Titus: Right Doctrine, Right Living

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Titus 2: 1, 7-8

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.

Show yourself in all respects to be model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

Paul instructs Titus to teach the older men, older women, and younger men. Here are the verses spoken specifically for Titus. Laura gave a talk on this passage, and I again am sharing what I learned from this passage and from her lecture.

Challenge #1: Titus 2:1 (“But as for you…”)

Where may God be calling you to be set apart from the world? But as for you ______. This statement comes on the heels of what Paul said about the false teachers and serves as a major contrast. But as for you, Titus, you are to be set apart from them, teaching sound doctrine. 2 Tim 2:21 says:

…anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

I love the image of the object that has been set apart (holy) and is useful for the Master. It is ready to be used for good works in the hands of the Master.

Challenge #2: (“…teach”)

Are you using opportunities to casually and comfortably talk/dialogue with others about the truth of Christ “along the way”?

The word “teach” is not the word kerusso (which means preach, or is a formal way of teaching) but rather is the word laleo meaning to “speak, converse, disclose your thoughts.” It is an informal teaching, implying that you talk about your faith as you walk along the way, engaging people outside of formal settings. Deut 11:19 tells us:

19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Teaching can be simply sharing life and doesn’t have to be anything formal (although that is good too!).

Challenge #3: (“…what accords with…”)

Is there a truth of God’s Word that you know but are not living out in proper alignment/harmonious fit in your daily life? Do your actions reflect your beliefs?

This phrase was Paul’s way of telling Titus to teach what it looks like to LIVE OUT sound doctrine. It’s not enough to teach sound doctrine, but he must also show what it looks like in everyday life. In fact the word “accord” from the Latin means “at its heart” or the “core”. The idea is that the doctrine and the application of it are intertwined (like a cord) and cannot be separated.

James 1:22 tells us to be “doers of the Word and not hearers only…” and in Luke 11:28 Jesus tells the woman, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!

A bold way to put this is that people don’t have to wonder what we believe because they see us living it out.

Challenge #4: (“…sound doctrine.”)

Do you have beliefs that you need to more properly align with the essential doctrine of God’s word?

A lot of people turn their nose up at the word doctrine because it sounds scholarly or uppity. Doctrine is not something to be afraid of because it is simply a framework, a belief system, a structure of teaching of essential or core theological truths of Scripture (there are all sorts of doctrines, but in this case, we’re speaking of the doctrine of Scripture). Primary or core doctrines are those which are non-negotiable. Secondary doctrines vary among believers, and some of those include baptism, end times, organization of the church, role of elders/deacons/pastors, and gifts of the Spirit. It would be wise for anyone to read the essential doctrines of the Christian faith (some of which are Scripture, the Trinity, Satan, fallen man, Jesus Christ, salvation through Christ, eternal security).

In Amos 7:7-8, God speaks of the plumb line (or standard) by which they were to use as they built their walls. Our plumb line is the Word of God and we build from that as our starting point and standard. If our beliefs do not align to this plumb line, we must ask ourselves how to be renewed in our minds (Rom 12:2) so as to be transformed.

Challenge #5: (Titus 2:7 “Show yourself in all respects to be a model…)

Consider your “way” or the path you are on. Is it the one that Jesus would travel? When others see your life, is it one that would point them to the ways of Jesus in all things? Are you setting a pattern for others that is safe to follow?

The word “show” has the connotation of taking the whole apart so that all the pieces are in full view. It is a matter of complete transparency. To be a “model” simply means being a type, an example, or a pattern. The idea is that a person would set a healthy or safe example for others to follow. This person would have a reliable track record of consistent actions and behaviors that would be Christ-honoring. This is the concept of discipleship at its finest.

Paul told the churches to imitate him as he modeled Christ (1 Cor 11:1), with the idea that he would eventually step out of the way for them to imitate Christ (2 Tim 1:13, 1 Cor 4:16-17). In Hebrews 13:7 we are encouraged to “remember your leaders…imitate their faith.”

Proverbs 3:6 says,

In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

A Model of…

Integrity: meaning incorruptibility. To teach pure (incorruptible) doctrine and to do it with pure (incorruptible) motives.

Dignity: meaning reverence, respect, majesty, and/or sanctity. To teach in a respectable nor irreverent way. This word carries with it a sense of gravity or weight, meaning to give great respect for that which is worthy of great respect. To keep weighty/serious that which is weighty/serious.

Sound speech: meaning does not deviate from the truth (not even a slight deviation).

So that…

So that an opponent may be put to shame. Opponent can mean enemy, and in this case it is one who has a hostile hatred toward the cross as in Phil 3:18. Christians are a perfect target for the enemy which is why we need to live above reproach, being a model of all these good things. They will have no ammunition to use on those who walk the straight path.

 

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Titus: Beware the Deceivers

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Titus 1:10-16

Below you will find the entirety of my talk as well as a link to watch/listen (if you aren’t interested in reading!).

Let’s talk about who these “deceivers” were and what they might have been doing. We are going to watch for 5 characteristics of false teachers:

  1. Their motivation is to promote themselves rather than Christ or the gospel.
  2. They will cause dissension and place stumbling blocks in the way rather than promoting unity and spiritual growth.
  3. Their message is to contradict core Biblical truth.
  4. Their master is their own appetite, not the Lord.
  5. Their methods are to use smooth and flattering speech to deceive the hearts and minds of the naïve.

Titus 1:10 reads:

For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party.

Paul does some serious trash-talking in these verses. We get a glimpse of the fire in his bones as he unloads on these people. I imagine him here as the redeemed yet angry version of the Saul of Tarsus that everyone feared!

Interestingly, Paul does not even refer to these individuals as teachers, which tells me this could have been anyone! For the purposes of this lesson, I’ll still refer to them as “false teachers” because Paul uses the same or similar language in his other letters when speaking of false teachers. And also because they were teaching” things they ought not to teach (v. 11). However, I do want you to keep your radar up when it comes to being on guard against these deceivers because they could be anyone.

When we read a text in Scripture, we tend to identify with the “good guys”. Do we not? For instance, we feel for the man who was beaten and left to die on the road and we LOVE the good Samaritan. We likely never see ourselves as the religious men who passed by unmoved by the plight of the broken man. Another example is that we see ourselves as one of the disciples but hardly ever identify ourselves as a Pharisee.

Though it might make you uncomfortable, I want us all to consider 2 things: first, in what ways have we been like the deceivers? And two, how should we be on our guard against such people?

To begin, we’ll break down each of those descriptions, first technically (speaking of the words themselves in the Greek language) and then we’ll expand on the meaning of the words.

Insubordinate/rebellious people

In the Greek Lexicon (BDAG) – Anupotaxtos meant “pertaining to refusing submission to authority, undisciplined, disobedient, rebellious”

  1. Here in v. 10 used of spoiled children
  2. Also used in 1 Tim 1:9 of flagrant law-breakers.

This one is not difficult to understand. But it does leave some room for imagination. How exactly were these men rebelling or being insubordinate? So were these rebellious men initially a part of the church that Paul started but later had trouble submitting to Titus’ authority? The Greek indicates that they were acting like spoiled children which begs the question, were they used to getting their way and then started acting up when Titus began to organize the church as it was intended to be?

Regardless of the details, Paul’s concern is for the unity of the church. So if you have any who are trying to disrupt it by refusing to follow the authority that is in place, you have a problem that needs to be handled quickly.

Idle or “empty” talkers

  1. In the Greek Lexicon (BDAG) – Mataiologos means “an idle talker, windbag
  2. In interlinear bible – meant “one who utters empty senseless things”
  3. You may have heard the word Logos before. “In the beginning was the Word (logos), and the Word (logos) was with God, and the Word (Logos) was God.” John 1:1
  4. This word is only used in Titus 1:10
  5. Similar word (mataiologia) (same root) found in 1 Tim 1:6 “empty, fruitless talk; turn to fruitless discussion”

This description struck me the most as I read this passage. I really love how both the Hebrew and Greek often paint word pictures for us. As you read those words, you imagine what an empty talker is like. It’s rather like an oxymoron. Full of words but the words are empty.

A funny (or rather cute) example of this would be how a one-year-old speaks to his family. I’ll never forget my youngest son rambling on and on as if he were carrying on a complete conversation, but to us, he said absolutely nothing that made sense. His words were empty, senseless.

A more serious example would be the person who talks for five straight minutes but never actually says anything. You have heard the statement, “he’s just full of hot air.”

They are senseless, fruitless windbags. The imagery of a windbag is both sobering and comical. What is the point of catching the wind? What good would a windbag do you?

Just as these deceivers were speaking empty words, Isaiah 41:29 speaks of the emptiness of worshiping idols. He says

Behold, they are all a delusion; /   their works are nothing; /   their metal images are empty wind.

So if idols were delusions which produced nothing, what does that say about those who worshiped them? The false teachers were no better than an idol worshipper. JESUS plus anything equals nothing. Vanity. Emptiness. Windbags.

In contrast I think of a person whose words are filled with meaning. Colossians 4:6 tells us

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

And also Ephesians 4:29,

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

I wonder if we’ve ever considered the source of our words. Those words which are gracious and full of meaning likely originate from the Holy One! Think about what the Scriptures say about God’s words. Isaiah 55:10-11 says,

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Can you picture that?! God’s word goes out and does return to Him void. Talk about words that are FULL of meaning. They accomplish exactly what He sent them out to do. They are never empty, senseless, fruitless. No windbags here.

In contrast, when our words are empty, when they tear down their hearers, consider the source of those words. Perhaps they come from the evil one. This is the case that both Jesus and Paul make on several occasions. We will come back to this briefly later on.

To wrap up this section on empty talkers, I want us all to consider the importance of our words. Jesus speaking to the scribes and Pharisees in Matt 12:36-37 said,

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Will our words be empty? Or will they give life and grace to those who hear? Will they build up or tear down? Will they be a fruit-bearing product of the Vine? Or a windbag that has its source in the deceiver?

That brings me to my next point on the false teachers! They are…

Deceivers

  1. Phrenapates In the Greek Lexicon (BDAG) “deceiver, misleader”; also “seducer”
  2. Again this word is only used in Titus 1:10
  3. A similar word phrenapatao is found in Gal 6:3 and meant to “mislead concerning the truth, deceive (oneself).”
  4. Webster’s Dictionary 1828 defines the word deceive this way: “To mislead the mind; to cause to err; to cause to believe what is false, or disbelieve what is true; to impose on; to delude.”

There’s something very sinister about a person who purposefully and knowingly leads someone away from truth and toward destruction. However there’s also something terribly tragic about the person who deceives even himself.

