God was withholding something from them.  This “something” would make them like God, independent of God.

Why would Eve want to know “evil” (3:5)?  She had never experienced it before and possibly had no idea what it was.  Up until that moment, she had never known anything but “good.” Possibly again it was the idea that God was withholding something from her, the belief that ultimately God wasn’t good.

Of course, all the consequences, immediate and long-term, were negative.  First, their eyes were opened (to evil) and they saw that they were naked (cf. 2:25), but now for the first time they felt shame and tried to cover themselves.  We all attempt to hide, being ashamed of what we’ve done and who we are.

The second response to their newly experienced sinfulness and falleness was to hurl blame upon one another–Adam to Eve and Eve to the serpent.  Each of them was at fault, so each was judged.

The proto-evangelium (first gospel), and the reality that history from then on would be filled with spiritual warfare, is found in Genesis 3:15…

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Here God says that in the perpetual battle between Satan and the women (and her offspring), Satan will gain seeming victories, but will ultimately and completely be defeated by her offspring–Jesus Christ.

Verses 20-21 offer hope in the midst of judgment.  Adam still called his wife Eve, the “mother of all living,” even though their actions brought death into the world.  Also, God provided them a new, and better, covering, the skin of an animal requiring death (thus initiating the reality that a living substitute would have to die for sins to be pardoned).  Was this animal a “pet” of Adam and Eve, one well-known and precious to them, as the ultimate sacrifice would be to God the Father??

Matthew 3 is about the ministry of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus.  I’m always reminded when I read of the Father’s affirmation of his son here in Matthew 3:17 (and add Matthew 17:5) we get a composite statement, “This is my beloved Son, with who, I am well pleased.  Listen to him.”  Every son needs his father to regularly tell him:  “I love you.  I am proud of you.  You do ___________ well.”  I believe I first heard this from Robert Lewis in his Authentic Manhood course.  Dads, take a moment to write to your son(s) and tell him these three things, even if they are adults.  Then do it regularly.

The first part of Ezra is about the rebuilding of the temple.  According to Ezra 3:1-6 the returned Israelites were offering all the offerings, but the temple of the Lord “was not yet laid.”  When the foundation was laid (3:10), they worshiped (3:11).  However, some of the “old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid.”  They compared Solomon’s temple with this puny temple and couldn’t help grieving.  Did they grieve over their sins which had caused Solomon’s temple to be destroyed, or were they grieving simply because the glory of this temple (and therefore their prestige as a nation) was so meager in comparison?

Acts 3 is about the healing of the lame man (3:1-11) and Peter’s sermon (3:12-).  The healing of the lame man resulted in “And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him” (3:10) and the people “came running” to Peter and John.  That is when Peter preached the gospel to them.  This is why I say that gifts like healing, miracles and tongues were given to (1) arrest people’s attention (wonder and amazement, running to listen) and (2) attest to the authenticity of this “new” gospel.

Notice the interesting juxtaposition in Acts 3:15 of the title “Author of life” referring to Jesus, whom “you killed” but whom “God raised from the dead.”


M’Cheyne Bible Reading January 2

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 2, Matthew 2, Ezra 2 and Acts 2.

In the narrative in Genesis 2:18-23 it is God who identifies Adam’s need for a companion.  But before God meets that need, he helps Adam to feel that need by giving him the task of naming the animals.  As they came before him he would doubtless notice that many of them had companions according to their kind.  But he did not.  No animal matched him, until…

It is tempting to preach only to people’s felt needs, but like God we must surface other, deeper needs in people’s lives so that they will feel the need and desire a change.

I remember some speaker from the past, likely my Bible College days, who interpreted

23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

“Wowza! Dy-no-mite! She’s like me, but different!”

The wise men followed a star to Jerusalem and then on to Bethlehem.  They surmised that it was “his star,” that is, the star of the Messiah, king of the Jews.  Jehovah Witnesses believe that this was Satan’s star, because it identified where Jesus was and Herod wanted to kill him.  While it is true that Herod wanted to kill his competition to the throne, it wasn’t the star, but Herod’s murderous intent that was Satanic.  The wise men were warned by God not to tell Herod this news.  It seems, therefore, that they were led by God all the way–from the east, to Jerusalem, to Bethlehem, then to leave and go home.

