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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Live from Denver

I'm at the EFCA National Conference this week.

My friend, Byron Harvey, is also here and blogging about it. Check it out.

Prayer Catechism Question #27

Q. After we have prayed, do we have a responsibility?

A. Yes, after we have prayed, our responsibility is to look for any answers, be faithful in obedience to any answers, and be willing "to be the answers."

"Prayer is not a labor-saving device" (W. Bingham Hunter, Class Notes). Whenever God reveals how, we are to take an active role in being the "answer to our own prayers." We never want it said of us, "Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46).

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Prayer Catechism Question #26

Q. Should we fast when we pray?

A. Yes, fasting adds an "exclamation mark" to our prayers.

There are many appropriate times to fast and pray (see the long biblical list in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, chapter 9 [pgs. 159-180]). Fasting is expected by our Lord (Mark 2:19-20, Matt. 6:16-18, etc), but it is not a means of wrestling God to our point of view or holding him hostage by a hunger-strike. Fasting is a way of intensifying our prayers so that we increasingly say to ourselves and to God that we really believe what we are praying. "This much, O God, I want you" (A Hunger for God, 23).

Monday, June 26, 2006

Trike Ike



Okay, so how do you work this thing?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Classic Isaac



How do you work this thing?

How to Be A Bibliophile (Schizophrenic or Otherwise)

Learning to Love Good Books:

1. Make a schedule. Don't postpone your reading to the end of the day when you are most tired. Serious reading takes some serious commitments. Use the library or another favorite, quiet spot;

2. Carry a book with you almost all the time. You can dip in during 'down time' or during unexpected free time. You needn't be anti-social or a show-off about your bookwormish habits. Still, you'd be surprised how much reading you can do on the run;

3. Talk to people you trust about what they most enjoy and what they are reading. Talk about books with people you admire. Find a book-buying mentor and a bookseller who cares about you and your literacy and intellectual development. Read book reviews from a variety of sources;

4. Read in an interdisciplinary way. Wisely chosen novels can obviously enhance your non-fiction course work in pleasurable ways. Some good books come through serendipity and whim, but it may be helpful to have a plan, at least a list; and

5. Stretch yourself occasionally by reading the more serious books. Perhaps, explore a new and unexpected topic for a year, reading several similar books or books by the same author. But don't read exclusively arcane and heavy stuff. Light fare and sweets can enhance any diet.

[Counsel from Byron Borger. HT: Keith Plummer.]

Matt's Messages - Real Repentance

“Real Repentance”
June 25, 2006
Hosea 6:1-7:16


Last week in our study of this Israeli prophet in the last years of the northern kingdom, we heard God charge Israel with a lack of knowledge of Himself–a deliberately chosen rejection of knowledge of God Himself. And God said that because Israel had broken her covenant and chosen to not know God, judgment and destruction would come upon her. He said, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (4:6) and He promised to do the destroying Himself.

Chapter 5 ended with the Lord prophesying, “I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah. I will tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them. Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me” (5:14-15).

And it appears, at first glance, that chapter 6 begins with that very seeking.

But is it genuine? Is it authentic? Is it “Real Repentance?”

Because you know and I know that there are two kinds of repentance: the real kind and the fake.

Fake repentance sounds like real repentance but there’s no real change in the heart.

Fake repentance looks good at first glance but the inside isn’t there.

We’ve all seen it with children, haven’t we?

“Say you’re sorry.”
“I’m sorry!”
“You don’t sound sorry!”

And you know that they are not.

Well, you and I are just more sophisticated than children. We’re not necessarily any better.

And I believe that one of the reasons this passage is in the Bible is to teach us about the dangers of false repentance. And to call us to the real deal.

These first three verses sound really good don’t they? “Come, let us return to the LORD!”

But is it real repentance?

Some Bible scholars think so, and I respect their opinion. It’s possible that these are the words of Hosea calling the people to repentance or these are the words of Israel some day down the line–inserted here to give hope.

But I don’t think so.

I think this is a case of fake repentance. Israel just going through the motions.

I think that Israel is presuming upon God here.

ISRAEL EXPECTS REVIVAL WITHOUT REAL REPENTANCE. V.1

“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. [These are words taken directly out of the previous chapter. The LORD promised to tear them and injure them. But Israel expects Him to heal them. V.2] After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.”

Now, that sounds to me like presumption. Like Israel didn’t really expect any elongated discipline for their sin. Israel expects to be quickly forgiven and cleared of all charges.
Kind of like Catherine the Great who said something like, “God will forgive me; that’s His job!”

I think a lot of people have that kind of a view of God. “God will forgive me; that’s His job!”

Now, there is the ditch on the one hand of not believing that God will ever forgive, that God is not gracious, that God is not generous.

But the other ditch is just as dangerous and it is what I think Israel is doing here–presuming upon God’s grace.

“After two days he will revive us; [at least!] on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. [That’s what He says He wants!] 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.”

Count on it! Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall, all we have to do is call and He’ll be there!

What’s missing in this little speech?

Sin. Humility. Brokenness. Real Repentance.

Israel expects to just breeze back in with little to no consequence for their actions.

Gomer has been off with another man but expects Hosea to welcome her back with an indulgent smile.

Israel expects revival without real repentance.

And it’s not going to happen.

But we do the same thing don’t we?

We expect God to bless us and never consider our own personal sin.

Most of our prayer times lack confession.

We don’t examine ourselves very often and when we do we quickly move over our sin.

Now, I’m not calling here for morbid introspection. Some of us are prone to that and need a different message–one of “look to Christ 10 times for every look at your sinful heart.” And as the Puritan Richard Sibbes said, “There is more mercy in Christ than sin in me.” Some of us need to hear that.

But most of us need to hear a call to real repentance.

Most of us need to hear a call to self-examination, regular confession, and a real turning from our sin.

Remember, repentance is not just something that happens at our new birth. Repentance is a way of life for the Christian.

Martin Luther said that the Christian life is “a race of repentance.”

And we can’t expect revival without it.

Personal revival or corporate revival.

Revival won’t come unless and until there is real repentance.

Do you desire personal and corporate revival? It begins with real repentance.

That’s now what we are seeing here. God sees through their words to their hearts. V.4

“‘What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love [Hebrew: HESED, covenant loyalty] is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears.”

You say you love me now but a few minutes later your love has Alzheimer’s. There’s no real repentance here. But there will be real judgment. V.5

“Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth; my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.”

It is coming. It’s so sure that my words have made it so. Why?

“For I desire mercy [Hebrew: HESED], not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”

This is what God wants. God wants covenant loyalty. That word “mercy” in v.6 is translated “loyalty” in the New American Standard Bible. Hesed. Others translate it “steadfast love.”

And God wants knowledge of Himself. We use the phrase around here a “love relationship” with God. That’s what He’s talking about here.

He wants covenant love and knowledge of Himself rather than sacrifice or burnt offerings.

Now, this verse does not mean that God didn’t ever want sacrifices of burnt offerings. Of course, He did. He required them in the Old Testament Law, and He fulfilled them in the New Covenant sacrifice of our Savior.

But Israel thought that they could do the sacrifices without the mercy/love.
And they thought that they could do the burnt offerings without the knowledge/acknowledgment of God Himself.

They thought they could get away with the outside stuff and skip the inside.

But God wanted their hearts!

They wanted to simply placate God instead of pleasing Him.

And that’s not what God wants.

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”

GOD DESIRES REAL REPENTANCE AND RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS PEOPLE.

He wants our hearts.

But that’s not what Israel was offering. V.7

“Like Adam, they have broken the covenant–they were unfaithful to me there. Gilead is a city of wicked men, stained with footprints of blood. As marauders lie in ambush for a man, so do bands of priests [priests!]; they murder on the road to Shechem, committing shameful crimes. I have seen a horrible thing in the house of Israel. There Ephraim is given to prostitution and Israel is defiled. Also for you, Judah, a harvest is appointed.”

Israel from town to town and up and down had become idolatrous with spiritual adultery.

It’s not because God didn’t desire to give them revival, it’s because He knew that their repentance was not real. Chapter 7, verse 1.

“Whenever I would restore the fortunes of my people, whenever I would heal Israel [I wanted to!], the sins of Ephraim are exposed and the crimes of Samaria revealed. They practice deceit, thieves break into houses, bandits rob in the streets; but they do not realize that I remember all their evil deeds. Their sins engulf them; they are always before me.”

That doesn’t sound like real repentance.

Paul Tripp defines repentance as “a radical change of heart that leads to a radical change of life.”

There is no repentance here.

How are you doing with your “carpenter ants?”

