Friday, July 06, 2012


Israel, return to Yahweh your God, for you have stumbled in your sin.  Take words [of repentance] with you and return to the Lord.  Say to Him: ‘Forgive all [our] sin and accept what is good, so that we may repay You with praise from our lips.  Assyria will not save us, we will not ride on horses, and we will no longer proclaim, “Our gods!” to the work of our hands.  For the fatherless receives compassion in You.’" (Hosea 14:1-3 HCSB)

This week we have again celebrated the birthday of our nation.  By 1776, our forefathers had enough of the tyranny of King George and declared their independence from England.  One of the fundamental freedoms the colonists desired was freedom to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience.  You cannot understand the reason for our existence if you miss this crucial point.  England had a state church and many of those who came to these shores fled from that. 

We should not, however,  read that the proper separation of church and state was intended to be the severance of God and government.  America’s founding is intertwined with faith.  Its laws were predicated by the Bible.  Its founders—though not all evangelical Christians—were of a mindset saturated with a Scriptural worldview.  The declaration of independence from man was at the same time a declaration of dependence on God. 

How far we have strayed from that path; what peril we find ourselves in accordingly!  The situation in the nation of Israel in the days of Hosea the prophet has a striking parallel: the people had become idolaters—they had begun to depend on themselves; they trusted in the work of their own hands.   It is time for a declaration of dependence!


we will no longer proclaim, 'Our gods!' to the work of our hands.” (v.3b)

They were violating the first commandment of the ten.  This led to defiance of the second and opened the portal to every other command being broken. 

Consider then THE ROTTEN ROOT of this sin.  Sin did not begin in Eden, but in heaven—not with man, but with angels.  Lucifer was enamored with his own greatness and sought to live independently of God—to be an autonomous being.  You can read about it in Isaiah 14:12-15.  That’s how he became the Devil.

The rotten root of this evil led to the tasting of THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT.  Genesis tells us that the diabolical Serpent, Satan, offered the first humans the same tantalizing possibility.  Adam and Eve swallowed it and the world has never been the same.

Very soon we detect the results of THE POISONED PRODUCE in the construction of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11.  Adam’s race decides to build a tower to heaven.  This spirit of rebellion marks the proud heart of man.  Our culture today reeks of it.  The serpent’s venom flows through our veins.  Conservative radio host, Mark Levin, describes this as “Utopianism.”  The “Master Minds” of Washington, D.C. and other world government elitists think they know how to regain Eden—and they don’t need God to do it.  God’s reaction is described in Psalm 2:

The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord ridicules them.
  Then He speaks to them in His anger and terrifies them in His wrath:  ‘I have consecrated My King
on Zion, My holy mountain.
’” (Psalm 2:1-6 HCSB)

From a Scriptural Principle and its exposition, we next turn our attention to A SYMBOLIC PICTURE: ILLUSTRATION. 

we will not ride on horses” (v.3a)

The pagan nations were marked by their dependence on their own military machinery to dominate their neighbors.  From Pharaoh’s charioteers, to the iron chariots of the Canaanites, to the cavalry of the Assyrians and Babylonians—these nations trusted in their own might. 

God told Israel they were not to multiply horses—this denial would be a reminder of their dependence on God.  Yet, they acted just like their pagan neighbors and thought they could protect themselves—but they could not. 

All those nations we mentioned met the same fate—judged by God.  We will be no different.  Yet in our hearts there is this lust for power. Lord Acton sounded a warning, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

There is a dramatic illustration of this in the Lord of the Rings saga.  

I discovered Tolkien in the sixth grade.  Millions of the books have been sold and a trio of Academy award-winning movies were wildly successful.  Tolkien fought in WWI—in one battle where over a million people were killed or wounded.  He wrote the Lord of the Rings epic during WWII.  He denied that the story was meant as an allegory of the times, but acknowledged that he could not help being affected by it. 

The ring of power and its corrupting influence is central to the plot. 

There is THE TEMPTATION OF POWER.  There is a ring of power forged by the Dark Lord Sauron and the one who has this ring will rule the world.  But, in the process, the ring controls the one who uses it—and would turn even a good man into a devil. 

It also illustrates THE TYRANNY OF POWER.  In the Lord of the Rings we see one such example, the once benevolent wizard Saruman becoming obsessed with power.  One cannot help but see the now evil wizard, building his army to engulf the world in shadow as a picture of another evil man of Tolkien’s time seeking to do the same—Adolf Hitler. There have always been men like that and they are on the scene today.  How can we overcome this spirit?

There is the possibility of THE TRIUMPH OVER BOTH temptation and tyranny.  The fellowship of the ring was a diverse collection of men, elves and hobbits, wizard and dwarf—so different from each other, and having little power compared to the forces of darkness, set against them. 

So, what do they do? They invaded the citadel of the Dark Lord and through self-sacrifice destroyed it.  That is Christ’s mission for His church.  Today, our faith in God’s ultimate triumph is being tested.  Is carrying the cross worth it?  These are hard times—the shadow deepens and the armies of Hell are on the march.  We may be tempted to despair. 

Frodo, the heroic hobbit of the Lord of the Rings, faced such fears. In the story, we hear him say to Gandalf with discouraged voice, “I wish none of this had happened.”  Like Frodo, we look around at what is happening to America and wish we were not here to see these times, either.  My words to you are those of Gandalf, the wizard, responding to Frodo, “So do all who live to see such times but that is not for them to decide.  All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us!”

There may yet be hope—if we act now.   Let us reflect on A SANCTIFIED PRACTICE: APPLICATION.  There are three things America must do if we are to see many more birthdays!  It is what God commanded Israel to do.

God requires there be a RETURN (v.1-2). 

Can we doubt that we have wandered far from God?  If Washington or Franklin, Jefferson or Adams were to appear in America today, they would be nauseated by the moral filth that covers the land.  Where they acknowledged their dependence on God for success, it would break their hearts that we have become a people who have sought to strip every reference to God from the public square.  We must return to a declaration of dependence!

Then, there must be a REQUEST (v.2).

Take words [of repentance] with you and return to the Lord.  Say to Him: ‘Forgive all [our] sin and accept what is good, so that we may repay You with praise from our lips.’”

Will we cry out in desperation?  How bad does it have to get before we will bow? 

God further requires RIGHTEOUSNESS (v.3)

Assyria will not save us, we will not ride on horses, and we will no longer proclaim, 'Our gods!' to the work of our hands.  For the fatherless receives compassion in You." (v.3)

The politicians cannot save us for they are mostly infected with the same lust for power.  The scientists cannot invent a solution to our cultural disintegration.  The economists cannot stave off our moral bankruptcy.  Only God can save us!  Our response must be that of Israel: repentance!

We don’t like the times we live in.  God’s people long for a better day.  But, we have no choice in the times that we find ourselves in.  What we can choose is how to respond to them.  Now we must decide what to do with the time that is given to us.

No comments: