Was written by Hosea, son of Beeri, in the eight century, BC. After king David's reign, the kingdom of Israel was split into two: Israel, the northern kingdom, and Judah, the southern one. What followed was a long succession of kings until first Assyria and then Babylon subjugated both kingdoms. Hosea’s ministry spanned several decades, beginning near the end of the reigns of Uzziah of Judah (ca. 790-739 b.c.) and Jeroboam II of Israel (ca. 793-753 b.c.) and concluding in the early years of Hezekiah’s reign. The beginning of his ministry was a quiet time where Israel and Judah experienced military success and there were not many enemies to challenge them. However, at the end of the ministry the Jews were subdued by Assyrian empire.
The message of Hosea is similar to that of several other prophets living at about the same time (Amos, Micah and Isaiah) - Israel has violated the covenant by worshipping other Gods (e.g. Baal). The first three chapters are quite coherent, but the rest of the book reads as an anthology (collection of writings from different periods). As one commentator puts it, "It is as if the speeches of a contemporary politician, delivered over a lifetime in public service, were compiled into a single anthology; while each speech would have made perfect sense at the time and in the place where it was first delivered, each one would be more difficult to understand later when the specific occasion for the speech was forgotten."
The major themes of Hosea’s message can be summarized in three words: sin, judgment, and salvation. There are two dominant themes running through the sayings of Hosea which appear at first sight to be mutually exclusive: they are the judgment of God and the love of God. However, it is very difficult to outline the book, simply because of lack of unity. Outlines provided by major commentators vary substantially. The text of Hosea has suffered in transmission, so the meaning of some passages might not be reliable. However, the teaching of the whole book is clear.
The book of Hosea is full of metaphorical language. The covenant between God and his people is compared to a marriage. Idolatry is explained in terms of adultery.
Though Hosea’s prophecy contains some calls to repentance, he did not expect a positive response. Judgment was inescapable. In implementing the curses, the Lord would cause the nation to experience infertility, military invasion, and exile. However, the Lord would not abandon Israel totally. Despite its severity, each judgment was disciplinary and was intended to turn Israel back to God.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Main pattern that keeps occurring in Hosea is the interplay between judgment and salvation. In this chapter, God's judgment is expressed symbolically as the request for Hosea to marry an adulterous wife, symbolizing the main sin of Israel, and have children whose names symbolize both Israel's sin and God's judgment.
1. What does the marriage symbolize?
The marriage, characterized by infidelity on the wife’s part, was to portray Israel’s unfaithfulness to its covenant with the Lord. The idea is not new and described in much more detail in Ezek 16:1–43.
2. What is the meaning of the first son?
First son, Jezreel is named after massacre, but it's not clear what massacre God has in mind. If it is the one in 2 Kings 10, then why would God commend him for accomplishing it:
2 Kings 10:30 (NIV)
30 The Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.”
One possible answer is that Jehu went too far, killing more people than God commanded. Another, more likely case, is that the word punish was translated wrongly. The underlying Hebrew word can indeed mean to punish but more often to number, to account, to visit. So, a correct translation could be "I will bring on Jehu the same thing he did at Jezreel". In other words, it is not the punishment for massacre at Jezreel, it is the punishment for not learning from it.
The prophecy (Israel to be destroyed, Judah spared) was fulfilled in 735 BC, when Assyria attacked and conquered Israel, see 2 Kings 15:29.
3. What is the meaning of the daughter?
The daughter's name can be translated as "No pity" or "Not loved", "No mercy". The implication of this name is that God will not show compassion to Israel and will allow it to be destroyed. Yet, God will show mercy to Judah, Jerusalem and Judah was spared from Assyrians when God destroyed 185,000 of them, see 2 Kings 19:35.
4. What is the meaning of the second son?
The third child was a son, named "Not my people". The first time God mentions the term my people is here in Exodus 6:6-8 (NIV)
6 “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’ ”
5. What does God promise will happen after judgment?
Restoration. God promises the reversal of judgment. "Not my people" will be again called "Sons of the living God", Judah and Israel will be united under one leadership, probably of David's origin (see Hos 3:5).
1. There are two difficult questions that arise from this passage. First, God made an unconditional covenant with the Jews, that they would be his people and he will be their God. How, then, can he stop being their God, if the covenant is unconditional? Second question, we often say the justice of God is some kind of discipline, e.g. it seeks to restore rather than to condemn. We have recently (in 1 Cor 5) studies an example of such judgment applied to a church member. But typical discipline seeks to give person a chance to change, while God's justice, in this particular case, led to the death of many, so it cannot be a discipline in the sense we understand it.
