A Raging Fire

Hosea 7:3-4.

They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their lies.

They are all adulterers, as an oven heated by the baker, who ceaseth from raising after he hath kneaded the dough, until it be leavened.

Like a Burning Hot Oven | TIME in the Word Ministries

Continuing on the theme of the wickedness of Israel and Judah, God, speaking through Hosea, tells the people that they are pleasing the kings and princes of their nation with their wicked lies, their ungodly behavior. It is indeed a very sad thing when the leaders of any nation are pleased with the sinful behaviors of the people.

I was a bit confused with v. 4. I’ve baked bread for most of our 52 years of marriage, and I’m very familiar with the process–at least, when I’m using an electric or gas oven. Once the bread has been thoroughly kneaded, it is set to rise until it doubles in size. When it neared that point, I would preheat the oven so that the bread did not go into a cold oven and rise too much. It takes a little practice to get this right, but after a while it is second nature. You just develop a “feel” for when the dough is ready to bake.

Verse 4 describes a baker who used a wood- or coal-heated oven. It would burn very hot at first, so the baker could set his bread to rise and then not bother to get up again until the yeast had worked its way all through the dough. Keep in mind that most bread-baking was done very early in the morning, and was done on a daily basis.

The hearts of the people are compared to this raging hot oven, hungry for the wickedness and idolatry of the world. Only they didn’t wait for the fire to burn down; they jumped into the inferno of sin and rebellion without giving a thought to what would happen to them as a result.

Iniquity and Wickedness

Hosea 7:1-2.

When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria: for they commit falsehood; and the thief cometh in, and the troop of robbers spoileth without.

And they consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness: now their own doings have beset them about; they are before My face.

The Collapse of Israel Warns Us! Hosea 7. MORAL COLLAPSE Sin became  rampant, Hos. 1:2; 7:1, 4-7; 4:1-3 (Isa. 1:4) Israel's heart was hardened  toward her. - ppt download

All down through Israel’s history, God has stood ready to show them grace and mercy, pardon, forgiveness, and restoration. And even if we are not a part of Israel, we still stand in the same place they do in regard to falling away from God, allowing ourselves to be idolatrous, turning our backs on the very idea of holiness and purity in our lives and behavior. We cannot stand in judgment on anyone else, for surely we are just as guilty.

I suspect that the persecuted believers in Asia and the Near East have a more true idea of what it is to serve God in body, soul and spirit than we do, those of us who are safe–we think–from physical persecution and suffering. Since I am an American, I cannot speak for other countries, only my own. I can tell you that what used to be considered inappropriate has become not only acceptable, but normal. I know I’m beating an old drum, but we cannot ignore the influence of movies and TV on our culture. The violence, nudity, bedroom scenes, constant use of alcohol, and laughter at ribald and filthy jokes proliferates amongst believers. What we used to refer to as “social drinking” is now accepted as “normal” especially among younger believers. Someone once said to me, “Linda, your generation is so STODGY! You won’t go to hell just because you had a drink!”

I replied, “Yes, that’s true. However, when your children observe that your behavior is no different than the unsaved people around you, THEY may choose to ignore Christianity, God’s Word, and living always with Him in mind. Are you willing to risk that? I am not!”

There was a student many years ago who was forced by his parents to come to our Christian school. He made no effort to conceal his disgust with being there, and he made very few friends. I sat with him on several occasions, encouraging him to read the scriptures I’d given him, and talking about salvation and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To his credit, he listened attentively, but refused to make any decisions for Christ.

One day, I found him sitting in my classroom before the day started. He was visibly shaken, even had tears in his eyes. I asked him how I could help him, and he said, “I’m ready.” I was so surprised, I wasn’t sure what he meant. “I’m ready to be a Christian,” he confirmed. I asked what had happened to change his mind. He told me, “I’ve been here long enough to observe how these “Christian” kids behave outside of the classroom. They’re no different than my friends and I. They drink, they make out right in front of everyone, they curse, they watch the same garbage movies. But there are a few who live the way you do, and I have to respect them. They must really believe what they say, and that has changed my mind. Along with the Bible, and that you obviously really care about me. So I’m ready. What do I have to do?”

It was my pleasure to lead him to Jesus that morning. He prayed on his own, sincerely and with emotion. And there was a change. He was softer, smiled more. His walls began to crumble a bit. I don’t know what happened to him later in life, as we moved far away from that place, but I know his prayer was sincere, and I pray he continued to seek the Lord.

So why am I sharing that? Because the influence of so many professing believers was that it really didn’t matter. Their behavior was the direct opposite of their words. So it was with Israel, and so it is way too often with believers today, whose walk talks louder than their talk talks.

