Minor Prophets

Does God Keep His Promises? (Zephaniah)

At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, a young American soldier was growing in acclaim for his military prowess. He helped the American forces capture the British garrison at Fort Ticonderoga in 1775. He later was instrumental in forcing the surrender of the British army at Saratoga in 1777. Although he was growing as an American hero, he never felt that he received the recognition for his efforts. This budding American hero started secret negotiations with the British to help them take WestPoint in exchange for money and a high post in the British army. He broke his promise to his fellow soldiers and betrayed his friends to win favor with the enemy. This once American war hero, Benedict Arnold, has now become synonymous with the word, “traitor.” Broken promises can change heroes into traitors.

            Has someone ever broken a promise they made to you? Have you felt betrayed? Was it hard to trust them again? It is no surprise that we live in a world of broken promises. From politicians not fulfilling their campaign promises to athletes using performance enhancing drugs, we are daily bombarded with seeing a string of broken promises. And as we see broken promises, we are inevitably tempted to ask, “Can anyone be trusted?” And if we doubt whether we can trust any human person we can see, we may also be tempted to doubt God who we can’t see. Does God keep His promises? Can God be trusted?

            This is the question we hope to answer through the prophecy of Zephaniah. Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of Josiah who reigned from 640 – 609 B.C. Josiah was the young, righteous king who helped to restore true worship in Judah which had fallen out of practice since his great-grandfather Hezekiah. Zephaniah also came from the line of Hezekiah which we read in verse 1,

The word of the LORD that came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.

Zephaniah is going to say some very difficult things to the nation of Judah so the prophecy starts by showing his national pedigree. Although his pedigree helps to legitimize his message, ultimately word spoken Zephaniah by was legitimate because it was the word of the Lord. And God makes bold promises in this book. First,

 

God Promises Punishment on the Day of the Lord

 

            The nation of Judah had fallen into idolatrous religious practices. They had abandoned the first of the Ten Commandments, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3). Their worship was filled with syncretism meaning their worshiping God, but also worshipping other gods. Dual worship rejects God’s word. And because of this rejection of God, God makes a promise of punishment. Zephaniah 1:2-9,

“I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD. “I will sweep away man and beast; I will sweep away the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, and the rubble with the wicked. I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD. “I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal and the name of the idolatrous priests along with the priests, those who bow down on the roofs to the host of the heavens, those who bow down and swear to the LORD and yet swear by Milcom, those who have turned back from following the LORD, who do not seek the LORD or inquire of him. Be silent before the Lord GOD! For the day of the LORD is near; the LORD has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests. And on the day of the LORD's sacrifice— “I will punish the officials and the king's sons and all who array themselves in foreign attire. On that day I will punish everyone who leaps over the threshold, and those who fill their master's house with violence and fraud.”

The Lord promises to punish those who bow to another God. He will do this on the Day of the Lord. It cannot be avoided. God will keep his promise for the Day of the Lord is near (Zephaniah 1:7).

            Did God keep his promise to punish Judah? He fulfilled his promise of punishment against Judah by carrying his people into exile. God is patient, but He will punish His people. We do not like to think about punishment. It is not a conversation that usually brings happiness and joy to the heart. Our culture has adopted a philosophy that wants to remove all notions of punishment based on our own individual choices. We live in an age where is it becoming criminal to speak about God’s punishment on our various forms of idolatry.

            October 2014, the city of Houston requested sermons of local pastors that had spoken against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. This ordinance attempted to create public accommodations for gender identity and sexuality. City attorneys requested subpoenas of, “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.” The city of Houston believed that was and is wrong for any pastor to proclaim God’s promised punishment against idolatry. And yet, God would say that these lawyers are claiming to be wise, but they have become fools for, they are, Romans 1:25,
“exchanging the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 1:25) The officials of the city of Houston do not believe that God keeps His promises to judge idolatry. Do not be deceived, God will always keep his word.

            Beloved, we must fight for the truth of the gospel. We must not be complacent thinking that God is not active. We can’t think that He will not judge us for our complacency for He did in Zephaniah’s day,

On that day I will punish everyone who leaps over the threshold, and those who fill their master's house with violence and fraud. “On that day,” declares the LORD, “a cry will be heard from the Fish Gate, a wail from the Second Quarter, a loud crash from the hills. Wail, O inhabitants of the Mortar! For all the traders are no more; all who weigh out silver are cut off. At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, ‘The LORD will not do good, nor will he do ill.’ Their goods shall be plundered, and their houses laid waste. Though they build houses, they shall not inhabit them; though they plant vineyards, they shall not drink wine from them.” (Zephaniah 1:9-13)

Many mainline Christian denominations have become complacent and have joined with the spirit of the age. They have become complacent thinking that God will not do good or God will not do ill. They believe that God stays out of the affairs of man, but God is not passive. He is active and intimately involved with the world he created.

            Zephaniah’s words should sober and humble us as we come face to face with His mighty and ferocious promise. Our God is jealous for His name and His glory. He will have no rivals. Let us tremble as we hear the Lord describing that Day,

The great day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there. A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements. I will bring distress on mankind, so that they shall walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the LORD; their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them on the day of the wrath of the LORD. In the fire of his jealousy, all the earth shall be consumed; for a full and sudden end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth. (Zephaniah 1:14-18)

Zephaniah is foreshadowing two days here. He is foreshadowing “that day” when God’s nation will be destroyed because of their false worship with only a remnant being carried into exile. And “that day” when God will come and destroy all idolatry and false worship at the consummation of history with the true remnant of Christ followers will be saved. The coming Day of judgment should cause us to tremble and repent.

            Chapter 1 deals mainly with how God is going to handle His own people, while Zephaniah extends this promised judgment to all the nations that stand against the Lord in chapter 2 and in chapter 3. As you read them you see again and again the totality of destruction that will come on the Day of the Lord, but also you see God’s promise of protection for those who humble themselves and repent.

God Promises Protection on the Day of the Lord

Although Zephaniah opens with strong words against the nation of Judah, he offers a glimpse of hope to the opposing nations. Salvation always comes with judgment. As God will come as Judge, he also will come as Savior, Zephaniah 2:1-3,

Gather together, yes, gather, O shameless nation, before the decree takes effect —before the day passes away like chaff— before there comes upon you the burning anger of the LORD, before there comes upon you the day of the anger of the LORD. Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD. (Zephaniah 2:1-3)

Do you see how gracious and merciful God is? The Day of the Lord is coming and God is promising protection to those who rebelled against them. Those who seek righteousness and humility may perhaps be hidden on the day of the anger of the Lord.

            Imagine standing in the wide-open plains of Africa with a herd of wild elephants heading right towards you. There is not enough time to move to the left or to the right. You are trapped waiting the coming trampling of these 10,000 pound beasts. There is nothing else to do, but pray for deliverance. As you are praying you notice a huge rock 30 yards away. You run to the rock for protection. All the enormous elephants are diverted from you, for the rock has kept you hidden and protected from utter destruction. This is what the Lord is offering to the nations that rebelled against Him. He is offering protection. Zephaniah’s name literally means Yahweh has hidden or protected. The Lord said to Moses,

You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. (Exodus 33:20-22)

The only hope for protection on the Day of the Lord is given by Lord through Jesus Christ and the humble recognition of His Lordship. Jesus said of Peter’s confession that He was the Christ that on that rock He would build His church. All who confess that Jesus Christ is Lord will find their refuge Him. He will protect them from the anger of the Lord.

The cleft of the rock that will hide us from God’s coming judgment is the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Lord and Savior of all. We all have sinned and broken the first commandment of having no other gods. We all are idolaters. Zephaniah 2:15-3:2,

This is the exultant city that lived securely, that said in her heart, “I am, and there is no one else.” What a desolation she has become, a lair for wild beasts! Everyone who passes by her hisses and shakes his fist. Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city! She listens to no voice; she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord; she does not draw near to her God.

The proud saw in their heart, “I am, and there is no one else.” They live and function as the supreme in their life. They do what they want; when they want. The problem is there is only one ultimate, “I am.” When Moses asked God to tell him who he will say that sent him to deliver Israel, God replied, “I AM WHO I AM…Say this to the people of Israel, I AM has sent you.” There is only one, “I AM and there is no one else.” Only Yahweh is supreme. In the Gospel of John, Jesus made seven “I AM” statements implicitly implying his divinity:

I am the bread of life (John 6:35, 48, 51); I am the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5); I am the door of the sheep (John 10:7, 9); I am the good shepherd (John 10:11, 14); I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25); I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6); I am the true vine. (John 15:1).

There is only one I am and there is no one else. Only God is supreme and yet the Bible says that everyone has lived as their own, “I am.” We all have lived as our own sovereign authority, doing what we wanted when we wanted. We have all rejected the sovereign authority of the only true “I AM” rebelling against His authoritative word. And God has promised to punish us for not acknowledging God’s supremacy. God must punish our rebellion, but in his kindness, he chose to keep his promise by sending His own Son to be punished in our place. Jesus Christ said, “I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” Jesus laid down his life to become the rock that keeps us hidden from the anger of the Lord. For those who believe in Christ, “have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossian 3:2). We are hidden with Christ in God because Christ has taken God’s punishment.

