The Lord’s Supper

The Lord’s Supper

[Message: Kobus van der Walt (Three Rivers Baptist Church – 27 October 2019)]

  1. SCRIPTURE READING:

1 Cor.11:17-34 (ESV) ~ 17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. 33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another – 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.”

  1. INTRODUCTION:

Social status played a large role in Corinthian banquets. People of status could invite peers (friends) and/or social subordinates to their banquets, but peers had to receive the “best” places (nearest the host) to recline (lean or lie back in a relaxed position with the back supported) and the highest quality food and wine.

Dinners of private associations, or clubs, were also common; trade guilds, e.g., often met once a month to eat together in the name of their idol/god/patron deity (e.g., Silvanus for woodcutters, Bacchus for bar owners). People sometimes brought their own food and drink. Such trade guilds would usually include people of the same social class, but they could meet in the home of, or at the sponsorship of, a wealthier patron, or sponsor.

The early churches met primarily in homes (1 Cor 16.19), including in Corinth (Acts 18.7; Rom 16.23), but in more spacious homes; the largest of these would have been in Corinth’s richer residential area. Although more spacious villas existed, an average wealthy home could recline 9-12 people on three large couches in the dining hall; if needed, more people (even as many as 40) could be accommodated in the larger dining hall. Whatever the particulars, the wealthier minority of the congregations (1 Cor 1.26) probably hosted the rest of the members spatially; perhaps they also provided some or all of the food and wine.

In contrast to typical Corinthian banquets, the Jewish Passover meal (1 Cor 5.7) on which the Lord’s Supper was modelled was an intimate matter of one or two families.

  1. EXPOSITION:

Let’s look at our Scripture reading for today, under the following five main points:

  • The Perversion (11:17-22) – (In this case, we will be looking at the mockery that the Corinthians made of the Lord’s Supper or Communion – “Perversion” means: behaviour that is considered abnormal and unacceptable and which is in contrast to th original meaning of the Lord’s Supper);
  • The Institution (11:23-25) – (Meaning, How the Lord told the disciples, how the Communion must be executed or how it should be done);
  • The Purpose (11:26, 28) – (Meaning: What was the original reason why the Communion was instituted by the Lord);
  • The Penalty (11:27, 29-30) – (Meaning: What will happen to the partakers of the Lord’s Supper and who don’t celebrate in the way the Lord intended it to be) and
  • The Profit (11:31-34) – (Meaning: What is the benefits for believers, who observe the Lord’s Supper).

 

  • The Perversion (11:17-22): Unfortunately, things in the Corinthian church weren’t right, because theywere making a mockery of the Lord’s Supper, that is why Paul says to them in vs.17b ~ “…when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.” What happened here in the church of Corinth – why this serious perversion (“the process of improperly changing something that is good” – Merriam-Webster)?

There was a terrible division in this church. There were people that followed people rather than Christ ~ “What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ” (1 Cor.1:12). There were people who differed from others in the church over food offered to idols; there were social status differences between the rich and the not-so-rich (1 Cor.11:21). There were even people who got drunk while partaking in the meal (1 Cor.11:23). The church was in a bad state and badly splintered, and these differences made their times of worship and fellowship so negative, that Christians went away in a worse state spiritually than when they arrived (1 Cor.1:17).

Paul could not call the gatherings of the church at Corinth ‘the Lord’s Supper’, because they were not under the Lord’s authority; there was hardly any awareness of the Lord’s presence. It seemed as if they didn’t even thought of Jesus’ death on the cross. How could such an occasion be ‘the Lord’s Supper’? Each person was far more concerned with satisfying his own hunger and thirst (1 Cor.14:21). If the purpose of coming together was to satisfy physical appetites, why not stay at home? “Do you not have houses to eat and to drink in?” (1 Cor.14:22).

What Paul wants to convey to the church in Corinth, is that they were not approaching the Lord’s Supper in the right manner but were nullifying its spiritual meaning and therefore, made an absolute mockery of the Lord’s Supper.

  • The Institution (11:23-25): Paul now reminds the Corinthians what the Lord’s Supper was originally meant to be. He recalled the actual institution by the Lord Jesus Himself on the night when he was betrayed. Paul’s anonymous reference to Judas (1 Cor.11:23 when he writes… ~ “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread”) may have been a challenge to the Corinthians in their own behaviour.

We see in vss.23-25 that the Lord did two things and said two things when He instituted the Communion (i.e. when Jesus introduced, or for the first time used the Communion with His disciples and showed them how it should be done):

  • What the Saviour did (11:23, 25a):
  • He took the bread (11:23).
  • He took the cup (11:25a).
  • What the Saviour said (11:24, 25b):
  • Concerning the bread (11:24)
  • Concerning the cup (11:25b)

Let us look in a bit more detail at these four points:

  • What the Saviour did He took the bread (11:23): First, Jesus took the bread (11:23) ~ Although Jesus was God, according to Phil.2:6-7, He… ~ “…unselfishly given (Himself) on the cross for the benefit of others.”What does this “benefit to others” mean? ~ “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9) and Phil. 2:8 ~ “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

What Paul therefore is saying in these two verses, is that the Corinthians (and for that matter, us as well) must remember that Jesus, although He is God, he unselfishly laid His life down by dying on the cross for our sakes – He became poor (dead), in order for us to become rich (be saved and inherit eternal life). Jesus, as God-man could have prevented His crucifixion, because He is God-almighty, but He became our slave, so that we can be saved from eternal life. According to 1 Cor.8-13, Paul also urges us to always keep this fact in remembrance.

Why did Jesus brake the bread? We find the answer in Matt.26:26b ~ “…Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” After Jesus thanked His Father for the bread, He broke the bread in order to demonstrate what was about to happen with His body on the cross.

The bread will show the manner in which His body will be broken, and thus will serve to recall His dying sufferings to their and our remembrance. What must we remember when taking the broken bread and eat it?  The Bible says the holy God created earth and man perfectly. But Adam and Eve fell to the temptation of Satan (original sin) and disobeyed God. Ever since Adam’s sin, sin has infected the human race. Each person is guilty ~ “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:23). Because we have sinned against God, we deserve His punishment. A judge who pardons lawbreakers isn’t a good judge. Likewise, God will not overlook sin. He pours out His righteous wrath against sinners (Rom.2:1-11). Unbelieving sinners pay for their sin by suffering eternal death in hell ~ “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom.6:23a). Taking the sin of the world as the sacrificial Lamb of God, is why Jesus had to die. He came to take the punishment for sin – death on the cross. At His death, He cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30b). Jesus finished paying the punishment for sin as the perfect Lamb of God – His work was perfectly done – it was finished.

  • What the Saviour did He took the cup (11:25a): Second, when Jesus took the cup after the supper, He said something strange in 11:25, namely ~ This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” What was this all about? In the later ritual (Jesus’s time) of the Passover, the cup of wine was passed round three times in the course of the supper. One such cup had been passed round early in the evening (Luke 22:17). After the meal, a third cup was passed round and this cup represented God’s declaration of redemption out of Egypt ~ “…I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment…” (Ex.6:6). When Jesus lead the Passover meal and when He presented this third cup, the wine was a representation of the blood of Christ, which was to be shed on the cross during the Jewish Passover.
  • What the Saviour said Concerning the bread (11:24): When Jesus took the bread, He said in 1 Cor.11:24b ~ This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

During the Jewish Passover meal, the person presiding at the meal (or leading the ceremony – usually the father in the Jewish household)  would take up the unleavened bread – the “bread of affliction” (Deut. 16:3) – and make a statement about it, recalling the Exodus from Egypt, by saying: “This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt; let all who are hungry come and eat.” Jesus, who lead proceedings at this Passover meal thus transformed the words that the Jewish fathers usually used and applied those words to Himself. The act of remembrance at the Passover of the Exodus (the Israelites leaving Egypt for the Promised Land – Exodus meaning: “the mass departure of the Israelites from Egypt) was now applied to the exodus of Jesus, i.e. Jesus’s upcoming death, resurrection and ascension (the ascent, or the going up of Christ into heaven on the fortieth day after the Resurrection), “…which He was about to bring to accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31).