Surprisingly, the answer to both of these questions is given in Romans 9. In short, God's covenant, while made with the Jews as the nation, is not with every person in the nation. Just being a physical descendent of Abraham is not enough, there is a spiritual Israel within the physical Israel. For the second question, the answer is even more morbid:
Romans 9:22-24 (NIV)
22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
God has created some people for destruction, so that the chosen ones will know his glory.
2. What about us, Christians? Do we have a covenant with God? Is it conditional?
God's old covenant was with Jews. But through Jesus he established a new covenant with both the Jews and gentiles. We are the people of God, the prophecy of Hosea applies to us as much as it did to the Jews returning from the exile.
1 Peter 2:9-10 (NIV)
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
But we should not be proud:
Romans 11:17-24 (NIV)
17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. 23 And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!
We must fully understand that while the covenant is unconditional, we should automatically assume we are part of it if we say we believe. We should not assume that saying we believe in Jesus should automatically enroll us in the "salvation club". One should never conclude from Paul’s teaching on divine election that he downplayed the necessity of human beings continuing to exercise faith in order to obtain eschatological salvation. Those who do not continue in faith will face God’s judgment. Neither would it be correct to conclude that some of those that God elected will fail to continue in the faith. When we look at it retrospectively (cf. 2 Tim. 2:11–21; 1 John 2:19) we discover that those who fail to persevere thereby reveal that they were never actually part of the elect community.
Friday, August 03, 2007
The main theme of Hosea 2 is God confronting the unfaithfulness of Israel, symbolically expressed as a failed marriage.
1. Here are curses promised to Israel if she does not turn from her life of harlotry
b. Be stripped naked, like on the day of her birth, so that everybody can see her lewdness
c. Make the land like a wilderness, without water
d. No compassion on her children
e. Hedge her way with thorns, wall up her path, to prevent her from going to her lovers
f. Take away grain, wool, wine, flax
g. No festivities - end to all celebrations and festivals
2. Here is the aspects of restoration promised:
a. Bring her back
b. Give back the vineyards
d. No more idolatry
f. Restoration of the quality of the land
g. Relationship of love
3. The curses and restoration that Israel has received are similar to those promised by Moses for breaking the Sinai covenant.
Blessings if obey:
Deuteronomy 28:11 (NIV)
11 The Lord will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your forefathers to give you.
Deuteronomy 28:12-13 (NIV)
12 The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. 13 The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.
Curses if disobey:
Deuteronomy 28:18 (NIV)
18 The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
Deuteronomy 28:24-25 (NIV)
24 The Lord will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed.
25 The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will come at them from one direction but flee from them in seven, and you will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms on earth.
Deuteronomy 28:38-40 (NIV)
38 You will sow much seed in the field but you will harvest little, because locusts will devour it. 39 You will plant vineyards and cultivate them but you will not drink the wine or gather the grapes, because worms will eat them. 40 You will have olive trees throughout your country but you will not use the oil, because the olives will drop off.
Restoration after curses:
Deuteronomy 30:1-10 (NIV)
Prosperity After Turning to the Lord
When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, 2 and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, 3 then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. 4 Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. 5 He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. 6 The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. 7 The Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies who hate and persecute you. 8 You will again obey the Lord and follow all his commands I am giving you today. 9 Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your fathers, 10 if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
4. Why did God choose these kinds of curses and not some others?
The key to this is to understand that Baal was a weather god associated with thunderstorms. Baal was said to appoint the season of rains. Rain was important to Canaanite agriculture, and Baal was consequently a god of fertility—a prodigious lover as well as the giver of abundance.
My taking away rain, food, pleasures, protection, God sees to severe Israel's ties with its idols. In other words, if God can take these things away, he must have been the giver of all these things in the first place. This is in contrast with Israel's belief that these were her pay from her idols:
Hosea 2:12 (NIV)
12 I will ruin her vines and her fig trees,
which she said were her pay from her lovers;
I will make them a thicket,
and wild animals will devour them.
a. By bringing her to a desert, God hopes to further insulate Israel from its idols
Hosea 2:14 (NIV)
14 “Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her.