Belief is not mere intellectual assent, but it is when we humble ourselves before God and rightly recognize his Lordship over us and the world. We relinquish the right to say no to Jesus. Jesus’ word is the last word. We are not our own, but have been bought with a price. Our only hope in life and death is that we are not our own, but belong but in life and in death to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ. All who humble themselves and confess that Jesus is Lord and walks in the light and he is in the light has fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. Zephaniah extended hope on the Day of the Lord to the wicked nations for all who humble themselves and repent and trust in the one “I AM” as their only refuge for they may be hidden on the day of the Lord (Zephaniah 2:3).

            This is the message we must share with the people of Houston and the entire world. God has promised judgment. He will keep His promise to judge the world on the Day of the Lord. And yet, He offers protection on that Day through Christ!! We must never be silenced in sharing both the promised punishment for sin and the promised protection from sin offered in Christ.

God Promises Praise on the Day of the Lord

            The Day of the Lord will be great in regards to the destruction of the rebellious, but it will also be great in regards to delight of the redeemed. God will not only save Israel, but he will gather all peoples to himself. Zephaniah 3:9-13,

For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them call upon the name of the LORD and serve him with one accord. From beyond the rivers of Cush my worshipers, the daughter of my dispersed ones, shall bring my offering. “On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain. But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD, those who are left in Israel; they shall do no injustice and speak no lies, nor shall there be found in their mouth a deceitful tongue. For they shall graze and lie down, and none shall make them afraid. (Zephaniah 3:9-13)

God is going to bring praise to His name from people from every tribe, people, and language. He alludes to the great harvest and the throne room of heaven by saying, “beyond the rivers of Cush, my worshippers shall bring my offering.”

            In this section Zephaniah focuses on the changed speech of the people as a sign of a changed heart. We know from Jesus that our speech reveals what is in our heart so here we see a people whose hearts have been changed by the grace of God. Jesus says out of the heart the mouth speaks. God changes the heart and thus changes the speech of this people who proclaim his excellencies who called them out of darkness into his marvelous light. God’s people let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

Our speech and our praise is a sign that we have become God’s people. It is a sign that we have received mercy. God has not given us what our sins deserved, but has given us mercy.

Zephaniah begins with woe and judgment, but ends with praise and joy. Zephaniah 3:14-15,

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. (Zephaniah 3:14-15)

The King of Israel, the Lord, is in our midst. The eternal Son became our Immanuel, God with us. John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Hebrews 2:17, “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” God has taken away the judgments against us and put them on Christ. And therefore, because of Christ, we, “shall never again fear evil.” Even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we can say, “I will fear no evil; for you are with me.” God became with us in Christ. And now that presence is mediated to us by His Spirit. And the Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance and shedding his love abroad in our hearts knowing that our God is mighty to save. Zephaniah, 3:16-20

On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival, so that you will no longer suffer reproach. Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you in, at the time when I gather you together; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes,” says the LORD. (Zephaniah 3:16-20)

Do you ever feel that you are not loved by God? Ever feel that God must just “put up” with you, but He is not really happy about it? I hope that those of you who ever doubt God’s love for you would remember these verses. He delights in bringing us salvation. He sings over us with loud singing.

            Right before Ellen and I started dating we took a cross country road trip together to make a video for my mother’s 50th Birthday. The night before Ellen was packing in her room and singing as loud as she could to some of her favorite songs. Her roommates were amazed at how happy and excited she was to spend the next few days with me. Ellen’s joyful singing for the opportunity to spend four days with her future husband is just a glimpse of the joyful singing God does over us for the opportunity to spend eternity with us. God sings over us because we are in Christ. God is no longer angry towards us, but looks at us and sings, “These my children with whom I am well pleased.” God has shown His pleasure with Christ and by extension because we are united with Christ, He is pleased with us, so we must know, “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

            And this great promise is not only for us as individuals, but as a people. God will gather us together with all the saints throughout history. Every time we gather, we are displaying a glimpse the eschatological reality of heaven when God will gather all the lame and outcasts, the rich and the poor, the native and the immigrant, the Gentile and the Jew, and all who trust in Christ as Savior. God is not only about your individual salvation, but the salvation of a people of his own possession who are zealous for good works. What a privilege that we get to proclaim our trust in God’s future gathering every Sunday when we gather as a church (church literally meaning assembly). Our gathering as God’s assembly means far more than I think we realize. Therefore, do not forsake the gathering together of the saints, as is the habit of some, but consider how to stir one another up to love and good deeds as the Day is drawing near.

            It is hard for some to believe that God will keep His promise of punishment while it is hard for others to believe that God will keep his promise of praise over His people. Whatever side you find yourself on today, you must always remember that God always keeps His promises. He promises to punish sin. He promises to protect those hidden in Christ. And He promises to “exult over you with loud singing.” Trust His promises. He is faithful; He will surely do it.

 

Is God Fair? (Habakkuk)

When one thinks of fairness, one usually never thinks of politics. Politics is a dangerous enterprise for the health of the soul. As have recently come through an election season, where we saw all sorts of caricatures of politicians by their opponents. Politicians make all sorts of promises and their promises show favoritism more than fairness. Should politicians strive for fairness?

            During Abraham Lincoln’s political career, he was advised by criminal lawyer Lenard Swett. Swett has recently been referred to as Lincoln’s forgotten friend. In a letter dated May 30, 1860, Lincoln wrote to his political advisor and friend,

It cannot have failed to strike you that these men ask for just the same thing—fairness and fairness only. This so far as in my power, they and all others shall have.[i] 

According to Lincoln, it was his political and presidential obligation to strive to give fairness to all. Lincoln did not do this perfectly, because no man can exercise perfect fairness. Fairness is a desirable characteristic of all those who hold positions of influence and one that will constantly be challenged by those who sit under that influence.

I saw this first hand when I ran the group home of unwed teenage mothers. I cannot tell you how many times I heard from of the residents, “That is not fair, Mr. Dave.” I was, like Abraham Lincoln, trying with all my power to ensure that they had fairness, but in their eyes it did not always appear that I was being fair. Is fairness objective or subjective? How do we respond when we see something that does not appear fair from our employers or leaders? What about God? Is God always fair? How should we respond when we think God is not being fair?

            We hope to answer that eternal question, “Is God fair?” through the little prophecy of Habakkuk. We know nothing about Habakkuk outside of his name and that he was a prophet, verse 1, “The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.” He is also called a prophet again in chapter 3:1. In this little book we see how one of God’s prophets responded when he believed God not to be fair. So if you have ever thought, “God is not fair,” then you will see that you are not alone.

Is God Fair to Pass over Sin?

            The book begins with Habakkuk questioning God for not listening to and hearing his prayers. He sees sin among the people going unpunished and he is questioning God’s fairness of justice. Habakkuk 1:2-4,

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you, “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous so justice goes forth perverted.

Habakkuk saw violence and destruction towards God’s people and it appeared the Lord was doing nothing about it. He believed the Lord was passing over sin and therefore, God was being unfair.

            Have you felt that God was unfair because He allowed success to those who were committing serious sin? Or believed God was unfair because He was not answering your prayers? Maybe you have been praying for years for a wayward child and have seen no sign of change? Maybe your prayers for a job have been left unanswered? Or all you have gotten was silence as you face cancer? It is a natural human response to question fairness.

            It is a common question for those struggling with the Christian faith to ask, “Why does God allow so much suffering in the world?” People look around and they see the wicked prosper and the sheer amount of evil and it causes them to doubt God’s goodness. How would you engage with people who question God’s fairness? Habakkuk took his questions right to God. God can handle our questions and our concerns, but we have to remember that God may give us answers that are difficult for us to handle. God responds to Habakkuk’s complaint in verse 5 and following,

Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans [Babylonians], that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. They are dreaded and fearsome; their justice and dignity go forth from themselves. Their horses are swifter than leopards, more fierce than the evening wolves; their horsemen press proudly on. Their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swift to devour. They all come for violence, all their faces forward. They gather captives like sand. At kings they scoff, and at rulers they laugh. They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it. Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god! (Habakkuk 1:5-11)

God was not passing over sins. He had already put a plan in place to execute justice upon his people, just in a way that no one was expecting. He was sending the Babylonians.

The Lord said, “I am doing a work.” It is so important for us to always remember that God is always working to bring true fairness. We may not see what God is doing or understand His ways, but that does not mean that He is not actively working to bring about justice. Habakkuk questioned God’s fairness, but God cannot overlook sin. Christian, take heart for God sees and knows all. He is always working for the good of His people and the glory of His name.

And this should cause non-believers pause. God sees and knows all you are doing. You may think that God is pleased with you because He is allowing you success in business or family, but He will not finally overlook your sin. Paul wrote to the Romans,

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:6-11)

The people in Habakkuk’s day were living for their own passions and pleasures, but they were going to pay for their actions through the destruction of the Babylonians. God is fair for He will not pass over sin, but will ultimately and finally deal with all of it.

Habakkuk understood God’s patience as acceptance. I remember someone saying something in my presence that I disagreed with, but I chose to remain silent. My friend believed that I agreed with their opinion, because of my silence. He was wrong. Sometimes silence does not mean you agree, but you are waiting for a better time to deal with it. God answered Habakkuk, but he still questioned God’s fairness.

Is God Fair to Punish Sin?

