Fallow Ground

S (Scripture) – Hosea 10:12-13 “Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD until He comes to rain righteousness on you.  You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice, you have eaten the fruit of lies.  Because you have trusted in your way, in your numerous warriors, therefore a tumult will arise among your people, and all your fortresses will be destroyed, as Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle, when mothers were dashed in pieces with their children.  Thus it will be done to you at Bethel because of your great wickedness.  At dawn the king of Israel will be completely cut off.”

O (Observation) – When farmland would lie fallow, it was taking a break from its purpose of housing crops.  Thorns and thistles would overgrow the top of the soil, and if a farmer attempted to sow seed on the soil in this condition, the crop would not be very productive. The farmer needed to break up the fallow ground, till the soil, rid it of thorns, weeds, and anything else that would prevent the soil from successfully accomplishing its purpose.  Likewise, the children of Israel needed to break up the fallow ground of their hearts and rid themselves of evil influences in order to be prepared for what God was about to do, and so they could accomplish His purposes for them.  Up to this point, they had trusted in their own way, turned from Him to follow their own plans, and trust in their armies and fortresses.  The result was a tumult among the people – which means confusion and disorder.  The LORD is a God of order – authority, covering, blessing, and moving the kingdom forward in a way that He shows us.  Whenever we decide we know better and do things apart from Him, the result is always going to be chaos.

A (Application) – We need to examine our hearts often in order to determine if they are becoming fallow ground.  What evil influences do we need to rid ourselves of, and what bitterness or resentment has a hold of us that needs to be plowed up and softened?  God cannot successfully accomplish His purposes for our lives if our hearts are not prepared to receive His rain of righteousness.  What else are we trusting in besides the Lord for our protection, guidance, provision, and future?  Are we allowing worry to dominate our thinking?  Are we allowing anxiety to reign in our minds?  Are we arguing with God about what He says is true?  Proverbs 3:5-6 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, search our hearts.  Examine our thoughts.  Bring to our minds anything that is a lie that we have been believing.  Replace it with Your truth.  We don’t want to live this life with a heart that is not open to receiving from You.  We don’t want to miss out on anything that You have for us.  If we begin to trust in anything other than You and Your truth, lead us back to Your heart.  Thank You for all that You are; there is no one like You.

 

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The Hostile Heart

S (Scripture) – Hosea 9:7-8 “The days of punishment have come, the days of retribution have come; let Israel know this!  The prophet is a fool, the inspired man is demented, because of the grossness of your iniquity, and because your hostility is so great.  Ephraim was a watchman with my God, a prophet; yet the snare of a bird catcher is in all his ways, and there is only hostility in the house of his God.”

O (Observation) – Lord, Hosea was pronouncing Your judgement that was finally about to come down on the nation after years and years of Your patience.  The people had so much hostility in their hearts toward You, and as a result, accused the prophets of the day of being fools and the inspired men of being demented.  A heart that is hostile toward You will refuse to listen to Your word.  A heart that is hostile toward You will operate out of pride, arrogance, and an attitude that shamelessly claims to know better than You how to live this life.  A heart that is hostile toward You shuns conversations about eternity, Your kingdom agenda, and spiritual issues of the heart.  Instead, that heart is focused on the things of this world, advancement of self, and intentionally takes steps to move further and further away from the perceived oppression of anything religious.  Instead of longing for Your presence, the hostile heart – with gritted teeth – shakes a fist at heaven and curses Your holy Name.  It’s heartbreaking to see so many angry and hostile people in this world that are broken, hurting, and longing for something more in this life, yet fail to see that the Creator is the One who made them, and longs for them to know His love.

A (Application) – You admonish us in Proverbs 4:23 to “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”  A natural spring is constantly flowing with water from deep within.  Likewise, our hearts are always flowing with thoughts, feelings, emotions, and desires.  For the hostile person who has yet to place his or her trust in the Lord Jesus, that flow from the heart is still broken.  For the person who has placed his or her trust in the Lord Jesus alone, the heart is now yielded to the One capable of fixing anything broken.  Not only does He fix our broken hearts and places in our lives, He is the source from which everything flows.  It is our responsibility to guard our hearts from the hostile influences all around us.  This doesn’t mean that we don’t love and reach out to care for a lost and broken world, but it does mean that we must do so with discernment.  We must “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) as we walk out our days in a world of hostility.