5. What is the nature of restoration promised? Did it already happen?
Some aspects of restoration are simply reversals of the curses - return water to the land, give back the vineyards, remarriage. We can say that these have been at least partially fulfilled when Jews returned from exile. Other aspects, such as peace with animals and no wars, have not happened yet. So the prophecy is clearly looking into the future.
It's interesting to consider the verse
Hosea 2:16 (NIV)
16“In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master (Baal)'
The Hebrew word for Baal is exactly the same as Lord, which is also synonym for husband. Hence the double meaning of this verse. First, God does not want to be just a god, he wants to be the God. He does not want to be confused with anybody else. Second, He would like us to think of himself not as a husband-ruler but as a husband-lover.
1. Idolatry seems to be the main problem in the OT. Does this problem still exist today?
You shall have no other gods before me
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them;
Different denominations are split on whether this is one commandment or two. Jews and Catholics treat it as one, evangelicals as two. But in either case, for Jews the main way to have other gods before God was through idolatry. Yet, it is possible to have something as God and worship him, without actually making an image.
Paul widens the meaning of idolatry (Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5) to include greed (or service of money god).
Ephesians 5:5 (NIV)
5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
I believe to us this means that idolatry means putting anything, money, career, even family, above God. Anything that that we worship and serve can become our god.
2. From this passage we can see how God tried to solve the problem of idolatry in the OT. How do you think he might try to solve it in our lives?
Probably the same way, by cutting our connections with the idols. As C.S. Lewis puts it,
“God whispers in our pleasures, but shouts in our pain". Or as John Newton puts it in his famous hymn "Prayer answered by Crosses",
Lord, why is this?" I trembling cried,
"Will You pursue me to the death?"
"It's in this way," the Lord replied
"I answer prayer for grace and faith."
"These inward trials I employ,
from self and pride to set you free,
and break your schemes of earthly joy,
that you may find it all in Me."
If your career became an idol and you serve it to get recognition and financial stability, God may make you lose your job to remind you who is really in charge of your finances and recognition. You may have made an idol of relationship. Any time you want something too much and cannot get it, it does not necessarily means it's bad for you - maybe God does not want you to make an idol out of it. Sometimes letting something go is the best way to receive it.
3. So, do we just wait and see until God removes the idols from us? What can we do to change?
a. Know what your idols are. Taking away an idol will feel like your life is shattered.
b. If you try to get rid of idols, they tend to come back. Try to fill the void left after denouncing the idols. As Thomas Chalmers says (edited):
It is seldom that any of our tastes are made to disappear by a mere process of natural extinction...
A boy may cease to be the slave of his appetite, but it is because a manlier taste has now brought it into subordination. The youth ceases to idolize sexual pleasure, but it is because the idol of wealth has become the stronger and gotten the ascendancy. Even the love of money ceases to have the mastery over the heart, but it is because drawn into politics and he is now lorded over by the love of power. There is not one of these transformations in which the heart is left without an object. Its desire for one particular object may be conquered; but as to its desire for having some object or other, this is unconquerable....
c. Fill your heart with the pleasures of God and beauty of the gospel. The reason our hearts turn to other objects of beauty and satisfaction is because we do not find satisfaction and pleasure in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
John 3:26-30 (NIV)
26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”
27 To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.
Here is how C.S. Lewis puts it:
If you asked twenty good men to-day what they thought the highest of
the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked
almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what
has happened? A negative term has been
substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The
negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing
good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our
abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the
Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial,
but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks
in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope
for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from
Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the
unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised
in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but
too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and
ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on
making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer
of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
In these two chapters Hosea continues to accuse the people of Israel of their sin. Since there is substantial overlap with Hosea 3-5, we will be looking only at the novel parts.
1. In Hosea 3-5 God accuses people of Israel of idolatry. What kind of people does he address in Ch. 4-5?
Seems like that in addition to common folk, specialized accusations are laid upon priests (4:4-10) and Israel rulers (ch. 5).
2. What are the new accusations that appear against these three groups (people, priests, rulers)?
a. Don't have mercy
b. Don't have faithfulness or truthfulness,
c. Don't have knowledge of God
h. Adultery (Physical)
a. Reject knowledge
b. Ignore law
e. Feed on the sins of the people
a. Being a trap to common people
b. Border conflicts
3. What are the new curses?
a. All the beasts will die
b. Priest will stumble
c. Rejection of the priests and their children
d. Priests will never be satisfied
e. Leaving them alone
f. Lose roots
g. God's withdrawal
h. God will be like rot and moth and lion to Israel
1. A feeling that you get when reading the passage is that God is very angry. This is not the God of Hosea 2 where he carefully plans the curses in such a way as to teach people to distrust the idols. Yet here, it seems like there is little connection between the problem and the punishment. Does God have the right to be angry in this way?