            Habakkuk wanted God to punish sin, but he did not believe that God would punish the sins of His people with an even worse people. See his response to God’s pronounced punishment,

Are you not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O LORD, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof. You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he? You make mankind like the fish of the sea, like crawling things that have no ruler. He brings all of them up with a hook; he drags them out with his net; he gathers them in his dragnet; so he rejoices and is glad. Therefore he sacrifices to his net and makes offerings to his dragnet; for by them he lives in luxury, and his food is rich. Is he then to keep on emptying his net and mercilessly killing nations forever? I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint. (Habakkuk 1:12-2:1)

At first, he did not approve of God not punishing the wickedness of his own people and now he is complaining about how God is choosing to punish that wickedness

            It is almost as if in complete disbelief, Habakkuk bellows out, “You are going to do What!! The Babylonians!!! Are you serious?!!” It was shocking to Habakkuk that God could use evil means to bring about His purposes. Read 1:13 again, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” He cannot believe that a pure and holy God could use evil of the Babylonians against his own people.

            Does this surprise us? Can God both be pure and holy while still using the lives of wicked men to bring about His purposes? Habakkuk saw these two things at odds. How can God do this? And indeed, Habakkuk has the right view of God’s character. He is pure and righteous. And although he had the right view of His character, he did not understand how God displays His character. The Lord heard Habakkuk’s complaint and gave His answer,

And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith. “Moreover, wine is a traitor, an arrogant man who is never at rest. His greed is as wide as Sheol; like death he has never enough.  He gathers for himself all nations

and collects as his own all peoples.” Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him, and say, “Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own— for how long?—and loads himself with pledges!” Will not your debtors suddenly arise, and those awake who will make you tremble? Then you will be spoil for them. Because you have plundered many nations, all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you, for the blood of man and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell in them. “Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house, to set his nest on high, to be safe from the reach of harm! You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many peoples;

you have forfeited your life. For the stone will cry out from the wall, and the beam from the woodwork respond. “Woe to him who builds a town with blood and founds a city on iniquity! Behold, is it not from the LORD of hosts that peoples labor merely for fire, and nations weary themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. “Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink— you pour out your wrath and make them drunk, in order to gaze at their nakedness! You will have your fill of shame instead of glory. Drink, yourself, and show your uncircumcision! The cup in the LORD’s right hand will come around to you,

and utter shame will come upon your glory! The violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, as will the destruction of the beasts that terrified them, for the blood of man and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell in them. “What profit is an idol

when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it. But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”

God is fair in His punishment of sin. He will execute His justice, but He will do so in His own time and in his own way. Justice may seem slow, but it will surely come.

            And right in the middle of the Lord’s response, He mentions, “the righteous shall live by faith.” This is one of the greatest truths in the Bible that the righteous do not live by sight, but by faith. We live and make decisions on the reality of God’s Word and not on what we see around us. Habakkuk did not understand what God was doing by sight. He cannot see God’s hand, but God is telling him to trust His heart. He wants His people to trust that even when they do not see His vindication, they can trust it will surely come.

Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted three times in the New Testament: Romans 1:18, Gal 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38. Each reference has a slightly different application. In Galatians, Paul shows how God is going to bring righteous to those outside of the law, the Gentiles, through faith

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith (Galatians 3:10-14).

Christ Jesus, the offspring of Abraham came so that the promised Spirit of God would be able to be received by faith for the entire world.

The promise to Abraham that he will be a blessing to all the families of the earth are fulfilled in Christ. Habakkuk 2:14,

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

God’s glory will fill the entire earth. This promise will only be fulfilled in Christ. It is only through faith in Christ that the Spirit of Christ will make God’s presence manifested throughout the earth. The knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth. Every knee will bow at the coming of the Lord. The question is, “Will it be the righteous bowing in faith or the wicked bowing in fear?” The whole earth will be filled with God’s glory.

Habakkuk shows that judgment that God will render on Babylon is a foreshadowing to the final and total judgment on sin. God’s people wait patiently in faith for the Lord to come, but the Day of the Lord will come. 2 Peter 3:8-10,

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 

Every day the Lord stays his hand of judgment is an opportunity for people to come to faith through repentance. The Lord is patient. The Lord desires repentance, but judgment will come. The Day of the Lord will come and the works of man will be exposed. God’s wrath against sin and the sinner will be fully realized in a literal Hell with unquenchable fire. (Mark 9:43)

Habakkuk bristled at the Lord’s judgment from the Babylonians as we bristle at the reality of his judgment in an eternal hell, but rightly understood God’s judgment does not minimize God’s love, but maximizes it. John Lin aptly says,

The issue is not how God can allow there to be a Hell if He is a loving God. The issue is that if Jesus Christ would experience Hell for me, then truly He must be a loving God. It is not why would God allow hell, but why would God experience hell for me? And yet he did.[ii]

We may not understand God’s punishment, Habakkuk sure didn’t at first, but the righteous will live by faith in God’s Word about God’s Son who experienced hell on the cross to bring salvation to all who would repent and trust in Christ. Our sin put us under a curse, but Christ came to be a curse for us. Christ redeemed us from the law so that we could receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Christ died for us and was raised for us. The resurrection shows that God is satisfied with the sacrifice of Christ.

            Friend, do you realize how patient God is? He does not want anyone to perish so he waits. He is longsuffering with you in your sin. He is slow to anger, but one day his patience will end. God will either punish your sin in hell or will apply the hellish punishment of Christ for your sin. Consider the coming judgment, then consider Christ. Do not delay any longer. Turn from your sin and trust in Christ.

Is God’s fairness praiseworthy?

Habakkuk responds to the coming judgment of the Babylonians on God’s people and the coming judgment of God against the Babylonians in a prayer of trust,

O LORD, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy. (Habakkuk 3:2)

Habakkuk remembers God’s work in prayer. He recounts God’s powerful victory over Egypt before expresses his trust as he waits for the coming judgment,

You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors, who came like a whirlwind to scatter me, rejoicing as if to devour the poor in secret. You trampled the sea with your horses, the surging of mighty waters. I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us (Habakkuk 3:14-16)

God has been victorious before and God will be victorious again.

            Habakkuk ends a much different man than when we first encounter in chapter 1. He moves from complaining and questioning God to deeply trusting Him whatever the circumstances. Listen to his deep trust in God’s salvation,

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places.

I memorized these verses in college and have often given strength to my soul as I have walked through the wilderness. Our trust does not depend on our circumstances, but on His Word. The righteous shall live by faith. We do not have to understand God’s judgment, but we do have to trust Him.

            Is God’s fairness praiseworthy? Absolutely yes, for God’s fairness is ultimately displayed in Christ who was crucified on a tree securing our redemption by becoming our curse. We are going to experience suffering in this life, but we must endure. In meditating on Habakkuk, the writer of Hebrews gives this exhortation,

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

And blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. (John 20:29). We may never fully understand God’s fairness, but I know we will never deserve it. We deserve wrath, but he gives mercy. We deserve death but he gives us life. We deserve hell, but he gives us heaven. We deserve the curse, but he becomes the curse for us.

’Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.

Amazing love! How can it be

That Thou, My God shouldst die for me?

 

[i] http://dotcw.com/long-but-substantially-right/ accessed on 10.8.14

[ii] http://www.newcitycatechism.com/q-parent/q28.php accessed 7.7.14

Who Will Have the Last Word?

Have you ever had a friend that always seems to end conversations abruptly? You are talking with them and within an instant they blurt out, “I got to go, bye.” I have a beloved friend that seems to always end conversations abruptly. Whether on the phone or following a meal, the conversation is usually ended with my friend getting the last word. He makes his last remarks and then he is gone. He seems always to have the last word. A mutual friend made a wise statement recently saying, “It is a good way to avoid an argument.”

            The one who has the last word wins the argument. That is not to say that the one who believes that they have the last word, but the one who actually has the last word. The one who has the final word is the one who has authority to end the argument. A disagreement between friends is much different than a disagreement between the state and one of its citizens. A citizen may believe that they are not guilty, but their belief does not determine reality. The reality is, in situations of law, it is the judge and jury that have the final word regarding one’s innocence. The final reality is determined by the one who has the last word.

            This is important for us because we live in an age that teaches us that we have the final word on what is good and what is bad for our own lives. Our post-modern society teaches us that truth is relative and therefore we can do whatever makes us happy. Whether we chose to marry someone of the same-sex or whether we decide to take the life of our unborn child, truth in America is relative. And truth is not only relative in America, but throughout the West. When the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton gave birth to her and Prince William’s first child, they announced to the world, “It’s a boy!” Many people responded in protest to this announcement in saying, “Let the baby decide.”

            There is a growing movement that has started to question the very fabric of common sense in saying that it is the right of a person to decide whether they should be a male or a female. The social media giant, Facebook, allows new users to choose from up to 50 different gender options. The world we now live in does not believe in the simple option of either male or female, but rather believes it is an individual right to have the last word on their gender. Is it possible for a human being to have the last word on their gender? What about other things? Can a person have the last word regarding who they should and shouldn’t marry? Does a person have the last word on whether they are a good person? And if people do not have the last word, who does?

            The small prophecy of Nahum helps us answer this eternal question of, “who will have the last word?” It appears that Nahum was written as a prophecy rather than announced and then written later. Nahum 1:1, “An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh.” We have almost no biographical information about Nahum. All that we know of him is where he is from, Elkosh, but then we do not know where Elkosh is located. We do know that Nahum spoke against Nineveh. Most scholars believe Nineveh is near modern-day Mosul, Iraq. Like Jonah before him, Nahum went to Nineveh to prophesy, yet experienced very different results. Nahum announces emphatically who will have the last and final word.

