Day: June 17, 2016

Relentless, Yet Reluctant in Judgment

Hosea 13:1-16

Present text (especially along with text from this morning) highlights why is essential to understand God’s Word in its context. What kind of Sovereign is God? What is his attitude toward his people, rebellious sinners, and the like? Dr. Charles Hodges – book – Good Mood, Bad Mood – depression and bipolar. Large segments of what passes for Christianity and many who challenge Biblical Christianity would diagnose God as bipolar.

Why is God so angry in the Old Testament and so loving in the New?

The angry, violent, vindictive God of the Old Testament often seems completely at odds with the loving Father of the New Testament.

Why was God so harsh on people in the Old Testament and more forgiving in the New Testament?

Harsh God of OT the one skeptics and professed atheists present, often a caricature of the real – bring over into NT, accuse God of “cosmic child abuse” at the Cross. Loving Father of NT the one theological liberals emphasized as basis for watered-down gospel. Many well-intentioned Christians struggle with their understanding of “Good Mood Bad Mood God” and how to relate to him, how to honestly share their faith in God with others.

Is relatively new problem in popular culture, essentially 20th century thing. Two things contribute to its continued presence – people don’t read the Bible, pastors don’t preach the Bible… comprehensively. Bible’s size / word count not a good enough reason/excuse for not reading:

Bible – 750,000 words; Lord of the Rings – 480,000; War and Peace – 580,000; Harry Potter series – 1.1 mil.; Left Behind – >1.3 mil.

Host of reasons given by church leaders for avoiding more than sporadic attention to cool stories of OT, favoring NT material in its place. Heaven forbid should trudge through any more than first 3 chapters of Hosea, that only as part of series on marriage and divorce. Rest of minor prophets?? Maybe on Christmas/Palm Sunday/Easter, then only specific short texts. For diligent reader of God’s word the Bible, especially when read more or less chronologically, much different picture of God emerges. In both Testaments we find complete description of character of God – NT adds no new tidbits to indicate God is work in process; NT leaves out no essential points either. Does not make either OT or NT standalone resource – each enhances and relies on the other for full picture of God and how he displays his character.

Our text only one of many that give multi-faceted view of God in relation to his people. Reminds of statement maybe even your parents used: “This is gonna hurt me more than it will you”. Probably thought parents were exaggerating, might have been. Yet is that true if God were to say it? Would God be exaggerating? Basic issue present here is God’s response to sinful rebellious people.

Because God is holy and just, sin must be punished. Because God is love, has both ability and desire to be merciful. In order for God to show mercy, holiness and justice cannot be compromised. God’s solution, we all know, what he spoke of in v.14: “I will ransom… I will redeem” – God paid infinitely higher price than his people to satisfy justice at the Cross.

Didn’t start out this way for Ephraim – at one time… was pleasing to God, then things changed.

A. how did this happen? v.1-3

a good start (1a)

so long as Ephraim acted humbly, life was good; God gave grace and exalted him – experienced life, God’s good provision

was true throughout course of Ephraim’s history: received “right-hand” patriarchal blessing when still a child, instead of Manasseh

later, after conquest of Canaan, assumed strong leadership role among tribes in northern Israel; name came to stand for 10 tribes like Judah for southern kingdom

for much of early history, northern 10 like the rest did worship true God, more or less follow his laws and reject idolatry

a bad choice (1b)

added to God-shelf – never did officially and outwardly reject true God; even today Jewish hope is that temple be rebuilt, worship established once again in Jerusalem

started worshiping other things along with old religion, no longer devoted with singleness of purpose to true God… who was still taking care of them, btw

only takes one wrong choice to begin trajectory that is eventually opposed to God and the truth – sometimes a short trip, other times can be longer and not so obvious

all downhill (2-3)

notice “things lead to things” – he offended through Baal worship, now they sin more and more – like proverb: “If the camel once gets his nose in the tent, his body will soon follow.”… and camel takes sole possession

downhill because following/worshiping anything less than true God leads to death – only Yahweh is source of what has substance and value

B. no God but Me v.4-5

one God, one Redeemer, one people

by virtue of who he is, what he has done – has right to be exclusive, to require total allegiance from people he has made his own

exclusive devotion works both ways

God exclusively devoted to his people, those one with his Son, just as he expects them to be devoted to him

is committed to doing all necessary for their well-being: their one-stop source for all needs without exception – spiritual, emotional, material

don’t miss: not a present reality but future promise

people weren’t presently devoted to one God but would be in future – means all bad stuff promised would not utterly destroy

why didn’t God vaporize Adam and Eve, then start over? to redeem and restore fallen humans, then glorify them for eternal existence brings him greater glory… and he has always had that end in view

C. why did this happen v.6, 11-12, 16

proud in prosperity (5-6)

could be dependent on God in the desert; in “land flowing with milk and honey” much easier to take personal credit for prosperity

when life is stable, material reserves steady or increasing, not necessary to depend on God for daily bread – focus of sight, thought, attention drops from heaven to earth

rejected God as king, then kings rejected God’s leadership (11)

God’s assessment to Samuel: “they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.”

