God’s Perspective (Part Two)

When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son (Hosea 1:2-3 NIV).

Next, let’s turn our attention to the plot of Hosea. The opening story has upset many people. Hosea was commanded to marry a sexually immoral woman. Although the old covenant priests were required to marry virgins, the prophets were not so restricted. Nothing in the law prohibited such a union, though she deserved to die (Leviticus 20:10), just like David and Bathsheba.

The language of the original language is rough, racy and blunt. Go, marry a whore, and get children with a whore, for the country itself has become nothing but a whore by abandoning Yahweh (Jerusalem Bible). In spite of the arguments of some, the Hebrew word zenunim, while referring basically to illicit sex, can refer to prostitution.

Hosea’s life became complicated and sorrowful. He pledged himself to be faithful to an unfaithful woman, and he became the father of children who resembled their mother in their behavior. Before you complain about your lot in life, you would do well to look at others and consider what God has called them to endure for his name’s sake. We need to get our eyes off ourselves and fix them on the Lord Jesus. Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2 ESV).

Hosea’s broken marriage would illustrate the relationship between the living God and his covenant people Israel. God is like Hosea, the faithful husband and loving father. But Israel was like Gomer, the unfaithful wife. In every area of life, Israel was an adulterous.

  • In religion, she committed adultery by loving other gods—many other gods.
  • In politics, she committed adultery by selling herself to other countries for military protection.
  • In morals, she committed adultery by engaging in literal sexual immorality, and indulging in greed and violence.

In this disgusting picture, the Lord reveals his way of ruling over the world and his people. In Hosea we do not see One who rules by using brute power, nor do we see One who helplessly wrings his hands. But we see God acting in various ways to make known his manifold glory.

  • Sometimes he is sovereignly cool, letting his people walk in their own way.
  • Sometimes he is powerfully tough, bringing well-deserved judgment on them.
  • Sometimes he is patiently tender, refusing to give them up. Isn’t it great that God doesn’t give up?
  • Above all, he is amazingly gracious, forgiving the vilest adulteries when people ask for mercy.

God is not the magician of our childhood fantasies, who solves all problems with the wave of his magic wand. No, the living, personal God works through the complexities of personal relationships to show his glory. For God that meant sending his Son to death on a cross. We see also that God loves the unlovely; in fact, he even loves those who despise him and walk away from him. We should only say, “Amazing love, how can it be?”

Grace and peace, David

God’s Perspective (Part One)

The word of the Lord that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and of Jeroboam son of Jehoash, king of Israel (Hosea 1:1 CSB)

Think about a child’s impression of the adult world. “They make the rules,” he or she thinks. “There’s power for you! And they have the money, however much they moan about not having much—there’s freedom! Just think what we children could do with all that freedom and power!” (Compare Kidner’s comments.) Kids long to be adults; then all their problems will be solved! No oppressive adults telling them what to do, and with all the money they’ll have, they’ll be able to buy anything they want. All their dreams will come true! But what really happens when you become an adult?

Christians, too, can have childish dreams about God’s rule of the world. If only God would do things our way, we think, the world and national situation would improve rapidly and dramatically! Just speak a word of omnipotence, and all will be right! The Lord can calm a storm, can’t he? Didn’t he create the universe just by speaking? Yes, he did. Then it’s so simple, isn’t it?

Please excuse me for suggesting this, but perhaps we all are too simple-minded. We confess to believe what God has told us about himself, but then promptly forget all that we say we believe. We hear some truths about God’s sovereignty, holiness, justice, love or mercy, and quickly choose one of them, and then ride that one selected truth like some people will buy only one brand of vehicle.

What we forget is God’s ultimate purpose—to display his own majestic glory (Romans 11:36; Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14). What we fail to consider is that God’s glory is not defined by one of his characteristics, but by all of them in harmony. To help us understand more about his glory, in the book of Hosea God pictures his rule over the world as a husband leading his family. The picture is surprising, even shocking! God presents the truth of displaying all his glory like this. It is not the picture of a husband who calls all the shots and whom no one dares to question. Nor does he present a husband with an adoring wife and perfect children. Instead, we read of a husband whose wife has left him and whose children are bent on destroying themselves. Some find this picture disgusting, but the Holy Spirit has not smoothed the rough edges to meet prudish Victorian standards of propriety. Without further introduction, let us turn to Hosea’s prophecy about God’s love to unlovely people.