The Lord Will Have the Last Word Over His Enemies

            Nahum spoke against Nineveh as it was capital of the Assyrian empire. Assyria was known for its cruelty and vicious treatment of all people especially Israel. The Assyrian King Ashurbanipal once wrote how to deal with those who opposed him saying,

As for those common men who had spoken derogatory things against my god Asher and had plotted against me, the prince who reveres him, I tore their tongues and abased them. As a posthumous offering I smashed the rest of the people alive by the very figures of protective deities between which they had smashed Sennacherib my grandfather. Their cut-up flesh, I fed to the dogs, swine, jackals, birds, vultures, to the birds of the sky, and to the fishes of the deep pool.[i]

The Assyrians were brutal and harsh. Their brutality allowed them to gain strength and success. Much like the ISIS and HAMAS today, whose brutality has struck fear in their hearts of their adversaries.

It was easy for Assyria to believe that they were always going to rule. They were powerful and strong. They had the last word in many battles showing their military might and comprehensive cruelty. They believed that they were safe in their strength, but they did not realize how weak they were compared to God. The strength of Almighty God was coming bring his wrath against this wicked nation. Nahum 1:2,

The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.

The Lord saw their brutality and He was coming to bring vengeance in His wrath.

            It is a fool’s errand to think that one can stand against the Lord. People may have the illusion of victory, but it is just that, an illusion. Nahum makes this clear in saying,

Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. (Nahum 1:6)

But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness. What do you plot against the LORD? He will make a complete end; trouble will not rise up a second time. For they are like entangled thorns, like drunkards as they drink; they are consumed like stubble fully dried. From you came one who plotted evil against the LORD, a worthless counselor. Thus says the LORD, “Though they are at full strength and many, they will be cut down and pass away. Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no more. (Nahum 1:8-12)

The LORD has given commandment about you: “No more shall your name be perpetuated; from the house of your gods I will cut off the carved image and the metal image. I will make your grave, for you are vile.” (Nahum 1:14)

Nahum promises the Lord’s vengeance to be meted out on Nineveh. No one can stand against the Lord. Nahum preached against the most powerful nation of his day and declared they will come to a complete end.

            Jonah prophesied against Nineveh and they repented, but their repentance did not last. Around 745 BC, Tiglath-pileser III made Assyria the leading power in the world. They established their might with bloodshed, cruelty, torture, plundering and destruction. King Hezekiah was forced to make Judah a vassal state paying heavy taxes to Assyria under King Sennacherib. Assyria destroyed the ten northern kingdoms of Israel. Sennecherib made Nineveh the capital and a mighty city.

[Nineveh] was one of the grandest and most powerful cities on earth. Its size, power and wealth inspired fables. Its walls were a good picture of this magnificence. At least two series of walls surrounded the whole city, running for miles and miles. The inner wall, higher of the two, was about one hundred feet high and broad enough for three chariots to race abreast. On the outside of the two sets of walls was a moat 150 feet wide and 60 feet deep. The Tigris and other smaller rivers surrounding Nineveh made the city appear impregnable.[1]

Nineveh appeared unbeatable, but even the best efforts of man can stand against the Lord. Babylon destroyed Assyria in 612 BC. A small group of Assyrians survived and tried to mount a return to power three years later only to lose and to disappear from history.

            Nahum did not write only an oracle, but a literal vision terrible destruction of Nineveh. He described the assault in vivid detail as war poetry in Chapter 2 and 3. The key phrase is not about the outcome the battle, but the reason for the sure defeat of Assyria. “Behold, I am against you, declares the Lord of hosts.” Is found both in Nahum 2:13 and Nahum 3:5.

Behold, I am against you, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions. I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall no longer be heard. (Nahum 2:13)

And

Behold, I am against you, declares the LORD of hosts, and will lift up your skirts over your face; and I will make nations look at your nakedness and kingdoms at your shame. (Nahum 3:5)

The Lord says, “I am against you.” The proud nation will be put to shame. Think on the power in those four words, “I am against you.” The Lord, the one who has the last and final word, is against you. There is no worse fate and no worse fear. All illusions are over, reality has set in.

            In seeing how God is against Nineveh, it should cause you to ask, “Is God against me?” Hebrews 10:31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” God is against all those who oppose Him. We are born against God because of our sin. Our sin causes condemnation. Our sin may not be as visibly vile as the Assyrians, but our sin is no less evil in the eyes of God. God does not set Himself against us, but we set ourselves up against God. Regardless how we may try to hide our sin, God will one day expose us. He says of the Ninevehites that their nakedness will be expose and the nations will look on their shame. Adam and Eve were both naked and without shame in Genesis 2:25, but following their sin their nakedness was exposed. Adam and Eve attempted to cover their nakedness with fig leaves, but Hebrews 9:22, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Their covering was insufficient for their sin. They knew then and we know now that when we are exposed in our sin we need a covering. Only God could provide a covering for Adam and Eve. God shed the blood of animal making a covering of skin and He clothed them (Gen. 3:22). Beloved, only God can provide a covering.

Is God against you? Are you like Adam and Eve who tried to hide their shame? Or are you like the Assyrians who in trusted in their pride and power thinking their shame would be exposed? Friend, one day we will all stand exposed and God will judge the secrets of men by Christ. On that day, will God be against you? On that day, will you have a covering for your shame? Remember verse 6, “Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger?” Read Nahum and see the outcome of those who attempt to stand against God and endure this anger.

The Lord Will Have the Last Word Over His People

            We have looked at the illusion of success of the enemies of God, but we also should look at the illusion of failure of the people of God. God’s people were facing the harsh brutality of the Assyrians and they were powerless to stop it. They looked on as if there was little hope for victory. The lie of the world is to believe that our present circumstances equal our future reality. As Christians, we must believe in God’s word over what we can see. This is faith. Hebrews 11:1; 6,

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

We believe despite what we see. We believe based on what we have heard. I recently heard someone say that we are not living in the age of the eye, but in the age of the ear. The righteous will live by faith in what we have heard from God’s Word rather than what we see.

            Judah was in dangerous and helpless circumstances. They could do nothing, but wait on God. Have you ever been there? In a situation where you were powerless and all you could do was wait on God? In their helpless state, the Lord brings the last word for his people,

Thus says the LORD, “Though they are at full strength and many, they will be cut down and pass away. Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no more. And now I will break his yoke from off you and will burst your bonds apart.” (Nahum 1:12-13) Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace! Keep your feasts, O Judah; fulfill your vows, for never again shall the worthless pass through you; he is utterly cut off. (Nahum 1:15)

God’s people are not promised peace and comfort in this life, but we are promised final peace and final comfort in glory. He even Nahum ends the book with the people of God clapping over the destruction of Nineveh, “There is no easing your hurt; your wound is grievous. All who hear the news about you clap their hands over you. For upon whom has not come your unceasing evil?”

            We must live in the promise of future grace. God will take care of us, but He will do so in His timing according to His will. He will use every trial and all persecution of His people to refine and purify. Remember what God says about what trials produce,

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

And

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)

The foundation of our joy amid trials stems from the hope and peace offered in Jesus Christ. Jesus has taken our shame and made a covering. Jesus bled and died to give us peace with God and hope for eternal life. Regardless of whatever this world tries to make us believe, we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us.

            When we are surrounded by pain brought on the enemies of God. Whether it be emotional, financial, or physical pain, we live by the sweet promise that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God and He will give us the final victory with his final word.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35;38-39)

Do not live by sight, but by faith in the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. God will vindicate his people.

            How encouraging is this truth for our brothers and sisters around the world? As Isis brutally demonstrates its cruelty across the Middle East, or as Kim Jung-un steps on the necks of God’s people in North Korea, or as the Boko Haram spreads violence in Nigeria, God’s people can know that he will not turn a blind eye against their wickedness. He will avenge his people. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters for their trust in God as ruthless dictators and militant extremists spread bloodshed. God will bring justice on wicked nations. Nations that promote greed and violence. Nations that celebrate sexual immorality and twist God’s designs. Nations that oppress God’s people and trust in their military might. God is an Avenger for his people!

The Lord Will Have the Last Word On His Character

            As we read the Minor Prophets, we see things that may be difficult to reconcile. We see the Lord bringing utter destruction upon His enemies. We see Him allowing wicked deeds to be done to His people. In our humanity, we read things like this and have a hard time reconciling it with our human minds. Those outside the faith read the same things and attempt to bring down judgments upon God. In their lack of wisdom and understanding they try to turn the tables on God’s revealed Word, but it is not man that judges God’s character. It is God who has the last word on His character and who will judge the deeds of man.

            Nahum starts out the book declaring the facts about who God is and what God will do to His enemies,

The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. (Nahum 1:2-3)

God is jealous for His own Glory. There is no greater aim in the entire universe than the glory of God. God’s jealousy for His own Name is foundation of all God’s promises. God wants what is best for us and what God thinks is best for us is what is best for us. God is our best and highest aim. God must be jealous for the highest aim in the world. God is slow to anger and great in power, but He will by no means clear the guilty. God must punish the guilty. He cannot look the other way, but has deal with sin. And if we are all guilty, then how can it be that anyone could stand before his indignation or endure the heat of his anger (1:6)? We need a covering.

