Wednesday, February 29, 2012

brave hearts and a sovereign God

Now these are the chiefs of David's mighty men, who gave him strong support in his kingdom, together with all Israel, to make him king, according to the word of the LORD concerning Israel.
1 Chronicles 11:10

This chapter quickly details David's installation as king over all of Israel. Most of it is a listing of the key leaders in Israel's army. David was a man of war, and most of his advisors and key leaders come from that military experience. The text says something as to the bravery and the exploits of these men.

When I read these accounts, I can see the sweat and blood that earned these guys the name "mighty men". The few war stories that are recounted are the stuff of a testosterone-soaked action movie! Just look at this short list:
> dispatching 300 of the enemy with a spear in one encounter.
> risking lives as an expeditionary team to sneak across enemy lines to bring back to their general a cup of water from his hometown well.
> singlehandedly driving back the enemy when a position has been overrun and the soldier's own platoon has retreated.
> killing a lion in a pit on a snowy day.
> slaying a giant with his own spear.

These men were amazingly brave. Their leaders were the "SEAL Team Six" of their day. And God used their service and valor to protect David so that he could faithfully lead the nation. But if I read this only seeing the elements of a Chuck Norris action flick, I will miss the big picture. Yes, these men were incredibly strong and heroic. But it was God that was moving through them to establish the house of David and to work His plan to bring the Son of David to the world, so that Jesus could be our heroic Savior! And Jesus did the ultimate heroic act: He gave His life for the sins of the world.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Breach of Faith

So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the LORD in that he did not keep the command of the LORD, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance.
1 Chronicles 10:13

Seeing God at work in a world that is miserable
will test resolve and power to believe.
The problem is that God is invisible
and is apprehended by data only souls receive.

When times get hard we can easily forget
that God is there in the leanest days.
We tend to focus on what our own hands get
us. We walk around in a spiritual haze.

Then circumstances force us to big decision
with consequences we did not comprehend.
We may ignore God by our own volition
and disobey Him to gain our own ends.

God's gracious call comes in that sin
to ask us there and then to repent
and turn away from the mess we're in,
return to God, from faithlessness relent.

Pain attends, resistance hurts, judgment in the wake
of stubborn hearts... in selfish pride we bathe.
Hardened by sin, God's justice falls, death at stake...
all because we turned from God, sin gave us, just breach of faith.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The faithlessness of men & the faithfulness of God

So all Israel was recorded in genealogies, and these are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel. And Judah was taken into exile in Babylon because of their breach of faith.
1 Chronicles 9:1

This comment serves as a summary of eight chapters worth of genealogical lists for each of tribe in Israel. And it all leads ups to a disturbing and disastrous moment. Each of the tribes, including those comprising the Southern Kingdom of Judah, ended up being led away into exile. All those hundreds and hundreds of names and it showed ultimately a lack of faith.

But there is one final large list that completes the story in 1 Chronicles 9:3-34. It is a list of exiles who returned specifically to Jerusalem. This is testament to the faithfulness of God whereas the eight chapters preceding it tend to point to the faithlessness of people.

So I scan through these lists and they make me keenly aware that each name was a human life filled with all the kinds of thoughts, actions, and activities that fill my days... just in a different time, language, and culture. And each life was a unique creation by God for His glory. The cumulative effect of all these lives was meant to exult the worship of Yahweh in Israel. When they failed to do so, He displayed His power through discipline, then deliverance. That is a mosaic of God's master plan masterpiece. And you only see it by reading these genealogies and looking at the thin little purpose statements like this one that punctuate the story.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

on genealogies

Abraham fathered Isaac. The sons of Isaac: Esau and Israel.
1 Chronicles 1:34

OK. I admit it. I feel like I will be slogging through the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles over the next couple of weeks. I am not anticipating it with joy. The genealogies are tedious. I feel like I will be slowly trudging my way through a swamp, nearly drowning in the thick mud of unpronounceable names.

I do not live in a culture that respects the concepts of ancestry and background. We live too much in the moment. And one reason why it will be good to discipline myself to do this is because it forces me to see a perspective on humanity that God has. It is a view that sees Him weaving the story of redemption by Christ into the fabric of human history. And each individual thread in that tapestry is comprised of a human life. The book of 1 Chronicles opens with a view like this for a reason. The Jews were concerned with this history of lives. They are a pedigreed people. It showed to them the uniqueness of their nation in the plan of God for the world. It brought out the sovereign work of God. Each of these lives (full stories in themselves) were part of a providential plotline in the biggest story of them all. So taking in these details is very important.

