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Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Jonah’s Journal: Trials and Triumphs of a Prickly Prophet, Part 1

November 27, 2012 Leave a comment

We all know Jonah was a grouchy man of God. Specifically, a prickly prophet. Ever wonder what it was like for Jonah as he became the first person in history to ride in an organic submarine? I do.

Day One: Supplies are–well, there are no supplies. Morale is not only low, but it’s far below sea level (as I am right now). I can’t see, and it stinks so much in here I can barely breathe. I suspect God is supernaturally allowing me to stay alive even though technically I’m not breathing enough to live.

Where am I? Here’s the short story.

God told me to preach to the Ninevites. Yeah, those people. We Israelites hate them. Who wants to see the Ninevites in paradise? Not I! That’s why when God told me, I chose instead to disappear. Surely, He had to be kidding.

He wasn’t. I got on a boat to go elsewhere and immediately a storm struck the ship. I knew what it was about and after the sailors tossed all their cargo overseas, I explained they should toss me overboard instead.

They yelled in some strange language, and I suspect they were saying, “WONDERFUL, Israelite! Telling us to throw you overboard would’ve been useful information before throwing OUR cargo overboard!”

Into the water I went and then almost immediately a huge fish swallowed me.

Getting eaten by a fish is a terrifying experience. At first, I thought it was getting revenge on me for all its relatives I ate out of the Great Sea*. But then I remembered, gee, I disobeyed God and didn’t preach to the Ninevites. Maybe that’s why this is happening.

Well, it’s very dark in here. It smells like vomit. There are a few other fish flopping around in here. I’m hungry but…eating them, blech.

And so I lay down here, getting sick and nauseous as the fish swims deeper and deeper into the ocean…and up again…and down again. Icy cold water floods in as the fish eats more and more fish.

Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad to go to Ninevah after all…

*What the Ancient Israelites called the Mediterranean Sea.

Post comments here or e-mail richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

12-8-10 devotions: Amos 7-9, Acts 24-25, Psalm 38, Proverbs 22

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Today, I did my reading after going on a 3.6-mile walk. I really think I’d like to have it where I get up early and the very first thing I do is Bible reading. With the amount I do, I figure half an hour is enough time to get everything read and to read comprehensively. Perhaps the reading could be studied again later in the day. Or perhaps it could be Old and New Testament passages in the morning and Psalms and Proverbs at night. All I know is there really is no one-size-fits-all approach.

I doubt I’ll blog about my Bible reading every day and will save those postings for what is truly beneficial to others.

With that, here is what I read today.

Amos 7-9: Because it has been years since I’ve read Amos, I will not really even start to truly understand it on the first time through. Amos, a sheepherder and a tender of sycamore trees, was called to be a prophet. Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, complained to the Israelite king Jeroboam about Amos, and apparently the king ordered exiled him to Judah because he didn’t like the message. Amos’ response was he was only relaying God’s message and that Israel faced desolate times for its disobedience.

Bad things in store for Israel at that time because of its idolatry and sin. God does promise forgiveness and restoration if the nation returns to Him. But if not, they will wander, be desolate and will be thirsty and have no relief.

Acts 24-25: Paul is accused of defiling the temple and causing many problems. He stands his ground, says the charges cannot be proven and, being a Roman, wants to appeal before Caesar. He also spends his time witnessing. This passage is a good example of how Christians don’t have to be passive all the time and just take abuse. They can, in a righteous, dignified way, stand up for their rights. Paul realized he could be executed, I believe. Apparently, the Roman law regarding this was far fairer and just than the Jewish law.

Psalm 38: This Psalm David talks about sin, healing from it and how sin can make you physically ill. I know in Psalm 51 David confesses his sin with Bathsheba.

When David writes in verses 4-5: “For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds are foul and festering because of my foolishness.”, it reminds me of the reverend in The Scarlet Letter and how his private sin goaded his conscience continually.

If a person ever were to want to read what sin does to a person and what true repentance is, this would be an excellent Psalm to examine.

Proverbs 22: We in western society have a skewed idea of wealth. Many think of wealth as lots of money in the bank, excellent investments, a nice house, a nice car, a few vacation homes and the ability to travel whenever and wherever.

God tells us that it’s more important to have a good name than great riches; if you have lie, cheat, steal and be a cut throat to be rich, ultimately it is not worth it. God created all people, both those who are rich and those who are poor, and all are accountable to Him.

