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.

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