With that in mind, I will keep this big picture concept in mind as I work through the genealogical data. I will look for the hand of God at work in these generations. And I will do my best to celebrate His sovereign purposes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

flourishing again

They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine; their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
Hosea 14:7

Despite all the pain of exile and the punishing curses of the covenant, God would again restore His people. He would gently draw them back to Himself. At the end of the book of Hosea God promises specific restoration upon the nation's repentance.

The process looks like this:
1) Hosea first pleads with the nation to return to the Lord. (Hosea 14:1)
2) A prayer of commitment and repentance is offered on behalf of the nation. (Hosea 14:2-3)
3) God responds by healing their apostasy. (Hosea 14:4)
4) God loves them freely. (Hosea 14:4)
5) God's anger is turned from them. (Hosea 14:4)
6) God replants them like a lush garden. (Hosea 14:5-6)
7) God promises national prosperity. (Hosea 14:7)
8) God reminds them that He is their source and sustenance. (Hosea 14:8)
9) Hosea ends with a reminder that wise and upright people will walk in God's ways. (Hosea 14:9)

Even though the prophet Hosea contains some of the sternest language of judgment in the scriptures, it also clearly reveals a God of loving relationships. That balance pulls us close to the heart of God. It helps us see Him as He truly is and provides direction for how we follow Him.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

kissing idols

But I am the LORD your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior.
Hosea 13:4

These words were meant to encourage Israel to reconsider the exclusive relationship the nation had with God. He had rescued them out of bondage in Egypt. He had entered into a unique covenant with them. He had been their only God and Savior. They had committed to Him exclusively. This was summarized best in the first of the Ten Commandments: "You shall have no other gods before me."

But the context of this verse makes it clear that they were disobeying that first commandment. They had forgotten God their Savior. They were worshiping Baal. And God's indictment of their evil idolatry is stern: "It is said of them, 'Those who offer human sacrifice kiss calves!'" The ludicrous logic of idolatry angered God and decayed and destroyed lives. Israelites were offering their own children in sacrifice to Baal, even as they kissed their calf idols in false worship. It was a sick spirituality centered on sin.

We really love our idols. And is it any different today? How many lives are destroyed for the idol of selfish pursuit and pleasure? Hedonism and the idol of self dominate Western culture. Families are sacrificed for the sake of personal preference and convenience. Homes are destroyed in the worship of pleasure. People are treated with disdain and disrespect for the sake of scientific progress. People feel a sense of purposelessness without God. Idols still exist. We just kiss a more technologically and scientifically advanced golden calf these days.

Monday, February 20, 2012

love, justice, and waiting on God

"So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God."
Hosea 12:6

God appeals to some of the oldest facets of His covenant with His people in this call to repentance. He appeals to the details of the Abrahamic covenant, specifically as it was repeated in the life of Jacob. This unilateral covenant hinged on God's promise to make of Abraham a great nation. And it was Abraham's grandson, Jacob, who first saw the inkling of God's promise to him. God blessed Jacob with twelve sons... the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel.

When God talked about Jacob (whom God later renamed Israel) He talked to all twelve tribes of Israel. The two kingdoms could not bicker over their differences when centering their thoughts around their shared history in the life of Jacob. They had this common forefather. And this made the call to repentance that followed all the more relevant to the generation that Hosea addressed.

What God reveals about repentance is that He helps sinners return to Him. The call is to accept God's help and to return to close relationship with Him. Two actions result from this kind of repentance. First, repentant Israel would hold fast to the experiences of love and justice as they obeyed God as revealed in His written word. The purpose of the Law was to change hearts so that they demonstrated God's love and justice in the world. The second result does not sound exciting, but it is a crucial step of spiritual growth for all God's people: waiting on the Lord.