When Jesus said “This is my body…” (1 Cor.11:24b), the word “this” most naturally means in the context “this bread” that Christ was holding in his hand as a symbol to represent his body; the bread was not Christ’s body itself.

The breaking of the bread was therefore, symbolic of Christ’s bruised body (Isa 53:5), “given for you” (Lk 22:19). This “bread of Life,” which Jesus gave to the disciples to eat, pointed towards His body that was going to be broken for them in order to obtain eternal redemption for them.

  • What the Saviour said Concerning the cup (11:25b): The New Covenant of grace between God and humanity was ratified (or making it officially valid) in the blood of Christ – In other words, the New Covenant that replaced the Old Covenant was now officially in place and established, because of the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross and the meaning of this New Covenant, is that the promise that God made with humanity is that He will forgive sin and restore fellowship with those whose hearts are turned toward Him. Jesus Christ is the Mediator of the New Covenant, and His death on the cross is the basis of the promise ~ “And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20).

The cup containing the symbol of that blood is therefore the pledge and witness of that covenant. This was a New Covenant in blood (Rom.3:25) as contrasted with the Old Covenant in blood (Ex.24:8). After Jesus has taken the cup, He said in Matt.26:27-28 ~ “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

The main word Paul uses to describe what has happened, during the institution of the Lord’s Supper, is the word “covenant” (1 Cor.11:25b). Through the shedding of the blood of Jesus, the Paschal Lamb (5:7), it is now possible for Jews and Greeks, rich and poor, men and women to know the glorious freedom of forgiveness and to have personal knowledge of God. Those who enter into this personal relationship, this covenant-relationship, with the Lord naturally enter at the same time into a covenant-relationship with one another. Thus, the covenant community is established – and that is precisely what the Corinthians were undermining by their behaviour. For them the death of Christ was not central; the return of Christ was not dominant; the love of Christ was not in control. It was, in a word, not ‘the Lord’s Supper.’

  • The Purpose (11:26-28): We find a threefold purpose for the Lord’s Supper:
  • It serves as a backward look to the cross.
  • It serves as an inward look to the conscience.
  • It serves as a forward look to the crown.

First then:

  • The Lord’s Supper serves as a backward look to the cross (11:26a) ~ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup...” The Lord’s Supper was a visible sermon that proclaimed “the message of the Cross” (1:18, 23; 2:2, 8). The message of the cross is the reality of the Lord’s death, and also the certainty of His return (until He comes) (Joh.14:1–4). In the beginning there was no prescribed schedule for the observance of the Lord’s Supper, whenever it was celebrated its message of humiliation and subsequent exaltation (Phil. 2:6–11) went forth. This was a needed reminder to all saints, especially those in Corinth, but also for us today (1 Cor.4:8–13).

The second purpose of the Lord’s Supper:

  • It serves as an inward look to the conscience (11:28) ~ Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” If we are to participate in a worthy manner, we must examine our own hearts, judge our sins, and confess them to the Lord.

The Corinthians neglected to examine themselves, but they were experts at examining everybody else. When the church gathers together, we must be careful not to become “religious detectives” who watch others, but who fail to acknowledge our own sins. If we eat and drink in an unworthy manner, we eat and drink judgment to ourselves, and that is nothing to take lightly

Chastening is God’s loving way of dealing with His sons and daughters to encourage them to mature (Hebr.12:1–11). It is not a judge condemning a criminal, but a loving Father punishing.

The third purpose of the Lord’s Supper:

  • It serves as a forward look to the crown (11:26b) ~ “…you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” We observe the Supper “’till He comes.” The return of Jesus Christ is the blessed hope of the church and the individual Christian. Jesus not only died for us, but He arose again and ascended to heaven; and one day He shall return to take us to heaven. Today, we are not all that we should be; but when we see Him, “we shall be like Him” (1 John 3:2).
  • The Penalty (11:27, 29-30): We find a stern warning in 11:27 to people who partake in the Communion in an unworthy manner. Paul defines his meaning of the word, “unworthiness” in 11:29. He does not say or imply that we ourselves must be “worthy” to partake of the Lord’s Supper. No one would ever partake on those terms, because no-one will ever be worthy or perfect enough in themselves.

To come to the table with unconfessed sin in our lives is to be guilty of Christ’s body and blood, for it was sin that nailed Him to the cross. If we will not judge our own sins, then God will judge us and chasten us until we do confess and forsake our sins. This judgment is not God’s eternal judgment but some temporal judgment such as sickness and death. Disobedience in the ancient world was often linked to disease and death (e.g. – Ananias and Sapphira Acts 5:1-11).

  • The Profit (11:31-34): It is however, also important to understand the following:
  • Judging Ourselves (11:31-32): If we exercise self-judgment (or an inward look to the conscience), it will not be necessary to so punish us. We must never forget that God is dealing with us as with His own children. He loves us too dearly to allow us to go on in sin.
  • Giving Ourselves (11:33-34): Paul concludes his heartfelt plea to the Corinthians about two aspects of their life as a worshipping community. He was so disturbed about the way they were exposing themselves to the judgment of God in their approach to the Lord’s Supper, that he underlines its nature as a love-feast ~ “…wait for one another … if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home…” (11:33–34a). The Lord’s Supper, was not to be mistaken for a common meal. To disregard its sacred character would be to come together for judgment.

Paul’s final comment, when he says in 11:34b ~ About the other things I will give directions when I come,”suggests that there were other irregularities regarding worship and the Lord’s Supper, but they were not sufficiently urgent for him to deal with at this time.

Beloved, let us make sure that we don’t make a mockery of the Lord’s Supper. Let us always take the imagery of the elements of Communion seriously and let us always look backward, inward and forward and let us always remember that the Lord loves us dearly and that He always forgives His children’s sins. Let us see the Lord’s Supper as a love-feast, but that we also do not disregard the sacred character of the Lord’s Supper. 

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Psalm 90 (“Teach Us To Number Our Days”)

Psalm 90

(“Teach Us To Number Our Days”)

[Message: Kobus van der Walt (Three Rivers Baptist Church), 20 Oct. 2019]

  1. INTRODUCTION:

We read in Gen.3:19 ~ “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This is very true and we all know this – we are all heading for death. Some of us are closer to blowing out of our last breath, others not so close, but “die will all of us die,” except if Jesus comes back before we die. We have all (most probably) experienced the finality of death when being in the presence of someone dying, or just by attending the funeral of someone. I can so vividly remember when I had to identify my mother’s body in AVBOB here in Vereeniging, before she was handed over to me, in order to transport her body to Oudtshoorn where she was buried, that it was my mother’s body, but it was absolutely clear that there was no life in her body left – her spirit has left the body – she was dead!

Death is a reality, but the problem however, is that most people and even us, are concerned about how fast life “flies by” and we are concerned with what is passing away, that which troubles or pleases only momentarily. The problem with such an attitude, is that we lose sight of what is eternal.

The Psalm that I want us to look at today, a Psalm that towers over time and reminds us that what matters most in life is not the temporal but the eternal, not the physical but the spiritual, not the visible but the invisible. In other words, all that truly matters is eternity. The Psalm that I am referring to, is Psalm 90.

  1. SCRIPTURE READING:

Psalm 90 (ESV) ~ Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 3 You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” 4 For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. 5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. 8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. 10 The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. 11 Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? 12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. 13 Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants! 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. 16 Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. 17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!”

This Psalm is the oldest Psalm in the whole of the Bible and the only one that the title designates as “a prayer of Moses.” It was written over fourteen hundred years before the coming of Jesus.

