Devotional thoughts (Monday through Thursday mornings) from the pastor of Exeter Presbyterian Church in Exeter, NH // Sunday Worship 10:30am // 73 Winter Street

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hosea 12

Israel “feeds on the wind.” The Hebrew word for wind can also mean “spirit.” God's nation was not eagerly seeking a true word from heaven but the false directions of idols that would lead them toward worldly greed and violence. They trusted more in the power of Assyria and Egypt than they did in the I-AM.
The Lord had revealed Himself to Jacob, the great patriarch of the Jews, many centuries before Hosea. Though Jacob had grown in grace through the difficulties of His life, his descendants were definitely not increasing in holiness. The Almighty called on them to “return” to Him by the “help” that He Himself would supply.
God had spoken through true prophets from the days of Moses and throughout the centuries that followed. He had warned His children of the consequences of rebellion. They imagined that they could continue in prosperity despite their dishonesty. Like Jacob, they needed to hear the Word of the Lord and to learn through the trials that they were about to experience.
In every age the Lord brings His people through significant testing. He has promised His church that we will have “tribulation” in our lives (John 16:33). The important issue for us is the direction that we turn when we face divinely-ordained tests. Will we let our troubles teach us that the Lord alone is God, returning to Him in humility and gentleness? Will we instead become proud and defiant, insisting on our own way? One choice leads to Christlikeness, the other to fleshly anger.
The Lord will sanctify His beloved bride. Will she recognize her own Husband? What is her reaction to His Word that He speaks through His ambassadors? He always asks His disciples this necessary question: “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)
When we are at our worst, we sometimes let our difficulties turn us away from the King who died for us and who is entirely committed to our eternal well-being. There is only one good option for us at such key moments of decision: “By the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.”

Prayer from A Book of Prayers

Lord of Hosts, how could Your people have ever have thought that it was wise to treat powerful nations as trusted fathers? How could it have ever seemed right to forsake You, the only true God and Father of Your children? The rulers of the world care very little about our sin, but You are holy. You have spoken through the prophets, and have made it clear to Your loved ones that we must live according to Your Word. Rescue us not only from our enemies, but also from our rebellious nature and from our disgraceful deeds.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Hosea 11

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son.” Jacob, to whom God gave the name “Israel,” was one man, but Hosea wrote about the exodus of an entire people group, the descendants of Jacob. In the days of Moses God led His subjugated nation out of captivity. The Lord loved Israel and referred to him as His son. Yet Israel sinned against God.
The more they were called, the more they went away.” How did they rebel against their Maker? They worshiped other gods, “burning offerings to idols.” God had taught His “son” how “to walk,” yet as time went on, Israel simply would not listen to his Father. Eventually the Lord determined that Assyria would “be their king,” because they “refused to return to Me.”
We should not imagine that God had lost all affection for His wandering elect. “How can I give you up?” When the Lord considered abandoning His beloved people He said, “My heart recoils within Me.” Because of His commitment to His own purposes, the Lord concluded that He would not execute His “burning anger” against His chosen people.
Israel would experience pain, but if the Lord seemed to roar against them, it was only so that His children would “come trembling” again to Him. What was His plan for Israel? “I will return them to their homes, declares the Lord.”
Hosea 11:1 is cited in Matthew 2:15 regarding Jesus, who was brought out of Egypt by divine revelation. We have now come to understand more about the meaning of this verse which tells us about the workings of God's steadfast love. God's eternal Son was the Substitute for His sinful people, Israel, and not just for the Jews but for all who would call upon His Name. The Savior rescued us out of our inescapable bondage through His own life and death. We are now sons and daughters of God through our Brother and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Prayer from A Book of Prayers

Father God, You have been patient with us, though we have often rebelled against You. Thank You for the gift of Your only-begotten Son. He never disobeyed Your commandments. He walked with You in perfect faithfulness. In Him we have been granted the benefits of Your covenant mercies.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Hosea 10

