Down the family line…stepping stones and stumbling blocks

31 01 2012

DAY TWO HUNDRED AND SEVEN : 1 Chronicles 1 v. 1 – 2 v. 17; Romans 9 v. 22 – 10 v. 4; Psalm 89 v. 14 – 18

1 CHRONICLES – the books of Chronicles revolve around the lives of David and Solomon, after opening with the genealogical lists which reinforce the national identity, and are probably written some time after the Exile and return, around 400 – 450BC. Much of the work is taken from Samuel and Kings (though Chronicles misses out key stories, like David and Bathsheba, and Adonijah’s ‘attempts to usurp the throne of Judah’, or Solomon’s apostasy (key to 1 Kings 11).
The writer, therefore is keen to outline the triumphs of the past to a people who are only to aware of the failures.
‘The Chronicler calls his people to return to an absolute abandonment into God’s will through faith and genuine worship’. (Wesley Study Bible).

Historical Records From Adam to Abraham – the first list is from Adam, through Noah and his sons (the Japhethites, Hamites and Semites). The descendants of Ham included Nimrod ‘who became a mighty warrior on earth’, Mizraim who fathered peoples who became known as the Philistines, and Canaan who was the father of the Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites etc…
Abraham was a descendant of Shem.

The Family of Abraham – Isaac and Ishmael, sons of Sarah and Hagar, with their descendants, and also the descendants of Keturah, Abraham’s concubine. Isaac had Esau and Israel.
‘The name Israel rather than Jacob stresses the uniqueness of this child of Abraham as the son of promise’. (WSB)

Esau’s Sons –
Esau’s sons are listed, and then the line through the eldest, Eliphaz, and the second, Reuel.

The People of Seir in Edom – In the parallel passage in Genesis 36, Seir is described as ‘the Horite who inhabited the land’. Here his descendants are listed through Seir’s sons.
And then the kings of Edom before Israel’s kings ruled are listed:
Bela whose city was named Dinhabah, then Jobab, then Husham the Temanite.
Then Hadad who defeated Midian in Moab country, whose city was named Avith, then Samlah, then Shaul, then Baal-Hanan.
Then Hadad whose city was named Pau (his wife Mehetabel, daughter of Matred, daughter of Me-Zahab also gets a mention).
The chiefs of Edom also get listed.

Israel’s Sons –Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Joseph, Benjamin, Naphtali, Gad and Asher

Judah –
Judah’s sons are listed:
Er (firstborn, ‘wicked in the Lord’s sight…so, put to death’), Onan and Shelah – to a Canaanite woman
Perez and Zerah – to Tamar

Then the sons of Perez and Zerah are listed:
two to Perez, five to Zerah
and the sons of Carmi (‘Aschar who brought trouble on Israel by violating the ban on taking devoted things’), Ethan and Hezron (including Jerahmeel, Ram and Caleb) are listed

Then the descendants of Ram are listed:
through his son, Amminadab
and then his son, Nahshon – ‘the leader of the people of Judah’
and then his son, Salmon, and his son, Boaz, and his son, Obed
‘and Obed was the father of Jesse’
Jesse’s family are listed :
sons : Eliab, Abinadab, Shimea, Nethanel, Raddai, Ozem and seventh son, David !!
daughters : Zeruiah, Abigail

it is clear that the compiler of these genealogies is keen to underline the centrality of the line of David – ‘the author’s conviction is that David’s line was to be God’s instrument of blessing for all humankind’.

I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall


ROMANS

God’s Sovereign Choice (continued) – Paul suggest that God shows His power by bearing with those who have caused His wrath great patience. In doing this God is making ‘the riches of His glory known to the objects of His mercy, whom He prepared in advance for glory.’
The objects of his wrath and mercy are both Jews and Gentiles, says Paul, quoting Hosea
‘I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people….they will be called ‘sons of the living God’.’
and reminding them of Isaiah’s call to the remnant of Israel.

Israel’s Unbelief – This will be hard to believe for many, that those who were not pursuing righteousness (the Gentiles) have obtained it – ‘a righteousness which is by faith’; and many in Israel, who have pursued a ‘law of righteousness’ have not attained it.
‘Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works’.
Paul describes a stumbling stone, quoting passages from Isaiah 8 and 28, over which they have stumbled
‘a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame’.

