Tag Archives: Romans 2

Titus: Final Words for the Church

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Titus 3:9-15 –  But (R)avoid foolish (S)controversies, (T)genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for (U)they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, (V)after warning him once and then twice, (W)have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. 12 When I send Artemas or (X)Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me (Y)at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and (Z)Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. 14 And let our people learn (AA)to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not (AB)be unfruitful. 15 All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. (AC)Grace be with you all.

{If you’d rather skip the reading, you can find the video here: http://subsplash.com/northwestbiblechurch/v/ajfpe7o}

Don’t you just LOVE the richness of Scripture? The depths of God which no one can possibly know entirely? Myhope is that you have fallen in love with the doctrine of God, not for the sake of knowledge or pride in knowing, but because in it you have found the heart of God and it causes you to fall in love with Him all over again. We love because He first loved us.

And don’t you also love the picture we read of God pouring out the Spirit richly on us? It was foretold long ago by Isaiah and Joel (Is 32:15 “until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high…”; Is 44:3 “I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring…”; Joel 2:28-29 “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…your sons and daughters…old men…young men…servants…”). For it is in the giving of the Spirit through the Son that it is even made possible for us to live holy lives. We respond to the Truth of God (doctrine) by obeying Him (godly living).

We’ve come to the closing at last, and I wonder if your heart is as heavy as mine. Must I say good-bye to Titus? To the Cretans who have wormed their way into my heart? We have one final session with our friends.

First I want to point out that this closing reveals the evidence of mission activity in Crete and the surrounding nations. “There is an assumption in this letter that the life and mission of the new churches on Crete is shared with Christian communities elsewhere. We see how Paul utilizes trained workers from all over to share in the building up of the churches as they send and receive the new workers. Titus played a significant role in the establishment of the churches (Titus 1:5), but he is soon to move on to other work and someone else will take up the task on Crete (Titus 3:12). From the beginning, these new mission churches were to be productive (v. 14) in the wider Christian community and its task in the world.” (Wieland, “Grace manifest: missional church in the letter to Titus” in The New Zealand Journal of Christian Thought & Practice).

This is also evidence of God pouring out those He has equipped in order to strengthen the church and spread the light to the world at large. With this in mind, let us begin…

Counterproductive Lives

To be counterproductive means to defeat one’s purpose or to hinder or act against that which you aim to accomplish. In the previous verses we learned that the people were to be devoted to good works (to Jesus) because THOSE things were excellent and profitable, and then Paul says in verse 9:

9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.

  • AVOID

Perhaps if Paul were speaking in today’s language, he would tell us, “Avoid it like the plague!” Turn yourself around and get away from it! Shun it. Pretend it’s vomit on the floor and give it a wide berth. In fact this word (periistemi – per-ee-is’-tay-mee) is in the middle voice, and carries the idea of “going around something in order to avoid it.” (Exeg. Comm. https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263)  So yes, stay away!

Interestingly this verb is a present imperative of command calling for a continual attitude that seeks to avoid such useless discussions. (https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263). Paul’s command is for them to avoid the foolish (literally moronic from the Greek word moros) controversies, the fights about what God’s Word says. Since we’ve already gone over what Paul meant by “foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law” let me summarize with this quote:

The second part of the passage warns against useless discussions. The Greek philosophers spent their time on their fine-spun problems. The Jewish Rabbis spent their time building up imaginary and deifying genealogies for the characters of the Old Testament. The Jewish scribes spent endless hours discussing what could and could not be done on the Sabbath, and what was and was not unclean. It has been said that there is a danger that a man may think himself religious because he discusses religious questions. There is a kind of discussion group which argues simply for the sake of arguing.” (https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263)

As Steven Cole writes, “Truth must be obeyed, not philosophized.” (bible.org “dealing with factious people”) Avoid these things…

In lesson 3 we talked about how Paul was concerned about the believers being led astray by the false teachers, but that he is also concerned about the unity of the church. The NIV says in 1 Tim 1:4b “…Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.

