Israel is Defiled

Hosea 5:2-3.

And the revolters are profound to make slaughter, though I have been a rebuker of them all.

I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from me: for now, O Ephraim, thou committest whoredom, and Israel is defiled.

Hosea 5 - Holy Bible English - BibleWordings.com

When we deliberately turn to sin, we often do so with the idea in mind that God will not see; or that He will not be bothered by our small doings because He has more important things on His mind. Or we simply do not think of Him at all. This attitude only underlines our ignorance of the. “I AM.” He Who was, and is, and always shall be is not bound by the finite mind of man. We cannot hide from Him. Numbers 32:23 states, “Be sure your sin will find you out.”

Israel was about to move into God’s judgment. They, those in rebellion against God, had been deep into making bloody offerings to idols, in spite of God’s ongoing rebukes and warnings. In verse 3, Ephraim and Israel are used interchangeably, in an almost poetic sense, to emphasize that God hasn’t missed a thing; He knows all about them, and they are corrupt, defiled, unclean before Him because of both physical and spiritual idolatry.

Idolatry

Hosea 4:13. They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof is good: therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses shall commit adultery.

Hosea 4:13 ASV Desktop Wallpaper - They sacrifice upon the tops of the  mountains,

It was the practice for idolaters to find shady, secluded places for their worship. They looked for comfort. They looked for places in which they would not be interrupted. It was also the practice to hire a “temple prostitute” for their “worship services,” making it of even more importance that they meet in secluded places.

This verse really doesn’t need much comment. I did look up the terebinth, which is translated elsewhere as elm and played an important part in Israel’s history. I’m going to copy/paste my reference here, because it is just more than I can readily summarize:

STRONGS H424:† I. אֵלָה noun feminineterebinth (= אֵילָה (?) see H352 IV. איל > StaGeschichte 455 who derives from אֵל = divine; but compare ib. on lack of clear distinction between אֵלָה, אֵלוֺן & אַלּוֺן) — Genesis 35:4 + 15 times + אֵילָה Genesis 49:21 (for MT אַיָּלָה see below) — terebinth = Pistacia terebinthus, Linn., a deciduous tree with pinnate leaves & red berries; occasional in Palestine; grows to great age; always of single tree; near Shechem Genesis 35:4 (E) compare † אַלָּה Joshua 24:26 (E, read אֵלָה ?), Ophrah Judges 6:1119; in Jabesh 1 Chronicles 10:12; tree in which Absalom was caught 2 Samuel 18:9 (twice in verse); 2 Samuel 18:1014; see also 1 Kings 13:14; expressly of idol-shrine Hosea 4:13 (|| אַלּוֺן, לִבְנֶה) Ezekiel 6:13; as fading, withering, simile of Judah Isaiah 1:30; as hewn down, simile id.Isaiah 6:13 (|| אַלּוֺן); figurative of Naphtali אֵילָה שְׁלֻחָה Genesis 49:21 ( Ew Ol Di > MT אַיָּלָה hind which see) a slender terebinth, see Di & compare II. אֵלָה; in topographic designation עֵמֶק הָא׳ 1 Samuel 17:2191 Samuel 21:10 (see עֵמֶק).

The scripture references in red will tell you of several other places where this type of tree, which seems to grow only as one tree rather than in a grove of trees, is important. Source is BlueLetterBible.com.

As always, it is easy to draw comparison’s between Israel’s idolatry and that of my own country, America, as we walk through this study. God will withhold judgment only for a while; not forever!


Mortify. . .Your Members

Col. 3:5. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

The word mortify in this verse means to put to death; kill; remove from life.

What are we to put to death? NOT our actual bodies. Nowhere in scripture is taking one’s own life something God intends for us to do. We are created in His own image. To destroy ourselves is to try to destroy the image of God.

No, Paul is talking here about being dead to self and to sin. “It is no more I who lives, but Christ lives in me!”(Galatians 2:20).

Then Paul gives us a list of sin that we all struggle against at some time or the other. The things he mentions are common to the human existence, because Satan knows where our weaknesses are. He knows where we are most likely to fall, and he sets our own besetting sins in front of us like a delightful, luscious dessert. For me, that dessert would be rich, smooth ice cream drenched in fudge sauce, then whipped cream. It is almost irresistible, until I stop to consider what it does to my blood sugar, and the awful results of diabetes. Then it doesn’t look quite so good.