            God has provided a covering in blood of the lamb. As Israel had a covering from the angel of death with the blood of a lamb shed across the door of the house, we have a covering from the heat of God’s anger with the blood of the Lamb shed across our hearts. Jesus Christ is the only way we can stand before God because for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising its shame, and was raised to the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:2). Assyria drank the cup of God’s wrath for their sin, but Christ drank the cup of God’s wrath for our sin and for all who repent and turn to him in faith. God crushed the Christ so we could experience His goodness. As Christ rose from the dead that first Easter morning, God spoke His final word over us, “It is finished.” His final word proved that Jesus was, is and will always be good to his people. His resurrection proved that God was pleased with His perfect sacrifice for sinful humanity. Nahum 1:7,

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.

The Lord knows His people. In the final day of trouble when the Son comes to bring vengeance upon the earth, the only ones who will stand in the heat of his anger are those who take refuge in the covering of Christ. The Lord is good; a stronghold in the day of trouble; a refuge from the storm; a covering for our shame.

            God spoke a word of judgment against a wicked nation to encourage his people to continue to trust him. As our nation continues to drift against the Lord, we, like Judah in Nahum’s day, have obligation to bring good news. Nahum 1:15, “Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace!” Beloved, we must bring the good news to our world that God has made peace through the blood of his cross. We must not be silent, but we must announce that in Christ there is a covering for our sin. When was the last time you published peace? If we do not bring the good news, then who? Romans 10:13-15,

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

Friends, God has sent us into the world to share the gospel. We have the freedom to share the good news. Let us offering the covering of people’s sin and shame.

            The Lord is a jealous and avenging God, but the Lord is also good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him. The Lord will have the last word over our life and the lives of our neighbors. Will it be “depart from me, I never knew you” or “well done my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 7:23; 24:23)?” What will be God’s last word for you?

 

[1] Mark Dever, 816.

 

[i] Cited in Dever, Mark. The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made. Pg 919.

Is God Sovereign? (Jonah)

The September 11th terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was a day that radically changed our country forever. I remember sitting in history class when the professor told the class that the second plane just hit removing all doubts that our country was under attack. The events on September 11th rattled our country’s security, yet reinforced our national pride. September 11th is a day when we remember. We remember those who lost their lives and rededicate ourselves to be fervent in our fight against terrorism. And as we remember that day, we often ask, “Where was God on September 11th?” The question is often asked after events of great calamity. Where was God during Hurricane Katrina? Or the Tsunami in Indonesia? Where is God now with the brutal slayings of Christians in the Middle East? Where was God during Columbine or Virginia Teach shootings? It is a very honest and important question to ask.

            Granted, many people ask the question with disdain or anger, but others ask out of confusion or deep hurt. If we are going to be honest, we may have asked that question as well. The Psalmist asks this question in the face of much terror,

I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:9-10)

We live in a day of terror. We cannot escape it. And when we face this kind of terror and calamity, we may be tempted to ask, “God, are you sovereign?” Sovereignty means possessing supreme or ultimate power. In the face of terrible evil, we may be tempted to doubt God’s control of the universe. Is God sovereign? Is God in control?

            This is the question we hope to answer as we study the book of Jonah. We continue our series through the Minor Prophets asking big questions. When most Christians hear of Jonah, we immediately think of him spending 3 days in the belly of a whale. Although Jonah being swallowed by a great fish (perhaps a whale) is important to his life, it is not the ultimate purpose of the book. G. Campbell Morgan aptly says, “Men have been looking so hard at the great fish that they have failed to see the great God.[i]” Jonah is a book displaying God’s sovereign compassion for the world and teaching a nationalistic, racist prophet of God’s love for all people. God is in control.

            Jonah is different from the rest of the Minor Prophets in that the focus of the book is on the prophet’s story rather than on his message. It is written more as a narrative than as a prophetic book. Some scholars question the veracity of this book and try to categorize it more as a fictional parable rather than a true historical event. This is a flawed view and one that does not honor a high view of Scripture. The book is full of real places and real people experiencing real events. Jesus even referred to Jonah as a real historical person (Matthew 12:39-41). In effort to explain away the supernatural, scholars have denied the historicity of Jonah and set themselves up against the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.

God Sovereignly Calls

            We see God’s sovereign hand at the very outset of the book in His calling of Jonah. God shows that He is in control from the beginning to the end of this book because He is control from the beginning to the end of all things.

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”

Nineveh is a great city and also a great enemy of God’s people. They were known for their brutality and cruelty. God knows of their sin (as God knows of all sin) and has called one of His people to speak out against it. It is foolish to think that we can hide anything from God. All sin will be held accountable. Are there any sins in your life that you think are hidden from God? Rest assured, He sees all and one day will call you to account.

It is foolish to think we can hide anything from God, it is also foolish to think we can hide anywhere from God, but that is exactly what Jonah tries to do, verse 3,

But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.

It is never good when God tells us to do something and our reply begins with, “But.” I hear that word often as a parent after telling my children to do something, they often reply with, “But Daddy.” The only thing that follows that statement is an excuse for disobedience. Jonah went the opposite direction of Nineveh. He paid his fare, boarded a boat, and attempted to flee God’s presence and his command. Jonah, the prophet of the Lord, was being disobedient.

            Jonah did not want to obey the Lord and the book reveals the “why” of Jonah’s disobedience, but let’s take our eyes off Jonah and instead look at God’s kindness in these first three verses.

·         God speaks to his people.

·         God is actively engaged in our lives

·         God is not indifferent to evil.

·         God gives sinners an opportunity to turn to Him

·         God sends peoples to warn people of danger

As we read the pages of Scripture, do not miss the main character of this book. Do not miss the great God who is full of compassion and zealous for justice.

God Sovereignly Chases

            It is hard to miss the Lord’s hand traced throughout this book. The people of Nineveh deserved to be destroyed for their evil, but God was sending a prophet to call them to repentance. Jonah deserved to be cast from God’s presence, but God sovereignly chases him with a compassionate love. Praise God for all the, “but God’s” in the Scripture, Jonah went away from the presence of the Lord,

But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.” (Jonah 1:4-6)

The Lord sent the wind. God was pursuing the disobedient Jonah through the wind and the raging sea. God is in control.

Sometimes the Lord uses circumstances to calls us to repentance. We saw this happen after 9/11, Katrina and the Tsunami. Tragedy exposes the reality of death and brevity of life which often causes people to call out to God. Do you see the irony in that last part of verse 6? The pagan sailors tell Jonah the prophet to call out to God and maybe God would think of them and they would not perish. As the story continue, see how God has already thought much of them for the wind was not only for Jonah, but also for these pagan sailors.

The sudden power displayed in the wind and the sudden silence of the wind was to cause the sailors to fear the Lord.

And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them.

The men recognized it was Jonah that caused the storm, yet they did not want to cast him into the sea. They rowed hard back to dry land, but the Lord would not allow them. The sea continued to rage against them.

The Lord continued to hurl the mighty wind against them until finally the sailors had no choice. Verse 14-16,

Therefore they called out to the LORD, “O LORD, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you.” So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.

The demonstration of the Lord’s power caused these men to repent and fear the Lord exceedingly. God sovereignly chased Jonah AND God sovereignly chased the sailors.

            God used the disobedience of his prophet to bring sinful sailors to fear the Lord. God will use all things to bring about his purposes. After God answered Job out of the whirlwind, Job replied, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” God is in control, none of his plans can be stopped. There is no one more powerful. God’s kindness is on display again,

·         God pursues his proud, disgraceful prophet

·         God sent a storm in love rather than a storm in wrath

·         God allowed the lot to fall on Jonah

·         God gave the sailors a sense an innate sense of justice (for they knew murder was wrong)

·         God answered the pleas for mercy from the sailors

·         God caused the sailors to fear the Lord.

How easy is it for us to miss the hand of God in our trials? God is always there (Psalm 139:7-12).

God Sovereignly Catches

            Jonah was heading down to the pit of the sea, but the Lord sovereignly catches this wayward prophet through appointing a great fish to swallow him. Do not stare at the fish, but the one who sent it. God put Jonah in the belly of the fish for precisely three days and three nights, Jonah 1:17,

And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Many scholars believe that Jonah wrote this book because of the intimate details that are shared which only he could know. Through Jonah’s own words, he confirms God’s sovereign control of the whole situation. Listen how Jonah testifies to God’s control. Chapter 2:1-10,

Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’ The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!” And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.

Salvation indeed belongs to the Lord. God is sovereign in salvation from beginning to end. He is in control.

God Sovereignly Calls (Again)!!

            The Lord continues to show His kindness to Jonah. We come back to where the book started with God calling Jonah. Jonah 3:1-5,

Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days' journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.

Jonah wisely obeyed God’s word and went to Nineveh as verse 3 highlights (according to the word of the Lord). God had been working on Nineveh long before Jonah got there. It has been documented through historical records that a few years prior to Jonah’s entering Nineveh, there was a severe famine and solar eclipse. Many believed that the famine and the solar eclipse was a sign of God’s judgment against the nation. These events gave the people more willingness to hear and respond to God’s message. Even the king responded in repentance,

The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”

The people are not calling out to the pantheon of gods, but to the One Sovereign Lord.

The message was declared and the people believed. And God was behind it all. God was behind the calling of Jonah, God gave the message, God was in control of their circumstances, and God prepared their hearts to believe. God saw the change in the people’s lives and He relented in destroying the city, verse 3:10,

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

God did not repay Nineveh for their sins, but gave them mercy. Thanks, be to God for his mercy towards sinners. How kind is God to the “Ninevehites” of our world?