Talk about being counterproductive to the advancement of God’s kingdom! AVOID foolish controversies and fights about the law. Why? Because these fights are:

  • Unprofitable, worthless

Paul seems to be going for an emphatic statement here because these two words are very similar in meaning. At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, to be unprofitable means that it has no profit for you or others. If you look up the word “unprofitable” it can also mean “useless” (which makes sense because something that brings you no profit is useless or worthless to you)!

Remember Titus 1:10 spoke of “empty talkers” who were like “windbags” and we likened that to idol worship because idols are “empty wind”? They were worthless…

The word worthless is the Greek word

  1. Mataios (mat’-ay-os) and meant being of no use, idle, empty, fruitless, useless, powerless, lacking truth (Lexicon)
  2. Some of its uses include a person’s worship that is worthless (James 1:26), useless fasting (extra biblical), foolish thoughts (1 Cor 3:20), futile desire, directed toward worthless things (extra biblical), empty (1 Cor 15:17), futile way of living (1 Pet 1:18), and idols (Acts 14:15, Esther 4:17, Jer 2:5, 8:19; 3 Macc 6:11).

You see the connection between the two words! Unprofitable or useless and worthless (even with the connection to idols).

Paul writes in 2 Tim 2:14-16 “Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words;(X) it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.(Y) 16 Avoid godless chatter,(Z) because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.”

Paul tells Titus to avoid controversies and fights about the law because they’re worthless. In 2 Tim 2 he says it’s “of no value.” And we learned that those who were unfit were not able to stand the test, or not approved. This is why in 2 Tim 2, Paul follows up his point with “Do your best to present yourself to God as one APPROVED…[one] who correctly handles the Word…”

1 Tim 6:4-5 is also helpful in its description of those who choose to stir up fights about the Law: “They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words(H) that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth

I guess any one of us could look back on a time when we were not so proud of ourselves in an argument. Perhaps we kept pressing on into the fight, wanting so badly to be right, but only stirring up more and more trouble as we stubbornly refused to give up. This is UNHEALTHY and ROBS people of the Truth. Thus the reason Paul tells them to AVOID these things. They do not profit, are of no value, they are worthless and do not advance the gospel but rather rob people of the truth! Avoid them.

Counterfeit Lives 

Something that is counterfeit means it is an imitation of something valuable or important with the intent to deceive. A counterfeit person is a fraud. A fake. The one who stirs up division is living a counterfeit life of the gospel of Christ.

Paul continues in verse 10-11

 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

  • Stirs up division

To stir up division is the word:

  1. Airetikos (hair-ret-ih-kos) meaning “to cause division, to be factious, a division-maker” (Greek Lexicon)
  2. Only used here in Titus.
  3. Word origin: Started out to mean “to “choose, or to prefer…to take for oneself.” …It had the idea of someone who makes a resolute choice. It then started to mean someone whose choice is obstinate and against the truth. It is used here to mean one who had chosen an idea, … a teaching, a doctrine, a viewpoint, a perspective, a course of behavior that was not acceptable to the church…or the Word of God. …Literally, one who chooses for himself…He will not submit to the Word…or to the leadership.” (MacArthur)
  4. Eventually this word came to mean Heretic!

Don’t be a heretic! Those who would try to cause division. There are so many, even among us, who are divisive or factious (one who chooses for himself). Not thinking of others. You can recognize them as those who want to “start a conversation” about some hot topic (HELLO! “foolish controversy” or “quarrel about the [Word]”!!!). These people have an “unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels” (HELLO! They’re just looking to pick a fight with whoever falls for the bait). It’s the same thing we addressed when we learned about the false teachers and deceivers.

They might mask their true motives by trying to get you “on their side” as if they were fighting for some noble cause. They’ll try to get you to believe that the godly thing to do is to “fight” for some issue – for some issue that typically tends to be controversial. But what does it actually accomplish? Almost every time, it’s just going to produce friction. As Paul says, it’s unprofitable and worthless.

