Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hosea 13: 15-16

15 Though he flourishes among the reeds,
An east wind will come,
The wind of the LORD coming up from the wilderness;
And his fountain will become dry
And his spring will be dried up;
It will plunder his treasury of every precious article.
16 Samaria will be held guilty,
For she has rebelled against her God.
They will fall by the sword,
Their little ones will be dashed in pieces,
And their pregnant women will be ripped open.

With our calendar year coming to a close on Saturday, it is appropriate that we close out another chapter this week (and the book of Hosea over the first few weeks of January). As you can see in the "Scripture Calendar" column, Isaiah is coming up next. I am praying over how to handle the 66-chapter book. As much as I would like to continue taking smaller sections apart, that would mean spending multiple years on the blog in Isaiah. Hmmm.... Would you stay with me? Could I stay with the book? A chapter a week would be more than a year's time, regardless. It would bless me to know that you are praying for guidance for me in this. Thanks!
The closing verses of Hosea 13 do not leave us with pretty pictures. Remember back to Hosea, Chapter 10: "Israel is a luxuriant vine...." (vs. 1) It is this same vine that is now referred to as flourishing amidst the reeds. But, the east wind--the sirocco--has come. Other translations take the metaphor out and speak more plainly: "Though he flourishes among the brothers, Assyria will come."

Like the burning hot wind from the East, Assyria will move in by the "wind of the Lord" and will sweep Israel away, taking all of its preciously stored up goods and supplies. (vs. 15) He gives and takes away! The "fountain" and "spring" that spiritually nourished the nation and guided the people in all things will dry up, leaving them parched for sustenance.

Israel's capital, Samaria, will fall at the hands of the Assyrians. The rest of verse 16 presents the horrors of the fate awaiting. The Assyrians were known for their intensely violent actions, and Israel would be spared none of them.

"‘But it was plucked up in fury;
It was cast down to the ground;
And the east wind dried up its fruit.
Its strong branch was torn off
So that it withered;
The fire consumed it.
‘And now it is planted in the wilderness,
In a dry and thirsty land.
‘And fire has gone out from its branch;
It has consumed its shoots and fruit,
So that there is not in it a strong branch,
A scepter to rule.’”
--Ezekiel 19: 12-14

"Assyria will not save us." Hosea makes his final plea, as Chapter 14 begins .... 'Til next Wednesday!

Happy New Year! 
The year of our Lord 2012


* * *

Next week: Hosea 14: 1-3

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hosea 13: 9-14

 9O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.
 10I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities?
And thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes?
 11I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath.
 12The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid.
 13The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him:
he is an unwise son; for he should not stay long
in the place of the breaking forth of children.
 14I will ransom them from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death:
O death, I will be thy plagues;
O grave, I will be thy destruction:
repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.

A first for this blog--going all King James Version for our lead text! There are just some times when this is the most clear translation to understand. (Even if you have to read saidst instead of said.)

The Lord is reminiscing a bit here, but, still, He pleads with Israel to see the Light! I think of Psalm 121: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth." (vs. 1-2) Yes, Israel has destroyed itself by itself through itself. But, the Lord is their help. Even more, the Lord is their King.

This is where more of Israel's history is brought forward, as Hosea reminds the nation of its troubled past in asking for help outside of God. A history of Godly leaders, yet the nation was not satisfied until it could look and behave like other nations. (The trouble with satisfaction! See last week's post.) So, they begged for a king.

"...And they said to him, 'Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.' But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, 'Give us a king to judge us.' And Samuel prayed to the LORD. The LORD said to Samuel, 'Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.'"
--I Samuel 8: 5-7

Don't miss what God said to Israel. "They have not rejected you, Samuel, but they have rejected Me." God allows for His people to continue to try their hand at sowing their seeds of help. There was the period of the judges--with Samuel closing that out--followed by the period of kings, which started with Saul. I had to chuckle as I read through some of the cross references about him. He made quite an entrance: “'Has the man [Saul] come here yet?' So the LORD said, 'Behold, he is hiding himself by the baggage.'” I couldn't help but think, how true of those "kings" we place before God!! By the baggage and hiding. We turn down God for what? 

Now, after many kings in Israel--not to mention a divided kingdom--God says, enough already. (vs. 11 & 12)

"The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him...for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children." 
--vs. 13

If you are a woman who has borne a child, then you understand the "sorrows of a travailing woman." Israel has come to a place in which it is about to experience significant pain, struggle and aloneness. This is an interesting metaphor, as Israel will know the pain of the mother yet is depicted here as the child unwilling to move from the birth canal. Says my study Bible: "By long deferring a 'new birth' with repentance, the nation was like a child remaining in the canal dangerously long and risking death." He is an "unwise son," indeed!

"But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God...."
--Romans 2:5 (NASB)

But, who brings delivery? Remember what we read last week: "For there is no savior besides Me." (Hosea 13: 4b) As foolish an infant is Israel is, God brings about deliverance, not the child! "I will ransom them...." "I will redeem them...." (vs. 14) Death and the grave have no power over God our help! Does this sound familiar?

