Monday, July 15, 2013


[As I read this post from a year ago, I thought it was a needful reminder today.  I won't tell you to enjoy it; we do need to embrace it.]

You made a reservoir between the walls for the waters of the ancient pool, but you did not look to the One who made it, or consider the One who created it long ago.  On that day the Lord God of Hosts called for weeping, for wailing, for shaven heads, and for the wearing of sackcloth.  But look: joy and gladness, butchering of cattle, slaughtering of sheep, eating of meat, and drinking of wine—“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”  The Lord of Hosts has directly revealed to me: “This sin of yours will never be wiped out.”  The Lord God of Hosts has spoken. (Isaiah 22:11-14)

Flying blind—a plane goes into the clouds, the pilot loses his frame of reference, and becomes disoriented.  He feels like he is right-side up, when he is actually upside down.  It is a dangerous thing.  If he depends on how he feels, rather than consulting his instrument panel, he pulls the yoke or stick back to climb and instead is diving into the ground.  The result is deadly.

That is what was happening in Isaiah’s day.  The Jews had been blessed with God’s truth to guide them.  The prophets, like Isaiah, pointed men to their Maker.  The holy law was the instrument panel to show them reality as they flew through the fog of this sinful world.  The prophets were in the control tower to talk them into a safe arrival.  But, they would not listen.  They became disoriented, pulled the throttle back—upside down, they crashed and burned.

It is ironic that all this happened in “the Valley of Vision.”  That expression is used twice in Isaiah 22.  Israel was a place that had been graced by God with prophetic vision.  The Lord had revealed Himself, His will and His ways through His Word.  It had been engraved by His finger on tablets of stone placed in the hands of Moses to teach them morality.  Priests and prophets had expounded it and provided additional insight as God’s Spirit spoke through them.  But, the people had rejected the light of God’s truth, and the darkness had closed in—the Valley of Vision was now a black abyss where blind guides led blind people.  That never ends well—for pilot or passengers.

No wonder Isaiah is heartsick.  He delivers his “oracle against the Valley of Vision (v.1).  It isn’t a message favorable to the audience, but a pronouncement of judgment “against” them because of their rejection of their Maker and His message.  In fact, some translations render “oracle” as “burden”—a heavy message that Isaiah had to deliver, one that weighed on his mind—a word of immense gravity and intense grief.  No man of God finds joy in delivering such a sorrowful sermon, yet he is just the plane’s attitude indicator, showing that the people are upside down—and in peril.  He must be faithful to the truth—whether the pilot adjusts his course or not.

In the face of impending doom, what did those piloting the nation’s plane do?  They sent out word, “Nothing to worry about!  Settle back, enjoy the flight.”  Then the attendants were sent out with booze and tasty treats, and the cabin turned into a party.  When one lone fellow in the back, shouted out in tears, “We’re going to die!”  Isaiah was told, “Shut up!  Sure we’re going to die; everybody does—but not today.  So, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!’” (v.13)

God had called them to mourn for their sin, but instead they were merry in it.  They should have fasted in repentance, but instead they feasted in rebellion.  The nation was in a death spiral, and only pushed the throttle forward.  From the tower, the Lord sent out to the plane this solemn word to Isaiah, the only one listening, “The Lord of Hosts has directly revealed to me: ‘This sin of yours will never be wiped out.’  The Lord God of Hosts has spoken.” (v.14)

As I look out the window of the plane I ride called, “The United States of America” I can see through a break in the clouds that we are upside down.  As in Isaiah’s time, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa.5:20)  Those piloting the plane will not listen.  The passengers are having too much fun on the flight to heed the ranting of some old preacher.

We are a nation that is busy trying to insure security through our military and not by depending on our Maker.  We look to stimulate the economy and reject our Provider.  By rejecting God, we have lost our fixed point of reference.  We repeat the folly of ancient Jerusalem’s inhabitants:

“You also saw the damage to the city of David, that it was great; and you gathered together the waters of the lower pool.  You numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses you broke down to fortify the wall.  You also made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to its Maker, nor did you have respect for Him who fashioned it long ago.” (Isa.22:9-11)

Is anybody listening?

Friday, July 05, 2013


[This is the conclusion of a three part series from Hosea which I previously posted this time last year.  The truths are as relevant as when first shared and more urgent to be heeded than ever.]