Those three ideas (love, justice, and waiting on God) are key elements of Christian living as well. We must love God and love other people. We don't get to make that choice by personal preference, but rather we are commanded to let Christ's love lead us to love all people. We should be moved to see God's justice lead in the way we treat others. Sinful consequences of injustice should make us grieve over sin and compel us to make a difference. Righteous living should lead us to treat others justly. And waiting on the Lord means that sometimes to see justice done we must wait patiently in faith for God's timing and for His sovereign providence to work all things out for His glory and our good as we love Him.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Faithfulness with the faithful

Ephraim has surrounded me with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit, but Judah still walks with God and is faithful to the Holy One.
Hosea 11:12

A remnant remained faithful to God in Judah. The Lord noticed this and made the observation on those faithful to Him. It increases the contrasts at this stage in Hosea's prophecies. God pronounces judgment on the Northern kingdom of Israel. His pronouncements of judgment are tempered with hopes of mercy. He loves His people. He does not want to punish them. He even declares in advance that mercy will come after His wrath to rescue a remnant so that He may show His faithful love even to unfaithful Israel.

Even though Samaria was destroyed by the Assyrians and the Northern tribes were taken away, a remnant was allowed to remain in Israel. They were powerless and few, and they struggled. The Assyrians, as well as other gentile nations, quickly moved into the conquered territory and the ethnic identity of the Hebrews who remained was eroded by mixing with these peoples. Still, the Lord kept His promises and even in Israel a remnant was saved. They may have lied and deceived the Lord, but He was always faithful and true before and after their judgment.

The Lord also notices those who are faithful to Him despite the actions of others around them. His comments about Judah are an assessment He made based on the actions of just a few kings like Josiah and Hezekiah, who were reformers who were faithful to Him. Judah too had tendencies toward sick idolatry. But God was gracious for the sake of those few who did remain faithful. Of course, the day would come when that limited faithfulness by the few would fail, and God would send Babylon in to take away Judean captives into exile. It is encouraging though to know that God is faithful even in administering His discipline. He is faithful so that we may remain faithful.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

sowing and seeking; reaping and raining

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.
Hosea 10:12

The agricultural metaphor in this passage was not lost on its original audience. Their entire society was based on successful farming. Israel was well familiar with the cycle of sowing and reaping. In fact, the nation was obsessed with agricultural cycles, even in their false religion. When they were entice into Baal worship, it was because the appeal of worshiping Baal was that it was meant to ensure field fertility and a non-stop success in the growing and reaping cycles that were so necessary for survival, commerce and national trade. Baal and his female consort, Ashtoreth, were supposed to bless the soils and bring the rains.

Yet Israel had forgotten that this was what God promised to do in the Covenant. If His people worshiped Him and obeyed His laws, they would never cease to have an abundance in their farms, and their nation would be blessed. That is the origin of this call for them to break up the fallow ground and sow righteousness again. It is a call to repentance and recommitment to the Lord. Seeking His face would help them find that righteousness indeed could rain down on them again.

God's heart is to always honor true repentance. He accepts the prayer of confession, repentance, and commitment to Him. In that condition, we can see Him renew our dry and broken lives. He can bring rain to our deserts. He can cause life to bloom in our dusty and dead hearts. His new rain can again satisfy the thirsty soul-soil of a repentant sinner. And that is more than just something to hope for. It is the real experience of anybody who will return to God on God's own terms.

With springtime just around the corner, the change of seasons will bring new growth and new life will spring up. May that picture of God's steadfast love keep my heart focused on the refreshing rain of righteousness that God wants to always water the seeds of obedience in my heart.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

generational consequences

My God will reject them because they have not listened to him; they shall be wanderers among the nations.
Hosea 9:17

This is exactly the fate that the tribe of Ephraim met for their unfaithfulness to God. They rejected the Lord. He rejected them. They were given ample warnings through the ministry of the prophets and yet they continued to practice gross idolatry, sacrificing their own children in worship to false gods. But when God acted in justice, they would know it painfully and in many ways quite personally.

The thing that I notice in this chapter is the generational impact of both sin and consequential suffering. The Ephraimites involved their children in idolatry. At times they even murdered their young children at altars to appease false gods. God was angered by the lengths to which they went in their love for idolatry. They did evil acts and committed to sin at levels of commitment that were evil and that God would never ask of them in worship of Him. God promised to judge in a generational way as well. They were willing to kill their sons and daughters. God would take away entire families when this justice came to Ephraim. Their sin wiped out the lives of future generations. Their judgment would impact those generations too.

Families would be uprooted by the Assyrian army. History shows us that the Assyrians were particularly brutal and tortuous. Israel would be led away (Ephraim among them) to Assyria having watched their own families murdered in wartime atrocities committed gleefully by their captors. There in Assyria they would simply fade away as an ethnic identity, absorbed into a violent and idolatrous culture. The fact is that they still continue to wander among the nations even today. They never got back what they lost.

