TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- HOSEA 6:1-9:17
Reading today’s portion reminded me of what we previously read in Isaiah, when the Lord asked, “What more could I do for my vineyard?” (Isaiah 5:4). He patiently and persistently calls His people to repentance, but they do not come.
In Chapter 6, we hear what sounds like repentance. But it is superficial.
“Come let us return to the Lord, He has torn us to pieces, but He will heal us.” (Hosea 6:1)
The people turn to the Lord for healing, but not for cleansing. They are broken hearted because of their experience but not submitted to the degree of wanting to get right with God. Verses 2 and 3 are prophetic. They express in words a holy resolve to press on to acknowledge the Lord. They express faith in the promise of the coming of Christ. But there is no acknowledgment of sin.
Warren Wiersbe says it well:
“They wanted happiness, not holiness, a change of circumstances, but not a change in character… They shed tears of remorse over their suffering, but not tears of repentance over their sin.” – Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament
“What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears.” (Hosea 6:4)
Does our affection for the Lord quickly evaporate like the morning mist?
The Lord wants us to come to Him with an honest recognition of Who He is.
Hosea 6:6 6 For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
His people are repeating the history of Adam. They are continuing in the way of human autonomy. (We will not have this man reign over us. Luke 19:14)
Four images of the hearts of the people are pictured in Chapter 7.
1. They are like a hot oven (7:4,6,7), not for baking bread but fueling their illicit passions and devouring their rulers.
2. They are like a flat cake not turned over (7:8). One side is overdone, and the other side, underdone. Their creed was correct, but their conduct was corrupt.
3. Ephraim (the northern kingdom) is like a senseless dove without a heart and without discernment (7:11-15). They flit from one alliance to another, now calling to Egypt, now turning to Assyria. The Lord Himself will throw His net over them and pull them down for going astray.
Hosea 7:13-14 a13 Woe to them, for they have strayed from Me! Destruction is theirs, for they have rebelled against Me! I would redeem them, but they speak lies against Me.
14 And they do not cry to Me from their heart.
4. They are a faulty (deceitful) bow (7:16). There is an inbuilt flaw that makes them an instrument that is incapable of accurately hitting its target. There is a moral weakness, a twist, and deceitfulness within. It means that they would always miss the mark. This causes them to be ridiculed by Egypt, to whom they turned for help instead of the Lord.
Chapter 8 opens with the sounding of an alarm. Once again, God’s people call out to Him, but not with a desire to do His will. “But Israel has rejected what is good.” (8:2). They continue to make idols for themselves.
In Chapter 9, the sad consequences of Israel’s infidelity are recorded. They suffer a lack of joy (9:1), a lack of food (9:2). Their offerings will be meaningless (9:4). Their leaders will be distracted (9:7-8) and corrupt (9:9). Their children will be slain, and their population will decrease (9:11-16). Israel will reap the fruit of her sins, leaving her rejected and homeless, wandering among the nations.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – 3 JOHN 1:1-14
The Apostle John has friends. How does he love them? “In the truth” (3 John 1:1).
John begins with a customary greeting, which some misinterpret as a guaranteed promise. It is a worthy prayer, however. We pray that our friends will enjoy good health and that all may go well with them, even as their soul prospers. But to make this a guaranteed promise is to wrestle the verse out of its context.
John is rejoicing in the fact that their soul is prospering (1:2) because they are knowing the truth, are being faithful to the truth (1:3), and are walking in the truth (1:4). However, this does not always guarantee physical health and prosperity.
John’s second epistle was instruction as to whom he should NOT offer hospitality (those who deliberately deny the facts concerning the historic Jesus and the centrality of His death, burial and resurrection). In John’s third epistle, he is instructing Gaius as to whom he SHOULD offer hospitality– the brothers, fellow-servants of Christ, even though they are newcomers.
3 John 1:8 8 Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.
There is a sad note about one of John’s former fellow-workers, Diotrephes, who is spreading malicious gossip about him. There is a clue as to what caused Diotrephes’ defection– “He loved to have the preeminence” (1:9). His focus was not on the preeminence of Christ. Diotrephes is acting in opposition to the mission and is refusing to welcome the brothers, John’s fellow workers, even wanting to excommunicate those who do.
In contrast to Diotrephes’ opposition, John writes of Demetrius’ good reputation.
Once again, John closes his letter by expressing his desire for face-to-face fellowship with his beloved brother.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS – PSALM 126:1-6
This is a wonderful song of celebration. Israel had been in captivity for 70 years (Daniel 9:2; Jeremiah 25:11, 12). Now they are given permission to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple.
Psalm 126:1 1 When the LORD brought back the captive ones of Zion, we were like those who dream.
Whereas the people had to pinch themselves to see if they were not dreaming, the neighboring countries were saying that the Lord has done great things for them.
Psalm 126:2 2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with joyful shouting; Then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”
The Psalm closes with a prayer. The land had been abandoned for two long generations. They would have to begin the work of sowing again. But they did so with the joyful hope that once again, they would reap God’s good harvest.
Psalm 126:5-6 5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.
6 He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS – PROVERBS 29:12-14
Proverbs 29:12-14 12 If a ruler pays attention to falsehood, all his ministers become wicked.