--I Corinthians 15:55 (NASB)

Paul quotes Hosea in I Corinthians, as he calms the fears of those who fear the finality of death. "The sting of death is sin," Paul says in the next verse. Those birthpangs represent the sting of death--Israel's sin. God could have allowed His people to die--oh, so many times, in fact. But, no--again, no! The covenant He made, He would continue to uphold. He would put ultimate wrath aside and bring intense discipline through separation of His people. Ultimate victory was coming through the Messiah--the King of Kings! "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God...." (I John 3:1, NASB)

"Thus says the LORD,
Who gives the sun for light by day
And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar;
The LORD of hosts is His name:
'If this fixed order departs
From before Me,' declares the LORD,
'Then the offspring of Israel also will cease
From being a nation before Me forever.'
Thus says the LORD,
'If the heavens above can be measured
And the foundations of the earth searched out below,
Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel
For all that they have done,' declares the LORD."

--Jeremiah 31: 35-37 (NASB)

"Before the hills in order stood, or earth received her frame, from everlasting, thou art God, to endless years the same."
--O God, Our Help in Ages Past

But, His people would have to wait. And wait....

Chapter 13 concludes.... 'Til next Wednesday!

Merry Christmas, Friends!
Emmanuel has come....


* * *

Next week: Hosea 13: 15-16

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hosea 13: 4-8

4 Yet I have been the LORD your God
Since the land of Egypt;
And you were not to know any god except Me,
For there is no savior besides Me.
5 I cared for you in the wilderness,
In the land of drought.
6 As they had their pasture, they became satisfied,
And being satisfied, their heart became proud;
Therefore they forgot Me.
7 So I will be like a lion to them;
Like a leopard I will lie in wait by the wayside.
8 I will encounter them like a bear robbed of her cubs,
And I will tear open their chests;
There I will also devour them like a lioness,
As a wild beast would tear them.

The beginning and end of our passage in Hosea today reflect material that has clearly been covered in the prophet's message to Israel. We have seen, especially in these closing chapters, the recalling of Israel's history and its covenant with God the Father. Should there have been any gods before the Father, or any gods at all? Of course, the Ten Commandments--Numero Uno--says NO! Yet, we find God saying, once again, that not only is there no other God, but there is no other Savior (vs. 4):

“'Declare and set forth your case;
Indeed, let them consult together.
Who has announced this from of old?
Who has long since declared it?
Is it not I, the LORD?
And there is no other God besides Me,
A righteous God and a Savior;
There is none except Me.'"
--Isaiah 45: 21

In all ways, God led His people out of slavery, out of the wilderness because he "cared" (vs. 5). Other translations, like the King James Version, use 'knew', which we know means a deep and intimate love. He is the only One who had known His people "since the land of Egypt," and before, with a righteous and everlasting love. It is an understanding of this sacred relationship that Hosea has been trying to re-communicate.

But, we know, too, that God is at a breaking point with Israel: an "I say tomato and you, Israel, say tomahto. Let's call the whole thing off" kind of impasse. This makes reading the last two verses of today's passage difficult. "So...," God begins, which is as if saying "Therefore," in other Scripture verses, God becomes as an animal on the prowl, hungry and intentional. According to my study Bible, the lion, the leopard and the bear were all native to Israel. But, now, these would become attack animals instead of mere indigenous creatures. The language is downright brutal.

"...And I will tear open their chests."
--vs. 8

When you start digging into the phrase "open their chests," you come across Hebrew words meaning "enclosure or encasement" [Strong's], and not of the chest so much as of the heart. God is not "attacking" for the sake of violence or to demonstrate outright strength. He is trying to get at the literal heart of why this relationship has failed. He wants to get at the heart of Israel to claim it, again, for Himself. He is certainly angry, but we know that He will withhold the ultimate in His wrath for a time yet to come. Still, His people will know that He is God!

What really caught my attention in preparing for today's passage was the verse in the middle, verse 6: 

"As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, and being satisfied, their heart became proud; Therefore they forgot Me."
--vs. 6

In last week's teaser for this week's blog, I mentioned this oft-misquoted proverb: "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18, New International Version) The book of Proverbs is full of references to the dangers of pride and the importance of wisdom. Indeed, it is pride that led to Satan's fallen angel status. (Ezekiel 28; Isaiah 14) But, here in Hosea, we see that there is something that comes before pride--satisfaction.
To be satisfied is to have one's desires, needs, expectations, demands, etc., fulfilled, so as to put an end to want. At its basic Latin root, it means "to do enough." [] If we are satisfied--content--then we recognize that there is no need to do more. When you read verse 6 in the King James, you begin to see the problem: "According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten Me." (emphasis mine)
At issue--and Mick and the boys said this perfectly--"I can't get no satisfaction." God supplied all of their needs, even their demands, at times. (Remember manna vs meat?) But, was Israel ever truly satisfied? No! There was always something else, something more--greener pastures! Once you start to feel secure with what you have, you look to the next thing, and you do so with the self-confidence that says you can have it!! But, in the end, it's not what you want. It's like another Stones' smash: "You can't always get what you want....and, if you try sometimes, you just might find..." that you DON'T get what you need! If you truly believe in God as Lord, walking in obedience and faith, then you understand that HE gives you what you need, and the Lord is your shepherd and you shall not have need! (Psalm 23)

“'Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.'"
--Deuteronomy 8: 11-14

What a statement of Truth and wisdom! God called it, right from Deuteronomy days! Israel had forgotten. And God knew them! If Israel had only remembered His Word from those days, Hosea might have had a very different ministry.

"Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. It shall come about if you ever forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish. Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so you shall perish; because you would not listen to the voice of the LORD your God."
--Deuteronomy 8: 17-20

There are enormous lessons for us all who struggle with pride in our lives. I can certainly reflect on my own life and see the many times I have tried to one-up myself in going beyond the boundary of contentment. I see my struggles with pride and my lack of contentment over my circumstances. The world we live in does not make fighting this any easier. But, that's temptation! It is when we choose to turn away from how the world lives, walking in what we know to be true, that even in our earthly dissatisfaction, we can live contently. 

"And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.'"
--II Corinthians 12: 9 & 10 

Thankful to be a work in progress on the Potter's wheel!

The painful outcome of being a dissatisfied Israelite, as Chapter 13 continues.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 13: 9-13

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hosea 13: 1-3

Hosea 13

Ephraim’s Idolatry
 1 When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling.
He exalted himself in Israel,
But through Baal he did wrong and died.
2 And now they sin more and more,
And make for themselves molten images,
Idols skillfully made from their silver,
All of them the work of craftsmen.
They say of them, “Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves!”
3 Therefore they will be like the morning cloud
And like dew which soon disappears,
Like chaff which is blown away from the threshing floor
And like smoke from a chimney.

We are beginning the final two chapters of Hosea. Today's passage focuses, one last time, on Israel's sinfulness and--as you can read--idolatry, while Chapter 14 will focus on the nation's future, as the longstanding promises of God to the Israelites will be fulfilled.

There were so many suggested changes for wording to verse 1 that I thought I would share the Amplified Bible's version, since it put all of those suggested changes into its translation:

"WHEN EPHRAIM spoke with trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended and became guilty in Baal worship, he died [spiritually, and then outward ruin came also, sealing Israel's doom as a nation]."
--vs. 1, Amplified Bible

Sums it up nicely, doesn't it? There was a time when Israel's biggest tribe had the loudest and most authoritative voice. But, now, not a nation under God (except for being under His divine love and discipline), Israel's voice was diminished. Note how Israel died. First spiritually and then outwardly. Sometimes, I think we believe that our sinful nature is due to our outside world having caused us to sin. We need to be careful in what we say. Our world may influence us, but the first turn is the one we take away from God and His ways. Woe to us if we blame our world for our own decisions. That's the bottom line of freewill!

In verse 2, we revisit the trouble with idols. The creation of the idols, as well as the worship of them, was so painful for God to see. He had endowed craftsmen with special skills, and, as we are endowed with gifts of the Spirit, they were to use these skills to reflect God in how they worked and in what they made. The silver given to the people was also a gift from God, to be used for His glory. How did they invest their gift? Again, drawing from other translations, we read that idols were made "according to their own understanding." (King James Version) The combination of gift and skill being used in the heinous, man-centered creation and worship of idols not only broke the commandments but hurt God's heart.

"Those who fashion a graven image are all of them futile, and their precious things are of no profit; even their own witnesses fail to see or know, so that they will be put to shame. Who has fashioned a god or cast an idol to no profit? Behold, all his companions will be put to shame, for the craftsmen themselves are mere men. Let them all assemble themselves, let them stand up, let them tremble, let them together be put to shame."
--Isaiah 44: 9-11

The time for shame had certainly come. God's people would be exiled in a mighty sweep--removed from their home. Verse 3 contains three metaphors for how His own would vanish: as the morning cloud and dew; as the chaff from the threshing floor; and as smoke from a chimney (or out a window, in other translations).

For Israel, dew had significance. In the days in the wilderness, God brought the dew and the manna overnight. In the morning, when the sun dried up the dew, the flaky manna would be left behind for the people to gather and use for the day's meal. The morning cloud was the presence of God in the daytime, moving ahead of the people, leading them to their next camp. But, here in Hosea, God says He will make His people disappear as quickly as dew leaves with the morning sun. No longer will manna be provided, nor the cloud of His presence.

"The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish."
--Psalm 1: 4-6

The threshing floor was a busy place, as it was a processing facility.

"In the process of winnowing, as it has been carried on in the East for thousands of years, the grain is tossed into the air so that the wind may cause a separation of chaff and straw. The light husks from the wheat and fine particles of straw are dispersed by the wind in the form of a fine dust; the heavier straw which has been broken into short pieces by the threshing process falls near at hand on the edge of the threshing-floor, while the grain falls back upon the pile."
--International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Israel was referred to as "chaff," which was not the best part to come from the winnowing process. Grain is saved for food. Straw is saved for the animals. The chaff is, literally, blown away from the threshing floor. Thus was the state of Israel. John the Baptist, in speaking of the coming of Jesus, used the metaphor in his referring to those who would not accept Him as Lord: "His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:12) Not good to be chaff, nor the smoke that dissipates into the clear air.

"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18, New International Version) What comes before that? More from Chapter 13 .... 'Til next Wednesday!

* * *

Next week: Hosea 13: 4-8

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hosea 12: 11-14

11 Is there iniquity in Gilead?
Surely they are worthless.
In Gilgal they sacrifice bulls,
Yes, their altars are like the stone heaps
Beside the furrows of the field.  12 Now Jacob fled to the land of Aram,
And Israel worked for a wife,
And for a wife he kept sheep.
13 But by a prophet the LORD brought Israel from Egypt,
And by a prophet he was kept.
14 Ephraim has provoked to bitter anger;
So his Lord will leave his bloodguilt on him
And bring back his reproach to him.

