Hosea proclaims Destruction and Punishment / Paul: Life Through the Spirit: 23rd July 2021

Hosea 8:1-9:17

Israel was to reap the whirlwind of destruction due to their unfaithful idolatrous worship. The golden calf that they worshipped at Bethel had been made by a human craftsman. It was not God.

God would remember the wickedness of the Israelites and punish them. The people of Judah had fortified many towns but this would not save them. God would send fire upon their cities.

Prophets were the ‘watchmen’ over Israel, yet the people set snares for them on all their paths and were hostile to them in the house of his God (Hosea 9:8).

When God had first made covenants with the Patriarchs of Israel it had been like ‘finding grapes in the desert’ and ‘seeing early fruit on the fig-tree’ (Hosea (9:10). It had been beautifully refreshing to find righteousness and faith.

God would reject his people because they had not obeyed him. They would become wanderers among the nations.

Romans 8:1-17

Romans 8 is the climax of the amazing book of Romans – the most intense theological treatise in the Bible.

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom.8:1). The Holy Spirit has set us free from the law of sin and death.

God sent his own son to be a sin offering (Rom.8:3). Those who love in accordance with the Spirit have their mind set on what the Spirit desires. We no longer live according to what our former sinful nature desired. When our mind is controlled by the Spirit, we enjoy life and peace.

The sinful mind is death, hostile to God and does not submit to God’s law. If we are controlled by a sinful nature, then we cannot please God (Rom.8:8).

When we have been baptized and have asked Jesus into our lives as our personal saviour we are controlled by the Spirit. The Spirit of God lives in us. We know that the Spirit of God is living in us when we pray in the Spirit / speak in tongues. This proves the Holy Spirit is living within us and, as he raised Christ from the dead, he will also give life to our mortal bodies (Rom.8:11).

In order to live, we have ‘to put to death the misdeeds of the body’ (Rom.8:13). We do this by the power of the Spirit. I was too weak to eliminate my misdeeds when I tried to rely on my own willpower, by handing over control to the Holy Spirit through praying in tongues, he did it for me.

When we are lead by the Spirit of God we become ‘born again’ as we ask Jesus into our lives, we then become sons (and daughters of God) (Rom.8:14).

We are no longer slaves to fear, we have the Spirit of sonship. God is our Father. The Holy Spirit will testify to that. We are God’s children and heirs of God. When we emotionally or physically suffer, we are supernaturally linked to our Lord Jesus Christ and like all bad things in our life, God has designed good to come out of it. ‘We share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory’ (Rom.8:17).

Proverbs 17:25-18:6

We should pray to the Holy Spirit for wisdom so we will not bring grief and bitterness to our parents (Prov.17:25). ‘The fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook’ (Prov.18:4).

The Holy Spirit gives us self-control so we will use words with restraint and remain even-tempered (Prov.17:27). Keeping silent can make even the foolish appear wise and discerning (Prov.17:27). However, we should never miss an opportunity to proclaim the gospel when we know, through the wisdom imbued in us by the Holy Spirit, that it is an appropriate time.

Christian communities should be noted for their generosity and friendliness. Born-again sons of God should never be hostile (Prov.18:1).

Wicked fools do not want to understand and will show contempt. Foolish words will bring us strife (Prov.18:6).

We need to pursue and fight for justice. We should never be swayed by the wicked or deprive the innocent of justice. We should never unjustly punish those with integrity. God watches all and will judge us for our deeds.

Amos: The Nation to be Destroyed and then Restored / Paul: Death through Adam, Life Through Christ

Amos 8:1-9:15

God showed Amos a basket of ripe fruit that indicated that ‘the time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer’ (Amos 8:2). The Israelites would suffer for trampling the needy, doing away with the poor and cheating people with dishonest scales. God doesn’t like greed and injustice.

God would send a new kind of famine – not of lack of food or a thirst for water – but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord (Amos 8:11). Many people in this country choose to live in a faith famine during their spiritually empty, hedonistic lifestyle. Until something terrible happens to them and they experience illness, addiction or the death of someone close to them they won’t search for the word of the Lord.

