Archive for October, 2010

October 29, 2010

Call Me “Husband” Not “Master”

by Bethany

This Weekend’s Readings: Hosea 2-6, Psalm 119:97-176 (see full text below)

Dishes

There is something innately frustrating to me about doing something that merely must be redone like making a bed or running five miles in one-mile circles. I used to feel this way about washing dishes – that is, until my dear friend Susanna became my roommate. At first, she tried to motivate me by telling me how much better clean dishes were. The problem was that I readily agreed with her and, yet, I remained unmotivated. Therefore, I had to find some other motivation. And I did. Love.

I love Susanna and, because she loves clean dishes, I love to clean them for her. Before I leave the house – even if I am running late, I try to leave clean dishes (especially her favorites) so that she comes home to them. Although I now love cleaning dishes, my fundamental motivation remains my love for my friend and my knowing that it makes her smile.

Love

God wants us to see Him the same way. He wants us to love Him tenderly as a husband, not dutifully as a master: “‘In that day,’ declares the LORD, ‘you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master’” [1]. He gives us the Law to show us what makes Him happy. If we love Him, we want to know and do that which pleases Him.

This is why, when Israel chose to do that which displeased Him, He was heart-broken. He knew that their disobedience reflected their heart – a heart that did not love Him and, thus, did not care about what pleased Him. Their “consult[ing] a wooden idol” [2] and “offer[ing] sacrifices on the tops of the mountains” [3] were indications that they were “joined to idols” [4] with “a spirit of harlotry” [5].

Yet, as a husband covenants with his wife, God covenanted with Israel. In spite of Israel’s faithlessness, He promised to pursue her: “I will allure her … and speak kindly to her … I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and compassion” [6].

Prayer

Lord, Your Word is full of knowledge of what makes you smile. Yet, because I do not love you as I ought, I do not care about pleasing you. Please forgive me for my idolatrous spirit and do not forsake me. Bring me to you in justice, lovingkindness and compassion. Amen.

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[1] Hosea 2:16 TNIV  |  [2] 4”12 NASB  |  [3] 4:13 NASB  |  [4] 4:17 NASB  |  [5] 5:4 NASB  |  [6] Hosea 2:14, 19 NASB

October 28, 2010

What Is Love?

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Hosea 1, Psalm 119:73-96 (see full text below)

Definition

Sophocles said that it “frees us of all the weight and pain of life.” Oliver Wendell Holmes said it is “the master key that opens the gates of happiness.” Thomas Mann said that it “is stronger than death.” God, however, says that love is marriage to a hooker. To symbolize His love for His people, He called the prophet Hosea to marry “a wife of harlotry” [1] in order to mirror the “flagrant harlotry” of His people against Him [2].

Israel and God

Hosea was unique among the Minor Prophets [3] – not only did he prophesy before the kingdom split [4], he also focused on the north, Israel [5]. His ministry followed “a golden age in the northern kingdom” [6]. Unfortunately, with peace and prosperity, they experienced moral decay. Since Assyria – the great empire to the north – was always threatening attack [7], tiny Israel was tempted to find refuge in Assyria and idols rather than God.

Their seeking after idols was more than mere disobedience. In loving His people, the Lord had given them His name and called them His own [8]. Thus, when they found refuge in false gods and broke their covenant, He was heart-broken – like a husband whose wife had gone after other men.

Hosea and Gomer

Thus, God called Hosea to be a symbolic picture so that His people could understand the gravity of their disobedience and the immeasurable hope of His restorative love. After Hosea took Gomer as his wife, she bore her first son, “Jezreel,” a name that symbolized the punishment God would bring His people [9]. Next, she had a daughter, “Lo-ruhamah,” a name that meant, “she has not received mercy” [10]. Then, their next son was named, “Lo-ammi,” which meant, “not my people,” a name that symbolized that Gomer’s adultery had gone so far that the father of her son was not her husband [11].

Hope and Healing

Yet, even at the outset of Hosea’s ministry, God offered hope of redemption for His people and their adulterous idol worship: “ … in the place where it is said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ it will be said to them, ‘You are the sons of the living God’” [12].

