Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Call to Righteousness and the Book of Hosea

 

Last week I shared my study notes from the book of Hosea. I set my post with it's 3 points to TRUE repentance and the importance of it being from the heart and then I realized; I left out the rest of the story.

TRUE repentance from.the.heart. is what resonated with me from the book of Hosea. Yet, as we step out of the middle of the book and God's call through Hosea to this True repentance, we see this halting declaration repeated:

Were I to write for him my laws by the ten thousands, 
they would be regarded as a strange thing.

For Israel has forgotten his Maker...

I almost feel God's pain as he laments, almost seeming shocked (except He is God, He knows all) that the very people he carried out of despair when He went before them in Egypt have somehow forgotten Him and his Law.

I also see an Israel who reluctantly, to appease... someone... lifts up some sort of semblance of worship, but it isn't heartfelt.  And God calls them out.  He called them out in the true repentance section of this book and he calls them out as he discusses the consequences for their actions in the rest of the story:

Their heart is false;
now they must bear their guilt.
The Lord will break down their alters
and destroy their pillars.

Ephraim feeds on the wind and pursues the east wind all day long'
they multiply falsehood and violence;

They aren't just blowing off God... they are MULTIPLYING their misdeeds.  Yet, what really took me back... this symbol of God's amazing mercy and love, was in chapter 11:

I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.

I must admit to being confused when I first read this.  First he is saying he is going to punish Israel, then he says... he isn't?  Then I discovered his punishments weren't meant to be mean or spiteful.  What God was saying here through Hosea was to help the people of the time realize: they had punishment coming and God, being a just God, was going to have to deal that punishment out not through anger, but through love and concern.  The ole saying in the midst of disciplinary measures from when I was growing up comes to mind: this hurts me more than it hurts you.  God's discipline is the consequence which results from their actions and God doesn't want to have to do what he is about to do... but if he doesn't... then he isn't being a good father.

How hard, as a parent, is it to punish your children harshly?  I know when my children were younger and required discipline, it was difficult.  I hated to see them cry.  I hated to be the bearer of bad news.  But I had to or they would never fully understand and accept that bad behavior is NOT OK.  My discipline, while difficult for them (and me) at the time, actually made them better in the end.

So, in the midst of the rest of this story, not only do we see mercy, but we see God encouraging the people to hope:

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.

And He tells the believers exactly HOW:

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

These passages can speak to us today.  Not just as a way-ward nation or a struggling church... but as individuals as well.  I shared a Francis Chan video on my Facebook page Friday and I added a note, a stark realization in recent years of roller coaster rides with churches and the people of the church:  there is no such thing as marginal Christianity.  You are either in... or your not.  We aren't suppose to blend the world with our beliefs, creating a God that suits or needs/desires/lifestyle... we are suppose to come to the foot of the cross, seeking Christ and walking through this world with him at our core and all around guiding us; we should be standing out like a sore thumb.

My heart aches at the lack of true repentance in our churches today.  A week doesn't go by that I don't, literally, shed tears over this diseased dilemma in the church today.  The snide, 'if that's a Christian then....' fill in the blank remarks I hear from anyone and everyone I meet... the numbers of agnostics resulting from bad interactions with Christians is staggering.  We are either too churchy or, we look like the rest of the world so why bother to change?  What if we quit trying to please others, quit trying to look like other 'good' Christians, quit following the flow of people and instead tried more to please God, tried more to look like Christ himself, ignored the flow of people and instead stood on the rock of Christ and His Words in the Bible?

Christ calls us to true repentance and then he beseeches us to stand firm in that faith, not swayed by the masses, and simply love. Loving each other in the body of Christ (in spite of our flaws) and others because this, this true repentance and true love thing, this is how they will know we are His. 

In reflecting on this portion of Hosea, I have some personal self-challenges I want to share with you this week:
Where in my study and prayer time am I not fully giving my heart to God
Where am I not fully rising to the things God has/is calling me to do?
Where am I not walking out my faith to the fullest?
Where can I shine that light of Christ more to others: showing love that others might see Christ through me.

While Hosea seems to mostly be a story aimed at a need for repentance, I believe it is also a guide to remind us how to get back to living with Christ at our core when we may have wandered a bit on the path.

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
    whoever is discerning, let him know them;
for the ways of the Lord are right,
    and the upright walk in them,
    but transgressors stumble in them.


I pray you would join me and search your heart for the hard answers to the questions above.  But more than finding answers, I pray you would begin to immediately implement solutions.

Blessings,









As I read Hosea I also thought of the movie, Amazing Love staring Sean Astin, which intertwines the story of a youth group camping trip and the lesson of God's amazing love through Hosea.  I highly recommend it!

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00968THNS?keywords=amazing%20love&qid=1452974130&ref_=sr_1_2&sr=8-2


Scripture references from BibleGateway.com ESV Bible. Visit Bible Gateway for more resources in Bible Study and spiritual growth.

 

2 comments:

  1. We need to be a people on our knees, walking in true repentance. These times are so challenging. Thank you for sharing your biblical insight at Weekend Whispers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amen! Thank you for visiting and for providing a lovely platform for sharing God's Word.

      Delete