This Psalm was most probably written during Israel’s wilderness wanderings – a sojourn of a few months, but a travel that turned into a forty-year ordeal. The people of God went in endless circles in the wilderness, going nowhere, dying off before they could reach their destination. In fact, of the approximately 2-4 million Israelites that left Egypt, only Caleb and Joshua together with those who were born in the wilderness, entered the Promised land (Deut.31:7; Jos.14:11) – all the others (those who left Egypt initially), including Moses, died in the wilderness.

Ps.90 is a clear statement of the eternity of God in contrast to the brevity of human life. The emphasis of God’s sovereignty also stands over and against the futility of human existence spoken of in Ps.89:48 ~ “What man can live and never see death? Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah.”

The main point of the Psalm is reached in 90:12 where it says ~ So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

 

  1. EXPOSITION:

I would like us to look at this Psalm today, under the following the headings:

  • God’s Eternality (90:1-6);
  • God’s Severity (90:7-11);
  • God’s Mercy (90:12-17).
  • God’s Eternality (90:1-6): As we’ve already seen, the Israelites wandered for 40 years in the wilderness. When Moses addresses God in the opening verse of this Psalm, which is in actual fact a prayer, he declares that God has “been their dwelling place in all generations” (90:1). The Israelites had no place to call home for forty years – they wandered in the wilderness like nomads (a member of a people that travels from place to place to find fresh pasture for its animals and has no permanent home). Moses however, acknowledged that his soul rested in God, who was his true and only “dwelling place.” Generations come and go, but God is the only one constant in the midst of uncertainty.

Before the creation of the world, God alone existed. Before the foundation of the world, before there was anything or anyone else, there was God. There has never been a time that God was not. This God, who is without beginning, shall be God throughout all eternity and never ceasing to be God. In a world that is constantly changing, God is the eternal constant. From everlasting to everlasting, God remains the one true God.

In vss.3-6, Moses states that God controls man’s days, from conception and eventually turning him back to dust. In stark contrast to what and who God is, man has a beginning – created by God out of dust (Gen.2:7), but man also has a definite end, when God returns man back to dust.

When Moses says in 90:4 ~ For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night,” he wants to contrast the Lord’s unchanging presence with the fleeting time which man spends on this earth. It is so brief compared with the Lord’s perspective on time. Peter in 2 Pet.3:8 quotes this verse when he says ~ “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

Moses continues in 90:5-6 to acknowledge to the Lord, that man’s life is very short, in fact, so short that it can be compared to something that is swept away by floodwaters, or a dream that does not exist in reality, or grass, which springs up in the morning but by night-time it has withers or fades away in the heat of the sun. Similar imagery for man’s life is found in Ps.103:15-16, where David says ~ “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.”

It is clear from 90:3-6, that the sovereign God is control of man’s days and, in comparison to God’s sovereignty, human existence is just a short time of transition, from to dust again. We must therefore, remember that God is eternal, and constantly remind ourselves that life for mankind is very, very short.

  • God’s Severity (90:7-11): We find some shocking words in 90:7 ~ “For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed.” Is God really angry with us? Is the reason for our short life span, because He is pouring His wrath out on us? How must we understand this verse in the light of the previous verses?

God’s anger and subsequent judgment are a response to sin, because He sees man’s sins; even so-called secret sins are open to Him. Since man is a sinner, all his life is spent under God’s wrath, and his life is greatly limited – to 70 years (or a few more years, for some people). Life flies away in death like a fleeting bird (Job 20:8). No one can understand God’s powerful wrath, that is why Moses says in 90:11 ~ “Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?” It is crystal clear then, that the main reason for man’s early mortality, is not as a result of natural aging, but due to God’s judgment. This off course, all started with the fall in Eden, when Adam first sinned – we’ve seen that in our introduction when I quoted Gen.3:19, as well as Paul’s words in Rom.5:12 ~ “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” This is a fundamental truth with which we should always start any Evangelistic discussion with people – we are sinners and we are doomed to die – some passing to hell for eternity, others by the grace of God, to an eternity in heaven.

In 90:11 Moses asks a rhetorical question (a rhetorical question is one that makes a point rather than requiring a direct answer) ~ “Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?” The obvious answer is, “No one.”  The truth is, no one gives God the fear that is rightly due to Him. No one understands God’s fierce wrath nor responds in fitting reverence to the Lord.

  • God’s Mercy (90:12-17): Moses has already accepted that he is a part of sinful humanity, as guilty as anyone else. Now he puts this reality in a prayer to the Lord:
  • First, he realises that the only way to prevent ourselves from offending God is to acknowledge His anger against sin and to seek to fear Him. The prayer of Moses is that he and the people as a whole would be able to assess their days and use them aright. The only way to true knowledge, is to have God as our instructor – He is the only One who can and must teach us to number our days.

Here, “to number” means something far more than mere arithmetic. It is a spiritual approach to our human life, and especially to our fleeting earthly existence. The end result of such numbering is that we are able to bring to God as an offering, a heart of wisdom.

We must, with the help of God, weigh our days and value them. Without God, His eternality, His glory, and His power, man has no ability to accurately weigh his days.

  • Secondly, the word “return” that Moses uses in 90:3, when he says that man will return to dust, is exactly the same word that he uses in 90:13, when he says ~ Return, O Lord! …” Just as God so often asked His people to repent, so now Moses prays that God will do so Himself – not to repent, but that God will have mercy on them and turn away from judging them and instead, save them by returning back to them. Moses is pleading with the Lord that He will shower His covenant servants with unmerited love. He asks that each morning God will give them a reminder of His steadfast love, so that joy and gladness may be present in their lives.

       God will of course, continue to turn sinners back to dust, as it were – that is, to bring about the death which is the consequence of sin – and only a repentant sinner, one who turns from his sin, has any hope that God will have pity on him and forgive him his sins.

  • Third, Moses asks the Lord to have pity on sinners who repent of their sins (90:13b). He also asks the Lord, not only to have pity on repentant sinners, but that He will rejoice in sinners who repent and that He will do it with joy and gladness in His heart.
  • Fourthly, Moses knew that the people were suffering under God’s severe discipline. All this affliction and trouble are God’s righteousness, justice and chastisement (punishment). People have turned their backs on God – they were in sin. Moses prays to God and ask that the people will receive gladness, as they had known sadness. Moses however, goes on and ask that the Lord will also demonstrate His power, His favour, His love, His forgiveness and His joy to and for future generations.
  • Fifth, Moses concludes his prayer in 90:17 where he prays for God’s blessing on man’s work. What does Moses mean when he prays about the work of our hands? Simply this: that our lives might not be wasted, but that God would guide us and bless us so that what we do will last for eternity ~ “He who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17). As Moses watches the Jews wander in the wilderness, their lives seem so wasted and useless. Being a man of God, he does not want his life to be wasted; he wants it to count for God’s glory. Therefore, he prays that God would establish His works in and through His people. Jesus had the same idea in mind in the Parable of the Two Builders in Matt. 7:21–29.
  1. APPLICATION AND CONCLUSION:

Apart from Jesus Christ, life would be unbearable. Why endure the trials of life if there is no God and no glory? Then we would be like the sinners who say, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor.15:32). But life is not a burden, a sigh, a sleep in the night. With Jesus Christ in control, life is an adventure, a challenge, an investment for eternity. “Teach us to number our days, Lord, and help us to live every day for Jesus Christ with Your wisdom!” (Ps.90:12).

Let us be reminded of and reflect on the five things Moses prays about:

  • Help us to use our days right.
  • Remind us of Your love and shower us with Your love.
  • Be glad and rejoice when we are repentant.
  • Show us Your forgiveness, Your favour, Your power, Your love and Your joy, to future generations.
  • Let our days count to Your glory and establish Your works in and through us – help us to build our lives on the Rock, Jesus Christ.
Posted in Death, Discipleship, English, Sermons (English) | Leave a comment

How to Reconcile Hebrews’ “Warning Texts” with the Doctrine of Election

Warning Passages Ahead

(Article by Colin Hansen as published in: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/warning-passages-ahead/)

The Book of Hebrews daunts even the most gifted preachers and scholars. For one thing, we don’t know the author. He quotes the Old Testament at length and repeatedly, but his method of interpreting these passages doesn’t always make sense to readers. His arguments about angels, Moses, and the temple require more than cursory understanding of the Hebrew Bible.