Prayer

Lord, You love your people. Yet, I forget how my disobedience breaks your heart. Give me eyes to see my sin as you do. Forgive me and pull me close to you as your child. Amen.

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[1] Hosea 1:2 NASB  |  [2] Id. |  [3]  The prophets are divided into two categories – Major and Minor. The Major Prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. The Minor Prophets are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The distinction between Major and Minor prophets is not related to importance or significane, as one might think based on their reference categories – “Major” and “Minor.” Rather, the Major Prophets are longer and all prophesied concerning the same events. The Minor Prophets, generally speaking, are shorter. Hosea is unique among the Minor Prophets, however, because it is longer than most of the others and it is one of the earliest (along with Amos and Micah).  |  [4]  Hosea prophesied in the period 780 – 725 BC and the kingdom split in 722 BC.  |  [5]  Hosea lived in and focused on the northern kingdom of Israel. The prophet Amos did so, too. In fact, at the same time that Amos and Hosea were prophesying in the northern kingdom of Israel, Isaiah and Micah were prophesying in the southern kingdom of Judah.  |  [6]  “Introduction to Hosea.” ESV Bible, Crossway (2007)  |  [7]  To see how tiny Israel was compared to the encroaching Assyrian Empire, see Map |  [8]  See, e.g., Isaiah 43:1 (“But now, this is what the LORD says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’”)  |  [9] Hosea 1:4 NASB  |  [10] Hosea 1:6 NASB  |   [11]  Hosea 1:9 NASB  |  [12] Hosea 1:10 NASB

October 27, 2010

Why the Two Resurrections Matter Today

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Daniel 12, Psalm 119:49-72 (note: for the mobile email readers, see below for full text of passages and let us know if this is helpful)

Moses

When God’s people were entering the Promised Land, Moses gave his final counsel: “Be strong and courageous … for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you” [1]. Yet, they would forsake Him. God said, “[They] will arise and play the harlot with the strange gods … and will forsake Me and break My covenant” [2].

Moses warned them [3]: “Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you … For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you will prolong your days in the land, which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess” [4].

Yet, Israel did not heed his warning. Almost immediately, they forgot God and worshipped idols [5]. Although He gave them opportunities to repent [6], they continued sinning until He finally called Babylon to invade the land and exile the people [7]

Daniel

Although an exile, Daniel served in the Babylonian Empire and the subsequent Persian Empire [8]. Comprised of two parts [9], his book has one message – God is sovereign over human affairs.

In his final vision, he saw the resurrection: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” [9].

Like Moses’ counsel, Daniel’s message was meant to encourage them to endure in obedience. Hundreds of years later, when Paul was on trial, he spoke of the two resurrections and their effect on his life: “I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets; having a hope in God … that there shall certaintly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” [10].

Prayer

Lord, Thank you giving us promises and warnings for our encouragement. As exiles, we long to be resurrected to life as bright stars forever! Yet, we fail to pursue blameless consciences or righteous lives. Help us to sing with the Psalmist, “Your statutes are my songs in the house of my pilgrimage” [11]. Amen.

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[1] Deuteronomy 31:6 NASB  |  [2] Deut. 31:16 NASB  |  [3] After Moses commissioned Joshua to lead the people into the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 31:23-30), he warned the people of rebelling against the Lord. He was so intent that they remember his warning that he set it to a magnificent song for them to sing in Deuteronomy 32:1-43, in which he wrote of the faithfulness that God had shown for generation after generation to them. Prophetically, the song ends, “Rejoice, O nations, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will render vengeance on His adversaries, and will atone for His land and His people” (v. 43 NASB).  |  [4] Deuteronomy 32:46-47 NASB  |  [5]  See 843 Acres: Jeremiah 10 (7.14.2010), Jeremiah 8 (7.12.2010) |  [6]  See 843 Acres: Jeremiah 52 (8.23.2010), Jeremiah 30-31 (8.3.2010) |  [7]  See 843 Acres: Jeremiah 19 (7.23.2010) |  [8] Daniel was exiled in 605 BC. Not only did he serve in the king of Babylon’s court, he also was given a position of power in the Persian Empire, when it conquered Babylon in 539 BC. “Introduction to Daniel.” ESV Bible, Crossway (2007)  |  [9] Daniel 12:2-3 NASB  |  [10] Acts 24:14-16 NASB  |  [11] 119:54 NASB

