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).