Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Hosea again: learning to interpret

I began following through Kelly Needham's inductive Bible study lessons using the book of Hosea in August.  I was only going to do it once a month but then my life took a left turn at Albuquerque.  Now I'm going through it quicker.  It turns out my church has started a Bible study on Hosea, too.  That's awesome.  I'd love to do it, but if you are in children or music ministry, you can't really do anything else on Wednesday nights unless you say no to the former, which I can't at the moment. 

Just the same, the idea of this one that I'm doing is to learn to read the Bible with as little extra help as possible.  To not rely on commentaries or study notes or other people's words, but to read what it actually says within its context.  She started with observation, and now she is moving to interpretation.  To take verses and post questions that you have.  The thing is, the questions will probably lead to me getting out a Bible dictionary or commentary.  But here is the Hosea passage from 7:11-16 and questions I form for each verse.

HOSEA 7:11-16

11 Ephraim is like a dove, silly and without sense, calling to Egypt, going to Assyria. 12 As they go, I will spread over them my net; I will bring them down like birds of the heavens; I will discipline them according to the report made to their congregation. 13 Woe to them, for they have strayed from me! Destruction to them, for they have rebelled against me! I would redeem them, but they speak lies against me. 14 They do not cry to me from the heart, but they wail upon their beds; for grain and wine they gash themselves; they rebel against me. 15 Although I trained and strengthened their arms, yet they devise evil against me. 16 They return, but not upward; they are like a treacherous bow; their princes shall fall by the sword because of the insolence of their tongue. This shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.

11. 1. Why compare Ephraim to a dove?
2. Why call northern Israel Ephraim?
3. What is so special about Egypt?
4. What is so special about Assyria?

12. Why does God use the word net?
2. Why does he still call them birds?
3. Why is the nation called a congregation?
4. Whose report is he talking about?

13. What does he mean by “woe”?
2. What lies to they speak?
3. How have they rebelled?
4. Why will God destroy them?

14. Why would they turn away from God?
2. Why would they gash themselves simply for grain and wine?
3. Why would they wail upon their beds?

15. What does he mean by “train” and “strengthen”?
2. What evil do they devise against God?

16. Where do they turn?
2. Describe “bow.”
3. Egypt again
4. What rulers have been killed by the sword?

I do know that when the kingdom of Israel split into a northern and southern kingdom during the reign of Solomon's son Rehoboam, the northern kingdom began to be called Ephraim.  Ephraim was one of Joseph's sons that Jacob adopted as his own.  He was younger than his brother Manasseh, but Jacob blessed him more than the other.  They became tribes of Israel along with Joe's 11 other brothers.  The southern kingdom was Judah, David and Jesus's tribe. Egypt was the country that held Israel captive for 400 years that God rescued them from through Moses.  Assyria was the frightening country that later took the Northern kingdom captive.  It was the country that Jonah ran away from.  Israel wanted to leave God and go back to the sinful people that made their lives miserable. 

Usually doves symbolize peace.  God calls them silly and senseless.  I guess doves are birds that are sweet but naive.  Only Israel isn't that innocent.  They reject the God who loves them and will later send his Son to die for them but they go for the Egyptians and Assyrians and their false gods who have nothing to give.

In verse 14, I ask, why would they turn away from God.  Then I remember, why do I lose faith in God?  Because he is taking too long to give me what I want.  But why do I think I know more what is good for me than God?  God is God and I am not.  If God doesn't answer my prayer the way I want, that's his right.  He's God.  I don't deserve anything good from him.  But he does give me good things.  Why should I want more?  In my natural sinful state, I can only love myself and my own ways and not God.  My free will needs to be changed before I can truly love God and be content with the situation that he has given me and know that he will do the right thing in his time.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Hosea: I make observations about verses and then summarize at the end

Here is a continuation of the online Bible study through Hosea from Kelly Needham that is based on the prophet Hosea.  It's been about a month since I listened to the lecture.  The exercise Kelly asked us to do was to take a verse and write five observations about it.  I wrote them down starting with chapter 4:10

