Hosea Reconciled with his Adulterous Wife / Paul: Slaves to Righteousness: July 21st 2021

Hosea 3:1-5:15

God told Hosea to become reconciled with his wife. She was an adulterous prostitute loved by another man. Hosea was instructed to ‘love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes’ (Hosea 3:1). The Israelites had acted as prostitutes chasing after demonic deities. God would eventually pay the price to redeem both them and us, by Jesus dying on the cross. By the way, the sacred raisin cakes do sound delicious. We have Eccles cakes in this country, which may be a similar recipe but hopefully haven’t been dedicated to demonic deities.

Homer bought his wife, which implies that she was a slave and might not have had any say in her career choice. He told her to be faithful to him alone, now he had redeemed her.

Hosea prophesied that after the Israelites returned from exile, they would return and come trembling to seek the Lord their God and David their king (Hosea 3:5). Jesus became incarnate and fulfilled the latter half of this prophecy.

Hosea laid out the charges against Israel, many of which can be levelled at the UK today. In our country there is little faithfulness and love and most people don’t acknowledge God. We have cursing, lying, murdering, stealing and adultery. Many of our leaders are divorced and remarried and so are living in adulterous relationships. If a woman is raped, they can get an abortion and so ‘bloodshed follows bloodshed’ (Hosea 4:2) rather than counter-acting evil with love.

We live in a world of ecological collapse with species becoming extinct and fish in the sea dying from pollution. People are continuing to harm the world with their thoughtless behaviour – ‘my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge’ (Hosea 4:6).

Many people don’t spend time reading the word of God and so reject knowledge of their creator. We have seen the scandal of priests sinning against God and exchanging their Glory for something disgraceful. Even pastors and vicars get divorced and remarried feeding ‘on the sins of my people’, ‘like people, like priests’ (Hosea 4:8-9).

God would ‘punish both (people and priests) for their ways and repay them for their deeds’ (Hosea 4:9). The people had given themselves to prostitution just as many modern people consume endless pornography, beamed directly into their houses through the internet. Many young women, even housewives, are using their bodies as an income stream.

Many of us have worked in secular jobs, doing pointless tasks just for the money. We may very well need it when we have young families to support and massive mortgages. We hire out our bodies to sit in an office where we begrudgingly churn out work while keeping our mind on the money and counting the minutes on the clock. Many of us have given ourselves to both old wine and new to get through the depression of having to prostitute ourselves in the office the following week. The Israelites tried to consult man-made idols for advice rather than praying to God. We might follow a celebrity idol on social media and follow their decrees.

God would not punish the women for their prostitution and adultery because the men were equally at fault. Not only did men use prostitutes – particularly the ones at the shrines to the demonic fertility gods, but they also forced women into prostitution, like Hosea’s wife before he bought her freedom.

God did not want Israel’s stubborn sins to affect the southern kingdom of Judah (Hosea 4:15). God wanted to pasture his people like innocent lambs in a meadow but their rulers loved shameful ways and so they would be swept away in shame.

Hosea pronounced God’s judgement on the people. They were so embedded in their sins that ‘their deeds do not permit them to return to their God’ (Hosea 5:4). These days, there is no sin that can prevent us from experiencing the love of Christ. We just have to repent and renounce of our sins, believe in Christ and ask him into our lives and become baptized.

God was going to pour out his wrath like a flood of water. The Israelites would be carried off, with no-one to rescue them. God would retire from them until they admitted their guilt and, in their misery, sought his face (Hosea 5:15).

Romans 6:15-7:6

If we believe in Jesus, we are set free from sin and become ‘slaves to righteousness’ (Rom.6:18). We are no longer slaves to sin and our sinful addictions. When we are baptized and the Holy Spirit comes to live in us, he can help us break free from any sinful habit. He builds us up and makes us holier day by day.