Saul took authority not his own; Solomon married contrary to God’s design; Jeroboam multiplied gods on the god-shelf

piled up sin upon sin (12)

in spite of God’s rebukes through prophets, internal and external calamity, continued to sin wilfully; short of repentance, would be day of reckoning at some point

summary: rebelled against God (16)

not ignorance, not case of trying but not making the grade – weren’t even trying to please God, instead the opposite, wilfully going against God…his laws…his authority

D. relentless yet reluctant v.7-9a, 13, 15

expression of God’s actions and attitude goes from justice to mercy and back – v.9, for example

not because God is fickle or undecided – has greater purpose than maintaining his character by destroying enemies

justice is necessary and God takes pleasure in showing mercy; without justice, mercy would have no context and no meaning

like a predator (7-8)

imagine meeting up with lion, leopard, mad mama bear – what would you guess odds of survival? …without someone to rescue

is God’s point – situation is hopeless so long as relying on own resources; will be that way for those who rebel, intended to persuade change of direction

pain upon pain (13)

and with no good outcome – woman in labor but too weak to push child out; child to stupid to crawl out on his own

similar predicament: certain death for both mother and child unless there is outside intervention; just as true on spiritual level

incredible hardship (15)

God will purposely turn all efforts into nothing – dry them up, blow them away, bringing to end of all available resources… no reserve; greatest accomplishments end up empty… by God’s design

God refuses to give up until he has achieved his goal, using what is necessary to achieve it… no more, no less

E. I will be your King v.9b-10, 14

I will be your help (9b)

no matter how desperate conditions are, at hand of God, he stands ready to help all who turn to him

your king (10)

God’s desire and intent is to be King – in NT terminology, Lord – the ultimate authority and provider for all needs of his people

your substitute (14a)

for those who trust in Christ, God is the one who satisfies his own demands for justice… in the place of his people, paying full price of their ransom himself

your redeemer (14b)

how many ways does God need to make clear… in OT no less! that he has redemption of sinners in view continually

So how should we respond… to God’s goodness as well as his discipline? Recognize that Christ and Christ alone can satisfy. Stimulate appetite and thirst for Christ. Satisfy that hunger and thirst with Christ and Christ alone. Understand the more we satisfy our desires with Christ, the more we will desire him.

My Two Witnesses

Revelation 11:1-14

Have had few instances earlier of John making reference to familiar Old Testament themes. Connecting those dots very helpful to gain understanding of what John intended to communicate. Here in chapter 11 John pulls in numerous things from OT, some not merely helpful but essential to reach right understanding about what is in view. Include: Ezekiel’s temple (ch. 40ff), Daniel’s seventy weeks (ch. 9), Zechariah’s olive trees (ch. 4), beastly kingdoms of Daniel 7 and 8, for example.

Need to look at Daniel 9:24ff, file something away for future use: series of sevens, 7 sevens, 62 sevens, 1 seven, starting with Cyrus. After 69 sevens, iow beginning of week 70 Messiah cut off. The city and sanctuary destroyed, end of sacrifice in middle of the week. Leaves 1/2 week, 3-1/2 years, 42 months from destruction of Jerusalem to consummation (Second Coming).

John’s attention drawn first to the temple of God, then two witnesses – put the two together… the witnessing church. The setting: an environment where there is much hostility to the witnesses and their message. Do not be afraid, though, God has it under control!

A. the temple v.1-2

purpose – shows that God does indeed have a dwelling place, once again emphasizing nature of our existence and battle we are all engaged in waging: a spiritual one

2 Cor. 6:16For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.”

imagine encouragement was to John to gauge size of church – from humble beginnings in Jerusalem, 3000 added at Pentecost, by John’s day encircled the Mediterranean

similar encouragement for us: every country in world has Christian presence, not every people group… yet – God’s temple has grown substantially since Jesus’ declaration he would build His church

boundaries – here’s where bittersweet nature of little scroll from 10:9-10 becomes obvious: there’s an inside and an outside

clear distinction in God’s view of definite boundary, who is on inside representing his dwelling, all those on outside as his enemies

how sweet that Gospel message has run throughout world, drawing men women boys girls into its net and safety w/i temple

at same time: bitter truth is message of hope found only in Christ is highly offensive to majority of people, trample it underfoot

sweet is knowledge that those who worship in temple of true God, who are temple of God are absolutely secure in his keeping… forever – securely protected from all that would keep us from total victory over sin, Satan, death

bitter the understanding of what assuredly awaits all those who are outside the temple, nations and peoples who have rejected God and his truth

duration – 42 months, aka 2nd half of Daniel’s 70th week, entire duration of this age, until Lord Jesus’ return

