Quick Note – Hosea 2:16 – Our Ishi

Hosea 2:16 – “And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’”

In a marriage, one spouse is not superior to the other; each one plays a unique role that complements the other.  Although the Bible teaches that the husband should lead and the wife should submit, the husband is not treated as a master and lord over his household, but a loving caretaker of his family.  He is not told to rule with an iron fist, putting his legs up and watching TV, waiting to be served.  No!  He is asked to love his wife as Christ loved the church, giving himself up for her, serving her, and making sure her every need is cared for.  He is not a slave master, but a servant leader to his wife.  What is very interesting though is that Christ, who has every right to be Lord and Master over our lives, has instead chosen to take the position of Husband instead.  He would rather have a personal, intimate relationship with us rather than one built on Master and slave.

Our passage today emphasizes this truth.  The book of Hosea highlights the relationship between God and His people of Israel.  Although Israel had made a covenant with the Lord – to serve Him and Him only, they had gone astray to serve other gods like Baal, Asherah, and Molech.  They even worshipped gods that they created themselves like the Bronze Serpent that Moses had made in the wilderness in Numbers 21.  Israel was like an adulteress who betrayed the covenant of marriage by being unfaithful to the Lord with other gods.  They even had the nerve to take the blessings that God had given them like the food, the silver, and the gold and use it to serve these other gods, who they thought provided them with these blessings.  They had lost sight of the Person who loved them with an unconditional love.  Interestingly though after allowing them to suffer the judgment they deserved, God called them back to Him tenderly.  He did not demand them back.  He did not invoke His right as Master.  He did not even treat her as an outcast.  Instead, He called her back with love and affection, restoring His people Israel.

This declaration in verse 16 is so important, because culturally, when Jewish people introduce their spouses, it is by using the terms described above.  The husband will introduce his wife by saying, “This is my wife……” but the wife will introduce herself by saying, “I belong to ……..”  The wife will refer to her husband as her “baali” which means “my master,” instead of calling him, “ishi,” which means “my husband.”  Nowadays, we don’t deal with that terminology, but at the time, it was the norm.  The beauty of this passage is because God said that His people would no longer call Him “My Baal” but “My Husband.”  It was a switch from “Baali” to “Ishi,” from a term that sounds like captivity and obligation to a term that indicates love and partnership.  God loved them so much that He wanted to change their relationship to one that was filled with personal love, even though they had sinned and “committed adultery” with other gods.  Verse 16 powerfully depicts God’s unconditional and amazing love.

What is even more wonderful is that that same love extends to us!  While we were still sinners, God sent His Son to die for us (Romans 5:8).  We were His enemies; we were people who had run to other gods and attributed all His blessings to other things; we were people who outright rejected Him.  Yet, He willingly died for us and wanted to restore that relationship.  He didn’t just want slaves to His will, but disciples and partners in His work.  He wanted to be our Ishi not our Baal, though He had every right to demand otherwise.  He didn’t make us robots but lovers.  As Christians, let us be thankful for this beautiful relationship we can have with our God.  He is not distant or demanding but personal and faithful.  He provides for us, cares for us, restores us, and even gives us a chance to know Him deeply.  What a loving Ishi, we have.

Quick Note – Isaiah 8:19-20 – Where to Seek Advice

Isaiah 8:19-20 – “19 And when they say to you, ‘Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,’ should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.”

Since I am not a parent, I have no clue what it feels like to watch my child seek advice from someone else other than me.  Certainly, it would hurt if they chose to forgo my words of experience to listen to the advice of their less experienced friends or peers.  I would hate to see them make avoidable mistakes, because they listened to the wrong counsel.  In the Bible, Solomon’s son Rehoboam was a prime example of a person who sought the wrong advice and suffered for it.  1 Kings 12 records the story.  When Rehoboam succeed Solomon on the throne of Israel, the people of Israel asked him to lighten the load of service that had previously been placed on them by Solomon.  Faced with this challenge, Rehoboam sought advice from two groups of people – 1) the elders who had sat under Solomon’s wisdom and reign and 2) his peers.  Instead of listening to the advice of the elders, Rehoboam took heed to his peers and lost most of the kingdom to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.  From that point forward, Israel was divided into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms.