Jesus Christ is the stumbling block, the rock which causes some to stumble, and those who put their trust in Him to be blameless, right with God.

Paul’s prayer is that all Israel will be saved…Paul knows their zeal for God, a zeal ‘not based on knowledge’, but rather establishing their own path of righteousness, not God’s.
‘Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.’

PSALM
My Lord, my God,
Your throne stands upon the foundation blocks of justice and righteousness
Love and faithfulness are always a step ahead of You, announcing Your arrival.
Those who walk in the light of Your presence, who have learnt to acknowledge You in all things, are truly, truly blessed.
They are heard rejoicing in You all the day long, praising how perfectly good and right are all Your ways.
You, my Lord, my God,
are glorious and strong,
and You raise us up.
You are our shield, and our protection comes from You
O King,
O Holy One.





Repentance and blessing…the Potter at work

24 01 2012

Day Two Hundred and Six : Hosea 11 v. 12 – 14 v. 9; Romans 9 v. 1 – 21; Psalm 89 v. 9 – 13

HOSEA : the last day in the book of Hosea – God’s condemnation has been very strong…bad days are coming.
Israel’s Sin – God continues to register His complaints against Israel:
– all Ephraim and Israel lies, deceives and is unruly
– all Ephraim, like a destructive east wind, has lies and violence swirling around
– Ephraim seeks treaties with the likes of Assyria and Egypt
– God is displeased with Judah, and will punish Jacob’s line
– Jacob had grabbed his brother’s heel in his mother’s womb, and had wrestled with God, ‘weeping and begging for His favour’. Jacob found God at Bethel
‘the Lord God Almighty, the Lord is His name of renown!
But you must return to Your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.’
– Just as a dishonest merchant uses fraudulent scales, weighed in his favour, so Ephraim boasts of its ill-gotten wealth
– the God who brought them out of Egypt will make them live in tents (temporary homes) again
– the prophets have been given many visions and parables to tell
– Gilead is wicked, its people worthless
– Gilgal sacrifices bulls, but its altars will be brought to rubble
– When Jacob fled to Aram, Israel served to get a wife, and he looked after sheep to earn her
– God has laid everything on for His people, but Ephraim has ‘bitterly provoked Him to anger…and the Lord…will repay him for his contempt.’

The Lord’s Anger Against Israel – God reminds Ephraim of its fall from grace – from being exalted in the nations, treated with awe, to being guilty of Baal worship, and dying. Their sin increases day by day, making more and more silver idols, offering human sacrifices and ‘kissing the calf-idols’.
What God had established to be set up forever will now be like ‘morning mist…early dew that disappears’.
The God who brought His people out of Egypt wants them to ‘acknowledge no God but me, no Saviour except me.’
They are reminded of how God had cared for them in the desert, had fed them until they’d had enough…but then pride took the better of them, and ‘they forgot me’.
The attack to come will be like that of a lion, or a lurking leopard, or an angry bear – they will be devoured, torn to shreds.
‘You are destroyed, O Israel, because you are against me.’
They had demanded kings and princes to rule over them…well, where are they now ?
‘In my anger I gave you a king, and in my wrath I took him away.’
The pain which they will suffer will be like childbirth, only the foolish child refuses to come out!

‘I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?’

God’s compassion has run out, and a cruel east wind is about to blow in from the desert, drying up all their water supplies, plundering storehouses of ever treasure.
It’s going to be horribly messy – blood and guts – people cut down by the sword all over the place.

Repentance to Bring Blessing – even now, though, there is a call to repent:
‘Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall. Take words with you and return to the Lord.’
They are even given the words by which to offer their repentance:
‘Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips.’
They need to turn from putting their hope in Assyria, or their false gods
‘for in You the fatherless find compassion.’
‘I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.
I will be like dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily.’
the beautiful trees will flourish once again – cedars and olive trees;
the people themselves will flourish, too – like abundant corn or blossoming vine.
‘O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols?…I am like a green pine tree: your fruitfulness comes from me.’

and the book of Hosea, ending on a positive high, the promise of the blessings of repentance, echoes an age-old truth in conclusion :
‘The ways of the Lord are right,
the righteous walk in them, whilst the rebellious stumble along.’

