Sunday, July 31, 2011
Hosea Chapter 13
vs. 1-3 EPHRAIM
- I have wondered all week what this first verse meant... It says that when Ephraim spoke, the people shook with fear. But then Ephraim turned to idol worship... and thus sealed his destruction.
- I read a lot of commentaries and a lot of the early stories this week.
- Ephraim (speaking as of the tribe of Ephraim) longed for power. When Jacob blessed the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, he put Ephraim before Manasseh. Even though Manasseh was the elder...
- He wanted to be a leader... and so God let him. First in Joshua. Joshua was from the tribe of Ephraim. And he became the leader over all of Israel after Moses. And under Joshua, things were great! He was a mighty man of God who led the people well.
- However, when the people went into the land... Ephraim didn't remove all of the pagan peoples from the land as directed. They left some of them there. And during the time of the judges... Ephraim is mentioned because they fought a judge, or because they worshiped idols. (Judges 12; 17)
- Ephraim allowed pride to get in the way... He still wanted power... So God let him have another shot at it. When the kingdom was split in the beginning, Rehoboam, Solomon's son, took the Southern kingdom. And Jeroboam, one of the generals, took the Northern. Jeroboam was from the tribe of Ephraim. He was so worried that the people would rebel against him and go back under the rule of Rehoboam. So he set up idols in the land so that they wouldn't have to go to Jerusalem to worship. At first... the people looked at the idols as a representation of their God... but eventually... the pagan worship of the area filtered in and they abandoned God completely. (Not that idol worship was ever okay... but that was the mindset... they didn't see it as leaving God at first... much like us... if we compromise in small things... eventually... our compromises become bigger...)
- So God let Ephraim take charge... and instead of taking the responsibility to heart... or leading to God by example... Ephraim led the people away from God. He who had once been important in Israel... would now be doomed to destruction. “Therefore, they will disappear like the morning mist, like dew in the morning sun, like chaff blown by the wind, like smoke from a chimney.” All because they just couldn't seem to remain faithful to God. They just had to be worshiping idols... And at one time... they were the special ones! God put them in charge! Made them leaders over his people! And... now? They sealed their own fate when they turned away and refused to come back...
- There's such a parallel there to the world today... to us... None of us like to admit that we need someone else. I mean really. We want to be in control of our lives. We don't like to be seen as being vulnerable. There's too many people today that would take advantage... that do take advantage of vulnerabilities...
- There's a song by Fireflight called “The Hunger”. There's a few lines...
“There's an ache you can't erase.
A yearning that you can't replace.
And you want Him, and you need Him,
but you act like He's not there.
You know that you're hallow, and something's missing here.
So you push and you pull a hole in yourself
But you can't make the hunger disappear.”
- I was watching a video the other day about faith and it said something about how we are all born with this desire to know God. Even if we don't really understand it or see it as that... there is this hunger in ourselves that we can't deny. As some have said, “there's a God-sized hole in your heart that only God can fill.”
- Ephraim was definitely looking at other things to fill the hole... It's like trying to stick a round peg in a square hole... it doesn't fit right... even if it goes in the hole... there's still places that the peg just doesn't fill completely...
- You know... there's a lot of things that may seem to fill the hole for a little while... drugs, sex, adrenaline rushes, video games, books, cars, money... the list could go on for forever... You know... I have a friend who's a drug addict. He's absolutely against anything to do with God. And he's lost. He's SO lost. He knows something's missing in his life... but... he just can't seem to figure out what it is... He's tried just about everything. He's 30 years old... and still running from God... and still searching for something to fill him up. Frustrated with life. Trying to find his way. Trying to find something that he REALLY wants to do in life... He just dropped out of his doctorate program because he's not sure of where he's heading with it....
- Everybody is trying to find something that satisfies... but there's only One thing that truly does.
- Ephraim looked after so many other things that they gradually started to pull everybody else in the nation along with them. Not only did they rebel against God themselves... but they caused an entire nation to do likewise!
- What kinds of things do you seek after in your life? Jesus said that if we sought... we would find... and if we asked... then we would receive... and if we knocked.... then the door would be opened for us... But He wasn't really talking about things in this life... He was talking more about relationship with Him... and our witnessing to others... Persistence in prayer and supplication.
- But He said He would never turn us away if we asked...