I already began the discussion about the evil one being involved in the words we speak. We all know how the evil one deceived Eve in the garden (Gen 3:4-5; 2 Cor 11:3). Revelation 12:9 tells us that Satan deceives the whole world. There are over 40 passages that refer to Satan as a deceiver or to his deceitful work. (https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/dictionary-of-bible-themes/4123-Satan-as-deceiver)

Jesus had a heated discussion with the Pharisees in John 8 concerning their origins with Abraham and His origin with God the Father. They make several accusations about Him, but He responds with this in v. 44:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a LIAR and the father of lies.

You want to know where the false teachers get their insubordination? Their empty words? Their deception? They got it from their father, the devil, the father of lies.

We read the passage in 2 Cor 11:13-14 which refers to the false teachers as

deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ [who get this from Satan who disguises himself as an angel of light]

Jesus spoke of false prophets as those who would come in sheep’s clothing though they are actually hungry wolves (Matt 7:15).

The Pharisees are rather like those insubordinate, spoiled children Paul speaks of to Titus. Jesus disrupted the way of life they were used to living and that life involved deceiving people and weighing them down with empty and useless words/rules. Perhaps these false teachers in Crete were some of the old faction of Pharisees who just wouldn’t let go of their idols.

On that note, let’s talk about…

The Circumcision party

The term “circumcision party” is mentioned three times in the NT – Acts 11:2 (against Peter), Gal 2:12 (with James), and here in Titus 1:10. This was a legitimate religious faction.

Thinking back to Pentecost, we know that there were Jewish brothers from Crete who were present and had heard the message of the resurrection. But there were also Jews on the island who held to their man-made traditions. These are the “circumcision party” or the Judaizers.

John MacArthur (Bible Handbook) writes,

The younger elder [Titus] was already familiar with Judaizers, false teachers in the church, who among other things insisted that all Christians, Gentile as well as Jew, were bound by the Mosaic law. Titus had accompanied Paul and Barnabas years earlier to the Council of Jerusalem where that heresy was the subject (Acts 15; Gal. 2:1-5). (p. 451)

If you aren’t quite familiar with what happened at this council, let’s turn there to clarify. Acts 15:1, 13, 19 says,

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” [much debate v. 2-12] 13 After they finished speaking, James replied,… 19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God,…”

After this the council sent Paul and Barnabas as well as Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas to all the Gentile churches with the full details. Later in Gal 2:1-5 we learn that Paul had taken Titus with him on his missionary journey where they were pressured by “false brothers” to have Titus, a Greek man, circumcised.

 For Paul this [circumcision party and their message] was an alarming development because it undercut the core message of the gospel; if salvation could not be attained without embracing Judaism, then the death of Christ was insufficient. (Archeological Bible footnote)

Once again I’ll repeat the equation. JESUS plus ANYTHING equals NOTHING. Thus the reason Paul takes no time to correct these deceivers as they crop up.

Moving on to the next verse, Paul writes,

11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 

You can imagine why Paul tells Titus that they must be silenced! This word is epistomizo and meant to “bridle or stop up the mouth” (interlinear). Not only were they teaching for their own personal gain, but they were teaching things which were not truth and in so doing were upsetting entire families within the church.

The word for upsetting is

  1. Anatrepo and can be translated as “to overthrow, overturn, destroy, and subvert” (interlinear).
  2. The Greek Lexicon says it meant “to jeopardize someone’s inner well-being, upset, ruin”.

This meaning is even more ominous than to simply upset someone. The goal is their destruction or ruin. Paul’s concern, therefore, was for the truth to win out and for the church not to be harmed or divided.

The text does not specify exactly what these false teachers were teaching, but they were teaching things which they “ought not to teach”. We might assume that this is at least part of the reason for Paul writing about certain doctrinal truths to Titus. We can also assume the false teachers had fallen away from these truths.

Not only were these deceivers teaching false doctrine but they were also doing it for some sort of “shameful gain”. {Remember the Cretans had no problem with greed or shameful gain.}

The emphasis is their motivation. They taught from selfish motives. It was not for the benefit of those who hear. Or even because they loved God and wanted others to know about Him.

In stark contrast to these false teachers, Paul is very intentional about pointing out how he preached the gospel to people. In 2 Cor 2:17a he writes,

17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

In 1 Cor 9:18 Paul tells the people that he presented the gospel “free of charge”. In all of his teaching on the Body of Christ, Paul encourages believers to do nothing from selfish ambition but to consider others above ourselves and for us to use our gifts for the edification of the Church, the Body (Phil 2:3; Eph 4; 1 Cor 12:7, 14:3; 1 Thess 5:11).

These guys were bad news! In fact, one of their own people, Epimenides of Crete (according to tradition), said this about the Cretans:

Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons… (v.12b)

Epimenides was a poet and philosopher in the 6th century B.C. who was native to Crete. He was held in high esteem by the Cretans and was credited with several predictions that were in fact later fulfilled. (Arch. Bible footnote).

Cretans were known for their immoral living. Liars. Evil beasts. Lazy gluttons. They are believed to come from the ancient Minoan civilization which undoubtedly involved worship of multiple deities. (from Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology by Ilse Schoep  “The Minoan ‘Palace-Temple’ Reconsidered: A Critical Assessment of the Spatial Concentration of Political, Religious and Economic Power in Bronze Age Crete”)

LIARs

During the Roman times the Cretans likely worshiped the common Greek gods, including Zeus and Hera. (from Wieland, 346) Zeus was known for his ability to deceive and apparently Cretans followed after their idol because they too were known for their ability to

deceive but also [had a] proclivity to be deceived. Josephus tells of Crete’s Jewish community being hoodwinked by a pretender to Herod’s throne.

In fact the nations surrounding Crete began using the Greek term kretizo (“Crete-ise”) because of the island’s reputation for deceit and cunning. (Wieland in “Grace manifest: missional church in the letter to Titus” in The New Zealand Journal of Christian Thought & Practice).

Dishonesty in public life continued under Roman rule. In fact, Mark Antony attempted to wrest Crete from Rome with a forged document and between the time of 20-70 A.D. no less than five governors were recalled to Rome to face corruption charges. (Wieland, 345-46)

The term “evil beasts” was rather ironic for this people group who enjoyed the reputation of being “free of wild animals.” (Wieland, 347 quoting 1st century Pliny and Plutarch) The irony was that the beastly characteristics were exhibited not by animals but by the people, including their practice of herding the young men into groups like cattle.

Finally the term “lazy gluttons” is rather telling as Paul exposes the false teachers’ motivation for deceiving others was their own appetites. Lazy gluttons engorge themselves on food and have no self-control to reign in their appetite.

Paul continues,

13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 

Rebuke sharply

Paul instructs Titus to rebuke these men SHARPLY. This word is apotomos and meant to be “severe, rigorous.” Even abrupt and curt. The word rebuke is elegcho and meant to “reprehend severely, to chide, admonish, reprove, to call to account, show one his fault, demand an explanation” with the idea of bringing conviction.

This word for rebuke is the same word used in John 16:8 of the Holy Spirit’s work,

And when he comes, he will convict (elegchō) the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.

Paul has in mind that Titus’ rebuke would convince them of their sin in order that they might repent and be sound in the faith.

To be sound in the faith

The word sound carries with it the idea of being well and in good health. Those who are sound in the faith, who speak sound words, sound teaching, sound doctrine will be speaking healthy words. They would be speaking Truth to their hearers because those words will be grounded in the Word of God.

Jesus said this of His words in John 6:63:

The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Healthy words are words that speak truth but in love. They are words that encourage and don’t condemn. Healthy words do not ask something of you that would be unhealthy for your spirit or your body. Sound words are healthy words.

We could probably all think of “false teachers” in our culture today who have spoken lies to thousands of people and have committed all kinds of spiritual abuses. They are unhealthy people acting in unhealthy ways and feeding off of already broken lives. A SHARP rebuke is what’s in order for these people. Not soft, marshmallow, indulgent comments of agreement or even apathetic leniency.

Here is another great way to think of this: J. C. Ryle was a champion for the truth in the Church of England during the 19th century. In Warnings to the Churches (p. 110, ch. 5 “Controversy in Religion”), he wrote about how difficult yet necessary controversy in the church is. Then he added,

But there is one thing which is even worse than controversy, and that is false doctrine tolerated, allowed, and permitted without protest or molestation.

After acknowledging that many would view what he writes as exceedingly distasteful, he states (p. 111),

Three things there are which men never ought to trifle with—a little poison, a little false doctrine, and a little sin. (from Steven Cole at bible.org)

The key is being sound in the faith, with both feet firmly planted in the Word of God. You can bet that every false teacher out there has stepped one or both feet out of the Word and into something else. Be on your guard.

Hopefully we have expressed our passion to you for the Word of God in such a way that you also see the necessity for it in your lives. We are not aiming to stuff you with a bunch of knowledge from God’s Word as if you were the next Thanksgiving turkey. What good is knowledge for knowledge’s sake? The knowledge of His Word means a knowledge of who God is and who we are in relation to Him. We believe that the Bible is God’s holy Word and has the power to change our lives, making us look and act more like our Savior.

How can we have Christ without His doctrines? We must LOVE the doctrine of God our Savior! (Spurgeon “Adorning the Gospel”) Sound doctrine rightly applied produces holy living.

Paul continues that he wants Titus to rebuke them so that they would be sound in the faith…

14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.

Before discussing myths and commands of men, let’s first address what we should be devoted to. To be sound in the faith requires one to be firmly planted in the truth (Psalm 1:1-3). Jesus told His disciples in John 8:31,

If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.

And later in John 17:17 he prayed to the Father,

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

Paul tells us in Col. 3:16,

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly

Paul also warns in 2 Tim 2:15,

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

These men were doing anything but handling the truth correctly. They were TURNING AWAY from the truth. Now let us look at what Paul meant by…

Jewish myths

Paul also uses the phrase in 1 Tim 1:3-4 saying,

…stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. (NIV)

Paul states that the problem with these myths is that they promote controversial speculations and don’t actually advance God’s work at all. I think of that image of EMPTY windbags. Myths and speculations are empty and senseless, of little value.

The footnote in my Arch Bible for this verse 1 Tim 1:4 says:

’Myths’ may refer to mythical stories built upon OT history (‘genealogies’) that later developed into intricate Gnostic philosophical systems.

One of the most popular groups of false teachers in Paul’s day were those who called themselves the Gnostics.

From Arch Bible article “The Gnostics and Their Scriptures”:

From the Greek word gnosis, meaning “knowledge”, Gnosticism was a movement that claimed to provide secret knowledge about God. Its adherents considered the Biblical God, the Creator of the world, to be an inferior god. In Gnostic teaching the material world was innately evil and thus its Creator a lesser deity. The Gnositc Savior, rather than providing atonement for sin, brought the knowledge of humanity’s ‘true’ divine origins, thus freeing people from their ignorance and enslavement to the material world.

You can see how this myth about God would promote all kinds of controversial conversations among the church!