ROMANS
God’s Sovereign Choice – Paul expresses the deep sorrow and ‘unceasing anguish’ in his heart. His deep desire is to be ‘cut off’ from Christ for the sake of his brothers – ‘the people of Israel’.
‘Theirs is the adoption as sons, theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises…the patriarchs, the human ancestry of Christ…’
but, not all who are descended from Israel are Israel – not the natural children who are God’s children, but the children of the promise are regarded as ‘Abraham’s offspring’.
Although Jacob and Esau were born to the same mum and dad, God had said, ‘The older will serve the younger’, to serve God’s purpose of election.
Does that make God unjust (certainly could do, if you were Esau)? Paul says, ‘Not at all!’, quoting,
‘I will have mercy and compassion on whom I have mercy and compassion.’
Everything depends on God’s mercy, not on human desire or effort.
Pharaoh is given as an example of one whose heart God hardened, ‘that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth’.
There is no right of reply, either, in God’s eyes, ‘Who are you, O man, to talk back to God?’
Can the created talk back to the Creator, saying, ‘Why did You make me like this?’
‘Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common purposes?’

This chapter begins with a reminder of our complete dependence upon God’s mercy, grace, shaping of us, provision….

PSALM
‘My Lord, my God, You reign over the raging waters,
You can still the seas.
Rahab was crushed, Your enemies were scattered.
The heavens and the earth belong to You – they are Yours.
You laid the foundations for the world, and created all that it contains.
The north, the south – You crafted.
The mountains of Tabor and Hermon – they sing for joy at the sound of Your name.
Your arms are powerful, Your hands are strong.
Your right hand, high and lifted up.’





More than conquerors

14 01 2012

DAY TWO HUNDRED AND FIVE : Hosea 10 v. 1 – 11 v. 11; Romans 8 v. 18 – 39; Psalm 89 v. 1 – 8

HOSEA
Punishment for Israel (cont.) – Through Hosea, God reminds Israel that they had been a fruitful spreading vine – gaining influence, building more altars, as the fruit became more and more abundant. But the drift away from God was because they had a deceitful heart, ‘and now they must bear their guilt’.
Their altars and sacred stones will be demolished.
They will bemoan the fact that their lack of reverence for the Lord has left them without a king – but what use would a king be anyway?
In Israel’s experience, kings make false promises and empty oaths, and the lawyers have a field day, the only winners!
‘poisonous weeds in a ploughed field’
There will be weeping and mourning over the calf-idol of Beth Aven – it has caused the exile about to take place, and will be carried off to Assyria.
Ephraim will be disgraced, Israel will be put to shame. Samaria’s king and people will float away like a twig on the waters.
The high-places will be destroyed – the wicked sin of Israel. They will be covered over with thorns and thistles.
All the way back to the early days of Gibeah, Israel has sinned, and has not moved on. At God’s appointed time, the punishment will come. The surrounding nations will rise up against them for their ‘double sin’ (it’s twice as bad as they may have feared).
Ephraim, Judah and Jacob are likened to a trained heifer, with a God-given yoke on ‘her fair neck’. God will use them to thresh, plough and break up the ground.
‘Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unploughed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until He comes and showers righteousness on you.’
Instead, they have planted wickedness, reaped evil, eaten deceptive fruits, depended upon their own strength.
Listen, the battle cry is growing louder – all Israel’s fortresses will be completely destroyed.
It’s coming, o Bethel – a great demolition, to pay for your great wickedness.