God’s Sovereign Compassion

And this mercy was the very reason Jonah ran in the first place. It was not because he thought the task was too hard, but that he did not want God to show compassion. God’s sovereign compassion given to His enemies and God’s people’s response to that compassion is the purpose of the book. Jonah 4:1-4,

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?”

Jonah was angry that God showed mercy. Have you ever questioned God’s compassion? Why did God show mercy to those people? Why was God kind to them?

            Jonah was blind to the kindness of God in his own life. Jonah was in disobedience and God sovereignly chased him and caught him. He was rescued by God’s grace, and yet, he does not want that same sovereign grace to be extended to his enemies. He knows of God’s mercy, but he does not truly know God’s mercy. Jonah has forgotten how God brought him salvation from the belly of the fish. I listened to John Piper preaching on his passage over thirty years ago, his emphasis is just as applicable today, he writes,

Jonah was a racist, a hyper-nationalist. He did not want to go to Nineveh because he knew God would have mercy on his enemies. He did not want their repentance; he wanted their doom. Quite contrary to the spirit of Jesus, he did not have good will toward his enemies. He was not about to bless those who used to curse him. He was a hard liner, and God was too soft…. [Jonah doesn’t] like the free mercy of God. It calls [his] supremacy into question. What could make a Baptist Klansman angrier than to have to offer God's mercy to a black community? ...What could make a nationalistic American angrier than to have to bear the news of divine forgiveness to Tehran or Moscow? The lesson that God was trying to teach Jonah, and us through him, is that God loves to show mercy and that we his people should "do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God" (Micah 6:8). And it's implied in the very word "mercy" that no racial or ethnic or national barriers can disqualify a person from God's love and our love.[1]

Sadly, I think there are too many “Jonahs” in our Baptist churches. “Jonahs” who care more about America’s borders rather than the borderless mercy of God. “Jonahs” who have forgotten the mercy of God towards them in their sin. “Jonahs” who want to preserve past traditions rather than to pursue those far from God’s mercy.

God desires his people to love mercy. He hoped to expose Jonah’s racist, merciless heart through a vine.

Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. Now the LORD God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” And the LORD said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

The book ends with a question, “Should I not pity Nineveh?” That question should make us think about the “Nineveh’s” in our life. We may not be indignant like Jonah, but we may be indifferent. Do we trust that God is sovereign? Do we trust that He is good? Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely unless the One who has absolute power is incorruptible. God is the Only Sovereign. The gracious God who is merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

            We must always remember that God has compassion for the lost. We were once like the people of Nineveh not knowing our right hand from our left. We were like the pagan sailors bowing down to false gods. We were like the wayward prophet knowing of God’s mercy, but not truly knowing His mercy personally. We were lost so God sent His Son Jesus Christ to demonstrate true compassion. Matthew 9:36, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Lift your praise to God that He has sent us the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep. This is the epitome of compassion. Jesus gave His life for us. He died the death we deserve. His life was offered for ours. Have you experience God’s mercy? We all need mercy and God has offered it in Christ. Richards Sibbes said, “There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.” There is no sin too great that the mercy of Christ can’t overcome. Jonah shows us God’s gracious compassion to pursue the disobedient prophet, the pagan sailors and the people of Nineveh. Friend, God’s gracious compassion is pursuing you!! Can you see it?

Jonah spent 3 days in the belly of the great fish and he spent 3 days teaching in the great city. The salvation of Jonah took three days as did the salvation of his enemies. Jesus said in this Jonah served as a sign of His resurrection. Matthew 12:39-41

 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

Jesus spent 3 in the days in the belly of the earth to offer salvation to all God’s enemies.

Jonah foreshadowed the resurrection of Jesus that opened salvation to all people. Jesus was declared to be the Son of God in power in his resurrection from the dead. (Romans 1:4). And now we are called like Jonah, to be witnesses of the resurrection (Acts 1:22). God had pity for the people of Nineveh, who are far from God. God had pity on us when we were far from God. Jonah ends with a question, “Should I not pity Nineveh?” God showed his sovereign compassion on all kinds of sinners. Beloved, if God showed compassion on the lost, shouldn’t we?

 

[1] http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-education-of-a-prophet-jonah accessed 2.19.2017

 

[i] G. Campbell Morgan, The Minor Prophets: The Men and Their Message (Westword, N.J.: Revell,1960), 69 quoted in The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made. Dever, Mark. 782.

Whom Shall Be Saved? (Joel)

Whom Will Be Saved?[1]

Joel

History is a great teacher. 18th Century Irish statesman, Edmund Burke, said, “Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.” History is instructive. King Solomon reminds us of this truth in the first chapter of Ecclesiastes,

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us. (Ecc. 1:9-10)

There is nothing new under the sun so looking back into history can help us understand our present reality. The problem with learning from history is not history itself, but the pride that befalls in the present. Our challenge is that we must be willing to listen to the voices of the past. And those unwilling to listen are those filled with pride and arrogance. Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” We must humble ourselves to listen to the voices of the past for if we don’t, we will fall.

            Yet there is another important aspect of learning from history, there must be those with wisdom who help us understand the past and apply it to the present. I am a firm believer that if the younger generation was willing to listen and the older generation was willing to share, there would be much more wisdom displayed in our present age. The older need the younger and the younger need the older. In 2008, America went into a mini-depression. It may not have felt like something small to those who lost their jobs and homes, but compared to the Great Depression of 1929 our last recession was indeed small. Modern-day Americans have no idea the sacrifices made by parents for their children. I was sitting with one of our members recently and she told me how her mother would often go to bed without eating supper because she would give her portion to her children. By 1933 almost 20% of the population was unemployed and half of the country’s banks closed. Food was in short supply and people often went to bed hungry. The 3 to 4 years during the height of the Great Depression were some of the most difficult years that our country has ever faced. It was a national problem leaving no one unscathed.

            The book of Joel starts with Israel facing its own “Great Depression.” The exact date of the book of Joel is hard to date because it is without any biographical information. All we have is the first verse, “The word of the Lord that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel.” We do not know when this great distress happened, but we know that God spoke through His prophets during it. Many scholars believe that Joel left out historical details so that the book would be relevant for all generations. One pastor noted that Joel is divided in two parts, “the first half of the book (Chapters 1-2) describes how God fought against his own people to make them honor him alone. And the second half of the book describes how he will fight against the nations who refuse to honor him alone.” The Lord used the events of Joel’s day as a foreshadowing of a greater day that was to come.

The Shadow of the Future

            The prophecy starts with a plea to share the events of the day with the future generation so that they would be instructed about a future day. Verses 2-3,

Hear this, you elders; give ear, all inhabitants of the land! Has such a thing happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers? Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children to another generation.

Things were so bad that no one could remember a worse time. The Lord felt that it was important for the older generation to pass this on to the younger generation. What was so bad? A swarm of locusts came in to destroy the land. Listen how bad things had gotten in the land. Verse 4-12,

What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten. Awake, you drunkards, and weep, and wail, all you drinkers of wine, because of the sweet wine, for it is cut off from your mouth. For a nation has come up against my land, powerful and beyond number; its teeth are lions' teeth, and it has the fangs of a lioness. It has laid waste my vine and splintered my fig tree; it has stripped off their bark and thrown it down; their branches are made white. Lament like a virgin wearing sackcloth for the bridegroom of her youth. The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off from the house of the LORD. The priests mourn, the ministers of the LORD. The fields are destroyed, the ground mourns, because the grain is destroyed, the wine dries up, the oil languishes. Be ashamed, O tillers of the soil; wail, O vinedressers, for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field has perished. The vine dries up; the fig tree languishes. Pomegranate, palm, and apple, all the trees of the field are dried up, and gladness dries up from the children of man.

This was a national tragedy where every man, woman and child were affected. If you did not live through the Great Depression, it is hard to understand this level of tragedy. There have been national things that have happened in our country where everyone stopped and took notice like Pearl Harbor or September 11th, but nothing as long and as devastating as the Great Depression.

We have it so good now that we have lost the knowledge of how hard things were in the past. It is imperative that we never forget how hard things were in the past. We need to place ourselves in the shoes of those who came before u and in the shoes of our brothers and sisters who are currently suffering in the Middle East and Latin America. Empathy paves the way to understanding.

The Lord speaks to Joel and reminds them that this horrible day that they are experiencing is nothing compared to the future day when the Lord will execute His justice on the earth. The Day of the Lord is the theme that weaves together the entire book of Joel. The Day of the Lord will be far worse than the destruction of the locusts. As the locusts have come to destroy the land so will the army of the Lord come and destroy all that is in their path. The army will be so vast that it will look like a swarm of locusts.

The current tragedy serves as a reminder of a greater tragedy for everyone who does not call upon the name of the Lord. As the Day of the Lord approaches, people must repent. Joel 1:13-15,

Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests; wail, O ministers of the altar. Go in, pass the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God! Because grain offering and drink offering are withheld from the house of your God. Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD. Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes.