God is very angry at the Israelites and is going to ruthlessly hunt down all the sinners throughout the kingdom, no matter where they try to hide. God definitely has a hard edge and we don’t want to annoy him. When we are friends with God we find comfort that he is omnipresent and with us to the ends of the earth. Unrepentant sinners are terrified to find out they cannot escape the clutches of God. ‘I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good’ (Amos 9:4). The relationship between God and evil is a difficult topic. Some pastors gloss over this with a childish ‘God is good’ and ‘devil is bad’ simplicity. However, the devil is not allowed to do anything unless God has permitted him to do so. God is in charge of everything that takes place. The devil is constrained in his actions (or we would all be dead already) and so if something bad is happening in your life, it is because God has loosened the restraints on the devil to allow it to take place. Allowing something to take place or neglecting to stop it when you have the power (and God has all the power) is the same as doing it yourself. So we can safely conclude that God allows both good and evil events, even though he wants us all to live in love and peace. When God allows evil to happen it is because he wants a greater good to come out of it.

We can see the horrors of the holocaust in Amos 9:2-4 with the Jews driven into exile and slayed by the sword. Wherever they hid, the Jewish people were hunted down and slayed. It is a terrifying prophecy.

God was going to shake Israel as grain is shaken in a sieve to remove the rubbish. All the complacent sinners would be sifted out to die by the sword.  

Eventually, God would restore Israel and bring his exiled people back – as he demonstrated in 1948. The Israelis rebuilt cities, planted vineyards and ate their own fruit (Amos 9:14).

Shepherds play a key role in the history of Israel. Amos, a shepherd turned prophet, predicted exile followed by restoration. Jeremiah prophesied that the bad shepherds of the Israelites would be punished and that God himself would gather the remnant of his flock from exile. God would place good shepherds over them to tend them until the ultimate good shepherd, Jesus, would be born (Jer.23:5). As soon as baby Jesus had been born, the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem were called by the angels to pay homage to the king of all shepherds.  

No matter how hostile their neighbours are, aggression against Israel will always be pointless as God has replanted his holy people in their own land, that he had given them ‘never again to be uprooted’ (Amos 9:15).

Romans 5:12-21

Sin entered the world through one man, Adam and we all retain part of his damaged nature, a tendency to choose sin. Death came through sin and reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, when the law was given. We were all condemned by the single sin of Adam but we have been redeemed by Jesus, the new Adam.

God’s gift of grace came after millions of sins and brought justification (Romans 5:16). Death was able to spread through the whole human race by Adam’s sin, but Jesus’ death gives us abundant life through God’s endless provision of grace and gift of righteousness. We are no longer guilty and condemned in God’s sight once we are baptized and believe in Jesus. Through God’s priceless gift of grace, he has made us his adopted children, co-heirs with his son and he remains pleased with us.

The people of the world are no longer condemned to death as we were due to Adam’s sin. Our justification by the blood of Jesus has brought eternal life to all people through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  

Proverbs 17:15-24

God detests injustice (Prov.17:15). We should never accept bribes to pervert the course of justice (Prov.17:23).

We won’t prosper if we have perverse hearts and deceitful tongues (Prov.17:20). After becoming baptized, we need to ask the Holy Spirit living within us to sanctify us, to day-by-day gradually drive the perversity out of our hearts.

True friends are exceedingly precious and may be more help in adversity than many members of our family. True friends can be rare and often we can only count our married partner as a true friend.  Men often have acquaintances rather than ‘friends’. They share a hobby or pastime together and this might just be football or drinking. It is very rare to have a friendship like David had with Saul’s son, Jonathan. They were friends that loved at all times (Prov.17:17). David was a man after God’s own heart and so would have avoided picking quarrels with his friend (Prov.17:19).    

Foolish people do not bring joy to their parents and they waste money. They have no desire to get wisdom. We should pray the Holy Spirit each day to receive wisdom and to esteem it more than gold. ‘A discerning man keeps wisdom in view’ (Prov.17:24).

Being cheerful makes us healthy. If our spirit is crushed, an evil spirit of trauma can latch onto us and prolong our grief. Evil spirits want us to destroy ourselves and those around us. We need to attend a Spirit-filled church to praise and worship God and to receive prayer for inner healing.

Amos: Judgement on Israel and Its Neighbours / Paul on God’s Faithfulness: 15th July 2021

Amos 1:1-2:16

Today, we start the book of Amos. He was a shepherd and forester before being called to be a prophet.

Amos (meaning ‘burden-bearer’) prophesied at the time that Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam II was king of the Northern kingdom (Israel) around 760 BC (Amos 1:1). He was a contemporary of Jonah. Even though Amos was born in Judah, in the South, he prophesied to the North (Israel).

The pastures of the shepherds were drying up (Amos 1:2) as were loyalty and obedience to the one true God as people prospered materially. As people’s standards of living went up during a time of peace, greed and avarice increased and people’s morals and spirituality decayed.  No wonder Amos felt compelled to speak out.