From a Bible dictionary:
Anger asserts itself in attitudes of indignation and acts of aggression, both expressing a sense of outrage and a wish that appropriate punitive hurt overtake the wrongdoer. The imagery of anger is based on fire. Anger’s similarity to fire may be observed in its spontaneity, in the difficulty with which it is contained and in its destructive power.
God anger. God is often described as being angry. Sometimes it appears as a deliberate anger, as in Hosea 2, sometimes as a quick-tempered anger as in Hosea 4-5. Yet God’s anger is not automatic or predictable, nor is God ever “out of control.” This kind of anger is not arbitrary or disfigured, as human anger often is. While God shows quick-tempered emotion toward sin, God is slow to anger, which means he is slow to act on his anger. There is probably tens of years that have passed between promises in Hosea 4-5 and actual judgment. And what God has finally done is much less than what he "felt" he will do, as apparent from the ending part of Hosea 11.
2. What can we learn about human anger from God's anger?
Anger threatens human self-control, prudence, and good judgment: ordinary speech describes angry people as having lost their ‘temper’ (equable balance) and ‘head’ (wisdom) and as being ‘mad’. Human anger often leads to sin, and hence we should be slow to anger.
James 1:19-20 (NIV)
19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
The same conclusion is also made in many proverbs. In NT, anger is often mentioned in the lists of sins.
Yet Scripture also speaks of anger as motivating admirable action too (see 2 Cor. 7:11; Is. 59:16; 63:3–6). Anger may be righteous or unrighteous, justified or unwarranted, virtuous or vicious, constructive or destructive in its effects, depending on what one is angry at, and on one’s own prior character and commitments.
The best place for us to learn about anger is from Jesus, because he was God and without sin (and hence has perfect anger) and also a man, so was bound to behave like one. Indications of anger on Jesus’ part appear in Mark 1:43 (at the prospect of unwelcome publicity), 3:1–5 (at the Pharisees’ ill-will and indifference to suffering), 10:14 (at the disciples’ arrogance towards children), 11:15–17 (at the desecration of the temple; cf. John 2:13–17), 12:24–27 (at the Sadducees’ complacent errors about resurrection); Matthew 16:23 (at Peter’s rejecting of his prediction of the cross), 23:13–36 (at the Pharisees’ sham religiosity); and John 11:33–38 (at the repellent legacy of sin, namely death). In light of the NT insistence that Jesus, the Son of God incarnate, was totally sinless (John 8:46; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 1 Pet. 2:22), these passages must be held to show that anger at what dishonors God, so far from being sinful, may be just the reverse – a truth already modeled in the Psalms and prophets (Ps. 139:21–22; Jer. 15:17).
3. Should we, as Christians, be afraid of God's anger?
God's anger for sin has been eternally satisfied or deflected (NT uses the word "propitiation") by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We, Christians, are no longer in the hands of angry God:
1 John 4:10 (NIV)
10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Romans 5:9 (NIV)
9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!
God is still angry with those who have not repented of their sins (Rom 9:22), at people who try to justify themselves by obeying the law (Rom 4:15), at disobedience:
Ephesians 5:5-6 (NIV)
5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.
These apply to non-Christians or to false Christians. Can God be angry at Christians? In short term, yes, just as he was angry with Peter on so many occasions. The ones elected by God are saved eternally from his wrath (even though they deserve it as much as others do).
Saturday, August 25, 2007
1. Promises of restoration (6:1-3)
2. God desires mercy and knowledge, rather than sacrifices (6:3-6)
3. List of Israel's wrongs (6:7-7:16)
1. There is a repeating imagery of the dawn in v.3-5. What does it mean?
According to v.3, the imagery of the dawn symbolizes certainty of God's restoration. Yet the mood changes in v.5, where the light of dawn symbolizes judgment. In other words, even though God restores people with a new day, their love disappears almost immediately with the rising son and hence leads to new judgment.
This is an imagery of Israel never learning from its mistakes.
2. What new accusations does God bring against Israel (not yet mentioned in ch.1-5)?
Hosea mentions problems within leadership and Israel's desperate attempt in diplomacy in chapter 7.