So let me translate this for you in today’s terms. Stay away from the person who wants to argue and debate about the latest hot topic of religion. They’ll give you all sorts of opinions and rants but nothing will be grounded in the Word and the motive will be to either stir you up in anger or tear you down in your beliefs. Most importantly it does nothing to advance the gospel. It’s just a bunch of empty speculation resulting in ZERO fruit/good works.

The Commands of People

Jesus speaks to the problem of following human tradition in Mark 7:6-9, 13 (NIV):

[v. 1-5 disciples eating with unwashed hands and Pharisees question Jesus] He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! [Jesus’ example of their lack of obedience to God’s original intent v. 10-12] 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

The Jewish teachers of the law had added so many “commands” to the actual Law that they became more important than the Law itself. They would often set aside the true intent of the Law just to abide by their own traditions.

Originally their motives were simply to be extra careful to observe all that was written in the book of the Law. Remember when the serpent asked Eve what God had told her about the trees of the garden in Gen 3? She told it that God had said not to eat of the tree in the middle of the garden AND not to touch it. We know God didn’t add that extra command, not to touch. But this is an example of what the rabbis did to the Law. They called it building a “fence around the Torah”. They added extra measures to the Law in order to keep themselves and others from disobeying it. If they couldn’t even touch the fruit, then they certainly couldn’t eat it. (Michael Heiss)

Because these men wanted to understand the Scripture and know how it applied to their lives, the rabbi’s came up with a way to interpret the Scripture known as midrash. Midrash is an exegetical process or technique the rabbis used to creatively explain the meaning of the Scripture which made use of certain interpretive tools such as etymology (word origin), wordplay (prophets using puns), catchwords (words that grab your attention), analogy, and so on. They sought knowledge of the Scripture by using logical inferences, combinations of different passages (cross references), and the like.  (Sound familiar? We do this too!) The

“main purpose of Jewish scriptural interpretation was to make Scripture comprehensible and applicable to particular communities.” (p. 99 Joel Green in The World of the New Testament)

However, the rabbinic interpretation was often raised to the same level as Scripture, and you can see how this kind of elevation of the “commands of men” resulted in all sorts of doctrinal issues. You can also imagine the kind of religious atmosphere Paul and Titus were dealing with. Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 23:2-4,

“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.”

Please note that Jesus does not fault these religious leaders for having too much knowledge but rather that all the knowledge never made an impact on their hearts. Those facts didn’t travel from the head to the heart to become actions. Thus they became hypocrites, whose knowledge of the Word made no difference in their lives.

Be wary of the person who completely discards the pursuit of the knowledge of God’s Word. Os Guiness writes in Dining with the Devil,

Today theology is rarely more than marginal in the church-growth movement at the popular level. Discussion of the traditional marks of the church is virtually nonexistent. Instead, methodology is at the center and in control. The result is a methodology only occasionally in search of a theology.” (p. 26)

He continues on to explain that worship and discipleship are often subordinate to evangelism, and all three to that of entertainment which he calls “the Achilles’ heel of evangelicalism.” (p. 27) Guiness further describes the trouble of offering milk and never meat to a growing congregation:

‘all things to all people’ means it is perfectly legitimate to convey the gospel in cartoons to a non-literary generation incapable of rising above MTV and USA Today. But five years later, if the new disciples are truly won to Christ, they will be reading and understanding Paul’s letter to the Romans and not simply the Gospel According to Peanuts.” (p. 28-29)

Keep in mind that one of the spiritual gifts God gives to His Church is knowledge which often goes along with discernment. (1 Cor 12:8) If it were a bad thing, why would He give it for the benefit of His Church? Like any gift, it can be misused or abused, but it is not in and of itself a bad thing.

How can a believer live a holy life apart from knowing what the Holy God prescribes for His children? His Word is meant to be studied for it contains direction for our lives.

Neither let us make knowledge the end point nor forsake the study of God’s Word.

Too many people are afraid of knowledge and claim “we don’t want to fall into legalism.” However, this kind of thinking is just another form of legalism (excessive adherence to law or formula). Rather than adhering to a strict following of the law of God, these people follow a strict law of correct practice (orthopraxy) divorced from orthodoxy (correct belief). It leads to a faith devoid of doctrine which is ultimately ignorant and misinformed.

The Cretan deceivers had strayed from God’s Word and had been following Jewish myths and the commands of men, elevating their knowledge above the Scripture. Not only that, but as Jesus said, they likely required the people to follow these myths and commands as well, though they themselves were unwilling to live what they preached.

Do we ever place burdens on other people that we ourselves do not even require of ourselves? Or taking this a step further, do we project our perfectionism onto another, expecting an impossible standard that we ourselves cannot even attain to?

Now for our last verses: v. 15-16. 

15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

DEFILED

  1. Interlinear – miaino (me-ah’-ee-no) meaning “to dye with another colour, to stain; to defile, pollute, sully, contaminate, soil; to defile with sins
  2. Greek lexicon – to cause the purity of something to be violated by immoral behavior; refers to the mind of the faithless in v. 15

Note in Lexicon:

The primary sense ‘to stain’ (as of dye) prepares the way for the transforming sense of causing defilement through socially or cultically unacceptable behavior. It is well to keep in mind…that in the Greco-Roman world [to have a harmonious relationship with the gods and nature, all people were expected to observe certain moral and ritual laws]. Individuals were subordinate to interests of the community and violations of standard moral and ceremonial expectations could jeopardize the delicate balance between an entire populace and its deities.

In other words, you were obligated to maintain moral or ritual purity for the sake of the community so as not to “offend the gods”!

In light of this cultural custom, one way to think of verse 15 is in the context of food laws and ritual purity.

Purity in the NT

Footnote from ESV:

To the pure, all things are pure echoes Jesus’ teaching in Luke 11:39-41 (39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.) and Paul’s earlier writing in Rom 14:20 (20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.).”

Another way to think of this verse is in the context of morality and holy living in general.

Both mind and conscience are defiled. A great example of this can be found in John’s gospel. John 18:28 tells us,

Then they [chief priests and Pharisees] led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.

Did you catch the irony? They didn’t want to “defile” themselves by going into the Gentile man’s headquarters because they wouldn’t be qualified to eat the Passover according to their man made traditions. Yet they were already defiled by their sin and blind to their crime of handing over Jesus, an innocent man.

Both their mind and conscience were completed stained or tainted by their own appetites and agendas, and they would view their own behavior as pure and religiously motivated and justified as a result of their completely twisted concept of morality.

Profess to know God

Verse 16 tells us the false teachers professed to know God. I want to recall a passage from 1 John 2:3-6 which referred to knowing God:

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandmentsWhoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

The one who knows God will do what He says. The one who keeps God’s Word walks the same way Jesus walked. So how did these men of Crete measure up?

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul writes about this false knowledge (1 Timothy 6:20-21)

20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble (godless chatter NIV) and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.

Remember what I said about the Gnostic heresy? They claimed to have a “special knowledge” about God. These false teachers professed to KNOW God, perhaps claiming this special knowledge of the Gnostics OR claiming their heritage as Jews meant that they automatically knew God. They professed to know God, but their hearts were far from Him (From Jesus’ words in Mark 7: *Isaiah 29:13 “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me…”).

DENY Him by their works

While their words appeared to express a love or knowledge for God, Paul says their works tell another (TRUER) story. Matt 7:15-19

15Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Jesus also addresses the fruit concept in Matt 12:33-37 (the tree is known by its fruit.” v. 33). In both passages He connects words with works/fruit. Those who love Him obey Him and walk like Him because as they ABIDE in the Vine, they begin to look and act more like the Vinedresser who faithfully produces fruit (good works) in the lives of His image-bearers.

James writes at length on the importance of faith and works working together. In fact he makes the bold statement that faith without works is DEAD (James 2:26).

The false teachers said “yes we know God” with their words but in all that they did, Paul says they denied God.

Peter also speaking about false teachers says this: 2 Pet 2:1

But false prophets also arose among the people… who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

Similar to Paul’s theme of denying God by living immorally, Jude writes this v. 4,

For certain people have crept in unnoticed … ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

John puts it way more harshly in 1 John 2:22,

Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichristdenying the Father and the Son.

As we think about this term to deny, I want to take you to Isaiah 59:12-15:

12 For our transgressions are multiplied before you,
    and our sins testify against us;
for our transgressions are with us,
    and we know our iniquities:
13 transgressing, and denying the Lord,
    and turning back from following our God,
speaking oppression and revolt,
    conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words.

14 Justice is turned back,
    and righteousness stands far away;
for truth has stumbled in the public squares,
    and uprightness cannot enter.
15 Truth is lacking,
    and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.

Isaiah was speaking to the Israelites in that day, but you can see how his words applied very much to those false teachers at Crete, and even to those walking among us today.

I can’t help but think of these sobering (serious?) words from Jesus (paraphrase), “if you acknowledge Me, I’ll acknowledge you before the Father. If you deny Me, I’ll deny you.” Matthew 10:32-33

Without sound doctrine, we are just another deceiver – defiled, detestable, disobedient. Unfit for good works.

Unfit for good works

  1. Greek lexicon – word is adokimos (ad-ok’-ee-mos) and meant “not standing the test, unqualified, worthless
  2. Interlinear bible – “not approved (properly used of metals and coins); unfit for, unproved, spurious, reprobate”

Let me put it this way : 2 Tim 2:15 tells us we must be diligent to present ourselves as workmen APPROVED to God who accurately handle the Word. And remember what Job said after all of his horrific trials, “when He has tried me, I shall come forth as pure gold“ (Job 23:10).

The refining process for silver involved the metal worker heating the silver to its melting point, skimming off the dross/impurities, and ending his labor once he saw his reflection in the pure silver. When we, like the precious metal, have gone through the affliction, we come forth qualified, approved, as those who have stood the test. They are fit for good works.

To tie this all together, remember God has created us for good works (Eph 2:10) but these works are a privilege and a gift for those who have stood the test and have been approved.

This is exactly opposite of the false teachers. They are unfit. Not approved. Unproved. Did not stand the test. Not ready for good works.

Characteristics of False Teachers 

In closing let me take just a moment to summarize some characteristics of false teachers. (From bible.org Steven J. Cole – https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-107-final-warning-beware-false-teachers-romans-1617-20)

  1. Their motivation is to promote themselves rather than Christ or the gospel.
  2. They will cause dissension and place stumbling blocks in the way rather than promoting unity and spiritual growth.
  3. Their message is to contradict core Biblical truth.
  4. Their master is their own appetite, not the Lord.
  5. Their methods are to use smooth and flattering speech to deceive the hearts and minds of the naïve.

