Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hosea 10:13 + Harvest

Hosea 10:13 You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice, you have eaten the fruit of lies.

It's harvest time. The pumpkins are plump and available at many roadside stands. We think of the harvest as good because that's the way God intended it.

But as the old saying goes -- Galatians 6:7,8 -- "we reap whatever [we] sow. If [we] sow to []our own flesh, [we] will reap corruption from the flesh."

That, of course, is the negative side. It's harvest time. Let us "sow to the Spirit!" and let us "reap eternal life from the Spirit" (Gal. 6:8).

God, I want to harvest the fruits of Galatians 6 -- love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. Therefore, help me sow today faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.


Hosea 8:1 + Remembering

Hosea 8:1 Set the trumpet to your lips! One like a vulture is over the house of the Lord, because they have broken my covenant, and transgressed my law.

I don't know how we got on the subject -- and it's not pleasant -- but yesterday someone told me about driving a long country road to work. In the morning he'd often spot a dead deer along the side of the road. Returning in the evening, he said, "the deer would be picked clean by vultures. How did they do it so fast?"

Through Hosea we are told to "set the trumpet to []our lips." This isn't time for music; it's time to sound the alarm -- "1 one like a vulture is over the house of the Lord." It might be tempting to think that the judgment here is pronounced about the vulture ... but no. Vultures do what vultures do. The judgment is against God's own people "1 because they have broken my covenant." God takes it seriously when we "1 transgress[] [His] law."

Do we ever ...
+ "3 Spurn the good"?
+ "4 Ma[k]e kings [and priorities], but not through [God]"?
+ Do we ever make "4 idols [of] silver and gold," or plastic and self-centered desires?
+ Do we ever "7 sow [in] the wind" and wonder why we "4 reap the whirlwind"?

Conclusion ... "14 Israel has forgotten his Maker."

O Lord, you are holy and mighty and just and ... and ... hmmm ... I forgot what I saying ... I forget whom I am praising ... I forget who I truly am ... humble me ... and remind me that I am yours.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hosea 7:8,9 + Integrity

Hosea 7:8 ... Ephraim is a cake not turned. 9 Foreigners devour his strength, but he does not know it ...

There are two kinds of cooks -- artists and scientists. Scientists are precise and measure. Artists are creative -- a little of this, a little of that. Can you guess which I am? Well, let's just say that the creative side of me doesn't bake well. Baking requires, of course, a little precision. So maybe I'm not the best person to talk about today's repeated baking images; nevertheless, that's how God speaks to his people today. Their "4 adulter[y] [is] like a heated oven." So is their "6 anger [which] smolders." These two characteristics -- "7 hot as an oven" -- ultimately "devour[s] their [own] rulers."

But there's also a deeper warning here. Today's verse tells us that overheated infidelity and the flames of anger are ultimately cannibalistic. "8 Ephraim" -- one of Israel's twelve provinces / tribes -- has become in this oven "8 a cake not turned." The result "9 foreigners devour his strength." In a sense that's not cannibalism -- a foreigner is devouring him. But here's the point for today, when our anger and unfaithfulness burn, aren't we devouring our integrity from the inside out? We're destroying our structural integrity, and it's not hard, then, for the world to finish the job.

Dear Lord, General Electric, KitchenAid, Maytag, and Jenn-Air are some of the best known brands of ovens. Don't add my name -- Ed -- to the list of toasters. Help my heart burn only for you.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hosea 6:1 + Repentance

Hosea 6:1 "Come, let us return to the Lord; for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us; he has struck down, and he will bind us up.

In this passage, God tells us plainly what he "6 desire[s --] steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than [what Israel assumed he wanted, the famous old] burnt offerings." Unfortunately, God says that instead of steadfast, "4 [our] love [ought to be compared to] a morning cloud, [to] dew that goes away early." Therefore, God "1 t[ears] ... and heal[s]; ... str[ikes] down ... and ... bind[s] us up."

What does that mean? We like the image of healing and binding up and bandaging, but many of us refuse to picture as contradictory a good god who might also tear up and strike down. My simple response is that I sometimes need to be brought to my knees.

Here's a way to picture this:
+ Imagine a plus mark in the center of a page.
+ Imagine, then, an infinity symbol -- a sideways 8 -- intersecting all four of the plus-mark's quadrants.
+ Below the horizontal line is negative and painful. Above the line is positive and freeing.
+ Have you ever fallen on your knees in guilt and shame? I hope so.
+ But what rescues us from that negative quadrant? God's grace ought to make us stand up and cheer as we follow the path of the infinity symbol upward to a positive quadrant.
+ Grace, then, is wonderful and freeing, but we humans often turn the freedom of grace into permissiveness and sin (dipping into the negative quadrant).
+ That's when we need to fall on our knees in repentance -- which in a healing way draws us along the infinity symbol to the other positive quadrant.
+ There are magnificent benefits to the fear (and respect) of our Lord -- the healing, for example, that comes from forgiveness -- but when we dwell too long on this side of the plus mark, the fear of the Lord can often become fear and guilt sinking us downward into shame.
+ As soon as the health of repentance turns negative, we need to rise to our feet in the light of God's grace.
+ And then when the freedom of grace becomes too permissive, we need to fall to our knees in repentance.
+ And journeying along the lines of infinity, we need to constantly fall into the repentance whenever grace turns into permissiveness, and then rise in freedom whenever repentance turns into guilt.

Gracious Lord, you have told us that "on the third day [you] will raise us up." Join my life to Christ's and to the pattern of third day resurrections. In fact, Lord, every three days is not a bad cycle for me to fall in repentance and leap for joy at your amazing grace. Maybe I ought to do it every three hours! Repenting, rejoicing, remembering you. 1 o'clock, 2 o'clock, 3 o'clock, rock.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hosea 5:1-2 + Leadership

Hosea 5:1 Hear this, O priests! Give heed, O house of Israel! Listen, O house of the king! For the judgment pertains to you ... 2 ... but I will punish all of them.

What happens when our leaders go astray? That's the question from today's reading.

The judgment pertains to the "1 priests" and the "1 house of the king," "but [the] punish[ment will effect] all of them." I obviously added the word "will effect." "Trickles down to" might be even more accurate.

In every kingdom ... church ... or family, don't you know that there are faithful souls who are led down darkened paths by their leaders. It wasn't their idea. It wasn't their plan. But we brought along nonetheless. We are called, therefore, to be very wary of the values, morals, and priorities of those we salute too. Why? Because they're likely to draw us down their path ... whether we like it or not.

Why? An even more important answer is that we're called to only and ultimately salute to God.

Lord, steer all the leaders in our lives toward your path. Steer us too.