This generational impact of sin and judgment is fearful. There is no other way to accept it but with fear. It chills me to the bone to know that my sins can affect the spiritual lives of my own children. Consequences can be generational, but the love of Christ can transform the results. The flipside is that the love of God and the life of holy discipleship can leave a positive generational impact. And that is what I am living for today and every day I have on this earth!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Worship Deficit Disorder

For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces, and Judah has multiplied fortified cities; so I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour her strongholds.
Hosea 8:14

We are so easily distracted from the worship of God. The human tendency is to feed an apathy that is kind of like a spiritual ADD. Our attention span lasts as long as a 60 minute Sunday worship service and then we get on with what we want. And these days we demand that hour on Sunday be flashy, polished, well-produced, and each niche in the church be tailored to my own needs and demands. We are forgetting God, even as we go through these motions.

Israel and Judah had the same problem with self-focus. They went through the motions of worship. But Israel did so in Samaria in front of a calf-idol. And Judah went through the same feigned attempts while also participating in all sorts of gross idolatry. They had reduced God down to what they wanted. They would not worship Him as He deserved or as He demanded.

The result was that they put all their efforts into self promotion. It showed up in grand palaces and fortified cities. They were obsessed with themselves and their own perceived accomplishments. There was a problem. All this could be taken away in an instant. And God was going to do just that. He would burn down the cities and strongholds until there was nothing left that could be an object of their selfish pride. He would do whatever it took to get His people focused on a life of worshipping God.

So there is a lesson here in the results of pride and selfish promotion. It involves the uncomfortable realization that God can tear down our idols and our own constructions to get to our hearts. And He will do whatever it takes to recapture us in love, worship, and obedient relationship again. This was not just Israel's problem. Every one of us struggles with our heart's ability to supplant the ruling, loving affection of our God with some sort of selfish agenda. That is why reminding ourselves of God's sovereign rulership through knowing His judgments in the prophets is a good thing. It puts our attention back on God.

Friday, February 10, 2012

my sin as God sees sin

But they do not consider that I remember all their evil. Now their deeds surround them; they are before my face.
Hosea 7:2

We tend to forget that sin is an affront to a holy God. We are bound to have too casual an approach to sin. God, however, never takes a casual approach to what comes between us. Judgment shows us this. The cross convinces us of this. His warning to Israel's leaders was meant to wake up a morally sleeping nation. He reminded them that what they casually dismissed was heaped around them and ever before His face. It would have to be dealt with.

One of the stupidest of human mistakes is the denial of sinfulness. It is graphically apparent. We might as well deny our humanity! We deny sin as real and we dismiss all concepts of God's holiness. It is horribly unaware of the offense that sin truly is. It is a form of whistling in the dark at the true results of our depraved human natures. Modern thinking derides the concept of personal sinfulness and instead ignorantly ascribes the blatant evil to a lack of education, inequities in wealth or social standing, lack of scientific progress, or a psychological instability. Meanwhile sin piles up and decays around us. The stench of it permeates the air until we grow accustomed to it... like urban commuters during a hot summer sanitation workers strike. We just live with the garbage so much that we look beyond it.

If we want to think serious and true thoughts of God, we must take our own sin seriously. That is the first way of responding to who we are and why we need His forgiveness in Christ. It is not that we have to offer some kind of extreme penance. But we must own up to our own sinfulness and see it as damaging to our ability to know God in His perfection. The prayer God hears first, as Jesus Himself taught, is "God, be merciful to me a sinner."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

the effort to know God

Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.
Hosea 6:3

Hosea makes an impassioned appeal to the nations of Israel and Judah to return to the Lord. We can see that one vital goal of the covenant relationship was knowledge of God. The relationship of obedience in the worship of Yahweh was intended to draw the nation close to God. Hosea's appeal is for the people to know the Lord. In that knowledge is renewal, refreshment, and relationship.

There is a way in which the prophet talks about the process of knowing God that is instructive. He urges God's people to "press on" in their knowledge of the Lord. This denotes both determination and effort in the process. Determination is the mental preparation in knowing God. We must want to know Him. Our hearts must seek God. Effort is the work of knowing God. There has to be some energy expended in order to reap the reward.