Wow, this chapter is chock full of great stuff:

…A wise (prudent) man sees evil ahead and avoids it…

…Train up (establish lifelong habits for) a child the way they shall go, and when they become adults they will be the right type of person…

…A person who gets into sin (whether by mistake or willingly) will reap heartache.

…Walking with the Lord helps you develop knowledge, but those who do not will be “overthrown” by God…

…A lazy man is so content being lazy that he will make excuses not to go out and get things done…

…God abhors men who are fooled by the words of an immoral woman…

…For those blessed with money, God expects them to be good stewards and, in my understanding, help out those in need before further fattening their accounts or indulging in excessive wants…

…Listen to the wise and apply godly knowledge…

…Getting into a personal relationship with an angry person opens you to learning their ways and troubling your own soul…

…Be responsible in your financial dealings. If you say you will pay a bill, pay it…

…Do not be quick to be arrogant and tear down the traditional ways your family has done things. Be very cautious…

…A man who “excels” in his work will be respected and will be sought out by important people…

Richard Zowie is going through the Bible in his Richard’s Two Shekels blog when not commenting on Christian issues or blogging about his Christian walk. He hopes by the end of 2010 to complete his first visit in years with all the Minor Prophets. Post comments here or drop a line to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Dec 6-7: Amos 1-6, Acts 20-23, Psalm 36-37, Proverbs 20-21

December 7, 2010 Leave a comment

On December 6, I did my devotions around 5 a.m. due to having to get up extra early. Surprisingly, it was easy to stay awake and read. I had wanted to re-read the passages in the evening, but I grew too tired and went to bed.

On December 7, I did my devotions after walking nearly three miles on a cold, crisp day (wearing shorts, something I don’t recommend).

I am trying to further summarize my devotions readings as to not bore my readers, since, again, nobody wants to read an exegesis. But I’ll do my best:

Amos 1-6: Reading this book makes me think Amos was just as exasperated at the Israelites as Joel was. You know it’s bad when a prophet tells you not bother making sacrifices to try to make things right: repent and turn from your wicked ways instead. God even tells them He is so disgusted that making music to Him will accomplish nothing. Perhaps it is comparable to a person cheating on their spouse and thinking a box of chocolates or a thoughtful gift will make all the pain go away and will fix things.

We find Israel is guilty of moral and ethical corruption. Israel has thwarted God’s efforts to get its attention through plagues, droughts and failed military campaigns, and in today’s reading it is suggested God will allow the Israelites to go into exile and once again serve another nation. That nation, eventually, would be Babylon.

Acts 20-23: Paul preaches and gives his testimony of how he came to Christ. The way it is worded, with God talking about how Paul was chosen to meet Jesus the way he did, I’m sure there are Calvinists out there who will say this proves God called Paul to Him and that Paul, overcome by irresistible grace, succombed. I wonder if they know how many wonderful, spiritual, ethical people I’ve met in my life who will probably not be in heaven someday because they are convinced there are many paths to God or that their works will save them or that there is nothing beyond this life. Sadly, some of the most condescending dirtbags I have ever met have been Christians. Sorry, but the notion that God programs people to accept Him or reject Him is a perversion of the Gospel. God does not want robots. He wants people who genuinely desire a personal relationship with Him.

That being said, Paul escapes a beating by reminding the authorities that he is a Roman citizen. He points out he was born a Roman citizen and did not buy his citizenship.

I suspect a showdown is coming…

Psalm 36-37 and Proverbs 20-21: Lots of encouragement from reading the Psalms and Proverbs. The importance of living righteously, using wisdom and knowledge and how if you keep your eyes on God and maintain an intimate relationship with Him, He will guide you through life. How foolish indeed it is to trust solely in yourself or in your bank account!

When I was in Monterey, California, in the military, I attended Monterey Bay Baptist Church (now Central Coast Baptist Church). Pastor Rick Flanders, who has since gone home to be with the Lord, told of witnessing near Pebble Beach, a very affluent area of northern California. He asked a man who had a beautiful home, RV and other expensive toys: “If you died today, are you 100% sure you would go to heaven?” To which the man replied, “I feel like I’m already in heaven!”

Also, David tells us to cease from anger and wrath and that worrying only causes harm.

Some people are warriors, but I certainly have been a worrier.

Richard Zowie is a Christian writer who believes it is his responsibility to use his talents for God’s glory. Hence, this Richard’s Two Shekels blog. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

12-5 Bible reading: Joel, Psalms 35, Proverbs 19, Acts 18-19

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

I got off to a late start with this Bible reading, unfortunately. Saturday was pretty stressful in the Zowie household due to our van breaking down. My wife and I were both very frustrated because we’ve had it in twice at one shop and now there are problems again that sound like they have something to with what we thought had already been repaired. We’re supposed to find out today what the problem was, and I pray it’s not too expensive.