3. What does verse 6 mean?
The Hebrew word "hesed" translated as "mercy" by NIV has two main meanings : steadfast (loyal) love and kindness (or mercy). Hebrew has two words for love (ahab and hesed) and one for mercy (raham). It is important to see the difference between the three. Ahab is the love between people (husband and wide, parent and child, friends) or of people toward God. Mercy (raham) is the compassion followed by action. It is an act of either withdrawing the punishment or helping someone in need. Hesed is best translated as kindness but not in the modern English sense. Hesed means acting in the best interests of another person. While hesed is often translated as love or steadfast love in the OT, kindness per se can appear very unloving, when pain and hurt are in the best interests of the other person.
In the OT, hesed is almost always used to refer to the love of God toward his creation, and less often as kindness (mercy) of people toward each other. It is never used for love of people toward God (ahab is used in this case). Hence when God says there is no hesed in the land (Hosea 4:1), that Israel's hesed disappears as the morning myst, that He desires hesed from Israelites rather than sacrifices, he talks about kindness and loyal love of the Jews toward each other, not toward God. That is also why after God mentions a lack of hesed in Hosea 4:1, he goes on to demonstrate it by quoting violations of several (of the ten) commandments that refer to relationships between people.
The second part of the v. 6 says that God prefers the knowledge of God rather than offerings. By knowledge Bible usually implies intimate knowledge of something or somebody that results in appropriate action. For example, to know ones wife is to have sexual relationship with her.
The knowledge of God is best defined as understanding of his deep desires, which would naturally bring our desire to fulfill them. What are the God's desires? He has many! Here are just a few that He mentions in connection with sacrifices (these things are better than sacrifices):
1 Sam 15:22 (Obedience)
Psalm 50:7–15; (Confession and praise)
Psalm 51:16 (broken spirit and contrite heart)
Psalm 147:11 (in those who fear him and put their hope in God's unfailing love)
Prov 21:3 (To do what is right and just)
Isaiah 1:17 (do right, seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of fatherless and widows)
Jeremiah 9:24 (kindness, justice and righteousness)
Mark 12:33 (Love God and our neighbors)
Important aspects of the knowledge of God:
a. Understanding that what pleases God is us treating others with kindness:
Jeremiah 22:15-16 (NIV)
15“Does it make you a king
to have more and more cedar?
Did not your father have food and drink?
He did what was right and just,
so all went well with him.
16 He defended the cause of the poor and needy,
and so all went well.
Is that not what it means to know me?”
declares the Lord.
b. Understanding why we need to obey:
Proverbs 2:1-6 (NIV)
Moral Benefits of Wisdom
1 My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
2 turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding,
3 and if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
4 and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom,
and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Just understanding what a command mean is noJews probably understood God's commands too literally and hence often did not know the meaning behind. For example, Jews probably brought sacrifices to God and thought that now God owes them. But when God did not provide rain on time or allowed poor harvest, they would immediately abandon him and run to idols that promise better harvest or more rain. They saw sacrifices as a way to earn God's favor.
Isaiah 58:2-9 (NIV)
2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
Without understanding, there is no enduring solution. If we fail to understand the root of the problem (e.g. the fact that they didn't understand the principle behind the commandments), we might repent of our sin because of bad consequences but not because we are really sorry.
4. Can we now understand what Matt. 9:13; 12:7 means?
It should be trivial by now.
1. Jews, while tried, utterly failed to really understand what pleases God. How can we, as Christians, do that?
Things that pleased God then are the same things that please Him now. New Testament has not really provided any new examples of God's desires. But we must avoid the trap that the Jews were constantly falling in.
First, we need to understand another reason why God did not desire sacrifices.
Hebrews 10:1-10 (NIV)
Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All
10 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2 If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, 4 because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
7 Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, O God.’ ”
8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
We need to understand what verses Matt. 9:13; 12:7 really mean. If sacrifices in the form of offerings were all that were required from us, some of us could have claimed that they've done it, they have satisfied God's standards. Yet when we see that God's real standards are mercy and intimate knowledge of Him, we will never be able to say, We have done it. When a lawyer tried to more clearly define what the first two commandments mean (parable of a good Samaritan), Jesus intentionally extended the boundaries so that it becomes clear we cannot never satisfy them.