For me, the energy expended looks like this: I have to be in the Word of God daily. I have to discipline myself to hear from God. Life's troubles and the dissonant voices of the world around me will make demands of my time. But the very best time I have each day is spent in the Bible, in prayer, and in expending the effort to know my God. Why? Because I do what I was most created to do... walk with God. For me, the next step is to journal something that I saw in scripture. That gives me a few thoughts to hold on to for the rest of the day. It gives me something I can share with others. And years of this discipline have given me over 80 books filled with these thoughts. This translates into my hard evidence of God at work on me. At this stage in my life I find it personally irrefutable.

The rewards of "pressing on" in the knowledge of God are worth the work. They do not grant a life of ease. They do give us an adventure worth having and joys that last even in our hardships. And for that reason, I want to remind myself to continue to heed Hosea's call to "press on" to know the Lord.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

wrath like water

The princes of Judah have become like those who move the landmark; upon them I will pour out my wrath like water.
Hosea 5:10

It is not very devotionally motivating to consider God's wrath. It is a tough way to start any day! Why do Christians struggle with the concept of God's wrath, particularly when the bible is so straight forward in its description of it? I think it has to do with the way we normally express anger. We are bound to mix it with sin, just like we do any strong feeling. And we then translate our messed up experience into understanding God's wrath. We miss the reality of exactly what God experiences in wrath.

God is as holy in His wrath as He is in His love. And we must not forget that in the big picture. When God pours out His wrath, He does so balanced with holiness, truth, and justice. He does not "lose it". His wrath is the perfect response against willful sin. It is tempered with patience and kindness. He is longsuffering, but still moves in ways that His holiness demands that He act.

Hell exists as the ultimate expression of punishment against rebellion against God. Hell exists because God's holy wrath exists. And God does not want any person it perish but all to come to repentance. That is why even as Hell exists, so also do the cross and the empty grave. These give us the full picture. On the cross God poured out His wrath against all sin upon His holy Son. And at the resurrection He gave us new life in His Son so that we could escape being the objects of a holy wrath. With Jesus we can stand as sons and daughters of the Father's love.

God never speaks of His wrath without also giving us an understanding of His holiness. He also always follows with an understanding of His mercy. Even in this strong passage, God ends His revelation of wrath with a clear statement that He would be ready and waiting for His people to return and in repentance come back to Him (Hosea 5:15). God is merciful, even in anger and judgment. He pours out His wrath like water, but He also showers His mercy on the repentant sinner.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

moral stupidity leads to ruin

I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore, nor your brides when they commit adultery; for the men themselves go aside with prostitutes and sacrifice with cult prostitutes, and a people without understanding shall come to ruin.
Hosea 4:14

A complete abandonment of all moral standards marked family life in Israel at the time of Hosea's prophecies. God had seen enough. The Israeli society was in complete sexual and moral breakdown. And the entire nation seemed bent on what would become its own destruction. The language God uses to describe His response to this immorality is strong. The results of this sexual free-for-all were catastrophic.

First, it is apparent that all people, men and women, young people and old people, were engaging in this behavior. It had become a social phenomenon. There was a cycle. Women were giving themselves over to prostitution (no doubt much of it forced) and to adultery. The first motive was material gain. The second was personal pleasure and an attempt at significance and satisfaction. But it was the men who were ultimately creating the demand for the sexual marketplace. And that is the group God sights in on with His strongest displeasure. Men were encouraging both sensuality and religious prostitution by their sinful preoccupations. They were pursuing all out sexual addiction literally with a religious fervor. God says two things about this moral breakdown: 1) it displayed an unfathomable degree of moral stupidity and 2) it was ruinous to everyone.

My world is equally stupid these days. We are immoral morons. Last weekend saw the largest interstate trafficking in prostitution of any weekend in America this year. Why? What sparked this grand tradition? The Superbowl attracts sexual prostitution. Indianapolis police and the FBI knew this in advance. Every city that hosts the Big Game is briefed on the issue months beforehand. This societal blight is driven by the worship of personal pleasure at the expense of people created for God's glory. How many of America's daughters were brought to degrading lows this last week? How many marriages were dishonored and destroyed? God only knows. But it is moral stupidity and it is ruinous to generations.

At any moment millions of people worldwide are driving the demand for internet pornography... electronic prostitution of the worst kind. Women and young children are being degraded constantly to feed the demand of this demonic stinking dragon. And it seems unstoppable because of the ruin it brings. I know because I have at least one conversation each week with married couples or single guys whose souls and relationships are festering in this foul garbage. People without God's sexual understanding come to ruin.