And then there are the so-called warning passages. It might be hard at first to grasp the significance of the priest Melchizedek, but many Christians viscerally understand the practical importance of these warnings. Can I lose my faith? What if I doubt? Fail to overcome sin?

To answer these questions and more, I turned to the acclaimed scholar Peter O’Brien, professor emeritus at Moore College in Sydney, Australia. Many who have studied EphesiansColossians, Philemon, and Philippians have benefited from his rich, insightful, and faithful commentaries. He has also written an immensely helpful commentary on the Letter to the Hebrews. He draws on some of that study to help us understand the famous warning passages in their immediate and canonical context.

Some Reformed teachers find it hard to teach the five warning passages of Hebrews (2:1-4; 3:7-4:13; 5:11-6:12; 10:19-39; 12:14-29). How do we reconcile our theology with what appears to many to be the plain meaning of these passages, that believers can lose their faith?

The warnings of Hebrews have presented many challenges to believers throughout Christian history. And the misapplication of them has caused pastoral problems for Christians of all traditions, including the Reformed.

These warnings have troubled earnest Christians by raising doubts about their assurance of salvation, an assurance that is so clearly affirmed, for example, in Romans 5:1-11 and Romans 8:18-39, and in Jesus’s promises for his disciples in John 6:39-40, 44 and John 10:25-30.

Even within Hebrews itself there are powerful words of encouragement and assurance based on God’s faithfulness to fulfill his promises to his people (Heb. 2:10; 6:10-20), and so because of the finality of Christ’s sacrifice (Heb. 9:11-28; 10:14-18), and his permanent high priesthood by which Jesus is able to save his people completely and eternally since he always lives to intercede for them (7:25; cf. 9:24).

Does Hebrews show us how we might resolve our theological and pastoral difficulties?

A key to addressing the tension between the severe warnings and the seemingly contradictory promises and words of encouragement lies, first, in recognizing the distinction Hebrews makes between “a kind of transitory faith, a form of conversion which, like the seed sown on rocky places [in the parable of the soils, Mark 4], has all the signs of life, but which does not persevere.” [1] Such faith is spurious; by contrast, genuine faith is tied to perseverance.

The conditional sentences of Hebrews 3:6 and 14 fit an evidence-inference category, in which “the observation of a piece of evidence leads the observer to infer a certain logical conclusion.” [2]

We are his [God’s] house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory (Heb. 3:6).

We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold firmly till the end our original conviction (Heb. 3:14).

Accordingly, the author maintains that the listeners’ continuance in faith to the end will demonstrate that they are members of God’s household, not that they will become this in the future (v. 6). Similarly, holding on to their confidence will reveal the reality that they already share in Christ, not simply that they will share in him on the final day (v. 14).

The listeners’ perseverance is the evidence of what has taken place in the past and is an essential ingredient of what it means to be a Christian, a partaker of Christ. So Hebrews “virtually defines true believers as those who hold firmly to the end the confidence they had at first.” [3]

This distinction between genuine and spurious faith is clearly evident elsewhere in Hebrews. This indicates that the author’s “word of exhortation” (Heb. 13:22) is addressed to a mixed audience: there are two kinds of soil with dramatically different responses to the frequent showers of God’s blessings (Heb. 6:7-8), two kinds of hearts (Heb. 3:12Heb. 10:22), and a distinction made between “we” who “have faith and are saved,” and “the one” who belongs “to those who shrink back and are destroyed” (Heb. 10:38-39). Also the author has concerns for certain individuals within the community who may be in particular danger of apostasy (“any one,” “someone”: Heb. 3:12, 13Heb. 4:1, 11Heb. 6:11-12Heb. 10:24, 25, 28Heb. 12:15-16).

Hebrews is not alone in describing true believers as those who hold their confidence firmly to the end. In other New Testament documents there are warnings against or descriptions of spurious faith (Matt. 7:21-23John 2:23-25Col. 1:22-231 John 2:19; cf. 2 Pet. 1:10-11). Our Lord’s parable of the sower (or the soils) makes a similar point (Mark 4:1-29 and parallels). The initial growth of the seed scattered on the rocky ground and among the thorns appears to all observers, except God himself, to promise the best harvest. But it does not bear fruit. It has the signs of life but does not persevere. This spiritual life proves transitory (Carson 2000: 266).

So how does Hebrews address the audience with its warnings and encouragements?

In view of Hebrews’s distinction between true and spurious faith, and its definition of genuine believers as those who hold fast their confession of Jesus Christ to the end, we consider that the images describing the audience in the warnings point to an initial work of grace in the lives of the congregation members.

The author knew that the audience had been exposed to the preaching of the gospel and that God had done a mighty work within the congregation (Heb. 2:1-4). It is evident that some had been truly converted and had genuinely appropriated Christ’s saving work for themselves. How many and who they all were, the author does not know exactly. But he addresses the whole congregation on the basis of what he has observed, and urges them to hold firmly to their confession of faith in Christ, their Christian hope without wavering, and their confidence in God (Heb. 3:6, 14Heb. 4:14Heb. 6:18Heb. 10:23).

Significantly, however, even when the author refers to those who commit apostasy he uses the third person plural rather than the second (e.g., “those who have once been enlightened . . . and who have fallen away,” Heb. 6:4-6), and does not explicitly identify them with his listeners. Though some are apparently in great danger he does not assert that they have committed apostasy. The warnings, like the divine promises, are intended to prevent this from happening.

The descriptions of the audience in vv. 4-5 (“those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age”) point to an initial experience of the gospel. The vivid agricultural imagery of Hebrews 6:7-8, which is integral to the warning of vv. 4-6 and clarifies its meaning, stands between the warning and the expression of confidence in vv. 9-12. It depicts two kinds of responses that can be made to the warning, not simply one, and thus fills out and completes the picture by including both those who do not fall away and those who commit apostasy.

The effects of the rain on each piece of land differ dramatically: in the case of one, the presence of fruitful crops at the end time harvest is evidence of those who had a genuine experience of salvation (vv. 7, 9). But the land that has been well watered and nurtured, and produces only “thorns and thistles” shows that it is worthless, and does not stand the test at the final judgment (vv. 6, 8). The faith of those represented was only transitory (cf. Heb. 10:38-39Heb. 12:25). They were never true believers, whatever signs of life they may have shown initially.

What is the nature of the sin threatening the community?

From a historical perspective, the nature of the sin referred to involves reverting to Judaism. The listeners are apparently in danger of returning to a reliance on the cultic structures of the old covenant in Judaism.

Although the warning passages of Hebrews describe the sin threatening the community in a number of ways, since there are various facets to it, ultimately it is irreversible apostasy from the living God. It is the utter rejection of an entire position and stance that had once been professed.

This sin is Trinitarian in its scope, for it involves a persistent and culpable refusal to obey the voice of the living God who speaks in his Son and warns from heaven (Heb. 1:1-4Heb. 12:25). It treats Jesus with utter contempt by crucifying him again, subjecting him to public disgrace (Heb. 6:6), and rejecting his new covenant sacrifice by which the work of atonement was completed (Heb. 10:29). And it arrogantly insults God’s gracious Spirit through whom Christ offered himself to God and who applies the definitive forgiveness of sins to believers (Heb. 10:29). The fact that it is willful, persistent, and committed in view of the knowledge of the truth rules out the possibility that it is due to ignorance (Heb. 10:26).

Unlike other sins, offenses, and weaknesses of believers referred to in Hebrews that have been wonderfully atoned for through Jesus’ new covenant sacrifice and high priestly ministry, there is no provision for the sin of apostasy. For those who utterly reject God’s gracious plan of saving people and bringing them to glory “there remains no more sacrifice for sins” (Heb. 10:26).