13 The poor man and the oppressor have this in common: The LORD gives light to the eyes of both.
14 If a king judges the poor with truth, His throne will be established forever.
These proverbs remind us of the importance of truth. It is light to the mind. It will give direction and stability. And the Truth is most perfectly communicated in Christ Jesus.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS – THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
(from Operation World Prayer Guide and Prayercast.com)
Long known as a land of opportunity, the United States (U.S.) has the greatest ethnic diversity of any country in history. Although it is primarily a nation of immigrants, there are 562 federally recognized Native American people groups. As the third-largest country, its fifty states include diverse landscapes of tropical beaches, mountain ranges, rolling prairies, barren deserts, and dense wilderness. Millions of tourists are drawn each year to admire its fifty-eight national parks and visit its biggest cities, including New York and Los Angeles. Home to Hollywood, Los Angeles is the center of America’s film industry, which, like the country itself, has enormous global influence.
Though still a young nation (1776), the U.S. has become a world leader economically, militarily, and technologically and remains the world’s largest and most diverse economy. This democratic republic has played a historically vital role as a proponent of global democracy and freedom and has often been a provider of aid and stability around the world. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, deeply impacted the country and led it to declare a war against terrorism. In the following years, America suffered through an economic crisis that led to a global recession. Today the U.S. faces deep political and societal divisions. Many moral questions have moved from the social to political spheres, with ongoing debates on the legalization of issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and physician-assisted suicide. Mass shootings have plagued the nation, and issues of immigration have become volatile. While racial equality has improved a great deal after a long and ugly past of slavery, recent racial tensions have continued to spark violent protests.
The U.S. has a rich Christian history and was founded on Biblical principles and values. Freedom to exercise religion was written into the constitution and has drawn many to its shores to escape persecution. A number of widespread Awakenings and revivals have swept across the country, and the many evangelical movements and organizations founded here have impacted the world. America remains the world’s largest missionary-sending country. Even so, the Church faces alarming decline. Roughly 78% of Americans claim to be Christian, yet only 31% of adults say that faith is important in their life. Consumerism, moral relativism, immorality, and an independent mindset have infected nearly every part of society, including the Church. Satisfaction is sought primarily through pleasure and materialism. This nation holds unparalleled resources and potential to influence the world for good and spread the Gospel. Yet, it stands in desperate need of revival.
The United States stands at a crossroads. Unless it holds to its constitution as a democratic republic, it is in danger of forfeiting liberty and slipping into democratic socialism.
Area: 9,529,063 sq. km
The world’s third largest nation in area and population.
Population: 317,641,087 Annual Growth: 0.97%
Capital: Washington DC
HDI Rank: 13 of 182 (UN Human Development Reports 2009)
Peoples: 364 (16% unreached) All peoples
Unreached Peoples Prayer Card
Official language: English. The growing Spanish-speaking Hispanic population is 11.2% of the population and numbers 34 million Languages: 176 All languages
Largest Religion: Christian
Challenges for Prayer
Student ministries continue to play a vital role. Movements such as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IFES), Navigators, CCCI, Campus Outreach, Chi Alpha, Campus America, Campus Church Net, SVM2, and others combine to generate effective outreach, discipleship, and prayer on campuses. The large Urbana conferences of InterVarsity, The Traveling Team, and other ministries challenge many students with the needs of a lost world. The ministries of Navigators and CCCI have diversified into a wide range of activities in the USA and around the world. The Passion conferences profoundly impact the lives of many thousands of students every year. It is in their college years that the largest percentage of Christians fall away; yet, student movements have been at the heart of almost every revival and missions movement in America’s history.
The 38-million-strong African-American community suffered immensely due to its origins in slavery and to subsequent racial discrimination. The civil rights movement and the election of the first black president have achieved great change in attitudes and awareness, but for many, the cycle of unemployment, poverty, family instability, and crime is unbroken. Pray for:
a) Young people at risk. Over half of inner-city black males fail to complete secondary school. Many are in prison or in gangs. Poverty, drugs, and violence are rampant. Murder is the major cause of death for inner-city, African-American males ages 15 to 34. Pray for an expression of Christian faith that enables these men to leave their shackles and find meaning, belonging, and fulfillment in Christ.
b) African-American Muslims, whose numbers have rapidly grown up to two million – most of these from a Christian background. Sunnis account for the largest proportion; some small but vocal minorities belong to Black nationalist groups and to the Nation of Islam organization. Most were drawn to Islam as a result of failings in the Church. Pray for effective and loving outreach to them.
c) Black churches. More than any other race in the USA, African-Americans are likely to be Christian. Many of the largest and most vigorous evangelical churches are Black, but they are often isolated from mainstream evangelical Christianity and from meaningful involvement in missions. Pray for a unity of believers that transcends ethnicity. Pray for a new move of the Spirit of God in these churches.
d) Community impact. African-American churches have always had a strong redemptive influence in their communities. This is increasing as congregations now join to effect deliberate and strategic transformation in the neediest areas.
PRAYER: Gracious God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, You know all things. We thank You for Your Word that calls out the illicit practices and faulty estimations that stem from our deceitful hearts. Search us, O God, and see if there be any wicked way in us, that we might repent and be turned. Send forth Your light and Your truth! Lord, You have done great things for us! Help us to stand fast in the liberty, wherewith Christ has made us free, never again to be entangled to the yoke of bondage. May we be truth-seekers and truth tellers. In the love and the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.