Rhetorical question, anyone? Chapter 12 of Hosea concludes today--each verse a history lesson of either the past or the very recent past. Verse 11 presents that rhetorical question. Of course there's iniquity in Gilead, whether Israel chooses to recognize or acknowledge the fact.

The once-held-sacred places, like Gilead and Gilgal, are now the places of rampant idol worship. Gilgal, a place hallowed in Israel's history, is filled with altar sites to the gods. My study Bible says that a gathering of stones in the field was not unusual. We've read cross-reference passages in Hosea reviewing God's Word about the use of stones as boundary markers that were not to be moved without punishment. The stones at Gilgal were plentiful, but their use was disgraceful. Would it surprise you to know that Gilgal means "heap of stones"?

"It is in my desire that I should chastise them; and the people shall be gathered against them, when they shall bind themselves in their two furrows."
--Hosea 10:10, King James Version

Strong's notes that 'furrows' may best be translated as "transgressions" in this passage. I wonder if that wouldn't also be true for 12:11, as the myriad altars surely represented part of the crop of transgressions in Israel's field of iniquity.

Verse 12 brings us once again to a look at the life of Jacob, pillar of Israel. Through Hosea, God continues to make Himself known through the treasures of the nation. Looking back at Genesis, we note that after Jacob received the blessing from his father, Isaac, he was sent away to his mother's side of the family to find an appropriate wife to take for himself.

"Then Isaac sent Jacob away, and he went to Paddan-aram to Laban, son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau."
--Genesis 28:5

Jacob went to Aram, which is Syria. It is here where Jacob meets his future wife, Rachel, and falls deeply in love. This is a love so deep that Jacob agreed to serve Laban, her father, in the fields for seven years. Even then, Laban forced Jacob to take Rachel's older sister, Leah, before he could finally be united with Rachel. This is the kind of love the Lord has been trying to recapture in the minds of the Israelites through Hosea and through Hosea's marriage story. These are stories of deep love--and deep faith. Truly, there is only One who could have devised such a plan as the creation of the tribes of Israel through Jacob! [You must read through chapters 29 and 30 of Genesis to see how truly involved God's work in this was. Who would have thunk it, really?!]

As if recalling Jacob is not strong enough, Hosea then invokes the story of Israel's first great leader--although his name is not mentioned--Moses. "But by a prophet, the Lord brought Israel from Egypt." (vs 13) We may not use 'prophet' with Moses as we do with Hosea or Isaiah or Ezekiel, but when we remember that a prophet is one who speaks forth the word of the Lord, Moses (even as he needed much helping in doing that) really was a prophet. God reminds Israel, again, that, through Moses, He led them to become a nation--to become His people.

"Then His people remembered the days of old, of Moses.
Where is He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of His flock?
Where is He who put His Holy Spirit in the midst of them,
Who caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses,
Who divided the waters before them to make for Himself an everlasting name,
Who led them through the depths?
Like the horse in the wilderness, they did not stumble;
As the cattle which go down into the valley,
The Spirit of the LORD gave them rest.
So You led Your people,
To make for Yourself a glorious name."
--Isaiah 63: 11-14

Chapter 12 ends with not unfamiliar thoughts: God is angry and punishment is on the way. Can't leave this passage without sharing a last tie-in between Jacob's story in Genesis and Israel's story here. If you do read on to Genesis 30, you read of how God brought most of the tribes of Israel through women other than Jacob's true love, Rachel. Like Sarah, Rachel had gone outside the lines, if you will, and offered up others to Jacob to conceive children. But, she would be shown grace.

"Then God remembered Rachel, and God gave heed to her and opened her womb. So she conceived and bore a son [Joseph] and said, 'God has taken away my reproach.'"
--Genesis 30: 22 & 23

Note the close of Hosea, 12:14--"And [God will] bring back his reproach to him." The grace offered Rachel would not be extended to Israel this time. At least, not yet.

Chapter 13, "Ephraim's Idolatry".... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 13: 1-3

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hosea 12: 7-10

7 A merchant, in whose hands are false balances,
He loves to oppress.
8 And Ephraim said, “Surely I have become rich,
I have found wealth for myself;
In all my labors they will find in me
No iniquity, which would be sin.”
9 But I have been the LORD your God since the land of Egypt;
I will make you live in tents again,
As in the days of the appointed festival.
10 I have also spoken to the prophets,
And I gave numerous visions,
And through the prophets I gave parables.

A most unflattering description of Israel, or Ephraim, opens our passage in Hosea 12 today. God continues to remind the nation of who has been and is in charge, and who clearly isn't.

A 'merchant' does not seem like a bad description except for the fact that, back in the day, the word was often used as a substitute for Caananite. Interestingly, the Hebrew word is also translated "humiliated." [Strong's]

"...The Canaanites are living by the sea and by the side of the Jordan."
--Numbers 13:29

Indeed, the placement of the land of Canaan made it an ideal place for a trading capital. But, the Canaanites were not a Godly people, which made for the development of unfair business practices. Israel picks up the moniker here in Hosea because it had become rich and self-absorbed with an oppressive business sense--even amongst its own and, obviously, in the light of God's Word and direction.