To better understand what it meant to “stir up division” sometimes it is best to think about what it would look like in the complete opposite term. Reading from Phil 2:2-4 Paul writes: “ (D)complete my joy by being (E)of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from (F)selfish ambition or (G)conceit, but in (H)humility count others more significant than yourselvesLet each of you(I)look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Not just choosing for yourself. Notice the phrase “of the same mind”, indicating unity and not division. Also note the charge to do nothing out of selfish motives but to walk in humility by treating others as more important than yourself. Paul tells them to look out for others’ interests. Why? You’re much less likely to try to press for your rights and to fight just to prove you are right when you are looking to another person’s interests. It’s asking yourself, “how can I show preference to this person rather than seeking to gain something for myself?” “how can I benefit them rather than advancing myself?”

The person who avoids foolish controversies and quarrels about the law, who chooses unity over division, is the one who aligns himself with Christ. Phil 2:5-8 “(J)Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] (K)who, though he was in (L)the form of God, did not count equality with God (M)a thing to be grasped, but (N)emptied himself, by taking the form of a (O)servant,[b] (P)being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by (Q)becoming obedient to the point of death, (R)even death on a cross.”

Having the mind of Christ who did not choose for Himself but submitted to the will of the Father. Not being divisive.

  • Warning!! 

Now he goes on to address how to handle the “heretic” or divisive person. Notice he doesn’t tell Titus to talk theology with the divisive person. No he says: Warn them once and then twice. Paul likely got his teaching from Jesus which is what you read in your personal study in Matthew 18:15-18 (v. 17 “If he refuses to listen to them, (O)tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, (P)let him be to you as [o]a Gentile and [p]a tax collector.”). This word warn (nouthesia) is the same idea as the rebuke we talked about earlier. It is aimed at bringing spiritual understanding and conviction, not just verbal disapproval. It’s a restorative action. Warn.

Paul has strong words for the church to avoid a person who chooses not to heed correction. He tells them “have nothing more to do with him.” He should be to you “as a Gentile and tax collector” OR an OUTSIDER (to quote Jesus). Though that seems harsh, wait until you hear how Paul handled a few other individuals. 1 Cor 5:5 tells us that Paul would “hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh…” (this man being the one who continued in a disgraceful and public sin). Paul also speaks of handing over two men, Hymenaeus and Alexander, to Satan to “be taught not to blaspheme” in 1 Tim 1:20.

I can just hear Paul telling Titus, “listen, that person, if he doesn’t listen to you the second time, don’t try to go back to him again. He’ll simply end up being a heavy stone tied around your waist. You don’t need to use up all your energy on the person who doesn’t want to be a healthy member. Let him go and entrust him to God (or perhaps Satan!).”

Maybe you need to hear this today. You can have nothing more to do with the one who stirs up division. That doesn’t mean you can’t still pray for that person. It simply means, you aren’t responsible for what that person does. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself if you’ve already done all that is biblically necessary for correction. Let. It. Go.

As MacArthur says, “the last word on false teachers, shun. The last word on factious people, reject.

Paul says the person who stirs up division and doesn’t listen to correction is:

  • Warped and Sinful

I think of those deceivers back in Titus 1:15 – both their mind and their conscience are defiled. Warped is the word:

  1. Ekstrepho meaning “to turn or twist out; to turn inside out; pervert, corrupt.” Also “to cause to turn aside from what is considered true or morally proper” (Lexicon)
  2. This word was used in medical literature and was translated as “dislocated” (MacArthur) [twisted/distorted]
  3. Only used here in Titus.
  4. This is different from the word we learned about repentance which is also a turning. This turning in Titus is a negative turning! It’s a turning that leads a person away from holiness, away from God.