- So the question remains... what kinds of things are you seeking after in your life? Are they things of God? Or things of flesh? Are you trying to fill a God-sized hole with something that doesn't even come close to fitting? Are you listening to people of the world who tell you that the pleasures of this life will fill you up if you consume enough of them? Are you letting them direct your seeking?
- Ephraim's desertion was leading them down the path to destruction... Because they chose to disobey God and turn to other gods... they were going to disappear... gone.
- What path will you choose?
- II Timothy 4:1-8
- Isaiah 55
- John 4:5-38; 6:25-59
- Matthew 5:6
vs. 4-8- DID YOU FORGET!?
- Again, when I was watching the video on faith this week... they were talking about a new train of thought that's started to come up in different religious circles. It's the thought that there is more than one way to get to heaven... and that ALL religions are right...
- Well... that's a rosy view of things... but it can't work... There's too many contradictions in the religions... One of the guys made the statement that “All religions may be wrong... but there's no way that they could all be right.” Good thought... good way of looking at it when that argument comes up.
- The next few verses are very clear about what God says about the above thought...
- “I have been the Lord your God ever since I brought you out of Egypt. You must acknowledge no God but me, for there is no other savior.”
- That's not subtle. That's very point blank. How many times did God make statements like that in the bible? One God. One Way. One Truth. There's no wiggle room on the subject. There's not the occasional time that God accepts the right of another god to be worshiped by His people... just doesn't happen.
- When it says that God is a jealous God... I can understand that. It's not that He's jealous for things... but rather... that He's jealous for US. We are His people... and He so LONGS for us to be solely His. He's jealous for our time... and our affection... much like a new husband is jealous for his new wife's time and affection... Except with God... the honeymoon stage never wears off... He will always want to spend more time with us.
- “I took care of you in the wilderness, in that dry and thirsty land. But when you had eaten and were satisfied, you became proud and forgot Me.”
- God provided anything His people needed. Gave them what they asked for. And as soon as they didn't desperately need Him anymore... they turned away from Him. They went after other things... and forgot what God had done for them.
- Continually... God sought after them. He would send prophets to them to remind them of their past and to convince them to turn back to Him. He would allow them to be punished for their actions. He would allow the enemy to come in and take them as discipline... But generations later... the people are still running away from God. They still don't want to come back to Him. They still turn to throw dirt in His face... and walk away...
- “So now I will attack you like a lion, like a leopard that lurks along the road. Like a bear whose cubs have been taken away, I will tear out your heart, I will devour you like a hungry lioness and mangle you like a wild animal.”
- Sound harsh? Well yeah...
- We sometimes forget that God is not all about love and kindness... We tend to ignore the fact that our God is still a just God... still a God of righteous judgment... We just kinda leave that part out. It doesn't fit with what we want our view of God to be. Who wants to serve a God that could strike you down with lightening at any second?
- but the fact is that our God... is very much a God of discipline. When we become rebellious children... discipline kicks in. There are consequences for our actions... I think it was Newton's law in science... said something like “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” It's simple science. Every action, causes a reaction... sometimes chain reactions...
- As children of God... our sins can be forgiven. All the things that we do wrong... there is grace enough to cover them all...
- But when we walk away from God... intentionally turn away and run after other things... that grace... well it doesn't cover us if we don't ask... and in order to ask...we have to seek after God.
- When we, in our rebellion, refuse to allow God into our lives... we are tossing His divine protection to the side. We are walking out of the fortress... We're outside the castle walls... And... once WE CHOOSE to walk outside... God can only do so much... because He is still a God of justice... and justice... doesn't give anyone a free pass for nothing... We have to be covered in the blood of Christ... we have to ask for salvation... we have to repent of our sin and turn away from it...
- Israel didn't. They were so far gone that they refused to turn to God... So... God was going to destroy them because of their sin. God looks at sin the same way... no matter who commits it... The idea behind the sacrifices was that the blood covered the sin. When God saw the blood... He didn't see the sin. But Israel... haven't been sacrificing to God... they've been worshiping idols... so their sin... just keeps getting worse...
- God is no respecter of persons... everyone is equal... and if Sodom and Gomorrah's sin caused their destruction... so Israel's sin, will cause their own destruction.
- Psalm 81
- Jeremiah 5; 6
- II Peter 3:3-10
- Deuteronomy 4:1-14; 8:1-20
vs. 9-11- IF MY PEOPLE...
- “You are about to be destroyed, O Israel—yes, by Me, your only Helper.”
