We are Gomer

The following is an excerpt from James Montgomery Boice’s commentary on the Minor Prophets.  I’m beginning this year by reading through the minor prophets first, and was immediately reminded of Boice’s love for this chapter as I read through it today. First, read through Hosea 3, then read Boice’s commentary on the chapter. Enjoy!

Hosea 3 (ESV)

And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.

The Greastest Chapter in the Bible – James Boice

The third chapter of Hosea is, in my judgment, the greatest chapter in the Bible, because it portrays the greatest story in the Bible – the death of the Lord Jesus Christ for his people – in the most concise and poignant form to be found anywhere. Our study of Hosea’s story has already shown that it is a pageant of the love of God for Israel, indeed, for his people in every place and age. But when we ask, “Where in the whole of human history is that love most clearly seen?” the answer is obviously, “At the cross of Christ.” It is that cross and the work accomplished on that cross that is portrayed in this chapter. Hosea 3 shows us God’s work of redemption – the work by which the Lord Jesus Christ delivered us from sin’s bondage at the cost of his own life – portrayed in Hosea’s purchase of his fallen wife from slavery.

Hosea owned his wife. She was his property. He could do anything he wished with her. If he had wanted to kill her out of spite, he could have done it. People might have called him a fool to waste his money on a worthless woman. She might have suffered far more as a slave to some beautiful woman where she wold have been obliged to fetch and serve and carry and watch and never enter into the kind of pleasures that brought her to her state in her first place. Still Hosea could have killed Gomer if he had wanted to. Yet he did not, because at this point Hosea’s love, which is an illustration of God’s love for us, burned brightest. Instead of seeking vengeance, he put Gomer’s clothes on her, led her away into the anonymity of the crowd, and claimed that love from her that was now his right. Moreover, as he did so, he promised no less from himself.

Does God love like that? Yes, God loves like that! God steps into the marketplace of sin and buys us out of sin’s bondage by the death of Christ. We read in our Bibles, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16). We ask, “What does so mean?” The answer is in Hosea’s story. When we see Hosea standing in the marketplace under orders from God to purchase his wife, who had become an adulteress and a slave, we recognize that this is the measure of God’s love.

We are Gomer. We are the slave sold on the auction block of sin. The world bids for us. The world bids fame, wealth, prestige, influence, power – all those things that are the world’s currency. But when all seemed lost, God sent the Lord Jesus Christ, His Son, into the marketplace to buy us at the cost of his life.

Boice, James Montgomery. The Minor Prophets: Vol 1 An Expositional Commentary Hosea-Jonah. (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Books, 1983) pg. 31-36.

David’s Breaking Bad

“…but the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”
(2 Sam 11:27)

In my preparation for this Sunday’s sermon on David and Bathsheba (2 Sam 11), I am developing a thought on how in this infamous story David violated all of the Ten Commandments.  I probably won’t have the time in my sermon this week to give you the full details, so I thought I would lay it out for you here.

Here’s a summary of the story: In 2 Samuel 11, we read that in the springtime, when the kings would lead their armies out to war, David sent out the troops, but stayed at home, reclining on his couch in the cool of the day.  While there, he saw Bathsheba bathing on her roof (a rather suspicious place to put a bath tub), and David sent for her, slept with her, and Bathsheba was pregnant.  Immediately, David sent for Bathsheba’s husband to come home from battle, and tried to get him to spend some “quality time” with his wife.  When Uriah refused because of his loyalty to his fellow soldiers, David sent Uriah back to the front with orders that would get him killed in battle. It is a sordid tale, and extremely shocking coming from someone who, up to this point, has always been described as having a heart for God.

So how did David break all 10 Commandments in this one story?  Let’s look at them in reverse order:

Thou Shall Not Covet – This one is easy to see.  David saw Bathsheba bathing, and he wanted what he saw.  He was not satisfied with all that he already had, with all that God had given.  He saw, he desired, and his desire sprang into action.

Thou Shall Not Bear False Witness – Again, this one is clear.  In order to cover up his first sin with Bathsheba, he brings Uriah home under false pretenses.  David tries to get Uriah to break his own code of honor and sleep with his wife while his fellow men are at war.  When that didn’t work, he made Uriah carry the orders that would lead to his own death.  David didn’t even think twice about using deception and lies to cover his sin.

Thou Shall Not Steal – Hello!  He took his neighbor’s wife!

Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery – That is what took place here.  Today, we have a lot of euphemisms to help soften the blow: an “affair,” a “dalliance,” “living together,” a “fling.”  Let’s be clear. Scripture is quite clear that the gift of sexual expression is reserved for man and woman in marriage (Heb 13:4; 1 Cor 7:1-40), and anything outside of the bond of marriage is called sin, either adultery or fornication.  David committed adultery. There is no two ways around it.