To expound on this last characteristic, I wanted to read to you from Steven Cole’s article on false teachers. He writes:

Arius (d. 336), was a heretic who denied the deity of Christ and was the forerunner of the modern Jehovah’s Witnesses. He gained a huge following. But the courageous Athanasius battled against him. Parker Williamson describes Arius:

‘Here was a bright, energetic, attractive fellow, the kind of citizen whom any Rotary Club would welcome. Singing sea chanties in dockside pubs and teaching Bible stories to the Wednesday night faithful, this was an immensely popular man. His story reminds us that heresy does not bludgeon us into belief. We are seduced.’ (Standing Firm: Reclaiming the Chastain Faith in Times of Controversy [Lenoir, North Carolina: PLC Publications, 1996], p. 31, cited by John Piper, “Watch Out for Those Who Lead You Away from the Truth,” on DesiringGod.org)

So to recognize false teachers, watch their motives, their message, their master, and their methods.

What does this mean for us? Know your Truth people! The Truth sets you free from all the false doctrine the world contains. (John 8:32) This is no war against flesh and blood. Those deceivers/false teachers are not the enemy. The evil one is our enemy. {KATNISS! “Remember who the real enemy is”}

Therefore put on the whole armor of God so you can stand against the devil’s schemes! (Eph 6:11) Fasten the belt of truth, put on the breastplate of righteousness, put on the shoes of the gospel, take up the shield of faith, wear the helmet of salvation, and finally keep that sword sharp. Then just pray pray pray. (Eph 6:14-18)

As for what we must do to guard against false teachers, Paul tells us, “Keep your eye on them and turn away from them.” (Rom 16:17) The noun related to the verb “keep your eye on” is used in Ezekiel 3:17 (LXX) to refer to the watchman on the wall. His job was to keep his eye peeled for the enemy and to sound the alarm when he saw them coming so that they could prepare for battle. Since these false teachers often disguise themselves as “servants of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:15) or as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matt. 7:15), you have to be discerning to spot them.

Paul also says, “I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.” Or, in Jesus words (Matt. 10:16, ESV), “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Our focus should be on being wise in the Scriptures. Knowing the truth will equip you to refute the errors of false teachers.” (From bible.org – https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-107-final-warning-beware-false-teachers-romans-1617-20)

Finally, watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Tim 4:16 (NIV)

titus-bkgd

Click on the picture for the link or see the link below:

http://subsplash.com/northwestbiblechurch/v/c45ad67

Titus: More Than the “Titus 2 Woman” Part 2

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Let’s take a look at Titus 1:5-9:

(O)This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and (P)appoint elders in every town as I directed you— (Q)if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife,[d] and his children are believers[e]and not open to the charge of (R)debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer,[f] (S)as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not (T)be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent (U)or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, (V)and disciplined. He must (W)hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in (X)sound[g] doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

{Once again, I’m leaving the footnotes and cross references for the curious at heart.}

At first glance this letter to Titus might appear as though it’s just another book about church order, elders, and so on. We get these virtue and vice lists and might be tempted to gloss over them since we assume they may not pertain to us (elders were to be men in this passage, so we women might think it’s not for us). Wrong! Every word is helpful for understanding the Cretan culture, Paul’s ministry model, Titus’ task on the island, order in the church, and so on. It’s the first time Paul lets us in on why sound doctrine is so important for living the holy life. These leaders of the church would set the precedent for how God’s Word would be lived out in every day life. If they were to be teaching sound doctrine and rebuking those against it, then they most certainly needed to be living it out.

The talk that our teacher (Donna) did was broken into two sections: Put into Order and Character Matters.

Put into Order

Elders were to be appointed in every town on the island. Acts 14:23 reveals how the apostles approached the appointing of elders (and it was no small thing!):

23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

Prayer. Fasting. Committed to the Lord. You might say it was a sort of ordination into the ministry. It appears to be as serious as how we might handle the election of a pastor for our church.

Paul tells us in verse 5 that Titus was to put into order what was lacking or what remained. This phrase to put into order was actually a medical term that meant to set broken bones or to straighten those which were crooked. Now 2 Timothy 2:2 gives us more insight concerning what these men were to do:

and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.

They were called to teach the word which had been entrusted to them. We talked about the idea of being “entrusted” with the Word in the previous post. It is a careful guarding.

So if the appointment of elders was such an important task and not to be taken lightly, this tells us that the organization of the church was important to God. I love that He cares for order! But this is not an order for order’s sake. Order indicates that there’s a purpose behind the plan. It’s been well thought out and is intentional. God cares about and is involved in the smallest details and the big picture.

Character Matters

I love the main descriptor for the elders in verse 6 – to be above reproach. Someone who reproaches another is expressing disappointment or disapproval. The elder was to be above reproach. That would mean that even if someone expressed disapproval, that person would be put to shame because the elder would be above the claim made against them. This word does not mean that the elder is sinless (no one can be sinless), but rather that he is “without indictment or accusation; unchargable.” 1 Peter 3:16 tells us we are:

16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Paul then goes on to list (1) domestic character, (2) moral character, and (3) doctrinal character.

1) Husband of one wife. Boy that phrase is loaded with years and years of arguments and interpretation! What did Paul actually mean? If all the scholars were to duke this one out, two arguments stand above them all: the husband should never have been divorced v. the husband should have only one wife (as opposed to many). The Greek phrase literally means one woman man. Regardless of where you fall in your interpretation of this passage, one thing is certain – the elder’s relationship with his wife is paramount. {I tend to believe that being divorced, under certain circumstances, should not disqualify a person from being able to serve as a leader/elder.}

  • Believing children. Wow, Paul! Could we ease up on the controversial topics? Once again this is a touchy subject and can be interpreted in different ways. Are we talking about young children (only in the home, under the father’s care) or also about children who have left the home (no longer under the father’s authority, per se)? We have seen that the parents can do well to raise their children to know the Lord, but those children can later turn from the faith. These are difficult issues that can touch our hearts in very tender ways. Ultimately what we need to remember is that the way a man father’s his children reveals his heart. The idea is that “if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim 3:5)
  • In fact, the next verse calls this man God’s steward (if you take “overseer” to mean “elder”. Please note that these are two different words in the Greek, and some believe this is a separate calling). A steward is someone who manages their Master’s business/property or household. The elders/overseers were to manage God’s household, the Church.

2) Before Paul lists all the things the elders are to be, he tells them what they should NOT be. I find this to be very helpful because it paints a more poignant picture. We can say we are self-controlled in some things, but do we have a quick-temper? The elders were NOT to be arrogant, quick-tempered, a drunkard, violent, or greedy. Let us keep in mind that these are qualifications for elders and not for all people that come through the church doors. If you are a regular church attender and have issues with arrogance or anger, this does not disqualify you from entering into the fellowship with other believers. However, all Christians should avoid these vices for they are unbecoming to the one who wears Christ’s name (but that’s another conversation for another time).

  • To be arrogant meant to “enjoy oneself or take one’s pleasure” and came to mean “self-pleasing, self-willed, obstinate in one’s own opinion.” Prone to anger didn’t mean having angry moments, but rather that the person was a ticking time bomb. To be a drunkard literally meant to “sit alongside wine”. Violent goes without saying. Greedy for gain implies dishonesty or shameful means of gaining wealth.
  • Verse 8 then lists the virtues (what the elders should be): hospitable, lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. Hospitable meant to love strangers. That the elders, leaders in the church, were to be hospitable meant that they were to be servants and not beneath the act of caring for strangers. To love what is good is a fascinating qualification to me. This one carries the idea of being peace-loving and pure (not having a poor/negative attitude and not loving what is bad/evil). To be self-controlled meant to have reign over the mind and the body. Upright and holy really go well together. Disciplined meant to exercise self control or mastery over oneself.

3 Finally Paul tells Titus that the elder must hold firm to the trustworthy Word. These men were to teach sound doctrine and rebuke those who contradict it.

  • 1 Timothy 4:16 tells us,

16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (NIV)

  • And Colossians 1:28 says,

28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

  • We should all hold firm to the Word, being careful to watch our doctrine, for by His Word we are made mature. The elders were to teach and warn the people so that they could present God’s Church to Him, mature or complete. Their task was no easy or small task.

To wrap up the passage, Donna read this from Charles Spurgeon:

It is the fashion, nowadays, to talk much about preaching Christ, but not His doctrines. I neither understand nor wish to understand what that expression can mean. Christ without His doctrine? The great Teacher without His teachings? The Lord without His commands? The Christ without His anointing? Jesus, the only Savior, without His precious blood of Atonement? This is Judas-like, to betray the Son of Man with a kiss, to set up a engraved image in the place of Christ, a stuffed idol from which everything is absent that is vital to the true Christ of God! Dear Friends, we love “the doctrine of God our Savior” with all our hearts! We have received it to the joy of our spirit and in it we find the mainspring of motive which leads us to love our God and to walk in obedience to His precepts.

Do you love Christ? Yes? Then you will also love His doctrine.

Titus: More Than the “Titus 2 Woman”

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I sat down to lunch with my two mentors (and fellow teachers) at my favorite Greek bakery. We came together to discuss what we’d be teaching the women for the Fall semester at our church. I had no idea when I arrived that I would leave with the Book of Titus as our assignment.

I can think of MANY books of the Bible that I would love to study and teach. Titus was not my first choice. I was thinking more along the lines of Hebrews or even one of the prophets (Isaiah). All I really knew about Titus was what I had heard about the Titus 2 Woman and also that Paul addressed matters related to the Church. My view on Titus, to say the least, was narrow.

However, I am always up for a challenge and typically find that I learn the MOST when I am the one who has to do the teaching. Consequently, I could stand to learn a LOT about Titus. In my previous post, I detail the process that happens when we choose a topic or book of the Bible to study. In this post I am going to describe the insights I have learned from my fellow teachers about Titus. I will also publish my lecture notes in a separate post.

The very first thing I learned about Titus is that it is more than the “Titus 2 Woman.” This book is rich in theology and full of application. It is the perfect harmonizing of orthodoxy (correct belief) and orthopraxy (correct practice). You cannot have one without the other. Take out orthodoxy, and you have no foundation for why to live a godly life. Take out orthopraxy, and you have a religion devoid of heart or relationship. One leaves you feeling ignorant and misdirected while the other leaves you feeling puffed up and hypocritical. Our motto for Titus has become: Sound doctrine rightly applied produces sound living.

Let’s take a look at the passage now:

Titus 1:1-9 (ESV – taken from Biblegateway.com)

Paul, a servant[a] of God and (A)an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and(B)their knowledge of the truth, (C)which accords with godliness, (D)in hope of eternal life, which God,(E)who never lies, (F)promised (G)before the ages began[b] and (H)at the proper time manifested in his word[c] (I)through the preaching (J)with which I have been entrusted (K)by the command of God our Savior;

To Titus, (L)my true child in (M)a common faith:

(N)Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

{You noticed that I left every cross reference and footnote. I promise I wasn’t being lazy. I left them in case you wanted to check them out for yourself!}

The first four verses are Paul’s greeting. Typically we breeze right past the greetings (and likewise with the final greetings or closing) and yet there is so much in there that can enlighten us concerning the culture, author, audience, purpose of the letter and so on. Laura (our leader who taught this lesson) broke down these verses into five sections: His position, office, mission, motivation, and method.