- God was the faithful spouse. He loved His people with a passion. He was their constant helper, redeemer, savior... and they had abandoned Him... for what? For precious metals and wood shaped by man's hand into images... Man-made things made to imitate some aspect of the true God...
- Instead, they had turned to men to help them. They wanted a king to lead them rather than God. They wanted Egypt or Assyria's protection, rather than God's protection.
- “Now where is your king? Let him save you! Where are all the leaders of the land, the king and the officials you demanded of Me? In my anger I gave you kings, and in my fury I took them away.”
- When Israel demanded a king, they basically told God that He wasn't good enough to lead them anymore. They wanted an earthly king instead of a heavenly one. So He let them have their king... but before He did... He warned them of all the things a king would do to them... lead them into wars, take their children as servants and slaves, tax the people... so on and so forth... and the people didn't care. They still cried out for a king...
- I Samuel 8:4-22
- So now where is that king? Where is the leader you so desperately had to have? Well... in God's anger at the actions and the sins of the kings, he took them out of the picture. (Eventually... there would no longer be a king in Israel...) He let the people be taken into captivity... under the rule of other kings... Their kings... no longer had power. They could no longer protect the people... not even a little bit. They were as weak and humble as Israel had been in her own beginnings.
- II Kings 17:1-6
- Because God was angry with the people for wanting a king rather than Himself... He let them have their king... and when their sin caused His anger to grow to fury... He took the kings away...
- God tried everything to get His people to come back to Him... He tried to make things easy. He tried to make things easier. He tried to make things hard. And then harder. And finally harsh... And they STILL would rather go after other gods... other kings... other nations...
- So fine... Where is your king? Let HIM save you! Where are all your leaders? Can they do anything for you!?
- “You trusted in the horses and the chariots... and you forgot from Whom came your salvation! You forgot from Whom came your help! You forgot Who loved you and Who cared for you! You have abandoned me! So where will you turn now!? Where will your help come from now!? All I wanted to do was protect you. Keep you safe. Prosper you... and you walked away! You walked into the arms of other lovers... with no thought as to the long term consequences. You walked away and now where will you go!? I can't keep you safe if you refuse to let Me! I can't let you be prosperous while you throw your prosperity away on other lovers!”
- How God's heart must have been breaking!
- “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices. At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you. Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where My Name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart. As for you, if you faithfully follow me as David your father did, obeying all my commands, decrees, and regulations, then I will establish the throne of your dynasty. For I made this covenant with your father, David, when I said, 'One of your descendants will always rule over Israel.' But if you or your descendants abandon me and disobey the decrees and commands I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods, then I will uproot the people from this land that I have given them. I will reject this Temple that I have made holy to honor My Name. I will make it an object of mockery and ridicule among the nations. And though this Temple is impressive now, all who pass be will be appalled. They will ask, 'Why did the Lord do such terrible things to this land and to this Temple?' And the answer will be, 'Because His people abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of Egypt, and they worshiped other gods instead and bowed down to them. That is why He has brought all these disasters on them.'” (II Chronicles 7:12-22- God speaking to Solomon during the dedication of the new Temple.)
- There it is folks! The way God set it up. “IF you faithfully follow me. IF you obey all my commands, decrees, and regulations. IF My people will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways.”
- Conditions. But what it came down to was relationship.
- If the people would humble themselves before God. Humbling not meaning... to debase... but rather to throw pride to the side and say “Yes God... I'm a sinner and I need You in order to have salvation. God I NEED You... I can't do it by myself...
- Prayer. Come talk to God. Tell Him all you need and want and desire. Tell Him how you ache. The pain you feel. Tell Him all... He's dying for you to let Him know you better...
- Seek God's face. Seek to know Him better. Seek to understand His ways. Dig in and refuse to let go of God.
- Turn from their wicked ways. Repent. Turn to a new life and never look back at the old. Truly turn from sin to follow righteousness.
- That's all they had to do. Well that's a lot! That's a tall order when you look at it from human point of view.
- “okay... so I gotta look to God for everything I need... everything I want... Can't be self-sufficient... I gotta pray to God enough that we build a relationship... not just a daily grocery list... And it's hard to sit down and pray about stuff other than me! and I gotta really want to know God... a God I can't see, can't touch... And I gotta give up all the fun stuff. Gotta turn from everything wicked and walk the straight and narrow. Man that's HARD!”
