Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Hosea: putting it all together

This is the last Hosea post from Kelly Needham's study on inductive Bible study methods.  In it, she takes all the techniques from the previous lessons and puts them together.

Here is Hosea 14:
[a]Return, Israel, to the Lord your God.
    Your sins have been your downfall!
Take words with you
    and return to the Lord.
Say to him:
    “Forgive all our sins
and receive us graciously,
    that we may offer the fruit of our lips.[b]
Assyria cannot save us;
    we will not mount warhorses.
We will never again say ‘Our gods’
    to what our own hands have made,
    for in you the fatherless find compassion.”
“I will heal their waywardness
    and love them freely,
    for my anger has turned away from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
    he will blossom like a lily.
Like a cedar of Lebanon
    he will send down his roots;
    his young shoots will grow.
His splendor will be like an olive tree,
    his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.
People will dwell again in his shade;
    they will flourish like the grain,
they will blossom like the vine—
    Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon.
Ephraim, what more have I[c] to do with idols?
    I will answer him and care for him.
I am like a flourishing juniper;
    your fruitfulness comes from me.”
Who is wise? Let them realize these things.
    Who is discerning? Let them understand.
The ways of the Lord are right;
    the righteous walk in them,
    but the rebellious stumble in them.

What does the text say?
“Return to me”
Ask God for forgiveness
Assyria can’t save them.  Other gods can’t save them.
God will heal their waywardness.
I will be like a dew to Israel.
"Cedar of Lebanon" is repeated twice
Also, wine of Lebanon
Specifically references “Ephraim,” the collective name for northern Israel.
"Who is wise and discerning?" Suggesting, it’s not that easy to understand.
This boggles the contemporary mind where most of Americana Christianity teaches how we can freely come to God for forgiveness without really explaining why it's such a big deal.


What does it mean?
Both kingdoms of Israel looked to Assyria.  Assyria eventually took northern Israel into exile.

Lebanon must have had amazing cedars that smelled nice and luxurious.  Their wines must have been amazing, too.  I remember growing up in my parents' home, our cedar chest which still has a wonderful smell that helped keep bugs from its contents.  I suppose one day, Israel will be free from bugs, too.  

How can a wise person discern an offended and holy God wanting to reconcile with the people who offended him?  God is too holy to look on sin and not punish it.  When somebody sins, it is permanent.  God can only look on the sinner through Jesus.  Jesus must die for their sins and impute to them his righteousness for them to have a good relationship with God.

This means that God had already forgiven the people who repented from the beginning of time because he always planned on sending Jesus.

How should it change me?
Worship – God knew I would sin and yet still planned on sending Jesus to take care of my sins.

Repentance – How can God lead me to properly repent of my sins? 

Prayer – Lead me to Jesus.

Are there sins you grew up with that you need to repent?  The Israelites probably grew up thinking that one could worship the God of Israel and still engage in Baal worship which involved ritual prostitution and in some cases child sacrifice.  But if they stopped to truly study God's word which should have been taught by the Levites who had access to it, then they would know that it was wrong and you could not do both.

Growing up, my mother had a Ouija board as a teenager.  She thought it weird that the arrow would move on its own, but she never thought that it was harmful to seek the future from something other than God.  When she became more serious about her faith, she realized that Ouija board involvement is witchcraft and had a male friend of hers from Youth for Christ go burn it for her.  

Growing up, I was in public school where I though that dinosaurs died before man existed and that I could reconcile evolutionary teaching of millions of years with God's creation story.  When I truly read the Bible, I realize that nothing died before man sinned and that the fossil record could be solved by just believing in Noah's flood.  I changed my thinking from doubting God's word to believing with better light.

I think kids these days grow up believing that gender is fluid and nonbinary and that they can be pro-LGBT and follow Christ with a clear conscious.  But God said that he created man male and female, clearly making them binary in a way that is both true and very good.  And he paired his lonely male Adam with a female Eve, not another man, and told them to reproduce.  It was to reflect God's relationship with the church, which is also binary.  God's church and God.  It's even more different than man and woman.  But God commanded sex to be with in a marriage between a man and a woman and nowhere else to bond the couple and to produce children.  So to follow the popular culture would be to not believe what God has clearly revealed in his word.

When you hear God's call to repent, he is doing so because he has sent Christ to die for your sins and the Spirit to change your heart.  You must do so and claim Christ's new righteousness which is alien to you but is the only thing that will make you right before a holy God.  And he will keep his promise in Hosea 14 to change your waywardness.  He is still doing that for me.

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