Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Study Break

ust to let you know that we're taking a break from study this week.
Not "the beautiful land" of Scripture. (That's the Sea of Galilee, by the way.)

But enjoying another beautiful place stateside. See you here next week, in July....

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hosea 4: 15-19

15 Though you, Israel, play the harlot, do not let Judah become guilty;
Also do not go to Gilgal, or go up to Beth-aven
And take the oath: “As the LORD lives!”
16 Since Israel is stubborn, like a stubborn heifer,
Can the LORD now pasture them like a lamb in a large field?
17 Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone.
18 Their liquor gone, they play the harlot continually;
Their rulers dearly love shame.
19 The wind wraps them in its wings,
And they will be ashamed because of their sacrifices.

God completes His laying out of the controversy He has with Israel, as Hosea 4 comes to a conclusion. No surprises in our text today. Just a few points of clarification on some place names. Chapter 5 begins the actual "rebuke" of Israel, as my study Bible has labeled it.

Verse 15 not only addresses Israel's own behavior but says that the people are a bad influence on their brothers and sisters in Judah, the Southern Kingdom. We hit place names right away, with Gilgal and Beth-aven. We read about Gilgal in Amos. It was sacred to the Jews--the place where Joshua circumcised Israel after the nation entered into the Promised Land. And, if you remember Gilgal from Amos, you might also remember Bethel, which means "house of God," and was the location where God changed Jacob's name to Israel.

Here in Hosea, there is name changing, too, with Beth-aven referring to "house of wickedness or deceit," according to my study Bible. King Jeroboam established idol worship in these sacred places, and God didn't want any more of this contamination leaching into His people.

“And although they say, ‘As the LORD lives,’ surely they swear falsely.”
--Jeremiah 5:2

I hadn't meant to have a review-of-Amos lesson, but, it is interesting to note how Chapter 4 of Amos begins: "Hear this word, you cows of Bashan...." The cow references continue in Hosea 4, with Israel's being called a "stubborn heifer." (vs 16, see picture above) In both texts, God refers to Israel as a cow. What I didn't understand until reading the study notes in Hosea is that Jeroboam's idol of worship in these places was a calf! I've seen God do this in other places in the Word. There's just something powerfully relational in His choices of words and expressions, even at the height of discipline! It's like He's saying, "Can't you see--I know you. I know what you're doing!"

"And not be like their fathers,
A stubborn and rebellious generation,
A generation that did not prepare its heart
And whose spirit was not faithful to God."
--Psalm 78:8

An alternate translation for "Can the Lord now pasture them like a lamb...." is, "Now the LORD will pasture...." The shepherd keeps the flock together. Remember Jesus' parable of the one sheep that goes astray; the shepherd keeps the rest of the flock together and searches desperately for the missing sheep, so he can return it to the fold. Prone to wandering! For Israel to be released "in a large field" to be by itself was God saying that the people's lack of faithfulness would not be returned this time with protection by the Shepherd.

“So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, to walk in their own devices."
--Psalm 81:12

Verse 17 leads off with "Ephraim" which is one of the 10 tribes of Israel, and, being the largest tribe, was the name most often used to refer to Israel. God says, "Let him alone."

As a mom, I can speak to the effectiveness of natural consequences in discipline. They work better than anything I can come up with (and I would prefer not coming up with anything!). The remainder of the passage sums up Israel's life and times--the drink will be dried up; they are not devoted to their Love; their rulers, their priests, have no respect for true leadership; the people are blown to hither and yon by their sinful desires; and, their sacrifices (to idols, no less) are unholy.

What choice does God have but to rebuke in wrath? And what are the natural consequences of being removed from the protective hemming in of the Lord? I may have used this description before, but I'm reminded of the scene from "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" in which Sam the Snowman first talks about the Abominable Snow Monster. As the wind whips up in a flurry, and the scary music starts, Sam opens up his umbrella to try and keep his ground over the evil. [shudder!] "The wind wraps them up in its wings." (vs 19) There's only One who can tame it.

"For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen."