- Okay so it's a process. This doesn't happen overnight... None of us are perfect. But God looks at the heart... He knows when we have truly repented and when we're just trying to buy some time until we can run back to our sin. Nobody changes overnight... but if we start seeking God? Change will come. If we build relationship with God... change will come. But it all starts with humbling ourselves... admitting that we do indeed NEED help from someone else. Admitting that all the things we've run to in our lives to fill that God-sized hole... just aren't enough. We need the right shape and size... peg.
- Our pastor a few weeks ago was talking about not looking at what we wish we could be in God. Not looking and saying, “man I wish I were more patient like sister so and so... Or could pray better prayers like brother so and so...” But rather, looking and saying... okay God... what's MY next step. What in MY life comes next. (Even if it seems like a miniature baby step at the time...)
- None of us are in the exact same spot at the same moment in time. Most of the time... we're going through different things... we've been through different things... and our life experiences... have changed us and helped us to grow up... a little different.
- The point is, where are YOU in your walk with God, right now. What kind of thing does God want you to deal with in your life RIGHT NOW. Yeah eventually it may lead to a better prayer life... or more patience... or a new spiritual gift... But... for now... what thing matters to God right this second. Long term goals just make us look at everyone around us in discouragement. “Well I'll never be as righteous as them...” Well... they're not that righteous either... They're just struggling with different things.
- My dad was talking to a guy in our church the other day about patience. He said he was really praying for patience lately... which is great! Except... mom used to say to be careful what we prayed for... because God doesn't just go “oh! They want patience! Oh okay! POOF!” nah... not usually... If we really want it... He usually starts putting us in situations that will BUILD UP patience...
- So where are you now? And where does God say the next step is? What is the thing you need to work on RIGHT NOW?
- Micah 4:6-13
- Ephesians 1:3-14
- Proverbs 19:21
- II Thessalonians 1:3-12
- I Thessalonians 3:9-4:12
vs. 12-16- FREE WILL AND CONSEQUENCES
- “Ephraim's guilt has been collected, and his sin has been stored up for punishment.”
- footnote- “Ephraim's (Israel's) sins were recorded for later punishment. All our sins are known and will be revealed at the day of judgment (II Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:11-15)....”
- Just as all our sins will be stored up for punishment if we don't repent and turn from them...
- Ephraim had signed his own death warrant. He had turned away and refused to repent... so his just punishment was coming to him...
- “Pain has come to the people like the pain of childbirth, but they are like a child who resists being born. The moment of birth has arrived, but they stay in the womb!”
- Looking at this... It is time to be born. It's time to start a new life... but instead... Ephraim didn't want to. He resisted the birth process... and because he chooses to stay in his sins... he will suffocate in them. God has brought him to the threshold of new beginnings... and he chooses to face instead, the old life, with the old sins... and refuses to look at the way things COULD be.
- I love the way the Message translation puts this passage...
- “When birth pangs signaled it was time to be born, Ephraim was too stupid to come out of the womb. When the passage into life opened up, he didn't show. Shall I intervene and pull them into life? Shall I snatch them from a certain death?”
- When God placed free will in our beings... it was good. We could CHOOSE to love Him. We could love each other with no obligations... simply because we WANTED to love.
- But in doing so... free will also allows us to make decisions about our actions... about whether or not we will sin... and unfortunately... Satan can make sin look like a pretty good idea... and we are weak creatures on our own...
- As much as God would love to step in and save us all no matter what we've done... it would mean taking away free will. And that would mean that our love was no longer a choice... but rather... an obligation...
- So... “O death, bring on your terrors! O grave, bring on your plagues! For I will not take pity on them.”
- God won't take away free will... because then... the kind of intimate relationship He desires... will never be...
- So if that means he has to let us go and face the consequences of our actions... well... that's our choice...
- “Ephraim was the most fruitful of all his brothers, but the east wind—a blast from the Lord—will arise in the desert. All their flowing springs will run dry, and all their wells will disappear. Every precious thing they own will be plundered and carried away. The people of Samaria must bear the consequences of their guilt because they rebelled against their God. They will be killed by an invading army, their little ones dashed to death against the ground, their pregnant women ripped open by swords.”
- What kinds of choices are you making? What kinds of decisions will God have to make regarding your future... because of your choices?
- Psalm 51
- II Corinthians 5:1-6:2
- Joshua 24:2-28