“When will the new moon be over,
So that we may sell grain,
And the sabbath, that we may open the wheat market,
To make the bushel smaller and the shekel bigger,
And to cheat with dishonest scales...."
--Amos 8:5, excerpt

"I have found wealth for myself...." (vs 8) We are so lost when we claim not only our riches but that we have come upon them ourselves. This is a first step toward self-reliance and a step away from God's provision by grace. Psalm 62:10 says, "If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them." We can become sidetracked with our own success, which leads to impure motives. How many stories of celebrity success [excess?] do we need to follow to understand how debilitating the self-fulfilled life is? Israel is blind to their celebrity, if you will. The darling nation has been feeding on the sin offerings of its own people (Hosea 4:8)!? Yet they say, "...They will find in me no iniquity, which would be sin...." Proverbs would label that "foolish" or "folly."

Israel is without excuse. God has called the prophets to relay His Word to His people--through speaking to them, and in multiple visions and parables. (vs. 10) How could they continue to hold such a foolish attitude, with God ever before them?

"Yet the LORD warned Israel and Judah through all His prophets and every seer, saying, 'Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments, My statutes according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you through My servants the prophets.'"
--II Kings 17:13

Backtracking to verse 9, the key verse this week: "But I have been the LORD your God since the land of Egypt." Remember Egypt, O Israel? To have come so far--literally, years of wilderness travel--only to be found, now, so far away from Him again. The Father's heartache! His punishment comes in the form of a thanksgiving celebration turned upside down.

"I will make you live in tents again, as in the days of the appointed festival."
--vs. 9

God designed a memorial festival in which the Israelites would commemorate the 40-year wilderness venture that they made from Egypt to the promised land. The Feast of Booths, or the Feast of Tabernacles, was to be celebrated every year, with the people living in tents for its duration as a reminder of their time "on the road."

"'You shall celebrate the Feast of Booths seven days after you have gathered in from your threshing floor and your wine vat; and you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your towns. Seven days you shall celebrate a feast to the LORD your God in the place which the LORD chooses, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.'"
--Deuteronomy 16:13-15

I am struck, first, at the "God-incidence" of having mention of this feast in Hosea the day before the American celebration of Thanksgiving Day. What a joyful feast! Celebrating after the harvest, with your family and those in your midst, celebrating "to the Lord your God," because HE has blessed in all of produce and work! That is how we are "altogether joyful." But, the context for Israel in Hosea is not one of joy, as God says the nation will live in tents again, only, this time, in Assyrian captivity.

Israel had forgotten a song of thanksgiving. Let us not do likewise.
"Give thanks to the Lord
Our God and King
His love endures forever
For He is good, He is above all things
His love endures forever
Sing praise, sing praise...."
--Forever, Chris Tomlin

Another reference to Jacob, as Chapter 12 draws to a close.... 'Til next Wednesday!

To God be the glory; great things He has done!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 12: 11-14

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hosea 12: 1-6

Hosea 12

Ephraim Reminded
 1 Ephraim feeds on wind,
And pursues the east wind continually;
He multiplies lies and violence.
Moreover, he makes a covenant with Assyria,
And oil is carried to Egypt.
2 The LORD also has a dispute with Judah,
And will punish Jacob according to his ways;
He will repay him according to his deeds.
3 In the womb he took his brother by the heel,
And in his maturity he contended with God.
4 Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed;
He wept and sought His favor.
He found Him at Bethel
And there He spoke with us,
5 Even the LORD, the God of hosts,
The LORD is His name.
6 Therefore, return to your God,
Observe kindness and justice,
And wait for your God continually.

The earliest books of the Old Testament provide some of the richest details, if one chooses to read through them: the creation of the Tabernacle, for instance--from the precise materials used to the skilled craftsmen who would construct it. God provided details in His Word to help people live righteous lives, and He expected this Word and the stories of the people who either embraced or didn't embrace His Word to carry forward throughout the generations.

We should not be surprised, then, this week, to see Hosea evoking the name of a "hero" of Israel. God purposed the life story of Jacob to transcend his time. Hosea reminds the lost nation, in Chapter 12, that it is time to recall those early days--days of walking with God--and those who walked that path.

But, first, verses 1 and 2, remind us reading now of why Israel is in the trouble it is. The nation has allied itself with ungodly neighbors, and it seeks after the East wind. The direction from which the wind blows is significant in Scripture.

"The east wind or the 'scorching wind' (James 1:11) from the desert. It is a hot, gusty wind laden with sand and dust.... The heat and dryness wither all vegetation (Genesis 41:6). Happily the wind seldom lasts for more than three days at a time. It is the destructive 'wind of the wilderness.'"
--International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

We know that God is going to punish Israel. But, in verse 2, 'Jacob' is used instead of 'Israel'. The two are interchangeable. Hosea then brings to mind significant events of Jacob's life story as we read verses 3-6. Remembering, through quick hops of the latter chapters of Genesis, Jacob was the son of Isaac and Rebekah, and came into the world grabbing the heel of his twin brother, Esau. Being the second born, Jacob did not have the birthright privileges of his older brother--but he came out on the fairer side of a trade, receiving the birthright from a hungry Esau for a bowl of red stew. Later, with help from his mother, Jacob would also receive his father's blessing in an interesting story of deception with provision. The incident would put Jacob on the run from his brother--and into the hands of God.