So, I went to bed around 11:30 p.m. on Saturday and didn’t wake up until 8:30 a.m. on Sunday. It was one of those fun slumbers where nine hours felt more like five. I had intended to do devotions that morning, but time ran short as my sons and I had to get ready for church (which included getting rides to and from church).

So, that night when my work was finally done for the newspaper, I was able to sit down and read God’s Word.

Joel: On recent broadcasts of Insight For Living (one of my favorite Bible-teaching programs), Dr. Charles Swindoll has been talking about Joel. This is a book I have not read since probably around the time of college when I was making it a point to read the Bible through each year. I read some of the commentary in my Bible about Joel and then read all three chapters. It’s a story about the horrible desolation that will soon come upon Israel if it continues its path of disobedience against the Lord. Very poetic in the way it expresses how devastating it will be, and how its enemies will tear through its lands the way locusts tear through a crop. The book also ends with how things would return to normal if Israel repents and returns to God.

Joel 2:13 says this: “So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.”

And, of course, for Israel’s enemies, they will be dealt with. God, of course, allows Israel’s enemies to work in ways to get the nation’s attention if they stray off His path, but when Israel is serving Him, it is a different story.

Psalm 35: This passage was a huge blessing for me as I deal with lots of frustrating issues in my personal life. You get to a point where you have to put things in God’s Hands and move on. I was encouraged and was reminded that for Christians living for God, they have nothing to worry about from their enemies.

Proverbs 19: Proverbs in each chapter is laden with wisdom, and this one is no exception. I was reminded again the importance of being wise, careful and living for the Lord. I also was convicted about making sure I am doing my job as a father (something I was far too lackadaisical on for too long).

My two favorite passages in this chapter:

Verse 8: “He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will find good.”

And verse 11: “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.”

Acts 18-19: At Corinth, Paul continued preaching the Gospel and came across some who rejected his words. He told them their blood would be on their own heads. You know: while you can preach the Gospel and present it on a clear level, it is still the individual’s responsibility whether or not to accept it. If they reject it, that is their choice.

After receiving a vision from God that he would not be harmed, Paul remained there for a year and a half teaching and preaching. Paul then returned to Antioch and apparently got his hair cut after having taken a Nazarite vow. Anyone know why he took this vow?

Then in the next chapter, Paul teaches about what baptism does, heals the sick.

Some Jewish exorcists then try unsuccessfully to cast out a demon, whose words show the type of reputation Paul has. The demon says to them in verse 15: “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”

Many come to Christ and burn their books on magic, books that totaled 50,000 pieces of silver (I’m no economist, so I have no idea what that equals in today’s money).

No, I’m not a proponent of book burning, but this is a basic principle of the Christian life: if there is something in your life that is hindering your walk with God, get rid of it.

Paul then encountered problems in Ephesus, notably from a silversmith named Demetrius who apparently thought Paul’s call to repent from idol worship and serve the true God would kill his own business of making and selilng silver shrines of Diana. Despite the discord in the city, God was in control.

Richard Zowie is a Christian writer who laments the years wasted by having a Bible that collected dust on a shelf. His goal is, once he completes his long-put off Bible reading plan sometime in the spring or early summer, to read the Bible through again before the end of 2011. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

12-4-10 devotions: Hosea 11-14, Acts 17, Psalm 34, Proverbs 18

December 4, 2010 1 comment

I read these passages of Scripture this morning–all of them. This is a habit I would like to make a regular one.

Because I am limited on my portable Bibles, I read Acts, Psalms and Proverbs out of a Gideon pocket King James Bible and Hosea out of a slim line New American Standard. As I told my wife last night, I’m not the most comfortable with the NASB and, as far as modern versions go, find that I prefer the New King James. I am still looking at the English Standard Version but am undecided on it. (If you’d like to know more about my current stand on Bible versions and the King James Only debate, click here for a previous blog posting on the topic).

Hosea 11-14: I did not intend to finish the Book of Hosea today, but chapter 14 was so short I decided to go ahead and do so. This passage talks about God’s incredible, undying love for Israel and how He continues to love this nation even to this day. I think it’s obvious that God’s correction is based on heartache rather than anger. Yes, God is angry, but that is not the dominant feeling He has when dealing with His People.