God stood ready to restore Israel way back in Hosea’s day, but they did not want restoration. That had to suffer first. I fear the same will be true for America. There are already those who blame conservative Christians for all the unrest going on in our country. If we don’t experience a true, Holy Spirit revival, I fear America, the America I grew up in, will be lost. There will be suffering. There will be persecution. Why? Because we have hardened our hearts, and turned our backs on God, on holiness, on purity and righteousness.

And we feel no guilt for doing so.

Sunday Morning Coffee: The People in our Lives

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the people who have affected my life over my 74 years.

My parents, of course, were primary. But they’re both in heaven now. And they moved away from where we lived way back in 1970, I believe it was, so contact with them was intermittent for the rest of their lives. Still, so much of the foundation of my life, my beliefs, attitudes and opinions were formed by their own. Mostly, that was a very good thing.

There was a family that took us into their own family circle. I thought they really were my grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins. I was SO unhappy when I figured out that they weren’t, but it certainly didn’t change the joy of spending time with them, of being loved and loving them in return. One of the “aunts,” Lois Sanders, led me to Jesus in her Sunday School class when I was only five. I’d say that’s an eternal influence.

Sibling, of course. I was the younger of two for a long time, but when I was 14 my parents announced that there would be a baby in September! Sadly, he died when he was only 49. He was only six when Mom and Dad moved away, so there was always a lot of distance between us. Still, he has his place in my heart.

We moved a lot when I was growing up, so lasting childhood friendships were rare. Terry and I married in 1969, and along the way we have found wonderful, lifelong friendships with people who are more like family than just friends. Some of them were here last night to celebrate a family birthday. Lots of fun, and very precious memories.

Our children, of course, are daily visitors to my mind. They are scattered. Three sons live from South Dakota to England to Germany. Our daughter and family are the only blood relations nearby, about 30-40 minutes away. Their spouses, their children, are all in my heart. We love them all dearly. I think having adult children is a reward!

I never lived close to either set of grandparents, something I have often regretted. On my dad’s side, I have cousins who did grow up near out mutual grandparents, and knew them well. We don’t see much of each other, but there is a bond that makes it easy to be with them on the rare occasions when we meet.

It’s been six or seven years ago, I think, since my youngest uncle and his wife were driving through our area. We met them at a restaurant and enjoyed several hours reconnecting with them. My uncle is my dad’s youngest brother, born when Dad was all grown up. There is certainly a resemblance, and I probably made him uncomfortable because I had a hard time not to stare at his familiar face :).

There have been outstanding pastors in my life. There have been memorable teachers who encouraged me to expand my abilities in areas that are still important to me today.

There are friends of 50+ years’ standing, and newer friends in the church we now attend who have blessed us with their openness and concern when I’m dealing with my back issues–which are under control for the time being :).

People need other people. God Himself created us for His own pleasure. Friends and family enrich us, help us grow, keep us accountable, surprise us and sometimes irritate us to no end, but we wouldn’t trade any of them.

The friends who are the most important are the ones who love the Lord, and who share that love freely. They encourage me to do the same, by their example.

The ones we share life experiences with, that we can laugh or cry with, that we have been with through their own dark time–they are rare and precious jewels. We are blessed in our family and friends.

Harvest!

Hosea 6:10-11.

 I have seen an horrible thing in the house of Israel: there is the whoredom of Ephraim, Israel is defiled.

Also, O Judah, He hath set an harvest for thee, when I returned the captivity of My people.

Hosea 6:11 NCV - “Judah, I have set a harvest time for - Biblics

Do we ever consider that our sin is heartbreaking to God? That’s what I see in v. 10. God calls their sin a horrible thing, defilement, whoredom. Those are strong words, showing strong emotion. So the next verse comes as a startling contrast.

In spite of their sin, God promises that after Judah is restored and the people are no longer captives, He has planned for them a time of harvest, when their lives will be good again.

In an earlier post, I emphasized the importance of true repentance in order for restoration to occur. God is infinitely patient. He will wait until we have learned to be honest with Him. He knows our hearts, and He knows when repentance is real. When that moment comes, He will reward us by restoring our lives to a time of harvest that is immensely satisfying, beyond our hopes and expectations.

God doesn’t dole out His love in teaspoons. He sends it in showers from heaven, refreshing and renewing our love for Him.

Murderous Priests

Hosea 6:9. “And as troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way by consent: for they commit lewdness.”

Hosea 6:9 WEB

Bands of robbers would often hide themselves along a more secluded stretch of a road, waiting for a lone traveller. Their intent was evil. If the traveller resisted, he was easily killed, being outnumbered.

