An Indictment (Part One)

Hosea 4:1-3

Hear the word of the Lord, people of Israel, for the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land: There is no truth, no faithful love, and no knowledge of God in the land! (4:1 CSB)

People love to follow court proceedings. We are apparently fascinated by judges, juries and plaintiffs, defendants, and especially lawyers. From Scopes to Sam Shepard to O.J. Simpson to Scott Petersen to Bill Cosby, we love to watch and to debate about people on trial. We even bring this into Christmas stories; namely, “Miracle on 34th Street”. 

However, we love it as long as it is the other guy. We don’t like to contemplate going before the law ourselves. Most people do not want the consequences of breaking the law, however inexpensive they may be. And when we think in spiritual terms, most refuse to consider their guilt as violators of God’s laws.

The prophet Hosea records God’s charges against his covenant people Israel. They were bound by obligations of law and love to walk in God’s ways, but they turned aside to the ways of rebellion against him. Therefore, in this section of Hosea, the Lord quickly lists his charges against them and then displays the consequences of their sins.

Old covenant Israel lacked godliness. Many view sin only as glaring transgressions of a very short list of laws, if they accept the concept of sin at all. God first examines people according to his demand for positive, righteous qualities.

First, they lacked truth or faithfulness. What is meant by faithfulness? It is “common honesty or reliability”. Are you dependable? Are you worthy of trust, especially when the going gets tough? When this quality is lacking, interpersonal relations rapidly decline. People begin to expect backstabbing. Cynicism rules the day. All that remains is trust in one’s cleverness or strength to avoid hurt.

Second, they lacked love. Consider the meaning of the Hebrew word translated “faithful love” (hesed). It means “steadfast love” or “lovingkindness”. Love is crucial. God pointed to the love and loyalty expected of partners in a covenant with each other. Think of David and Jonathan, who were very good friends and made a covenant with each other. Israel failed to fulfill her marriage vow to the Lord (cf. Deuteronomy 5:27). Every Christian is in a covenant relationship with the Lord. We are responsible to be faithful to him and to love him. How would the Lord evaluate you?

Third, they lacked knowledge of God. Let me explain. All people know the existence of God, even if they deny him.  No one can escape from God’s revelation of himself (Psalm 19:1-6). Yet people strive to suppress that knowledge by various means, like substance abuse, sexual pleasure, and intellectualism (Romans 1:18ff).

But all people do not know God as the covenant Lord, as the Controller of all things who also cares deeply about his people. Israel knew this in a formal sense, because they had received God’s very words (Romans 3:1-2). But they did not know the Lord in a personal sense, like a husband and a wife know each other.

This is important. Knowledge of God is necessary for eternal life. As Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3 NIV).

This kind of knowledge of God is guaranteed in the new covenant. Now all the people of God know the Lord. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:34 ESV). Everyone in Christ knows the Lord.

If you think you’re okay because you’re not a notorious sinner, you’ve misunderstood what sin is. God requires faithfulness, lovingkindness, and knowledge of God.

Grace and peace, David

Enriching Your Prayers

img_16752 Chronicles 20:6-12

If we will all be very honest for a few moments, we must all admit that at times our prayer life can seem lifeless, very routine and predictable. When I was in college, five thousand people would repeat the Lord’s prayer together in chapel services, and it was a great struggle to have it retain meaning, because it seemed that many were interested in how quickly they could push through the required recitation. We are instructed to give thanks at meals (1 Timothy 4:4-5), and if we do what we ought, we can easily fall into a meaningless habit, unless we concentrate on what we are doing. And I could multiply examples.

This makes the prayers we read in the Bible precious to us. As God tells his story, he graciously includes accounts of the conversations that his people have had with him. Their prayers written in the word provide hope concerning how we may talk with the true and living God in our life situation. Let’s look at Jehoshaphat’s prayer.

  • Jehoshaphat declared God’s rule (20:6). There are four key ways that YHWH (Yahweh, the Lord) is described in the Old Testament Scriptures: he is Creator, Ruler, Judge, and Savior. Notice how three of these are prominent in this prayer. He worshiped God for his sovereign authority and power to exercise that authority. He knew he was in the presence of the Boss. We focus on God’s rule, because it is the one of the core elements of prayer. Why would you worship a God who lacked power and authority to make changes in the world? God claims that he has both in his word. Listen to his voice and respond in worship.
  • Jehoshaphat claimed a covenant relationship with God (20:7). “This God is our God.” He boldly reached out on the basis of past grace. God had given the land to Abraham, God’s friend (cf. Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23). So then, he appealed to the Lord about a gift given to his friend. We ought to claim our covenant relationship with God when we pray. In Christ, we have the relationship with God set forth in the new covenant (Hebrews 8:10c). So then, this ought to influence our conversations with the Lord. Consider how the apostle Paul prayed. “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (2 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 1:3). However, you can only really pray this way when you have a saving relationship with God in Christ. How can you have this? First, have a change of mind about sin in the way you live. What does this mean? Turn from a life of rejecting God’s right to rule your life. Turn from a refusal to love God with all that you are. Turn from rebelling against what God tells you to do. Second, believe in Jesus. Rely on Jesus Christ and his death on the cross as the only way you can have forgiveness of sin and a righteous standing before God. Perhaps you know you need to be saved. Right now is an excellent time.
  • Jehoshaphat set forth their covenant worship (20:8-9). Later in Jeremiah’s time, this idea was to be abused, since sinners tend to abuse everything! But Jehoshaphat used it, not for a sense of false security, but as an evidence of their repentance. He pointed back to Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple (2 Chronicles 6:14-42; 7:12-22). He appealed to the progress of redemptive history. About ninety years before, Solomon had prayed similar words at the temple dedication, while praising God for keeping his covenant to David. Now Jehoshaphat built his request upon what God had done. At this point we must recognize that we interact with God in Christ and his better covenant. We need to apply what we find in this passage, using new covenant realities. In Christ, his people, the church, are his temple (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), because of the finished work of our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. We should remember that accomplishment of redemption every day. So then, in this new covenant age, we don’t regard any earthly building as special, because in Christ, we are God’s building, in which he lives by his Spirit. And also all our repentance and faith is based on the finished work of Lord Jesus, God’s Anointed One.

Read and think carefully on Ephesians 1-3 or Colossians 1-2. Drink in what the Spirit has written for your delight in Jesus. Feel the vibrancy of the Lord of Glory in Colossians; admire the beauty of his accomplished work in Ephesians. For example, consider each phrase in Ephesians 1-3 as a masterpiece of redeeming love. But do all this in the Spirit: “Holy Spirit, touch my eyes that I may see the wonders of salvation!”

Grace and peace, David