Last week, I told you about the little black intruders in our house and my plans to exterminate them. [Note to blog readers and email subscribers, this was in the audio version of last week's sermon only.]

Well, I haven’t got it done yet. I was out Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday this week and it rained on Friday night. So, I haven’t been able to spray the perimeter and send some poisoned granules back to the queen.

And this week, I’m going to Denver for the EFCA National Conference on Tuesday.
If I don’t get it done on Monday, it’s not going to get done this week.

So, all of my big words last week about really killing those big black ants didn’t issue into any reality, yet.

Last week, I said that those ants are like our heart-idols. We’ve got to do away them.
We’ve got to eliminate them.

We’ve got to exterminate the flesh.

No more excuses. No more playing games. No more saying one thing but really doing another.

Because God desires real repentance and relationship with His people.

That’s where revival comes from.

God desires real repentance and relationship with His people.

Fake repentance just gets you more in trouble!

FAKE REPENTANCE MAKES PEOPLE EVEN MORE FOOLISH.

In chapter 7, God uses 4 colorful word pictures to show how foolish fake repentance makes somebody.

The first is an oven. V.3

“They [Israel] delight the king with their wickedness, the princes with their lies. [The leaders are happy with the spiritual state of the nation.] They are all adulterers, burning like an oven whose fire the baker need not stir from the kneading of the dough till it rises. [In other words, there’s a lot of hot coals of sin sizzling away in that furnace.] On the day of the festival of our king the princes become inflamed with wine, and he joins hands with the mockers. [A drunken orgy in the palace of God’s king!] Their hearts are like an oven; they approach him with intrigue [that is, the others at this party don’t really love the king, they are out to get his place]. Their passion smolders all night; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire. All of them are hot as an oven; they devour their rulers. All their kings fall, and none of them calls on me.”

Did you know that during 30 years of Hosea’s ministry, four of the six kings that lived then assassinated their predecessor and only one of them died in his bed?

They said, “Come, let us return to the LORD!” But they were burning and burning and burning inside.

Friends, if we have fake repentance, our inner sins will inflame us even more.

You might talk a good talk here at church, but if you aren’t right with God on the inside, then it’s just going to burn and churn and burn and churn and it will come blazing out. Guaranteed.

The second word-picture is a half-baked cake. V.8

“Ephraim mixes with the nations; Ephraim is a flat cake not turned over. Foreigners sap his strength, but he does not realize it. His hair is sprinkled with gray, but he does not notice. Israel's arrogance testifies against him, but despite all this he does not return to the LORD his God or search for him.”

“A flat cake not turned over.”

In other words, it’s burnt on one side and raw on the other. Good for nothing.

That comes because Ephraim/Israel puts her trust in other nations. And Ephraim has gotten old and gray, his death is on the way, but he doesn’t realize it. He is so full of himself that it gives the lie to his words of repentance.

His repentance is fake. And He is more and more foolish and more and more good for nothing.

Who would like a cake that was burnt on one side and raw on the other?

I wonder if Gomer ever baked one like that for good old Hosea?

False repentance makes you good for nothing, and you don’t even realize it.

You say you are living for God, but you aren’t effective for the kingdom, and in time, you don’t even know that you’re not the real deal.

False repentance makes you good for nothing, and you don’t even realize it.

And it makes you dupe, too. D-U-P-E. A sucker. You fall for anything. V.11

“Ephraim is like a dove, easily deceived and senseless–now calling to Egypt, now turning to Assyria. [Make up your mind!] When they go, I will throw my net over them; I will pull them down like birds of the air. When I hear them flocking together, I will catch them.”

This word picture is that of a dove. Or we would say, “a stool pigeon.”

Ephraim couldn’t make up their minds, and they fell for everything.

First Egypt, then Assyria. Like a dumb bird.

And God says that He’s a fowler going to hunt them down. V.13

“Woe to them, because they have strayed from me! Destruction to them, because they have rebelled against me! I long to redeem them but they speak lies against me.”

There is no real repentance here.

They’ve lied so long they can’t tell what is true!

And they don’t look to God. V.14

“They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail upon their beds. They gather together for grain and new wine but turn away from me.”

Notice that they do cry. Tears do not always mean real repentance.

I’ve sat with several people who have cried and cried over their sin but did not really turn from it.

Paul calls that “worldly sorrow.” Not godly sorrow. (2 Cor. 7:10)

It’s what Esau had when he lost the birthright and the blessing.

Sorry he got caught. Sorry he didn’t get the blessing.

Not really sorry for his sin against God.

Real repentance (v.14) cries out from the heart to God. It doesn’t just “wail upon their beds.”

V.15 “I trained them and strengthened them, but they plot evil against me. They do not turn to the Most High; they are like a faulty bow. Their leaders will fall by the sword because of their insolent words. For this they will be ridiculed in the land of Egypt.”

The last word picture is that of a faulty bow. It doesn’t do what it was made to do.

God laments that He trained them and strengthened them, taught them like His own child, but they rebelled. They didn’t do what they were made to do. They are like a bow that can’t be trusted to send a arrow where it belongs.

And they are going to suffer for it. Even down in the land of their enemy, Egypt, they are going to be laughed at.

They aren’t what they were meant to be.

That’s what fake repentance does to us. It turns us into something that we were never meant to be.

Are you just pretending?

Are you just going through the motions?

If so, you are a faulty bow. You aren’t what you were meant to be.

But you don’t have to.

GOD IS CALLING US ALL TO REAL REPENTANCE.

Did you notice how willing God was to revive His people?

Chapter 7, verse 1. “Whenever I would restore the fortunes of my people, whenever I would heal Israel.”

Verse 13, “I long to redeem them...”

All of chapter 7 is a back and forth between them and God.

I would do this, but they did that.
I would do this, but they did that.

V.7 “None of them calls on me.”
V.10 “He does not return to the LORD his God or search for Him.”
V.14 “They do not cry out to me from their hearts.”
V.16 “They do not turn to the Most High God.”

That’s what He wants!

He wants real repentance.
He wants real relationship.
He wants healing and wholeness in our covenant love.
He wants real repentance.

And He calls us to it today.

Hosea 6:6 is a famous passage in the rest of the Bible because it shows up in the Gospel of Matthew on the lips of our Savior.

Jesus had called Matthew the tax collector to be his disciple. And Matthew had thrown an evangelistic party to celebrate His conversion to the Messiah.

Well, the Pharisees got wind of this little party. They saw that he was eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners–people who knew that they were sinners!

And they asked the disciples (Matthew 9:11), “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners.’” You can hear the pride and arrogance in their words!

Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who a need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy (covenant love), not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The Pharisees were sinners, too, but they couldn’t even see it.

Their repentance was fake. And they had even fooled themselves.

But Jesus is after sinners. He loves them!

He loves sinners!

He came to seek and the save that which was lost!

He loves sinners!

He isn’t surprised at your sin or shocked by it!

He wants to redeem you from it. He wants to forgive and restore and bring revival.

But you have to believe that you’re a sinner, too, and that that’s a bad thing.

And you have to respond to Him in a real turning in your heart to Him.

A real repentance, not just words. But if you do, He will restore you.

If you are not yet a Christian, He will save you.
And if you are a Christian, He will revive you.

It’s not cheap and easy. Fake repentance doesn’t realize how costly God’s grace is.

It cost Him the death of His own Son to be this generous!

It’s not cheap and easy. But it is free to you and to me.

Jesus is calling us all to real repentance.

Will you answer the call?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

More on Reading Boooks

"There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and the tired man who wants a book to read."

--G.K. Chesterton

[HT: Kim from Hiraeth who adds, "On any given day, I am both of these "men"--the eager and the tired reader. . .which probably explains why I have so many books going at the same time." Amen, Kim, Amen.]

Prayer Catechism Question #25

Q. What should be our posture in prayer?

A. We are to pray in all postures but especially on our knees.

The Bible repeatedly calls us to bow down before God. We are in the throne room of the Worthy King of the Universe (Eph 3:14). We also sit and stand before Him, raise holy hands, prostrate ourselves, and pray on our beds. All of these postures and more are appropriate at various times when they are done in faith.

The Gift of Reading

"Perhaps the greatest gift any father can bestow upon his children, apart from the covenant blessings of parish life and a comprehension of the doctrines of grace, is a passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives a knowledge of the world, and it offers experience of a wide kind. Indeed, it is nothing less than a moral illumination."

- Thomas Chalmers

[HT: Ligon Duncan]

Friday, June 23, 2006

Summer is the Time...



...for water fun!

Glee



Peter running through the sprinkler on a hot day.