“They will eat but not have enough;
    they will engage in prostitution but not flourish,
because they have deserted the Lord
    to give themselves

VERSE 10 1. Just like eating and not having enough, their rebellion against God will never satisfy.
2. They deserted the Lord.  He did not force them to worship other gods or commit their bodies to literal prostitution.
3. Even though they have much sex, they will not produce many children or generations.
4. Deserting the Lord is the reason why they cannot eat enough or flourish

5. They gave themselves to prostitution.

 to prostitution;
old wine and new wine
    take away their understanding.
VERSE 11 1. People who created the verse system decided to start a verse in the middle of a sentence
2. Is the wine literal?  Are they getting so drunk that they no longer wait for good old wine but just drink whatever is available?
3. They are so addicted to their sin that they don’t even wait for anything good to worship besides God.  They worship anything and everything.
4. They already had the best in God.  They did not have to wait.
5. They don’t even understand why they do what they do anymore.

My people consult a wooden idol,
    and a diviner’s rod speaks to them.
A spirit of prostitution leads them astray;
    they are unfaithful to their God.
VERSE 12 1. They have resorted to talking to a lifeless piece of wood rather than talk to the very real God
2. They think the wood has magic powers to talk to God
3. They already could talk to God.  They did not need another medium.
4. They look for a stick to tell them God’s word when they should be faithful to only him. 

They sacrifice on the mountaintops
    and burn offerings on the hills,
under oak, poplar and terebinth,
    where the shade is pleasant.
Therefore your daughters turn to prostitution
    and your daughters-in-law to adultery.

VERSE 13 1. They worship God in places that he did not command. 
2. God commanded worship at the temple and in their homes, not under every tree according to their preference.
3. They are teaching their own children that God’s express commands are not enough.
4. God does not want us to make up ways to worship him.  He has already said how to worship him.
5. Often this did include literal prostitution.

“I will not punish your daughters
    when they turn to prostitution,
nor your daughters-in-law
    when they commit adultery,
because the men themselves consort with harlots
    and sacrifice with shrine prostitutes—
    a people without understanding will come to ruin!

VERSE 14 1. God decides not to punish them.  What they do is its own punishment
2. The children also will not be punished.
3. He didn’t say he wouldn’t punish the men.  They were supposed to hold the women accountable, much like Adam didn’t stop Eve from eating.
4. The men are also seeing shrine prostitutes in order to convince Baal to send rain.
5. He no longer tells them to stop and waste his precious words on people who only defile them.  They will come to ruin.

Chapter 4 Theme: Sin is prostitution and a downward spiral that influences others

The following are verses from chapters 5 and 6 that really stand out at me.

Chapter 5
Verse 6. With their flocks and herds they shall go to seek the Lord but they will not find him; he has withdrawn from them.
7. They have dealt faithlessly with the Lord for they have borne alien children. Now the new moon shall devour them with their fields.
10. The princes of Judah have become like those who move the landmark; upon them I will pour out my wrath like water.
11. Ephraim is oppressed, crushed in judgment, because he was determined to go after filth.

Chapter 6
1. Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
2. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.
4. Both Ephraim and Judah: Your love is like morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away.
5. Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light.
6. For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burn offerings.

I feel like the verses explained themselves without me having to make observations about them.  I think in my life I have found an idol that has distracted me from God which in and of itself is a good thing.  I think children's ministry became an idol in my life.  It gives me pleasure to transform a lesson and to be intelligent and to have young people paying attention to what I say.  It's not a bad thing, but it is if it becomes more important to me than God.  Now that I find it slipping away for now, I find that my whole livelihood is changing and I need to refocus on God to give my life purpose and meaning and pleasure.  

He has already given me more than I could imagine and could possibly restore me to what I was three weeks ago, but he needs to be first and I can't make him first without him changing my heart again.

When times get rough, do you find yourself turning to things other than what God has already given you to commune with him?  He has given you his Spirit, his Word in the Bible, and his church.  It is idolatry, even spiritual adultery, to seek him outside of what he has already given you.