Only to a degree that we understand and admit that we cannot please God by our actions, he will come and teach us how to really please Him, through the work of Holy Spirit within us. This process is called sanctification. We are sanctified by faith through the work of Holy Spirit, (2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2). For more details, see this:
Ezekiel 36:22-27 (NIV)
22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel,
24 “ ‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
It is through faith, e.g. trusting in what God has done through Jesus and also his promises, we can consent to God's will. Our soul allows itself to be treated according to God’s good pleasure for, clinging to God’s promises, it does not doubt that he who is true, just, and wise will do, dispose, and provide all things well. And God accomplishes it with the help of Holy Spirit.
Saturday, September 01, 2007
There is nothing particularly new mentioned in these chapters that were not already said before. However, unlike ch. 4-7 that appear as a collection of prophecies (without much explanation), these chapter provide a great deal more clarity about what was happening in Israel.
1. Read all four chapters on your own and determine what are the main types of Israel's sin that are mentioned the passage.
a. Broken law (8:1,12,9:17)
b. No knowledge of God (8:2-3)
c. Leadership issues (8:4a, 9:15)
d. Idolatry (8:4-6,11,9:1,10,10:1-2,5-6,11:2)
e. Sell out to other nations (8:8-10)
f. Relying on man's strength (8:14,10:13)
g. Broken relationships between people (9:9,10:4)
It is interesting to note that this provides a nice summary of the earlier chapters.
2. What calf is mentioned in 8:5 and 10:5?
This seems to be a reference to
1 Kings 12:26-33 (NIV)
26 Jeroboam thought to himself, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. 27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.”
28 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 29 One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin; the people went even as far as Dan to worship the one there.
31 Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites. 32 He instituted a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the festival held in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made. And at Bethel he also installed priests at the high places he had made. 33 On the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a month of his own choosing, he offered sacrifices on the altar he had built at Bethel. So he instituted the festival for the Israelites and went up to the altar to make offerings.
This reference makes it much clearer what kind of idolatry people were practicing, why the leadership as well as priesthood has been accused, why the sinning was confined to Israel (at least for some time) and only later moved to Judah, why Bethel was a place for sinning (it is there that one of the calves was placed). Israel was supposed to worship in one place (later turned out to be a Jerusalem):
Deuteronomy 12:1-14 (NIV)
The One Place of Worship
|12||These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess—as long as you live in the land. 2 Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains and on the hills and under every spreading tree where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. 3 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places.|
4 You must not worship the Lord your God in their way. 5 But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; 6 there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7 There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.
8 You are not to do as we do here today, everyone as he sees fit, 9 since you have not yet reached the resting place and the inheritance the Lord your God is giving you. 10 But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety. 11 Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name—there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord. 12 And there rejoice before the Lord your God, you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns, who have no allotment or inheritance of their own. 13 Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please. 14 Offer them only at the place the Lord will choose in one of your tribes, and there observe everything I command you.
However, as made clear in the reference to Baal Peor (9:10), in addition to top-down idolatry there was also a bottom-up one, originating from people mixing with other nations.
3. How can we summarize the Israel's problems in just one line?
Israel did not worship God properly.
a. They tried to worship him in their own way and in their own place, rather that according to God's commands
b. They worshiped him alongside other Gods (violating the first commandment!)
c. They worshipped him while violating last six commandments, such as mercy and justice.
d. All this happened because they did not know or understand God.
The Hebrew word for worship means to bow down. The original English word was something like "worthship" - an act of assigning ultimate importance to something. It seems that we are born with a desire to worship. The gift offerings were first mentioned in Genesis 4 (Cain and Abel), burn offering first done by Noah (Genesis 8:20). Note that God did not ask them to make these sacrifices - they were natural.
Yet, as Israel has shown, one can worship God wrongly.
4. Application. What is the right way to worship God for Christians?
After the sacrifice of Jesus, there is no longer need to atone for our sins - he died for them all. So, instead of carnal sacrifices we are to offer so-called "spiritual sacrifices" 1 Pet. 2:5; cf. Jn. 4:23-24; Rom. 12:1; Phil. 3:3, sacrifice of praise Heb. 13:15-16, monetary gifts Phil. 4:18, consecration of the whole life to God.
Yet this is still very vague.