If this were Satan’s star, why not lead Herod to Jesus?  Why did he need the wise men?  The star led the wise men to Jesus to worship him.  It was Herod’s hard heart that led him to try to kill Jesus and kill the children (in an effort to kill Jesus).

So why did God bring the wise men (pagans) to Jesus?  Because God had already purposed that Jesus would spend time in Egypt (see the prophecy in 2:15).  The gifts of the wise men prepared them financially to make that trip to Egypt.

And the winner is—the sons of Senaah (Ezra 2:35).  They gathered 3,630 family members to return to Israel.  The loser was the sons of Adonikam (Ezra 2:13).  They didn’t have the least, but they had 666 (bad number).

The early church–Spirit filled, preaching Christ, devoting themselves to the teaching and to one another–and growing (Acts 2).

M’Cheyne Bible Reading, January 1

Today’s readings are from Genesis 1, Matthew 1, Ezra 1 and Acts 1.  All of them focus on new beginnings–of creation, the gospel (birth of Christ), Israel returning to the land, and the church.  This is the beginning of a new year, a time to start something, to take a new path.

All of these events were also miraculous, or at least far beyond anyone’s imagination.

“Evening and morning,” “evening and morning,” six times in Genesis 1, reminding us that the pattern from the beginning has been to rest first and then to work.  And that is just like the gospel–we rest first in the finished work of Jesus Christ, then we work for Jesus Christ.  It is not that we do not work, but that we put work in its proper place.  Through resting in Christ we gain the strength to work for Christ.

Joseph had to trust God (Matthew 1), that this child in Mary’s womb was really sired by the Holy Spirit.  It was not obvious, but something that the angel declared to him.  Trust God and wait for Him to fulfill His promises.

Here is another “unbelievable miracle” in Ezra 1.  The people of Judah were in captivity in Persia (the recent conquerors over Babylon).  They had been in captivity nearly 70 years and some had never seen their beloved land.  They had almost lost hope.  But God “stirred the spirit of Cyrus” to release them to build a house to the Lord, rebuild a lost temple.  He also stirred the spirits of the people to return.  God made good on His promises to Israel.  He “moved heaven and earth” to return them to the land.  Don’t lose faith that God can move the spirits of even the most powerful leaders.

Acts 1:14 says “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”  They were awaiting the promised Holy Spirit in prayer.  How I wish this were true of the church today!  People united in prayer–what a wonderful sight.  God was about to do something new, and His people were united in devoted prayer.  Keep praying in faith for God to do something new.

Bible Reading

Why is it important to read your Bible?

Here are some statistics from Wayne Stiles in his blog from today:

Did you know? Research shows that someone who reads the Bible 4 or more times each week is:

  • 228% more likely to share their faith
  • 407% more likely to memorize scripture
  • 59% less likely to view pornography
  • 30% less likely to struggle with loneliness

There are likely many other benefits as well!

Goals for a New Year

Here are some resources for pursuing your goals this year:

Spiritual Goals

1.  Read the Bible daily.  Here are some reading plans.

5 Day Bible Reading Program

Read through the Bible in a year with readings five days a week.  Duration: 1 year

5 Day Bible Reading Program

52 Week Bible Reading Plan

Read through the Bible in a year with each day of the week dedicated to a different genre: epistles, the law, history, Psalms, poetry, prophecy, and Gospels. Duration: 1 year

52 Week Bible Reading Plan

5 x 5 x 5 New Testament Bible Reading Plan

Read through the New Testament in a year, reading Monday to Friday. Weekends are set aside for reflection and other reading. Especially beneficial if you’re new to a daily discipline of Bible reading.  Duration: 1 year

5 x 5 x 5 New Testament Bible Reading Plan

Foundations New Testament Plan

Another way to read through the New Testament, reading Monday through Friday.  Weekends are for reflection and memorization.  Duration: 260 days.

Foundations New Testament–260 Day Bible Reading Plan for Busy Believers

A Bible Reading Chart

Read through the Bible at your own pace. Use this minimalistic yet beautifully designed chart to track your reading throughout the year.  Duration: flexible.

A Bible Reading Chart

Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Read through the Bible in the order the events occurred chronologically.  Duration: 1 year.