All of history is moving toward that Day when the Lord will come and destroy the earth. The day of the Lord is near and destruction from the Almighty is coming. Joel 2:1-11,

Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near, 2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations. 3 Fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them. 4 Their appearance is like the appearance of horses, and like war horses they run. 5 As with the rumbling of chariots, they leap on the tops of the mountains, like the crackling of a flame of fire devouring the stubble, like a powerful army drawn up for battle. 6 Before them peoples are in anguish; all faces grow pale. 7 Like warriors they charge; like soldiers they scale the wall. They march each on his way; they do not swerve from their paths. 8 They do not jostle one another; each marches in his path; they burst through the weapons and are not halted. 9 They leap upon the city, they run upon the walls, they climb up into the houses, they enter through the windows like a thief. 10 The earth quakes before them; the heavens tremble. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. 11 The Lord utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful. For the day of the Lord is great and very awesome; who can endure it? [2]

There is the eternal question placed in the mouth of Joel by the Lord. “Who can endure the great and very awesome Day of the Lord?” “Who will be saved?”

            The goal of the West is comfort. We want to make things efficient and quick. We have air conditioning and the world placed at our disposable on the smart phones in our pocket. We are so privileged and our great privilege blinds us from the future reality of suffering. It is hard for us to believe in suffering, because we have never truly experienced it. Our western worldview bleeds into our theology as we are made to think of God only as gracious and compassionate without any vengeance towards sin. Do you ever think about Hell? Judgment? Wrath? Agony? Joel provides an accurate picture of God. He is gracious and compassionate, but He is also powerful, ferocious and full of wrath towards sin. And when God comes in his wrath, who will be able to endure it? Will you be able to stand on the day of the Lord? As much as we want, we cannot erase the reality of God’s judgment. God sent Judah a national comprehensive tragedy to foreshadow the awful, terrible Day of the Lord. The God’s wrath is coming, but God also provides a refuge from the storm of judgment.

The Savior of the Future

            I love the grace of the Lord. He lays out the dreadful day that is approaching and he asks, “Who can endure it?” and then he answers the question. Verse 2:12-17,

Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber. Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep and say, “Spare your people, O LORD, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’

The Lord promises forgiveness and mercy for those who turn to Him in repentance. Even after all our sinful neglect and willful disobedience God calls out to us, “Return to the Lord your God.” Why should we return? We return based on HIS character. “He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.” Our trust is never in ourselves, but always in the character of our God. Our hope is not in our works done in righteousness, but God’s mercy. God will act for his people.

            There is desolation in Israel, but God will restore and bless His people. Hear how God will replenish and water the dried-up land. Joel 2:18,

18 Then the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people. 19 The Lord answered and said to his people, “Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations. 20 “I will remove the northerner far from you, and drive him into a parched and desolate land, his vanguard into the eastern sea, and his rear guard into the western sea; the stench and foul smell of him will rise, for he has done great things. 21 “Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things! 22 Fear not, you beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit; the fig tree and vine give their full yield. 23 “Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before. 24 “The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. 25 I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.[3]

The Lord will turn to bless the people and provides his purpose in his blessing in Joel 2:26-27,

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord you God who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame.

The ultimate blessing of the Lord is a replenished land, but His presence. He blesses His people so that they will know that HE is in their midst. Hear the personal language used, “I am the Lord your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame.” The Lord is taking personal responsibility for His people. The Lord promised His presence and He fulfilled that promise by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, as one of His people, Immanuel, God with us.

Jesus Christ mediated God’s presence to us in his life and sent his Spirit to us after this resurrection from the dead. Jesus Christ took God’s wrath on the cross despising its shame, was raised from the dead and was seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Who can endure the day of the Lord? Jesus Christ is the only man who can stand on the day of the Lord because of his sinless perfection. Therefore, we can only endure that day if we stand with Jesus or more accurately if Jesus stands for us. And we can know that Jesus stands for us because God has given his presence through his Spirit guaranteeing our inheritance. Romans 5:5 states that Christ followers have a hope that, “does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” The Holy Spirit confirms God’s presence in our lives and this is the promise in the book of Joel 2:28-32,

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the mood to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.

This was quoted during Peter’s sermon after Pentecost confirming this prophecy that God will dwell with His people. The Lord promised us His presence and it was confirmed with the giving of the Holy Spirit. And because Jesus Christ came, lived, died, and rose again; the Spirit was given to us. We can receive His presence, when we call on Him in repentance.

The eternal question, “Who can endure the great and awesome Day of the Lord? Who will be saved?” The one who calls upon the name of the Lord; all whom the Lord calls to Himself. Notice that the promise of salvation is not just to the nation of Israel, but to everyone who calls on the name of the Lord. And those who will be saved on the last day and those who shall escape will be those whom the Lord calls. God calls us and we in turn call upon His name.

What does it mean to call upon the name of the Lord? First, we must believe what God says about us. We are sinners and children of wrath. We deserve to be punished for our sin. We will never turn to God unless we understand the fear of the Lord. Many of us continue in sin, because we do not truly fear God. Joel provides help in fearing God by providing a picture of God’s awful power. Second, we must believe what God says about Himself. He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. God desires to forgive sinners for he sent his Son, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God. Three, we obey God’s Word. We agree with God about sin and His Character and strive to live up the calling we have in Christ. We covenant with a local church submitting to its leaders, using our gifts to serve the body, practicing the “one anothers” commanded by God, and fight the desires of the flesh. We do not pay God lip service but give our life in service for Him.

The Sovereign of the Future

            The only hope for anyone to stand before the Lord will be to have Jesus Christ standing in front of them as their mediator. There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus who gave himself as a ransom which is the testimony given at the proper time. The Lord will judge all nations for how they treated his people. As Chapter 3 begins, Joel pronounces judgment on the Judah’s neighbors, Tyre and Sidon, for their wicked treatment Judah. The nations were judged in the same way they treated Judah. In 343 B.C. Artaxerxes overtook and enslaved Sidon while Alexander the Great conquered Tyre selling 13,000 into slavery.[4] The Lord calls the nations to a battle, but the coming war is already decided. Joel 3:9-16,

Proclaim this among the nations: Consecrate for war; stir up the mighty men. Let all the men of war draw near; let them come up. Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, “I am a warrior.” Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations, and gather yourselves there. Bring down your warriors, O LORD. Let the nations stir themselves up and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the winepress is full. The vats overflow, for their evil is great. 14 Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. 15 The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. 16 The Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth quake. But the Lord is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel. [5]

There is only one who is in control of the end. The Father told the Son to sit at His right hand until He puts all His enemies under His feet.

The war is already won. It is only a matter of time until the final battle. On that day Israel will be restored.

So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who dwells in Zion, my holy mountain. And Jerusalem shall be holy, and strangers shall never again pass through it. 18 “And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the streambeds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord and water the Valley of Shittim. 19 “Egypt shall become a desolation and Edom a desolate wilderness, for the violence done to the people of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land. 20 But Judah shall be inhabited forever, and Jerusalem to all generations. 21 I will avenge their blood, blood I have not avenged, for the Lord dwells in Zion.[6]

Jesus is victorious and one day His victory will be consummated. Who will endure the day of the Lord? Only those who call upon the name of the Lord. Romans 10:9-13,

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)

The Day is coming…will you be saved? God intended to have two thieves on either side of Christ at Calvary, so that “One was saved, that none might despair; but only one, that none might presume.[7]” Do not despair for all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. Do not presume for only those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. Call upon the name of the Lord and be saved.

 

[1] Title taken from the Mark Dever’s Promises Made: The Message of the Old Testament Eternal Questions Series.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Joe 2:1–12). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Joe 2:18–25). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4] Dever, Mark. Promised Made: The Message of the Old Testament. p. 700.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Joe 3:13–16). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Joe 3:17–21). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7] Dever, Mark. 717.

What is Love? (Hosea)

I love ice cream. I love that new Italian restaurant. I love big dogs. I love children. I love…The word love is overused in our culture. Our culture does not have any real respect for words. We do not use them well and we do not use them appropriately. Words have lost their meaning. So what is love? Truly, what is a love defined by God’s Word? And what kind of love does God require of us? I remember being in Venezuela and arguing with one of my fellow missionaries about love. I was arguing that my friend’s parents who were not believers loved each other. They were a couple that I believed epitomized “love.” The day following my argument during my quiet time I read 1 John 4:7-8,

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

The Lord showed me that it was impossible to truly love the way God requires us without being born again. What I witnessed in my friend’s parents was a glimpse of the love that God has shown us, but it was not full biblical love. True biblical love can only happen when we have been born of God for true biblical love is supernatural. Biblical love is far beyond our natural ability to love. We need God’s supernatural help to love as He loves. True biblical love rooted and established in the character of God. God is love. Hosea shines a spotlight on the amazing, undeserved love of God.

    Hosea was a prophet in the late eighth century. While most Minor Prophets address the southern kingdom of Judah, Hosea primarily prophesied to the northern kingdom of Israel. He warned the Israelites of the coming destruction of Assyria in 722 BC. Hosea prophesied before the exile. Hosea can be broken down roughly into 2 sections. The first 3 chapters address Hosea’s personal life and the last 11 chapters contain the prophecies of the coming judgment and the few promises of hope[i]. The book starts with the beginning of a love story, but one that is unexpected.

True Love is Supernatural

   The word of the Lord came to Hosea. God supernaturally spoke to Hosea. We should never allow the truth that the Creator God speaks to sinners. Hosea 1:1-3,

The word of the LORD that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.” So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

He told him what he wanted to do. This is supernatural communication. The supernatural word and the supernatural love that God gives to Hosea only makes sense if it seen as supernatural. Human love cannot understand God’s request.

