Romans 9

Vs. 20, “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?”  It is only natural for us as His creation to ask and wonder about how God works.  Paul uses this chapter to expound upon the sovereignty of God.  Though God chose Israel to be a light to the world, sadly many of them had turned away from Him (vs. 1-5).  Now, the church was also comprised of Gentiles and how would they be able to see God’s purposes from the Old Testament?  The creator of the universe has every right to do whatever He pleases.  Israel’s failure is not God’s failure (vs. 6).  We see God’s sovereign control and choice with how God dealt with Isaac over Ismael and Jacob over Esau.  It’s easy to think God is unjust, but who are we to question (vs. 14)?  God knows our hearts and we trust His ways are better than ours.  In the last part of our chapter, Paul uses OT Scripture to backup his point (vs. 24-29).  Paul quotes the prophet Hosea whom we read recently to show the Gospel is for Gentiles.  And he also quotes Isaiah that we read last year to show the Gospel is for Israel (at least those whom will turn to Him).

Regarding application…Mercy of God.  Vs. 16, “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”  Paul gives us a perspective we don’t look at too often.  He challenges us to step back and look at God’s sovereign will over the centuries.  Scripture as a whole is all part of a puzzle that is interwoven together to bring about a completion.  The mercy of God is extended to all, but it’s our choice on whether we want to accept the mercy of God.  Question: Why would anyone ever reject it?  I suppose that’s one of those questions that never have an easy answer to.  When I think about my own life, it starts to make a bit of sense.  I have an adopted sister who happened to be nearly the same age as me.  She lived a very difficult life before she was adopted into our family.  I recall there were times when I felt slighted that so much attention and mercy was given to her.  I was a bit jealous during those years.  Yet, for my sister, she needed that extra amount of love and care.  In the bigger picture, I think this is what can happen to many of us too.  We want God’s mercy and love, but get jealous when we see it given so freely to others whom we think don’t deserve it.  Our hearts can harden.  Take time today to thank God for being an object of mercy rather than wrath.  Also, pray if there is anyone in your life you can extend mercy too and reach out to them in love.

Hosea 14

Vs. 9, “Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.”  God is going to allow the Assyrians and later the Babylonians to conquer their land.  But, the ways of the LORD are right.  God is calling Israel through His prophet Hosea to repent.  It is a message that is a common denominator throughout Scripture.  When we ask for forgiveness and repent, God hears us (vs. 2).  You see, there is miracle going on that is unseen.  The miracle of God’s grace to an undeserving people (vs. 4-8).  We are to be discerning and choose wisely the ways of the Lord (vs. 9)

Regarding application…Free to Choose.  Vs. 4, “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.”  Setting aside the controversies of election vs. free will…I want us to focus on God is choosing to love us freely.  Jesus had a choice in the desert, throughout his ministry and in the garden to do the will of the Father.  God created and chose to give His love freely.  Question: What are you choosing in your life?  Repentance or sin?  Perhaps the reason we do not choose God is because we love our life on earth too much.  We think we can do a better job.  I think of all the critics out there.  We look at the mistakes of others and are quick to judge them.  Question: Why?  Because, perhaps we think we could do a better job.  We see the mistakes of Actors, celebrities, sports stars and shake our heads.  That is our pride and that is sometimes what we do with God.  We choose ourselves and think God has it all wrong.  Brothers & Sisters…Hosea is calling us to choose to walk in the ways of the righteous.  Don’t let others, the enemy or this world influence your heart.  Let us choose freely and wisely.

Hosea 13

Vs. 3, “Therefore they will be like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears,  like chaff  swirling from a threshing floor, like smoke escaping through a window.”  Hosea is looking back at how Israel used to be (vs. 1).  But they not only turned from God, they were sacrificing to pagan God’s like Baal (vs. 2).   If they had only turned back to God, but they were putting their trust in the things of this world.  But what stands out more than anything is the fact that it is God who directs the outcome of our life.  We would do far better if we feared God more.  Yet, once again, we see the grace of our God as He will one day ransom us from death itself (vs. 14).

Regarding application…Remember God’s Goodness.  Vs. 4 “But I am the Lord your God,  who brought you out of Egypt. You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Savior except me.”  Question: How do we remember God’s goodness today?  Jesus would tell us and Paul would remind us that when we meet we are to remember Jesus’ goodness and sacrifice (I Cor. 11) with the Lord’s Supper.  This is just one reminder of why we meet.  Of course, we are a forgetful people.  That is why the Word of God exhorts us to spend time daily.  That is why He gave us the incredible gift called the church!  Think about something God has done for you this past week, month or year.  Acknowledge it and give thanks to the Lord!