First, Paul lists his position as a bondservant. This is quite a humble statement to make of oneself due to the nature of this service. A bondservant was a slave who had sold himself voluntarily to a Master. Exodus 21:5-6 describes what a servant would do in order to remain a slave of his master. The master would bore his ear through with an awl, leaving a mark to show he belonged to his master. Paul was indicating that he belonged to God! He was not his own. His Master was the Lord, and he would serve Him out of surrendered humility.

Next Paul gives his office as an apostle which meant “one who is called and sent out as a messenger.” This title indicates authority as well. He was able to call himself an apostle along with the Twelve (disciples/apostles), and this title is one that no one else can claim. Baker’s Dictionary explains the qualifications for apostleship:

…the essential qualification of an apostle is being called and sent by Christ. In the case of Matthias, additional qualifications come to light. In addition to the divine call, the person must have been a disciple of Jesus from John’s baptism to the ascension, and specifically a witness of the resurrection (Ac 1:21-22)…. Paul’s own claim to apostleship is likewise based on the divine call of Christ (Rom 1:1 ; 1 Col 1:1 ; Galatians 1:1Galatians 1:15 ; cf. 2 Col 1:1 ; Eph 1:1 ; Col 1:1 ; 1 Tim 1:1 ; 2 Tim 1:1 ; Titus 1:1). He is an apostle, “not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead” (Gal 1:1). His encounter with the resurrected Jesus served as the basis for his unique claim to be an “apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom 11:13)…. The primary function of the apostles was to witness to Christ. The Twelve had intimate knowledge of his life, and a wider group had been witnesses to his resurrection…. Paul viewed apostleship as a gift of the Spirit (1 Co 12:28), which was often accompanied by miraculous signs and mighty works (2 Co 12:12). Such signs and wonders, however, were clearly secondary to the apostolic functions of preaching and teaching. (emphasis mine)

There is a distinction to be made between those who are disciples and the thirteen men who were called apostles. Though the apostles can also be called disciples, not all disciples of Christ can be called apostles.

Thirdly Paul describes his mission to preach the knowledge of the truth which accords with godliness. Knowledge is the apprehension of understanding and this has a target: godliness. It is not a knowledge for knowledge’s sake. It is a knowledge that is proven by your actions.

Fourth Paul’s motivation is his hope of eternal life. The phrase “in hope of” meant “resting on, with a view to.” You might say Paul was at peace with a view of the hope that has been promised by God. He was resting in the promises of God. 🙂 Interestingly this would be directly contrasted with the Cretans experience of their gods (the Greek god, Zeus, in particular). Zeus was known for his ability to deceive. But Paul tells his audience that we have a God who never lies. Because of this, the Cretans could know for certain that the promise they’d been given by God would stand true. We too can trust in this God who is free from falsehood.

Finally we learn about Paul’s method which was to preach (by command of Jesus). He speaks of being “entrusted” with the Word of God, and this has the idea of guarding carefully. Those who teach and preach the Word must correctly handle it (2 Tim 2:15). Guard it! Treat it with respect because it comes from the Ultimate Authority.

{Stay tuned for Titus 1:5-9}

How We Prepare a Bible Study: The Process of LOVING God’s Word

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I want to let you in on a process that happens when writing a bible study (and sometimes even a blog post).

First, you determine your text. In my case I teach with two other ladies, so our women’s minister suggests the direction she wants to go, including some passages that would fit into that category, and then we prayerfully choose where we sense God is leading the bible study. This semester we are studying Titus, and I was not immediately excited like I would have been if we had chosen Hebrews. This is important. I was not as excited as I could have been.

Second, we break down the text according to natural breaks in the text (I know that sentence is ridiculous, but it’s what we do! seriously!). In our case we also divvy out the sections for each of us to teach, and it just so happened to work that each of us would teach three times (making a total of nine lessons for those less math savvy). We also pair a main idea with each section of the text to keep us focused. Because we are studying a smaller book, each section is obviously smaller with only a few verses to elaborate on at times. When this happens, I always think that it will be next to impossible to fill up an entire week of study (after all, you may only have four verses to work with). I am always pleasantly surprised (and somewhat stressed) that I find more than enough to fill up a 45 minute teaching time slot (let it be noted that my last talk was over 7,000 words!).

Third, I go home and POUR over the text. {Notice my picture above? This is an Orthodox Jew copying the Scripture. Do you see how close he is to the paper?! This is how carefully I want to handle the Scriptures.} I read the whole book several times (since it is short, it’s an easier task than if it were a longer book), and then I begin to look at my own sections through a microscope. I look up cross references, the original Greek words, other helpful Scripture references that God brings to mind that might relate to my text. I jump on Ebscohost, and I find articles and books about my passage. If I’m lucky, I’ll even go to the library (Lanier Theological Library here in Houston is a teacher’s heaven) and find commentaries for the book I’m studying. As I’m studying, I’m also praying. In one moment, I’m erasing and in the next I’m rewriting. I’m crying and laughing. I’m staring at the screen blankly, and I’m typing furiously when a deluge of inspiration hits me. I’m nervous about what I’m finding and second guessing myself, and then I’m fully confident and about to explode because I want to share everything I’m learning with SOMEONE. Just anyone!

Then all of the sudden, Titus has become the most exciting book I’ve ever studied. My thoughts are consumed with the ideas from Titus that God has sent bouncing around in my head. Everything that happens every day somehow relates to Titus. All answers lead back to Titus. Everything I read has a tinge of Titus, or some connection to Titus. I’m wearing Titus-colored glasses. And this doesn’t just happen with Titus – oh no, it happens with everything I study. What is more, I want EVERYONE to know what I know, because I want them to be excited just like I’m excited! Because every word that is brought to illumination by the working of the Holy Spirit becomes my water and my food. They become my direct line to my Father who continually desires to reveal more of Himself to you and to me.

THIS is why I hunger and thirst for more of His Word. THIS is why I have a love and passion for teaching what I’ve learned. The knowledge of His Word means a knowledge of who God is and who I am in relation to Him. His Word quickens my heart and spirit for a deeper love for Him. The knowledge of His Word breaks down ignorance and excuse so that when I’m confronted with how to respond to sin or to a person who has hurt me or whatever, I am equipped with the right answer and through His Spirit that can be rightly applied in my life. His Word divides me up, carves away at those things that don’t belong in this child of the King, and it transforms this new creation to conform to the image of His Son.

Don’t be afraid of knowledge. Neither let it be your goal. Knowledge can be the vehicle that drives you straight to the Father.

One final word on the process. I spend all summer prepping for the fall bible study. That means I’m completely stoked about the study, fairly bursting at the seams all summer, and then have to WAIT to talk about it with the bible study group. This is quite possibly the hardest part for me in the bible study process. I don’t ever want the fervor I have felt during the studying process to melt away when I’m giving my talk to the group. I also don’t want it to become too familiar and lose its flavor. I spend hours rehearsing what I’m going to say for each talk. No joke. My husband makes fun of me because of how anal I can be about it! Almost every time God reveals multiple, important points that need to be added or else nudges me to take something out that isn’t going in the right direction. Inevitably I get crazy nervous about sharing my work even though I have diligently prepared for every moment. But in the end, I walk up to the podium to pour myself out like a drink offering, and all the nerves calm down, and God speaks. Somehow I get to be His mouthpiece, and there’s nothing more humbling and yet terrifying at the same time.

At the end of my talk, I’m a zombie. The walking dead. The offering has been licked up by the fire. I have left everything up there with no regrets. And all I want to do is go home and sleep so that I can reset for the next time I get to open up His Word and speak His truth to His Church. And thus the cycle continues…

Strength and Dignity

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I have a dear friend who posted this meme on Facebook the other day:

strong-woman

I love the message! Don’t you? When you think of a strong person, you imagine someone with great physical strength who can rip apart lions (King David) or wield a donkey’s jawbone in a heated battle (Samson). Strong people are capable of tearing right through their obstacles, right? A sign of strength is how easily you can defeat an opponent or enemy. A person who shows weakness is the one who is meek and bows out of the fight, right? Uh. no. Not in this case.

Why is it that we buy into the lie that in order to be a strong person, we need to make everyone else around us feel weak? A brother or sister in Christ is not an obstacle to tear right through. We do not need to try to defeat one another in an effort to show how strong we are. Likewise we do not show weakness when we are meek and defer to another. On the contrary, this is great strength indeed.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13)

Both Moses (Numbers 12:3) and Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:1) are described as meek or humble. There’s no way anyone would consider either of these men as being weak.

You do not prove your strength by belittling another person. You actually prove that you have weak character for it is in the way you treat another that reveals your heart.

I am grieved by what I hear week after week about the way women treat one another. The comparison game is deadly. It’s more like Russian Roulette than Candy Land. What I’ve seen is a twisted form of religious pompousness rather than a real life relationship with another sister. {Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also seen the real life relationships that genuinely bring encouragement and love to each person.}

Here’s what I mean: convictions for an individual quickly become measuring sticks for spiritual maturity.Well, I’m a stay at home mom, and if you aren’t a stay at home mom, that means you’re not a good Christian” “I homeschool my children because it’s the best way to raise a child, and if you don’t homeschool then you must be a lesser Christian.” “You aren’t married? Why not? You don’t have children? Why not?” I am giving up all I know to be a missionary and if you don’t want to do missions that means you don’t really love Christ or the lost.” 

Do I need to go on? Now I doubt that any thinking person would actually say any of those statements. But attitudes can speak for themselves. None of these convictions ever need to be a badge we wear to reveal how spiritual or devoted to God we are. God forbid.

Another dear friend of mine used to always say “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Why do we compare ourselves at all? If we compare ourselves in order to puff ourselves up, we have failed. If we compare ourselves to heap guilt on ourselves, we have failed. Put your measuring sticks far away, and instead of spending your time scrutinizing yourself or another person, take the time to appreciate another sister or appreciate the gifts and path God has given to you.

You can have your convictions and still value another sister’s obedience to God, even if it looks completely different from your own! And let me not even get started on how utterly arrogant it is to think that you or I have anything to do with our holiness or acceptance before God. We don’t wear badges, we actually receive crowns and even then we acknowledge that those crowns deserve to be at the feet of Jesus.

And we sing,

Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. (Revelation 4:11)

{So technically that passage is referring to the 24 elders, but you get the idea.}

He alone is worthy. And it is God who created us to the Body of Christ who serves one another with special gifts in order to edify the whole Church. Edify, not tear down. Nourish and lift up, not weaken or destroy.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

God prepared good works for each of us before we even knew we belonged to Him in order that we could walk around on His earth as the hands and feet of Jesus. We are His ambassadors with marching orders to reconcile people back to Him (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). To reconcile! Not to draw people away from Him with our selfish motives.