Hosea is told to take a prostitute as his wife. He is told to love a woman that gives herself to other men. Why would God do this? He wanted Hosea to model God’s love for an adulterous people. We see the purpose at the end of verse 2, “for the land commits whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” The nation of Israel was committing spiritual adultery. They were not giving themselves exclusively to worship of Yahweh, but they were giving themselves to other gods. The root sin of the Old Testament is idolatry. Idolatry is loving something or someone more than God.

    The relationship between God and his people is so intimate that He views worshipping other gods as an act of adultery. God is married to His people. God is our husband, we are His bride. This imagery is contained throughout the Scriptures. There is a tremendous amount of intimacy that God expects with His people. The covenant/betrothal language is seeped with the intimacy we are called to have with God. Hosea 1:4-9,

And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.” She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.” When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. And the LORD said, “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”

This sounds like a very harsh judgment. And it is, for true biblical love is a righteous love.

True Love is Righteous

    God’s love is a righteous love meaning that He loves that which is good and right. We may say we love, but if we do not love that which is righteous then we do not love as God would have us love. True love must be concerned with righteousness. This is one of the reasons God commands parents in Proverbs 13:24 to establish a love of righteousness through discipline, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”

Discipline is an act of love so if we refuse to discipline God says we hate our children. If we refuse to correct people when they enter activities, lifestyles and behaviors that harmful and against God’s word, we are not showing true biblical love. Biblical love is always connected to righteousness and truth. Therefore, God is demonstrating His love for the people of Israel in sending them discipline in the form of the Assyrian army because they have strayed from their first love. Hosea 5:1-2,

Hear this, O priests! Pay attention, O house of Israel! Give ear, O house of the king! For the judgment is for you; for you have been a snare at Mizpah and a net spread upon Tabor. And the revolters have gone deep into slaughter, but I will discipline all of them.”

The Lord promises discipline as an act of love. They did not acknowledge God as the giver of good gifts (Hos. 2.8-10). Chapter 4 outlines the main thrust of Israel’s sins. Hosea 4:1-14,

Hear the word of the LORD, O children of Israel, for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens, and even the fish of the sea are taken away…My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. The more they increased, the more they sinned against me; I will change their glory into shame…. My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles. For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the whore. They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth, because their shade is good.

Because of the sin of the people, we read, Hosea 9:1,

“Rejoice not, O Israel! Exult not like the peoples; for you have played the whore, forsaking your God.”

It sounds like very harsh language. It may even make us uncomfortable, but we must call sin what it really is: forsaking God, chasing after other lovers. These are not politically correct words, but one of the reasons why people engage in this type of behavior is because we live in a society that refuses to use biblical words to define sin. It is disgusting. Israel was breaking the ten commandments. They were lying, murdering, committing adultery, coveting, and most importantly they were not loving the Lord God. God hates sin, it is disgusting in his sight. And when we remove the disgust of sin, we start to engage in it or to give approval because of our silence. We are trained to think that pointing out sin is unloving and judgmental, but it is not. Biblical love is righteous. It hates evil and clings to what is good. Do you love like that? Do you love what is righteous? Is your life characterized by righteousness? Do you love God or are you loving the world?

            Have you ever walked into a dirty house? When you see a house that has been overtaken by clutter, dust, trash, you ask, “How can they live like this?” If you live in filth long enough, you stop seeing the filth. It just becomes normal. If someone walked into the “house” of your life, would they ask, “How can you live like this?” Is your life cluttered with worldly filth and godless clutter?

            God takes sin very seriously so seriously that if are sin is not dealt with it will experience a far greater punishment than a national takeover. God will punish sin in an eternal hell where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, where the worm does not die and the fire is never quenched. Many question the reality of hell; have you ever asked why you question Hell’s existence? Why do you doubt it? Why has it been neglected in pulpits and conversations through America? I believe we question hell because we have lost a vile, ugly, heinous view of sin. As we minimize the true vile of sin, we lose what sin deserves. Hosea is a very fresh reminder of how God views sin. He hates it. Stop for a moment and think about your sins. Are there any sins that you have explained away? Or sins you have coddled and allowed to grow? Are there secret sins in your life?

            God’s righteousness demands him to love what is good and hate what is evil. We should desire the same.

True Love is Forgiving

    We pick back up the strange love story of Hosea and Gomer. Gomer does not deserve Hosea’s love, yet God tells him to go to her again. Chapter 3,

And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.”

He commands Hosea to go again, love a woman, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel. Hosea is called to model to Gomer, God’s love for the children of Israel. God wants to forgive and restore the people of Israel. God’s forgiveness always starts with Him extending his hand to us.

            Gomer is in the arms of another man living as an adulterous woman. It is while she is still in her sin that God tells Hosea to go to her. In going to his sinful wife, Hosea is modeling the love that God has for his people. We love God, because He first loved us. He takes the initiative to rescue and to redeem us while we are in the pit of sin. Gomer received love she didn’t deserve by her loving husband. Hosea who made a promise to love her forever.

               As you read this strange love story, you may start feeling sorry for Hosea. You may understand his plight for it is very hard to love sinners, but we are not like Hosea. We are Gomer. We are sinners in need of forgiveness. We are rebels in need of restoration. Mark Dever writes,

Regardless of all the ways you may compare your righteousness with someone else’s, when you compare yourself with God and what he has called you to be, it should be clear that you are Gomer. You and I are the unfaithful objects of God’s ever-faithful love. Only when we understand this do we begin to understand what love is.[ii]

We all are Gomers. We all have been unfaithful to our Husband, the Lord God Almighty. We must always hold these core truths together. We are far more sinful than we could ever imagine AND we are far more loved than we could ever dare dream. Hosea loved Gomer. Hosea pursued Gomer while she was in her sin. God loves us. God pursues us while we are in our sins.

How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
.

 And in the face of our great need, we need to be reminded of God’s great promise of hope.

True love is Hopeful

    God’s judgment always is mixed with hope. His love always gives hope. At the end of chapter 1, after God tells Hosea to name his children, No Mercy and Not My People, he gives this great promise 1:10-2:1,

Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel. Say to your brothers, “You are my people,” and to your sisters, “You have received mercy.”

God promises that one day the children of Israel will be like the sand of the sea and those of whom he said, “you are not my people,” will be called, “children of the living God.” All the children of God will be gathered together and shall appoint for themselves one head. And that one head is the head of the church, Jesus Christ. Israel had failed as the son. They were called to be a light to the nations, but became like the nations. And since they failed, God sent forth his Son. Jesus Christ did not lie like Israel, but rather no deceit was found in his mouth. Jesus Christ did not bow his knee to idols, but rather said you should shall worship the Lord God and serve him only. Jesus was obedient to death even death on a cross. He was dead and buried and God rose him from the dead. Jesus was the firstfruits of the resurrection. And in his resurrection, Jesus would show mercy to sinners and call them his people. For anyone who did receive him, he gave the right to call them children of God. Peter writes that those who turn from their sins and receive Jesus Christ have become,

A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10).

We have become a people through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have been purchased through his death and resurrection. Jesus Christ is our head and our hope. Paul referenced the same hopeful promise in Romans 9:25-26 showing how only God will save us from his wrath by his mercy.

            We should never fear because God has caused us to be born again into a living hope through His resurrection of the dead. What we know in part, we shall fully know. All of history will bear witness of God’s gathering of sinners as his children. God promises in Hosea 2:14-23,

14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 15 And there I will give her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. 16 “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ 17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. 18 And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. 19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord. 21 “And in that day I will answer, declares the Lord, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth, 22 and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel, 23 and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy,and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’ ” [1]

Now hear how this promise in Hosea looks forward to the end of human history in Revelation 21:1-4,

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

True love is hopeful. Once you were not my people, but now you are God’s people. The Bible is full of great promises.

            God spoke many harsh words to Israel because of their sin. God called out their sins, but he called out their sins so that they would return to him. God spoke of his tender mercy and never-stopping, never-giving up love for his people. Beloved, there is no sin too grievous, too heinous, and too evil that can keep you from the mercy of God. God’s hopeful love will always triumph over your sin. In chapter 11, God speaks through Hosea,

When Israel was a child, I love him, and out of Egypt I called my son…It was I who taught her (Ephraim) to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know what I healed them. I led them in with cords of kindness, with the bands of love., and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them…how can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel?...My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender (Hosea 11:1;3;8).

The Lord will never give up on his people. The Lord will always show His people His love. The New Testament references this when Jesus returned from Egypt after escaping Herod. As God would call his Israel out of Egypt to lead an exodus of redemption, God would call his Son, Jesus, out of Egypt to lead an exodus of redemption from sin to his glory. Only God can give us victory over death. Hear what Gods promised in Hosea 13:14, “I shall ransom them from the power of Sheol; I shall redeem them from Death. O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting?” After quoting this passage, The Apostle Paul writes, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

            The Lord will ransom all the sinful, adulterous Gomers in the world from the sting of death and the power of sin when they repent and trust in Christ. The Lord will never give up on his people.  Neither should we!! Know God’s love today is extended to sinners. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received God’s mercy. Once you were not my people, but now you are God’s people. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ho 2:14–23). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

[i] Dever, Mark. Promises Made: The Message of the Old Testament.

[ii] Dever, Mark. Promises Made: The Message of the Old Testament. Pg 690.