I like 11:8: “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboiim? My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred.”

Later, God reminds Israel how He has been there for the nation from the early days of Jacob to the delivery from Egypt and through other times where He has blessed His nation continually. It is reminder to us as Christians to not waste each day with frivolous activities but instead to set time aside to read God’s Word, pray, worship and serve Him.

It brings a sorrowful thought to my mind: Dear God, I am so sorry You had to shake up my life and allow heartache to come in for me to truly grasp this. May You find me five years from now still diligently reading and meditating on Your Word.Hosea closes out his book in the fourteenth chapter with a message of hope as Israel learns reconciliation is possible and what will happen if the nation does repent. Consider verses 4 through 7:

“I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him.

“I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall grow like the lily, and lengthen his roots like Lebanon.

“His branches shall spread; his beauty shall be like an olive tree, and his fragrance like Lebanon.

“Those who dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall be revived like grain, and grow like a vine. Their scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon.”

(As a side note, by wine I think Hosea is referring to actual wine and not the IFB phenomenon of Biblical “wine” that magically turns into non-alcoholic grape juice each time).

Hosea closes this fascinating book with this thought in verse 9: “Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.”

Great words of encouragement if you are a backslider to get your walk back on God’s path. Think it’s too late? If there is any inkling you have that you want to walk with God again, then it’s not too late. Don’t fool yourself, and please don’t let Satan tell you differently.

Acts 17: Paul continues his rabble rousing ways in Thessalonica, city he would later write two letters to.

Naturally, he made lots of enemies. This is par for the course if you are a Christian; if you are a Christian and everybody likes you, that’s usually a sign that you are doing something wrong. Everybody should respect you if you are walking with God, but not everybody will like you.

Paul and Silas left in the middle of the night to Berea, with similar results. They then went to Athens and encountered a reaction of strangeness. It was also here that Paul found an altar with the inscription “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD”.

It makes me wonder if Athens was such the city at the time that was starving for some type of relationship with a divine being that they established that altar. Or maybe it was their way to trying to blindly reach out to what they perceived to be a true god somewhere out there. Either way, Paul declared that God was this “Unknown God”.

Some believed, others didn’t.

Psalm 34: A great sense of relief and anxiety must have been on David’s mind as he wrote this Psalm. My Bible notes say he wrote this after leaving the presence of Abimelech, which he was successfully able to do by pretending to be crazy (David even worked up frothy spittle and let it get into his beard). Reading over this Psalm, you can almost imagine David crying happy tears as he wrote the words.

He writes in verse four and then six: “I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears…This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.”

This is a very encouraging Psalm that encourages us to experience God and see that He is indeed good.

David also reminds us in verses 17-18: “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.

“The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.”

Proverbs 18: I have read about half the Proverbs on my list of completing my Bible reading. This is one of those books, like Psalms, where you shouldn’t only visit it once a year but should read one Proverb each day.

That being said…

This Proverb has been described as a contrast between the upright and the wicked. The first verse really, really spoke to me:

“A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment.”

That really describes the person I was when I went long dry spells without reading God’s Word, without being in church regularly. When you don’t read the Bible, you lose your way and start doing things and even saying things you’d never dream of doing if you are a Christian walking with God daily. You know what’s right to do, but in your backslidden state you work overtime to rationalize your sins.

Make no mistake: sin is sin. We may try to tell ourselves there is a justifiable reason for sinful choices we make, but at the end of our lives we will have to give an account to God for those stupid choices and will finally realize what a waste we made of our spiritual lives.

Verse nine tells us that whoever is slothful in their work is a close relative of him “who is a great destroyer”. It really is convicting and an encouragement to me to live my life where I am being productive and where my times of recreation are needed breaks rather than something that overpowers my own day.

And in my own marriage (which most likely will end in divorce), verse 13 is particularly haunting: “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.”

If you have a spouse who has something to discuss with you, LISTEN to them. Don’t be so quick to dismiss their concerns, worries or complaints as unimportant. To ignore them is to drive a wedge that could eventually be fatal to a marriage.

There are also other gold and platinum nuggets in this chapter, such as verse 14 telling us that while man’s spirit can sustain him (or her) in sickness, a broken spirit is a different story that requires the services of the Great Physician. Or, how about verse 15 telling us that the heart of the prudent acquires knowledge.

Interestingly, verse 17 encourages us to be very discerning with what people say: “The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him.” Perhaps a neighbor (or someone who knows the story very well) knows far more about it than others realize.

