You Don’t KNOW God!

This week we continue with Great is Thy Faithfulness by looking at the book of Hosea. If you are unfamiliar with Hosea, it should only take about 10 minutes to read through the whole book. I’d encourage you to do so before our Sunday gathering. The focus of Hosea is to remind Israel (and us) of the painful consequences that come from rebelling against God, but at the same time reminding us that God’s love and mercy are far greater than all our sin.

Hosea does this by using two main images. The first is comparing Israel’s idolatry to prostitution/adultery. The second is more subtle, and involves the Hebrew root word yada which is frequently translated as “knowledge” or “acknowledge.” But yada is more than just knowing about someone. It is deeply and intimately knowing someone. In short, it’s true relationship that God desires from us. Over and over Hosea points the reader back to this truth. Let’s look at a few uses of this word in Hosea. (I’ll italicize the related word to yada in each verse.)

  • Hosea 4:1 – “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land.”
  • Hosea 4:6 – …my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests…
  • Hosea 5:4 – “Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not acknowledge the Lord.”
  • Hosea 6:3 – Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him.
  • Hosea 6:6 – For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Did you notice that last verse? Jesus quoted that on several occasions, and Mark’s gospel ties it to the Greatest Commands (Mk. 12:33-34). In Matthew 9:13 Jesus quotes this verse to explain to the Pharisees why he is eating with sinners and tax collectors. In Matthew 12:7, it is in regards to the Pharisees accusation of Jesus and his disciples breaking the Sabbath laws.

It seems to me that Jesus was trying to get the Pharisees to realize that they were acting quite a bit like the northern kingdom of Israel that Hosea was speaking to. They “knew” God, but they didn’t have the kind of relationship that He wanted them to have. They had exchanged relationship for ritual. This caused them to see Jesus’ actions as violations of rules rather than the Kingdom of Heaven on display. They became spiritually blind because they didn’t yada God.

This same sin plagues the church today. Some of us get so wrapped up in the ritual (wanting our worship the way we want it) rather than the relationship our God seeks from us. Hosea’s message is that God’s ultimate purpose is to heal and save. If we aren’t doing the same in our churches, our communities, and our families, then we don’t yada God! I’ll let Hosea have the last word.

Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.

Hosea 14:9 NIV

Sermon Text for 11/10 – Hosea 11; Mark 10:13-15

Daily Psalms – Psalm 75

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 71-75

Is the judgement of God a good thing? According to Scripture, yes it is!

The judgement of God is what separates the righteous from the wicked. The judgement of God is the bringing about of God’s justice, to right the wrongs of this world, to remove the wicked from power and to exalt those who are faithful to God.

The judgement of God is a very good thing…unless you are unrighteous.

Psalm 75 begins like a praise song, and then moves into the forthcoming judgement of God. It also includes a divine speech, the words spoken by God himself.

“When I choose a time,
I will judge fairly.
When the earth and all its inhabitants shake,
I am the one who steadies its pillars.
Selah
I say to the boastful, ‘Do not boast,’
and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horn.
Do not lift up your horn against heaven
or speak arrogantly.’ ”

Psalm 75:2-5 CSB

The imagery of God as judge pouring out his judgement is seen in verses 6-8. It’s not something that the wicked can escape. They will judged. But for the righteous God’s judgement brings forth praise! (v. 9)

The final promise of the Psalm is another quote from God himself about justice.

“I will cut off all the horns of the wicked,
but the horns of the righteous will be lifted up.”

Psalm 75:10 CSB

As you can see from this short Psalm, the righteous have nothing to fear when it comes to God’s judgement. It should cause thanksgiving and proclamation (v. 1), and continuous praise (v. 9) from God’s people. God has promised to judge fairly. (v. 2) God’s judgement is indeed good news!

If the judgement of God does not sound like good news, that’s a good indication that there are some changes that need to be made in your life and relationship with God. Here’s what Jesus had to say about the coming judgment.

“The Father, in fact, judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, so that all people may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life.

John 5:22-24 CSB (emphasis added)

The judgement of God is good news! And Jesus has told us how not to fall under that judgement! That is very good news!

Now what are you going to do about it?

Daily Psalms – Psalm 67

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 66-70

Today we turn our attention to Psalm 67, a short psalm with a powerful reminder. But first a bit about poetic form.