Hosea recounts how Jacob contended with God and wrestled with "the angel." In Genesis 32, we read that Jacob wrestled with "a man." But Hosea uses not only 'angel' but, much more specifically, "the LORD, the God of hosts," as the wrestler. It is at Peniel--which means "face of God"--where Jacob receives his new name, Israel. Verse 4 also mentions Bethel, which has been mentioned in Hosea throughout the chapters as a place of worship turned to idol worship. For Jacob, Bethel is the place of his true spiritual awakening, when God spoke to him of His promises--passed down from Abraham--in a dream.

Why Jacob? What are the lessons for the pre-exilic Israelites of Hosea's time? The prophet helps us understand, again in verse 5: "The Lord is His name" or, otherwise translated as "the Lord is his memorial." For Jacob, Bethel represented a sacred anointing moment between him and God. At Peniel, not just a moment, but an entire new movement through his new name.

"He said, 'Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.'”
--Genesis 32:28

"'Memorial' as the translation of 'azkarah' is a sacrificial term, that which brings the offerer into remembrance before God, or brings God into favorable remembrance with the offerer...."
--International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 

Jacob named these places so he would remember what God had done, and so his children and his descendants would remember what God had done. Life-changing moments upon which he could remember the favor of his Lord, the provision and love of his Lord. In Hosea's time, there was little Israel could look to, memorial-wise, to remember the favor of the Lord upon His people. What Israel hadn't completely marred, God would destroy. Yet....

"Therefore, return to your God, observe kindness and justice, and wait for your God continually."
--vs. 6

Even when their memorial landmarks would be taken away, Israel could still draw direction from Hosea's words, and remember Jacob's perseverance and faithfulness. They certainly did not have the strength or fight to prevail over "the man," much less any man. But, God had not abandoned them, either. Their charge? To "wait...continually." The Hebrew word means "to bind expect, gather, look patiently...." [Strong's]
"The most important and frequent use of the word wait, however, is to define the attitude of a soul God-ward. It implies the listening ear, a heart responsive to the wooing of God, a concentration of the spiritual faculties upon heavenly things, the patience of faith, 'the earnest expectation of the creation' (Romans 8:19)."
--International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

And, Israel is reminded that God has been God for a long time. More from Chapter 12.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 12: 7-10

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hosea 11: 8-12

8 How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I surrender you, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart is turned over within Me,
All My compassions are kindled.
9 I will not execute My fierce anger;
I will not destroy Ephraim again.
For I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst,
And I will not come in wrath.
10 They will walk after the LORD,
He will roar like a lion;
Indeed He will roar
And His sons will come trembling from the west.
11 They will come trembling like birds from Egypt
And like doves from the land of Assyria;
And I will settle them in their houses, declares the LORD.   
12 Ephraim surrounds Me with lies
And the house of Israel with deceit;
Judah is also unruly against God,
Even against the Holy One who is faithful.

The end of Chapter 11 comes with verses opening like that of Shakespeare--"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." God says, "How can I give you up?" His love for His people shines through the prophet's words this week.

God refers to not treating Israel as He did Admah and Zeboiim. These two cities are not as widely recognized by name as their destroyed cousins, Sodom and Gomorrah. Now that's a point of reference!

"‘All its land is brimstone and salt, a burning waste, unsown and unproductive, and no grass grows in it, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the LORD overthrew in His anger and in His wrath.’"
--Deuteronomy 29:23

We come to the end of verse 8 in which God expresses an ultimate statement of love: "My heart is turned over within me. All of my compassions are kindled." This is part of the character of God that I absolutely accept, but that I cannot with any merit sufficiently explain. We have visited this concept of God "changing His mind" before. To say that would imply that He is not omniscient. Nothing in Israel's behavior would suggest that He even had reason to change His mind, which is why His mercy on His people is so unbelievable. "For I am God and not man...." (vs. 9)

Clearly, even through the chapters of discipline and punishment that we have read, there was an understanding from the beginning of Hosea--through the prophet's very life story--that God's compassion for His people was immense. Restoration of His relationship with them was paramount. Of course He knew His people would fail, and He would bring destruction and exile upon them--but out of the deepest love and passion for them, not out of vengeance and hate.

"Compassion, literally a feeling with and for others, is a fundamental and distinctive quality of the Biblical conception of God, and to its prominence the world owes more than words can express."
--W. L. Walker, writing in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

"'Great is Thy faithfulness,' O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be."

The reality of Israel's next steps, however, continue to be spoken. Note verse 12. Ephraim would be destroyed at this time. His people would be captured and, then, scattered.

"In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon and Abel-beth-maacah and Janoah and Kedesh and Hazor and Gilead and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali; and he carried them captive to Assyria."
--II Kings 15:29

God will "roar like a lion" in His judgment. (vs 10) But, as we learned from Joel, "the LORD is a refuge for His people and a stronghold to the sons of Israel." (3:16) The end of verse 10 and verse 11 may be confusing as far as the timeframe and movement. It says people are moving "from the west." This geographical reference is so simple as to gloss over it, yet when we stop and pause, it seems to be in error. If Ephraim is held captive in Assyria and Judah in Babylon, then they would come back to Israel from east to west, not from west to east. My study Bible explains that "this undoubtedly has reference to His return at the Second Advent to set up the millennial kingdom, when He calls Israel from their worldwide dispersion and reverses the judgment of 9:17." [which says, "My God will cast them away because they have not listened to Him; And they will be wanderers among the nations."]