Thou Shall Not Kill – Not only did Uriah die in David’s cover up, so did all the other soldiers who stormed the walls in battle. The blood of Uriah and all the soldiers lost that day was on David’s hands.

Honor thy Father and Mother – Now you may be thinking, this is a stretch, but keep in mind, the fifth commandment deals with our relationships with those in authority over us and those who serve under us.  The Westminster Larger Catechism is fantastic in its teaching here:

“It is required of superiors, according to the power they receive from God… to bless their inferiors… protecting and providing for them all things necessary for soul and body; and, by grace, wise, holy, and exemplary carriage, to procure glory to God.”

David pretty much botched that one too.

Remember the Sabbath Day and Keep it HolyNow the mother and father thing was a stretch, but this is way out there, we are not told it was a Sabbath day. Patience, I don’t think it’s that big of a leap. Remember, keeping the Sabbath means to set the Sabbath day aside as a day of rest, but that also requires that the rest of the week be spent in fruitful labor.  Where was David in this story? On the roof, resting on his couch.  Where was he supposed to be? Leading the nation of Israel in battle. This whole mess started because David neglected his responsibilities.

Thou Shall Not Take the Lord’s Name in Vain – To take God’s name in vain is to make it the name of God meaningless and empty. David was known as God’s anointed, and if this was how God’s anointed was going to act, what does that say of God?

Thou Shall Not Make Any Graven Image – Granted, David did not make a little golden idol to put on his mantle to worship. He didn’t need to. David twisted and contorted the revelation of a holy and just God, a powerful and present God, to be something much more manageable. David’s god that day was a god would couldn’t see, a god who wouldn’t act. Only by forgetting who God really is, only by creating a god of our own choosing, can we go forward boldly into such sin.

Thou Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me – That afternoon, on his roof, that beautiful woman became more to David than the very glory of God Himself. He gave up everything to have her. Is that not worship? Is not adultery, at its heart, an expression of idolatry?

James 2:10 teaches “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” David sinned fantastically, and in one sin, he broke all of God’s commandments.  And he was called a man after God’s own heart.

If we are honest, we must acknowledge that every sin, even our own, is a fantastic and radical rebellion from God’s will. There are, of course, varying degrees of the severity of our sins, but each sin is an affront to the majesty and holiness of God, and the wages of sin is death.

The good news, and there is good news, is that Jesus came to save sinners. This depravity our hearts is not a shock to our Savior, this is why he came. He came to redeem us from captivity to sin, to destroy the power of sin and death in us, to bring the grace and forgiveness of God through His atoning sacrifice.  All those who trust and believe in Christ find forgiveness, and are given His Holy Spirit that we might grow in grace as we walk with the Lord. Remembering the severity of our sins should not drive us to despair. No.  It should drive us to the cross where we find our sins have been forgiven and we are at peace with God.

SDG

Your Strength Isn’t Strong Enough

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord of hosts.”
(Zechariah 4:6)

 Do you remember the Daily Affirmations by Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live?  Poor Stuart suffered from “stinkin thinkin”, negative thoughts that just brought him down.  He’d try to encourage himself, and those who came on his show, helping them to think positive.  And always, his mantra was, say it with me…

“I am good enough.  I am smart enough.  And doggone it, people like me.”

Now, not to be one who contradicts such sound philosophy, but there are times in our lives when, unfortunately we are not good enough, we are not smart enough, and doggone it, nobody likes us.  There are times when it seems the rug has been pulled out from underneath us, when conventional wisdom fails us, and our strength isn’t strong enough.  We face trials and persecution from the things we thought would bring us security; our jobs, our friends, our family; our world seems upside down.  The things we counted on for strength fail us, the people we trust let us down.  We find we are weak, we are tired, and we want to give up.  No amount of daily affirmation, no power of positive thinking, can get us out of this mess.

This is why we walk in faith.  We see from the very beginning of the story of Scripture that man was created to be dependent upon God.  We were designed to be in relationship with God, depending on Him, trusting in Him, walking with Him.  The Lord’s Prayer is so basic, yet so revolutionary, because it reminds us, restores us to this absolute dependency upon God.  We are taught to come to God for our daily bread, to turn to God for deliverance from evil, to seek God for forgiveness as we forgive others, and ultimately, to seek God’s glory and His kingdom and His will rather than our own.

Too often, though, we forget our dependency.  We buy the delusion of our success, get drunk in our own power, and we rest in our own accomplishments.  This was what God warned the Israelites about in Deuteronomy, knowing that when the people had success, they would take all the credit, saying, “My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth” (Deut. 8:17).  No, the Lord reminded them, “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,  but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deut. 7:7–8).