What are we to consider that to which we are dead? The Greek word here is nekrosate, with the meaning of totally obliterating these things, wiping them out completely. Not just suppress or control, but totally eliminate.

Immorality: In English, this word is akin to amorality, meaning to have no sense of right or wrong at all. Paul gets specific about immorality, because he, too, knew temptation and immoral desires. I’m thinking about his impassioned message in Romans 7: 19-25. If you read that, you will see that he is speaking from personal experience, and why he said in I Cor. 15:31, “I die daily.”

Fornication is intercourse outside of marriage. Such was a part of the religious systems in Paul’s world, and which new believers had practiced.

Uncleanness: The misuse of sex; also, other forms of moral evil, like pornography.

Inordinate affection is loving that which is forbidden by a Holy God, Who cannot look on sin. If we love something that we know is unacceptable to God, we are flaunting our so-called “rights” in His Face, with no regard to the suffering of Jesus Christ in our behalf. There are those who teach that because we live under grace, not under law, we can sin with impunity because God will forgive us. Be careful. God will NOT always strive against the spirit of man (Genesis 6: 1-3).

“He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” Proverbs 29:1.

Evil concupiscence: Concupiscence, in this context, is an ardent, usually sensual, longing for that which is not acceptable. I had a client once, a young man, who told me about his concupiscence, and that he just couldn’t stop thinking about sexual activity of any sort. I told him what Paul teaches here: That such thinking is indicative of idolatry. He was worshiping sex and his own lusts, allowing those things to consume his mind, heart, and body. “But I CAN’T HELP IT!” he declared. “No, probably not in your own self, but God is willing to forgive and cleanse you of this evil. You have to sincerely repent, though, and get rid of anything in your house, car, or office that will tempt you. It’s a struggle. You’ll need to pray daily, probably all day, that God will take first place in your thinking.” I’ll never forget him sitting there, staring at me blankly. He suddenly stood up, said, “This isn’t working for me,” and left my office. That’s how strong the grip of sin can be. I think what he really wanted from me was permission to continue, and just not worry about it because, you know, GRACE.

Greed: to covet what someone else has. Often, that is a sensual lust. Here is an excellent quote:

· “First, it is idolatry, in that it only obtains when man thinks of life consisting in things possessed, rather than in righteous relationship to God.”· “It is also a sin against others, for to satisfy the desire, others are wronged.”· “Finally, it is self-destructive, for these wrong conceptions and activities always react upon the soul to its own undoing.”· Morgan added: “And yet, what ecclesiastical court ever yet arraigned a church-member for covetousness?”Morgan, Blue Letter Bible.

There’s another list coming up, just in case you feel you got off pretty well in this one.

Love in the Spirit

Colossian 1:6-8.

Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:

As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;

Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.

Referring back to verse 5, and the words the truth of the gospel, Paul reminds the Colossians that the gospel has already brought forth fruit in them from the very day they first heard it.

I have often wondered what it must have been like in those days following the return of Jesus to the Father. Pentecost was an amazing experience, with the Holy Spirit filling the apostles with an evangelistic fervor. Thousands heard Peter’s incredible sermon that day, and accepted Jesus Christ as Savior. The fervor spread wherever the apostles went.

Keep in mind that all of “religion” was centered on idol worship, in all the nations surrounding Israel. There was dreadful immorality involved in much of that idolatry. There was constant philosophizing among the more educated. The Greeks even had an altar dedicated “to the unknown god.” People were searching, in that day as they are today, for something that would fill the God-shaped hole in their hearts. As the gospel spread from person to person, caravan to caravan, town to town and city to city, the excitement was so great and so fervent that there was immediate change in the lives of those who heard and accepted the gospel.

Paul always gives credit where it is due, naming the men and women who helped him in ministry, thanking them and referring to them with great love and respect. Other than a brief mention in Philemon, I believe Colossians is the only place Epaphras is mentioned in scripture; yet his influence cannot be diminished in the establishment of the church in Colosse; his faithful service to his people, and to Paul; and his reputation for being a man of prayer and dedication.