Through Amos, God pronounced judgement on Israel’s neighbours setting out the terrible things that would happen to them because of their despicable behaviour: their cruelty, slave-trading, brutality and disrespect of the dead. This included the Arameans, the Philistines, the Phoenicians in Tyre, the Edomites, the Ammonites, the Moabites and the people of Judah. The sins of Judah included rejecting the laws of God, not keeping his decrees and being led astray by false gods. For a shepherd, Amos was very well informed about world affairs through the Spirit of God.

Amos prophesied that fire would come upon Judah that would consume the fortresses of Jerusalem (Amos 2:5) and we have previously discussed how this would eventually come about. The Babylonian army would burn Jerusalem to the ground and take its inhabitants into exile (2 Kings 25:9).

Amos convicted Israel of its sins. The people were greedy; they trampled on the poor, the needy and the righteous; they denied justice to the oppressed; they were sexually immoral and they desecrated holy places with their disrespectful behaviour.

God had brought his people out of Egypt, fed them for forty years in the desert and destroyed the native people who had been living in the promised land (the Amorites who included a race of giants). The Israelites had been tremendously blessed and protected by their God. However, the Israelites had betrayed God. They had corrupted those who had taken holy vows (the Nazirites) and commanded God’s representatives (the prophets) not to speak.

God vowed to crush Israel as a heavy cart loaded with grain would crush everything in its path. Neither the swift or the strong or the brave would escape the oncoming wrath. Even the bravest warriors would flee (Amos 2:16).

My country, the (not so) United Kingdom has been struggling. The recent European football tournament revealed we still have a nasty racist element in the population, our politicians have voted to cut aid to the poorest countries in the world and some keep trying to sneak in extremist pro-abortion laws allowing terminations up to birth. Religion is marginalised and barely tolerated as long as no-one says or does anything in the name of the Lord. Spirits of disbelief and disobedience are rife, even amongst the Christian community. Was the pandemic sent to crush us until enough people cried out to the Lord? We all need to summon our inner Amos and speak out.    

Romans 2:17-3:8

Paul preached against hypocrisy. If we pronounce that people should not commit adultery, we need to be careful not to look at others with lustful eyes. If we preach against stealing, we should not cheat on our taxes or break copyright. Some Jews said they abhorred idols, but then stole the statues from pagan temples and sold them. How do we earn our living? Do we run a corner shop selling cigarettes, alcohol, lottery cards and pornoography while professing to hate the sins associated with these items. The sexual sins of ‘celibate’ priests caused massive damage to the church and resulted in God’s name being blasphemed amongst the general population (Rom.2:24). Satan will always attack and tempt priests more than any other occupation. He hates them with a vengeance. However, we all have sufficient grace to resist all temptations.

Religion cannot just be theoretical or it is worthless. If Christianity has rules and obligations we must stick with them. We can’t just be Christians outwardly, the Holy Spirit living inside us from our baptism needs to be allowed to influence our daily lives and continually make us holier. We need to be Christians in the depth of our hearts not just on the surface.

The Jews were entrusted with the very words of God (Rom.3:2). Jesus was a Jew and our salvation has come from his sacrifice on the cross. We have the New Testament in addition to the Jewish law to guide us. The word of God is our living source of inspiration.

God is faithful even when we are unfaithful. When we sin, God looks even more righteous in comparison to our sinful ways. However, we should strive to be like him through the power of the Holy Spirit. The fact that we receive salvation as a gift from God does not give us licence to sin.  We want to become more and more Christ-like each day through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are ambassadors for God.

Proverbs 17:5-14

We should never mock the poor or gloat over disaster. Christians rejoice with those who are rejoicing and weep with those in pain and suffering. They are all our brothers and sisters.

We should try to make our children proud. The immature may be embarrassed of those who live for Christ but they will show respect in the end.

We should rush to forgive and forget as ‘he who covers over an offence promotes love’ (Prov.17:9). ‘Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam’ (Prov.17:14). It is too easy to start quarrels on social media but nobody likes to be ignored. Changing the subject may be the best way to keep our friends but we should welcome just criticism. It is precious information.

Rebellion has been rife in the country through the pandemic – many people have refused vaccines and hate wearing masks. Merciless officials will have to be sent against them to legislate for compulsory vaccines for healthcare workers and vaccination passports for holidays (Prov.17:11).

God will punish the treacherous: those who repay good with evil. He will hand them over to Satan. Evil will never leave their house until they repent and renounce their ways.

Image: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amos_(prophet)#/media/File:Amos-prophet.jpg

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