Monday, February 6, 2012

welcomed with open arms

Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days.
Hosea 3:5

God holds out hope for His rebellious and unfaithful people. Hosea's own life again is the object lesson God uses to illustrate this reality. Once more Hosea retrieves his wife Gomer from the arms of another lover. And in this action he anticipates the covenant love of God for Israel. God would go after his people again as well.

The prophetic voice in Hosea sounds out on the implications of this kind of love. And it would receive a broken and repentant nation. God says that in "the latter days" the entire nation of Israel (both the Northern and Southern kingdoms) would return to seek Him. They would reunite with Him and with one another under the rule of the Davidic dynasty again. They will come to fear the LORD and receive His goodness as a nation. All of this would be as described because God would honor His covenant with His people.

I thank You that You always have ears that hear the prayer from the lips of a repentant sinner. Your great love redeems and restores. Your heart longs to see lives rejoicing in You in Your kingdom. I know that now I trust this by faith. Yet one day my soul shall see it and know it much deeper. In the story of Israel I see your faithful love. And for that I am confident to trust all future events to your loving leading.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

God loves me better than I love Him

And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.
Hosea 2:19-20

God is full of mercy and compassion. That is the character seen in this chapter. God is not happy with Israel and Judah. His people have strayed from loving Him. They have gone after an idolatrous lifestyle. Love for their idols fills their hearts. He rightfully compares them to prostitutes and unfaithful spouses. They have forgotten that they have been blessed through the covenant, and not their outside "lovers". They have assumed that their idolatry had given them everything they had.

God has a harsh and simple remedy meant to recapture the attention and affection of His people. He would strip away all that was familiar to them. They would lose it all. They would be reduced to having nothing. They would be removed from the sources of their unfaithfulness and forced into a position where they could evaluate their hearts before God. And in that lowest of pains they would again see what they had forgotten. They would be ready to be restored. They would repent and return to their first love.

When God's people were back to that point again, then God would restore his bountiful love and blessing. He would hold them close and dear. He would reinstate intimate covenant blessings. He would shower them in righteousness and justice as they again committed in a covenantal relationship with God. He would graciously deal with Israel in a faithful love and a tender mercy. God's faithfulness would be their joy even as they had returned from being unfaithful. And they would be blessed with the knowledge of God... the greatest joy and gift of relationship with the LORD.

God is faithful even when we are not. He will bring His justice and refining work to bear so that we will return to Him. He will always welcome repentance and respond to it with love and faithfulness. I am thankful that God will always love me better than I love Him!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

judgment & mercy

Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, "You are not my people," it shall be said to them, "Children of the living God."
Hosea 1:10

When God enacts the curses of the covenant against the unfaithfulness of His people, He does so with a balance of judgment and mercy. The language here invokes the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant against the dark prospects of judgment impending from the failure to keep the Mosaic Covenant. Even as God warns Israel and Judah through the ministry of His prophet Hosea, He also confirms that a deep covenantal commitment underlies even His acts of judgment. God would not forget His covenant with Abraham.

What is interesting here is that really two covenants are in discussion. The immediate judgment would come as a result of Israel's disobedience to the covenant the nation made with God at Sinai. They had failed at every level to obey and keep the statutes of the Law. The foundational call to worship on the LORD their God was the key command broken. God's people were wantonly unfaithful to Him, following after idolatry with a passion. This was why judgment was coming.

But that judgment would be tempered with mercy. God had not forgotten an earlier covenant with Abraham. And because God would be true to His Word, the children of Abraham would endure past judgment to again fill the Promised Land. That is why God would work to restore a people that He had judged. He would not abandon His Word given to Abraham.

I see here a vivid reminder of the faithfulness of God. Yes, He is faithful to His people. But human beings are not the basis of His faithfulness. Because God is holy and true, He is faithful and consistent to Himself. He has to be. There is nothing else holy and true. Ultimately, the covenant with Abraham required a self-consistency for the glory of God. It led Him to brink back the Jews from captivity and to reinstate blessing so that Abraham's offspring could again enjoy covenant blessings as "children of the Living God". I am thankful that God is always true and faithful, even when I fail Him. In His mercy and love, He will always be true to Himself. And that is where His grace extends to me. It isn't about me. It is all about God. I need to keep that in front of me!