We don’t need to clamor for His attention, trying to draw His gaze toward us, hoping that He’ll take notice of how great we are. No! We humbly submit to the One who is worthy of all glory and honor and power. We can do this by walking in those good works that He’s prepared for us to do. And some of those good works involve building up our brothers and sisters in Christ.

25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
    and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. (Proverbs 31:25-26)

A woman with strength and dignity is wise and kind. Ironically she also recognizes her own weaknesses and even relishes in them, knowing that when she is weak, [He is] strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).

My sweet friend reminded me too that we need to be women full of grace for ourselves and for one another. We’re all going to fall, sometimes in small ways and other times in large ways. Wouldn’t you want someone to come alongside you and help you along rather than be put to shame by a sideways glance or a disappointed shaking of the head?

In case you’ve ever been hurt by a careless statement, consider first to give that person the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps that woman did not mean to hurt your feelings nor make you feel like a lesser Christian. Sometimes people say stupid things, and those aren’t necessarily judgments about you. More often than not, that individual hasn’t considered the implications of her words and is simply expressing her (not-so-tactful) opinion or strongly held conviction.

Let us all be careful with our words for it is by those words that we will be judged (Matthew 12:37). Wouldn’t you rather spend your limited time here on earth using your words to build up and encourage? I thought so.

(P.S. I know more women who are getting this right than women who are getting this wrong. Christ has given us a beautiful and perfect example of love for His bride, and He’s called us to this same kind of love for each other. We are the bride of Christ, and the world will know we are His based on our love for each other! So go love!!) John 13:35

To Inhabit Our Praise

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Inhabits our praise - glory

My husband has been reading Psalm 22 recently which means I get to hear about what he’s discovered. 🙂 I love it. He has written a lesson about it, and I’ve heard it now three times. I still love it. He relates the Psalm to Matthew 27, but not before thoroughly discussing what it must have meant at the time David wrote it. It’s quite a fascinating study, and one I would recommend for everyone!

My favorite part of the Psalm (at least today) struck me right in the heart as if I had read it for the first time. The verse wasn’t even pertinent to the study at that moment, but it hit me hard nonetheless. Go ahead, read the 22nd Psalm for yourself. Something else might strike you.

But here’s the verse in all it’s glory:

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.

David is clearly feeling forsaken (was it because of his first plight with Saul? or was it because of the Philistines? or perhaps one of his sons was out to get him?), but in verse 3 he writes, “Yet You are holy….” An emphatic statement made by a man who needed to remind himself who God is in the midst of his trials. I would surmise that David wasn’t feeling so certain about many things (whether or not he’d live, who his friends were, his role in Israel) yet he knew this truth about God. It’s a beautiful thing to recall God’s character for the encouragement of our aching, uncertain heart.

But this isn’t even my favorite part!

David tells us that God is “enthroned on the praises of Israel.” Another way to say this would be that God inhabits the praise of His people or that God dwells in the praise of His people.

Can we just pause for a moment and think about what that means??

I love how the Hebrew language is full of imagery at its core. This verse gives us an incredible mental picture of our holy God dwelling inside of our praise.

He dwells in our praise!

When I think of God inhabiting a place, I imagine every inch of that place being completely filled with Him. Think of what Isaiah saw when he had the vision of God in the temple:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Isaiah 6:1-5 (emphasis mine)

God was on His throne and the temple wasn’t filled with God, it was filled with only the train of His robe! Imagine the enormity of God! The most bottom piece of His robe is what fills the gigantic (to us) temple! The seraphim tell us that the whole earth is full of His glory (which makes sense why only the bottom of His kingly robe would fit inside of a teensy temple). Notice the reference to God as holy (only this time it is emphasized with the triple repetition). David knew God is holy. Isaiah knew God is holy (interesting fact about Isaiah: he refers to God as “the Holy One of Israel” more than any other prophet). The Holy One filled the temple with a piece of His robe revealing that the place was not only completely filled with Him, but it couldn’t even contain Him.

Now picture the Holy One taking up the space of our praise.

Doesn’t that send chills down your spine? We know God is Immanuel – He is God with us. We know that God made His Son come to dwell among us. We know that when Jesus ascended into heaven, He left His Holy Spirit to dwell in us. This Holy One fills up the space of our lives with Himself. More importantly, He inhabits the praise of His people.

What does this mean for us? If God fills up the space that our praise makes, how much space is full of God in our lives? It’s both sobering and break-taking. Can you envision the Holy One occupying the space in our churches and homes as we lift up our voices to Him in praise? Can you see Him hovering about in those teensy buildings just as He first hovered over the waters during creation? A sense of anticipation and joy as He readies Himself to give life to His creation.

The presence of God is in our midst, and He comes to dwell with us as we pour out our praise to Him. He lives in our praise.

How would this change our lives if we really believed it? If God lives in my praise, wouldn’t I take extra care to pour it out? And if I know He dwells in my praise, wouldn’t I want to speak it liberally so that others could see His presence here on earth?

How does the mood of our homes and churches change when we are intent on speaking His praise? Only His praise? I have a hunch that my words would not fall to the floor as often if I had His praise in mind. There would be less criticism, less angry words, and more love and grace.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.

May His praise ever be on my lips.

Gomer: A Heart Unfaithful (Part 3)

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Here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it

Something you must know about the prophets is that many times their prophecies are not placed in chronological order. In addition to this, it is highly unlikely that each oracle they preach came one right after the other. You can expect that they would have had both long and short periods of time in between each prophecy.

So we have no idea when this next passage occurs, but we know it happens! Hosea 3:1 says, The Lord said to me,

“Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” (NIV)

Hosea had made a marriage covenant/vow with Gomer. Gomer had broken her vows and had gone after other lovers, had been an adulteress. Yet God tells His prophet, go get her back! How many times must we forgive, Lord? 70 times 7. How many times must I go back for my unfaithful wife, Lord? Again and again and again.

God is telling Hosea, as many times as she leaves, you go back to get her, because that’s what I would do. Israel had forsaken the covenant with their Husband. They had broken their vows, yet the Lord still loved them.

When one of my sheep wanders from the fold, I leave the 99 to go and get her. Because SHE’S MINE. And I LOVE Her.

Oh and by the way, Hosea, it’s going to cost you, just like it cost me. Hosea 3:2-3

So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley.And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.”

Gomer has wandered so far that Hosea now has to purchase her for a price! Remember 30 shekels was the price for a slave! The price he pays is debated but here are the notes I found on the amounts.

My ESV footnote says, “A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams; a homer was about 6 bushels or 220 liters; a lethech was about 3 bushels or 110 liters.” The NIV footnote says a homer and a lethek together possibly weighed 430 pounds. A homer was valued at 50 shekels of silver according to Lev 27:16.

Regardless of whether or not this was a low or high price, the point is Hosea had to purchase back his wayward wife, Gomer. She’s been redeemed. Bought back.

Webster’s 1828 dictionary says to redeem meant: 1) To purchase back; to ransom; to liberate or rescue from captivity or bondage. 2) To repurchase what has been sold; to regain possession of a thing alienated, by repaying the value of it to the possessor. 3) To rescue; to recover; to deliver from.

Gomer would hopefully know her worth after being redeemed from her life of sin. We have no idea if she stayed with Hosea because after chapter 3, her name is not mentioned again. But Hosea would send a clear message to his bride – I have purchased you at a great price. You are mine.

He wanted her to be sealed as his bride forever. She would be sealed up, marked as Hosea’s bride, and secured from danger. To seal also has the connotation of being closed, fulfilled, complete.

Do you remember what Gomer’s name meant? COMPLETE.

Did she finally find her worth in God? Could she truly be called complete?

To be sealed meant having your heart imprinted by the One you belong to. Here’s my heart Lord take and seal it.

Jesus secured our redemption. (Eph 1:7-8) He purchased us with His blood. (1 Pet 1:18-19) He redeemed us from the curse of the law (Gal 3:13). And He set His seal over our hearts, the Holy Spirit, as a promise of what is to come! (2 Cor 1:22, Eph 1:13-14)

To Him be the glory forever!

Hosea finishes God’s message in v. 4-5

For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods.Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.

God again reveals the parallel between Hosea’s marriage and God’s marriage to His people because God would do the same to Israel that Hosea had done to Gomer. Just like Gomer who was in “captivity” to her sinful lifestyle and selling her body to her “lovers”, God would send away His people in captivity to a foreign nation.

Verse 4 is simply referring yet again to the exile when they will be without their king, without their way of false worship, and without their false idols. They would leave their promised land and be captives in Assyria. YET the Lord would bring them back. In fact He uses the phrase they shall return and seek the Lord.

The word for return in the Hebrew is Shuwb (shoob) and meant to turn back. Hosea uses this word 21 times throughout his prophecy! He uses it not only of Israel but of the Lord, turning back to Israel or away from His wrath.

In fact in Hosea 14:1-2a, 3a-4 he says,

1 Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,
for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
Take with you words
and return to the Lord…

Assyria shall not save us;
we will not ride on horses;
and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’
to the work of our hands…”

I will heal their apostasy;
I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned from them.

I love the picture God gives us here of what to do. Return or turn back. In other words: Repent! And when you turn back, take with you words. Repentance involves admitting and agreeing with God about your sins and then turning from them.

He wanted His people to admit their sins, be specific about what they’d done. Tell God, we know Assyria can’t save us, those idols can’t save us, only You, God, can save us.

Then God tells them, I will heal your abandonment of me. I will love you voluntarily. I will not execute my fierce anger against you.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be healed from your inclination to wander? This sin in us is a disease that we need to be healed from! It’s a thorn in our flesh. We are in desperate need of treatment to remove the disease, to have the thorn removed. God is going to heal our apostasy, our inclination to sin against Him.

Did God heal Gomer’s unfaithful heart? I don’t know.

Not only will He heal, but He’s also going to love us with an everlasting, unconditional love. His anger will be turned away from us. And it will be placed on His Son. (Rom 5:9 we are saved from God’s wrath through Him!)

I hear the old hymn:

Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

Jesus, the holy God, became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God (so that our apostasy would be healed) 2 Cor 5:21.

Jesus came in flesh so that sin could be condemned in the flesh (Rom 8:3).

The thorns found their place on Christ as well, piercing His head in the twisted crown.

Praise God He is coming!

Finally, Hosea mentions David again in this last verse of chapter 3. The children of God would return, seek the Lord, and David their king. They would come in fear to the Lord and to His goodness.

Jeremiah 23:5 tells us,

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”

That’s my Jesus. He is the Righteous Branch in David’s family tree. Do you see why the people in Jesus’ time would have been so zealous for a king? They had experienced the trial of exile, knowing it had been their turning away from the Lord that had put them there.