I have been a baptized Christian since I was one but for decades I let my body become enslaved to impurity. I reaped no benefit from my sins, I was on the road to death coaxed gently step-by-step down the path to destruction by oppressing evil spirits. The Holy Spirit lived within me as a little flickering pilot light of faith.

God gives us enough grace to resist any temptation but it was only when I started praying in tongues for extended periods of time, that the Holy Spirit fired up his power within me and burnt off my sinful habits and addictions. I lost the rebellious desire to sin. I was no longer a slave to sin once I handed over control to the righteousness of the Holy Spirit.

The wages of sin are death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Rom.6:23).

We now belong to Christ, serving in the new way of the Spirit (Rom.7:6), so that we might bear fruit for God (Rom.7:4).

Psalm 88:1-9a

I have cried out to God when it felt like my soul was full of trouble and my life was drawing near the grave (Psalm 88:3). He sent an entire new Church to save me and pluck me from lacklustre praise and worship. He is the God who saves me (Ps.88:1).

God sometimes allows the devil to interfere in our lives, which can bring us down into the lowest pit of despair (Ps.88:6). However, when bad things happen it is because God wants good to come out of them. We are refined like gold to make us stronger. We gain character and hope through our trials and tribulations.  

When we are suffering we must turn to God not away from him. Through persisting in prayer, he will turn his ears to our cries (Ps.88:2).

Image: https://pixabay.com/photos/freedom-sky-hands-handcuffs-clouds-1886402/

Death of Samson / The Woman caught in Adultery: May 13th 2021

Judges 16:1-17:13

Samson slept with a prostitute while the people of Gaza lay in wait to kill him. He successfully escaped, ripping off the doors of the city gates. God was still giving him phenomenal strength despite his immoral pastimes. Once the Holy Spirit has given us a gift, he doesn’t remove it due to a brief lapse in our personal morality.

Samson later fell in love with a Philistine woman, Delilah. Right from the start of their relationship she was hired by the rulers of the Philistines to try to find Samson’s weakness so he could be subdued. She was a forerunner of Judas; betraying the one who loved her for silver.

Samson must have known she was a snake in the grass because he kept winding her up. First of all he told her that if he was tied up with seven fresh thongs (ropes not pants), he would become weak. She immediately tied him up with seven fresh ropes / thongs – which is pretty suspicious behaviour. Samson snapped the thongs as easily as a piece of string snaps close to a flame. Delilah accused Samson of lying to her and making her look like a fool. He should have kicked her out at this stage for betraying him and trying to get him killed.

She twice more asked how Samson could be subdued and he lied again saying if he was bound with new ropes or had his hair braided into fabric on a loom he would become weak. He again found that Delilah did both of these things to him having hidden hostile men hidden in the room. It must have been a massive room with copious hiding places! By now, he should have left her and be hurrying away in the opposite direction. Unbelievably, Samson relents to her constant nagging and actually tells this evil woman his secret. As he has been set apart to God from birth as a Nazirite, his hair has never been cut. His hair is a visible, outward sign of his special relationship with God. Of course, Delilah coaxed him to fall asleep in her lap and arranged for all his hair to be cut off. The Lord left him (v.20).

Samson had been exceedingly careless with his relationship with God. He knew that his hair was a key symbol to show he was in obedient union with God. From Delilah’s previous behaviour, he would have known what was going to happen to him. If we are determined to turn our back on God, either deliberately or carelessly, he will let us go. However, he will always be on the look out for us, still loving us and longing for us to return to him.

The Philistines seized Samson, gouged his eyes out, bound him with bronze shackles and put him to work in their prison.

The Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to their deity. However, Samson’s hair had began to grow back while he was imprisoned. He was happy to be brought out to entertain the Philistine crowd as it gave him a chance to get his hands on the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Samson prayed that God should remember him and strengthen him just once more (v.28). Samson acknowledged that God was the source of his power. ‘Let me die with the Philistines!’ (v.30) he shouted as he pushed down the temple on all the rulers and the people in it. On the roof alone, there had been three thousand men and women. ‘Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived’ (v.30).