In our passage today, God rebuked His people for seeking advice from mediums, necromancers, and those who speak on behalf of the dead.  Instead of seeking God and His Word, they sought counsel from forces of darkness that would surely lead them astray.  They followed what all the other nations would do in their situation – they sought counsel from the spiritual forces of darkness that they could not understand or know.  What they should have done was look to His Word, for in it is wisdom and guidance.  But instead they acted like King Saul in 1 Samuel 28, who sought a medium to get advice from the prophet Samuel (who had already died).  Saul was rebuked by Samuel’s ghost for doing so, and God did so to His people here.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we know better than to consult fortune tellers, witches, and other members of the occult.  We know that playing with these things is like playing with fire, so we stay away as far as we can, which is wise.  Sadly though, we continue to make the same mistake the people of Israel made here – we seek advice from people other than God.  Our God is the Lord of all, the Creator of the universe, and the Sustainer of everything.  He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.  He is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.  He knows the past, present, and the future, and He knows the plans that He had planned for us even before we were formed in our mother’s wombs.  He knows all these things yet still loves us and wants us to come to Him for advice; yet when we are lost, He is the last Person we turn to.  We would rather try to solve the problem ourselves, to look to a self-help book, or to consult the world.  God has given us the manual for our lives in the Bible yet we hardly ever open it.  God didn’t give us the Bible to put up as a beautiful ornament on our coffee table; He gave it to us, so that we could delve into and learn more about Him, His commands, and His direction for our lives.  Instead of seeking worldly advice, we should be searching His Word, for it is filled with just the right words for any occasion.  For wisdom, read Proverbs.  For practical advice on church issues, read Corinthians.  For comfort, read the Psalms.  Each and every book can speak to our lives.  Stop inquiring about life and advice elsewhere; turn “to the teaching and to the testimony!”  God wants to speak to you in His Word today.

Quick Note – Ecclesiastes 5:1 – Listen!

Ecclesiastes 5:1 – “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 2 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.”

Have you ever been told to or maybe told someone to “just shut up and listen”?  This phrase usually comes out of an experienced person’s mouth when he is trying to teach a less experienced “know-it-all” how to do something.  It’s a phrase of frustration, because the “know-it-all” is just too busy rambling off what he thinks he knows about a subject that no learning is happening.  The training becomes a total waste of time, because one person is simply refusing to listen.  The knowledge is going in one ear and out the other or maybe not even going into one ear in the first place.  The whole experience just becomes exasperating for both.  The student needs only to come with a heart willing to listen and to learn and the whole situation would have been beneficial for all.

As Christians, when we come into the presence of God, we must come with a heart ready to listen – whether we are at church during a service or at home during devotionals.  So much of the time, we come before God just wanting to spew out how our day has been and what we wish He would do for us.  There definitely is nothing wrong with laying down your burdens and expressing your desires before the Lord, but when we come before Him, we must not do so with an arrogant heart that is demanding things out of God.  Prayer and worship has nothing to do with that attitude.  When we come into His presence, we must do so with a heart of humility.  Our passage in Ecclesiastes today reminds us not to be rash with our mouths before God and to instead listen, for He is in heaven and we are on earth.  He is the Creator, and we are His creatures.  He is the Potter, and we are the clay.  He is the Lord, and we are His disciples.  He is the Shepherd, and we are the sheep of His pasture.  Simply put, He is God, and we have no right to “give Him a piece of our mind.”

Something important for us to also take note of here though is that listening doesn’t only mean paying attention to a sermon; it means obedience.  If you hear something and don’t act on it, then what use was the listening in the first place?  Did you really listen?  For some of us the struggle is not in coming to God with ears that will listen but coming to God with a heart that is willing to obey.  We would rather throw more money at the church, strike deals with God, and bargain our way out of doing some job He has called us to do.  The job could be anything.  Maybe it’s a sin in our life that He has told us to give up.  Maybe it’s a person He has told you to forgive.  Maybe it’s a friend He has told you to witness to.  We would rather offer Him sacrifices of other things than to obey.  King Saul was corrected by Samuel for this type of heart attitude in 1 Samuel 15:22, being told “…To obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”

The next time you come into God’s presence like this Sunday in church perhaps or this morning or evening in devotionals or even right now in reading this blog, be ready to listen and to obey.  You will find that the time you spend with Him will be more fruitful than you could ever imagine.

Quick Note – 2 Corinthians 8:18-21 – Having an Accountability Partner

2 Corinthians 8:18-21 – “18 With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel. 19 And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will. 20 We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, 21 for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.”

It is said that Billy Graham would never go into an elevator with a woman alone, because he wanted to make sure that nobody could ever accuse him of doing anything scandalous.  It has also been said that he would not enter a hotel room without first having somebody check the room to make sure that nobody was there for that same reason.  He did everything in his power to ensure that his witness for Christ could never be tarnished by a slanderous allegation, for he did not want anybody to defame the name of Christ.  Even if it meant that he had to go out of his way, he would do so to uphold and protect the name of Christ.  Interestingly, these two ways that he went about protecting his witness required another person’s help.  By having a second witness around, he could make sure that his testimony would always be corroborated by another, and there could be no doubt about his honesty.  In a way, that second witness was like an accountability partner (although not to keep Billy accountable but his testimony).

In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul also mentioned a similar “accountability partner” who accompanied him as he collected funds for the needy in Jerusalem (“this act of grace that is being ministered by us”) and who was to go with Titus to the Corinthian church for a collection as well.  This Christian brother was not only a blessing because he preached the Gospel in all the churches, but he also became a steward of this monetary love gift to the Jerusalem church.  Paul mentioned in vs. 20-21 that they took this course of having an extra person that was not part of their usual group on this “act of grace” so that they could not be blamed about this generous gift.  He wanted to make sure that nobody could ever accuse him of stealing money, so he did what would be honorable in the sight of the Lord and of man – he found an “accountability partner.”  Paul was not worried that he would be tempted to take the money, but he wanted this accountability so that his testimony could never be doubted.  He wanted to protect the name of Christ by any means necessary.