Psalm 67, as well as a number of other Biblical passages (both poetic and not) form a chiasm or chiasmus. I use the analogy of going up and back down stairs to try to explain this. If I ascend and descend three stairs, then the pattern is thus: 1, 2, 3, 2, 1. So in a chiasm both verses on “step 1” are bookends of the poem, and are related. Same for “step 2”, and “step 3” would be the pinnacle, or main point of the poem. Psalm 67 forms a chiasm with three steps.

To show the pattern I’ll use our example of steps from above.

  • Step 1 – vs. 1-2
    • Step 2 – v. 3
      • Step 3 – v. 4
    • Step 2 – v. 5
  • Step 1 – v. 6-7

Let’s look at the relationship between each step, the main point, and what it means for us today.

May God be gracious to us and bless us;
may he make his face shine upon us
Selah
so that your way may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.

Psalm 67: 1-2 CSB

Notice that the purpose of the blessing to “us” is in order that God’s salvation be made to “all nations.” This is a key theme in the Hebrew Scriptures that Israel often missed. Their purpose (and ours) is to proclaim God’s good news and salvation to those who do not know him, “all” of them!

The central claim of the psalm is God’s goodness and fairness toward the nations which should result in praise of everyone!

Let the nations rejoice and shout for joy,
for you judge the peoples with fairness
and lead the nations on earth.
Selah

Psalm 67:4 CSB

This central statement about God is bracketed by step 2 in verses 3 and 5 with the same call to praise by “all the peoples.” And the psalm closes with another blessing for “all” peoples.

The earth has produced its harvest;
God, our God, blesses us.
God will bless us,
and all the ends of the earth will fear him.

Psalm 67:6-7 CSB

Over and over the psalmist reminds us that the purpose of God’s people, the purpose of God’s blessing, the knowledge of God’s salvation, and the role of God and his people in the world is to make Him known to all peoples! Every one of them!

So what are you doing to reach all peoples for God? What are you doing to teach all nations about him? How much time do you spend with those who look different than you, act different than you, believe different than you, etc?

The great fault of Israel is they chose to isolate and insulate against the world rather than reach out to them for God’s glory. Is the church today guilty of the same?

I leave you with a quote from the late British missionary to India, Lesslie Newbigin.

“Christians have no effect in the world as long as they refuse to engage the world.”

Lesslie Newbigin

Daily Psalms – Psalm 22

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 21-25

Psalm 22 is a psalm every follower of Jesus should meditate on frequently. It’s one of my “go to” places for meditation on the crucifixion of Jesus. Just a quick reading should draw the minds of most people to the cross, but the writers of the Gospel specifically wanted their readers to recognize that Jesus was the suffering Messiah of Psalm 22. The Gospels quote this psalm extensively throughout the Passion narrative.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

Psalm 22:1 CSB

Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:33 include Jesus quoting these words from the cross. I read somewhere that this psalm was “the death psalm” and every devout Jew wanted to die while reciting it. But I think there’s more to this quote than just that. When the one who had no sin was made sin for our benefit (2 Cor. 5:21), it distanced Jesus from the Father in a way he had never experienced. A closeness we can only dream of was destroyed because of our sin. And in that moment Jesus felt the distance, felt alone, and felt abandoned.

Everyone who sees me mocks me;
they sneer and shake their heads:
“He relies on the Lord;
let him save him;
let the Lord rescue him,
since he takes pleasure in him.”

Psalm 22:7-8 CSB

Matthew 27:39-44, Mark 15:29, and Luke 23:35 all include elements of these mockers shaking their heads and hurling insults. Part of the crucifixion process was public shaming. If they wanted you dead they could just use a sword. Crucifixion usually lasted a long time and included being stripped naked (see 22:17), as well as insults from accusers being hurled upon you as you died.

It’s always struck me that Jesus could have done exactly what the accusers said. “Let the LORD rescue him.” It certainly could have happened, but would the accusers really have believed? And if Jesus did come down from the cross and the accusers did believe, then our sin would remain because Jesus would not have conquered death. No doubt Jesus wanted them to believe, and Satan knew that too. Even on the cross there is a temptation for Jesus to take the easy way out. Yet his love for us held him there.

My strength is dried up like baked clay;
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You put me into the dust of death.

Psalm 22:15 CSB

NIV renders the first line of this verse: “My mouth is dried up like a potsherd…” but both translations show that there seems to be a dry mouth at play. No doubt Jesus would have been dehydrated and thirsty. John 19:28 recalls Jesus crying out because of thirst.

For dogs have surrounded me;
a gang of evildoers has closed in on me;
they pierced my hands and my feet.