Samson had led the Israelites for twenty years and he wouldn’t be the first leader brought down by lust for a woman. God’s strength had returned to him when he consecrated himself to the Lord again, by allowing his hair grow back and praying to God with faith. This story fits in with my Pastor’s philosophy that God always wants to work through people. He no longer wants to do things by himself. God could have caused the temple to collapse by sending a hurricane or an earthquake but instead, he went to all the trouble of having Samson imprisoned so that he, as God’s representative on earth, could carry out a legendary deed. An earthquake would have been forgotten after a few hundred years but the story of Samson is preserved for ever. So we shouldn’t just sit around waiting for God to sort things out. He sorts things out through people. We need to pray to determine the will of God and work on making it happen.

Micah’s idols

Micah, a man from Ephraim, had stolen eleven hundred shekels of silver from his mother. He returned it to her and she gave some to a silversmith, who made them into an image and an idol. They were put in Micah’s house, in his shrine.

He also made a priestly garment, an ephod, and installed one of his sons as a priest.

‘In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit’ (17:6). We don’t have a single unifying king these days. We gave a democracy with a huge rift down the centre. Half the population don’t respect the government because they didn’t vote for them. Not many people respect religion and are happy to go their own way picking and choosing non-Christian spiritual pastimes such as yoga or mindfulness. In the 21st century, hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens are all doing as they see fit – but not as God would want them to live.

Micah upgraded his household priest by installing a passing Levite as his ‘father and priest’ (v.10). At least, a Levite was from the correct tribe of Jerusalem for priestly duties. However, priests had to be commissioned by authority of the official High Priest. People couldn’t just employ a spare Levite and give them a wage. However, this is what people do now. With a degree from a Bible college, people set themselves up as preachers and allow their followers to give them a wage rather than being under the authority of a traditional denomination. On the positive side, Micah obviously was trying to worship God. However, he was starting his own brand of religion with an ephod, an image, idols and a paid priest. Micah’s personal in-house priest was a status-symbol like having a brand new Tesla on the drive. We are meant to worship as a community with an officially ordained minister, not start up a new sect in our own houses.

John 7:45-8:11

The temple guards did not arrest Jesus because, ‘No-one ever spoke the way this man does’ (v.46). Ordinary people were finding his new brand of teaching fascinating. It was just the jealous, religious professionals with hardened hearts and closed ears that wanted him gone. They also held his Galilean origins against him, seemingly unaware of his birth in Bethlehem – in accordance with prophecy.

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees asked Jesus to condone stoning a woman to death for adultery. There was not sign of her male partner, who should also have been on trial, and there needed to be at least two witnesses to convict her. Jesus’ classic retort was: ‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her’ (v.7). All her accusers walked away starting with the oldest, who had presumably accumulated the greatest burden of sin. Of course, Jesus could have thrown a stone as he was without sin but he did not condemn her. Mary, his mother, was also without sin but she was not around. Many people misinterpret Romans 3:23: ‘for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’. Jesus never sinned and so the word ‘all’ obviously does not mean what people think it means. There are obviously exceptions. ‘All’ means ‘all’ of a particular people group. So the majority of the Jews and the majority of the Gentiles would have sinned but not every single one of them. Think of new babies or, indeed, the righteous that Jesus did not come to call (Luke 5:32). On the other hand, even new born babies inherit a portion of ‘original sin’ from their ancestor, Adam, and so need to be baptized to be made right with God.

A debate has raged through the centuries as to what Jesus wrote in the sand. As Jesus had recently been talking about ‘streams of living water’ (John 7:38), I think that Jeremiah (17:13) must be relevant: ‘Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water’. Possibly, Jesus first wrote down the name of the accused woman, through a supernatural gift of knowledge from the Holy Spirit. Then he wrote down the names of all the others present in the same list of sinners. They were all guilty of turning away from him.

Jesus’ new definition of adultery (Matt. 5:27): ‘I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart’ meant that some of the teachers of the law may have been committing adultery with this women at that very moment in time in their hypocritical hearts.

When everyone left without throwing a stone at the woman, Jesus instructed her to ‘Go now and leave your life of sin’ (8:11). It appears that adultery was not her only sin. Her whole life was a life of sin. She was caught up in daily disobedience and rebellion. It would be fascinating to know if she managed to stop sinning for the rest of her life after Jesus saved her. Or was it just for the rest of the day and she was back to her usual antics the very next day. I found it virtually impossible to break out of a cycle of repetitive sin until I handed more control of my life to the Holy Spirit. By praying in tongues for up to an hour a day, He made my desire to choose sin melt away. I couldn’t do this by my own efforts. Jesus will do the heavy lifting for us through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we just have to hand over control to him. He wants to heal us and liberate us with loving compassion, not condemn us.

Many Christians feel they are born again but carry on living in grave sin. After we have come to Jesus, we have to address the sinful areas in our life, unravelling them and dealing with the root. The Holy Spirit will tell us where they are and strengthen us as he gradually sanctifies our lives. When we look back, we can give glory to God for the journey he has carried us on.

Psalm 60:1-4

King David calls on God to restore us, after God was angry and rejected us.

God was angry with the whole of humanity due to our sins before Jesus made us justified and righteous in the eyes of God through his death on the cross.

We are currently living in desperate times. The world has been shaken by the coronavirus pandemic and is quaking. Only Jesus can mend the fractured world. Nations that have not yet turned to him and are staggering with their health services at breaking point need to come to the Father through his son. He will raise a banner for those who fear him, showing us where he may be found. It will deflect and protect us against the weapons of the enemy.

Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e1/Christ_and_the_Woman_Taken_in_Adultery_%28one_of_a_set_of_12_scenes_from_The_Life_of_Christ%29_MET_DP278246.jpg

Plague / John the Baptist: March 13th 2021

Leviticus 26:14-27:34

(Lev. 26:14) “But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands”

(Lev. 26:16) “I will bring upon you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and drain away your life.”

“When you withdraw into your cities, I will send a plague among you.” (Lev. 26:25).

Oh dear, this all sounds a bit familiar while facing at least another 3 weeks of Covid lockdowns.

NG (p. 151) comments that the reference to making the ‘sky like iron’ (v.19) could mean that prayers don’t get through to God while our relationship with him is broken. I think a remedy is ‘Praying in tongues (other languages)’. If we have asked the Holy Spirit to dwell fully in us and allow Him to pray to God for us, through our Spirit, than our prayers will get through.

Invite the Holy Spirit fully into your life so that He can pray through you:

“Come Holy Spirit and fill my heart. I invite you fully into my life. Give me a full measure of all of your gifts – particularly the gift of Praying in Tongues. Enkindle in me the power of your love. Send forth your Spirit and let me be recreated, so that you will renew the face of the earth.”

JM (p.199) states that we all must attempt to do what God instructs us to do – to keep his commandments.

However, the extraordinary list of diverse laws in the Old Testament meant that the Israelites were doomed to failure. We are all law breakers. Sometimes we don’t even know what all the laws are. I was nearly run down by somebody recently riding a silent electric scooter down the middle of the road. I knew it was illegal for him to ride it, because I had read this in a newspaper. I don’t know if the rider knew this or just didn’t care. The point being is that nobody can fully comply with an ever-increasing list of laws. We needed Jesus to become sin for us and ransom us by means of his blood, so that our sin (non-compliance with the law) could be forgiven and we could have a childlike relationship with God our father.

Thanks to Jesus, the ‘sky like iron’ has changed to a glorious sunny day.

Luke 1: 1-25

Who wrote the most pages in the New Testament ?

