The Ways of the Lord are Right

S (Scripture) – Hosea 14:8-9 “O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols?  It is I who answer and look after you.  I am like a luxuriant cypress; from Me comes your fruit.  Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them.  For the ways of the LORD are right, and the righteous will walk in them, but transgressors will stumble in them.” NASB

“Ephraim is finished with gods that are no-gods.  From now on I’m the one who answers and satisfies him.  I am like a luxuriant fruit tree.  Everything you need is to be found in me.  If you want to live well, make sure you understand all of this.  If you know what’s good for you, you’ll learn this inside and out.  God’s paths get you where you want to go.  Right-living people walk them easily; wrong-living people are always tripping and stumbling.” Message

O (Observation) – Lord, when will we learn that You know what You are talking about?  So many times in our lives we proclaim with our lips that we are trusting You with everything, yet we still lead a life devoid of Your power and peace; we continue to strive in our own strength, worry and anxiety dominate our thinking, and we can become consumed with ridiculously unimportant minutia that floods through our day…and we miss it.  We miss the kingdom work that You have for us to do.  You are the One who answers and looks after us.  From You comes our fruit.  It’s all from You, all about You, and the enemy wants so desperately for us to believe the lie that it isn’t.

A (Application) – Satan knows that “those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).”  Satan knows that the Lord “will keep in perfect peace all who trust in Him; all whose thoughts are fixed on Him (Isaiah 26:3).”  Lord, Your ways are right, and You offer a life of peace, joy, victory, and eternal security.  Yet so many choose to disregard You, and exchange the truth of You for a lie, and worship created things rather than their Creator (Romans 1:25).  As a result, these people are broken, making their way through life trying to make sense of the world around them, and attempting to find answers to life’s deepest questions within themselves.  Truth, by definition, cannot be relative.  Today’s post-modern world would have us believe that my truth is true for me, and someone else’s different truth is true for them, and somehow, it all can be true, without error, simultaneously.  This is absurd.  John 18:37 records the dialogue between Pilate and Jesus, “Therefore Pilate said to Him, ‘So You are a king?’  Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king.  For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”  We can have confidence in Jesus that His words are true – Jeremiah 29:13 says “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”  May we stop searching for answers in all the wrong places.

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, as we look around at our world today and see all of the brokenness, emptiness, and tragedy that is occurring, it is tempting to wonder what is “wrong” with You – I read something recently where a person I have great respect for asked this question, “What is wrong with our world?  And with our God?”  It stopped me in my tracks – there is nothing wrong with You…our world has intentionally chosen in incremental steps to reject You and Your truth, walk away from Your ways, silence those who would say otherwise, sue those who fail to fall in line with the majority, and make it illegal to say Your name or pray in schools.  We are then interestingly shocked at what happens – it is impossible to maintain a land of peace and righteousness when the people of the land shut You out.  What we are seeing today is only the beginning of the fruit of our harvest.  I pray that all would come to a knowledge of the truth, and instead of questioning what is wrong with You, that we would rather look within – what are we doing for You, and for Your kingdom?  Show us, Lord, what it is that You have for us to do, and empower us to follow through in Your strength.  Rebuild our nation, one family at a time…one person at a time.

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They Forgot Me

S (Scripture) – Hosea 13:2-6, 9-10  “And now they sin more and more, and make for themselves molten images, idols skillfully made from their silver, all of them the work of craftsmen.  They say of them, ‘Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves!’  Therefore they will be like the morning cloud, and like dew which soon disappears, like chaff which is blown away from the threshing floor and like smoke from a chimney.  Yet I have been the LORD your God since the land of Egypt; and you were not to know any god except Me, for there is no savior besides Me.  I cared for you in the wilderness, in the land of drought.  As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, and being satisfied, their heart became proud; therefore they forgot Me…It is your destruction, O Israel, that you are against Me, against your help.  Where now is your king that he may save you in all your cities, and your judges of whom you requested ‘Give me a king and princes?'”

O (Observation) – Lord, the words You use to describe Israel’s future are chilling – morning cloud, dew which soon disappears, chaff which is blown away, and smoke from a chimney – all of these things vanish in the blink of an eye.  They are no more stable and secure than a mist.  Why would anyone want to place his or her trust in something so fleeting?  Yet we all have done it.  Instead, You are the Almighty God, the same yesterday, today, and forever, the One capable of caring for us, restoring us, rescuing us, protecting us, sustaining us, and have promised us eternity with You for those who know You through Jesus.  You are eternal, know the end from the beginning, and this is Your story that we are living in…why on earth would anyone trust in anything other than the Creator of all things?

A (Application) – Something bizarre happens when mankind experiences “their pasture” and “become satisfied.”  Our hearts become proud, and people forget about You – instead, trust is placed elsewhere – political leaders and ideologies, military strength, peace treaties, international alliances, our own wisdom, our GDP, our own careers, retirement accounts, and a laundry list of other sources that we worship and focus on more than on You.  It is easy for me to see how this happened to Israel – the decay of the nation was progressive in nature, just as it is in our own day now.  Each year, and each subsequent generation is further away from the truth of God, resulting in prayer and God being removed from schools, further intentional “separation of church and state,” and the church’s failure to intentionally disciple the next generation of Christ followers with truth and love.  The enemy’s agenda is progressing, by breaking down the fundamental component of society – the family.  Men are not rising to the occasion of being the spiritual leaders of the home, women are not honoring and respecting their husbands as the leaders of the home, children are in rebellion against the authority of their parents and dishonor them without shame, bitterness and un-forgiveness plague generations of loved ones, adults – both young and old – are believing lies about the purpose and place of sex within a covenant marriage between a husband and wife, and money is tearing apart families at the seams because it oftentimes is not being handled in a God-honoring way.  Even though these consequences of our decisions over the last 50 or so years have clearly resulted in the decay of the family within our culture, progressive ideals claim that we are indeed, making progress.  In our satisfaction apart from You, we are like pigs that sit within our own filth and enjoy it.  Every day we hear of the hatred and violence that is brewing within the hearts of those around us, and tragedy after tragedy keep occurring…yet we wonder why all of this is “suddenly” happening and act surprised.  If only we could understand as a nation what it means to know You fully, to depend on You only, and submit to You completely, we would experience a time of restoration like no other.  Only Your love and healing can fix the brokenness of our day.  Oh, how I long for the future with You that You have promised us.