God’s Love for Israel – you can hear the pain expressed through God’s love for His precious people:
‘when Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son…Israel’
– but they sacrificed to idols, burnt incense to images
‘it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms….it was I who healed them’
‘I led them with cords of human kindness; with ties of love’
– God stooped down to feed them
– their refusal to repent will see them return to Egypt, and Assyria will rule over them
– destruction will come to them, by the sword
‘My people are determined to turn from me…’
‘How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel?’ (Admah and Zeboiim were cities completely destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah, never to be inhabited again, unlike Israel which is being handed the promise of a return from captivity)
‘My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger….’
‘For I am God, and not man – the Holy One among you…they will follow the Lord…I will settle in their homes’

ROMANS
Future Glory – In these most glorious of verses, Paul reveals that any suffering endured at present must be put against the backdrop of the ‘glory that will be revealed in us’. All creation is awaiting the moment when the sons of God will be revealed. Creation has been ‘subjected to frustration’, but lives in the hope that it will be liberated ‘from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God’.
Paul sees that everything in creation is straining towards the outworking of God’s redemptive plan, ‘as in the pains of childbirth’. Indeed we, ourselves, ‘groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons…the redemption of our bodies’. This is the hope in which we are saved, and for which we wait patiently. We can all identify with that sense of groaning, waiting anticipation for God’s purposes to be completely fulfilled.
In the meantime, the Spirit comes to our help, supporting us through our weaknesses. ‘We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express’.
And God knows our innermost thoughts, sees what’s in our hearts, and also knows the ‘mind of the Spirit’. The Spirit continually intercedes for all the saints / holy ones, as is God’s will and purpose.

More Than Conquerors – these next verses are amongst the most hope-filled, comforting, reassuring words in all scripture; I’ve often had them read at funeral services, to remind the family present that God’s love reaches beyond the grave into eternity, and that He allows nothing to separate us from His love in Christ.
‘we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose’
if we know ourselves loved by God, and seek to love Him in return, then in every situation we can see God’s hand working for our good (sometimes in hindsight)
God predestined that those who loved Him would ‘be conformed to the likeness of His Son…the firstborn among many brothers’.
– we are predestined to be called, justified and glorified…wow!
‘If God is for us, who can be against us?‘ – surely no-one and nothing can stand against us, if we stand in God.
– if God did not withhold His only Son for us – will He not also ‘graciously give us all things’? – it’s the ‘Lord’s my Shepherd, therefore I shall lack nothing’ principle – God gives us precisely what we need.
– we should fear condemnation from no-one : it is God who justifies us, and that’s that!
– and Jesus intercedes for us continually just to the right of God the Father
– and nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord:
neither TROUBLE, nor HARDSHIP, nor PERSECUTION, nor FAMINE, nor NAKEDNESS, nor DANGER, nor SWORD
neither DEATH, nor LIFE, nor ANGELS, nor DEMONS, nor the PRESENT, nor the FUTURE, nor any POWERS, nor HEIGHT, nor DEPTH, nor ANYTHING ELSE IN ALL CREATION (that’s pretty conclusive, then!)
– ‘we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us’

PSALM
Ethan the Ezrahite wrote this song

My Lord, my God, I will forever sing of Your great love.
I will let all ages, and all generations know of Your great faithfulness.
I will declare Your everlasting love, and Your ‘established in the heavens’ faithfulness.

You have said, ‘My chosen one, David, my servant –
 I have covenanted Myself to you
I will establish your throne forever
and I will strengthen your reign and rule across all generations’

(pause for reflection)

All heaven celebrates Your wonders, my Lord, my God;
Your faithfulness is praised in the assembled crowd of saints (holy ones).
Is there anyone, in all the world, across all the skies, or spanning the heavens, who can compare with the Lord?
You are feared amongst the saints (holy ones)
You are revered beyond all others.
Awesome God.
My Lord, my God, there is none like You
Mighty and faithful, always and forever.





No condemnation – life, in Christ, led by the Spirit

7 01 2012

DAY TWO HUNDRED AND FOUR : Hosea 8 v. 1 – 9 v. 17; Romans 8 v. 1 – 17; Proverbs 17 v. 25 – 18 v. 6

HOSEA
Israel To Reap The Whirlwind – The call is to sound the trumpet, for ‘an eagle is over the house of the Lord because the people have broken my covenant’.
Although Israel is now crying out to God, they have rejected what is good, and will be handed over to an enemy.
They have established kings God has not authorised; they have made silver and gold idols which have led to their destruction.
God calls for the calf-idol of Samaria to be thrown out – ‘how long will they be incapable of purity?’ (good question…)
‘They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind’ – in other words, worshiping false gods is like chasing the wind, empty promises.
The Assyrians will harvest whatever they sow now, as Israel will be devoured by its neighbour.
‘Ephraim has sold herself to lovers’, like a wild donkey (an ass) wandering into the grasp of Assyria. They will waste away.
Ephraim’s altars built for sin-offerings have become places where sin is glorified (dedicated to false gods); the laws God had taken time to write for them have been totally disregarded. The sacrifices they offer they then eat, and ‘the Lord is not pleased with them.’
Now is the time for their wickedness to be punished – exiled to Egypt.
‘Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces…I will send fire upon their cities that will consume their fortresses.’