Friends, the truth of the matter is, so often we begin to rely on our own strength, to believe our own press (which we’ve probably printed), and have forgotten that our strength is in the Lord alone that truly the cross we carry becomes too heavy and begins to crush us.  It seems defeating, overwhelming, and humiliating; but even then the cross has purpose.

John Calvin wrote of the purpose of our cross saying,

When we are humbled, we are taught to rely on God alone, and we shall not stumble or sink down in despair.  For it is not small profit to be robbed of our blind self-love so that we become fully award of our weakness; to have such an understanding of our weakness that we distrust ourselves; to distrust ourselves to such an extent that we put all our trust in God; to depend with such boundless confidence on God that we rely entirely on his help, so that we may victoriously persevere to then end; to continue in his grace that we may know he is true and faithful in his promises; and to experience the certainty of his promises so that our hope may become firmer.

When your cross is too much to carry, find your strength in the one who carried the cross for you.  Learn to trust less in yourself, and to trust more in His grace and mercy.  Let his strength be made perfect in your weakness.  And remember it is “not by might, nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”

SDG

All Roads Lead There

“Lord, it is good that we are here…”
(Matthew 17:4)

I want to begin this week’s message with a word of “Thanks” to all who helped to make the Cherokee Community Theater Production of A Christmas Carol: The Musical such a success. (You may find some pictures at www.cherokeect.org).   To the over 60 cast members, the orchestra, the flight crew, the directors, and the fantastic audience (a sell-out for almost every show), this was truly a fantastic experience.  Performing with such a talented troupe before such an enthusiastic audience every night was a joy, and ending every show with a standing ovation and the (faux) snow coming down while singing “God Bless us Everyone!” is a memory I will carry for a lifetime.

And perhaps that is why this week has come with a tremendous sense of “Post-Production Letdown.”  For three months nearly every evening was spent at the theater in rehearsal, laughing with friends, exploring characters, learning challenging music – being a part of something very special.  The show ended Sunday night, and on Monday I was back at the office, preparing for a committee meeting, studying for a sermon, planning Sunday worship.

One of the best compliments I heard following the show was that we should take the production on the road, that it was better than anything they’ve seen at the Orpheum.  While very kind, I shudder at the thought of trying to take this production anywhere.  After 8 shows over two weekends, I am ready for the show to be over.  Still, I miss being part of something so special, something that worked so well.  Then I tell myself, it wasn’t real.  It was a play, it was Community Theater.  It was great, but it isn’t permanent.  Life will go on, and the bills will keep coming, so it’s back to life, back to reality.

I wonder if this is sort of what it was like for Peter, James, and John, when they were on the mountain with Jesus as he was transfigured before them, with Moses and Elijah appearing, and the voice of God speaking from the heavens.  Okay, it’s probably nothing like that, but I can understand the sentiment of Peter when he said to Jesus, “It is good for us to be here. Let me make three tents, we’ll make camp here, and we can usher in the Kingdom right here and now.”  Peter didn’t want to have to go back down the mountain, to face the real world.  The glory, the joy, the paradise he glimpsed in that moment was something to hold on to.

Or consider Mary.  A new baby in her arms and the shepherds had come to share what the angels had heralded from the sky, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and good will to men.”  Wise men brought their gifts, rich treasures fit for a king.  But the baby had to grow.  There was no stopping that.  And there was no stopping what was to come.  The prophet Simeon, after blessing the family at the Temple, turned to Mary and warned her, “a sword will pierce through your own soul also.”

The hymn What Child is This? has us sing,

Why lies he in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear; for sinners here the silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce him through, the cross be borne for me, for you;
Hail, hail the Word made flesh, the babe, the son of Mary.

This is why He came.  We cannot avoid it, we cannot get around it.  At the center of the history of all mankind stands a cross, and we must come to it, even in the midst of our Christmas.  We must eventually leave the nativity for it.  We must sometime or other come down from the mountain for it.  For it is at the cross where God deals with our sinfulness, it is at the cross where the debt is paid, it is at the cross where forgiveness is found, it is at the cross where the fountain of grace bursts forth.

SDG

How Big Is Your God?

“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble”
Psalm 107:1–2 (ESV)

Have you ever felt that you’ve gone just a little too far for God?  Like maybe he was able to save you before, but now, well, now you’ve just gone and done it.  The words you said to your spouse, you can’t take those back, the damage is done.  What happened last weekend, you’re still learning about all that happened, and only now beginning to realize the consequences.  You’ve messed up your life beyond the point of no return.  You’ve dug yourself into such a deep pit financially, it would take three lifetimes to repay the debt.  God might have been able to fix things before, but not anymore.