One reason that the NT is unclear about how to do worship is because any clear regulation could become a stumbling block to some culture. So we are left to interpret it with all the wisdom we have, in the context of our own culture. Yet, there are several important components that must be present in the "true" worship, no matter which culture it is in.
o In order not to worship God along other Gods, we need to have a deeper understanding of what worship is. We can learn a lot about worship from the way we worthship other things rather than God. Assume you have something of seemingly no value (e.g. old jewelry) and suddenly found out it was made by a famous master and now costs millions. What's going to happen? Well, you whole attitude toward it will change. You will begin to admire it, think how you can use money, no longer causal with it - buy a strong box. If it needs to be repaired to enhance its value, you would do it even if it costs a few thousands dollars. What has just happened? You were led into a worship.
Applying the same dynamic to God, we need to assign him not just a high value - the ultimate value. And we don't just invest a lot - we invest everything.
o In order to avoid repeating the mistakes of worshipping God while violating his commands we must make it clear to ourselves that God does not need our worship. God seeks worshippers not because he needs it but because we need it. God cannot go hungry or thirsty, he can live and achieve his goals without our money or our service. By worshipping God as an outflow of assigning him ultimate worth, we greatly extend our pleasure of knowing him and glorify him at the same time:
Psalm 50:9-15 (NIV)
|9||I have no need of a bull from your stall|
or of goats from your pens,
|10||for every animal of the forest is mine,|
and the cattle on a thousand hills.
|11||I know every bird in the mountains,|
and the creatures of the field are mine.
|12||If I were hungry I would not tell you,|
for the world is mine, and all that is in it.
|13||Do I eat the flesh of bulls|
or drink the blood of goats?
14 Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
fulfill your vows to the Most High,
15 and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”
o God also gave us a strict commandment about locality of the worship. But it is not a geographical location. The only right worship is through Jesus. That's why Jesus says in
John 4:23-24 (NIV)
23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
The time here is Jesus' hour - the time of his death.
After the death and resurrection of Jesus, he became the new "spiritual" temple. Worship is no longer confined to place and time, but must be done in spirit and in truth.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
1. What is the main theme in Hosea 12:1-8?
It appears to be deceit, which is first mentioned in 11:12. Israel was deceiving Assyria and Egypt, by signing treaties with both. Then goes the example of Jacob deceiving his brother vv. 3-6, merchant deceiving his customers (v.7).
The idea of mentioning Jacob's example is the accusation that Israel has inherited all the bad traits of their ancestors, without any good ones. Despite being as deceitful as Jacob was, they should seek God the way he did. Jacob faced the consequences of his deceit and returned to his land, even though Esau could kill him. In all his deceit he was looking for God's blessing - and he found it. So should Israel do now.
2. What is the meaning of the parallel in vv.12-13?
This seems to be a play on words tended (or cared for). Jacob tended sheep to get a wife, while the Lord (through Moses) tended Israel. It is as if the Lord's goal is to get a wife also, and this is certainly consistent with the Hosea 2.
3. What are the main themes of chapter 13?
Two prominent themes are idolatry and judgment. Hosea again emphasizes that God takes idolatry seriously. Practicing it is equivalent to bowing down to idols (kissing the idols). The outcome - nothingness, complete uprootedness and disappearance, like a mist or smoke.
The four beasts mentioned in the vv.7-8 are the same exactly as in Daniel 7, but in a slightly different order. They traditionally have been interpreted as the hostile kingdoms, like Babylon, Assyria, Roman empire, etc. This interpretation is quite consistent with what happened. Indeed, God have destroyed and tortured Israelites by allowing other nations to attack them.
It is also not clear whether v.14 contains statements or questions. Some Bible translations took it to mean that God will rescue Israelites, which is clearly out of context. Other translations take it to mean that God of course will not rescue them and actually is asking death to unleash its powers. The main support for the first interpretation is that was how Paul has interpreted it in 1 Cor 15. Also, it is quite uncommon for Hebrew to take "Where" questions as calls for actions. Rather, it is more often used to mean a rhetorical question.
But it is slightly more probable that the second interpretation is correct, as it much better fits the context. The reason why Paul reverses the meaning may sound something like this: "The Lord asked this rhetorical question and at that time the answer was no. Yet, in Jesus he provided a yes answer"
1. Can we accept a God that appears so evil, that he would even allow small children to be dashed to the ground? Why are they to blame?
We partially touched on this theme earlier, when we talked about election and how God may have prepared some people for destruction while others for his glory. Yet, for most of us this is still incomprehensible.
It's useful to note that there are two kinds of evil: physical (above) and moral. God can be associated with physical evil but is completely separate from (and against) moral evil, which is caused by sin. The moral evil is under Devil's control, but Devil is allowed for a short time to exercise its power, which will eventually be broken.