--Romans 1: 25 (Read more from Romans 1:18-32.)

"The People's Apostasy Rebuked" Chapter 5 begins.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 5: 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).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hosea 4: 11-14

11Harlotry, wine and new wine take away the understanding.
12My people consult their wooden idol, and their diviner’s wand informs them;
For a spirit of harlotry has led them astray,
And they have played the harlot, departing from their God.
13They offer sacrifices on the tops of the mountains
And burn incense on the hills,
Under oak, poplar and terebinth,
Because their shade is pleasant.
Therefore your daughters play the harlot
And your brides commit adultery.
14 I will not punish your daughters when they play the harlot
Or your brides when they commit adultery,
For the men themselves go apart with harlots
And offer sacrifices with temple prostitutes;
So the people without understanding are ruined.

After condemning Israel for her behavior in last week's passage, God explains the problem at hand in this week's passage. Harlotry, wine, idolatry--in other words, worldly indulgences--have robbed Israel of her focus and devotion to God.

Proverbs 20:1 says, "Wine is a mocker." The irresponsible drinking of wine leads one to confusion, lack of clarity and vision, and even to mockery, as in mimicking God and His power through other means or ridiculing God through overt or covert rejection. Who guides the people? Wooden idols and diviner's wands, according to verse 12. "A spirit of whoredoms [idolatry] hath caused them to err," says the King James Version. "To err," looking at the Hebrew in Strong's, meaning "to vacillate, reel or stray. Wander. Stagger. Be seduced. Be out of the way," or, if I might suggest, be out of The Way!

The more literal translation of verse 11 says that Israel's indulgences in worldly things "take away the heart." The people may still believe that they have a connection with God, but in their erring, in their total disregard of Him and His ways, they have "departed," or "departed from under their God." (KJV)

"Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me."
--Psalm 51: 10 and 11

Verse 13 zeroes in on the sacrifices of the people that the Lord detests. Last week, we spoke of the priests' mishandling and mockery of the temple sacrifices. This week, God condemns those who abuse the privilege of the sacrifice. These are not sacrifices following The Law, but sacrifices made to idols, with the additional disgrace of prostitution.

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise."
--Psalm 51:17

Why the emphasis on the trees (terebinth, likely meaning elm tree)? The verse explains what the picture above shows. "Because their shade is pleasant." I think the King James' states the nature of the sin even more clearly: "Because the shadow thereof is good." Do you see as clearly what is done in shadow as what is done in the light? Israel is the one who is blinded in this situation, thinking that God does not see what is done in the shade. Let's tie a few thoughts together with Galatians 6:7: "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap."

"Surely you will be ashamed of the oaks which you have desired,
And you will be embarrassed at the gardens which you have chosen."
--Isaiah 1:29

As today's passage concludes, a note on the use of 'brides' in verses 13 and 14. My study Bible suggests that the word may be more accurately translated as "daughters-in-law." The idea, which connects with God's ultimate conclusion as to consequences, is that there were opportunities within the family to have prevented such sinful behavior. Though all have sinned, God will hold the men--fathers and husbands--more responsible, as they should have led a more Godly example for the women in their midst.

"...For [the fathers and husbands] themselves go aside in order to be alone with women who prostitute themselves for gain, and they sacrifice at the altar with dedicated harlots [who surrender their chastity in honor of the goddess]."
--Verse 14b, Amplified Bible

As a result, the people shall be "ruined." We know from our earlier reading, the end of Chapter 2, specifically, that God's plan is not the ruin of Israel, as in their permanent destruction. Other translations suggest, "thrust down, out or away," with the Hebrew meaning "overthrown or fall." [Strong's] God's people will certainly fall. Captivity is soon to come. A renewed understanding will be born.

"Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge....

Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom."
--Psalm 51: 4 and 6 (emphasis mine)

Sometimes, I forget that David's words came before Hosea's. Shouldn't they have known? Shouldn't we know?