The Lord has always looked for fruitful obedience from those who have been known to be part of His family. Israel was “a luxuriant vine,” but it produced idolatry and rebellion. As the nation increased in prosperity, the leaders and their subjects in the northern part of the Promised Land built “more altars” for prohibited worship and more ornate “pillars” for strange devotions to foreign gods and goddesses. Jehovah was not impressed. A golden calf that Israel loved would be sent off to Assyria and the places of forbidden religion would be decimated.
Samaria's king shall perish like a twig on the face of the waters.” The citizens were no longer sure that they even needed a ruler. They wanted their own way in everything. “Their heart is false, now they must bear their own guilt.”
One day there would be such devastation in Israel that men and women who had once appeared brave would say to the mountains, “Cover us!” They would cry to the hills, “Fall on us!” Many would seek a speedy death by natural disaster rather than face the brutality of a foreign army.
The Lord had a good purpose for this severe national discipline. His chosen ones needed to bear this “yoke” of suffering in the hope that they would truly return to Him. “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.”
Despite the failure of multitudes who had rejected the commandments of the Lord of Hosts, God had not forgotten His promise to bring forth an eternal King of Glory. Jesus is that long-expected Savior. In Him we have a Man who will never die, be defeated in battle, or fall to the corruption of this sinful world. He is our holy Lord, and because of Him we can have great confidence that we belong to “a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” (Hebrews 12:28)

Prayer from A Book of Prayers

God of Grace, You have brought us through many challenging times. We have faced trials from enemies, and great troubles from our own false words and actions. We repent, O Lord God. We do not want to go back to the place of our ugly sin, but desire to move forward toward the new world You have for us. Your Son has taken upon Himself the trouble that we deserved. He was cut off from the land of the living for us and by His life and death we are fully restored. We thank You for Your abundant mercy.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Monday Morning Clarity - 1 Chronicles 7

The Chronicler finishes his encouragement for a new Israel with some genealogical information from the northern tribes. He emphasizes heroic men (and a few women) who were commanders, warriors, and believers in God's promise to grant a great inheritance to His chosen ones.

The writer of this history was a messenger of hope for the establishment of a holy nation that would even include the northern tribes who had been displaced so long ago. At the time that he wrote, his vision must have seemed foolish, impossible, and to many, undesirable. Assimilation into the world of the Persians and the Greeks would have appeared to be the more intelligent choice. Yet God had His great purposes in the continuation of a distinct Jewish life through a very difficult moment in history.

Today, a great Light that first was seen in Galilee in the north of the Promised Land now shines for all the tribes of the world (Isaiah 9:1-2). The church's new Joshua, Jesus, is our Commander in life and death, our Mighty Warrior in a battle for resurrection life, and the Man who was willing to stake His entire life on the faithfulness of the promises of God. We join Him in a conquest of truth and love as His loyal subjects.

The Christian hope goes far beyond a mere restart of Israel. Jesus has secured a new and complete resurrection world for the elect of God from every nation. Though many may dismiss the Messiah's glorious reign as impossible, we must be willing to to live and to die for the truth that will surely come to pass.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Hosea 9

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians writes this emphatic message: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4) The instruction that God had for the northern kingdom in Hosea 9 was exactly the opposite. “Rejoice not, O Israel!” Why did the Lord reject the exuberance of His people? “You have played the whore, forsaking your God.”
The Lord would send Israel out of the Promised Land. They had looked to Egypt and Assyrian for security, but soon they would be moved far from their homes. No longer would they be able to combine ceremonial devotion to Yahweh with their continued unrepentant moral corruption. “The days of punishment have come.”
The Lord had once brought judgment on Gibeah and the tribe of Benjamin for their unspeakable deviance (Judges 19-21). Earlier He had disciplined thousands at Baal Peor when they had preferred Midianite women and idolatry to the victory that God had set before them through His own goodness and strength (Numbers 25). These were obvious low points in the story of Israel. The Lord revealed through Hosea that He was aware of their inner depravity even in places like Gilgal where they imagined that they were being true to Him. The Lord said, “There I began to hate them.” What would God do with His covenant community? “I will drive them out of My house. I will love them no more.”
Would the Lord forever abandon His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Of course not. Yet as a father must speak in a stern and determined way to a wayward son, Jehovah knew that the time had come to clearly show the Jews that they could not have close communion with Him and continue to be unfaithful. What would become of them? At least for a time, they would become “wanderers among the nations.”
The history of Israel reminds us that we need a perfect Substitute who will provide the obedience that our God requires. None of us can stand in His presence without Christ as our Ransom. With Jesus there is sure hope, not only for us, but for all those in Israel who will sincerely look to Him and live. He will even use Gentiles turning for salvation to a Jewish Redeemer to cause Israel to take a second look at Her eternal King. “And in this way all Israel will be saved.” (Romans 11:26)