P (Prayer) – Precious Jesus, how my heart aches when I see someone that has hostility in his or her heart toward You.  I know that the brokenness experienced in this life results in loneliness, depression, anxiety, strained relationships, and emptiness.  You offer wholeness, restoration, blessing, peace, joy, true love, and a sense of purpose.  I pray that all those who are hostile to You – even if they don’t know they are – would fall humbly to their knees and cry out to You for forgiveness.  I pray that they would not go one more day experiencing this life without Your love and power.  Thank You, Lord, for loving us in spite of our hostility.

Trust and Dependency

S (Scripture) – Hosea 8:11-14 “Since Ephraim has multiplied altars for sin, they have become altars of sinning for him.  Though I wrote for him ten thousand precepts of My law, they are regarded as a strange thing.  As for My sacrificial gifts, they sacrifice the flesh and eat it, but the LORD has taken no delight in them.  Now He will remember their iniquity, and punish them for their sins; they will return to Egypt.  For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces; and Judah has multiplied fortified cities, but I will send a fire on its cities that it may consume its palatial dwellings.” NASB

“Ephraim has built a lot of altars, and then uses them for sinning.  Can you believe it?  Altars for sinning!  I write out my revelation for them in detail and they pretend they can’t read it.  They offer sacrifices to me and then they feast on the meat.  God is not pleased!  I’m fed up – I’ll keep remembering their guilt.  I’ll punish their sins and send them back to Egypt.  Israel has forgotten his Maker and gotten busy making palaces.  Judah has gone in for a lot of fortress cities.  I’m sending fire on their cities to burn down their fortifications.”  Message

O (Observation) – Lord, You don’t stutter.  You provided Israel with everything necessary to follow You, and the nation slowly drifted away from Your protective covering by breaking its covenant with You.  You sent prophets such as Hosea to warn the people what would happen if they walked out on You, and yet they refused to listen.  Instead of celebrating the God that delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians during the exodus, You were now about to become the God that would allow them to be taken captive back to Egypt.  The people had forgotten You, and instead chose to put their trust in the nations around them – making peace treaties and fortified cities.

A (Application) – The Moody Bible Commentary states “God always finds a way to pierce those very things people trust in the most.”  It is futile to place our trust in anything else other than You alone.  Our government, our careers, even our families – none of which are bad things to have and trust in and of themselves…but rather, what are we looking to in order protect us?  To prosper us?  To guide us?  To lead us?  What are depending on?  When all is said and done, who or what do we ultimately place our trust in?  If it is anything other than our God, then that has become an idol in our lives.  That doesn’t mean that we get rid of these things, but rather, that we shift our dependency to God instead.  Matthew 6:33 reminds us “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, You long for us to depend on You as a newborn baby depends on its parents for everything.   An infant depends on his or her parents for food, love, shelter, guidance…everything.  It is incapable of doing anything apart from a parent.  May we learn to depend on You this way.  Instead of thinking that we have everything figured out and can handle anything apart from You, may we rather draw closer to You and learn what it means to walk in step with Your Spirit each and every moment of the day.

Gray Hairs

S (Scripture) – Hosea 7:6-10 “For their hearts are like an oven as they approach their plotting; their anger smolders all night, in the morning it burns like a flaming fire.  All of them are hot like an oven, and they consume their rulers; all their kings have fallen.  None of them calls on Me.  Ephraim mixes himself with the nations; Ephraim has become a cake not turned.  Strangers devour his strength, yet he does not know it; gray hairs also are sprinkled on him, yet he does not know it.  Though the pride of Israel testifies against him, yet they have not returned to the LORD their God, nor have they sought Him, for all this.”