Let me read to you one commentary on this word: “First, such a person is ‘twisted.’ ‘Twisted’ is the perfect passive of ekstrepho. The perfect tense points to a condition that has been reached with results that continue. It stresses the present state of affairs. In the passive as here, ‘to be perverted,’ points to an unmentioned agent or cause, but something has had a negative impact on the person’s life. The translation of the NET Bible, ‘by sinning,’ suggests that the cause of the perversion is a continual life of sinning, whatever that might be. But since the text literally says ‘and is sinning,’ the sinning could just as well be the product of the perversion, especially when the root problem is a mind that has been twisted by false doctrine which is futile to change one’s life and this is ultimately the issue here. Regardless, the character (‘perverted,’ a state that has been reached) and the conduct (‘is sinning,’ a process that continues) point us to the reasons for rejecting such a person.” (Exegetical Commentary on Titus at https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263)

To further drive home that point on the continual life of sin: this word for sinful (harmartano) is used in 37 passages, one (illustrates) of which is 1 Tim 5:20 “20 Those who continue in sin(A)rebuke in the presence of all, (B)so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.

Here is a dislocated distorted twisted perverted inside-out individual.” MacArthur

In our Titus passage, Paul tells Titus, after you’ve rebuked the divisive man and he still doesn’t listen, choosing that continual life of sin, have nothing more to do with him. He’s warped and sinful, but he is also:

  • Selfcondemned

This word is only used in Titus. The ESV translates this as “self-condemned” but “the NET Bible [says] ‘and is conscious of it himself,’ [which] seems to understand… that the twisted person is aware of his true spiritual state. In other words, he knows that in his persistent refusal to abandon his heretical views he is wrong and stands condemned by his own better judgment. However, the Greek term, autokatakritos, ‘self-condemnation,’ may also be understood to mean that the twisted teachers are condemned by their own behavior (as Paul writes in Titus 1:16 ‘They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable disobedient, unfit for any good work.’). (https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263)

By self-condemned, Paul may mean that when such false teachers attack godly church leaders, they expose themselves for what they really are.” (Steven Cole)

Paul also speaks of a person who condemns himself in Romans 2:1-3 Therefore you have (A)no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For (B)in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?

The one who stirs up division by promoting foolish controversies is self-condemned. He has condemned himself in continuing in his warped and sinful behavior. His stubborn heart has refused to see the One who rightly judges and it is God who in the end will judge this one who has stored up wrath for himself by saying “I don’t need God.” (chosen for himself)

We’ve talked about the counterproductive life, the counterfeit life, now let us investigate the…

Authentic Lives   

Authentic means “having a genuine original or authority, in opposition to that which is false, fictitious, or counterfeit; being what it purports to be; genuine; true.” (Webster’s 1828)

Paul then switches gears for his final greetings:

12 When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. 

These men are the ones serving in the trenches and living out the authentic Christian life. These are the ones who are being poured out (like water; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast Ps 22:14) in service to God.

You can learn about Tychicus in 2 Tim 4:9-13 and Apollos, the Alexandrian Jew (mentioned in Acts 18 and 1 Cor 3). We don’t know anything more about Artemas, but we can make a few guesses about Zenas, “the lawyer”. He may have been an expert in Jewish law, or, as his pagan name might suggest, a Roman lawyer. Apparently it was common for lawyers to visit Crete in Roman times because of the famous Law Code of Gortyn dated from 450 B.C. (Wieland, quoting W.A. Lock in Crete and Titus)

Here is a picture of Gortyn and the location of the Law Code. It’s that building on the left:

gortyn-landscape

Here are two pictures of the Law Code written on the walls:

law-of-gortyn2 law-of-gortyn

As for why this section is important, I want you to consider the mission efforts of this team. Paul laid the groundwork for these other workers and then delegated missionaries to go into these areas to continue building on the foundation he laid. Titus, Apollos, and Zenas would be leaving, but Paul made sure that a new pair—Artemas and Tychicus—would remain for the growing community of believers at Crete. It was a sort of “changing of the guard.” Paul requests that Titus join him for the winter in Nicopolis.