Hosea 12

Vs. 3, “In the womb he grasped his brother’s heel; as a man he struggled with God.”  Hosea draws on the life of Jacob as he reflects on some of Jacob’s mistakes (vs. 2-6).  Looking back on Jacob’s life, he deceived Esau (Gen 27:35-36), and Israel was now living a lie and cheating others (vs. 7).  The areas of Gilead and Gilgal (vs. 11), were examples of the people turning away from God.  We also are reminded of Jacob’s wresting incident with God and lastly Jacob’s encounter with God at Bethel, remember the stairway to heaven? (Genesis 28 & 35).   And lastly, Hosea reminds us of Moses who was appointed to be the deliverer for God’s people out of Egypt (vs. 13-14)

Regarding application…Waiting on God.  Vs. 6, “But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.”  Sometimes we get impatient and just want to see change right away.  I like how the NLT translation states at the end of vs. 6, “always depend on him.”  When Jacob wrestled with God on the Jabbock river (Gen 32), God would change Jacob’s name to Israel.  There are times when we have to wrestle with who we are and wait patiently on God changing us from the inside out.  Just as we know nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8), we must also be persistent and wait/depend on Him in all circumstances.

Hosea 11

Vs. 4, “I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.”  Our Father in Heaven is teaching us how He created us to be relational.  Hosea gives us a picture of the Father’s love for His child (vs. 1-4).  But, like a rebellious teenager, Israel shuns the Father’s love (vs. 5-7).  God had given his children every opportunity to turn back to Him, but He will not force a relationship on those who do not want it.  Yet, despite this decline of love toward the Father, we are given some insight into the heart of God (vs. 8-9).  And lastly, we see God will come like a roaring lion calling His people back to Him (vs. 10-11).

Regarding application…God’s Compassion.  Vs. 8, “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel?  How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.”  Question: Do you see it?  The love and compassion of God is amazing!  We see the covenant (promise) that God follows through and remains true and faithful despite our own weaknesses.  The Father in Heaven does not give up on His children.  It doesn’t make sense to our limited human minds why God would be so compassionate to a people who did not deserve it.  But, while it may not make logical sense, I think deep down inside we have realized this in our own lives.  So often we turn away from God, but He is so faithful despite what we do.  Knowing of this type of love should compel us to share it to the world that is dying in sin and loss of hope.  God’s love is not earned on merit, but by grace (undeserved acceptance and love).  Don’t let this truth be contained in your own heart, but shout it out to the world!

Hosea 10

Vs. 1, “Israel was a spreading vine; he brought forth fruit for himself.  As his fruit increased, he built more altars; as his land prospered, he adorned his sacred stones.”  We continue the description of what God’s people were doing.  They were supposed to be a vine that represented the fruit of God, but now they took the fruit of God and gave honor to themselves and other gods.  We see the evidence of spiritual decline as they professed they had no king (vs. 3).  It’s as if they were saying, “God can’t do anything for us anyway.”  Hosea reminds them of their civil war in Gibeah (vs. 9) and how again defeat will come to them (vs. 14-15).

Regarding application…Honoring God.  Vs. 12, “Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.”  Question: What was keeping Israel from honoring God?  Deceit (vs. 13).  They thought that all the other things in their lives and their thoughts would not affect how God responded.  Remember, we are to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).  It’s not about what we perceive to be good.  For example, the so-called righteous Pharisees looked quite good in their reverence to God.  But, God knew their hearts.  Anytime we have the opportunity to come and worship God, the Lord knows what the intention of our hearts are.  Let’s not make the mistake of putting other things in front of the Lord.  The Lord waits for our hearts and His grace is always abundant.  Seek the Lord with all your heart.

Hosea 9

Vs. 1, “Do not rejoice, O Israel, with exultation like the nations! For you have played the harlot, forsaking your God. You have loved harlots’ earnings on every threshing floor.”  Question: What is going on here?  It was harvest time and Israel was rejoicing because the harvest was plentiful.  Sadly, they followed the nations around them and gave thanks to the fertility God’s for their good fortunes.  And to make matters worse, they were throwing parties that involved immorality of all kinds.  Success is not always a measure of God’s favor on us and this is where Israel (Ephraim) had gone wrong.  Their hearts had turned and forgotten about God.  We see the broken heart of God in the last section of our chapter (vs. 10-17).