Punishment For Israel – there is nothing for Israel to rejoice in, no cause for celebration, says God. They have proved themselves unfaithful, chasing after prostitutes. They will experience lack of food and wine, and be exiled from their land. There will be no acceptable sacrifices offered to the Lord, they will simply remain unclean. ‘What will you do on the day of your appointed feasts, on the festival days of the Lord?’
Those who survive will be taken by the Egyptians, their treasures will be taken, their tents become overgrown with thorns.
‘The days of punishment are coming, the days of reckoning are at hand. Let Israel know this.’
Israel has sinned so greatly, and shown terrible hostility; prophets are dishonoured, the inspired treated like maniacs.
God’s prophets have been trapped  and shown great hostility.
God remembers ‘finding Israel’, and it was as sweet as finding grapes in the desert – like the early fruits on the fig-tree. But now they have consecrated themselves to the ‘shameful idol of Baal Peor’.
‘Ephraim’s glory will fly away like a bird – no birth, no pregnancy, no conception’. It sounds like the end for them. Their children will die early – it will terrible. They will be given ‘wombs that miscarry and breasts that are dry’.
Israel will be rejected, ‘no longer beloved’, because of their wickedness. ‘I will drive them out of my house’.
‘Ephraim is blighted, their root is withered, they yield no fruit’. Their children will be slayed. Nasty.
‘My God will reject them because they have not obeyed him; they will be wanderers among the nations.’
This is bad.
Really bad!

….but there is good news today….


ROMANS

Life Through The Spirit – Those who are ‘in Christ’ must not fear any condemnation, ‘because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.’ There’s a real freedom to experience, not found by the law, but by the sending of God’s own Son to be a sin offering.
‘And so He condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who live…according to the Spirit.’
Lives lived according to the sinful nature tend towards natural desires, leading to death. Lives lived according to the Spirit tend towards what the Spirit desires, leading to life and peace.
Sinful nature is hostile towards God, does not submit to Him (‘nor can it do so’), and cannot please God.
The readers / hearers of the letter Paul is writing are controlled by the Spirit, Paul contends, ‘if the Spirit of God lives in you’.
You cannot belong to Christ unless the Spirit is in you; but if ‘Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.’
If the Spirit of Him who raised Christ from the dead is living in us (what an amazing thought!), He will give life to our mortal bodies, through the Spirit in us.
Don’t live according to sinful nature – it only leads to death. ‘But if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.’
‘You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship…to cry, ‘Abba, Father’.’
We are God’s children (the Spirit witnesses to our spirit). That’s who we are.
As children, we are heirs – ‘heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ’ (stunning !!) – as we share in His sufferings and enter His glory.

PROVERBS
It is not good to punish an innocent man, or to flog officials for their integrity
A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered
An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends…a fool finds no pleasure in understanding, but delights in airing his own opinions
The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook
It is not good…to deprive the innocent of justice
A fool’s lips bring him strife, and his mouth invites a beating





Thanks Be To God…for Jesus

5 01 2012

DAY TWO HUNDRED AND THREE : Hosea 6 v. 1 – 7 v. 16; Romans 7 v. 7 – 25; Psalm 88 v. 9b – 18