O (Observation) – Lord, I see You clearly trying to warn us about what can happen to a nation when we forget about You, place our trust in surrounding nations, and seek to do this life our way and apart from You.  We become angry.  Israel had become a nation that was integrating itself with these other nations in ways that were political, cultural, and religious.  The nation’s leadership had compromised itself repeatedly over the years; this didn’t happen overnight – just like gray hairs.  Instead of preserving the cultural uniqueness and devotion to You, security was found elsewhere.  Little did they realize that the nations that they trusted in were actually consuming them one bite at a time – both their wealth as well as their cultural identity.  “When Israel’s trust remained in their diplomacy, it was impossible for the nation to trust God and repent (Moody Bible Commentary).”

A (Application) – It’s fascinating and terrifying to see how different our country has become over the last 200+ years.  We are constantly hearing the verbiage of “separation of church and state” while at the same time being blasted with messages of tolerance for alternative lifestyles with which we may disagree.  In our age of political correctness, we have allowed an environment to brew that forbids sharing the truth of God’s word, in love.  Please note the “in love” portion of that sentence.  Instead of recognizing that our certain “inalienable rights” are “endowed, by their Creator,” we, as a nation, have chosen to ignore this Creator.  Just like the nation of Israel chose to walk away from Him over time, so have we.  Israel’s history of being dominated by another nation and taken into captivity has shown what happens when the Lord is abandoned.  Our nation is at a crossroads – where we will be 100 years from now based on the decisions our leaders and families have made over the last 100 years?  The leadership of a nation is critical, but the nation is made up of people, families, neighborhoods, cities, and states.  We all are part of this nation, and it is up to each individual to “return to the LORD their God” and to seek Him.  When will we learn that harboring anger in our hearts against God and depending on earthly powers for security in place of Him is foolish?  I say to my own children, “The sooner you learn to just trust me, life will be much easier for you.”  God is saying the same thing to us today.

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, You are trustworthy.  This life will have tragedies – even Your most devoted followers aren’t immune from illness, accident, or malice.  We live in a sin-soaked world where the choices of others are harmful.  Thankfully, this life is only the beginning of our existence, and the rest of eternity can be spent with You in a place where You “will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain…(Revelation 21:4)”  Until then, may we learn to depend on You alone for all of our needs.  Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

If We Only Knew

S (Scripture) – Hosea 6:6 “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

O (Observation) – It’s possible to go through life married to someone that you don’t even love or care about.  You live together, you sleep together, you might even raise children together, but you are just going through the motions.  You wake up and head off to work, come home and prepare dinner, make your grocery list for the weekend, and then do it all over again.  Just because it looks like a marriage from the outside doesn’t mean that it is a healthy and vibrant union of two souls that are instep with each other.  The same can be said of our relationship with the Lord.  It’s possible to go to church every Sunday, care group every Wednesday, prayer meetings every week, and even read the Bible every morning, yet still be an empty shell of a relationship with Him.

A (Application) – God doesn’t want His children going through the motions with Him.  He doesn’t need our church attendance to feel better about Himself.  He wants us to have something he calls the “knowledge of God.”  What kind of knowledge?  The battle in this life is for our minds and our hearts – if we only knew what power we have as followers of Jesus, we would lead very different lives.  If we only knew the love of the Father, we would never feel slighted another day.  If we only knew the surpassing greatness of our God and believed that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4) we would walk victoriously over every circumstance we face.  We come to know these truths experientially by walking with the Lord consistently through spending time with Him in prayer, getting to know Him through His word, and ultimately by living our lives His way.

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, Your truth changes everything.  Your promises are transformative.  Don’t ever let us come to a place where we are going through the motions with You.  We want so desperately to know You more, to experience what You have for us, and not get so caught up with the world’s distractions that we miss what is most important.  Eternity is a long time – our time here is limited.  May we use our time on this earth to prepare for eternity with You.