Epaphras had told Paul that the people in the church in Colosse were known for the love they had for their fellow believers. Such love is ignited in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and causes us to become a closely-knit fellowship of believers who not only care for each other, but show their concern for the community around them that needs to hear the gospel. I don’t know how that love worked out for them, but I know how it works in my own church family and in our community. We take care of each other. We pray for each other. We reach out in several ways to the community around us. Most important is that believers always keep in mind Whose Name they bear. Christians must always live in such a way that others see Jesus in their lives.

The faithful saints in Colosse seem to have learned that, and lived it.

Ecclesiastes: Introduction

Who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes?  The name of the author is never stated, but most biblical scholars agree that the circumstances and the life described as the author’s most clearly point to King Solomon, son of David and Bathsheba.  He called himself “son of David” and “King in Jerusalem” (1:1, 12), and he talked about his great wealth and wisdom (2:1-11 and 1:13). 

The author mentioned “the king” and made several references to the difficulties of bureaucracy (4:1-3; 5:8; 8:11; 10:6-7).  Yes, they had those problems way back in Solomon’s day.  There is, after all, nothing new under the sun. 

Image result for King Solomon

Solomon’s kingdom was immense. It required a large standing army, and many government agencies. His court was luxurious. Someone had to pay for all that!

Solomon solved his financial needs by ignoring the original boundaries of the 12 tribes, and instead drew “tax districts.” These districts were governed by overseers, and it didn’t take long before those overseers were skimming off the taxes for their own use. The tax burden grew heavier, and corruption was rampant. (Does anyone else see a parallel here in America today?)

King Solomon was a godly man in his youth. He humbly sought God’s wisdom and help (I Kings 3:5-15). But as time passed, he got married. Three hundred times. And he took on 700 concubines. For the wisest man who ever lived, that certainly seems to be paradoxical behavior.

Many of the women he married were political alliances, and of course those women brought their idolatrous beliefs and practices to Solomon’s court. It would seem that, in order to appease the women and the countries they represented, he began to turn from God and participate in the godless religions of the nations with whom he made alliances.

God finally began to remove His hand of blessing (I Kings 11). He preserved Solomon’s throne only because of His promise to David. After Solomon died, the nation divided, leaving Israel with only the houses of Judah and Benjamin.

Solomon probably wrote Proverbs (Prov. 1:1; I Kings 4:32) and the Song of Solomon (1:1) during the years he faithfully walked with God. Ecclesiastes was written near the end of his life, as he looked back over his many changes from godliness to living only for his own glory.

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon referred to himself as “The Preacher.” The Hebrew word is Koheleth, and us the title given to an official speaker who calls an assembly. The Greek word for “assembly” is ekklesia, and this gives us the English title for this book, Ecclesiastes. As Koheleth, Solomon debated several topics in his own mind, and tried to come to an orderly conclusion.

The aim of the book was to figure out the meaning of life. In the first verse, Solomon poses the question of the purpose of all a man’s labor. We will look more closely at that question tomorrow, when we begin to take apart the verses of Chapter One.

Questions for you to consider:

  1. What are some of the paradoxes of Solomon’s life?
  2. What are some evidences of despair among people today?

I Will Not Keep Silence

Isaiah 65:6-7.

Behold, it is written before Me: I will not keep silence, but will recompense, even recompense into their bosom,

Your iniquities, and the iniquities of your fathers together, saith the Lord, which have burned incense upon the mountains, and blasphemed Me upon the hills: therefore will I measure their former work into their bosom.

Image result for therefore will I measure their former work into their bosom

Verse 6 makes it clear that records are kept of all acts and deeds of men, so that they may be judged accordingly (Rev. 20:11-15). When I was a little girl, this thought was terrifying to me. I knew I was a sinner, and no matter how hard I tried, I messed up. Daily. But then I learned I John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” True repentance and confession of sin erases it from the record.

However, not all sin is confessed. Not all disobedience is repented. That is what God will hold His people to account for when the time comes. And that is why I often pray, “Search me, O God, know my heart, see if there is any wicked (anxious, worried) way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139: 23-24).

