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.

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