Psalm 22:16 CSB

We read verse 16 and instantly think of the cross. What we may not realize is that crucifixion wasn’t even invented when this psalm was written! What would it mean to pierce hand and foot? The Holy Spirit knew as he inspired these words to be written in a time when they didn’t make sense in their immediate context.

They divided my garments among themselves,
and they cast lots for my clothing.

Psalm 22:18 CSB

All four Gospels include this detail about the soldiers at the foot of the cross. (Mt. 27:35, Mk. 15:24, Lk. 23:34, Jn. 19:23-24) Cloth was valuable. Jesus certainly didn’t have much in the way of earthly possessions, and even what he had was taken from him. Afterall, what good will clothes do for a dead man?

They will come and declare his righteousness;
to a people yet to be born
they will declare what he has done.

Psalm 22:31 CSB

We now have the responsibility of fulfilling Psalm 22. Jesus went to the cross for us. We don’t have to worry about that part. But we do have the responsibility to tell future generations of his goodness! We must declare what Jesus has done!

Every verse of this psalm points to something in the ministry, death, or resurrection of Jesus. I praise God for passages like this that tell the story of the Messiah hundreds of years before his birth. Now let us tell his story hundreds of years after his death and resurrection! Blessings.

Jesus and the Female Disciples

Today we continue our look at Luke’s gospel and some of the women he includes in his story about Jesus. Luke has a major focus on the role of women in the ministry of Jesus and this week we look at some of the female disciples and supporters of Jesus’ ministry.

Luke 8:1-3 tells us about “many” single and married women who not only traveled with Jesus, but supported his ministry financially. These women are not the twelve, but they are disciples and benefactors nonetheless. Benefactors (financial supporters) in the ancient world would financially support an effort they supported, but that did not mean they would physically participate in that effort. These women are not simply benefactors, they are disciples traveling with Jesus, involved physically in his ministry, and learning to be just like the Messiah. A disciple would eventually go on to have their own students and teach in a way similar to their own teacher.

The fact that Luke tells us of Jesus and these women as disciples, a very unusual practice in the ancient world, tells us something about Jesus. Their presence in support and practice of Jesus’ ministry shows that Jesus wasn’t constrained by, nor concerned with cultural ideas about the roles of women. Culture considered them property to be kept in the home, but Jesus included them as disciples, ones who could travel along side, support, and assist in his ministry.

This detail sets up the often misunderstood story of Mary and Martha at the end of Luke 10. Many tell this story as a lesson on priorities; Jesus is more important than housework. While this is true, it misses the context of what Luke is telling us about Jesus. Luke always gives a female counterpart to the males in his gospel, showing that following Jesus and serving in the Kingdom is not a job relegated to men. Luke gives us Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna, the widow of Zarephath and Naaman (ch. 4), the centurion and the widow (ch. 7), the widow with the coins and the shepherd (ch. 15). Here in chapter 8 and chapter 10 we see the female complement to the male disciples.

Luke tells us that Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said” (10:39). In doing so, Mary is taking up the role of a disciple, something a male would do in that culture. She is breaking a cultural rule (that many other women from ch. 8 did as well). Martha wants Jesus to rebuke Mary, but Jesus affirms that “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (10:42)

This story goes with the preceding story of the good Samaritan, and is an example of the Greatest Commands lived out. The Samaritan is the hero of the first story, and a female disciple is the hero of the second story. These are two upside down images of obeying the Greatest Commands in a culture that valued neither of these heroes. Luke is clearly portraying Jesus as being against the rules and boundaries of the culture in which they lived. The Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t follow societal norms, it follows Jesus. These stories also call us to radically break with tradition and culture, disregard all else, and follow the example of Jesus. In Luke’s Gospel, the teachings and actions of Jesus remind us that the Kingdom of Heaven is a place where Jews and Samaritans, as well as men and women can serve as equals. (See Gal. 3:28)

Follow Me

Our final Gospel reading for the year comes from the end of John’s Gospel, chapters 20 & 21. I have always loved the personal touches John includes in this section, including the fact that he was a faster runner than Peter (20:4).

One of the interesting debates surrounding this portion of Scripture has to do with the occasion of the writing of chapter 21. It certainly appears that 20:30-31 is the ending of the Gospel. And yet there’s chapter 21. I could bore you with all of the scholarly arguments back and forth, but the truth of the matter is that all early manuscripts of John contain chapter 21. What does this mean? Chapter 21 was written by John as well. It appears that John completed his Gospel with chapter 20, and was then moved by the Spirit to include one more episode in the life of Jesus, likely for the reason given in 21:22-23. It’s an important story with a message we need today!