They wanted to be a nation that sought the Lord, that feared Him. This is why we see the rise of the Pharisees and all those religious leaders. They truly wanted to know God’s laws so that they never ended up in exile again. But they missed their Messiah. They missed the Righteous Branch.

Even those who knew Jesus and followed Him didn’t understand the kind of King He came to be. He would reign as king and deal wisely. He would execute justice and righteousness in the land. But He did so much more!

He saved them from their spiritual disease, not just their Roman oppressors. He took away their sin problem, not just their political, economic, and social problems! And He brought down the barrier wall, dividing the Jew and Gentile. Thanks be to God, we can be called Children of the Living God.

You must know today that God Loves You and says You are worth His pursuit!

Here are the words from Come Thou Fount:

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
mount of God’s redeeming love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer
hither by Thy help I’m come;
and I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
interposed His precious blood.

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to Thee:
prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it;
seal it for Thy courts above.

 

To view the video, click here.

Gomer: A Heart Unfaithful (Part 2)

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Bind my wandering heart to Thee

Perhaps some time has passed between his last oracle and the next one. Hosea 2:2 stands out as a very stark picture concerning Gomer:

2Plead with your mother, plead—
for she is not my wife,
and I am not her husband—
that she put away her whoring from her face,
and her adultery from between her breasts;
lest I strip her naked
and make her as in the day she was born,
and make her like a wilderness,
and make her like a parched land,
and kill her with thirst.

Ezekiel 16:15 also says quite bluntly to Israel:

But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passerby; your beauty became his.

And again in Hosea 4:12,

My people inquire of a piece of wood,
and their walking staff gives them oracles.
For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray,
and they have left their God to play the whore.

How many times did Hosea have to plead with Gomer? How many times did she leave, wander away?

We know that tradition calls Jeremiah the weeping prophet, but I have to wonder how terribly sorrowful Hosea must have been. He didn’t just SPEAK God’s message, He LIVED it. If Israel was going to play the whore, Hosea was to play the husband to the whore. He was becoming very acquainted with God’s heart for His people, and it HURT.

You can hear the note of agony in his voice as he’s ready to do just about anything to bring her back. Strip her naked? Make her like the wilderness? Kill her with thirst? In other words, put her in a place of need so she can learn dependence on the One who loves her.

Bind her wandering heart to him.

God continues His tone of judgement for their sins in v.9-13. Gomer and Israel believed their lovers had given them the grain and wool and drink and gold so God would take it all away. He says in v. 9-11,

Therefore I will take back
my grain in its time,
and my wine in its season,
and I will take away my wool and my flax,
which were to cover her nakedness.
10 Now I will uncover her lewdness
in the sight of her lovers,
and no one shall rescue her out of my hand.
11 And I will put an end to all her mirth,
her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths,
and all her appointed feasts.

Isaiah also speaks to their feasts in 1:13-14

13 Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
    I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.

Hosea 2:12-13 continues,

12 And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees,
of which she said,
These are my wages,
which my lovers have given me.’
I will make them a forest,
and the beasts of the field shall devour them.
13 And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals
when she burned offerings to them
and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry,
and went after her lovers
    and forgot me, declares the Lord.

Micah 1:7 says of the harlot’s wages,

All her carved images shall be beaten to pieces,
all her wages shall be burned with fire,
and all her idols I will lay waste,
for from the fee of a prostitute she gathered them,
and to the fee of a prostitute they shall return.

God says His people, Israel, had gone after her lovers. They forgot God. The word forgot in Hebrew is shakach (shaw-kakh’) and means to forget, ignore, wither, to cease to care.

God had already forewarned them all the way back in Deuteronomy 8:11-14, 17-19

11 “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied,14then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. 17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18 You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.”

Hosea, wanting to put a stop to Gomer’s adulterous lifestyle says in Hosea 2:6-7,

6Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns,
and I will build a wall against her,
so that she cannot find her paths.
She shall pursue her lovers
but not overtake them,
and she shall seek them
but shall not find them.
Then she shall say,
‘I will go and return to my first husband,
for it was better for me then than now.’

It’s like he’s resolved to the fact that she is going to wander and continue to pursue those other men, but he still holds out hope that she will return to him. That she would bind her wandering heart to her husband.

He hopes she’ll realize that she really was better off with Hosea than with pursuing her passions. For God, His hope was that His bride would return to Him: Isaiah 54:5-6

5For your Maker is your husband,
the Lord of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.
For the Lord has called you
    like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit,
like a wife of youth when she is cast off,
says your God.

Hear His words with all the anguish dripping from them. You have deserted me. You have forgotten your first love.

One of my favorite images is this one about the Hedge. One of my mentors, Jamy Fisher, wrote a Bible study on Hosea called Chains Falling. In it she writes about the hedge.

In Hosea this hedge is translated in NIV as “thorn bushes”. Its purpose was to keep Gomer from pursuing her sinful desires. It was placed as a boundary.

Elsewhere in Scripture, a hedge is used for protection. In Job 1:10 Satan tells God,

Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.”

It was protection from harm, poverty, etc.  and was a blessing on his work and possessions. However, here’s how Job saw the hedge – as a barrier, keeping something good hidden from him. He didn’t see the purpose of the hedge in Job 3:23

“Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, / whom God has hedged in?”

Sometimes those hedges God builds up for us that look thorny and seem to hide good things from our view, are really meant to protect us and to keep us from stumbling like Gomer.

Jesus Sought Me When a Stranger, Wand’ring from the Fold of God

If you don’t see God as a romantic, just read the next verses in Hosea. Hosea 2:14 says,

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.

The word allure in Hebrew is Pathah (paw-thaw’) and carries with it a note of deception and persuasion. To entice, even seduce.

The phrase “speak tenderly” is that same phrase used in Ruth of Boaz who “spoke kindly” to her (Ruth 2:13) and of David who spoke to Abigail to be his wife (1 Sam 25).

I wonder if Hosea tried to speak tenderly to Gomer, urging her to come home. Did he go out to find her, catch her in a shameful act, and respond with this gentle tenderness? How would her heart respond to him?

Poor Gomer maybe never knew (before Hosea) how a woman was to be treated. Did she know what it meant to be a wife? To be treasured and not abused? To be seen as beautiful and for that to be celebrated and not used for another’s pleasure? Did she know what it meant for a man to treat her with kindness, expecting nothing in return?

Even beyond this, could she have known that as much as Hosea loved her, the God who made her also delighted in her and desired to pour out His love on her? Did she know He had created her for much greater purposes than how she was currently living?

I imagine this picture of God bending down, stooping to whisper in His bride’s ear Come back to Me, My love.

He pursues His bride but in this case it is with romance and tenderness. It’s Your kindness, Lord, that leads us to repentance. (Rom 2:4)

However, recall the kind of bride Israel has been to her Groom. This bride has been unfaithful. Like Gomer, she has forsaken, forgotten, left her husband. And God’s response is KINDNESS?

His kindness makes absolutely no sense! His pursuit of His unfaithful bride is absurd!

Let me ask you this. How many times either in your relationship with a family member or in your relationship to God have you been forgiven or loved even though you didn’t deserve it? In fact, you probably deserved punishment or scorn?

How many times have you expected someone or God to really rip into you about something you did wrong and give you a good tongue lashing only to have just the opposite happen? God certainly brought judgement on His people and gives them plenty of reprimands and corrections. However, He responds in this passage with kindness.

How much more did you love that person or how much more did you love God in that moment when He gives you love and not discipline? In fact maybe you would have preferred the tongue lashing, knowing you deserved it, and felt like you had it coming? Doesn’t your heart melt with the deepest affection, knowing you deserved the punishment and yet He withholds it AND then pours on Love and Mercy?

She who has been forgiven much, loves much. (Luke 7 the Sinful Woman Forgiven)

As Hosea continues this image of hope, he writes in v. 15,

 And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.

Hosea speaks of the Valley of Achor in this prophecy. Achor meant “trouble”. God promises to make the Valley of Trouble a Door of Hope. But what’s the Valley of Achor? And why is it trouble?

Gomer valley_of_achor

It comes from Joshua 7 when Achan had kept some of the devoted items for himself which incurred God’s wrath and resulted in Israel’s military defeat against the city of Ai. Verses 24-26 tells us,

24 And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. 26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.

God’s promise was to bring Hope out of Trouble. Beauty from Ashes.

Next, (v. 15) God gives us this image of Israel as a young bride “in the days of her youth” when she had loved her God wholeheartedly. Jeremiah 2:2 words it this way:

Thus says the Lord, “I remember the devotion of your youth,
your love as a bride,
how you followed me in the wilderness,
in a land not sown.

He had caused them to wander in the wilderness so they could learn devotion and dependence to/on the One who chose them and provided for them.

But now, He tells them how He wishes they were like that blushing bride again, having a pure devotion and love for their God again.

Poor Hosea maybe never knew this devotion from his wife.

As we read of God’s bride responding to Him, Hosea says in v. 16-17:

16 “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ 17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more.

My Baal meant my Master. It was a generic word for “lord”. The people were using this common term for their holy God. The people had mixed up their worship of the One True God with man-made, hand-carved idols.

The worship of Baal had become so common that God speaks of a time when that word will be removed from their mouths. Instead of the people forgetting their God, they would be forgetting the name of Baal.

Was Gomer accustomed to calling Hosea her master instead of her husband? Does this reveal her lack of relationship with her husband?

Do you call Him Lord because you think you have to? Or do you call Him My Love because you value that relationship with Him?

Is He too familiar? Too common to you? This is God in His holy place. He is not your master who lords His power over you. He is your Husband who pours out His love over you. (Rom 5:5 through the Spirit in us)

Hosea (God) goes on to speak of “that day” like He’s in a perfect day dream in v. 18-20:

18 And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. 19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.

I am very fascinated by all the marriage language in Hosea. Here, He writes about betrothing Israel to Himself forever. Remember how He had previously said, “You are not My people”? (1:9) And “…she is not my wife, and I am not her husband”? (2:2)

Was Hosea saying, even though you, Gomer, have left me for your lovers, I will betroth you to me forever? And Gomer, you will know the Lord!

Is God saying He will take them as His wife to love them in righteousness, justice, love, mercy, faithfulness. To be all these things to Him? I take you as My wife forever. In sickness and in health. In righteousness and in sinfulness. In justice and in perversion of justice. In love and in rejection. In mercy and in judgment. In faithfulness and unfaithfulness.

OR is He saying I will put a heart in YOU to be righteous, just, loving, merciful, faithful to ME? You’ve forgotten the Lord, but THEN you will know the Lord. You aren’t faithful now, but you will be faithful then.

Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.