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, thank You for truth.  Thank You for restoration.  Thank You for Your promises.  I pray that all who do not currently know You intimately would be drawn to Your kindness.  Instead of believing the lies about Your nature, Your character, Your word, and Your intentions, I pray that they would seek Your face, and that You would show Yourself to them in a mighty way; that they would understand how much You love them.

Forever Unchanging, Forever Faithful

S (Scripture) – Hosea 12:6 “Therefore, return to your God, observe kindness and justice, and wait for your God continually.” NASB

So now, come back to your God.  Act with love and justiceand always depend on Him.” NLT

O (Observation) – Lord, I see You giving the children of Israel and Judah three simple steps to follow in order to turn away from their lifestyle of self-sufficiency, trusting in anything else other than You, and celebrating brokenness and iniquity rather than healing and restoration.  Step 1 is to “return” to You; to “come back” to You.  This implies that You are a covenant God that has already made Your promise to them.  You haven’t gone anywhere – they were the ones to slowly drift away from You.  All they needed to do was acknowledge this, and recommit their hearts and minds to following You and Your ways.  Step 2 was to “observe kindness and justice,” and other translations use the words “love and justice” or “mercy and justice.”  The premise is for them to treat others with kindness, mercy, and love in a heart of service to them, while also being fair and consistent in all matters.  This same command is given in Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Step 3 is a state of being – to actually depend on nothing else other than You for everything, always.  This means to release anything in our lives that we have allowed to take Your place…anything that we’ve come to depend on other than You alone.  Our careers, our connections, our own skills and talents; having self-confidence is healthy and necessary, but having confidence solely in ourselves apart from You is self-sufficiency and a very dangerous state in which to live.  Everything changes, and nothing is forever…except for You.  When everything is falling apart and everything we trusted fails us, You will still be there – forever unchanging, and forever faithful.

A (Application) – If we have found ourselves straying away from the truth of God, all we must do to come back into alignment with Him is follow the same three steps – acknowledge the need to return, act on our change of heart by treating others well, and depend on God alone each and every day.  He is faithful, and will be right there waiting for us with open arms.

P (Prayer) – Lord of Heaven and Earth, You are the same yesterday, today, and forever.  It’s us that changes.  Sometimes that means we drift away from Your covering and think we know best how to live our lives apart from You.  Thank You for Your mercy and patience as we find our way back to Your heart.  Thank You for always being ready to receive us as sons and daughters.  You can be trusted.  You can be depended upon.  Our hope in You is secure.

Compassions are Kindled

S (Scripture) – Hosea 11:8-11 “How can I give you up, O Ephraim?  How can I surrender you, O Israel?  How can I make you like Admah?  How can I treat you like Zeboiim?  My heart is turned over within Me, all My compassions are kindled.  I will not execute My fierce anger; I will not destroy Ephraim again.  For I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.  They will come trembling like birds from Egypt and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will settle them in their houses, declares the LORD.”

O (Observation) – Just as a mother or father doesn’t long to execute consequences with his or her children, so our Heavenly Father doesn’t look forward to carrying out judgement.  Our God is One of compassion and love, and if we would only heed His word and listen to Him then He would never have to follow through on judgement for such unrighteousness.  He sent prophet after prophet to warn the people of what was going to happen if they chose to continue turning from Him, yet they “refused to return” to Him (v.5).

The Moody Bible Commentary adds “Even though God does not actually question His own decision-making, here Hosea used human terms to describe God’s emotions in continuing to love Israel.  The cities of Admah and Zeoboiim were neighbors of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gn 14:2, 8) and represent human depravity.  Although Israel’s sin made the nation deserving of complete destruction in the manner of Sodom and Gomorrah, God chose not to repeat (again) the corporate death sentence exacted at Sodom.  God’s righteousness demands that sin be punished, but in His compassions God can choose to limit the extent of his anger and wrath.”

When His children returned from exile, humble and seeking His face, God promised to show His compassion on them and settle them in their houses.  This promise was most likely not just for the Israelites of the age, but also a promise for future generations when the Messiah returns.

A (Application) – May we remember that our God is a God of love.  He does not want to see His children exiled and taken captive by anyone or anything.  At the same time, our God is holy, and cannot allow sin to continue without being dealt with; may we not confuse God’s patience with us as acceptance of our behavior.  His compassion allows for time for us to repent (change our minds) and turn from our wicked ways in order to follow Him again.  If we decide to continue in disobedience, then we cannot be surprised when the day finally comes for Him to enact judgement.  Ask God to search our hearts and minds for anything that is displeasing to Him, and agree with Him to call it what it is – sin – and walk away from it.  Through the blood of Jesus, we are able to do it.  1 Corinthians 10:13 says “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

P (Prayer) – Thank You, Lord, that You love us enough to not let us get away with whatever we want.  You know better than we do what is good for us, and what is not.  I trust You as my God and my Father; search my heart and bring to mind anything that is displeasing to You.  Whenever I am tempted, I trust that You will provide a way of escape for me.  Thank You for Your compassionate heart – may I have the same compassion on others that sin against me.

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.

 

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.