You Have Divorced Yourselves from Me

(I apologize for missing yesterday.  But the good news is that I went over 200,000 hits on this blog!  That’s amazing to me, and I’m very thankful for all my regular readers and those who find me while  searching for some topic or biblical detail.  I’ve been writing this blog for over six years now.  Growth has been slow but steady, and I now average between 100-125 hits every day.  A big THANK YOU to those who have been with me for a long time, and to all those who have told friends about me. This has been a spiritual  growing experience for me, for sure. )

Isaiah 50: 1. “Thus saith the Lord, Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.”

Image result for Isaiah 50:1 KJV

The children of Israel  stood in the same relation to the Jewish synagogue, as children to a mother. “Your mother” in this context would be the Jewish synagogue or congregation, which was no longer a congregation or a people because of their sin.

In Deuteronomy 24:1-4 , when a man put away his wife, he gave her a bill of divorce, assigning the causes of his putting her away.   What the Lord is really saying here is that Israel, the congregation, has no such bill of divorce because God did not divorce her;  by their worship of idols and their other sins against God, they have divorced themselves from Him.

Exodus 21:7 ;  2 Kings 4:1; and  Nehemiah 5:1-5  all describe a practice by which, if a man could not pay his debt, he would sell his children in order to pay it. God says that He, Himself, has not sold them into slavery; rather, they have sold themselves because of their sin; they have lost the privilege of being a congregation under God’s protection because of their idolatry.

This bleak state of affairs has to continue only until there is a revival in Israel, a return to Him  and His worship.

Why Judgment?

Isaiah 47: 6-7

I was wroth with My people, I have polluted Mine inheritance, and given them into thine hand: thou didst shew them no mercy; upon the ancient hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke.

And thou saidst, I shall be a lady for ever: so that thou didst not lay these things to thy heart, neither didst remember the latter end of it.

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God was angry because His people had strayed–again–away from Him into idolatry.  His people were defiled by idolatrous practices, so he allowed Babylon to conquer them and take them into slavery.  But Babylon went too far.  They showed no mercy to the Israelites.  They even placed heavy workloads on frail older people who could not stand up under such demands.

Babylon thought she would always be supreme among the nations (I will be a lady forever), and in her pride, she forgot that she was dealing with the Holy One of Israel.

Feeding on Ashes

Isaiah 44:18-20. “They have not known nor understood: for He hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand. And none considereth  in his heart, neither is there knowledge, nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof: I have roasted flesh and eaten it; and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree? He feedeth on ashes; a deceived heart hath hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

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When you really stop and think about it, the absurdity of using the same tree for warmth, for cooking, and for making idols just doesn’t make any sense. People are literally falling down before the stock of a tree.  Feeding on ashes.  Creating that which they can worship, because they have blind hearts and eyes and cannot–will not–see God.

Thy First Father

Isaiah 43:27-28.  “Thy first father hath sinned, and thy teachers have transgressed against me. Therefore I have profaned the princes of the sanctuary, and have given Jacob to the curse, and Israel to reproaches.”

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My immediate thought was that thy first father hath sinned was a reference to Adam. Much to my surprise, there is some disagreement among commentators on exactly who that “first father” was.  Some believe it was Abraham, others that it was Jacob, who was the clear seminal head of the Israelite nation. Some believe it was Urijah, who was high priest during the time of Ahaz.  Some believe it is a reference to all the forefathers collectively, and that belief would tie in with the idea of the ongoing persistence in Israel’s sin in turning away from God and worshiping idols.

My Dake’s Study Bible has this to say:

This could not refer to Adam who was the father of the whole race, not of the Jews only. It could only refer to Abraham whom the Jews consider the father of the race (Matt. 3:9; John 8: 33-39). It would have been out of order to refer to Adam’s sin in this case, for the prediction concerned the destruction of the nation of Israel, their city and temple (v. 28). To say that Abraham was always righteous and faithful to God and could not be referred to as a sinner is erroneous.

What follows is a list of seven sins of Abraham. It’s an interesting study, but one I won’t reproduce here.

I think the important point here is that the sin of Israel started at the very beginning, and was perpetuated by the leaders (teachers) down through the generations.  The primary sin of the nation was to forsake the worship of the Holy One of Israel and turn to the idols of the nations surrounding them.  It was for this sin that God says He will turn Israel over to reproach.