Maybe you’ve sat in church your whole life; you’ve heard the promise of forgiveness, the talk about the power of God, you know all the Sunday school answers.  But the pastor really never knew just how bad things could really get, right?

Listen, even pastors have been there.  Sure the church has existed for 2 millennia, but the problems we pastors face today, we’re not sure if God himself can sort these things out.

We’ve heard the promise of God in Jeremiah 29.  God says, “I know the plans I have for you… plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  But we know better.  We know the extent of what We’ve done.  We are overwhelmed by the problems we face, and underwhelmed by the potential of God to save us.  We hear the voice of God sighing in dismay, “I know the plans I had for you… but then you went and did this, and said that; I just don’t know if those plans are possible anymore.”

Friends, that’s not the voice of God, that is the voice of Satan, trying to discourage you as you cling to the false image of God you have labored so long to create.

My question for you is, “Just how small is your God?”  I’m not trying to kick you when you’re down, but really.  Is your situation so great that the Almighty God, creator of the universe, could not have provided deliverance?  Is the cross of Christ not sufficient for even this sin, this guilt, that you’re struggling with today?  Is the God who sees blind to your plight?  Is the God who hears deaf to your prayers?  When you’ve resigned from trusting in the providence of God, when you say that God cannot save you this time, you have essentially said that you can create a rock that God cannot move, that you and your situation are stronger than God himself.

Psalm 107 is a Psalm of deliverance, a psalm for you.  God is saying to you today, “you got yourself into this mess, you may feel overwhelmed, but turn to me, trust in me, and I will get you out of it.”

Verses 4–7 (The Message)
Some of you wandered for years in the desert, looking but not finding a good place to live,  Half-starved and parched with thirst, staggering and stumbling, on the brink of exhaustion.  Then, in your desperate condition, you called out to GOD. He got you out in the nick of time;  He put your feet on a wonderful road that took you straight to a good place to live.

Verses 10–11, 13-14 (The Message)
Some of you were locked in a dark cell, cruelly confined behind bars,  Punished for defying God’s Word, for turning your back on the High God’s counsel – Then you called out to GOD in your desperate condition; he got you out in the nick of time.  He led you out of your dark, dark cell, broke open the jail and led you out.

Psalm 107:17–20 (The Message)
Some of you were sick because you’d lived a bad life, your bodies feeling the effects of your sin;  You couldn’t stand the sight of food, so miserable you thought you’d be better off dead.  Then you called out to GOD in your desperate condition; he got you out in the nick of time.  He spoke the word that healed you, that pulled you back from the brink of death.

Let God be God; robust, strong, mighty, able, and willing to save you. Abandon this false god that you have clung to in desperation, the one who isn’t strong enough to carry your burden, the one who couldn’t foresee this trial and make a way through it. Turn to the one, true, living God who is mighty to save.

Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome and power
Our God, Our God…

And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
And if Our God is for us, then who can ever stop us
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?

Our God (is greater) – Chris Tomlin

Grace and peace,

SDG

Gripped by the Cross

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
(1 John 4:10 ESV)

How would you define love?  Is it an emotion or feeling that you get when you are around someone you adore, someone who makes you feel good just being in their presence?  Is love an act of the will, a conscious decision to show someone kindness, compassion, mercy, and tenderness?  When we say “I love you” do we really mean “I love me, and I want you”? 

The Apostle John defines love for us saying, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  God defined what love means by demonstrating his love for us in Jesus Christ.  When we were lost in our sins, unloving and unlovable, God loved us still, and sent his son to die for us (John 3:16, Romans 5:8).  Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13), then proceeded to demonstrated that love by going to the cross.  During that same conversation in John’s gospel, Jesus also told his followers, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

Dr. Joel Beeke writes in his Epistles of John that “the great motivation for practical, Christlike living is the doctrine of the cross; hence, every failure to love can be traced back to a failure to understand the cross.  When the cross of Christ grips us, everything in our world changes.”

If love has been defined in the cross of Christ, then our failure to love in the church, in our homes, in our community with a Christlike love is simply because either we don’t understand what the cross really means or we forget to that the cross should affect every relationship and every decision.  Either way, our failure to love belies our failure to really understand the cross.

When we have been gripped by the Cross of Christ, when the beauty, tragedy, and grace of the cross really shakes us, our lives will never be the same.  J.I. Packer writes “Christ as crucified is the great object of our live, or should be… in the death of Christ do his love, his grace, his condescension, most gloriously shine forth.  Sin nowhere appears so hateful as at Calvary, and lust shrivels up in the Christian’s heart while he keeps Calvary in view.”  If we keep the cross before us, we will learn to live like he lives and love like he loves.  If we really want to be a more loving church, a more loving people, let us keep the cross of Jesus before us. 

SDG