In the light of this, the special character of the sin of apostasy must be understood clearly and not confused with other sins and weaknesses of Christians, as has often been the case throughout church history. Since this offense constitutes a total renunciation of everything that is distinctively Christian and which the person had previously professed, it is not the sin of the outsider or the one who is on the edge of church life.

Those who are anxious about having committed this sin, and are troubled that God will not receive them into fellowship with his Son because they believe their sin is too great, are urged by Hebrews to come with boldness to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace to help in their time of need (Heb. 2:18Heb. 4:14-16).

By contrast, apostates defiantly and deliberately reject the Son of God and his salvation, showing neither anxiety nor concern, since they would feel justified in their determined and fixed resolve.

Given Hebrews’s distinction between authentic faith as that which perseveres to the end, and spurious faith that may initially show some signs of life but does not endure, the person who commits apostasy is not an authentic Christian and never was one, whatever their first responses to the gospel may have been. And since genuine faith is tied to perseverance that endures to the end, the believer who perseveres in the race marked out for them, with their eyes fixed on Jesus (Heb. 12:1, 2), shows that he or she is a member of God’s family and has already been a sharer in Christ.

What are the consequences of committing apostasy?

The consequences of the danger threatening the community to which Hebrews was written have been interpreted in various ways since early times, depending on the nature of the sin that is being described. Those who say this offense falls short of apostasy and is probably some kind of spiritual lethargy that has been manifested in the congregation understand the consequences to be a form of discipline resulting in physical death or the loss of rewards.

But these suggestions do not do justice to the strong language of Hebrews 6:6 or Hebrews 10:26-31. A synthetic examination of the five warning passages shows that the consequences are a “just punishment” (2:2) or no “escape” (v. 3), perishing, missing out on God’s promised rest, the tragic loss of their inheritance (Heb. 4:1, 11), the impossibility of being brought back to repentance (Heb. 6:4, 6), which corresponds to the apostate being like land that is “worthless, under a curse, and destined to be burned” (v. 8).

This punishment is not some restorative or disciplinary process but is associated with the severity of the eschatological judgment that will consume God’s adversaries. The fourth warning describes the irreversible consequences of apostasy in terms of its severity (it is “terrifying” and “a raging fire”) and its finality (it is “inevitable” and “eschatological”). Apostates are cast as God’s enemies (v. 27) who are deserving of “far greater punishment” (v. 29) than what the Mosaic law prescribed for rejection of the old covenant, that is, a punishment more severe than merely physical death. Those who shrink back are destroyed which in this setting of final judgment signifies eternal destruction.

The author of Hebrews has not asserted that his listeners have committed apostasy, though he is obviously concerned that some are in significant danger of falling over this precipice. He has warned the whole congregation of the irreversible consequences of apostasy. His warnings, along with other elements in his exhortatory material, together with his doctrinal expositions that provide the presuppositions for the exhortations, are intended to prevent these disastrous consequences from occurring.

In the light of these warnings what does Hebrews exhort them to do?

The listeners are to “hold firmly” to their confession of Christ (Heb. 4:14Heb. 10:23), and to respond to God and his promises in persevering faith (Heb. 6:12, 15) rather than in unbelief and apostasy that leads to destruction. They are told that they have need of endurance (Heb. 10:36), and so they are to run with perseverance the race that is set before them, fixing their eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith who endured the cross, and despised its shame in fulfillment of God’s will (Heb. 12:1-2).

What assurances do believers have of their eternal salvation?

The encouragements to the members of the congregation to hold firmly to their confession of faith in Christ and to endure patiently whatever trials they may face, are securely based on God’s faithfulness to fulfill his stunning promises (cf. Heb. 6:12-20). His purpose is to lead his children to glory, and to that end he has made Jesus, the pioneer of their salvation, perfect through suffering (Heb. 2:10). While the exhortations for them to persevere in the context of trials, persecution, public abuse from opponents, disappointments, and the tendency to lose heart (Heb. 12:5) may seem awesome, even overwhelming, they are not left to their own devices.

Christ’s once-for-all perfect offering of himself is utterly acceptable and efficacious; he has blazed the trail for his people into heaven itself, and won for them an eternal redemption. As the Son who lives forever, his priestly ministry on his people’s behalf is never ending; he is “able to save completely and eternally those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Heb. 7:25).

Ultimately, the believer’s security rests not with the believer but with the living God. His final promise in the letter, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you,” is wonderful assurance indeed. So then, “we may say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid, What can mere mortals do to me?’” (Heb. 13:5, 6).

Where would you suggest we turn to learn more about interpreting the warning passages in Hebrews?

D. A. Carson, “Reflections on Assurance,” in Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace, ed. by Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 247-276.

Herbert W. Bateman, ed. Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007) particularly the section by Buist M. Fanning, “A Classical Reformed View” (172-219).

And for a more technical treatment, C. Adrian Thomas, A Case for Mixed-Audience with Reference to the Warning Passages in the Book of Hebrews (New York: Lang, 2008).


[1] D. A. Carson, “Reflections on Assurance,” in Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace, ed. by Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 247-276, esp. 267.

[2] C. Adrian Thomas, A Case for Mixed-Audience with Reference to the Warning Passages in the Book of Hebrews (New York: Lang, 2008), 184-185. Cf. Carson, “Reflections,” 264, 267; and Buist M. Fanning, “A Classical Reformed View,” in Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews, ed. by H. W. Bateman (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007), 172-219. The majority view, however, understands the conditional sentences in terms of cause and effect.

[3] Carson, ‘Reflections’, 267.

Posted in Articles, Election, English, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Doctrine of Divine Grace

The Doctrine of Divine Grace

  1. INTRODUCTION:

Our church firmly believes that a right standing before God does not depend on anything we do. Salvation is given “apart from works;” it “does not depend on man’s desire or effort.” It is by grace, and not by works. What, then, is grace? One definition can read as follow: “Grace is God’s free and unmerited favour, shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment.” In other words, the only qualification for receiving God’s grace is to be completely unqualified. Which includes every person who ever lived, because as Rom.3:23 clearly points out… ~ “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All true believers are therefore accepted by God.

Grace also means that we as believers are exempted from eternal damnation. We must keep in mind what Paul says in Rom.3:10-12 ~ 10…as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Paul however continues in Rom.3:22-24 by saying… ~ “…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”

When we keep the definition of grace in mind (“God’s free and unmerited favour, shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment.”), it is also clear that grace means that God’s attitude toward us is not affected by our works.

What are the benefits of God’s grace for His children?

  • It gives us freedom.
  • We can acknowledge and confess our faults and our failures.
  • Grace also means that we can extend grace to other people.
  1. SCRIPTURE READING:

Ex.34:1-9(ESV) ~The Lordsaid to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. No one shall come up with you, and let no one be seen throughout all the mountain. Let no flocks or herds graze opposite that mountain.” So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lordhad commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. TheLorddescended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lordpassed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. And he said, “If now I have found favour in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.

A story is told about the nineteenth century evangelist D. L. Moody. On one occasion he was meditating on the theme of grace and was so captivated by the thought that, flinging aside his pen, he dashed out into the street where he confronted the first man he met and asked: “Do you know grace?” In reaction, thesurprised man asked:“Grace who?”

This morning, I would like us to look at a very technical topic, but one of the most distinctive features of the Bible, namely “grace”(and it’s not a lady’s name in this case). No other system of religious thought, or term – no other religion, past or present (this include Islam; Hinduism; Buddhism; Syncretism; the New Age types of religion, modern day Liberal Theology, or any other)contain an emphasis on divine gracecomparable to that of the Bible. In short, “grace” is the essence of the Gospel (Acts 20:24).

The doctrine of divine grace underlies the thought of both Old- and New Testament. However, the Old Testament merely anticipates and prepares for the full expression of grace that becomes manifest in the New Testament.