With all of His compassions kindled--His merciful love that no earthly being can emulate or imagine--God promises that He will, once and for all, restore His own unto Himself.

"Thus says the Lord GOD, 'When I gather the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and will manifest My holiness in them in the sight of the nations, then they will live in their land which I gave to My servant Jacob.  They will live in it securely; and they will build houses, plant vineyards and live securely when I execute judgments upon all who scorn them round about them. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God.'

"Also the tree of the field will yield its fruit and the earth will yield its increase, and they will be secure on their land. Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bars of their yoke and have delivered them from the hand of those who enslaved them."
--Ezekiel 28: 25 & 26, and 34:27

Chapter 12, "Ephraim reminded".... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 12: 1-5

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hosea 11: 1-7

Hosea 11

God Yearns over His People
 1 When Israel was a youth I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son.
2 The more they called them,
The more they went from them;
They kept sacrificing to the Baals
And burning incense to idols.
3 Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them in My arms;
But they did not know that I healed them.
4 I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love,
And I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws;
And I bent down and fed them.  5 They will not return to the land of Egypt;
But Assyria—he will be their king
Because they refused to return to Me.
6 The sword will whirl against their cities,
And will demolish their gate bars
And consume them because of their counsels.
7 So My people are bent on turning from Me.
Though they call them to the One on high,
None at all exalts Him.

Chapter 11 may make you think bankruptcy, but be assured that with Israel and God, there is perennial hope, even in the bleakest of circumstances. With this chapter, we begin to see a shift in the tone and text of Hosea. Mind you, even with all that we have read over these months, God still loves His people. Amidst His anger with them, we also see that love.

Verse 1 says that God loved Israel, His people, in its earliest days. Then, look at the glimpse into the future we see in the second part of the verse--"out of Egypt I called My son." Even when Israel was not a safe place in which to be, God would call His Son back, so He could be among His people.

"Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, 'Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.' So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 'OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.'" 
--Matthew 2:13-15

Verse 2 recalls Israel's current state. More easily understood for me are the translations that use 'the prophets' rather than 'they'. The more the prophets called on Israel, the more Israel ran away from the prophets. God's frustration shows, again, in verse 3, as He recalls having taught Israel (Ephraim) "to walk" or, "to go" in the King James, both having their literal meanings, but, also, figurative meanings, such as "to behave oneself." [Strong's] When we know the word of God, when we are taught how to walk and go and behave according to His way, how can we turn away and still claim we are in a relationship with Him? Our personal history with God goes back before time began. How can we stand? This is the position in which Israel found itself as Hosea ministered to them.

"The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place. But for all this, you did not trust the LORD your God, who goes before you on your way, to seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go."
--Deuteronomy 1: 30-33

Verse 4 is God's beautiful testimony of His love. Leading with cords of a man implies tight-knit strength. Bonds, or bands, of love. (There's that reference to the marriage covenant. With this ring--with this band--I thee wed.) "Lifted the yoke" and "bent down and fed them." Last week, we read about the yoke being put on. Today, we remember that He had lifted that yoke of slavery, came down to be before His people, and fed them of Himself, that they would want to walk in His ways. Israel has forgotten its time in Egypt, its time in the wilderness, the way once learned.

"Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you. I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so that you would not be their slaves, and I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect."
--Leviticus 26: 11-13

Verses 5 and 6 return to speaking of Israel's punishment over their disobedience, with verse 7 noting the nation's acknowledgment of God, yet its utterly unfaithful exultation of God for who He is.

"No man repented of his wickedness,
Saying, ‘What have I done?’
Everyone turned to his course,
Like a horse charging into the battle.
'Even the stork in the sky
Knows her seasons;
And the turtledove and the swift and the thrush
Observe the time of their migration;
But My people do not know
The ordinance of the LORD.'"
--Jeremiah 8: 6b-7

Fully into Fall, now, the geese migration is on regular audible and visual display! The geese know its time to fly, because the One who created them endowed them with the knowledge of their migratory season and pattern. But Israel does not obey His ordinances. God says, "...My people are bent on turning from Me," or, from the King James, "And my people are bent to backsliding from me...." 'Backsliding' is a wonderfully descriptive word. The Hebrew word translates "stubborn" or "rebellious," which we certainly know to be true of Israel. But the visual picture of sliding backwards is so strong--and active.

"In all places the word is used of Israel forsaking Jehovah, and with a reference to the covenant relation between Jehovah and the nation, conceived as a marriage tie which Israel had violated. Jehovah was Israel’s husband, and by her idolatries with other gods she had proved unfaithful (Jer 3:8,14; 14:7; Hos 14:4). It may be questioned whether Israel was guilty so much of apostasy and defection, as of failure to grow with the growing revelation of God. The prophets saw that their contemporaries fell far short of their own ideal, but they did not realize how far their predecessors also had fallen short of the rising prophetic standard in ideal and action."
--International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (italics, mine)

This is a very interesting commentary. As God should have been becoming bigger in the hearts and lives of the Israelites, instead, He was reduced in significance--a name upon which to refer, but not to exalt; a "club" to which to belong, but not to heed its code of conduct or membership rules. They failed to grow in the plan God established for them. They failed to see His goodness, mercy, grace and provision in light of themselves. They failed to understand that the provision of His law was to help them, not to burden them. They should have been taking steps forward, as they did with Him leading them through the wilderness--but, they slid backwards. And they became bent on doing it.