HOSEA
Israel Unrepentant – the call is for Israel to return to the Lord, after all the destruction, ‘He will heal us…He will bind up our wounds…He will revive us..He will restore us…Let us acknowledge the Lord…He will come to us like spring rains’
In return, though, Ephraim and Judah have a love which is like the early dew which disappears quickly. God brings destruction upon them because of their disloyalty and disobedience. ‘I killed you with the words of my mouth.’
‘For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings’
They have been like Adam – breaking the covenant, and being unfaithful.
Gilead is singled out as a city of wicked people. The priests are singled out as a band of ambushing marauders.
‘I have seen a horrible thing in the house of Israel…Ephraim’s prostitution and Israel defiled’
Although Judah is also under God’s spotlight, it is Israel which is being charged with
– crimes of deceit, theft, robbing
‘Their sins engulf them; they are always before me.’
– the kings and princes are impressed / delighted with the wickedness and sin
– adultery is rife
– the princes drink too much, and the king joins them in smouldering passions (like a hot oven devouring rulers with its flaming fire)
– Ephraim has mixed too much with other nations, such that foreigners sap its strength
– Israel does not return to the Lord, or even search for Him
‘Ephraim is like a dove, easily deceived and senseless’, turning instead to Egypt and Assyria for help
– God will catch them like birds in nets, as they fly, straying from Him
‘I long to redeem them, but they speak lies against me.
– they wail and mourn, but don’t cry out to God anymore
‘I trained them and strengthened them, but they plot evil against me’
– they will fall by the sword and be ridiculed in Egypt because of their insolence

ROMANS
Struggling With Sin – Paul is not saying that the ‘law is sin’, but that the law informs us about sin, sets the boundaries, and highlights sin.
‘Sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead.’
The commandment which was meant to bring life, actually brought death.
‘The law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good’.
The commandment produces ‘death in me’, sin twists even what is good, and makes it as death.
The law is only possible if you live the spiritual life – the naturally sinful life experiences only the impossibility of the law.
‘For what I want to do I do not do; but what I hate I do….it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.’
‘For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.’
There is an inner battle going on, and Paul knows that ‘evil is right there with me’.
There is a war on! Something / someone ‘making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members’.
Paul cries out for a saviour, someone to help him in this struggle.
‘Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!’

He, alone, makes all things possible.

PSALM
My Lord, my God, I cry out to You, I lift my hands to You, every day

Do You occupy Yourself with the dead? Do the dead respond to You?

(pause for reflection)

Does the grave know Your loving faithfulness, or just Destruction?
Does the darkness know Your right and glorious deeds, or just Oblivion?

My Lord, my God, I cry out to You,
from first thing in the morning.
‘Help me!’
But it feels like You’ve rejected me, turned away from me.

It’s been like this since I was young:
I have been sick to the point of death
I have suffered, been terrified, and despaired
I have felt the full force of Your anger, Your terrible destruction
I have experienced drowing in the flood of it all
I have lost my companions and loved ones
My best friend now is Darkness.





The grace-gift of God : Eternal Life

4 01 2012

DAY TWO HUNDRED AND TWO : Hosea 3 v. 1 – 5 v. 15; Romans 6 v. 15 – 7 v. 6; Psalm 88 v. 1 – 9a

HOSEA
Hosea’s Reconciliation With His Wife – Hosea is instructed by God to go to his wife and love her again, even thought she has committed adultery and is loved by another. ‘Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.’
So Hosea goes and buys her back (15 shekels of silver, and a ‘homer and a lethek of barley’), and tells her not to go with another man (either for money, or just for the intimacy), ‘and I will live with you.’
Israel, too, will be forced to live many days without offering itself away from God to king, prince, sacred stones, ephod or idol. Then Israel will ‘return and seek the Lord their God and David their king’. They will return, trembling, seeking God’s blessings in the end.

The Charge Against Israel – God brings His charge against His people :
‘there is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land’
– there is plenty of cursing, lying, murder, stealing, adultery, breaking boundaries, shedding blood
– the land is mourning, its people are wasting away, all its beasts, birds and fish are dying
– stop bringing charges against one another, stop accusing one another; you’re all the same, stumbling around, day and night
– I will destroy your mother (the nation), because of your lack of knowledge, understanding
– you have rejected my knowledge, wisdom, so I reject your priestly calling (set apart amongst the nations)
– you have ignored my laws, so will ignore you and your children
– you have increased in number, o priests, and in sin : ‘exchanged their Glory for something disgraceful’
– feeding on sin, relishing wickedness; and as the priests behave, so the people behave !
– now is the time for punishment and repaying your wickedness
– they will go hungry, they will diminish (visiting prostitutes does not increase the population)
– they have given themselves to ‘old wine and new’, which confuses the people (‘takes away their understanding’)
– they are consulting wooden idols, and they have a ‘spirit of prostitution’ which leads them to be unfaithful to God
– sacrificing to false gods and prostitution and adultery are God’s main, recurring complaints
– women are no more to blame than the men, who consort with harlots and visit shrine-prostitutes
‘Though you commit adultery, O Israel, let not Judah become guilty’
– Judah is urged not to involve itself with Israel’s idolatry, to leave Israel (Ephraim) well alone