God put his copyright on this message. In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways… (Hebrews 1:1 NIV). He gives the publication data. This is like the information you find on one of the opening pages of a book. You remember—that stuff you had to write down to make a bibliography.

  • The messenger is Hosea. He was a prophet who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel. Nothing else is known about him apart what we read in this book. It does not matter that people know of you; what matters is that God knows you.
  • The time of God’s message through Hosea was during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel; in other words, during the eighth century B.C. The ministry of Hosea is God’s call to repent to a people on the brink of destruction. Compare this with Jonah. In Jonah a group of Gentiles repent, but God’s visible people refused to listen to Hosea’s message!

However, there is a publication problem in the opinion of some people. They simply do not approve of how God spoke through and by the prophet Hosea. What happened to him offends their ‘moral sensibilities’. First, we should realize that God sometimes had his prophets illustrate their message by performing some action (cf. Jeremiah 16:1-9; Ezekiel 5:1-4). God presented a play, and then handed out “Cliff Notes” explaining what the play meant.

Second, what God commanded Hosea was unpleasant and brought much trouble into his life, and God didn’t even ask for Hosea’s permission! The Lord does not usually lead his servants to walk on smooth, level, dry paths. Some of our paths are hilly, rocky, and perhaps mucky and swamp-like. Our mission is to serve God wherever he leads, regardless of the inconvenience or suffering that it brings (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:4-10). This is not to say that we like suffering, but we value the glory of God so much that we persevere through suffering for Christ’s sake. Grace and peace, David

Why Christ Came (Part Two)

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, my God’” (Hebrews 10:5-7 NIV).

Our second text makes known why the Messiah came in relation to the story of God’s glory. God chose to work out his plan through a series of covenants. There are five covenants clearly identified in the Holy Writings, and they are usually linked to major characters in God’s plan. So we speak of covenants associated with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Christ. The covenant with Abraham is called the holy covenant (Luke 1:72) or the promise (Galatians 3). The covenant with Moses is called the law or the old covenant in many places; it is also called the first   covenant (Hebrews 8:7; 9:1). It is important to keep this last designation in mind in order to understand Hebrews ten properly. The covenant of which Christ is the substance (Isaiah 42:6; 49:8) is usually called the new covenant, though in Hebrews it is also called the better or the second covenant (8:7 CSB, ESV, NLT). Now let’s focus on this second reason for Christ’s first coming.

The Messiah said, I have come to do your will, my God. Now surely he always pleased God the Father. When you read the Gospel of John carefully, you learn that all his works and words were exactly what the Father desired. When he did signs and wonders, each one was the will of the Father. When he spoke, he spoke what the Father told him to speak. How he acted was to reveal the Father to us (John 1:18). If we read this text through the lens of systematic or practical theology, we will think that this phrase is speaking of our Lord’s general obedience to the Father, and how he is our pattern to do the same. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with either systematic or practical theology, but we must not allow them to interfere with a proper understanding of any Biblical text. What is the will of God that Christ came to do?

First, in the above verses, notice the contrasts between sacrifice and offering with the body God prepared for the Messiah, and between offerings that could not please God and doing God’s will. Weren’t sacrifices and offerings established by God (see especially Leviticus) and so his will? Yes, they were! But they could not please God in the sense of being able to take away sin and cleanse the consciences of those who sinned. The Messiah had to come to provide a better sacrifice for sins, the offering of himself.

Second, notice what the writer of Hebrews said about the old covenant. 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 (10:1 NIV). It was a shadow and its sacrifices can nevermake perfect those who draw near to worship. Now a shadow is good for the purpose for which God made shadows. They show us that something of substance is nearby. But that does not make the shadow better than the substance. And when we have the substance, we no longer need the shadow. For example, my shadow might show my wife that I am walking toward her. So she is alert to my presence. But I don’t want her to kiss my shadow; I want her to kiss me!

There are too many Christians in our time that are in love with the shadows of the law covenant. Such shadows proclaimed that the Lord was near his old covenant people. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good (Romans 7:12 NIV). But now that Christ, who is the better covenant, has come and accomplished redemption, we no longer need the shadows of the law, because Christ is now in us.

Third, Christ came to fulfill the law, set it aside because it was fulfilled, and to establish the new covenant. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrew 10:9-10 NIV). Notice what the Spirit caused to be written. He sets aside the first to establish the second. The first is the law or old covenant and the second is the new or better covenant. We are no longer under the law, written on stone tablets and given to Israel on Sinai. We are in Christ, and the Spirit of Christ who lives in us is our leader in following Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Grace and peace, David