Chronological Bible Reading Plan

The Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan

Four daily readings beginning in Genesis, Psalms, Matthew and Acts.  Duration: 1 year.

The Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan

ESV Daily Bible Reading Plan

Four daily readings taken from four lists: Psalms and wisdom literature, Pentateuch and history of Israel, Chronicles and prophets, and Gospels and epistles.  Duration: 1 year.

ESV Daily Bible Reading Plan

Every Word in the Bible

Read through the Bible one chapter at a time. Readings alternate between the Old and New Testaments.  Duration: 3 years.

Every Word in the Bible (3 year plan)

Historical Bible Reading Plan

The Old Testament readings are similar to Israel’s Hebrew Bible, and the New Testament readings are an attempt to follow the order in which the books were authored.  Duration: 1 year.

Historical Bible Reading Plan

Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System

Reading ten chapters a day, in the course of a year you’ll read the Gospels four times, the Pentateuch twice, Paul’s letters four to five times, the Old Testament wisdom literature six times, the Psalms at least twice, Proverbs and Acts a dozen times, and the Old Testament history and prophetic books about one and a half times.  Duration: Ongoing

Professor Horner’s Bible Reading Plan

Robert Murray M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan

This is a popular plan.  Read the New Testament and Psalms twice and the Old Testament once.  Duration: 1 or 2 years.

Robert Murray McCheyne’s Bible Reading Calendar

Straight Through the Bible Reading Plan

Read straight through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.  Duration: 1 year.

Straight through the Bible Reading Plan

Tabletalk Bible Reading Plan

Two readings each day, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.  Duration: 1 year.

Tabletalk Bible Reading Plan

The Legacy Reading Plan

This plan does not have set readings for each day. Instead, it has set books for each month and a set number of Proverbs and Psalms for each week. It aims to give you more flexibility while grounding you in specific books of the Bible.  Duration: 1 year.

The Legacy Reading Plan

Two-Year Bible Reading Plan

Read the Old and New Testaments once and Psalms and Proverbs four times.  Duration: 2 years.

Two-Year Bible Reading Plan


2.  Pray daily.

I would encourage you to download the PrayerMate app on your phone.


3.  For other spiritual disciplines, here is a book by David Mathis: Habits of Grace, David Mathis


Physical goals

1.   It is important to get regular exercise.

Six-Week Beginner Walking Plan, American Heart Association

2.   It is important to eat nutritionally.

Healthy Food for Life

3.   It is important to get regular check-ups from your doctor.


Relational Goals

1.   Make a new friend this year.

2.   Reconcile with someone who hurt you.

3.   Join a small group.

Guys, if you need help making conversation with your wife, here is Brad Hambrick’s 240 Marital Conversations.  240 Marital Conversations, Brad Hambrick

And here is a Healthy Relationship Checklist:  Healthy Relationship Checklist

Financial Goals

1.   Develop a budget.

2.   Get out of debt.

3.   Save some from each paycheck.

4.   Give generously.

Here are some helpful tools from Dave Ramsey:

Quick Start Budget, Dave Ramsey

Recommended Percentages, Dave Ramsey

Allocated Spending Plan, Dave Ramsey

Debt Snowball, Dave Ramsey


Emotional Goals

Guard your heart.  Pay attention to what you are thinking and how you feel.

Guys, if you have trouble naming your feelings, try the Feelings Inventory

I would encourage everyone to take the EHS Personal Assessment, Bird and Scazzero.


Mental Goals

Develop a reading plan.  Find some good books to read this year.  Plan to read 20-30 pages a day, at least.

Listen to podcasts (not just sports).  Take a seminary course on YouTube.

Find a mentor.



I hope this sparks some creative effort on your part to become a “new you in the new year.”  I desire that in my life and yours that we would see observable progress in our lives spiritually, physically, relationally, financially, emotionally and mentally.

For anyone who wants to read the sermon behind this blog post…

New Year, New You, Lamar Austin

Introduction to Hosea

Hosea is a love story, a tragic love story, set in the 8th century B.C.  Hosea was a prophet, the first of what we call the “minor prophets.”  They are not minor because they are inferior, like baseball players who play in the minor leagues because they are not good enough to play in the major leagues.

Hosea and Zechariah, which may appear longer than Daniel, because they have 14 chapters each, compared with Daniel’s 12, are really shorter than Daniel.  Hosea has 197 verses, and Zechariah has 211, whereas Daniel has 357.