Hosea Commentaries

These are the books I read each week to study for the sermons:

Hosea: Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries by David Allan Hubbard

The Message of Hosea: Love to the Loveless (The Bible Speaks Today) by Derek Kidner

The Minor Prophets - by Charles Feinberg

The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Hosea by Robert B. Chisholm, Jr.

Little Rascals




Here's our gang. Posted by Picasa

Prayer Catechism Question #24

Q. What should characterize our prayers?

A. Our prayers should be characterized by confession, repentance, adoration, thanksgiving, intercession, supplication, dependence, patience, love, and forgiveness.

Prayer is a means of relationship with God. Therefore, all of our heart’s attitudes toward God need to find expression in our prayers. They should be characterized by confession and repentance because though we are already forgiven in Christ, we need to appropriate that forgiveness and grow in intelligent repentance (1 Jn 1:9, Mt. 3:8). We should adore God for Who He is and thank Him for all that He has done (ex. Psalm 8, 1 Thess 5:18). We are called to pray for others and ourselves (ex. 1 Sam. 12:23, Mark 14:36). We need to trust God in waiting for answers. Prayer is a practical way of loving others: “As faith without works are dead, so is prayer without love dead.” This is often expressed in forgiveness and forbearance (Mt. 6:14-15, 18:21-35).

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Even More Confessions

Okay, it's really getting good now!

My wife bought me three more books for our anniversary (we celebrated 12 exquisite years on Sunday the 18th!):


The last one is a previously unpublished detetive work by the author of the delightful Lord Peter Wimsey stories. That's going to make some good couch dates soon!

Prayer Catechism Question #23

Q. What should we NOT pray for?

A. We should not pray for our lusts.

"When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures" (James 4:3). God will not be used.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Prayer Catechism Question #22

Q. What should we pray for?

A. We should pray for whatever concerns us and those we are called to love.

The Bible gives us a host of things to pray for (ex. Matt. 6:9-15, 1 Tim. 2:1-2, Col 4:2-5). Nothing in life is off-limits for prayer. We need to pray for ourselves, loved ones, church family, for the advance of the Gospel, for government, for health and healing, for spiritual warfare, etc.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

More Confessions

Okay, I'm also actively reading:

When Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow
The Measure of a Man by Gene Getz

...and about 6 commentaries on the book of Hosea.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Picnic in the Rain



Today, we decided to make a fire and roast some hotdogs and s'mores. It hasn't rained in over a week, but it did today--right on our picnic!

This is a picture of Isaac eating his dessert right through the downpour. Fun!

Confessions of a Schizophrenic Bibliophile

Okay, I like to read more than one book at a time.

I'm sure that this is not the most I've ever had going at once, but I just realized that I have at least 5 books running right now at active status (all of them good):

GOD, Marriage, and Family by Andreas Kostenberger
Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin
Good to Great by Jim Collins
9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
Worship by the Book by D.A. Carson (editor)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Matt's Messages - Lack of Knowledge

“Lack of Knowledge”
June 18, 2006
Hosea 4:1-5:15


Raise your hand if you have ever in your life heard a sermon from Hosea chapter 4. I know that I never have! Hosea 1, 2, 3 and 11, yes, but Hosea 4, I don’t think so. So, we’re breaking new ground today for most of us.

This is our fourth Sunday in the book of Hosea. We’ve been learning about the prophet and his unhappy family. Hosea had an adulterous wife named Gomer who stood for the spiritually adulterous nation of Israel. And he had poster-children named Jezreel, Lo-Ruhamah, and Lo-Ammi whose names sent messages of impending judgment, cancelled compassion, and crushing disownment.

And all along the way, we’ve been astonished at God’s jealous love and amazing grace.

Last week, God sent Hosea to buy Gomer back. How would you like that assignment? He did it as a picture of God’s redeeming love for God’s wayward wife.
And chapter 3 ended with a confident prediction of Israel’s eventual restoration.

Now, you’ll want to keep that in mind for the next several weeks as we go backwards now and find out just how bad it had gotten in Israel to get Israel to this place where the prophecies and billboard-family of Hosea were so necessary.

Chapters 4 and 5 are all about God’s charge against Israel. Chapters 4 and 5 explain some of the background of how Israel had gotten to be like Gomer. And how God had decided that He must now act in discipline, wrath, and judgment.

Chapters 4 and 5 are kind of like a law court. Maybe a divorce court, where the offended husband, the LORD, presents His charge, His case against the defendant, in this case, Israel. And the charge is undeniable.

It is the “Lack of Knowledge” of God.

Hosea says, “Here’s the problem with Israel: Israel doesn’t know God, and it shows!”

“Hear the word of the LORD, you Israelites, because the LORD has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: ‘There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land.’”

Israel doesn’t know God, and it shows.

They live in the Promised Land but they don’t act like the “children of promise!”

There is no faithfulness, meaning no trustworthiness. They can’t be counted on.

There is no love. No love for God, no love for people, no steadfast love at all.

And there is “no acknowledgment of God in the land.” Notice the word “know” (K-N-O-W) in the middle of that word “acknowledgment.”

The King James simply says, there is “no knowledge of God in the land.”

Instead (v.2), “There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.”

Israel doesn’t know God, and it shows.

It shows in the worst of ways. Israel, instead of keeping covenant, breaks the covenant every way she can. Notice how many of the 10 commandments are broken in just one verse! Commandments 3, 9, 6, 8, and 7 in order: “...cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.”

This is where Israel had sunked to...and everyone was going to suffer for it. V.3

“Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying.”

I don’t know if that is poetic language or if the whole creation was literally falling apart, but either way, everyone and everything was suffering for this lack of the knowledge of God.

But don’t point fingers! V.4

“But let no man bring a charge, let no man accuse another [It’s his fault!], for your people are like those who bring charges against a priest. [Everybody is in this one, especially the leaders!] You stumble day and night, and the prophets stumble with you. So I will destroy your mother [what mother? The whole nation of Israel. The people.] – my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.”

Israel doesn’t know God, and it shows. And it will mean destruction.

Now, what does that mean that Israel doesn’t know God? What does it mean by “lack of knowledge?”

It doesn’t mean that Israel didn’t know anything about God.

Israel knew more about God than any other nation on the planet!

This is talking about intimate knowledge of God. Relational knowledge of God. We might call it “Covenant Knowledge” of God.

Not just knowledge about God but knowledge of God.

Do you know God?

Israel was God’s “wife.” They were in covenant together. There was to be a special bond of trust and intimacy and confidence and closeness and growing knowledge between Him and her.

But instead, there was a “lack of knowledge.” And it led to bloodshed following bloodshed and stumbling following stumbling and the blind leading the blind and eventually destruction.

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

Do you know God?

Not just about him, but know Him personally, interpersonally, in covenant love?

In Hosea’s day, Israel didn’t. They had a lack of knowledge of God, and it showed.

Not knowledge about Him (though I’m sure that that was diminishing, as well), but a “lack of knowledge” of Him.

How did this happen? Where did the lack come from?

You know what a “lack” is, don’t you?

When I was in the third grade, my teacher, Mrs. Warrens, had a thick southern accent, that I didn’t always understand. And for a couple of months, I kept reading the same book in our reading class because I thought she wanted me to. She kept telling me to read the book that I “lacked.” But I thought she was saying read the book that I “liked.” So I kept reading the one I really enjoyed and got behind. We had a fun time figuring out what the problem was there.

I didn’t know what that word “lack” meant, anyway. It means a deficiency, an inadequacy, an insufficiency.

Israel didn’t have the knowledge of God that she should have.

She lacked the knowledge of God.

Why?

It wasn’t just something that happened to her. It was something that she chose. V.6

“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.”

First, notice that they rejected knowledge. They ignored knowledge. It’s not just something that happened to them, it’s something that they chose.

How did this occur?

#1. The Lack of Knowledge Came Because the Leaders of God’s People Hadn’t Led God’s People to Know God.

By this point, Hosea is speaking for God and addressing the priests.

“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you [priests] have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.”

The leaders of God’s people hadn’t led God’s people to know God.

They had done the opposite. V.7

“The more the priests increased, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their Glory for something disgraceful. They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness.”

What’s wrong with this picture?

You’d think that an increase in leadership would mean an increase in godliness. But it was the opposite. More and more priests, more and more sin. And it was shameful.

They had actually gotten to the point of loving it when the people sinned! V.8

“They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness.”

Now that was spiritually true, but it was also probably literally true. Remember, the priests got to eat a lot of the sacrifices. They were probably saying, “Yum. I’m glad business is good this year! Let’s lead them to sin some more. Pass the lamb chops.”

They weren’t just asleep at the wheel of leadership, they were steering it in the wrong direction.