Judgment Against Israel – the priests and all Israel are called to pay attention to the judgment of God.
‘Israel is corrupt.’
They cannot return to God while they still have this ‘spirit of prostitution’, and are consumed with arrogance.
Though they go with their flocks to seek the Lord, they won’t find Him, because of their unfaithfulness.
‘He has withdrawn Himself from them’.
Listen for the trumpet sound, the battle cry in Gibeah, Ramah, Beth Aven, for Ephraim (Israel) will be laid waste.
Both Ephraim (Israel) and Judah will suffer defeat. Ephraim has turned to Assyria for help, but no ‘cure’ came from there.
‘I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah; I will tear them to pieces and go away…’
Then they will seek God’s face again, from their place of deep misery.


ROMANS

Slaves to Righteousness – Next, Paul moves on to another question he must have heard asked – ‘if we are not ‘under law’ than, but grace, it doesn’t really matter if we sin or not, does it? We can sin as much as we like, surely?’
Paul argues, though, that when we offer ourselves we become slaves to whoever we choose to obey – so, which are we – ‘slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness’?
We used to be slaves to sin, but thanks to God, we have put our whole trust in the teaching which has been passed on to us in trust.
‘You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.’
We are urged to offer our bodies in slavery to righteousness which leads to holiness (not to impurity and ever-increasing wickedness).
There is no ultimate benefit in slavery to sin – nothing but death.
The benefit of slavery to God is holiness, and eternal life.
‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

An Illustration From Marriage – the argument follows that people are only under ‘law’ as long as they live. The example is in marriage. If a husband dies, the woman is released from the law of marriage, and is not committing adultery if she marries again.
Being ‘in Christ’ means we have died to the law, ‘that you might belong to another’, to be Christ’s ‘in order that we might bear fruit to God’.
Controlled by sinful nature, sinful passions are stirred by the law working in us, so we bear fruit for death.
‘But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit…’

I like the imagery of being released from bondage to sin, and freed to belong to Christ, to be in Him, to serve in the new way of the Spirit.
Lord, let it be so, in me today.

PSALM
A song from the Sons of Korah, a maskil of Heman the Ezrahite
Musical direction : according to mahalath leannoth

My Lord, my God,

You save me as I cry out to You day and night.
Listen to me, hear my prayer and answer me.

I am deeply, deeply troubled,
My life is ebbing away from me.
I am on death row, in line with others nearing their end.
A weakling, struggling with no strength at all.
Put out with the garbage,
Laid to rest like the dead.
Do You even remember me?
Do You still care?

Why have You put me in this position,
laid my in the lowest pit, the darkest depth?
You seem to be so angry with me,
like a heavy weight pressing down on me,
overwhelming me like floodwaters; I’m drowning beneath its waves.

(pause for reflection)

You have cut me off from my very best friends
turned them away from me completely – they despise me.
I am trapped – I can’t escape
My eyes are fading – I can’t see through my upset and grief.





To have and to hold…new life in Christ

3 01 2012

DAY TWO HUNDRED AND ONE : Hosea 1 v. 1 – 2 v. 23; Romans 6 v. 1 – 14; Psalm 87 v. 1 – 7

HOSEA
Hosea is writing in the northern kingdom of Israel during the 8th Century BC, against the backdrop of Baal worship. Israel had attained great power and wealth, but was under threat from Assyria. Both Amos and Hosea try to warn Israel that its only hope is to turn back to God. The main theme of the book is God’s mercy (in spite of Israel’s adulterous relationship with Baal) – ‘hesed….involves loving loyalty to covenant commitments, well illustrated by the marriage vow.’