We’ve seen in our Scripture reading, that God reveals himself as… ~ “…a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”(Ex.34:6). As a result, it becomes possible for undeserving humans to approach him with the prayer that we find in Ex.34:9 ~ “…If now I have found favour (or grace)in thy sight, O Lord, …”

Through divine (or Godly) initiative, human alienation (estrangement) from God is turned by him into a state of unmerited acceptance that opens the way for reconciliation and redemptive usefulness. In other words, man is estranged from God due to sin and then God the Holy Spirit will work in certain people’s hearts, in order to change them to become children of Him.

Divine grace was already operative in the garden of Eden when God responded to the fall (Adam’s first sin) with the promise of redemption (salvation) ~ “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen.3:15b).

The call to and the covenant with Abraham was an extension of grace, not only to him as an individual, but through him as a means of offering grace to Abraham’s descendants.

We see in the New Testament that Divine grace (Godly grace) becomes embodied in the person of Jesus Christ. He demonstrates it visibly when he became a man and by that, fulfilled God’ grace in His ministry of salvation ~ “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14) … …John 1:17 (ESV) For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”God’s grace manifested in Jesus Christ makes it possible for God to forgive sinners and to gather them in the church, the new covenant community.

This simple truth, namely God’s grace, is formulated in the doctrine of justification by faith through grace in Rom.3:23-25 ~ “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins”(also see Titus 3:7). According to this teaching, God’s gracious provision of the substitutionary death of Christ, enables him to pronounce a verdict of “just”or “not guilty”on repentant sinners and to include them in his eternal purposes. As a result, they enter into the realm of God’s gracious activity, which enables them to implement (start/apply) the process of individual sanctification in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

  1. A DEFINITON:

To define the word or concept “grace” is not easy, because it is such an extensive word, a word which is loaded with tremendous meaning (not even “Gotquestions.org can give a short and acceptable definition – “LOL”). But let us look at one or two theological definitions:

  • “Grace is undeserved blessing freely bestowed in man by God”(Walter A. Elwell).
  • “Grace is unmerited Divine assistance, a virtue coming from God, given to humans fortheir regeneration or sanctification(based on The Merriam Webster Dictionary).
  • “God’s grace manifested in Jesus Christ makes it also possible for God to bestow (give to)on believers undeserved benefits that enrich their lives and unite them together in the church, the body of Christ(Baker Encyclopaedia of the Bible).

The word for “grace” in the Greek New Testament is χάρις(“charis”). In general- Greek literature of ancient times and in non-salvational references in the New testament, it has a wide range of meanings, as does grace in modern day English, but with reference to Christian salvation, however, “charis” (grace) always has the narrow technical meaning of the “unmerited (undeserved)favour of God.”

We can see in Eph.2:8-9 how grace works ~ “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boas.”According to this verse by Paul. it is totally impossible to work out one’s own salvation (or for that matter any other person’s salvation). Every aspect of salvation, even man’s act of repentance and faith are by the grace of God.

In Scripture, grace is declared to be an attitude of God in sending, or giving salvation (Titus 2:11), a gift of God imputed (given or planted in) to believers (Eph.4:7) and a power of God working in believers (1 Cor.15:10).

  1. COMMON GRACE AND SPECIAL GRACE:

We must also realise that there is a variety, or more than one type of grace, namely common grace (also called, general or universal grace – Afrikaans: “Algemene genade”)and special grace (also called, saving or regenerating grace – Afrikaans: “Toegespitste genade”)  – let us look at this:

  • Common Grace:Common grace is so called because it is common (available)to all mankind. Its benefits are experienced by the whole human race without discrimination between one person and another. The order of creation reflects the mind and the care of God the Creator who sustains what he has made – Hebr.1:3a ~ “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power…” God’s gracious provision for his creatures is seen in the sequence of the seasons, provision of food, etc. This is why Jesus reminded his hearers that God… ~ “…makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on that unjust”(Matt.5:45). The Creator’s sustaining care for his creation (this includes all people) is what is meant when we speak of common grace.

Another aspect of common grace is evident in the divine government or control of human society. It is true that human society is in a state of sinful fallenness. Were it not for the restraining hand of God, indeed, our world would long since have degenerated into self-destructive chaos of iniquity, in which social order and community life would have been impossible. The fact that we experience a measure of domestic, political, and international harmony, is due to the overruling goodness of God. Paul teaches us in Rom.13 that God gives authority to our leaders in order for them to rule, guide, protect, punish, etc. the people of the land. If they don’t fulfil this calling, they will have to answer to God.

It is clear then, that we must be thankful towards God for his continuing care for his creation.

  • Special Grace:Special grace is the grace by which God redeems, sanctifies, and glorifies his people. Unlike common grace, which is universally given, special grace is given only to those whom God elects to eternal life through faith in His Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. It is to this special grace that the whole of the Christian’s salvation is owed ~ “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”(2 Cor.5:18).

God’s special grace is dynamic. It not only saves but also transforms and revitalises those whose lives were previously broken and meaningless – those who were lost in other words.

In theology, special grace is sub-divided under four aspects (or four steps):

  • Prevenient grace:Prevenient grace is grace which comes first – it is grace that was pre-determined – it is grace that God started and given, even before man can think about it, or do anything about it. It precedes all human decision and endeavour (Afrikaans: “Voorafbepaalde genade”). Grace always means that it is God who takes the initiative and implies the priority of God’s action on behalf of needy sinners. That is the whole point of grace: it does not start with us, it starts with God; it is not earned or merited by us, it is freely and lovingly given to us who have no resources or deserving of our own ~ “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… …We love because he first loved us”(1 John 4:10, 19). God showed his prior love for us by graciously providing this redemption precisely while we had no love for him ~ “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us… …For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Rom.5:8, 10).
  • Efficacious grace:Efficacious grace (Afrikaans: “Effektiewe genade”),or effectual grace is grace which effects or assures the purpose for which it is given. It is efficacious (effective – it is able to produce a desired goal), because it is God’s grace – there are no flaws in His grace. God’s efficacious grace will accomplish its aim and purpose, because it is bestowed upon (given to) God’s elect by a perfect and complete God ~ “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out… …And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day”(John 6:37, 39). Special grace, not only turns sinners from darkness to the light but also brings them to the consummation of eternal life.

That the grace of God in Christ Jesus is efficacious, that it achieves now and for evermore the redemption it was designed to achieve, should be a source of the utmost confidence, strength, security and a life full of thankfulness and service to Christ.

  • Irresistible grace:Irresistible grace (Afrikaans: “Onweerstaanbare genade”) is grace which cannot be rejected (the elect cannot reject grace which comes from God). The fact that grace is also efficacious (effective), implicates that the elect cannot brush grace off the table, or refuse it. Resist it for some time maybe yes, but God’s irresistible grace is like a pack of African wild dogs and a Blue Wildebeest – the Wildebeest might think that he escaped the Wild dogs, because he is running away, but Wild dogs never give up and they are much fitter than a wildebeest and will therefore eventually catch up with it, and kill it.

Paul was such a “Wildebeest” ~ “And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads’”(Acts 26:14). Eventually however, no-one who is chosen by God, can run away from the Holy Spirit.

  • Sufficient grace:Sufficient grace (Afrikaans: “Voldoende genade”) is grace that is adequate for the saving of the believer here and now and hereafter to all eternity. As with the other aspects of special grace, its sufficiency flows from the infinite power and goodness of God. Those who draw near to him through Christ he saves fully… ~ “Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost (completely, perfectly, finally, and for all time and eternity) those who come to God through Him, since He is always living to make petition to God and intercede with Him and intervene for them.” (Amplified Bible – Hebr.7:25).

We read in 1 John 1:7 ~ “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin”and in 1 John 1:9 ~ “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”In other words, when we receive God’s sufficient grace, there is no debt for us anymore – no debt and no blame.