And the LORD won’t stand for it. They are going to get it, too. V.9

“And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds. They will eat but not have enough; they will engage in prostitution but not increase...”

The leadership will not be blessed. They will be thwarted.

No privilege, no exception, no excuse. They will be punished.

Here’s the application: Leaders, lead people to know God.

If you are a Christian leader, a Sunday School teacher, a Kids for Christ leader, a Uth Group Leader, a Ministry Intern, an Elder, a Deacon, whatever, you have (we have) a huge responsibility.

We need to lead people to know God.

Not just about Him, but to know Him in covenant relationship.

We all have this responsibility because we are all leaders in some sense. In the New Covenant, we’re all priests!

We need to lead people to know God.

And because today is Father’s Day, I think of that responsibility the most.

Ephesians 6:4. Dads, do you have that one memorized?

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

That’s your biggest responsibility as a Dad.

Not to provide, not to protect, not to fix things, not even to kiss the boo-boos. Though all of those are part of it.

But we Dads are called primarily called to lead our children to know God.

And we will have to give an account. Are you ready to give an account?
Israel’s “fathers” didn’t lead Israel to know God.

That’s the number one reason for the lack of knowledge of God.

I think that’s the number one reason for the lack of the knowledge of God in America, as well.

We leaders are not leading people, like we should, to know God.

Here’s the second reason and it was just as big as the first.

#2. The Lack of Knowledge Came Because the People of God Had Deserted God for Other Gods. V.10 again.

“They will eat but not have enough; they will engage in prostitution but not increase, because they have deserted the LORD to give themselves to prostitution [like Gomer!], to old wine and new, which take away the understanding of my people. They consult a wooden idol and are answered by a stick of wood [!]. A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God. [Idolatry is spiritual adultery. V.13] They sacrifice on the mountaintops and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar and terebinth, where the shade is pleasant. Therefore your daughters turn to prostitution and your daughters-in-law to adultery.”

So many words that talk about adultery in these few verses.

Idolatry is spiritual adultery.

And why would you want to know God when there are all of these other “gods” to get to know?

The greatest sin of Israel has always been unfaithfulness with other gods.

And it inevitably leads to a lack of knowledge of the one true God.

The People of God Had Deserted God for Other Gods.

And notice, their spiritual prostitution also took the form of literal prostitution with shrine prostitutes. V.13 again.

“Therefore your daughters turn to prostitution and your daughters-in-law to adultery. I will not punish your daughters when they turn to prostitution, nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery, because the men themselves consort with harlots and sacrifice with shrine prostitutes–a people without understanding will come to ruin!”

Notice that he says there will be no double standard. Men getting away with it when women don’t.

No, the men are more responsible for it. Remember that, men, the Bible holds us as leaders in our homes, churches, and communities to a higher standard of accountability.

We don’t just bemoan what our girls end up doing and not take any responsibility for it. It’s a big responsibility to be a Dad.

All of this adultery, both physical and spiritual issues into a warning to the southern kingdom and to us. V.15

“Though you commit adultery, O Israel, let not Judah become guilty. ‘Do not go to Gilgal; do not go up to Beth Aven. And do not swear, 'As surely as the LORD lives!' The Israelites are stubborn, like a stubborn heifer. How then can the LORD pasture them like lambs in a meadow? Ephraim is joined to idols; leave him alone!”

This is the application: Put away your idols.

Hosea is telling Judah to not fall into the practices of Israel. Don’t go to the famous shrines at Gilgal and Beth Aven (House of Wickedness). And don’t take the LORD’s name in vain. “As surely as the LORD lives!” And don’t be a stubborn cow. Don’t get hooked up with Ephraim because Ephraim is hooked up with idols.

Put away your idols while you still can.

Do you have any idols?

I doubt that many of us have a wooden idol in our home that we bow down to and ask to bless our crops.

But the Bible has another category of idols, idols of the heart, which are just as dangerous, just as insidious, maybe more so.

Idols of the Heart.

They are desires that we have that may be for a good thing but have become too great a desire or desired in a bad way.

Idols of the heart.

We need to put them away, as well.

What’s yours? Don’t yell it out!

But you can probably tell by answering this question:

What do I really think that I need?

If I had this, I would be happy.

What do I really think that I need?

If your answer isn’t Jesus, you’ve probably just identified an idol.

Because it has taken Jesus’ place in your life.

Now, you might say, “but it’s a good thing!” I’m sure it is. It’s probably a good desire, but it makes a bad demand. It’s a good servant, but it’s a bad master. Only Jesus should rule your heart.

And you know when it’s ruling your heart when bad stuff comes out you because of it. Bad roots, bad fruits, you know.

Anger, lust, fear, sin, etc.

We need to put away our idols. Or else, we will lack the knowledge of God.

This book, Hosea, has been relentlessly attacking our idols for the last month. Have you made any changes? Are you any different?

We make the mistake of thinking that there are lots of kinds of people in the world.
But there are really only two (with some degrees of spectrum): Jesus-knowing-people and idolaters.

The purpose of our church is to bring people into a love relationship with Jesus Christ as our God.

That’s another way of saying that we exist to help people put away their idols so that they have knowledge of God through Jesus.

Hosea is a warning to us (just like it was to Judah) to put away our idols while we still can.

What drastic action to you need to do to put away the idols of your heart?

Because they are drawing away from your knowledge of God. Guaranteed.

A lack of knowledge of God leads to destruction.

“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” V.18

“Even when their drinks are gone, they continue their prostitution; their rulers dearly love shameful ways. A whirlwind will sweep them away, and their sacrifices will bring them shame.”

#3. The lack of the knowledge of God leads to destruction.

And judgment. That’s the point of chapter 5. Judgment is coming. V.1

“Hear this, you priests! Pay attention, you Israelites! Listen, O royal house! [Leaders!] This judgment is against you: You have been a snare at Mizpah, a net spread out on Tabor. [Famous sites in Israel.] The rebels are deep in slaughter. I will discipline all of them. [Judgement is coming.] I know all about Ephraim; Israel is not hidden from me. Ephraim, you have now turned to prostitution; Israel is corrupt. [Israel may not know God but God knows Israel. And they can’t escape. V.4] Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not acknowledge the LORD. [They don’t know the LORD.] Israel's arrogance testifies against them; the Israelites, even Ephraim, stumble in their sin; Judah also stumbles with them." [Sad.]

And judgment is coming. It takes 2 forms. Withdrawal and Warfare.

“When they go with their flocks and herds to seek the LORD, they will not find him; he has withdrawn himself from them.”

This is the worst kind of punishment. God withdrawing. And on top of that, war comes. V.7

“They are unfaithful to the LORD; they give birth to illegitimate children. Now their New Moon festivals will devour them and their fields. Sound the trumpet in Gibeah, the horn in Ramah. Raise the battle cry in Beth Aven; lead on, O Benjamin. [It’s war time!] Ephraim will be laid waste on the day of reckoning. Among the tribes of Israel I proclaim what is certain. [And both kingdoms will eventually feel it. V.10] Judah's leaders are like those who move boundary stones. I will pour out my wrath on them like a flood of water. Ephraim is oppressed, trampled in judgment, intent on pursuing idols. I am like a moth to Ephraim, like rot to the people of Judah. [They will fall apart because of the LORD’s judgment.] When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his sores, then Ephraim turned to [.......] Assyria[!], and sent to the great king[!] for help. But he is not able to cure you, not able to heal your sores. For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah. I will tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them.”

Do you see how sad this is?

“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.”

This is what’s going to happen to Israel–discipline, punishment, wrath, and judgment.

Withdrawal, and warfare, and exile.

They will lose their precious Promised Land.

All because of a lack of knowledge of God–where there should have been knowledge of God.

What’s the application? Repent while you still can.

Notice that Israel couldn’t repent. V.4 again.

“Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God.”

They were so deep in it, that they couldn’t turn it around.

Don’t think that you can just stop whatever you have been giving yourself to!

The Lord is saying, “You can’t keep these idols and come back to me at the same time.” And you might not be able to give up your idols later.

Repent now, while you still can.

Lack of knowledge leads to destruction.

The good news is that repentance would come eventually. All of this would ultimately have the effect of leading Israel into repentance. V.15

“Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.

It’s a sad reality that they had hit the absolute bottom before they would turn to the LORD.

But like we’ve seen every week so far, God’s jealous love will get them there, no matter what it takes!

“They will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.”

But you don’t have wait today.

You can repent right now and save yourself a lot of grief.

If you are not yet a follower of Jesus by faith, you are being called right now to turn from your idols and begin to trust and follow Jesus.

The Bible calls that repentance and faith. Turning and trusting.

You are being called to do that right now.

Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Nobody else can help you. The people of Israel turned to their enemy for help before they turned to their God!

But he is not able to cure you, not able to heal your sores. And neither are you.

But God is.

And He is amazingly gracious.

All of this is meant, not to sadistically hurt His people, but to graciously, if painfully, wean them from all of their idols that have created a lack of knowledge and keep them from ultimate destruction. Ultimately, to win them back.

Ultimately, to restore them. “They will seek my face...They will earnestly seek me.”

Seek Him!

Seek Him while He may be found.

Turn from your ways and put your trust in Him and what He did on the Cross.

Because, you know what? On that Cross, He absorbed all of the destruction that we deserved for our lack of knowledge of Him.

And He calls us now to trust Him and know Him in covenant love once more.

But He won’t stand any rivals.

He won’t let you date around.

It won’t be God and your personal idols.

It must be God alone.

As a leader of God’s people, I’m trying to lead you to know Him.

Put away your idols and know the Lord.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Spellbound

Heather and I really enjoyed the documentary Spellbound about a 8 young teenagers who travel to Washington DC to participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. It was very entertaining and engaging--and full of sermon illustration material! Highly recommended.

Prayer Catechism Question #21

Q. How much faith is required to receive answers in prayer?

A. A little bit of faith in a very big God is required to receive answers in prayer.

It is the object of our faith, not the subjective amount, that counts (Matt. 17:20). We are to have faith in God, not faith in our faith. Our confidence must be in God and not in getting "answers." A lot of faith in an inch of ice will get us cold and wet. But a little bit of faith in three feet of ice will support an SUV crossing a lake.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Try This Definition On For Size

Right now, I'm working my way through D.A. Carson's (editor) Worship By the Book in my "in-between-times." It's a biblical/theological study of worship (chapter 1) and a development of the theology of worship in three different traditions: Anglican (chapter 2), Free Church (chapter 3), and Reformed (chapter 4). Very interesting.

I'm still in the first chapter which is an exposition of Dr. Carson's definition of worship:

Worship is the proper response of all moral, sentient beings to God, ascribing all honor and worth to their Creator-God precisely because he is worthy, delightfully so. This side of the Fall, human worship of God properly responds to the redemptive provisions that God has graciously made. While all true worship is God-centered, Christian worship is no less Christ-centered. Empowered by the Spirit and in line with the stipulations of the new covenant, it manifests itself in all our living, finding its impulse in the gospel, which restores our relationship with our Redeemer-God and therefore also with our fellow image bearers, our co-worshipers. Such worship therefore manifesst itself both in adoration and action, both in the individual believer and in corporate worship, which is worship offered up in the context of the body of believers, who strive to align all the forms of their devout ascription of all worth to God with the panoply of new covenant mandates and examples that bring to fulfillment the glories of antecendent revelation and anticipate the consummation.


Aside from being way too long, I think this is a great definition and worthy of meditation.

The Privilege of Hearing the Gospel

"The hearing of the gospel involves the hearer in responsibility. It is a great privilege to hear the gospel. You may smile and think there is nothing very great in it. The damned in hell know. Oh, what would they give if they could hear the gospel now? If they could come back and entertain but the shadow of a hope that they might escape from the wrath to come? The saved in haven estimate this privilege at a high rate, for, having obtained salvation through the preaching of this gospel, they can never cease to bless their God for calling them by his word of truth. O that you knew it! On your dying beds the listening to a gospel sermon will seem another thing than it seems now."

- Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Prayer Catechism Question #20

Q. What does it mean to pray "in faith?"

A. Praying in faith is resting on God’s ability to do what He promises and anything else that He wants to do.

We are called to unconditionally trust in God’s promises. Faith is believing that God is trustworthy. We are also called to trust that God knows what is best and to submit our requests to Him for His consideration. We don’t presume upon God in areas where He has not revealed His will, but we do trust Him with them (Mark 11:24, James 1:6, Matt. 21:22). We need to believe that God has omnipotent power and is willing to use it for our benefit and His glory (Heb 11:6). Our faith must be absolute that God will act if He has specifically and unconditionally promised to do so (ex. James 1:5, 1 John 1:9), but it must also be confident that God will act in wisdom when a request seems consistent with God’s will but is not specifically promised in Scripture.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Abundant Mercy

"There is more mercy in Christ than there is sin in me."

-Richard Sibbes


[HT: Dan Ledford]

Prayer Catechism Question #19

Q. What does it mean to pray "in Jesus’ name?"

A. Praying in Jesus’ name is praying in Jesus’ authority through Jesus’ sacrifice for Jesus’ will.

Jesus has asked us to pray in His own name (John 14:13-14, 15:16, 16:23-24). This is not a "magic formula" for us to be certain to say at the end of each of our prayers, but it is important. A name in Scripture stands for a person and their authority (Acts 3:6, 4:7, 16:18, 1 Cor 5:4, Prov. 22:1). Therefore, to pray "in Jesus’ name" means to pray with the authorization of our Lord. This authorization comes because of the death and resurrection of Christ. He has authorized us through His Crosswork. Wayne Grudem adds, "[It is] also praying in a way that is consistent with his character, that truly represents him and reflects his manner of life and his own holy will" (Systematic Theology, pg. 379). What a privilege and what a responsibility!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Prayer Catechism Question #18

Q. What does it mean to pray "in the Spirit?"

A. To pray "in the Spirit" is to pray knowing God is present and active in my life.

God the Spirit is on site and constantly at work in every believer’s life. We need to pray, therefore, in dependence on Him and His work. It’s not some "spooky" trance, but it is supernatural. Wayne Grudem says, "To pray ‘in the Holy Spirit’ then, is to pray with the conscious awareness of God’s presence surrounding us and sanctifying both us and our prayers" (Systematic Theology, pg. 382).

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Prayer Catechism Question #17

Q. What does it mean to "pray without ceasing?"

A. Praying without ceasing is living our lives "on speakerphone" with God.

Praying "without ceasing" is not being constantly on our knees and disengaged from the rest of the world. It is, however, maintaining a vital connection with God through directed thoughts, meditation, simple spoken and unspoken prayers, and conscious and unconscious dependence on God in Christ throughout our days (Neh. 2:4, 1 Thess. 5:17).

Matt's Messages - God's Redeeming Love

“God’s Redeeming Love”
June 11, 2006
Hosea 3:1-5

I invite you to turn with me in your Bibles to the prophecy of Hosea chapter 3 this morning. The prophecy of Hosea, chapter 3. You can find Hosea chapter 3 on Pew Bible Page #890. Pew Bible Page #890. Hosea chapter 3. Just 5 verses this morning. Hosea chapter 3.

For two weeks now we have been studying together God’s message to Israel through the prophet Hosea and his very unhappy family.

God called Hosea to marry a woman that he knew in advance was going to be unfaithful, adulterous, and promiscuous. Her name was Gomer. How would you like that assignment?

And Hosea was to marry this adulterous woman as a prophetic press-release to the nation of Israel. Israel had become adulterous by going after idols. She had played the harlot with the Baals. And the LORD will not stand for it.

Gomer had three children that Hosea named to more fully explain what God was going to do.

Jezreel - God Scatters in judgment. It’s coming.
Lo-Ruhamah - Not Loved. No pity, no more compassion for Israel.
And Lo-Ammi - Not My People. Israel was going to be disowned.

This sad family sent a pictorial message to the nation of Israel that they needed to repent of their spiritually adulterous idolatry or face the judgment of God.

It’s a terrible picture of lives wrecked by sin and God’s justice being brought to bear.

But we’ve also seen something else, haven’t we?

We’ve seen the grace of God.

We’ve seen God promise that judgment and discipline and exile are not the end of the story for Israel. God still has plans for Israel, and they are gracious plans. Plans for her good.

And chapter 3 shows us this in the most astonishing way!

Chapter 3 of Hosea is about “God’s Redeeming Love.”

God is going to call Hosea to do something seemingly crazy again.

He’s going to call Hosea to redeem his wife.

And it will be another astonishing picture of God’s love for His people.

Let’s read it and then pray together.

Hosea three is in the first person. Hosea himself speaks.

[scripture reading, prayer]

How would you like this assignment? V.1

“The LORD said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress.’”

It appears that Gomer was up to her old tricks again.

She had left. Perhaps Hosea had kicked her out. We don’t know.

But we do know that she was on her own and in the arms and clutches of another man.

Can you imagine how that would have felt to Hosea?

He’d probably fallen out of love with Gomer long ago.

He might have been happy that she was gone and out of the picture.

But the LORD was not. He commanded Hosea to go get her back.

“The LORD said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress.’”

Why?