Hosea’s Wife and Children – Hosea’s time of writing the ‘word of the Lord’ is identified by the kings of Judah and Israel. God instructs Hosea to ‘Go, take yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, for the land is guilty of the vilest adultery by departing from the Lord.’
Hosea’s experiences in marriage are to help him and others understand God’s experiences in relation to Israel.
He marries Gomer and they have a son, whom God calls Jezreel, signifying judgment on the house of Jehu, for the massacre at Jezreel.
They next have a daughter, whom God calls Lo-Ruhamah (meaning ‘unpitied’) to indicate that He will no longer show His love for Israel, but rather for Judah, who He will save.
Next followed a second son, whom God calls Lo-Ammi (meaning ‘not my people’), stating a reversal of the covenant pledge ‘you will be my people’.
‘Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore…in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people’, they will be called, ‘sons of the living God’.
God’s love will bring Israel and Judah together again, reunited under one leader, and they will become ‘brothers’ and ‘loved ones’ once again.

Israel Punished and Restored – God pours out His rebuke and condemnation – a husband (God) bringing the case against his wife (Israel) :
‘rebuke your mother…for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband’
– she has an adulterous look, and is unfaithful
– God will expose her infidelity, and will make her like a desert
– God will withdraw His love from her children, born out of adultery, infidelity, conceived in disgrace
– She has chased after her lovers, who have showered her with good things
– God will confuse and block her way, walling her in, so that she cannot catch her lovers
‘Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.’
– She has forgotten all God’s provision – new wine and oil, silver and gold – now used for worshipping Baal
– The grain will be taken away, the new wine will disappear
– Wool and linen intended to cover her nakedness will be taken back, and she will be exposed
– God will stop all the celebrations (new moon, sabbaths etc.), and vines and fig-trees will be ruined
‘I will punish her for the days she burned incense to the Baals…she went after her lovers, but me she forgot.’

– God wants to lure her back, leading her into the desert to speak tenderly to her
(‘true in our lives as well : trouble becomes an opportunity for God to call us back to Himself…Israel’s punishment will open the door to a bright future if she responds in repentance’ Wesley Study Bible)
The Valley of Achor is where Achan paid for his sin (Josh. 7)
– She will sing as in the days of her youth…when she came up out of Egypt
– She will call God her husband once again, not merely ‘master’ (play on words, too, with ‘master’ in Hebrew being ba’al)
– This will be a turning away from the Baals, no longer speaking their names
– A new covenant will be made for them (with the animals and birds); bows and swords will disappear from the land;
‘I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion, in faithfulness…and you will acknowledge the Lord.’
– There will be a beautiful harmony in nature – skies and earth, grain, wine, oil, all responding to this new covenant relationship
‘I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called, ‘Not my loved one’.
‘I will say to those called, ‘Not my people’, ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God’.

ROMANS
Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ – Paul next asks a key question – if God is full of grace, should we be testing its boundaries by sinning more and more ?
‘By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?’
Those who have been baptised, were baptised into Christ’s death, buried with Him in baptism, so that we may be raised to new life, united with Hum in resurrection.
The body of sin is done away with, ‘so that we should no longer be slaves to sin’.
We died with Christ, we will also live with Him. Death has no more mastery over Jesus.
‘The death He died, He died to sin once for all, but the life He lives, He lives to God.’
We are to count ourselves as dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus.
Sin is to have no reign or rule in our lives, so that we give in to its temptations and desires.
We are to offer ourselves not to sinful desires, but to God, as people given a new life, and to offer our bodies as ‘instruments of righteousness’, before God.
‘Sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.’

PSALM
A song from the Sons of Korah
My Lord, my God,
Your foundation is set firmly on the holy mountain,
through the ever-loved gates of Zion,
more loved than any home.
Glorious things are spoken of you, Zion, city of God

(pause for reflection)

Rahab, Babylon, Philistia, Tyre, Cush all pay tribute to you, honouring those born in Zion.
Others will say about Zion
‘This one and that one were born in her,
God Himself will make her great,
He will register those born within Zion’

(pause for reflection)

They will rejoice and sing a great song, saying
‘Every fountain I know is in You.’