Hosea 2:21-23 says,

21 “And in that day I will answer, declares the Lord,
I will answer the heavens,
and they shall answer the earth,
22 and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and they shall answer Jezreel,
23     and I will sow her for myself in the land.
And I will have mercy on No Mercy,
and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’;
and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’”

Remember earlier in Hosea 1 Jezreel meant “God scatters”, but the word can also mean “God sows” which is the image we see here in Hosea 2. Whereas He had previously promised to punish them for the sin of Jehu there at Jezreel, He would (in that day) bring Israel back and “sow” her in the land. They would be removed for a time from the promised land (with the exile) and would be planted back in their land “in that day”.

In that day God would make this covenant to show mercy on those who had no mercy. To call those who were not His people, My people. In Jeremiah 31:33 the prophet writes,

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

We can look to Jesus, knowing He made it possible for us to know the Father. He writes His law on our hearts. He gives us the Spirit which sanctifies us and transforms us into the image of the Son. And through His Spirit we cry “Abba, Father”! (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6)

In Romans 9, Paul writes about the Gentiles becoming a part of God’s people and he references Hosea! In v. 25-26 he says those who were not My people will be called My people.

There is such hope for us. We look to that ultimate fulfillment where Jesus will come and gather His people together to be with Him forever in peace and in the presence of God. In. That. Day.

Gomer: A Heart Unfaithful (Part 1)

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Gomer. With a name like that, there’s bound to be a story. Her name meant “complete” or “completion”. How tragically ironic for a woman who found her sole purpose in the giving of her body. She was a woman broken to pieces, far from being complete.

Imagine her surprise when the man of God, Hosea, took her by the hand to enter into his life as his wife. Her very private life suddenly became very public. In fact God told Hosea that He would use their marriage to cry out against His own people, the unfaithful wife, Israel.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.

But did she love Hosea? Did she even love God?

She was prone to wander. Just like Israel, she would be unfaithful to her husband. Where did she go wrong? Where did Israel go wrong?

Prone to Wander

The northern kingdom, Israel, was in dire straits. God had sent Elijah and Elisha and then Amos after them to prophecy against His people. He was calling them to remember their covenant with Him and to say, if you don’t remember your promise, those curses I swore about will come to pass. I promised.

Hosea then comes on the scene as a prophet around 750 B.C. This is only 180 years after the nation split into two kingdoms. 180 years after Solomon.

If you take a look at the Kings, you’ll find that EVERY king in the northern kingdom was a BAD king.

Gomer kings-prophets timeline

You could say that Hosea had his work cut out for him.

To summarize the Israelite (northern kingdom) kings is rather easy. They were evil!

Jeroboam I – he set up his own worship centers to keep the north from going south to Jerusalem. He made calves to be the likeness of God and set up new priests to serve at the centers. (1 Kings 12) OMG.

Nadab – did evil in God’s sight

Baasha – killed the previous king to be king; caused the people to sin just like Jeroboam

Elah – evil

Zimri – killed the previous king to be king; burned himself in the king’s house to escape Omri

Omri – appointed king by the people at the same time as Zimri; went up against Zimri; did more evil than all before him

Ahab – even more evil than all the others; erected altars to Baal and Asherah; also sacrificed two of his own sons! (1 Kings 16)

Ahaziah – did evil, worshiped the baal

Joram – evil, killed by the next king

Jehu – kills Ahab’s evil son, Joram, also killed Jezebel (evil wife of Ahab) and 70 of Ahab’s family members; killed all the prophets of Baal, burned the pillars and house of Baal; YET he sinned by worshipping the golden calves at Bethel and Dan (which Jeroboam had set up) (2 Kings 10)

Jehoahaz – did evil (13)

Jehoash – did evil

Jeroboam II – though he did great things for Israel (restoring borders), he did evil in God’s sight (14)

All the rest of the kings reigned anywhere from one month to 10 years. Needless to say, their time as a nation was coming to a fast close. The kings were dropping like flies and they were about to be invaded by Assyria. (722 B.C.)

It is under these conditions that God calls Hosea in Hosea 1:1, but it was an unlikely, even appalling kind of call. Hosea 1:2 :

Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.

If I were Hosea, my answer might sound something like: Um, yes Sir. But do I have to?

But Hosea is obedient and in Hosea 1:3 it says,

So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

None of the other prophets ever had this kind of assignment. Wasn’t the man of God supposed to be, well, godly? Wasn’t it considered a major sin to sleep with a prostitute?

God wanted to make a statement to His people. I’d say His message came loud and clear.

Gomer’s first son is said to be by Hosea. His name? Jezreel. It meant “God scatters”. Hosea 1:4-5 says:

…Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.

Where is this Valley of Jezreel?

Gomer Valley jezreel

Here is a map, showing that it is just south of Galilee, actually in the region of Samaria.

Here is an aerial view of the land:

Gomer aeriel view jezreel-valley

Perhaps you have read what happened in the Valley of Jezreel. The evil King Ahab killed a righteous man in cold blood to be able to have that man’s land (which happened to be in the Jezreel Valley). But did you know that God judged Ahab several kings later when he appointed Jehu as king of Israel? Jehu murders MANY people, all of them connected to Ahab’s house. He sounds like a fairly terrible king. HOWEVER, God had appointed him to carry out the task of killing all of Ahab’s house.

The problem for Jehu was that, even though he had gotten rid of the evil Ahab and his family, he didn’t get rid of all the Baals. This judgment comes on him with the birth of Hosea’s son, Jezreel.

God would “break the bow” of Israel, indicating a military defeat in the region of Samaria. This prophecy comes true exactly as God said: Assyria would invade through the north, entering into Samaria and taking the city and the people of Israel. It came in two waves. First we read in 2 Kings 15:29,

In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon, Abel-beth-maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and he carried the people captive to Assyria.

Then in 2 Kings 17:6

In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

The next verse (17:7, 12) says,

7And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God,…12 and they served idols.

Hosea receives this prophecy around 750 B.C. and the captivity happens in 722, less than 30 years later.

Right in the midst of all of this lies Gomer. A heart prone to wander.

Prone to Leave the One She Loves

Hosea 1:6 says,

She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the Lord said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all.”

Gomer conceives again but this time it does say not she bore him a daughter. This daughter’s name is Lo-Ruhamah. No mercy. Or Not loved.

Ouch. That girl must have had a complex!

We find out later in Hosea 2:4-5 that this daughter and the next son are both illegitimate children. They don’t belong to Hosea! He writes,

Upon her children also I will have no mercy,
because they are children of whoredom.
For their mother has played the whore;
    she who conceived them has acted shamefully.
For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers,
who give me my bread and my water,
my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’

Her mother was out playing the harlot, making love to any man who came by, but she, the daughter, receives no love. Her mother went out after her lovers, acting shamefully, but Lo-Ruhamah would be the one shamed.

A footnote (ESV study bible) for verse 5 says, “The Canaanite people believed that they owed all the products of the soil to the Baals…. All fertilization was a result of the power of the Baals. Having intercourse with sacred prostitutes was thought to contribute to the agricultural prosperity of the land. The harlot’s pay came from the harvest (v. 12).”

Gomer believes her lovers have paid her with the grains, oils, and drinks from the harvest. Israel believed their fruitful crops came from these gods. They played the harlot, going after these idols.

Hosea continues in 2:8,

And she did not know
that it was I who gave her
the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and who lavished on her silver and gold,
which they used for Baal.

Does your heart break for Hosea? For God? She did not know it was I who gave these gifts to her. I gave her the silver and gold. But what does she do? Uses it for the idols.

Idols! You saw what happened with the kings of Israel. Idolatry. They were believing and worshipping a lie. These were counterfeit gods. Israel was whoring around with other “gods” or lovers.

The Old Testament speaks to the folly of idolatry. It is folly because they worshipped something that was not God, something they created with their own hands and which ultimately cannot do any good for them.

Isaiah 44:9-20 addresses the folly of idolatry. In v. 20 Isaiah writes,

He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

As for Israel, how could they even stand if God removes His love from them? If He chooses not to extend His mercy to them any longer?

Perhaps they had taken the words of the Psalmist for granted:

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared. (Ps. 130:3-4)

Their time had run out. He would no longer forgive them. Their sins would now be counted against them. They will not be able to stand up under this judgement. Assyria was coming.

Hosea writes in 1:7

But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.

So even though God would not have mercy on Israel, God indicates that He will save Judah (southern kingdom) because they at least were still following in His ways. In 2 Kings 19:32-36 Isaiah the prophet, speaking to Hezekiah, king over Judah says,

32 Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: “He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. 33 By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. 34 For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.” 35 And that night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. 36 Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh.

God didn’t use bow, sword, war, horse or horsemen. He used His great might and struck down Judah’s enemies.

Now back to Israel (the northern kingdom), the text continues in Hosea 1:8-9

When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. And the Lord said, “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”

Gomer conceives a third time, possibly by another man, and this time it’s another son. The Lord tells Hosea to call him Lo-ammi. Was this son NOT Hosea’s? Not God’s people?

Can you reach into Hosea’s heart and take a peek at the agony he must have experienced because of this calling on his life? The man of God with the wayward wife. She was prone to leave the one who loved her.

This can be seen as a reversal of the Mosaic covenant. The I Am is no longer their I Am. God tells His people, you are not My people; I am not your God. He rejects the people He had chosen. I. Am. Not. Yours.

It’s like He’s telling them, you have acted in a way that reveals to Me that you care nothing for Me. You have shown Me that you want nothing to do with Me. If that’s how you want it, you’ve got it.

But then, God says in Hosea 1:10-11 and 2:1

10Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” 11 And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel. 2:1 Say to your brothers, “You are my people,” and to your sisters, “You have received mercy.”

I love the redemption story we see unfolding in Hosea’s story. This is what Jamy Fisher calls the Godly Yet (Chains Falling). God always gives hope even in the midst of His judgment! He tells them though I’ve called you, Lo-ammi, you will be called Ammi. I’ve called you Lo-ruhamah, you will be called Ruhamah. He redeems their names. Those children received new identities.

You’ve determined in your heart to reject your calling as My people but I call you My people, I call you Loved. You belong to me, the Living God.

What name do you most often live under? Do you live under a lie? Not loved? Not chosen? Not belonging to God? What has God called you? Loved. Chosen. Holy. Belonging to Him.

He then prophecies that even though they will be exiled, both Judah and Israel will be gathered together and become one nation again. He even tells them that Jezreel will no longer be a place of judgement but one of great joy.

Four other prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah) also prophesy about God bringing both Judah and Israel back to their land. In fact Ezekiel 34:23 says

And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.

Are you tired of hearing those hoof beats yet? I hope not. This is a very clear prophecy about Christ, the descendant of David, the Good Shepherd.

Perhaps Hosea bends down to speak to his wayward wife, I know you’re prone to wander, to leave me, but look what God says to His people. They have left Him, but still He pursues her because they belong to Him, just like you belong to me. Stay…Gomer…