This is another prophetic picture for Israel. “Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”

Hosea may have fallen out of love with Gomer, but the LORD had not fallen out love with Israel.

His love was constant, faithful, and persistent.

And Hosea was to get Gomer back to demonstrate what God’s love is like for His people.

#1. GOD’S REDEEMING LOVE IS AMAZINGLY GRACIOUS.

Did Gomer deserve this?

Absolutely not. Her adultery was still in progress. She was living the life of a whore.
It appears that she had worked herself into slavery or at least into bondage of some kind to some other man. Perhaps professional prostitution.

And she had gotten herself into this place by herself.

But it would take Hosea to get her out.

And this was a picture of God’s redeeming love.

Last month, when I told a friend that I was going to preach the book of Hosea, my friend said, “Oh, that poor man! What he went through.” Which is exactly the first response that we are supposed feel when we read this.

But it’s bigger than that. We should actually say, “Oh, that poor God! What He went through!”


Because what Hosea did for Gomer was a picture of what God does for His people. V.1 again.

“Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”

That last line is such a killer.

The word “love” appears in this one verse 5 times. Notice the different things that are loved: “The LORD said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.’”

Isn’t that sad?

“Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”

These raisin cakes were probably used in sacrificial festivals to the Baal gods. They were probably a tasty little Rice-Crispy Treat with raisins to go along with the pagan worship.

And God says that He loves Israel but they love raisin cakes.

Pitiful.

They don’t have an “appetite for God.” All they have is an appetite for spiritual junk food.

They like mudpies when God wants to offer them the seven course dinner of Himself.

They don’t deserve God’s love. ....

But He loves them anyway!!!!!!

“Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”

God loves them anyway!

God’s Redeeming Love is Amazingly Gracious!

Sometimes we get to thinking that God loves us because we are so special.

But God’s love is special because He loves us when we don’t deserve it in the slightest!

Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that astonishing?

It gets better. Hosea obeys. V.2

“So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley.”

Imagine what that was like. Buying your wife. How demeaning, how degrading, how disappointing.

And it’s not like she was very expensive.

It seems that this 15 shekels and a homer and a lethek of barley was about half of the going rate for a female slave.

Gomer was on sale for half price.

That shows the depth to which she had fallen. How “worthless” she had become.

This is where she had sunk to. He shouldn’t have had to buy her in the first place, and here she was only worth half price!

Is Hosea foolish? Is he out of his mind?

Why do this?

Because he is a picture of God’s Redeeming Love. A love that is sacrificial. A love that is costly (it cost him something). A love that acts. That redeems. That buys the unlovely back.

Hosea is a picture of God’s Redeeming Love.

And God’s Redeeming Love is Amazingly Gracious!

I almost called this sermon “God’s Crazy Love” for His people.

God does the unthinkable!
God does the incredible!
It’s almost unbelievable!

God redeems (that is, He buys back) worthless sinners for Himself because of His love for them.

That’s the Gospel.

John 3:16. “God so loved the world [That’s amazing not because the world is so big but because the world is so bad! God so loved the world...] that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

He gave.

He bought.

He redeemed us. And not at half-price!

He redeemed us with the most precious commodity in the universe: the blood of the Son of God.

Are you amazed at the redeeming love of God?

You and I were Gomer. Or worse.

We loved the “sacred raisin cakes” of this world.

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still “Gomers” Christ died for us!

We can’t talk about this enough.
We can’t thank God enough for His amazingly gracious redeeming love.
We can’t be Cross-Centered enough.

We can’t dwell enough, remind ourselves enough, live inside of enough the grace of God.

It is love beyond degree.
It is beyond our comprehension.

It should be the theme of our lives.

“How are you doing? Better than I deserve.”

God’s Redeeming Love is Amazingly Gracious. And we need to be amazed.

Are you still amazed at God’s grace to you?
Do you understand how undeserving you are?

I find that people who don’t understand God’s grace don’t understand their sin.

They have an idea that they are pretty good people and that God grades on the curve.

Perhaps you are here today with that assumption. Of course God loves me, I’m great!

But the Good News begins with Bad News. You are not great. And neither am I. We deserve judgment, wrath, and Hell.

We deserve to stay on the slave block as a punishment for our adulterous ways.

But God loves us anyway!

And He gave His One and Only Son to die on the Cross to pay for our sins that whosoever put their trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior shall not get what they deserve but will be bought back instead.

Have you put your trust in God’s Redeeming Love? Have you put yourself in the hands of God’s amazing grace?

He invites you to do so today. Right now where you are. You can turn from your sin and trust in the Savior. And you will experience God’s Redeeming Love.

But it doesn’t stop there.

God loves us in our degraded spiritual state. He accepts us where we are.

But He loves us too much to let us stay there.

#2. GOD’S REDEEMING LOVE IS EFFECTIVELY TRANSFORMING. V.3

Hosea speaks directly to Gomer. “Then I told her, ‘You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.’”

Hosea puts some restrictions on Gomer.

She is to live with him.
She is to not have other lovers.
And (it appears in the Hebrew) that, for a time, even Hosea will not be intimate with her. It could be translated, “I will live [the same] with you,” that is, not intimately.

Hosea’s love calls for transformation.

Gomer can’t live the same way. She is chastened and will be taught to be chaste.

Why? This is what God does with Israel. V.4

“For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or idol.”

The exile will happen. And the basic institutions of life will be removed. As will their opportunities for idolatry.

There are both good things and bad things that are being taken away from her here in v.4. King and prince is pretty good. Sacrifice was part of the Mosaic Law. So was a kind of ephod. But bad kings and princes will go, too. And bad sacrifices and sacred stones and idols will be banished when Israel is disciplined.

Is this love?

This is love, too. This is transforming love.

God loves you just the way you are. But He loves you too much to let you stay that way.

God accepts you right where you are today. But it is an acceptance unto change.

Israel will be deprived of these things, good and bad, so that all they have is the LORD.

And so they learn to trust in Him alone.
And love Him alone.

Because God’s love is effectively transforming.

That is, it is efficacious. It accomplishes what it sets out to do.

God’s love transforms.

Are you being transformed by God’s love?

Are you different today because you belong to God through Jesus Christ?

Christians live differently than the world, not because they are earning their salvation, but because God is working out their salvation in them.

God’s Redeeming Love is Effectively Transforming.

Are you being transformed by God’s love?

Or are you hindering His work in some way?

Are you being transformed from spiritual nymphomania to loving the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength?

Where do you need to grow?

Where do you need to change?


God loves you right where you are today, but He loves you too much to let you stay there.

He has not bought you to leave you alone. “Thanks for the blood, God!”

He has bought you to change you into the image of His Son.

And He will do it. His loves is effectively transforming. It will accomplish it’s goal. V.5

“Afterward [after this period of chastening] the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days.”

God’s Redeeming Love will not fail.

For Israel, this started to happen in the return from exile.

And then it really started to happen with Israelites became followers of Jesus.

Why do I say that? Because of that word “David” in v.5. David Himself had been dead and gone for more than 200 years!

What David is Hosea predicting? Great David’s Greater Son!

They will come trembling to the LORD and to His blessings, His goodness, in the last days.

This will be fully fulfilled when all of ethnic Israel turns to Christ in the last days (Romans 9-11).

God’s Redeeming Love will not fail.

It will be effective.
It will be transformative.
It will change the hearts and lives of His people.

Are you being transformed by God’s Redeeming Love?

What are you holding back?

This Summer, this book, Hosea is calling you to root out the idols of your heart that have so long captured your attention.

And kill them. Do away with your idols.

No more lovers.

Only the Lord. Come trembling to Him and to His blessings.

Because of God’s Redeeming Love.

It is effectively transforming. Be transformed.

And it is amazingly gracious. Be amazed. Be astonished.

Live in wonder at God’s Redeeming Love.

Let’s pray.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Prayer Catechism Question #16

Q. What has God promised us to do with our prayers?

A. God has promised to answer our prayers!


We need to remind ourselves again and again that God has told us to persevere in prayer and that He will faithfully answer (Matthew 7:7, Luke 18:1ff).

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Andrée Seu

Heather and I really enjoy (if that's the right word for something that often cuts you open in just the right place) the writings of a WORLD magazine columnist named Andrée Seu.

She is a gem. Articulate, incisive, evocative, and pointed, Andrée is a rare find in a columnist. Heather says, "If I could write, that's how I'd like to do it."

For Mother's Day this year, I got Heather a copy of Andrée's first book (a compilation of essays) named Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me. Highly recommended.