There are 12 Minor Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, and they are called “The Twelve.”  These books were originally copied on one scroll, whereas the Major Prophets required a whole scroll for each book.  The 12 “Minor Prophets” in our English Old Testaments are exactly the same as “The Twelve,” the shorter prophets in the Hebrew Bible.

The Minor Prophets do not occur in chronological order.

All of the prophets call Israel back to the covenants.  God had promised in a covenant to Abraham that he would give Abraham land, descendants and a blessing.  That covenant is spelled out in more detail in the Palestinian covenant in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28-32, the Davidic covenant in 2 Samuel 7 and the new covenant in Ezekiel 26.

The Mosaic covenant then formed the stipulations for Israel living in the land and being blessed in it.  Thus, Hosea frequently refers back to the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, which formed the foundation of Israel’s relationship with God.

God had predicted, however, in Leviticus and Deuteronomy that Israel would fail to keep the covenant, would suffer many judgments from God, and would eventually be exiled.  But while in exile God would lead them to repentance and bring them back into the land.

Hosea was a prophet to Israel.  That might seem obvious, but what specifically does that mean?

At this time in the history of Israel, the nation was divided.  Under Solomon’s reign Israel was at its height in power and influence, but with his death the kingdom divided—with ten northern tribes following Jeroboam and two southern tribes following Solomon’s son Rehoboam.  That split occurred in 931 B. C.

Throughout the book of Hosea, the northern ten tribes are called Israel or Ephraim, the largest of those ten tribes.  The southern kingdom is called Judah.

After the establishment of two short-lived capitals at Shechem and Tirzah, King Omri established his capital at Samaria, where it would remain for the duration of the northern kingdom’s existence.

The kingdom of Israel was larger in size and controlled more significant trade routes than did Judah.  Territorial boundaries expanded and contracted over time as Israel and Judah engaged in conflict with one another and their neighbors.  Evidence from outside the Bible suggests that Israel was more powerful than Judah.

This was especially true under the reign of Jeroboam II for forty years from 793 to 753 B.C.  His reign, during a time of Assyrian weakness, made Israel strong and prosperous.  Of course, in their material prosperity they became spiritually weak.  The predominant religion of the northern kingdom at this time was the worship of Baal, a Canaanite god of fertility.

From Hosea 1:1 that Hosea’s ministry began during the reign of Jeroboam II, right at the end of it, in about 755 B.C., and lasted 30 years to 725 B.C.  Others believe his ministry lasted from 760 to 715 B.C., a period of 45 years.

In Hosea 1:4, Hosea prophesies that the Lord will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel.  Jehu had taken the throne through assassination. Jeroboam II was Jehu’s great grandson.  Jeroboam II would be succeeded by his son Zechariah who would reign only six months before ending the line of Jehu.  Jeroboam II died in 743 B.C. and the fall of Samaria and the northern kingdom would happen only 21 years later in 722 B.C.

After Jeroboam II, a series of six very weak and wicked kings ruled in Israel, while Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah reigned in Judah.  None of the kings of Israel followed the Lord, while only Ahaz was a bad king in Judah.

Israel lived off of the stability and prosperity of Jeroboam II’s rule for a number of years, but good times don’t necessarily produce good people.  In fact, it is often just the opposite—good times produce very self-centered people.

Although they had been blessed by God, they turn to idols and treaties with other nations to help them in their times of trouble.  They “break faith” with God, like adulterous prostitutes.

Due to the current prosperity, however, Hosea’s warnings would fall upon deaf ears.

From the ESV Study Bible:

The latter days of the eighth century B.C. witnessed the rise of the neo-Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III (745–727).  He was followed by several capable kings who extended Assyrian dominance over the entire ancient Near East (eventually including Egypt) for more than a century.  Particularly relevant to Hosea were at least six incursions into Palestine and its neighbors by an unstoppable Assyrian army during the prophet’s lifetime.

This coincided with political upheaval and instability during the period of the six Israelite kings who reigned within a period of thirty years, filled with intrigue and violence.