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 WashingtonD.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:

Why do the nations rebel and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers conspire together against the Lord and His Anointed One: ‘Let us tear off their chains and free ourselves from their restraints.’

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). 

Israel, return to Yahweh your God, for you have stumbled in your sin.  Take words [of repentance] with you and return to the Lord.

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.

Thursday, July 04, 2013


[This is part two of a three part series from Hosea that I will complete tomorrow]

What am I going to do with you, Ephraim?  What am I going to do with you, Judah?
Your loyalty is like the morning mist and like the early dew that vanishes.
(Hosea 6:4)

You can hear the broken heart of God as He speaks of His dismay.  He has bestowed His love on a people who quickly turned from Him and unto idols.  He likens them to the morning mist, that seems to hang so thick on a muggy summer morning, and quickly vanishes under the heat of the sun.  Israel vowed faithfulness to God, but they had been a faithless nation.

Hosea came to understand something of God’s heartache, because he not only expressed this message, he experienced it. His wife had committed adultery and he had found her destitute, a slave being auctioned off.  But, God commanded his prophet to purchase her—to redeem her and bring her back home.  Gomer was faithless, but Hosea would be faithful to his vows.

All of this served to illustrate God’s faithfulness to faithless Israel There are vital truths for America today—this God blessed land that has spurned God’s love.  Surely, we break His heart as he sees our wicked ways.


Imagine a private detective hired to follow a wife suspected of adultery.  He gathers evidence, and now the case is taken before a judge in a divorce court.  The evidence is clear and compelling.  That is the language used in these verses.  The unfaithfulness of Israel to her God was indisputable.  They treated God like Gomer did her husband, Hosea.

When we read the list of sins, it sounds like we are reading from today’s newspaper.  Although written thousands of years ago, it is a story we see unfolding on television in this century.  The sins that proliferated in ancient Israel are likewise an epidemic in our times.

The sinning of an unfaithful nation leads to THE SUFFERING OF AN UNFAITHFUL NATION (5:1-13:16)

God was going to break them.  If Israel wanted to go their own way, they would be permitted to do so, but would find that to be the road to ruin.  Just as Gomer’s debauchery brought her to destitution, so Israel’s unfaithfulness to God resulted in the nation’s conquest and captivity. 

Yet, even in this, God was demonstrating His faithfulness.  He was using the problems and pain to draw them back to Himself.  God was going to break them, once and for all of their idolatry.

America has sown the wind and is reaping the whirlwind.  We have not humbled ourselves, so maybe God is humbling us.  Even so, that is a mark of God’s faithfulness.  He is working to bring us to our knees and that is a good place to be in, for it is there that we can meet God.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013


[This is a repost from last year.  It is even more timely today than when first written.  Part two follows tomorrow.]

“In that day--[this is] the Lord's declaration--you will call [Me], ‘My husband,’ and no longer call Me, ‘My Baal.’  For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth; they will no longer be remembered by their names.  On that day I will make a covenant for them with the wild animals, the birds of the sky, and the creatures that crawl on the ground.  I will shatter bow, sword, and weapons of war in the land and will enable the people to rest securely.  I will take you to be My wife forever.  I will take you to be My wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion.   I will take you to be My wife in faithfulness, and you will know Yahweh.” (Hosea 2:16-20 HCSB)

On July 4, 1776, America’s Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence.   It begins,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” and concludes by appealing to God, the Supreme Judge of the world and says, “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” 

Indeed, Providence smiled upon them and America was birthed with the blessing of God.  He has been faithful through our meteoric rise, but we have been unfaithful to Him.  Systematically, we are stripping away all reference to God from the public arena.   If that first Congress were offering such a document today, the current Supreme Court would likely rule it “unconstitutional” a “violation of the separation of church and state” by the Founding Fathers including such references to God!  What lunacy! 

Forces are attempting to secularize America.  But, to suggest that America has become strictly secular, and placed Christianity into its ghetto, would not be fully correct.  Nature abhors a vacuum and if the empty hearts of the citizens are not filled with true faith, they will be filled with paganism, Islam and the cults, even as Christianity is held up to contempt.  So is the political and spiritual landscape of America rapidly becoming. 

God has a warning!  There are some lessons for us from ancient Israel.  God brought them into a land flowing with milk and honey, but they spurned Him for false gods.  They were ungrateful and unfaithful.  Hosea had a message for such people—a message for us today.