God’s temple, the church, the people of God going to live in hostile surroundings yet under protecting care of God

for all of its existence in the world, enemies will try to trample it, tread it down, hinder its growth in size and influence

remember, objective in battle is conquest of souls with eternal destiny in view – primary weapons not physical ones

spiritual battle often has real physical consequences – desperate people using desperate measures to gain advantage

take guns away from mass murderer, nuclear warheads away from tyrant, will find other means to threaten and kill… to follow example/directives of the one they worship

see the Gospel of Christ applied by powerful Spirit of God… mass murderer or tyrant becomes useful servant of God

leader of “the Gentilies” – Satan, the deceiver, mixing error with truth so as to neutralize it, render it powerless, so it will be discarded / treated as trash/litter

don’t be surprised when church is attacked, discredited, marginalized, oppressed, persecuted – is how Christ said it would be for his followers

B. the witnesses v.3-13

their work (3)

commissioned, empowered to prophesy – to declare God’s truth with power and authority, not their own but granted by God

most powerful force ever displayed – that of God’s word: “God said… and there was”; “upholds all things by his powerful word”

word has been entrusted to witnesses, sword of the Spirit – the one weapon people of God authorized to use in battle

remember: Deut. 19:15“One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.”

twelve sent out (Mark 6:7), so were seventy (Luke 10:1) two by two; Paul and Barnabas, Paul and Silas; appoint elders; biblical pattern – two or more, not Lone Rangers

notice also duration (it’s significant) – 1260 days = 42 months (30 days each) = 3-1/2 years; iow, from time of John until Second Coming

their identity (4)

clear reference to Zech. 4:11-14, two olive trees full of oil – often symbol of Holy Spirit, who equips and empowers witnesses

oil also source of energy for light from lampstands – in view here the local church and its people, together the light of the world

remember what Jesus said about light: Matt. 5:14-16“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

will come back to this but… question not if are witnesses; is what kind of witnesses – dim lights, flickering lights, hidden lights, steady bright lights

have never-failing more than adequate supply of oil for our lamp – our task to use it to its best advantage as God directs

their protection (5-6)

matters not who opposes them, who tries to overcome them – two witnesses, the church, is invincible until her task is complete

again, remember what Jesus declared: not even powers of hell can prevent church from accomplishing her God-given mission

may appear that way to us, individuals w/i church may not achieve particular goals and may give their lives yet Christ and kingdom prevail over all his enemies

need to back up to beginning ch. 8 – prayers of God’s people ascend before his throne, he hears and responds with all sorts of calamities

just like miracles in days of prophets and apostles – prayed to God, God exercised power through them in response to prayer and need

the conflict (7)

universal conflict has local skirmishes – Sodom, Eqypt, Jerusalem – city known for its sexual immorality; country/culture known for its gross idolatry and worship of creation rather than Creator; city who welcomed a hero, then turned on him days later

those who are in love with their sin don’t give it up easily, resent being reminded of it; especially true when comes from the top

can look around world, across sweep of history, see numerous empires/dynasties/governments committed to pursuit of evil

Kim dynasty in N. Korea, repression of the church; Nero, lighting gardens with Christians as human torches; Spanish Inquisition

for a time, God permits them to appear as if they have defeated Christ’s church – in part to build faith of believers

nations of the West not far behind – trend here at present is accelerating toward fewer restraints on evil, more tolerance of openly sinful behavior

the result (8-10)

evildoers celebrate: whether outwardly or not, rejoice because continual reminder of sin-darkened hearts/minds no longer in their face

show utmost disrespect for those who truly deserve most respect – those who stand for truth of Gospel; advertise and glamorize defeat of the Church

much stronger reaction, greater enthusiasm than probably expect – why such fervor? Witnesses to God’s truth are torment to evildoers: cause emotional and intellectual suffering that drives to desperate actions

what is in view here is Church, not individual believers – appears the Church has been defeated; may be true for individuals… but there is hope

their resurrection (11-12)

very soon after work of church is ended, hear that call from heaven – come to life, souls reunited with bodies, or bodies reconstituted “on the fly”

nothing hidden or secret about this either – everyone hears, everyone sees, everyone knows God is doing something big

when God calls his witness out of the world, that’s it… all done… nothing left but final judgment when all acknowledge “God wins!”

side note: not a very strong case here for postmillennial view, the concept that this era ends with some sort of Golden Age of the Gospel w/peace on earth for extended period of time

oops (13)

too late for repentance, giving glory to God now only grudging because its required – shows no real change of heart – impossible with witness removed from world

“every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord” – because obliged to, not out of love and desire

C. the third woe v.14

coming quickly – the end is near, 2000 years nearer now than when Revelation was written… means we must be busy

Phil. 2:14-15Do all things without grumbling or questioning,that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world”

Quote by Rev. George McCloud (a Scotsman): “I argue that the cross be raised again at the center of the marketplace as well as at the steeple of the church. Jesus was not crucified on a table between two candles but on a cross between two thieves, on a town garbage heap, at a crossroad of politics so cosmopolitan that they had to write his title in Hebrew and Latin and Greek, and at the kind of place where cynics talk smut and thieves cursed and soldiers gambled. That is where he died and that is what he died about and that is what Christ’s followers ought to be about.” Living as credible witnesses for Gospel in dark world.