Regarding application…The Bigger Picture.  Vs. 17, “My God will cast them away Because they have not listened to Him; And they will be wanderers among the nations.” It’s never easy to see the others being disciplined.  If we only look at this chapter, it would be quite depressing.  But, remember brothers & sisters…that we have the whole context of the Bible both Old and New Testaments.  We know that God would restore those who were cast out through Jesus.  When Jesus traveled through Samaria and ran into the woman at the well (John 4), she likely was a descendant of these people we just read about in Hosea.  God’s love has always been extended to His creation.  It’s just that not everyone turns to Him.  Question: Will you turn to Him?  Examine your heart as you think about the scripture in today’s reading.  And remember the bigger picture!

Hosea 8

Vs. 3, “But Israel has rejected what is good; an enemy will pursue him.”  Hosea’s reminders are not easy to read.  We would much rather focus on the grace of God, but here we are reminded of the power of God.  He alone is worthy of ALL of our attention.  Israel had become bankrupt and their ungodly acts that we have seen in Hosea would bring destruction.  They had the opportunity to turn back, but they took the freedom God had given them and chose unwisely (vs. 4).  They were no longer turning to God for guidance.  They thought they could have friendship with the world and still appease God by empty sacrifices (vs. 7-11).

Regarding application…Awakening.  Vs. 1, “Put the trumpet to your lips! An eagle is over the house of the LORD because the people have broken my covenant and rebelled against my law.”  Question: What was the trumpet for?  A blast of the trumpet was meant to alert the people to wake up!  The enemy (Assyrians) were coming.  Israel was spiritually asleep.  I read an example of a Pastor comparing this to losing something and then forgetting where you put it.  The item is not technically lost.  It’s like the concept, “Out of sight, out of mind.”  When you don’t have God in your sights on a daily basis, you no longer have the mind of turning to God.  Question: Do you hear the trumpet call?  I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s encouragement to the Colossians, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

Hosea 7

Vs. 1, “whenever I would heal Israel, the sins of Ephraim are exposed and the crimes of Samaria revealed. They practice deceit, thieves break into houses, bandits rob in the streets.”  Question: What is the problem?  The sins of Israel’s leaders have brought sorrow upon the whole nation.  The whole political and religious system was corrupt and Israel’s priests were even involved in murder (Hosea 6:9).  Sadly, the Northern Kingdom did not have one good King.  And to make matters worse, they were making alliances with pagan nations (vs. 11).  This is a sad chapter because we see the sadness of what sin can do to a people who do not desire to turn to God (vs. 13-16).

Regarding application…Reality of Sin.  Vs. 2, “but they do not realize that I remember all their evil deeds. Their sins engulf them; they are always before me.”  Part of the problem we have here is that people don’t want to be reminded and told they are sinners.  Seriously…who wants to be accused and called a sinner.  This is the sad reality of it all is that so many rebel from the truth (John 14:6).  Salvation cannot come to anyone unless they admit they are a sinner.   Dearest brothers and sisters in Christ, oh how I wish we were now in Heaven.  How I wish this journey of life never had a river to cross, an obstacle to hurdle, and that is prowling like a lion.   I’m reminded of the scene from Lord of the Rings when Frodo helplessly states, “I wish the ring had never come to me.” Question: Isn’t that so true with our own lives?  How we wish tough times and sin never had it’s affect upon us.  Gandalf replies, “So do all who to live see such times, but that is not for them to decide.  All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”  Our life is a vapor in the wind, here today and gone tomorrow.  Brothers and sisters…don’t give up.  Don’t let sin entangle and seep out the hope that we have.  Remember the bigger picture of life and that is to be a light to this world.  We are called to remain steadfast in our faith and share Christ wherever He sends us.  Let that be your reminder and encouragement.  The Lord Jesus loves you more than you can imagine, so let your heart rest in Him.

Hosea 6

Vs. 3, “Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him.  As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”  Yesterday, we were reminded that God allows us to be broken down.  But in the Word today, we are given hope!  God calls His people to return to him.  This is an astounding show of love.  Just as Hosea called Gomer to come back to him (Hosea 3), God is now calling Israel to Him.  Remember that Hosea is a prophet, so this also has a future meaning to it.

Regarding application…What God Desires.  Vs. 6, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”  On the outside, Israel could bring all her proper sacrifices to Yahweh but it didn’t cut to the heart of the matter.  There’s a contemporary Christian song that talks about “Going through the motions”.  This is what God did not want.  The people thought they were acknowledging God by reverting back to the do’s and don’ts.  But, their hearts were still not completely there.  When we cut through it all, it’s about a relationship.  God desires a rich and loving relationship with us.  Question: Will you turn to our merciful and loving God today?