"Since Israel a stubborn heifer...." [(sigh!) Enough said, right?] Chapter 4 concludes.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 4: 15-19

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, June 8, 2011

Hosea 4: 6-10

6My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you from being My priest.
Since you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.

7 The more they multiplied, the more they sinned against Me;
I will change their glory into shame.
8 They feed on the sin of My people
And direct their desire toward their iniquity.
9 And it will be, like people, like priest;
So I will punish them for their ways
And repay them for their deeds.
10They will eat, but not have enough;
They will play the harlot, but not increase,
Because they have stopped giving heed to the LORD.

When God led the Israelites on their exodus to the Promised Land and beyond, He had some very detailed and intentional plans on how His people should carry out their worship of Him. Along with the giving of The Law and the presentation of the daily manna, there are chapters of instruction on the creation of the Ark of the Covenant and the Tent of Meeting, as well as the selection of Aaron and the tribe of Levi (the Levites) to be consecrated as priests--the mediators between the people and God.

"...and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
--Exodus 19:6

I'm sure there are many today who think that trouble within the priesthood is a fairly recent issue, probably, due to the increase in media coverage of such issues. But, the trouble with the priesthood dates back to the time when God put such an establishment into being. Why? Because priests are not God, and they were never meant to be God. Were they expected to uphold righteousness and holiness to the best of their human ability? Absolutely! God certainly had expectations for them, which is why He selected individuals from only one tribe of Israel in which to serve, and placed heavy demands on their training (and severe punishment--as in death--for those who did not fulfill their roles wholeheartedly).

At the time of Hosea, the priests were unrecognizable from the rest of the Israelites.

"My people are being destroyed because they don’t know me. Since you priests refuse to know me, I refuse to recognize you as my priests."
--vs. 6, New Living Translation

Israel, "My priest" or "the priestly nation," as the Amplified Bible puts it, could not possibly continue forward as representative of God in that it appeared as the complete opposite of what God was. "The more they multiplied, the more they sinned against Me." When I see 'multiply', I think many in number. Again, I think the Amplified Bible explains this term more accurately in referring to the increase of Israel's "power and prosperity." The nation was growing stronger and richer, but all under its own effort and without the guidance of God's Word. This was not at all what God wanted for His people. Not the better way! And, since He is always in charge, He would "change their glory into shame."

Have had some fun reading different translations this week [OK, well, maybe not fun. This is really strong Word], especially in regard to verse 8.

"You encourage others to sin, so you can stuff yourselves on their sin offerings."
--vs. 8, Contemporary English Version
"They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity."
--vs. 8, King James' Version

Since the focus of the passage has been on the priests, it makes sense to consider 'sin' as 'sin offering'. Under God's provision, though the priests were allotted a portion of certain offerings in Aaron's day, the priests in Hosea's day were taking way more than seconds! The King James' gets to the point--"they set their heart on their [the people's] iniquity." They were counting on the people's abundantly sinful nature to provide an abundance of offering for themselves.

Our passage concludes with God's plan, then, to punish the priests along with the people. They will be given food, but, unlike the daily manna of old, not enough food to satisfy their hunger. They will seek other "harlots" (vs. 10)--other sources of fulfillment--but they will not "increase," or know prosperity, as we spoke of earlier. They will be in the "not a people" stage, as we reflect back on Gomer's son, Lo-ammi. "...Like people, like priest." (vs. 9). Truly, this is where we find Israel today. From my study Bible:

"Israel temporarily forfeited this privilege [of being a royal priesthood] because of its apostasy [at its most basic level, meaning, to withdraw or stand apart from one's faith] and because its wicked leaders executed the Messiah. At the present time, the church is a royal priesthood united with the royal priest, Jesus Christ. A royal priesthood is not only a priesthood that belongs to and serves the king, but is also a priesthood which exercises rule. This will ultimately be fulfilled in Christ's future kingdom."

A time will come when Israelite and Gentile will stand side by side in the kingdom--each able to claim this verse as its own:

"But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY."
--I Peter 2: 9 & 10

Harlotry and impure sacrifices...Picking up where we leave off today.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 4: 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).