The word of the Lord that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and of Jeroboam son of Jehoash, king of Israel When the Lord first spoke to Hosea, He said this to him: ‘Go and marry a promiscuous wife and [have] children of promiscuity, for the land is committing blatant acts of promiscuity by abandoning the Lord.’” (1:1-2) 

The prophet’s marriage would be a powerful message—a picture of the sermon he preached.

In the narrative we see A FAITHLESS WOMAN (1:1-11)

“So he went and married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.   Then the Lord said to him: ‘Name him Jezreel, for in a little while I will bring the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu and put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.’

She conceived again and gave birth to a daughter, and the Lord said to him: ‘Name her No Compassion, for I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel. I will certainly take them away.  But I will have compassion on the house of Judah, and I will deliver them by the Lord their God. I will not deliver them by bow, sword, or war, or by horses and cavalry.’

After Gomer had weaned No Compassion, she conceived and gave birth to a son.  Then the Lord said: ‘Name him Not My People, for you are not My people, and I will not be your God.’” (Hosea 1:3-9 HCSB)

Hosea is commanded to marry Gomer.  God tells his servant that the marriage will not bring happiness but heartache.  Although I do not think she was a harlot at the time, it was in Gomer’s heart.  She had no more got the marriage vows out of her mouth, until she got out of the house and into someone else’s arms.  A pattern of promiscuity developed. 

Some of you have known the pain of a spouse committing adultery.  You can sympathize with this man—and it was played out in the public arena.  In fact she has children, which aren’t even Hosea’s!    He looks at one baby and says, “Not mine!”  That becomes the child’s name!

This was the story of Israel’s unfaithfulness to their covenant with God.  It is being repeated in America today.

A faithless woman becomes A FORSAKEN WRETCH (2:1-13). 

Therefore, this is what I will do: I will block her way with thorns; I will enclose her with a wall, so that she cannot find her paths.  She will pursue her lovers but not catch them; she will seek them but not find [them].  Then she will think, ‘I will go back to my former husband, for then it was better for me than now.’” (Hosea 2:6-7 HCSB)

Night after night of shameful living took its toll.  Having all those children affected her figure.  Time and gravity set in and she was not the beauty she once was, and her lovers began to desert her.

This is God’s way—the way of painful correction.  Hardship would drive Gomer back to her husband.  Remember the parable of the Prodigal Son?  Jesus told of a boy who fled his father’s house with a fortune to squander on wasteful and wanton living.  When the money ran out, so did his friends, and he wound up destitute and desperate.  Our Lord said that it was then the young man came to his senses and went back home to his father. 

Israel was going to be chastened severely.  Samaria would fall.  The nation would be conquered by the cruel Assyrians and those who were not slaughtered would become their slaves.  Might it be that we are headed for the same fate?  Why should we think America will be any different, when we are behaving no differently and God’s holy character is no different?

But, notice—and here is the hope—a faithless woman who became a forsaken wretch winds up A FORGIVEN WIFE (2:14-3:5) 

Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go again; show love to a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, just as the Lord loves the Israelites though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.’  So I bought her for 15 shekels of silver and five bushels of barley.

I said to her, ‘You must live with me many days. Don't be promiscuous or belong to any man, and I will act the same way toward you.’   For the Israelites must live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, and without ephod or household idols.   Afterward, the people of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They will come with awe to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days.” (Hosea 3:1-5 HCSB) 

Picture this: Gomer has sold herself into slavery to avoid starvation.  Hosea is commanded to go and buy this cheater and bring her home!  He will forgive her and restore her.  She has been faithless, but he will be faithful to his promise. 

This experience illustrated the relationship of God and Israel.  Though the people had been faithless, God will be forever faithful.  We may break our vows and break God’s heart.  We may be broken in discipline, accordingly, but even in this God is faithful in His love to bring correction and bestow compassion.

Is it possible for us to sing with conviction, “AmericaAmerica, God shed His grace on thee”?  That’s what grace is all about, isn’t it?  We get what we do not deserve!  We do not deserve to be forgiven, but we can be. 

As the prodigal spouse named Gomer came back to her husband; as the prodigal son came back to his father; so may the prodigal state come back to her God.  It is time to seek the Lord!  Call upon God!  He is our only hope.