Wednesday, 10 December 2014

(345) December 11: Hosea 5-8 & Revelation 1

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider what provokes God about the people.

To ponder:
God’s word continues against priests, everyday Israelites and the line of its kings (5v1). God affirms he sees what they’ve done, judges them guilty and will discipline them. They are corrupt and unfaithful rebels, who have engaged in slaughter – whether of violence or child sacrifice. This may be why they are said to be a “snare.” They are so enslaved by their sin that they literally cannot return to God, perhaps because they are addicted to what they do. We’re told this is arrogance, no doubt in presuming they don’t need or know better than God. And we read that Judah stumbles in sin with them. The consequence is that when they go to make sacrifices to God, he will find he has withdrawn and so is unwilling to forgive or bless. And so they give birth to illegitimate children, in the sense that the children are not born into a covenant relationship with the LORD. So the festivals will devour them and their fields in bringing judgement not blessing because of their hypocrisy (5v1-7). This is shocking when one considers Israel’s privileges were to belong to God from generation to generation. Those who ponder turning from Christ should realise the impact it has on their children’s relationship with God.
            As to the punishment: key cities in Israel are told to ready themselves for battle on their day of reckoning. But wrath is said to be coming like a flood on Judah too, and so Benjamin is told to lead on into battle against the foe God is bringing too. God describes himself like a moth or rot, so eating away at the northern and southern kingdoms (5v1-7). It seems the battle may be against a number of foes (including Assyria), causing Ephraim and Judah to seek the protection of Assyria. But God is clear that even this “great king” won’t be able to help, because God is against them like a lion, tearing them to pieces. Perhaps compacting the future he speaks of carrying them off like a lion (the exile of the north by Assyria and the south by Babylon), and then returning to his place, ie. distancing himself from them until they seek him in repentance (5v8-15).
            This repentance is the wonderfully vocalized as returning to God for healing and reviving after being torn to pieces by him. As so often, the third day is the day of salvation, here, on which the people will be restored to his presence. One cannot but think of Christ experiencing judgement on behalf of his people and then being restored to his father by resurrection on the third day. The people urge one-another to acknowledge God, confident he will come like the sun or rain that revives the earth (6v1-3).
            God next expresses his despair over Ephraim and Judah’s sin. He asks what he can do, as their love is so fleeting causing him to cut them to pieces in judgement. He desired mercy and acknowledgement of him and so his will, but they simply went through the motions of sacrifice. 6v7 may imply God made a covenant with Adam in Eden, when he required obedience and promised life. Like Adam, the people have proved unfaithful and quick to turn away in their violence and spiritual prostitution conducted even by priests (6v4-10).
            6v11 states a harvest for Judah has been appointed and so is certain. This implies they will be restored after judgement in a way that brings fruit – looking to Christ coming to them. As for the north, God declares that whenever he would restore them, more sins are revealed – deceit, theft, robbery. They forget God always remembers their sin. And the king and princes are delighted with the people’s sin, as they themselves burn with their adulterous desires. Moreover, the sense is that when the princes are inflamed with wine at the very festival intended to celebrate the king, they mock and plot to overthrow him. So kings fall, yet none call out to God (7v1-7, see 2 Kgs 15).
            7v8-12 portray Ephraim as compromised in mixing with the nations, uncooked in terms of what God desires from him, weakened by the tribute required of him, arrogantly thinking he is in his prime and not recognizing he is ageing, and so not turning to God. Like a dove he flies to Egypt and then Assyria for help only to be caught in God’s net. Again, through Hosea God declares they will be destroyed for their rebellion, whilst stating how he longs to redeem them. But they just carry on speaking lies against him (perhaps that he is not angry), crying at their fate but not crying out to him, seeking his blessing on their harvest whilst in reality turning from him. There may be hints here to crying out to God but in a pagan way. Whatever the case, it’s a reminder that only the sinner is to blame for his judgement. God longs to redeem, but they just refuse to repent, often whilst still engaging in things like prayer. God continues, stating how he trained and strengthened them – presumably by teaching them to obey and enabling them to take the land. The point is this proves he can help. Yet they plot evil, not turning to him. Like a faulty bow they will not be able to resist their attackers, and so their leaders will fall and the people have to flee to Egypt (where God first redeemed them from), meaning their ridicule in having failed to keep all God had given (7v13-16). Likewise, those who turn from Christ return to the state they were at before coming to him, and often a worse one (Heb 10v26-31).
            Chapter 8 provides another warning. This refers to the threatening nation as an eagle over the temple, ready to attack. The reason is that Israel have broken the covenant. They say they acknowledge God but break his law, choosing kings without his consent, and making and worshipping idols that will be destroyed because they are not God. They sow what is insubstantial (wind, ie. alliances that mean nothing), but reap it back but with destruction (whirlwind, ie. their allies actually attacking them). So 8v7 implies Israel has nothing good to offer her allies, but is being swallowed up by them anyway. She is like a wild donkey wandering aimlessly, selling herself in her alliances to these nations as lovers. So God says, he will gather Israel up for judgement under the mighty Assyrian king (8v1-10). He then continues his charge against her. The altars she built for sin offerings have become those for sinning. The idea of multiple altars itself was a Canaanite pagan practice, and the people carried out idolatry at them. But the context implies the key issues was that the people’s breach of the law made even right sacrifices hypocritical. God will therefore punish them by returning them to Egypt and consume the fortresses built in both north and south (8v11-14).  Here we see Israel’s spiritual unfaithfulness isn’t just about worshipping idols, but being unfaithful to her covenant commitment to love, obey and trust God in general. So when we treat or rely on others as we should only God, we do the same. And if we do this as we go about the things of worship, they are worse than meaningless, being hypocritical and so sinful.

Praying it home:                                                    
Praise God for his reluctance to punish. Pray that you would not be hypocritical in your worship.

Thinking further:
None today.

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