And verse 19 is a reminder for us to be careful in our conversation and to behave ourselves wisely:

“A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle.”

Once you’ve offended someone, it is very difficult to win back their respect or trust. If ever.

I am also curious about verse 24, which tells us: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Who might that friend be? Is this a best friend? Perhaps it is referring to God? Anyone care to guess?

Richard Zowie does not claim to be a Bible scholar: he graduated from Pensacola Christian College in 1995 with a bachelor of arts in history and earned an associates degree in 1998 from Defense Language Institute’s Russian Basic Course. He hopes someday to earn an English degree and, if the Lord opens the door, to obtain more formal Bible training. He currently is going through the Bible in his Richard’s Two Shekels blog when not commenting on Christian issues or blogging about his Christian walk. He hopes in the coming months to complete his first visit with all the Minor Prophets. Post comments here or drop a line to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com. 

 

12-3-10 devotions: Hosea 8-10, Acts 16, Psalm 33

December 4, 2010 Leave a comment

I did my Bible reading Friday night after my work was done for the day, and I was upset with myself. Devotions should really be done in the morning–or at least begun in the morning.

In my current path, I think what I will try to do is read the Old and New Testament in the morning and at night, read from the Psalms and Proverbs. Or perhaps it is best to read it all in the morning and to take a closer look at each passage at night; each delve into Psalms and Proverbs provides encouragement to take on the day.

What works best for you, Dear Reader?

I knew of one man who was serving at the Roloff Homes and spoke at my then-home church, Beeville Baptist Church, to speak. He told of how he was reading the Bible through in a month.

Wow! I thought. That is a LOT of reading.

Sometime I may try that just to see if I can accomplish it, but I’m leery because with my short attention span, it would be a classic case of quantity over quality. At least three times in my life I’ve read over Old Testament books like Ezekiel, Amos, Obadiah, the other Minor Prophets along with tiny New Testament books like 1, 2 and 3 John and can barely–if at all–tell you what they were about. In fact, if I died today, I’d have to ask God to let me have a crash course on what Obadiah and other books were about since I must presume that, until we are completely perfected in heaven, it is possible still to feel embarrassment in heaven. (Perhaps some young Christian may even go up to David and say, “Yo! David! Was Bathsheba as hot as the Sports Illustrated swimsuit models?!”)

Rabbit trail aside, what I am trying to say is I like the year-long approach to Bible reading much better.

That being said, what I might do is when I finish reading the Bible through (I am almost halfway through with my current plan that, sadly, I have been doing since 2003), I may see if I can read the Word of God through again before the end of 2011. We will see.

That being said…

Hosea 8-10: In these chapters, Hosea continues speaking to the brick wall that is the hardened heart of Israel as he urges the nation to repent and not face the humiliation of God’s correction. I imagine as he returned home for the night, perhaps Gomer even gave him encouragement and insight. “Honey, you won me back through tough love, and that’s what you need to have in your message to Israel–tough love.”

It’s a question I intend to ask Hosea someday. I am so glad now that when I get to heaven I won’t have to say, “Hello, Hosea! I’m ashamed to have to tell you this, but I don’t remember what your book was about!”

Hosea 8:14 says this: “For Israel has forgotten his Maker, and has built temples; Judah also has multiplied fortified cities; but I will send fire upon his cities, and it shall devour his palaces.”

Acts 16: This chapter touches briefly on a subject I intend to blog about in the near future.

Circumcision.

Timothy, a Christian whose Mom was Jewish and whose father was Greek, was not circumcised. He was in the ministry in Lystra and Iconium, and Paul had Tim circumcised. Since his ministry was among Jews (who were and are still circumcised), it was determined Tim could be a more effective missionary if he were circumcised.

Yes, by modern standards it seems silly that ancient man could get so hung up over foreskins, but it’s about how you can best tend to the needs of those you minister to. Having no respect for the culture of a country you work in makes you an ineffective missionary.

That being done, Paul continued to minister and lead people to the Lord, including the very prominent businesswoman Lydia, a merchant of purple in Thyatira.

Also in this chapter, Paul and Silas were famously beaten and imprisoned for exorcising a demon from a girl who told people’s fortunes. Paul saw her anguish and ordered the demon to leave her, which angered her masters since it deprived them of their lucrative income.

So, Paul and Silas were jailed and through their testimony of praising God despite their tough circumstances, the jailer came to know Christ. I wonder what would have happened had they moped, cried and complained? The jail probably was not a very pleasant place to be, and we can hardly imagine the miserable times there as they were beaten.