"I am God..." Hear Me roar!.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 11: 8-12

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hosea 10: 11-15

11 Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh,
But I will come over her fair neck with a yoke;
I will harness Ephraim,
Judah will plow, Jacob will harrow for himself.
12 Sow with a view to righteousness,
Reap in accordance with kindness;
Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the LORD
Until He comes to rain righteousness on you.
13 You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice,
You have eaten the fruit of lies.
Because you have trusted in your way, in your numerous warriors,
14 Therefore a tumult will arise among your people,
And all your fortresses will be destroyed,
As Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle,
When mothers were dashed in pieces with their children.
15 Thus it will be done to you at Bethel because of your great wickedness.
At dawn the king of Israel will be completely cut off.

I do love reading this rich text in Hosea, even though the subject matter is very difficult to embrace. The language--even in the English--is full of word pictures. God opened Chapter 10 with the picture of Israel as a luxuriant vine, producing abundant fruit, yet growing in the furrows of the field amongst the poisonous weeds of judgment. (vs. 4) He ends the chapter with further references to planting and turning the tables on the mention of cows back upon Israel.

Since Israel is stubborn like a stubborn heifer,
Can the LORD now pasture them like a lamb in a large field?
--Hosea 4:16

The cow-worshiping Israelites are once again referred by God as being like a cow, or, a heifer. These strong animals were used regularly in the care and maintenance of the planting fields. Not only has Israel been "stubborn" in its ways, but, as verse 11 says, it has been "trained" in that way and loves to "thresh," or trample out the grain. (The King James Version says 'corn.') Threshing was not considered difficult work, as it involved the heifer, with all its weight, traversing the fields, its hooves separating corn from cob. The heifer could even eat the yields whenever it felt hungry. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia describes the heifer's life here in Hosea as a "picture of contentment."

Obviously, this life of ease and self-sufficiency is not what God desired for Israel, as He plans to put a yoke upon the heifer. No longer would the animal be used for threshing but for plowing, which was much more difficult work. "Judah would plow" and "Jacob will harrow," or break up the clods of dirt that arose after the plowing. None of God's chosen was exempt from this change in work orders.

Verse 12 provides a reprise from the harsh pronouncements. There is commanding direction in this verse but it has a more encouraging tone than it does one of punishment. "Sow with a view to righteousness. Reap in accordance with kindness," or, as some translations use, "loyalty." Yes, there will be yoking and harder days. But Israel has spent too many days plowing wickedness and reaping injustice, eating the fruit of lies. (vs. 13) Yoking and new planting techniques are required. How does Israel plant for growth? Looking to righteousness and being loyal to the Lord. "Break up your fallow ground." Fallow ground is that which has been unseeded for a year or more. God says to break up the land that has gone dormant, yielding nothing but those poisonous weeds. "Seek the Lord!"  

"The wicked earns deceptive wages,
But he who sows righteousness gets a true reward."
--Proverbs 11:18

I think it's worth noting the phrasing "Sow with a view to righteousness." The Israelites thought themselves righteous, which would be impossible having no active relationship with God the Father. He says that their yoking days must continue, "until He comes to rain righteousness on you." By 'rain', He means to teach, to instruct, to show the way to righteousness. Israel would put on a yoke of oppression and slavery in its captivity to Assyria. But only until such a time that God finished the teaching work He needed to do. Then, He would provide refreshment for their souls.

“So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth.”

--Hosea 6:3

The end of the chapter marks the finality of Israel's punishment, with its takeover by Assyria. It is thought that Shalman (vs. 14) is a reference to Shalmaneser V, the king of Assyria at that time. I was excited to have come across 'Beth-arbel', in that I knew what half the Hebrew meant. 'Beth' means "house of," as in Bethel meaning "house of God" (Beth-El). So Beth-arbel must have meant "house of" something. It turns out to mean "house of God's ambush." Reading the rest of verse 14 fills out the details of the kind of king Shalmaneser was. I've mentioned this before, but remember again, that God brought the king of Assyria under His control. The takeover and exile to come were His doing.

"Thus it will be done to you...." (vs. 15)

Indeed, consultation of II Kings explains how Israel's king Hoshea would be "completely cut off" and the nation of Israel yoked to break up its fallow spiritual ground in captivity.

"Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against him, and Hoshea became his servant and paid him tribute. But the king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea, who had sent messengers to So king of Egypt and had offered no tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year; so the king of Assyria shut him up and bound him in prison. Then the king of Assyria invaded the whole land and went up to Samaria and besieged it three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and carried Israel away into exile to Assyria, and settled them in Halah and Habor, on the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes."
--II Kings 17: 3-6

Chapter 11--"God Yearns over His People." I don't know about you, but I'm ready to read about His grace and mercy.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 11: 1-7

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).