TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- HOSEA 4:1-5:15

Hosea Chapter 4 begins with a new prophecy.

Hosea announces that the Lord has filed a lawsuit against Israel, claiming that there is no faithfulness, no kindness, no knowledge of God in the land. There is corruption and violence everywhere. He bemoans the spiritual condition of Israel.

Hosea 4:6 6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.

The problem with the northern kingdom was not just that they lacked knowledge but that they deliberately rejected what they knew. There is no use in pointing the finger and blaming others. They have brought these troubles upon themselves.

The northern kingdom abandoned the worship prescribed by the Mosaic law and set up their own system of worship and their own priests (1 Kings 12:25-33). Golden calves were worshiped at temples of their own design at Bethel and Dan. They turned aside from worshiping the True and Living God at the temple of Jerusalem. Instead, they worshiped Baal and credited him with their history of being redeemed. 

Hosea rebukes the priests for exchanging their glory for something disgraceful. Rather than serving the Lord, they serve and rejoice in the lusts of the flesh. “They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness.”

“Like people, like priests.” The priests are not spiritual leaders. They adapt to the sins of the people. They accommodate the culture. But the Lord says He will punish both priests and the people.

Because the priests are wicked, the people are too.

Hosea 4:11 (NASB) 11 Harlotry, wine and new wine take away the understanding.

The Living Bible paraphrases this verse: “Wine, women, and song have robbed my people of their brains!”

37 times the northern kingdom of Israel is referred to as ‘Ephraim,’ the name of their most prominent tribe.

“Ephraim is joined to idols” (Hosea 4:17).

The Lord promises they will suffer for it (Hosea 4:19-5:9).

Hosea’s mind turns to the southern kingdom of Judah. He warns Judah to have nothing to do with the northern kingdom. Though Israel plays the harlot, takes pagan oaths, and has stubbornly embraced idolatry, Judah is to “Let him alone”. Judah must stand aloof from Israel, lest they become partakers of Israel’s sins.

Hosea describes the progressive nature of judgment in Chapter 5 in prophetic imagery. First, the judgment starts with moth and rottenness (5:12). Then they become sick when they should be strong (5:13).  Then comes the judgment of calamity, suggested by the attacks of the lion and the young lion, ready to devour them as prey (5:14). The final form of judgment is Divine withdrawal (5:15). “Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt” (5:15). The purpose of these judgments was to produce repentance and faith so that once again, God’s people might “earnestly seek” Him.

 TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – 2 JOHN 1:1-13

John’s second epistle was written shortly after his first and is addressed to a chosen lady and her children. Is it to a specific family, or is this John’s code language for a church?

Both 2nd and 3rd John have to do with hospitality. He commends the chosen lady and her children for knowing the truth, walking in the truth, and sharing the truth (2 John 1:1-4). He commends her children for the way they love one another (2 John 1:5-6).

However, no hospitality should be offered to the Gnostic teachers who denied the hypostatic union (the full humanity and deity) of Jesus of Nazareth (2 John 1:10). These are deceivers (2 John 1:7) who serve the spirit of antichrist and threaten the work of the gospel (2 John 1:8).

It is not that Christians should be inhospitable to those who want to discuss the claims of Christ, but these false teachers intentionally deny the fundamental fact of the faith- that the gospel is about Jesus. God came to us in the flesh in Jesus. The second person of the Trinity took to Himself a sinless human nature and was born of the virgin Mary. Jesus of Nazareth lived a perfect life fulfilling the law of God on behalf of those who would believe upon Him. He died a substitutionary death to fulfill the promise of a Substitute (the Lamb of God) who would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

This is a strong warning about the danger of false teachers and the need for the church to take necessary precaution.  Those who claim to have higher or deeper knowledge, yet deny the fundamental facts pertaining to the person and work of Jesus Christ, are not to be entertained.

John concludes his letter expressing his desire to have joyous face-to-face fellowship with the true Christians to whom he is writing.

2 John 1:12 (NASB) 12  Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full.

TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS – PSALM 125:1-5

The gospel offers the believer rock-solid security.

Psalm 125:1 1 Those who trust in the LORD Are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever. 

Mount Zion is not going anywhere. Its presence abides throughout the generations. It is immovable. So is the believer whose faith is anchored to the Rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ.

We need to keep our eternal perspective and remember that the kingdom of this world will one day come to an end. This can keep us out of trouble (Psalm 125:3).

TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS – PROVERBS 29:9-11

Proverbs 29:9-11 9 When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, the foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest. 10 Men of bloodshed hate the blameless, but the upright are concerned for his life. 11 A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back. 

To speak wisdom and act wisely will not necessarily make you popular. Such behavior begs resistance from an unbelieving world subject to the prince of the power of the air.  Godly wisdom is often met with rage or ridicule, hatred, and violence. May such resistance never quench our love for the lost. May we exhibit the fruit of the Spirit- self-control. 

PRAY FOR THE NATIONS – THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN and NORTHERN IRELAND

(from Operation World Prayer Guide)

Britain needs to discover a sense of purpose and direction for the 21st century – especially in the aftermath of the Brexit decision to leave the E.U. The sense of nationhood and core identity diminished after the British Empire ended. The Christian tradition once formed the foundation of society, but today minority religions, especially Islam, also receive significant attention and government support. Astrology, New Age, the occult, and old-world paganism (Druid/Wicca) are all slowly becoming more popular, but none as fast as spirituality and religion are declining. The “freedoms” of the 1960s had disastrous social consequences, and Britain has alarming levels of alcohol and drug abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, prostitution, gambling addiction, and personal debt. In almost every century of the last 800 years, revival came to Britain at least once. The last was in 1859-1869. Many Christians pray for another great spiritual awakening.

ENGLAND

England is the most secular of the four countries that comprise the U.K. Only 6% of people regularly attend church; those who do rarely engage with the unbelieving majority. Pray that the Holy Spirit may break into lives and bring a sense of the reality of God and the truth of the gospel.

NORTHERN IRELAND

In Northern Ireland, segregation and sectarianism remain, despite the prevalent peace. Church attendance is on decline, even though it remains higher in Northern Ireland than in the rest of the U.K. However, within a 50 km radius of Belfast is one of the highest concentrations of evangelical churches in the world, and most Protestant congregations remain stoutly evangelical. Pray that the emptiness of the ‘new paganism’ might be exposed and that churches would be able to offer a dynamic alternative full of life and relevance.

SCOTLAND

Scotland faces a cocktail of social ills. Nearly half of all children are born out of wedlock. Alcohol and drug abuse are high. The country has the inauspicious title of the worst-performing Western European nation, based on economy, employment, health, and education. Increasingly, Christian groups are engaging these problems; pray that the transforming impact of the gospel may be evident through loving witness and ministry.

Revivals in past centuries, localized revivals of the northeast coast in 1925 and Lewis in the Hebrides in the 1950s as well as notable missionaries such as David Livingstone, Robert Moffat, Mary Slessor, and Eric Liddell- brought blessing to Scotland and the world.

WALES

Economic changes have had a profound impact on the nation. The decline of the coal and slate industries led to much depopulation and depression in industrialized areas. These, coupled with the acceptance of a social gospel, have led to empty chapels and a spiritually hardened population. Pray for those church leaders and fellowships with a clear vision to witness and serve faithfully, many of them in hard and unreceptive areas.

Wales experienced a consistent series of revivals, the last of these occurring in 1904. Since then, decline in church attendance and closure of churches in Wales have been higher than in any other part of the U.K. Although many congregations remain, most are small churches of 25 people or less. National weekly attendance is 7% and only 3.5% among the under 30s.

ISLE OF MAN

The Isle of Man has a long Christian tradition, but just as in the U.K., nominalism is rife, and non-religion is growing. Pray that the Church will continue to strive to bring people back into the fold and that the Isle of Man might see an awakening.

CHANNEL ISLANDS

The Channel Islands are an archipelago of British crown dependencies, divided into the two separately administered bailiwicks, Jersey and Guernsey. The Bailiwick of Guernsey includes the islands of Guernsey, Alderney, Herm, and Sark. Though not part of the U.K., both Bailiwicks rely on Britain for defense and international representation.

PRAYER: O Faithful God! Your love is amazing. Thank You, Father, for the great rescue provided through Your eternal love and counsel, the perfect obedience of Your Son, and the faithful ministry of the Holy Spirit. Turn us from any idolatries that creep into our hearts. Cause us to renounce and abandon them through the convicting power of Your Word, the sword of truth in the hands of the Holy Spirit. Slay every breathing sin and bring the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ to full expression in us. And in His Name, we ask it. Amen.

Pastor David