 

Intimacy vs. Fear

S (Scripture) – Hosea 5:15 “I will go away and return to My place until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.” NASB

“Then I’ll go back to where I came from until they come to their senses.  When they finally hit rock bottom, maybe they’ll come looking for me.” The Message

O (Observation) – Why is it that people need to sometimes hit rock bottom before they will finally look up and call out to God for help?  Perhaps it might be because we are so conditioned to be fiercely self-sufficient that we don’t want to acknowledge the fact that we really are not in control of every aspect of our lives.  Or maybe we look to anything and everything other than God to meet our needs, and then when we realize how empty it leaves us, we come to understand that we’ve run out of options other than Him.  I believe we have all been there – that moment when we just hang our head in our hands, weep, cry out, breathe deeply as we try to stop time long enough to process what exactly is going on in our situation.  If we don’t already have a level of intimacy with our Lord at that moment, then that scenario is usually what catapults us forward to seeking Him more fervently.  We want answers, wisdom, direction, comfort, and someone to make sense of it all.  He is the only One that can bring our chaos into order.

A (Application) – Today’s message by Marc Owings at South Bay Church spoke of the relationship between fear vs. intimacy.  He shared that the opposite of fear is having intimacy with God.  Such a simple, yet profound message.  If we are experiencing an unrivaled intimacy with God – we are open, transparent, real, seeking His face, listening to Him – then we will not be afraid in this life…fear of lacking, fear of loss, fear of hopelessness, fear of rejection, fear of the future…Paul admonishes Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.”  May we not allow a spirit of fear to grip our hearts in the midst of cultural uncertainty and instability around the world.  May we not entertain a spirit of fear when we hear unexpected news that threatens to change our circumstances for the worse.  Instead, may we consistently go deeper in our intimacy with the Lord so that the spirit of fear has no place in our hearts.  May we never require a constant state of affliction or hitting rock bottom before we crave that closeness with our God.

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, You are the intimate God who created us and breathed the breath of life into mankind.  Precious Jesus, You are the intimate Son who walked among mankind and gave Your life for us.  Holy Spirit, You are the intimate Counselor who takes up residence inside believers and gives us power for overcoming every fear.  May we yearn for continued closeness with you, God, so that we will be prepared to face anything that might happen to us in this life unafraid.

Destroyed for Lack of Knowledge

S (Scripture) – Hosea 4:1-3, 6, 10-12 “Listen to the word of the LORD, O sons of Israel, for the LORD has a case against the inhabitants of the land, because there is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land.  There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery.  They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed.  Therefore the land mourns, and everyone who lives in it languishes along with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky, and also the fish of the sea disappear…My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.  Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest.  Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children…They will eat, but not have enough; they will play the harlot, but not increase, because they have stopped giving heed to the LORD.  Harlotry, wine and new wine take away the understanding.  My people consult their wooden idol, and their diviner’s wand informs them; for a spirit of harlotry has led them astray, and they have played the harlot, departing from their God.”

O (Observation) – The entire nation had collectively made a series of choices that consistently pushed God further and further away.  It didn’t happen overnight.  It didn’t happen without warning.  The people had fallen into a state of being estranged from the Lord, and didn’t even recognize that it was an issue.  Everyone who lived in the land was languishing.  To languish means “to be or become weak or feeble; droop; fade…to lose vigor and vitality…or to undergo neglect or experience prolonged inactivity; suffer hardship and distress.”  The people thought they knew better than God, and despite their best efforts to make it on their own without Him, the people were operating out from under the protective covering of the Lord.  Instead of ruling under the authority of the Lord and depending on Him for His blessing, guidance, and protection, they instead chose to make do without Him.  Ultimately, it cost them their freedom, as they were invaded by a neighboring country and taken captive for 70 years.

A (Application) – History repeats itself.  In our nation, we are experiencing the same series of choices that are slowly putting more and more distance in-between us and Him.  We are at a critical time in our history when we will either recommit ourselves to the Lord and yield to His authority, or we will continue to go down a path that leads to our land languishing until such time that His hand of protection is removed completely.  May we not be destroyed for lack of knowledge.  May we not forget the law of our God.  May we never stop giving heed to the Lord.  Let us continue to grow in our relationship with Him, and stand firm in our faith despite the culture’s chaos around us.

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, You love us so much.  Forgive our wandering hearts as we think we know better than You and make decisions that break Your heart.  May we humble ourselves, pray, seek Your face, and watch You heal our land as You have promised.  It starts with us as individuals.  May we yearn for a life that honors You and others, and hungers and thirsts for righteousness.