Zechariah (753 B.C.) was murdered after only six months in power.  The usurper, Shallum, was assassinated one month later.  The next king, Menahem (752–742 B.C.) survived for a decade only by paying a burdensome tribute to Tiglath-pileser.  His son, Pekahiah (742–740 B.C.), was assassinated by an army officer, Pekah (740–732), after only two years’ reign.  Subsequently, Pekah was disposed of by Hoshea, whose rebellion against the Assyrians led to the end of the northern kingdom (732–722 B.C.).

Judah also became a vassal state in the Assyrian Empire during Hosea’s ministry (2 Kings 16:5-10).

The Assyrians conquered and captured Israel in 722 B.C., so Hosea’s ministry extended right up to that time.  For historical background read 2 Kings 15 and 17 for Israel’s kings, and 2 Kings 15-20 for Judah’s kings who reigned during Hosea’s years of prophetic ministry.

Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E., whereas Judah, though severely damaged, narrowly escaped the dreadful onslaught of the Assyrian war machine.  But Judah’s escape from imperial domination would be brief. Jerusalem eventually fell to the Babylonian Empire and was destroyed in 586 B.C.  So the southern kingdom lasted another 150 years.

Contemporaries to Hosea would be Amos, at the beginning of his ministry, and Isaiah and Micah throughout most of his ministry.  But Isaiah and Micah were prophets to Judah.  It was up to Hosea to pick up the mantle from Amos and charge Israel with their sins while comforting them with God’s steadfast love.

Prophets and Kings of Judah and Israel

So Hosea wrote during a time of unparalleled prosperity in Israel, but also a time of spiritual decline.  It sounds like our country today, doesn’t it?

The ESV Study Bible describes the theme of Hosea as Israel’s unfaithfulness to a faithful God.  Adulterous Israel will be punished, but can return to Jehovah because of His steadfast love.

Hosea depicts Israel’s unfaithfulness with a number of images from family and nature.  Israel is like: a promiscuous wife, an indifferent mother, an illegitimate child, an ungrateful son, a stubborn heifer, a silly dove, a luxuriant vine, and grapes in the wilderness.  Yet Israel’s unfaithfulness and obstinacy are not enough to exhaust God’s redeeming love that outstrips the human capacity to comprehend.

Hosea’s major concern was Israel’s worship of Baal—a weather-god worshiped in Syria and Palestine, who had control over agriculture and fertility, rainfall and productivity.  Since Israel was an agricultural society, Baal worship was very important.

Baal was localized at different shrines identified by such names as Baal-peor (9:10) and Baal-gad (Josh. 11:17) and hence was sometimes referred to as the Baals (Judg. 2:11; 3:7; 8:33).  I will not attempt to give a full description of this false religion here, but one major aspect of Baalism touches on this prophet’s message: the religion’s appeal to human sexuality (cf. Isa. 57:3–10).  Other aspects—such as drunkenness, bestiality, human sacrifice, mutilations, and incest—may be discerned in the book, but Hosea understands the strength of Baalism’s appeal to the sex drive by way of ritual prostitution.

As with many religions in the ancient near East and the Mediterranean region, the pagan shrines promoted sexual immorality as an act of appeal to Baal to act accordingly—to grant fertility to women and rain for good crops.  This took place through cult prostitutes (Hosea 4:14).

Since Israel had a covenanted relationship with Yahweh, the God of Israel, they were not to fraternize with other gods.  A dominant theme of this book is that Israel is Yahweh’s bride.

Other Old Testament prophets speak of this bride and groom relationship between Israel and Yahweh, although Hosea was the first.

For example, Isaiah begins in chapter 1 decrying “A faithful city has become a whore” (1:21), but then end anticipates the time when Israel will be as a “bride” in whom the Lord “will take delight” (62:4-5).  She moves from harlotry to holiness, from whore to bride.

The controlling or “root metaphor” in Jeremiah 2:1-4:4 is the image of Israel as the unfaithful wife of Yahweh.  In 2:20 the prophet charged that Israel had shamelessly prostituted herself.  In 3:1-4:4, he called for the unfaithful wife to return to her husband.  The love that Israel had for Yahweh (2:2) early in her history had turned to love for foreign gods (vv. 25, 33) so that Israel was guilty of both “prostitution” (2:20; 3:1-3, 6, 8-9) and “adultery” (3:8-9).