If you remember in John 18, we see Peter deny Christ three times around a charcoal fire (see 18:18). This so devastated Peter that it appears he had given up on his ability to follow Christ and had returned to fishing (21:3). Jesus performs yet another fishing miracle among them, a clear signal to Peter about who was talking to him, and the disciples come to shore where they find Jesus cooking breakfast, once again around a charcoal fire (21:9). In a way, Jesus has once again placed Peter at a charcoal fire in an effort to give him another chance. Three times Jesus asks Peter to confirm his love for the Savior. Each time Peter does, and each time Jesus invites Peter to feed his sheep, an expression basically telling Peter to act like the pastor he has been called to be. But Jesus also gives Peter an ominous prediction.

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” – John 21:17-19

Did you notice what just happened? Peter returned to Christ. He has been reinstated, and called to shepherd the flock of believers. As Jesus is calling Peter he basically tells him that the pain and suffering he himself had just endured would also be endured by Peter. It’s almost as if he’s saying, “Peter, you too will be crucified. Now follow me.” And the shocking thing is Peter did. Peter followed him! And in case you are wondering, church history tells us that Peter was crucified, but differently than Jesus. Peter claimed he was unworthy to die in the same manner as his Lord, so Peter was crucified hanging upside down from the cross.

Jesus calls us to deny ourselves and follow him. He calls us to die to ourselves and follow him. He calls us to give up everything, including our own lives to follow him. It’s radical. It’s extreme. It’s Jesus. My question is this: What is Jesus calling you to do that you have not done? Is he calling you to change something in your life? Is he calling you to share the Gospel with a friend? What is he calling you to do that you haven’t done?  Just like Peter, if you have denied him or ignored his call, it’s not to late. He will welcome you back, with open arms. But the call remains: Follow me!

Jesus vs. The Status Quo

Our Gospel reading for this week comes from John 6:22-7:24. We could spend weeks on this section alone, so I am not able to adequately address everything going on in John’s text. I do want to touch on a few items, however.

This passage comes just after Jesus feeds the 5,000, and walks on water where he acts like God (see Ex. 16:4 for manna, see “Enter the Water” sermons water themes). Jesus even uses language that indicates he is God (6:20 – “ἐγώ εἰμι” literally means “I am”, not “It is I” – see Ex. 3:14)

Now Jesus enters a discussion based on a statement by Jesus, “I am the bread of life.” (6:35) This is one of seven “I am” statements that Jesus makes in John’s gospel, plus an additional absolute “I am” statement in 8:58 (where he is nearly stoned for equating himself with God.) Jesus begins using figurative language of eating and drinking to describe how his disciples should relate to him. Jesus wants the audience to realize that God provided manna for the Israelites, and now God has provided Jesus for the Israelites and later the Gentiles (10:16). The manna was temporary, the ones that ate it were hungry again and eventually died. Jesus says if you feast on him, however (his words, his body, his blood – Lord’s Supper type language) then you will not die (6:50). Jesus’ audience, however, is really wanting more miracles…a free lunch if you will. (6:30-31) When Jesus quit feeding them, and instead entered into some serious teachings that were difficult to understand, they left him. (6:66)

This leads to an observation, but one I think John is channeling in the text. Following Jesus isn’t all fun and games and magic shows. Following Jesus takes work. Following Jesus requires you to engage your mind in thinking, and your whole body in following him. It means giving up yourself and your desires, and instead following Jesus wherever he may lead, even to the cross. One who truly believes Jesus is the Son of God, Lord of all, will go wherever he calls, and do whatever he commands, not simply want to sit back and be fed! (6:40, 10:7,11,14, 6:34)

Chapter 7 continues this same line of thinking…this idea that Jesus will entertain people, and carry on the status quo, including taunting along these lines from his brothers (7:3-5). But verses like 7:20 and 7:24 indicate that the people simply didn’t want to be challenged in their thinking…they were content to keep things the way they were. I close by sharing Dr. Ross Cochran’s commentary on this passage:

“The status quo killed Jesus. The status quo is so powerful that it will even turn a deaf ear to God. Obeying God’s word requires repentance and transformation. Few really want that. Most of us would rather embrace what we know presently in order to be comfortable. So we are tempted to reject anything that threatens the status quo, even if it is from God. Think of it! God appears in the person of Jesus and the people would rather have things as they are than to hear a word from God. Scary isn’t it? The status quo has a gravitational pull that must be overcome.”

Question: In your experience, what is the biggest status quo we are facing in the church today?