Most people would say Saint Paul. But looking in my NIV, the New Testament is around 286 pages long. Paul wrote 57 pages of these but Luke wrote 72 pages.

Doctor Luke, the only Gentile writer, compiled the largest chunk of the New Testament (the Gospel bearing his name and the Book of Acts) having carried out meticulous research using eye-witness accounts (Luke 1:1).

The first puzzle in this passage is who is the mysterious ‘Theophilus’ that Paul is writing this account for. There are plenty of theories: maybe he was the High Priest, perhaps he was a lawyer or a historian?

Luke stressed what a respectable family John the Baptist comes from (Luke 1:5). Not only was his father a priest but his mother was also descended from the first High Priest, Aaron brother of Moses.

The next puzzle regards alcohol. (Luke 1:15) ‘He (John the Baptist) is never to take wine or other fermented drink’. Why can’t someone especially dedicated to God drink fermented drink ? Is it something to do with the yeast? I drink apple cider vinegar every morning so I would be disqualified. Many people point back to Numbers 6:3 to interpret this reading and propose that John the Baptist was some kind of Nazirite – like Samson (perhaps they are confused by his long hair). However, I prefer Lev.10:8-10 when the Lord said to Aaron: ‘You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die’. John the Baptist was a Levite, the Israelite tribe from which all the priests came, and his role was to make the people ready for the Lord. According to Lev.10:10, wine can inhibit someone from ‘distinguishing between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean’ and from teaching effectively.

Maybe John the Baptist could enter into some kind of ‘Tent of Meeting’ in the wilderness with God to receive assistance and guidance?

In Luke 1:17, he states that John will ‘go on before the Lord, in the Spirit and power of Elijah‘ (see Malachi 3:1 and 4:5). John denied that he was actually ‘Elijah’ (John 1:21) even though Jesus said he was (Matthew 11:14) ‘And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come‘ but he fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy in a spiritual sense. Jesus implies that there can be several different ‘Elijahs’ with John being this specific one. Of course, the original Elijah is still alive (to God) because ‘He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive (Luke 20:38) and turns up in Luke 9:30 at the Transfiguration: ‘Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendour, talking with Jesus.’

In Luke1:18-20, Zechariah unwisely doubts the Archangel Gabriel and is struck dumb. It is never wise to be rude to an Archangel. There is an interesting contrast between his disrespectful question: ‘How can I be sure of this?‘ and Mary’s question tomorrow: ‘How will this be since I am a virgin?‘ – to which Gabriel could well have answered: ‘Good point!’

Proverbs 7:1-5

Wisdom will keep you away from the adulteress.

Adultery is amazingly common these days – with divorce and remarriage common.

It’s an unpopular fact that if you or your spouse have been married more than once than you are living in a permanent state of adultery, unless it has been proved that any previous marriages were not valid or any previous spouses have died. This can be difficult and painful to unravel but, if people are willing and they speak to a qualified priest about their relationships, it can be sorted out: ‘For with God nothing [is or ever] shall be impossible’ (Luke 1:37).

Of course, God forgives all our sins but we also have to make a conscious effort to turn away from sin and not live in the same sinful way on a daily basis.

After the woman caught in adultery was not stoned (John 8: 3-11) we read: ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go and leave your life of sin.’

Of course, it’s easy for me to say this as I have been happily married for nearly 30 years (thank God) but the world can tempt us with ‘adultery’ even when we are in our own homes doing something innocent. I wanted to read the world news today and clicked on a well known popular news site. The news stories all seemed well researched and informative. However, down the right hand side of the screen, there were dozens of gossipy celebrity news stories involving scantily clad celebrities. It’s common online that some useful information can be set up as bait to allow dubious material to infiltrate our lives. I had to swap to BBC News, which has some other pitfalls but at least it ensures that all its subjects are modestly dressed. That was the wise thing to do.

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