See map:

nikopolis-map

One resource said that “Nicopolis was a busy port town on the western coast of Greece. It was actually known for its harsh winters; many travelers from all parts would have been forced to spend the winter there, so that Paul could continue ministry despite the impossibility of travel…” (Quoting Philip Towner in his commentary on Titus https://bible.org/book/export/html/6263)

Apparently Titus makes it to Nicopolis because Paul writes about him in his second letter to Timothy (2 Tim 4:10) which was written after Titus. “Eusebius [father of church history] reflects the tradition that Titus returned to Crete and served as a bishop there until his old age (HE 3.4.6).” (NIGTC Pastoral Epistles by George Knight).

As we reflect on our time with Titus, I wonder about some of the personal moments Titus had in Crete. After he received Paul’s letter, how much time did he have before he had to go to Paul? Did he feel like he could leave Crete, knowing he’d done all he’d been called to do? Would it have been hard for him to leave? What kinds of heartfelt good-byes must he have had with the Christian community? What about the warm welcomes as he greeted the new workers? Did he tell them to take good care of “Mean Ol’ Charlie” and make sure that they keep their eye on “That Sly Fox Ben”? Did he have a special place in his heart for “Sweet Grandma Bea” and for that young, promising leader “Stalwart Mark”?

Did he look back on his time in Crete and know he’d spent his time wisely? Teach us to number our days, Lord, that we may gain a heart of wisdom! (Ps 90:12) Help us to see the value of using our gifts wherever God plants us.

Finally Paul ends with his closing remarks:

14 And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.

15 All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith.

Last week we discussed the spiritual versus physical and how that relates to good works (devotion). Paul uses the phrase “good work(s)” five times in Titus! Paul wants to make extra sure that they heard him the first time, so he reminds them to be devoted to good works. The reason? So as not to be unfruitful. Authentic lives are evidenced by fruit.

How do we devote ourselves to good works without those works becoming our goal and perhaps an idol? The simple answer is that our devotion is ultimately to God and it is out of our devotion to Him that we do these good works which He Himself has prepared for us in advance.

But let me give you some perspective on the image of being poured out as it relates to good works and our devotion to God. It all starts in the garden..

POURED OUT 

Perfect world. Perfect intimacy between God and man. Eve is deceived. Sin enters. Death enters. God’s perfect justice and holiness responds. Man remains fallen under the first Adam.

But God…

God sought after man. God promised oaths, He initiated covenants. He set up the sacrificial system in order to allow for the atonement of sins. Blood would be poured out as an offering to God. Yet man remained fallen and would go astray time and again. Therefore God would pour out His wrath (Jer 7:20; Ez 7:8; Zeph 3:8) in judgment and in an effort to bring His people back to Him.

But God…

God would stay true to His word. He would show grace and mercy. And when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman to undo the damage done by the deceived woman, born under the law in order to live it out perfectly and to break us free from the curse of the law (Gal 4:4). He who is the exact representation of the Father (Heb 1:3) walked among us to show us who God is and how God loves. There would be those who would pour out oil so as to anoint the One who is Grace (Matt 26:12).

But God…

God the Son would reveal His heart as the Servant King by pouring water into a basin and washing the feet of His own disciples who would become His servants in the kingdom (John 13:5).

But God…

Before He would be glorified as King, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death on the cross where God was pleased to crush Him (Phil 2:8; Is 53:10). “He poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many and makes intercession for [them]” (Is 53:12).

But God…

The Father poured out His wrath on the Son and the wrath of God was satisfied. He looked on Him and pardoned me (Rom 5:9; 2 Cor 5:21; Eph 1:7).

But God…

Triumphed over death and sin and by His great power He raised Jesus from the grave (1 Cor 15:55-57; Col 2:12). The last Adam made redemption possible for all of fallen man (1 Cor 15:22, 45). Because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, He ascended to the Father as a fragrant aroma where He sits at the right hand of God (Heb 10:10; Eph 5:2; Rom 8:34).