Despite the fact that God uses physical evil and is against moral evil, he is actually against all kinds of evil, both physical and moral. Not understanding this may become a stumbling block to a non-believer. How can God participate in evil and yet be against it?
This second contrast is almost a formal contradiction. Evil, in biblical theology, is totally alien to God: his ‘eyes are too pure to look on evil’ (Hab. 1:13); he is perfectly upright (Deut. 32:4); he ‘is light; in him there is no darkness at all’ (1 John 1:5); ‘God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone’ (Jas. 1:13). On the other hand, this God claims to ‘form the light and create darkness’, to ‘bring prosperity and create disaster (ra˓)’ (Is. 45:7). Amos 3:3–8 denounces the shortsightedness of those who do not perceive the origin of devastating blows: ‘When disaster (rā˓â) comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?’ (v. 6). Isaiah ironically reminds diplomats that the Lord ‘too is wise and can bring disaster (ra˓)’ (Is. 31:2). The King James Version translates Genesis 22:1 as ‘God did tempt Abraham’. 2 Samuel 24:1 plainly states that the Lord ‘incited David against [Israel], saying, “Go and take a census”’, i.e. to commit a grievous sin, though 1 Chronicles 21:1 attributes that temptation to Satan. Ezekiel 14:9 says, ‘If the prophet is enticed to utter a [false] prophecy, I the Lord have enticed that prophet.’ Other passages make similar points.
One may suggest that God does not participate in evil, he simply allows it. It is as if the reason there is no evil is because God constantly protects us from it. But in some cases, it's just allows it to sift through. This is helpful, yet there are many parts in the Bible (see above) implying that God is actually the initiator of evil, not just a bystander.
Evil does not exist on its own - it's an absence or perversion of something that is good. If only God and his creatures exist, and they are good, it follows that evil has no independent existence. This view, taught by Origen and by Augustine after he broke from Manichaeism (in which evil is an eternal substance), is firmly grounded in Scripture. Several Hebrew terms relating to evil connote nothingness or vacuousness, e.g. the four words in Zechariah 10:2 translated ‘deceit’, ‘lie’, ‘false’ and ‘vain’ in niv. In Greek, the prefix a- is negative (*adikia, anomia, etc.), as are the common symbols of evil: darkness; disease; destruction.
This completely reconciles all the evil there is that is caused by people. For example, the evil of the murder is that the person who committed it wanted something good too much or at a wrong time or in a wrong way. But what about natural disasters? Here we must understand that originally we were all created without death - so were immune to earthquakes and viruses. The death has entered (not clear how) through our sin.
Yet the mystery about why God hates evil and yet causes it is still a mystery, and we have nothing better to go on but Rom 9:19-24 and the book of Job.
2. Evil defeater 1.
In the 17th century, Pierre Bayle (1647–1706) formulated the following argument: If God were all-good, he would destroy evil. If God were all-powerful, he could destroy evil. But evil is not destroyed. Hence, there is no such God.
The first theistic objection to Bayle is that evil cannot be ‘destroyed’ without the destruction of freedom. Love, for example, is impossible without freedom. The same is true of other moral goods such as mercy, kindness, and compassion. And so, contrary to Bayle’s argument, to destroy freedom would not be the greatest good, for it would destroy the greatest goods.
However, theists insist that evil will be defeated without the destruction of free choice. If God is all-powerful, he can defeat evil. If God is all-good, he will defeat evil. Thus, since evil is not yet defeated, the very nature of the all-powerful, all-good theistic God is the guarantee that evil will eventually be defeated.
3. Evil defeater 2.
Even with the explanation based on free will and its role in the presence of evil, what of those who apparently had no choice in the suffering they endured? It seems that there is no good purpose in much suffering. An all-good being (God) must have a good purpose for everything. Hence, it is argued that there cannot be an all-good God.
However, it is logical to assume that, since God’s mind is infinite and man’s mind is finite, man will never fully comprehend the divine intellect. So even if we do not know God’s purpose, he may still have a good purpose for evil. Moreover, we do know some good purposes for evil: to warn us of greater evil; to keep us from self-destruction; to help bring about greater goods; and to defeat evil. If a finite mind can discover some good purposes for evil, surely an infinite good and wise God has a good purpose for all suffering. The crucifixion of Jesus may be said to bear this out.