Prayer Catechism Question #15

Q. Does God hear the prayers of nonChristians?

A. God hears all prayers but has only promised to bless the prayers of His children.

Nothing goes unnoticed by God (Hebrews 4:13). And God in His common grace has used the prayers of nonChristians in the Bible and in human history (ex. Acts 10:31). God has not, however, promised to bless the prayers of nonChristians like He has for His children (Matthew 7:9-11).

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Two Excellent Articles

This week I've read to stand-out articles on different subjects which I highly recommend.

Randy Stinson's article Show Yourself a Man (pgs. 5-9 on the .pdf) succintly summarizes what fatherly leadership in the home should look like and how to develop godly leadership qualities in your boys. With Father's Day around the corner, this is a must read.

William Edgar's Good Company, Good Art, and a Good Laugh provides some good thoughts on the subject of entertainment and the balance between amusing ourselves to death and prudish non-enjoyment of God's good gifts. Much to benefit from here, especially with Summer's fun approaching.

[HT: Both articles were mentioned this week on Justin Taylor's Between Two Worlds, one of the best of the world's blogs.]

Prayer Catechism Question #14

Q. What makes prayer effective?

A. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

God responds to who I am, not just formally to what I say (James 5:16). He listens to the totality of my life, not just my words. I am not righteous in myself (thankfully!), but in Christ and in His “positional righteousness,” I am to grow in practical righteousness. The more I grow in Christ through repentance and faith, the more conformed I am to the image of Christ and the more I pray according to His will. The more I pray according to His will, the more effective my prayers become. W. Bingham Hunter has called this “The Prayer/Obedience Cycle” (The God Who Hears, 214). It is not a “magic formula,” but rather, a description of God’s active work of conforming us to the image of His Son and conforming our prayers to be efficacious like His, as well (Romans 8:26-31).

Prayer Catechism Question #13

Q. What hinders prayer?

A. A problem in my relationship with God or with others will hinder my prayers.


If I harbor unconfessed sin or live in disobedience, I cannot expect God to bless my prayers (Psalm 66:18-20, Matt 6:12, Psalm 19:12, etc). The same is true if I am not living a life of love for those around me, especially those in covenant with me (ex. 1 Peter 3:7).

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Benefit of Self-Control

"Learning to say 'No' is worth more than learning Latin." (C.H. Spurgeon)

Matt Messages - God's Wayward Wife

“God’s Wayward Wife”
June 4, 2006
Hosea 2:2-23

Last week, we were introduced to the prophet Hosea and his very unhappy family. God asked Hosea to marry a woman that he knew in advance was going to be adulterous and unfaithful to him. Her name was Gomer. She was going to be promiscuous and adulterous. And, knowing that in advance, Hosea was still to marry her.

Why? Because their marriage was a prophetic press-release to the nation. Their marriage was a picture of God’s relationship with His wayward wife–the nation of Israel. “God’s Wayward Wife” is also the subject of chapter 2.

Israel had fallen into idolatry, and the LORD calls idolatry “spiritual adultery.”

So Hosea and Gomer were married to send a pictorial message to the people of Israel.

And they had kids to send a pictorial message to the people of Israel, as well.

The oldest boy was “Jezreel.” His name predicted coming judgment. God will scatter [Jezreel] Israel in a coming judgment for the sins that had been committed a place named “Jezreel.”

The girl in the middle was named “Lo-Ruhamah” which means “Unloved.” God wouldn’t continue to show compassion and pity and mercy because Israel continued to take advantage of it. So, Israel would experience being “Unloved.”

And the littlest boy, “Lo-Ammi” which meant “Not My People.” And he probably wasn’t! God was saying that He would effectively disown His people and bring the curses of the covenant to bear on them for their unfaithfulness.

That’s where He begins in chapter 2.

It begins with a rebuke.

GOD’S WAYWARD WIFE REBUKED.

Chapter 1 told the story of Hosea and Gomer. Chapter 2 begins to explain what the story means. The mother in verse 2 is not Gomer, but Israel. V.2

“Rebuke your mother, rebuke her, for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband.”

God is calling upon the children of Israel–that is individuals within Israel–to rebuke Israel for having left her first love. And God says that they are, in effect, divorced. There isn’t much hope for this relationship. It looks bleak.

Israel deserves a rebuke for her waywardness.

It’s a rebuke designed to encourage repentance.

Some of your versions say “Plead with your mother.” Or “Contend with your mother.”

This is a rebuke that has the goal of trying to wake Israel up to their dangerous condition before it’s too late. V.2

“Rebuke your mother, rebuke her, for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband. Let her remove the adulterous look from her face and the unfaithfulness from between her breasts. Otherwise I will strip her naked and make her as bare as on the day she was born; I will make her like a desert, turn her into a parched land, and slay her with thirst.”

If Israel doesn’t change her ways, and soon, she’s going to face the well-deserved discipline of God.

God is going to expose her to shame and to vulnerability and take away her basic sustenance.

Deprivation. Her discipline will include deprivation.

And this will be true for all of the people in Israel, not just a few. V.4

“I will not show my love to her children [Hebrew individuals], because they are the children of adultery. Their mother has been unfaithful and has conceived them in disgrace. She said, 'I will go after my lovers, who give me my food and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.'”

What I want us to especially notice from this section of Hosea 2 this morning is “What Sin Says.”

Because what Israel was saying in her heart is what all of our hearts say each time we sin.

We don’t say it out-loud, but this is what our hearts are telling us.

#1. There Is Life Somewhere Else.

Notice what the LORD charges Israel with saying, (v.5) “I will go after my lovers...”

Israel didn’t fall into her adultery because she was pursued by the Baals.

She pursued the Baals! She went “looking for love in all the wrong places.”

She sought out other lovers. Because she believed that there is life somewhere else.

This is how sin starts. We get to thinking that God is not satisfying enough. And our hearts begin to look in other directions for soul-satisfaction.

We begin to think that some other person, some other thing, some other place might have some life to it that would make us happy.

And so, we wander. Because sin says that there is life somewhere else.

And then, sin says, #2. Life Comes from Somewhere Else.

Notice what Israel said in her heart.

“I will go after my lovers, who give me my food and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.”

Israel convinced herself that the Baals were providing life for her. Blessing. Good things. The stuff. Life.

And we do the exact same thing. We worship the creation instead of the Creator, the gifts instead of the Giver, and then we begin to think that gifts were given to us by someone else than God.

It’s easy to do. God is invisible. But our idols often are not. We can see them very clearly.

And they promise to give us stuff. Even though we know that every good things comes from the LORD.

What sins are you struggling with right now?

I’ve been struggling with the sin of complaining recently. If things aren’t going 100% my way, I’m bellyaching about it. And the people around me have had to suffer for my grouching.

Catch this! Not only do I believe that there is life in complaining, I believe that when I complain I get good things! Because sometimes, I do.

Now, do I thank God for His grace in giving me good things despite my complaining heart?

No. I begin to say, “Well, I got a little action out of that!” And in my heart, sin says, “Complaining works. Life comes from complaining. Let’s do some more.”

Israel gave the Baals the credit for their blessings! And we do the same thing.

And the third thing sin says in v.5 is #3. It’s All About Me. Life is all about me.

Did you notice the pronouns in v.5? They are there in the Hebrew, too.

'I will go after MY lovers, who give me MY food and MY water, MY wool and MY linen, MY oil and MY drink.'”

It’s all about me. My life centers on me.

Sin says, “You deserve a break today. If it’s not working for you, it’s not worth it.”

Sin says, “It’s about time you got some service around here.”

Sin says, “Life is about you.”

I have a friend who likes to say, “You are not the lead actor in your life’s play.”

But sin says, “Oh yes, you are!”

And God says, “If you keep listening to sin, Israel, I’ll have to bring discipline.”

And that discipline will look like deprivation (v.3) and also frustration (v.6).

“Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. [God is going to frustrate her plans. V.7] She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, [Oh well!] 'I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.'”

Notice how it’s still all about her. That’s not repentance. That’s just resignation.

God says that He is going to frustrate Israel. Baal will no longer be effective or satisfying. V.8

“She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold–which they used for Baal [making idols!]. ‘Therefore I will take away MY grain when it ripens, and MY new wine when it is ready. I will take back MY wool and MY linen, intended to cover her nakedness.”

Notice how the pronouns have switched! The grain, the wine, the wool, the linen were the LORD’s in the first place, and He has the right to take them back from His wayward wife.

She was supposed to be a classy, well-dressed woman. The head of the nations. But she acts like a whore and will be shown to be one.

No longer will she be able to take the LORD for granted.

Discipline will look like deprivation, frustration, and now, humiliation. V.10

“So now I will expose her lewdness before the eyes of her lovers; no one will take her out of my hands.”

Israel is going to go into exile and the Baals won’t be able to do a thing about it.