But God…

Did not leave us without a Helper and God poured out His Spirit richly through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:6) and set His Spirit as a seal over us as a promise of our inheritance that is being kept for us until we take possession of it (Eph 1:11-14). And it is by His Spirit that God washes and renews us and produces good fruit/works as we abide in the Vine (Titus 3:5; John 15:4-5).

But God…

Being rich in mercy and love pours His love and the attributes of His Son into our hearts and we are able to cry Abba, Father (Rom 5:5; Rom 8:29; Gal 4:6)! And we, God’s servants, pour ourselves out as an offering to God in humble gratefulness and devotion to the One who loved us and gave Himself up for us (Rom 12:1; Phil 2:17).

This is why we do good works. We must bear fruit (in every good work) because this proves the authenticity of our faith. And this is no longer impossible as we walk by the Spirit.

In this letter to Titus, Paul is coming to his close. He wants to drive home the most pressing point: to be devoted to good works. To be fruitful. Not living like those who would cause divisions, whose false doctrine resulted in fruitless living. Avoid the counterproductive, counterfeit life.

With the sending of Artemas and Tychicus, and the exit of Zenas, Apollos, and Titus, we see the beautiful cycle of missions at work. We see God pouring out His servants as offerings to the glory of God! Paul calls on Titus to wrap up his ministry in Crete so that he can join Paul on the next leg of ministry. But the gospel will continue to have its effect in Crete. And those Cretans will learn to devote themselves to good works, grounded in the sound teaching of the Word.

CLOSING – Recap

Looking back over the last 9 lessons, we heard and read one message loud and clear: Right doctrine rightly applied produces right living.

Lesson One: We fell in love with Titus, Paul’s true child in the faith, who would minister to some of the most difficult of people. We learned the significance of the term bondservant as the apostle Paul laid out his mission, motivation, and method of ministry.

Lesson Two: We listened in as Paul gave Titus instructions for Crete – to put things in order by appointing elders who would live upright lives (above reproach), holding fast to sound doctrine. We learned that character matters.

Lesson Three: We discovered that there are those who would be deceptive wolves seeking to destroy the flock but who lived defiled lives, making them unfit for good works. We must watch their motivation, messes, message, master, and methods.

Lesson Four: Along with Titus, we learned that sound doctrine is the framework of core Biblical truths, and that Paul called him to teach it and teach what it looks like lived out.

Lesson Five: We saw what Paul meant by adorning the doctrine of God – to live holy, self-controlled lives in such a way that attracts others to Christ.

Lesson Six: We leaned in as the sisterhood, seeing how the status of women came to viewed in reverent terms, as priestesses who were called to teach what was good and train our sisters in holy living.

Lesson Seven: We discovered the One who is Grace, bringing salvation and redemption for His Bride, His own possession. And we await this One who is coming again, not as the One humbled on the cross but as the One coming for the crown, honored as the King.

Lesson Eight: Paul reminded us what we were and now who we ARE because of Jesus Christ our Savior, the only One worthy of our full devotion.

This Lesson (Nine): We were urged to avoid being divisive and the divisive person but instead to be devoted to good works. We also saw the beautiful cycle of missions at work as we say good-bye to Titus and the people of Crete.

Now we must ask ourselves…so what? We’ve come to the end and we’re sad that it’s over, but we look with great anticipation to what is to come. We too can be beautiful offerings poured out to God as we seek to be used by the Father and to walk in those good works that He’s prepared for us.

WE are the Church, this is the Sisterhood. The One that reaches into the difficult and even daunting places. That reaches the most unlikely people. This kind of church nurtures authentic Christian lives.

May we be a community of women who are devoted to God, dedicated to the truth of Scripture, and passionate about the spiritual health of our brothers & sisters in Christ.

Poured out as beautiful offerings to the praise of God the Father.

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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.