I’m reading the following by someone that I unfortunately can’t remember who it was: Although “Special Grace”is critically important, it’s also scarce. God’s special grace is only given to his elect. This fact has tremendous implications to all believers, because this means that God’s acceptance of us is completely unconditional. His love is offered freely and without cost. His favour toward us is given without respect to merit or demerit, worth or worthlessness, accomplishment or failure. We cannot earn God’s approval or his forgiveness, and the good news is that we don’t have to. Our behaviour, good or bad, has absolutely no effect on God’s attitude toward us. We can’t cause Him to love us more by being good, or make Him love us less by being bad. His love for us, his affection toward us, and his acceptance of us are perfect and unchanging. 

  1. CONCLUSION & APPLICATION:

In conclusion I would like to repeat what I’ve said in the beginning:

Having a right standing before God does not depend on anything we do. Salvation is given “apart from works”; it “does not depend on man’s desire or effort.” It is by grace, and not by works. What, then, is grace? It is “God’s free and unmerited favour, shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment.”In other words, the only qualification for receiving God’s grace is to be completely unqualified. Which includes every person who ever lived, because as Rom.3:23 clearly points out… ~ “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”All believers are therefore accepted by God.

Grace also means that we as believers are exempted from eternal damnation. We must keep in mind what Paul says in Rom.3:10-12 ~ 10…as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Paul however continues in Rom.3:22-24 by saying… ~ “…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”

When we keep the definition of grace in mind, it is also clear that Grace means that God’s attitude toward us is not affected by our works.

What are the benefits of God’s grace for His children?

  • It gives us freedom, because we don’t have to pretend anymore. We don’t have to pretend to have it all together spiritually, because we know that God loves us.
  • We can acknowledge and confess our faults and our failures. We don’t have to worry what people think of us. We don’t have to impress anyone, least of all God.
  • Grace also means that we can extend grace to other people. We don’t have to keep score; who did what bad thing to us and what we should do back; or who did what good thing to us, and we need to reciprocate. It frees us from worrying about what we deserve, and what our rights are, and what other people owe us, and how they should treat us. It frees us to just love people in Christ’s name, without worrying about whether we’re getting what we deserve. Because we know the truth, which is that we don’t deserve anything, and that everything we have is a gift of God’s grace. It frees us up to serve people, and love people, and to give freely, without calculating what we’re owed in return, and it gives us the freedom to receive from others, without calculating what we owe them in return. Grace gives us the freedom to simply love and be loved, that is why Paul writes in Rom.13:8 ~ “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law.”
Posted in Election, English, Grace, Sermons (English), Systematic Theology | Leave a comment

Psalm 95 (“Oh Come, Let Us Sing To the Lord”)

Psalm 95 (“Oh Come, Let Us Sing To the Lord”)

  1.  SCRIPTURE READING:

       Ps.95:1-11(ESV) ~Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 2Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! 3For the Lordis a great God, and a great King above all gods. 4In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. 5The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. 6Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! 7For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, 8do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, 9when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. 10For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” 11Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.

  1. EXPOSITION:
    • The Believer Should Always Praise God (Ps.95:1-7).
    • The Believer Should Never Provoke God (Ps.54:8-11).
  1. INTRODUCTION:

Before we look at Psalm 95 in more detail, we first need to look at the phrase “Praise God!”and what it really means?

The Hebrew word for “praise” is yadah,” which literally means “to praise,” “to give thanks,” or “to confess.” Furthermore, there are multiple Hebrew words that can be translated as “praise,” and it does not necessarily just have one definition.

The Hebrew language has specific words for the type of praise being given, so we must examine more of these words before we can come up with a proper definition. For example, there are two different Hebrew words for “praise” in Psalm 149:3 ~ Let them praisehis name with dancing, making melodyto him with tambourine and lyre! Halal” means to praise, glorify, boast, commend, etc., and zamar” means to make melody, or to make music or sing praises.

In all of these instances, praising God is simply giving Him the recognition He deserves. One way we can define what we mean by praising God is to consider the end result. The end result of giving God praise is to exalt Him and His name. I believe this is one of the reasons the Psalmist quickly followed the declaration of praise with exalting God. 

We can praise God in song and singing praises to God was common in Biblical times. The main purpose of the Psalms is to praise God – indicated by the numerous songs on praise, but we can also praise God in dance, prayer, proclamations, studying God’s Word, and the list goes on. 

No matter how we praise God, we must be sure to lift up His name above all else ~ For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods(Ps.96:4).

In Ps.149:3 that we’ve read just now, as well as Ps.118:28-29, it is clear that we as believers should praise God ~“You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!”

Scripture clearly expresses the importance of praising God, but if we do not understand the reason behind it, we lose our foundational basis, or reason, for praising Him. Praise without meaning is empty. We must be sure our foundation is the Truth of God in every area, including praise. 

Many people end up praising fallible human beings rather than God because they lack the Truth ~ “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen”(Rom.1:25). For example, who should we put our faith in – the scientists whose opinions always change and have not always been there or God who never changes and has always been? The answer may seem obvious, but many would rather praise the creature instead of the Creator. Think of so many, many people who are so excited and even proud of their church’s worship team and their music and uses the band and their music as an advertisement for their church – it is all about the music; the music show; the “gig,” which has nothing to do with God Almighty.

We must recognize that God is our Creator; He is our Lord, and as a result, we should praise Him ~ “Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”(Ps.100:3-4).

We should also praise God for His unending mercy. Salvation is from God, and He has given us many spiritual blessings. Our response should be one of praise and glory to God. After all, the Lord is good, and His mercy is everlasting. 

Praising Him does not end here, however. As finite human beings, we can never truly give God all the praise He deserves. “Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord, or declare all his praise?”(Ps106:2). Of course, these are rhetorical questions, as the answer is most definitely “no one.” 

Sadly, there are those who do not want to recognize God as their Creator, because they do not want to be accountable to Him. Instead, they worship His creation. As Christians, we should never compromise by exalting the creation over the Creator. We need to stand firm on the Truth of God’s Word – our foundation for praising God.

The world today has lost its concept of God. It has lost its sense of the greatness, the glory and the unchangeable character of God. The consequences of this loss of who God really is, is massive.

First of all, stability evaporates when people lose contact with God. Once the reality of God and who He really is, are lost, everything about the human existence comes to be in a state of instability.

Second, all sense of accountability disappears when people lose a sense of God. Coupled with the loss of accountability is the loss of integrity.

Third, if God has been lost, then all sense of true acceptance is lost – acceptance by God.

Ps.95 is one of the Royal Psalms (Psalms 93-99), praising God as the King of His people. Ps.95 identifies no author, but Hebr.4:7 attributes it to David ~ “…again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted.”It is also called an “enthronement Psalm” and is divided into two parts, the first part, vss.1-7 calls for the people to acknowledge that the Lord is a great King above the gods and earthly kings (other enthronement Psalms are 47; 93; 96–99). He is our God, not only has He dominion over us, as he has over all the creatures, but He stands in a special relation to us (Ps.95:7)- He is OURGod,and therefore it is expected from us, that we should praise Him.

Having exhorted the congregation to worship their Creator, the Psalmist warned them in the second part (vss.8-11), against unbelief as in the days of the wilderness wanderings when God’s rest was not experienced.

  1. THE BELIEVER SHOULD ALWAYS PRAISE GOD (Ps.95:1-7):

With this in mind, let us look at Ps.95 in more detail.

The Psalm opens in the first part with an exciting and cheerful (exuberant) call to praise and worship. The enthusiasm of the Psalmist is almost contagious and it is difficult to read it without being caught up in the enthusiasm of the writer. This first part is therefore, a typical praise song and was most probably sung in the temple, after a priest or Levite called the congregation to do so.

They should come before Him with thanksgiving and express humble gratitude for His abundant provision, while magnifying His Name with music and song.

