Thursday, August 21, 2014

"The consequences of spiritual adultery …"

Day #237:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - August 22nd

Scripture Reading:  Hosea 1 - 7 …

Reading through the prophets requires an understanding of the history of the nation of Israel and God's future plans for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  In the prophets we find God pointing to the future - both the immediate future (judgment) and the more distant future (restoration).  As God exposes the sinful rebellion of those who were called to be His people, and announces His coming judgment, He also offers hope to those who repent, who turn back to Him and who humble themselves before Him, trusting in His grace, His forgiveness and His promises.  And in God's promises to His people through the prophets we who believe today find the assurance and comfort that God will always be faithful to those who trust in Him!

Hosea was called by God to make his life an illustration of God's relationship with Israel.  God told him, "Take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD" (1:2).  Israel had turned away from God to the worship of idols and God was about to bring the Assyrians to pour out His judgment upon them.  Hosea's daughter was named "Lo-Ruhamah" = "not loved" … and his son was named, "Lo-Ammi" = "not my people."  Still, even here God offered hope for the future:  "In the place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God.'  The people of Judah and the people of Israel will be reunited, and they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel" (1:10-11).  Some of the other prophets also speak of the reunion of all the tribes of Israel at some future time.

Jezreel was a place where the kings of Israel and Judah were judged by God in the days of Ahab.  The tribes of Israel had been divided into two nations under the reign of Solomon's son, Rehoboam.  Israel and Judah existed side-by-side until Assyria destroyed Israel, and then about 150 years later, Judah was taken into captivity by Babylon.  Through all of this, however, God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  In Chapter 2 God says that HE will bring Israel back to Him:  "In that day you will call me 'my husband' …" (2:16).  "I will betroth you to me FOREVER" (2:19).  "I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD" (2:20).  "I will say to those called 'Not my people,' 'You are my people', and they will say, 'You are my God'" (2:23).

When Hosea's wife returned to her adulterous ways, God told him to go get her and to love her again, for that is what GOD would do with Israel.  Once again, God points to a future restoration of Israel as His people:  "Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their King (Jesus Christ - a descendant of David).  They will come trembling to the LORD and to His blessings in the last days" (3:5).  Israel was judged because of their unfaithfulness to God.  God had called them to "love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deuteronomy 6:5).  But "my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge" (4:6).

God sent the prophets to speak to the people, but in their fallen, sinful, rebellious state, they refused to listen.  "A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God" (4:12).  "Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God.  A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not acknowledge the LORD" (5:4).  What a horrible truth!  Those who were called by God to be His people, to love, worship and obey Him and to be a light to the nations around them, instead worshiped idols and sought the help of the nations around them rather than their God.  The situation is much the same today in the church.

Those who claim to believe in the God who reveals Himself in His Word, the Bible, dabble in all sorts of false teaching that comes from the ideas of men.  They dialogue with those of other religions and compromise the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, declaring that God might act contrary to His revealed will and save those who do not know or confess His Son Jesus Christ as their Savior or acknowledge Him as Lord.  In the words of Isaiah, "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men" (Isaiah 29:13).

There are two things going on here:  God's words spoken specifically to Israel, to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and God's words spoken to those who are "grafted into the root" of Israel (Romans 11:11-24), those who believe in Jesus Christ.  We who believe are part of the fulfillment of God's promises through God's anointed King, Jesus, the Christ.  So Peter would write to "God's elect" (I Peter 1:1), "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God … Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" (I Peter 2:9-10).  Peter takes the names of Hosea's children and applies God's promise not only to physical Israel, but also to spiritual Israel, to those who have become "children of Abraham" through faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:29).

This dual purpose in God's plans will be fulfilled when Jesus returns and God deals again specifically with physical Israel.  Through the Gospel God calls people from among the Jews AND the Gentiles into one body, the Church.  Yet, there WILL come a time when He will gather the remnant of the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and reunite the tribes of Israel.  Why?   Because He says so ... for HIS glory!!  In the sight of the nations of the world, God will make His Name glorious through this people - as He has already done in resurrecting them as a nation and protecting them over the past 65 years.  Can there be any doubt that all of this is part of the fulfillment of God's promises made through the prophet Hosea more than 2,000 years ago?!  But there's more to come!!

Finally, God speaks in "code" to point to THE event that would ultimately restore all who believe, in Israel AND the nations:  "Come, let us return to the LORD.  He has torn us to pieces, but He will heal us; He has injured us, but He will bind up our wounds.  After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will restore us, that we may live in His presence" (6:1-2).  These words point to the death and resurrection of Jesus, through whom God will restore His people into a relationship with Him ... "In that day you will call me 'my husband'" (2:16).

The consequences of spiritual adultery for individuals (and nations) are great.  God sees and remembers the sins of those who refuse to repent.  "They do not realize that I remember all their evil deeds" (7:2).  God sent His Son Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for sin and in the new covenant (made through the blood of Jesus and the pouring out of His Spirit), God says, "I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more" (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12).  The Bible is all one message from God, first to Israel and then to those who would believe from the nations, whom God chose to be His own, even as He chose Israel.

Avoid the consequences of spiritual adultery.  Humble yourself before God, repent and place your faith in the Savior, Jesus Christ, and you will find mercy and forgiveness ... and you will be one of HIS people!!

"O Lord, my God, Your Word is amazing as it ties all of human history together!  As You have revealed Your plan of salvation, I rejoice in Your faithfulness to Your promises and thank You for Your mercy and forgiveness through the Son of David, Jesus Christ!  Give me strength to be faithful to You, my God, as I declare Your name to the world around me.  In Jesus' name, Amen" 

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