The purpose of this image is to help us understand the  betrayal of Israel’s sin and why God was just in judging Israel.  It also relates to the message of hope, that Yahweh would stay committed to his people and one day restore her to himself.

Ezekiel 14:12-16:63 is the story of an unfaithful wife, taken by God when no one else wanted her, treated with great compassion and kindness, yet again turning to other gods.

This book of Hosea is designed to jolt the reader, to make them experience the betrayal and treachery God feels.  “It is as startling in its presentation of sin as it is surprising in its stubborn certainty of grace” (Duane Garrett, Hosea-Joel, p. 22)

From the ESV Study Bible:

Worship of Baal is not just a violation of the first of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:3), it is a betrayal of that intimate and endearing union that God made with his people.  Idolatry, therefore, is depicted as spiritual adultery, transgression against the marriage between the Lord and Israel (cf. Ex. 34:11–16Lev. 17:7; 20:4–6Deut. 31:16).  The prophet justifies the Lord’s coming judgments with a litany of offenses that amount to the radical ingratitude of a wayward wife.  But punishment is not ultimately what the Lord wants for his people; he desires that they leave their fornication and return to the One who first loved them and can indeed provide what is for their best.

Isn’t that a great message that we need to hear as well?  Even though we betray the Lord Jesus and commit treachery against Him, He still loves us!  He is radically and unalterably committed to us.  Even though He may discipline, He still loves us.

So this relationship between Yahweh and Israel was a special relationship.  God had chosen Israel to be his bride, his wife, out of all the nations.  It was an exalted status, one which Israel despised through their actions.

Hosea declared that the human marriage relationship symbolized the relationship that existed between Yahweh and His people.  Israel had become unfaithful to God.  God taught Hosea the seriousness of this unfaithfulness and how He felt about it through the prophet’s own marriage relationship.

Hosea experienced the tragedy and heartbreak of an unfaithful wife, not just an adulteress, which is bad enough, but an adulteress turned prostitute—which enabled him to enter into the fellowship of God’s sufferings over the behavior of His “wife,” Israel.

Hosea’s heart was broken, and he felt the most unutterable sorrow that a man can feel, when he feels his wife abandon him.  He learned how God felt, and he denounced kings, priests, and people out of that broken heart that mirrored the broken heart of God.  Hosea is the prophet of the broken heart and the broken home (John Phillips, Exploring the Old Testament Book by Book, p. 317).

Hosea, then, revealed the deepest nature of sin, namely: infidelity to the elective grace of God.  The worst thing in the realm of sin is apathy to the love of God.  The opposite of love is not hate but apathy.

Hosea also reaffirmed God’s promise to bless His people Israel eventually, in the distant future (cf. Deut. 30:1-10).

We will dive into the details of Hosea’s life and prophesies beginning next week, but for now let me just give you an overview of the book.

Hosea is divided into two major parts.  The first three chapters contain a living parable as Hosea is told to go and marry a wife of harlotry – a prostitute.  He has children by her and then she is unfaithful to the marriage.  This relationship illustrates the similar unfaithfulness of Israel in her relationship with the Lord.

The remainder of the book consists of a large circuit that begins and ends with a Covenant Lawsuit. Both at the outset and at the close of this section the Covenant is specifically mentioned (Hosea 6:1, 7 with Hosea 12:1).

The outstanding revelation concerning God that this book contributes is the loyal love of Yahweh for His own.  Thus, commentators have noted…

“In no prophet is the love of God more clearly demarcated and illustrated than in Hosea.”

“Nowhere in the whole range of God’s revelation do we find more beautiful words of love than in Hosea 2:14-166:1-411:1-48914:4-8.”

“Every page of the prophecy keeps declaring God’s love for Israel.”

There are five series of judgment and restoration throughout the book, and we will look at the first one next week.

Judgment Restoration
1:2-9 1:10—2:1
2:2-13 2:14—3:5
4:1—5:14 5:15—6:3
6:4—11:7 11:8-11
11:12—13:16 ch. 14

You can listen to Grace Still Amazes on KENA at 7:45 a.m. on Sundays and Saturday at 7 a.m., Sunday at 8 a.m., and starting Sunday January 6, 2018 will also air at 11:45am on Sundays on KAWX.  Often this posting will be longer and include more material than the radio broadcast, which is 15 minutes.