Daily Reflections November 1, 2017
Hosea prophesied in and around the year 800 BC. To provide something of a historical backdrop, the Northern kingdom of Israel had not yet been destroyed by the Assyrian army under Tiglath-pileser III. At the time of Hosea’s prophecy, both the Northern and Southern kingdoms of Israel were enjoying a great deal of peace and prosperity. I see three clear lessons that derive from this text:
1. Peace and prosperity in this life are not our ultimate goal. In fact, they can often prove to be more of a burden than a blessing. Israel was lulled to sleep for a season, and their spiritual lethargy led them into full-blown idolatry. In verse 7 God laments:
“and none of them calls upon me.” (Hosea 7:7 ESV)
Somewhere along the way, Israel forgot the ways in which God had led them. They allowed themselves to believe that their success was the result of their own craftiness. This led to the neglecting of public worship. This led to a widespread pursuit of pleasure and indulgence. It is easy to see how applicable this 2800-year-old prophecy is to us today.
2. Sometimes hardships and loss are exactly what we need in our spiritual lives. In the case of Israel, God corrected His people with judgement only after many attempts to draw them back to Himself. He sent prophets to preach and to proclaim the Law. He had Hosea marry Gomer to display an object lesson of God’s faithful love to an unfaithful people. The people were well aware of their rebellion and sin. God says in verse 10:
“The pride of Israel testifies to his face; yet they do not return to the Lord their God, nor seek him, for all this.” (Hosea 7:10 ESV)
They would not listen in the season of peace so God brought the nation of Assyria to awaken His people. Unfortunately, even with the threat of Tiglath-pileser III’s army marching on their doorstep, the Northern kingdom of Israel still would not repent. They were destroyed and dispersed. However, the Assyrian threat led to genuine repentance in the Southern kingdom. God knows what His people need, and sometimes that which we need is not that which we want.
3. God actively works to draw His people to Himself. It is unfortunate that Assyria was needed to wake up the people of God, but it should be noted that before God sent an army, He sent His prophets. And before He sent the prophets to Israel, He gave them His Law through Moses. Like a good father, God is not careless and indifferent with His discipline. It's always purposeful and it always comes after many warnings. The prophet Ezekiel who prophesied after the Babylonian captivity delivered this message from the Lord:
“Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11 ESV)
Hosea paints a picture of a loving God who is calling His people back to Himself and who will use any and every means necessary to lead His people into righteousness. The same God who sent the prophets and the Assyrians has also sent His only begotten Son in order to bring us back to Himself. Thanks be to God!
Assistant Pastor Levi denBok
These 3 Psalms are part of a larger body (Psalms 120-134), which together are called the Psalms of Ascent. These were songs of hope and longing that God’s people sang as they made their journey up to Jerusalem and the sanctuary of God.
According to Exodus 23:14-17, this journey to the temple occurred at three appointed yearly feasts (Passover, Pentecost, and The Feast of Tabernacles).
These three Psalms highlight the metaphor of life as a journey homeward. We are sojourners making our way through the wilderness of this world travelling to the Promised Land. However, it is a hard journey as we are in fact exiles in a foreign land.
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (1 Peter 2:11 ESV)
Indeed, we live in a world that is at war with God and his ways. We don’t feel at home here. We shouldn’t feel at home here. This dissonance produces in us a holy discontentment. We will remain displaced exiles until we reach the peace, perfection and permanency of our eternal home with Christ.
In Psalm 120, the writer acknowledges God heard his prayer and delivered him from his distress. On our challenging journey home, we can have confidence in God as we pray.
In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. (Psalm 120:1 ESV)
The Psalmist laments, praying for relief from the slanderous attacks of a malicious foe (verse 2). How can we be content here in this hostile place where strife is rampant? We can be honest about our distresses, and at the same time have hope for the future. God will deal with our opponents (verse 4); until then, in this dry and weary land, we need the courts of the Lord and the encouragement of God’s people. One day we will have peace (verse 7).
In Psalm 121 the writer exalts our only hope and help. It is God, the creator of not only mountains but also galaxies. He is intimately involved in upholding the universe and also the lives of those who worship him. At times we wonder if God is “asleep at the wheel”. This Psalm assures us that God is always watching over us night and day.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121:4 ESV)
He establishes our very footsteps, watching over every leg of our journey from beginning to end, and all our comings and goings in between. Everything we do is under God’s watchful gaze.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore. (Psalm 121:8 ESV)
In Psalm 122, the writer is joyful! The long, dangerous journey is finally over; he has arrived in Jerusalem! He rejoiced at once again worshiping with God’s people in God’s house. David exclaimed,
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord! Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem! (Psalm 122:1-2 ESV)
The hymn, Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee declares, “Joyful music leads us sunward in the triumph song of life.” Let’s remember our dwelling here is temporary. In the land of exile, keep praying with confidence. As sojourners, keep eagerly worshiping with brothers and sisters.
As we journey home to the place of perfect peace, let’s keep singing the joyful, triumph song of Jesus Christ who is our hope and strength.
Associate Pastor Jody Cross