Prayer from A Book of Prayers

Lord God, we rejoice in You, but we are ashamed of our sin. There is only one road for those who would bear Your Name. We have a great Shepherd and He leads us in the path of righteousness. We were found by Him when we were dead in our trespasses. We do not want to return to our days of sin and disaster again. Please protect us from dangerous choices and unhealthy inclinations. Our wickedness will only lead us into fruitless patterns of death. Please do not reject us. Bring us near to You day by day, and never let us run away from You.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Hosea 8

The Lord's commentary concerning Israel was not flattering toward those who first received His message. They claimed to “know” their God, yet Jehovah said, “Israel has spurned the good.” They invested their silver and gold in making idols, but their devotion to false gods would only bring about “their own destruction.” The carved images of the northern tribes would be “broken to pieces.”
When the Lord's people really needed help they turned to the Assyrians, the Egyptians, and other “allies among the nations.” The help of these foreign powers came at a cost, and Israel would “soon writhe because of the tribute” that they needed to pay to win the support of other empires.
With outside influence came strange religious ceremonies. The Jews had “multiplied altars for sinning.” When they wanted to come to the Lord's authorized place of sacrifice, God would “not accept them.” He would never be content to take His place in a pantheon of deities. The Lord would “remember their iniquity” because they had “forgotten” their Maker.
God promised in Jeremiah 31 that a New Covenant would eventually be given to His elect. “They shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” Since we live in that great time of blessing, we must not pursue a double-minded way of life (James 1:5-8). We follow a Savior who has been completely true in heart and action. He calls us to follow Him with the sincerity of exclusive worship and obedience.

Prayer from A Book of Prayers

God of Glory, we have a sure hope in Christ. Though we have often spurned Your good gifts, He has not rejected us. When we have foolishly turned our hearts to the making of idols, He has taught us the difference between a true Savior and objects that are not gods. We should always listen to His Word. The way of the world will not solve our problems. If we follow that path we will only multiply our troubles. You are the only answer for Your people.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Hosea 7

The Lord spoke a word of indictment against the northern portion of Israel: “They deal falsely.” The ethics and devotion of God's people were seriously lacking. The Lord called them “thieves” and “adulterers.” Their hearts were full of evil “intrigue” and “anger.” All this wrongdoing was committed with a passion that was as “hot as an oven.” They sought their own prosperity, but they ended up with stress and foolishness. “They do not return to the Lord their God.”
Where did they look for security in their sinful frenzy? Like a bird that was “without sense,” they were one day “calling to Egypt” for aid and the next moment “going to Assyria.” The Lord promised that He would catch this straying “dove” in His own “net.”
Israel could have turned to God at any time, but they were very unwilling. “I would redeem them, but they speak lies against Me.” Hosea 7 ends with multitudes of God's people in “derision” in a foreign land.
The northern tribes stand as a very sad picture of the unrepentant among the covenant community in every era. Faithless behavior is unbecoming for those who have been marked with God's sign of ownership. Sadly, the circumcised in the Old Testament and the baptized in the New Testament often act as those who only know the ways of the world.
Despite the waywardness of so many who once called upon the Name of the Lord, the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 are an invitation to all who will hear His voice: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

Prayer from A Book of Prayers

Great Savior, what will we do if You remember our evil forever? Surely You have accomplished our redemption through the work of Your Son Jesus. Everything about Him is holy and good. He never wandered from You or looked to the world for His hope. He did not rebel against You or lie to You. He always received Your Word with consecrated obedience. Your Son’s perfect righteousness has been credited to our account. What a gift to the ungodly!