I personally have never really had an accountability partner, because I never felt “a need to have one.”  I always thought that having an accountability partner was a sign of weakness and an inability to have self-control.  I thought that since I wasn’t struggling with pornography or drugs or alcohol or any of those addictive things, then I didn’t need one.  But I didn’t realize that the reason why I didn’t have one was simply because of my pride; I was so afraid that if I faltered and someone caught me, I would be looked upon as an unrighteous religious hypocrite and would lose my “esteem” in that person’s sight.  So in order to avoid having to confess my sins and struggles to anyone, I did not seek out an accountability partner.  But as I grew in my relationship with the Lord, I realized just how important it is to have this partner in my Christian walk (Currently, I consider you, the readers, as accountability partners, for what I share with you, I must live out and am accountable to you to do so).  Today’s passage has only reinforced this truth.  First, an accountability partner provides accountability for sin.  It is very hard to commit sin, when you know you need to confess it to someone and are constantly held accountable for it.  Haven’t you noticed that when you sin intentionally, you try to make sure nobody sees you do it?  It is difficult to sin when you know you will be caught and that there will be immediate consequences.  Second, an accountability partner provides accountability for your witness.  As with Billy Graham and Paul, having this partner to watch your back ensures that nobody can tarnish your testimony with a rash and wicked word.  You will always have someone to support your character, your actions, and your witness.  Lastly, an accountability partner provides accountability for your spiritual growth as a Christian.  Having another person you confide in, who is also growing in the Lord, will encourage you to build a closer relationship to Christ as well.  The Bible says that “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17).  So constantly hearing about a fellow Christian growing in Christ will definitely encourage you to do so as well.  As Christians, we need to work together to guard the name of Christ from any form of slander, ridicule, or contempt.  We need to be each other’s accountability partners, calling each other out when there is sin, backing each other up when there is slander, and encouraging each other to spiritually grow everyday.  Whether you are looking for an accountability partner to keep you from sin, to guard your witness, or to encourage you to grow in Christ, find one today.

Quick Note – Psalm 132:1-5 – Don’t Wait

Psalm 132:1-5 – “Remember, O LORD, in David’s favor, all the hardships he endured, how he swore to the LORD and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob, ‘I will not enter my house or get into my bed, I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.’”

Recently, I have tried to post only once a week or every two weeks, because I have been quite busy applying to medical school and taking classes and working.  It’s a really busy schedule, so I have tried to give a little bit of time to everything.  But I couldn’t help but post this up now, due to the content of what I am trying to share with you today.  After you read the rest of the post, it will become clear to you that I needed to write this right away, because if I didn’t I would be in danger of being called a hypocrite and not doing what I preach. 

Surely, all of us have procrastinated at something at one point in our life or another.  We have procrastinated with our homework at school, waiting until the last minute to write up our term paper.  We have procrastinated with a project at work, waiting just a few hours before the presentation to prepare slides and/or a speech.  We have procrastinated with chores at home, waiting until the laundry or dishes pile up before we begin to clean them.  And if we are honest with ourselves, we have procrastinated with what God has called us to do in our spiritual lives, waiting “for the right time” before doing God’s work.  Our passage today highlights the heart of David, when he desired to build a Temple for the LORD God.  It says that David vowed, “I will not enter my house, or get into my bed, I will not give sleep to my eyes, or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”  David would not rest, until he found a place to build a Temple for the LORD.  It is amazing how much he loved the Lord and wanted to serve and please Him!  He would not wait.  He would not tarry.  He would not procrastinate.  When it came to the Lord’s work, he was ready and willing to do it right away.  We all know that the Lord eventually told him that he would not build the house but his son Solomon would, but nonetheless, we can see the heart of David clearly here – fully devoted to the Lord, unwilling to waste another day.

As Christians, when God has called us to do something for Him, we should not rest, we should not tarry, we should not wait to do it.  We must get up and do it immediately.  We must not let the sun go down on the day before we do the work He has called us to do.  Of course, this doesn’t mean things that take planning and wise counsel.  But this is for things where the Spirit of the Lord has moved in your heart to work.  For example, when you are urged by the Spirit to speak to your co-worker about Christ, don’t wait until tomorrow; do it today.  Or when you are convicted by the Lord to call a past friend and share some encouraging words, don’t wait until tomorrow; do it today.  Or when you have been asked by God to reconcile a broken relationship, don’t wait until tomorrow; do it today.  Most importantly, if He has asked you to turn and give your life to Him, either for salvation at first or for His work later, don’t wait until tomorrow; do it today.  Don’t let your eyes have sleep or your body rest until you do what He has called you to do.  He moved me to share this passage with you tonight.  What is He moving you to do today? 

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