Hosea compares false priests to these bands of robbers. Their intent was also evil, and more so if they purported to be legitimate priests of Jehovah. They led God’s people into idolatry. The word lewdness used in this verse is rightly translated as sexually immoral; however, it can also be interpreted as devious, malicious, planned for the purpose of doing harm.

Why, though, should men who were–or claimed to be–priests be guilty of such vile behavior. I think we can apply a more modern phrase here–just follow the money. It was for financial gain, or popularity with idolaters. The priests did not willingly give up their status, and hoped to maintain it by cooperating with the enemy.

That never ends well.

Bloodstained Gilead

Hosea 6:7-8.

But they like men have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against Me.

Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity, and is polluted with blood.

Hosea 6 - Holy Bible English - BibleWordings.com

Israel, like other wicked people, had forsaken God. He used the word treacherously to describe their behavior. The meaning here is that they were faithless and deceitful in their behavior because their hearts were hard due to lack of knowledge of God. They continued to offer some sacrifices under the leadership of treacherous priests, but they did it in a feeble attempt to appease the holy God.

Gilead was representative, in this context, of all Israel. Gilead is a mountainous region on the east side of the Jordan, just below the Sea of Galilee. Their eastern border was the desert, and in the north they were bordered by idolatrous nations whose example they followed. Gilead was also a city, and it was full of iniquity and bloodshed.

I was immediately reminded, reading about all this, of the old song There is a Balm in Gilead. Jesus was that balm, that healing Presence that brought them, finally, back into His fold.

Mercy and Knowledge of God

Hosea 6:5-6.

Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of My mouth: and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth.

For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

vERSE OF THE dAY - hOSEA 6:6 kjv - Highland Park Baptist Church - Lenoir  City, Tennessee

God had used His prophets to rebuke the people, to cut their pride to pieces and call them back to God. He had, with His words through prophets, destroyed them. It wasn’t what He desired. He had offered them more than enough chances, opportunities, to repent and return, but their hearts were hardened through their lack of knowledge of Him.

God’s desire was that His people show goodness, kindness, faithfulness. When they descended into idolatry, they not only turned their backs on God, but on each other as well. The worship of evil turns man’s heart into stone, even against one another. While they still performed the ritual sacrifices they had known from their ancestors, those sacrifices were meaningless to God because their hearts were against Him, and against each other. Why? Because they had no knowledge of God. They no longer understood Who He was, nor did they seek Him.

More than empty offerings, God wanted His people to know Him.

Jesus quoted this Hosea passage twice to the religious leaders of His time. “But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”(Matt. 9:13)

“But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.” (Matt. 12:7)

God knows when we are performing meaningless rituals in His Name, and those rituals mean nothing to Him. He knows our hearts. What He wants is not empty sacrifice, but hearts of love and mercy because of our knowledge of Him.

It was the ritualistic performance of the Pharisees that displeased Him, because He knew their hearts were hard–or they would not have condemned the guiltless.

Temporary Goodness

Hosea 6:4. “O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.”

Hosea 6:4 KJV

When I was 10, 64 years ago, we moved from Minnesota to Portland, Oregon. The climate is milder out there than I was used to. I especially enjoyed knowing that although there were clouds early in the morning, they would be gone before noon. The rest of the day would be sunny, unless it was winter. Then, we needed umbrellas all day!

This verse reminded me of those morning clouds. They were often wispy, and they soon melted away. So did the morning dew. Sparkling under the sun’s rays, it soon evaporated and disappeared.

That was Israel’s and Judah’s own goodness. It was transitory, melting away under the heat of their desire for idolatry and disobedience. Their goodness disappeared in the temptation to just be like everyone else around them. Whatever token nods they may have given to Jehovah were meaningless under the heat of their lust for Idolatry.

Have you ever said to a child, “What am I going to DO with you?” The utter frustration a parent feels when a child is repeatedly warned–that is what God felt when His children ignored His warnings.


Former and Latter Rain

Hosea 6:3. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: His going forth is prepared as the morning; and He shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.

Hosea 6:3 | worldchallenge.org

Do you moan and groan sometimes when it’s pouring down rain, and your plans for the day get scuttled?

Or maybe you or your parents/grandparents remember the Dust Bowl Days of western America, when everyone pleaded and begged for a good, soaking rain that would restore the earth, refresh the people, literally settle the dust.

Israel was in its own Dust Bowl, one of their own making. But, through His prophet Hosea, He promises that in His good time there will be showers of blessing.

In Hosea 4:6, God said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Because their dedication to God had dried up, so did their knowledge of Him. They lusted after the idolatry of the surrounding nations, and paid the price of a deadly spiritual and physical drought.