Israel is going to be subjected to deserved public shame for having left her first love.

And she’ll have nowhere to turn. V.11

“I will stop all her celebrations: her yearly festivals, her New Moons, her Sabbath days– all her appointed feasts.”

Notice the pronouns. Those were supposed to be all about the LORD. But Israel has made them all about her. And the LORD will not allow her to continue.

Deprivation. Frustration. Humiliation. And then, devastation. V.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. I will punish her for the days she burned incense to the Baals; she decked herself with rings and jewelry, and went after her lovers, but me she forgot,’ declares the LORD.”

The desolation will be devastating. Sadly, Israel will be judged for her spiritual adultery.

Notice, some more, what sin says here in v.13.

Sin says, #4. I Can Mix the Lord with Something Else.

Did Israel stop the Jewish feasts? Yearly festivals? Sabbaths? Worship of the LORD?

No. Never. She just decided that she could do that AND include the Baals.

We do the same thing, don’t we?

We want to be Christians and worldlians at the same time.

“A little Jesus is good, mixed in with everything else.”

Imagine an Israelite farmer who notices that his neighbor put up a Baal idol in the middle of one of his fields.

Now, he might decide to rebuke him, but he might also decide to hang back and see what happens.

Imagine if the neighbor’s fields produced a bumper crop that year. And our friend decides to talk with the neighbor about it.

Does the neighbor deny the LORD? No! He says, “Oh, I believe in the LORD 100%. I just don’t think it hurts to put up a little Baal statue in my field, too. What can it hurt? The Canaanites have done it for hundreds of years. And they’re great farmers!”

What is our farmer friend tempted to do?

He’s tempted to mix. Theologians call it “syncretism.”

Sin says, “There’s Life Somewhere Else.” Put up a Baal.
Sin says, “Life Comes from Somewhere Else.” It was Baal that sent the big harvest.
Sin says, “Life is All About You.” Try it. See if it works for you.
Sin says, “You Can Mix the Lord with Something Else.” Don’t worry. What could it hurt?

Are you tempted to mix something with the Lord right now?

Perhaps a little cheating at work and still stay a Christian?
Perhaps “chasing your dreams” even if you’re not sure that they are God’s dreams for you?
Perhaps cutting a few corners?
Perhaps gluttony, or lust, or greed, or gossip with a nice Christian face on it?

Maybe a whole other belief system:

Jesus and Buddha.
Jesus and Mohammed.
Jesus and the Dalai Lama
Jesus and Oprah.
Jesus and the Self-Help section at the bookstore.
Jesus and My Own Way.

Jesus won’t allow it.

It’s never “Jesus plus.”

Because what happens is that Jesus gets left behind. Jesus gets buried. Jesus gets forgotten. V.13

“I will punish her for the days she burned incense to the Baals; she decked herself with rings and jewelry, and went after her lovers, but me...she forgot,’ declares the LORD.”

Israel put on her finest for date-night, and God’s wayward wife “went out on the town” with the Baals and left her husband behind.

God won’t allow that to continue forever because He’s jealous.

He knows that if we try to mix something with Him, He’ll get left in the dust. And eventually, we’ll be left with dust in our mouths because nothing less than Him will satisfy.

Do you see how Israel’s waywardness is a picture of the sinfulness of our sin?

This is what we do, so often.

We look for life somewhere else.
And when we get a little life, we attribute it to something else.
And we think it all revolves around us.
And we think that we can keep it up and mix it up with Jesus at the same time.

We need a rebuke. Because we need to repent.

But you know what? God doesn’t stop at the rebuke.

It comes almost out of nowhere, but God doesn’t stop at the rebuke of His wayward wife.

He goes on to restore her!!!!

He promises restoration.

GOD’S WAYWARD WIFE RESTORED. V.14

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.”

What?!!!

Where did that come from?

It’s grace. Hosea is all about God’s “Amazing Grace” and “love beyond degree.”

He says (v.14), “Therefore I am not going to allure her.”

Therefore? What kind of logic is that?

We’ve had 12 verses (2-13) of Israel’s yucky waywardness. And the LORD says, “Therefore, I’m going to win her back.”

God is so counter-intuitive. No one could predict this who didn’t know God! The divine logic is that God loves His people so much that He won’t let them wallow in waywardness, but will pursue them in passionate love!

Like we said last week: God is jealous; and God is just; and God is generous!

God promises to reverse all of His judgments. And restore Israel to Himself.

Notice all of the “I wills” in this section. Israel has messed it all up. And, therefore, God will do all the fixing by Himself. V.14

‘Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. [The desert is where they got married. He’s going back to their courtship, so to speak. V.15] There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor [Trouble Valley where Israel was first judged in the land, read Joshua chapter 7, Trouble Valley will become] a door of hope. There [Israel] will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.”

God’s Wayward Wife will be Restored.

And not just so that she can do it again. V.16

“‘In that day,’ declares the LORD, ‘you will call me 'my husband'; you will no longer call me 'my master.' [A related word to Baal. He’s saying that there will be no more mixing up who the LORD is and who Baal is. V.17] I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips; no longer will their names be invoked. [They will be forgotten. They will be left in the dust. The LORD will win 100%. This relationship is going to be fixed. V.18] In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety.”

No more Assyria. No more war. No more danger from the creation.

What is the fulfillment of all of this? It’s come in part with Christ and will come fully when He returns and sets up His kingdom that will be forever. Forever. V.19

“I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD.”

This relationship will be perfectly fixed.

Everything that was wrong will be made right.

This relationship will be marked by righteousness, justice, love, compassion, and faithfulness.

On both sides!

“You will acknowledge the LORD.”

You will know the LORD. The very opposite of verse 8.

You will know there is no life somewhere else that the Lord.
You will know life comes from nowhere else than the Lord.
You will know that life is all about the Lord.
You will know that nothing need be or can be mixed with the Lord. He will be enough.

The LORD is promising to take Israel back to her pre-marriage days and start all over again and this time do it perfectly.

It’s a description of the New Covenant and the blessings that will come from it.

A complete reversal of all of the judgment. V.21

“‘In that day I will respond,’ declares the LORD [responding to the renewed relationship]–‘I will respond to the skies, and they will respond to the earth; and the earth will respond to the grain, the new wine and oil, and they will respond to Jezreel. [What’s He saying? He’s saying that He’s going to set off a chain reaction of blessing that will reverberate throughout the creation, issuing in a new era, a new creation where He will sow blessing instead of judgment.] I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called 'Not my loved one. 'I will say to those called 'Not my people, ''You are my people'; and they will say, 'You are my God.'’”

Jezreel, Lo-Ruhamah, and Lo-Ammi will all be reversed.

God will plant instead of scatter.
God will show love again.
God will be our God.

And we will say (with Israel, Romans 9:26, 1 Peter 2:10), “You are my God.”

Just as verses 2 through 13 pictured the sinfulness of our sin, verses 14 through 23 picture for us the splendor of our salvation!

The LORD is going to fix the relationship so that the name “Baal” won’t even cross anyone’s mind.

And He’s going to fix the universe so that everything in it works again the way it was meant to be.

What a glorious hope, brothers and sisters! What a glorious hope!

And do you know how He does it?

Worship at the Lord’s Table

He does it by the Cross.

The Cross is where the justice of God and the generous grace of God meet and kiss.

God’s holy jealousy requires Him to put a stop to sin. It must be judged and it must be done away with.

But instead of you and me absorbing the judgment we deserve for our waywardness, God placed it on Jesus.

He took our sins upon Himself. The righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God.

The Divine Lover pursued His bride and gave Himself up for her. For us.

So that we could be restored to Him. So that we who deserve unlove should be shown love. And we who were not His people hear Him say, “You are my people.”

And we can “You are my God.”

Unless you can’t yet. If you do not yet belong to Jesus by faith in His Cross, please do not eat and drink this memorial meal with us. It’s not for you.

Instead, take some time to consider His invitation to you.

He invites you to believe in Jesus as your Savior and entrust yourself to Him as your Lord.

He has paid the penalty for sin on the Cross. Jesus has paid it all.

He offers to restore you to Him.

Trust Him today.

If you do belong to Jesus through faith in His Cross, you are invited to eat and drink with us today.

But before you do, do a heart-check.

Take a spiritual inventory.

Confess your sins to God.

Confess your recent waywardness.

Confess ways that you believed that there is life somewhere else and that life comes from somewhere else and that life is about you and that you have mixed Jesus with something else and ended up forgetting Him.

Confess those things to God before you eat and drink. And know that they are paid for. Jesus paid it all.

And ask for help in fighting those sins this week.

Ask for help in saying No to waywardness and Yes to Godwardness this week.