Hosea 9:1-17 – Punishment or Not?

Read Hosea 9:1-17

This is way more than a time-out kind of punishment. God’s fury toward Israel has now unleashed their doom. Do they deserve it? They are worshiping other gods. They are defiling their own traditions.

With the great power of God comes the strength to punish. Israel has had plenty of warning to shape up. Nothing has changed, unless for the worse. God was giving out no more second chances. Do you blame him?

What I took away from this is that I certainly never want to make God mad like this. I want to be obedient and seek his wisdom. I want to stay faithful, even on days when I don’t feel connected. It’s in those times that I need to seek God more fervently, because the world is closing in and clouding the truth.

I can’t even imagine a life where I am not following God and being loved by him. The unfaithfulness of the Israelites has always been something I just couldn’t fully fathom. But how much different is that from our society today? People are far from God. People are worship idols like money and fame. People walk around like little gods. What is it that motivates most people?

“Bible-thumpers” often get a bad wrap, too. Why is that? I often want to apologize for being a Christ follower. Why? Because too many so-called Christians have really muddied the waters with their bigotry, judgment of others and pushiness. I don’t think Jesus would EVER have been like this. He dined with sinners. He sought out the broken. There was no condemnation EVER in his actions. Jesus loved everybody.

We have been given two very important missions here on earth. (I realize I am totally digressing from our text today, but it’s what’s on my heart.) We are called to love God above all things and to love each other. Sounds easy, right? It’s simple but not certainly not easy.

Take a moment to think about who you may have encountered recently that needs a touch from God. How will they receive this message best? Can you help bring that message?

Let’s pray. Lord, forgive me when I am rebellious and try to do things my own way. I never want to be cut off from you like the Israelites were by their own actions. Give me clarity in how you’d like me to proceed today. Bring healing to my body so that I can serve you with my entire self. Fill me anew with your Spirit. You are mighty and powerful and I am in awe of you and all you have done. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hosea 8:1-14 – God’s Fury

Read Hosea 8:1-14

Did today’s reading make you a little uneasy? It did me. God’s fury against his people is raging, and yet the people don’t seem to get it. While they plead in verse 2 for God’s help, redemption and forgiveness are not in the cards for them just yet.

So much evil surrounds the people and they seem to thrive on it. It seems as if God isn’t going to rush to rescue this time. They must wallow in the consequences of their bad choices.

Again, it’s easy for us to read this with a sort of nonchalance thinking their sin is so much worse than ours. Don’t fall into that trap. All sin separates us from God. As far as I know, there is not a hierarchy of sins in God’s eyes.  Sin is our downfall, that which keeps us apart from God’s perfect will for us.

Verse 12 struck a chord with me. Even though I gave them all my laws, they act as if those laws don’t apply to them.” It saddens me to realize we do that same thing. We, as a society at least. Over the years, in one Bible study or another, I have encountered people that want to pick and choose what parts of the Bible “apply” to them. Have you experienced that? Maybe you’ve done it, too.

If we want to act in a certain way, and yet the Bible (God) says no, the tendency is to disregard Scripture. That would be one way of reconciling ourselves to God, just ignore the parts of his Word that we struggle with. No!  Absolutely not! No! We, then, are no better than these Israelites who were challenging God at every turn.

The words of Scripture are alive yesterday, today, and for all time. We have no right to make our own rules to fit our own circumstances. We must fit our lives into the framework God has designed for us. Only then will we achieve true freedom and communion with God.

Why, then, do we struggle? Why do we question God? Think about a time in your life when you wrestled with God and his plan for your life. How did that turn out?

Let’s pray. Lord, you are the ruler of my life. Forgive me when I try to take control. Forgive me when I question your intentions. Thank you for the protection you provide and the unconditional love you give, even when I stumble. I don’t want to be like the stubborn Israelites who insisted on their own way. I know you way for me is so much better. Give me the patience to wait for you to move. I praise your name for it is great. I am humbled that I am your child. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hosea 7:1-16 – Totally Lost

Read Hosea 7:1-16

Despite Hosea’s plea of the last chapter to return to God, the people remain totally lost. The tendency here would be to say: that was then and this is now. But can we really say that? I don’t think so. I think people today are just as lost as they were then. There must be something about human nature that keeps us all lost like this. Selfishness? Arrogance? What is it do you think?

No one cries to God for help, it says in verse 7. How true is that today. I heard not long ago about a Facebook Live that depicted a murder. As it was happening. Do you think anyone reported it? Sad to say there were MANY views (I don’t remember the number now but it was a lot more than any Facebook Live I’ve every done has ever gotten). But nobody reported it. What is wrong with us?

It’s easy to compare ourselves to them and say, “well, I’m not that bad.” Don’t do this. We can get complacent if we rest on our laurels, even for a moment. We need to be warriors for God. Maybe that means we rally in prayer. Maybe that means we head to the front lines and wrestle with people who prefer wicked behavior. But we can’t turn our eyes away!0

One verse that really jumped out at me in this passage was verse 2. It’s a good reminder to know that God is watching us. He sees it all. We cannot hide. We are all sinful, and we are all caught up in something that displeases God in some way. We may not even be aware…but God is. Our unawareness is sinful.  