The drought can be cured, though, if people return sincerely to seeking knowledge of God.

He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).

I was able to go to church yesterday, after weeks of being housebound with pain. It was refreshing just to enter the building and be greeted warmly by so many people. It was refreshing to sit in the adult Sunday school class and drink in the careful study of I Peter. It was refreshing to listen to our pastor open the book of Nehemiah. It felt like rain after a drought. I’ve been a believer since I was five. That’s almost seventy years! You’d think, perhaps, that there’s nothing more I need to learn about the Lord. You’d be totally mistaken. There is no limit to what we can learn, because He is infinite.

Latter and former rain: The success of the crops depended entirely on rain. The latter fell in the autumn, to prepare the earth for seed. The former fell in the spring, to prepare the crops for harvest.

If our search for knowledge of God is honest and sincere, He will soften our hearts to receive the seed. He will send latter “rain” to bring the harvest to full fruition, and we will be blessed and refreshed. This is a promise, but it is conditional on selfless, worshipful seeking for Him.

In my reading today, I came across a reference to the “Latter Rain” movement, and it caught my interest. It was lead by a man named William Branham, and had a huge impact especially in the Pentecostal-type movements that were gaining popularity. Branham’s assistant was Oral Roberts, whose name is probably more familiar to my generation than it is to younger people. Much of the movement’s popularity focused on “signs and wonders” such as healing and powerful spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues. These miracle and gifts were considered the latter rain, and were believed to be the beginning of the last and greatest spiritual revival that precedes the Rapture.

Why should I mention all that? Well, because I wanted you to see how stretching the meaning and intent of a simple phrase in scripture can lead to all sorts of weird interpretations, and we need to remember one of my favorite sayings: If the plain sense makes common sense, then any other sense is nonsense!

We must always interpret God’s Word by God’s Word!

Sunday Morning Coffee: Progress!

My back is good.

I’m making progress with my hurting foot, which is feeling better by far than it did a week ago. Still sore, but bearable.

So it looks like church is on the schedule today, for the first time in more weeks than I can remember. Yesterday, when Terry asked me about it, I said. “Yes! I think I can actually do it!”

The hard part was rolling out of bed at 6 a.m. I’m not used to that any more. Lazy as a slug.
So, you may ask, what have I learned during all these weeks of practically no mobility?

Well, I’ve learned once again to be thankful for a husband who is willing to step in when I can’t take care of housework, shopping, cooking, laundry. And it’s a big deal, because he has his own pain to deal with.

I’ve learned that no one is indispensable. Not even me. Most of us know we’ll die eventually, but I don’t know if it’s truly a reality. Not that I’m dying, at least not as far as I know 🙂 But the truth is, life goes on all around us, without us, in spite of our invaluable contributions to everyone else’s happiness and well-being. Seriously, life is just a vapor, gone in a moment of God’s economy. It’s a much bigger deal to us than it is to anyone else, really, how long we stay around. The point is to make sure that while we’re here we’re doing what He has given us, enabled us, to do. To touch someone else’s heart and life.

For me, that has been what I can do with my hands because my back and my feet didn’t work very well. So I work with my hands, making mats and hats for the homeless. I work with my brain and my hands, doing my Bible study blog and learning something new every day. I’m reading things I’d been hoping to finish “someday.” I’m even cleaning up and organizing my bookshelves, doing away with some books I’ve had for years and not managed to crack the covers. Some are leftovers from my schooling, and from counseling seminars. I will not read those books now. I didn’t read them back then. I shouldn’t have purchased them, but I thought I would read them. Well, I for sure won’t read them now 🙂

I’ve cleaned out drawers, something I can do sitting down. I’ve gone through all sorts of stuff that I just didn’t have the time to deal with. It’s surprising, really, what you can find to do when you can’t do it with you feet or your back.

I’ve prayed more. I keep a list, because my memory is short and the list keeps growing. Sometimes I will say to someone, “Yes, I will pray for you.” But if I don’t write it down, I will forget. I don’t want to forget, so the list grows.

I’ve enjoyed studying things about the Bible that I’d always wondered about, but never taken the time to research. Right now, I’m doing the book of Hosea. I’m learning all sorts of things about the history, the idolatry, the Assyrians and other nations. A lot of it doesn’t make the blog post, but that’s okay. I’ve always loved learning stuff I didn’t know. Not about math, or chemistry. But most other stuff 🙂

Well, I guess I’m done for now. I’m looking forward to church, to seeing folks who have prayed for me, sent me notes and cards. Looking forward to the music and the preaching. I love church.