October 26, 2010

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. Psalm 145:13

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Daniel 11, Psalm 119:25-48

As we saw yesterday, the heavenly man prepared Daniel to receive his final vision during the reign of Darius the Mede. Rather than images, however, God showed him linear history that, as we now know, was fulfilled [1].

The Fourth King and The Mighty King (vv. 2 – 4) (ca. 486 – 323 BC)

The “fourth” Persian king after Cyrus was Xerxes, whose great “riches” were depleted in war [2]. Then came “a mighty king” [3], Alexander the Great, whose empire was “parceled” at his death into four parts  – “though not to his own descendants” [4].

The King of the South and the King of the North (vv. 5 – 35) (ca. 304 – 30 BC)

Two of those parts were Egypt and Syria – Ptolemy I (“the king of the South”) ruled Egypt and Seleucus I (“the king of the North”) controlled Syria [5]. Although they initially attempted “a peaceful arrangement” by marriage between Ptolemy II’s daughter (Berenice) and Seleucus I’s grandson (Antiochus II) [6], it failed when Ptolemy III invaded Seleucus II [7].

Even though the prideful [8] Ptolemy IV defeated Syria, he was replaced by Ptolemy V, who was subsequently overcome by Antiochus III [9]. After a failed attempt to ally with Ptolemy V by offering his daughter (Cleopatra I Syra) in marriage [10], Antiochus III was defeated in Greece by the Romans [11].

After Seleucus IV’s brief reign [12], his brother Antiochus IV, who was “a despicable person,” deceitfully took the throne [13]. Although he once preempted an Egyptian invasion by Ptolemy VI (Palestine) [14], he was “disheartened” by a subsequent Roman ultimatum to leave after he invaded Egypt again. He became “enraged at the holy covenant” [15], “desecrate[d] the sanctuary fortress,” and “[did] away with the regular sacrifice” [16]. Although some Jews supported him [17], others remained faithful to God: “ … but the people who know their God [displayed] strength and [took] action” [18].

The End of History (vv. 36 – 45)

Some suggest that the rest of the vision is erroneous prophecy because Antiochus’ description seems to exceed what is known of him. Others, however, suggest that the vision is accurate but not yet fulfilled [19]. Although its precise interpretation may be unclear, one thing is certain – kingdoms on earth will rise and fall, but the kingdom of God is eternal and, therefore, His Word can be trusted.

Prayer

Lord, Although some trust in chariots and horses, we trust in you because your kingdom is everlasting. Let us display strength and take action because we know you. Bind us to you so that we may reign with you forever. Amen.