How many times do I look at my own sinfulness and compare it to others? That isn’t the point.  My sinfulness is mine, and I must claim it, seek forgiveness for it, and be cleansed. Someone else’s sins are just that, someone else’s. How much should I get involved? To the extent that others might need to know the loving, compassionate, forgiving God that I know. That is what is up to me – to let them know the truth, not judge their need for forgiveness.

Take a moment to think about the people you know in your circle of friends and acquaintances. Does anyone stand out as really needing to cleanse their heart? Who do you think of that is lost and apart from God?

Let’s pray. Lord, we are all thinking of someone who is lost and apart from you. Lord shower those persons with your love and mercy. Open their hearts to realize they are missing you. Guide us to those folks with a eagerness to share your message. With open ears may they hear and be found. Lord use us to make an impact on your kingdom. Give us the refreshment we need to be good soldiers and warriors for you. Equip us with what we need and wash our fears away. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hosea 6:1-11 – Repentance

Read Hosea 6:1-11

So much to say here.  Hosea is trying to convince a hard-hearted people to return to the Lord. Enough is enough. No more idols. It’s time to know the Lord. To do that, we must press on. How do we do this? How do we get to know the Lord. Hosea’s people were probably thinking the same thing.

We need to meet God where we are. We might be completely dirty and covered with the grime of sin. That’s okay. We should not hide behind that excuse, as a naughty child hides from a parent after misbehaving, afraid for the spanking or ashamed for the act. We need to press on and meet God now, not wait until we are perfect. We cannot be perfect. We can only be “better” when we become new in Christ and learn to be more like him. We have to get to know God before we can be more like him.

Our relationship with God is the most important relationship we will ever have. Sometimes we find it hard to communicate with someone so mighty and powerful. After all, our God is the creator of the universe. How do we ever begin to get to know him?

I’m sure you’ve met people in your life that are wicked smart and you’re afraid to talk to them that you might say something dumb. I know this first hand. I married the man of my dreams who scared the living daylights out of me at first — how could anything I say be of any relevance to him. But I pressed on. God knew we needed each other. God knows we ALL need him.

So what are some action steps we can take to press on and know God more? It is dependent on us to wait, to listen, and to hear the message he has for us. Don’t allow yourself to get so busy and focused on “doing” that you forget to just “listen.” A good, healthy relationship is one where there is communication going both directions.  

The Lord clearly reveals his heart to the people through Hosea in verse 6. He wants us to show love, not give burnt offerings.  How often do we try to throw money at things rather than get in and get our hands dirty? It’s the easy way out. Giving a burnt offering to get release from sin is what the people of that day understood as the way to go. But here, at least, God is clearly done with that practice. He wants our love instead. He has been shut out of their lives and abandoned. Love will restore. There is so much more satisfaction out of being loved. God wants our love in return for the love he so freely gives us.

Let’s pray. Father God, I rejoice in you today. I lift your name on high and give you praise for all that you are doing in my life. I do yearn to know you more, to really understand your heart for your people. Help me to fathom the immensity of it all, and yet the beauty that you desire my love. My love is yours. Help me to be totally devoted to you in all I say and do. Bring those people into my life that need to know you more so that I can show them the way. Forgive me for my distractions. Prepare my heart for your message to me today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Hosea 5:1-15 – Hey Leaders!

Read Hosea 5:1-15

Some readings are easier than others, and today’s was not an easy one. Can’t you just sense God’s pain in the midst of what his people are doing? Have you ever felt betrayed or abused in any way? It’s not a comfortable feeling, and here we see how God’s anger is playing out.

Priests, leaders and warriors, everyone was in the scope of the curse. We see time and time again of the disobedience of God’s people. They are worshiping idols. Did you like how I said “they”. We are just as guilty aren’t we? Our idols may not be made of wood or gold, but we have them.

Think of an idol as that thing you think of or do that keeps you from thinking of and serving God. What are you pursuing – more money, more fame, or God’s mercy? What are you doing – watching TV, playing video games, or spending time getting to know God?

False worship is another trap. Today we have so many popular self help materials and “spiritual” guides. Too many of these types of things are just there to help us “feel good”, not build a relationship with our creator. When God is left out of the equation of our lives, we are in the trap of idolatry. Don’t be deceived by this. God gave us his word as our instruction book, as his love letter to us. Don’t let the words of man take God’s place.

I’m not a fan of the trouble our passage today speaks about. I don’t want God’s anger to cover me as a waterfall, or be torn to bits by the fangs of a lion, or to be destroyed as a moth consumes wool. Not pleasant pictures to be sure. I prefer to see myself cuddled up in my Savior’s arms with the assurance that I am safe, loved, and have made him proud of my life and my choices.

So what about you? Are you feeling a little uneasy right now? Do these words of destruction rattle you a little? They may be revealing something deep down that has been haunting you or causing you to feel guilty. Get it out. Unleash the turmoil inside. Put your trust in the loving and forgiving God.

Let’s pray. Father God. Thank you for this reminder of the fury in you that rages when we are disobedient and put our trust in the world. Forgive me for times when I have not put my full focus on you or your will for me. May I sense a calming in my soul as I rest in you. I want my life to please you. I want praise to be on my lips from the moment I wake until the moment I sleep. Refresh me today, and open m y eyes to the possibilities that lie before me. In Jesus’ name.  Amen.