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.’

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