After leading the jailer and his family to the Lord, Paul then informed the officers of the local legal community that he and Silas were Roman citizens and that it was illegal to beat them without a trial.

Oops!

This was no doubt why tradition says Paul eventually was probably beheaded instead of crucified. It has been said crucifixion was the most severe form of Roman capital punishment: no Roman citizen could be crucified.

Reading about Paul and his trials leads me to one incontrovertible conclusion: I may be dealing with heartaches and craziness in my own life, but compared to Christians in the Middle East, Sri Lanka, China and other places, I practically live in Beverly Hills.

Psalm 33: As I read through the thirty-third Psalm, I wonder if it has been made into a song. I imagine David in heaven in a recording studio with musical instruments we cannot even begin to imagine, instruments that play melodies well beyond the limits of finite human sound.

In short, it is a Psalm encouraging musicians to use their talents to praise God.

Verse four tells us: “For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is done in truth. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.”

This Psalm also speaks of God’s work during Creation (before man ruined things) and how God is in ultimate control over the affairs of man. It speaks of how God works in every human individually, placing things in their hearts that He hopes will bring them to Him.

Verses 18-22: “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy,

“To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.

“Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield.

“For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name.

“Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, just as we hope in You.”

Richard Zowie is going through the Bible in his Richard’s Two Shekels blog when not commenting on Christian issues or blogging about his Christian walk. He hopes in the coming months to complete his first visit with all the Minor Prophets. Post comments here or drop a line to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

 

Hosea 5-7: God’s severity and Israel’s unfaithfulness

December 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Reading through Hosea for the first time in many years has reminded me of something: I will probably better grasp this book the next few times I read through it as I re-commit myself to reading the Bible through every year.

I had been reading one chapter of Hosea at a time and while there is the quality issue, I also want to make sure I’m pushing myself to read more.

This book, which follows Daniel in the English version of the Old Testament, was written a few centuries before. It was God’s admonishment to Israel to turn around before He had to take drastic measures. He tells them through His prophet the type of punishment they will face and what they have done to merit the punishment. We know from 2 Chronicles and from Jeremiah that Israel faced the humiliation of exile in Babylon.

God wants nothing more than to have an intimate relationship with us, a “romance”, and each time Israel forsook Him and worshiped false gods and broke His commands, it broke his heart.

For God to go back and forth like this as a patient husband with an unfaithful wife tells me God loves this tiny nation more than it will ever know.

It’s heartbreaking to read chapter five, and read Hosea’s words. It’s as if he went around the populations and cried as he declared God’s Word–only to have the people roll their eyes at him (or whatever the ancient custom was to show contempt) and go about their lives. What’s worse is that in verse six, he states that when hard times come and they cry for God, he will ignore them.

Tough love, in other words. It’s the product of ignoring God for too long and only calling out for him when it’s convenient or expedient.

Verse 15 tells how long this punishment will last: “I will return again to My place till they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.”

After warning the Israelites of what’s coming in chapter five, Hosea spends chapter six calling on his people to repent. God is punishing, he tells them, but He can heal and forgive.

In verse six, he tells them something the prophet Samuel centuries prior told King Saul: it is better to obey and seek God’s knowledge than to make burnt offerings. Perhaps it’s better to obey and follow God than to have to make sacrifices and burnt offerings for sins committed.

Then, in chapter seven, Hosea details the sins Israel has committed against God. It’s a lengthy list with very unpleasant comparisons.

In verses 3-7: “They make a king glad with their wickedness, And princes with their lies.

“They are all adulterers. Like an oven heated by a baker— He ceases stirring the fire after kneading the dough, Until it is leavened.

“In the day of our king princes have made him sick, inflamed with wine; He stretched out his hand with scoffers.

“They prepare their heart like an oven, While they lie in wait; Their baker sleeps all night; In the morning it burns like a flaming fire.

“They are all hot, like an oven, And have devoured their judges; All their kings have fallen. None among them calls upon Me.”

There is so much more that could be said, and perhaps I will someday when I re-visit Hosea in a future blog posting. Bottom line: it was not a good time to be a godly Israelite with all the wickedness rampant.

No wonder Hosea and God were heartbroken.

Richard Zowie is going through the Bible in his Richard’s Two Shekels blog when not commenting on Christian issues or blogging about his Christian walk. He hopes in the coming months to complete his first visit with all the Minor Prophets. Post comments here or drop a line to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.