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[1] The great Lutheran commentator, H.C. Leuphold, after he had written pages and pages of commentary on this chapter, said, “How could someone ever preach from this chapter?” Taking this challenge, I have attempted to comment on this chapter (rather than on Psalm 119) – in less than 400 words! Although I apologize to those of you who may be frustrated by the brevity of its treatment, I hope that many of you will appreciate my feable attempt at trying to demystify the shrouded meaning of this chapter.  |  [2]  Daniel 11:2  |  [3]  Daniel 11:3 NASB  |  [4]  Daniel 11:4 NASB |  [5]  Daniel 11:5 NASB  |  [6]  Daniel 11:6 NASB  |  [7] Daniel 11:7-10 NASB. His sons (Seleucus III and Antiochus III) counterattacked. |  [8] Daniel 11:12 NASB  |  [9] Daniel 11:13-16. See also FN 10.  |  [10]  Daniel 11:17 NASB  |  [11] Daniel 11:19 NASB  |  [12]  Daniel 11:20 NASB  |  [13]  Daniel 11:21, 23 NASB  |  [14]  Daniel 11:24-25 NASB  |  [15]  Daniel 11:30 NASB  |  [16] Daniel 11:31 NASB  |  [17]  Daniel 11:30, 32  |  [18]  Daniel 11:32 NASB – It was in this context that the famous resistance of the Maccabees took place.  |  [19] “While the revelation which follows appears to modern readers to be a foretelling of future events, it is so detailed that most scholars assume that the original readers would have instantly recognized it as a literary device used by a second-century author. According to this view, the close detail in the account of events in vv. 21-35 indicates that the author had personal knowledge of them. Vv. 40-45, on the other hand, describe events which were still future to the author, and his prophect turned out to be mistaken. Scholars who hold this view, therefore, date the final writing of Daniel in 165 or 164 BC … Possibly the most difficult section in the book follows in vs. 36-45. The description seems to exceed all that is known of even the blasphemous Antiochus (hence the conclusion of many commentators that this section is indeed predictive prophecy on the part of the author, which, because erroneous, enables us to date the final edition of the entire book). 13:1-3, however, suggests that the end of all history may now be in view. In this case, v. 35 may be pointing forward to the experience of God’s people, not merely during but beyond the time of Antiochus …” NIV Bible Commentary, InterVarsity Press (1994).

October 25, 2010

“Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Daniel 10, Psalm 119:1-24

Tame

Do you live your life naturally or supernaturally? Have you domesticated and tamed God? Do you skip over verses about His majesty to focus on ones that you can apply? Is prayer your afterthought, not weapon?

Tremble

After Daniel saw his final vision, he was terrified. In setting himself to understand it, he mourned and fasted for three weeks. Then, he was met by a heavenly man whose mere presence made Daniel’s men tremble and run – although they never saw him. Once Daniel was alone, the man touched him and Daniel – who had fearlessly entered the lion’s den – shook terribly and fell.

Mercy

The man comforted Daniel. He told him that God saw his three-week search: “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words” [1]. He told Daniel that, although there was spiritual warfare that delayed his coming [2], he would show him a vision of the future, when God would have certain victory [3].

Unsafe

C.S. Lewis once wrote allegorically of the paradox of the love and fear elicited by the presence of God, who is pictured as Aslan the Lion:

“Is – is he a man?” asked Lucy. “Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I can tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emporer-Beyond-the-Sea … Aslan is a lion – The Lion, The great Lion.” “Ooh,” said Susan, “I thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” “That you will, dearie, and make no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.” “Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver, “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe?” Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you” [4].

Prayer

Lord, I confess that I have domesticated you by treating the supernatural lightly and being unmoved by your Word. At the end of this age, when the sky opens and Jesus appears, I want to have lived an extraordinary life for you. Work in my heart to tremble and fall before you in prayer. Amen.

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[1]  Daniel 10:12 NASB  |  [2] The man told Daniel that he was delayed in coming to him because “the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding [him] for twenty-one days” (Daniel 10:13 NASB], until Michael came to help him. He later told Daniel, “I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; so I am going forth, and behold, the prince of Greece is about to come” (Daniel 10:20 NASB). Historically, although Babylon had once been in control of the area, Persia was now in control. In a few years, however, Greece and its ruler Alexander the Great would take over and then Rome. Thus, the vision given to Daniel is about the rising and falling of kingdoms – Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. Despite the changing earthly princes, however, the heavenly man told Daniel that God’s people had their own prince in heaven who fought at the spiritual level: “I will tell you what is inscribed in the writing of truth. Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince” (Daniel 10:21 NASB). Thus, there are always two levels at work – the historical level that we see it (e.g., the rising and falling of kingdoms and Daniel’s praying, mourning and fasting) and the heavenly level that we do not see (e.g., the heavenly man and Michael’s struggle with the prince of Persia and the sending of the man to Daniel). |  [3] Daniel 10 is the preparation for the description of the vision, which is in Chapters 11-12.  |  [4] C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

 

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