  • For He is the only True God (Ps.95:1-3):God’s people have every reason to worship God, for the Lord is the great and only true God. He is the Creator and sustainer of everything – He alone is God and is awesome. He is the great King above all gods and kings, ruling and reigning over all lifeless gods, over all mythical, imaginary gods of pagan religion. When David mentions these gods(idols), he does not acknowledge their existence or reality, on the contrary, it is a statement of God’s sovereignty and superiority over every force, real and imagined. Everything in Creation – including things the pagans worship as gods – the Lord made, and therefore He has power over it all.
  • For His creative works(Ps.95:4–5): Not only is God above all gods and not only does He rule over all lifeless gods, He also rules over His creative works and David specifically calls on the people to sing a worship song to the Lord, because He created the universe and He controls everything in the universe. In vss.4-5 the so called “lower world” is specified. When we think of the earth that we live on, how much – infinitely more, is God’s power, authority and greatness, when we realise how big the rest of the universe is in comparison to the earth.

Just to give you an idea: The highest mountain on earth (Mt. Everest) is 9 km. above sea level and the deepest point of the sea, is 11 km. under the surface (the so called “Mariana Trench,” situated south of Japan, north of Australia and east of China). The circumference of the earth at the equator is about 40,000 km. And the earth weighs about 6,000 million, million, million tons.

The son’s size is big enough that more than a million earth globes can fit into it. The flames of the sun can reach heights of up to 800,000 km.

Our galaxy consists out of 9 planets which rotates around the sun. The closest planet to the sun is 60 million km. away from the sun. Pluto, the furthest planet is about 6,000 million km. from the sun. Each of these planets move faster in its orbit around the son, than that of a bullet out of a rifle.

Light travels at a speed of 300,000 km/second, i.e. 7,5 times around the earth every second.

Our galaxy is a small part of the bigger galaxy, or the “Milky Way.” The “Milky Way” consists out of 100,000 million stars like our sun (and maybe even more). Antares is a sun that is much, much bigger than our sun, in fact, it is 97 million times bigger than our sun.

How big is the “Milky Way”? The average distance between the stars in the “Milky Way” is about 30 light years apart from each other – i.e. 300 million, million, kilometres. The “Milky Way” in totality is also circling in an orbit with an average speed of 1,5 million km/hour. The “Milky Way” of which our galaxy (our sun and planets) is part of, is not the only galaxy – there are several galaxy clusters of which the biggest (so the astronomers reckon) M31, is double our galaxy’s size and about 2 million light years from our “Milky Way.”

Don’t you think that we as mankind has reason enough to worship God – the Creator God that created galaxies like this? Don’t you think that we as mankind think too much of ourselves and too little about God?

In contrast to the vast expanse around us, God also created the… ~ “…the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. 5The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land”(Ps.95:4-5). We won’t even go into the details of the microscopic small parasites and molecules that He also created – or the human body! What a wonderful world that God created – that He spoke into being! But, there is even another astonishing fact about His creation here on earth and that we find in Gen.1:26 ~ “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”God created man – us! And He did this, not by speaking us into life, like the rest of creation, but by forming us out of mud and clay, transforming the clay into something new, and then breathing life into it. Even the most beautiful stars and constellations and mountains and the sea were spoken into life, but mankind were so special, that God blew His own breath into us – His own breath of life! Furthermore, we were created after the Triune God’s likeness, or as we’ve seen last week, “AS”His image, thus placing us as living symbols of Himself on earth to represent His reign.

In the rest of Gen.1:26, we see that God also ~ “…let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”He appointed us to act as “managers” on His behalf and who have the authority to run everything as He planned it and therefore, we can’t just destroy and ruin nature.

It is clear therefore, that mankind was created as a special part of God’s creation, in fact, man can be seen as the “crown of God’s creation.” Because He is our God, He not only has dominion over us (as He has over all the creatures), He stands in special relation to us (Ps.95:7) ~ “He is our God,”and therefore it is expected from us, that we should praise Him.

  • For His redemptive works(Ps.95:1–3, 6–7): In Ps.95:1, God is called… ~“…the Rock of our salvation.” He is our Saviour, and the author of our blessedness and the very foundation, of our salvation, therefore He is called “the Rock of our salvation.” Because of this, we must sing our songs of praises, ~“…to Him that sits upon the throne and to the Lamb”(Rev.7:10). We are His… ~ “We are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand”(Ps.95:7). That should give us enough reason to singfor joy to God for what He has done for us.

This great God should be worshipped in the appropriate manner. The expression “bow down” (“shaha”) means to prostrateoneself (to lie flat on the ground, face down), especially before a superior. Most specifically, “bow down” refers to an attitude of the heart and not necessarily a prostrated position. This word describes the total self-humiliation, submission, and adoration to be rendered by those who approach God.

The question that we must ask ourselves, is what is our attitude when praising the Lord? What is our attitude and our approach when accompanying and leading the worship in the church? Are we serious about it? Are we prepared? Are we, aware of the fact that we are busy with the Almighty, Sovereign and Holy God? What is our attitude when singing and praying? Are we aware of the fact that we are singing to and for the Lord? Do we focus on the words? Do we mean what we are singing? Do we focus on Him? This obviously also apply to our private worship of the Lord. God’s people should worship Him for He is our God, indicating our personal intimate relationship with Him.

In Ps.95:6-7 we learn that God is the shepherd of His sheep. He is God, mighty, enthroned, ruling, yet tenderly caring for His own. God’s people are like sheep – dumb, defenceless, and wayward. Thus, all worshippers should lower themselves before God, who gently leads His own people and cares for them.

  1. THE BELIEVER SHOULD NEVER PROVOKE GOD (Ps.95:8-11):

In Ps.95:8-11, the Psalmist uses Israel’s march to the Promised Land as an example when appealing to them, not to harden their hearts like their forefathers. The Psalmist must have wondered whether the people listened to him? This is the reason why he says ~ …if you hear His voice(Ps.95:7). The Hebrew word used here is “shama,”which literally means, “to listen with strictest attention with a view to obedience.”The first step of worship is to respond with submissive faith. There can be no true worship of God apart from a humble, obedient relationship with Him.

By still using the example of the Israelites hardening their hearts on their exodus from Egypt, the Psalmist warns the people (us), not to provoke God (making Him angry) by disobedience, indifference, or an unconcerned attitude and not worshipping Him with the right attitude or even not worshipping Him at all.

  1. CONCLUSION & APPLICATION:

We learned today that God is the only true God. He created everything and He is the One who worked out the plan to save and redeem us. Furthermore, there is a right way and a wrong way to worship God. It is dangerous, even life-threatening to worship the Lord in a way that is offensive to Him (just think of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 who both died because they did not worship the Lord in a proper way). John 4:24 teaches that we must worship the Lord… ~ “…in spirit and truth.”By this, Jesus meant that we must worship God with the proper heart attitude – not external religious rituals, but upon the internal realities of a person’s soul.

We also learned that all true worship must be consistent with the written Scripture, because Truth matters greatly in God-exalting worship.

Beloved, we must sincerely and seriously ponder on this Psalm and ask ourselves the question, whether we are worshipping God the way God wants us to worship Him.

Posted in English, Kobus van der Walt, Sermons (English), Three Rivers, Vaal Triangle, Vaaldriehoek, Vereeniging, Worship | Leave a comment

Blasphemy (“Forgiven and Unforgiven”)

Blasphemy (“Forgiven and Unforgiven”)

  1.  INTRODUCTION:

Last Wednesday, XX asked something in connection with blasphemy and also requested some teaching on this topic. For many people, one of the most fearful terms to be found in the New Testament is the word “blasphemy.”

Blasphemy is represented as a horrible sin, but what is it? Have I been guilty of it? Can one obtain forgiveness for it? These are serious questions – questions that we as believers need to find answers for.

We hear the expression “OMG” on a regular basis, uttered by many people around us and especially on TV. This is an insult to us as Christians. Every time that I hear this, I cringe. There are however, many other ways that people can blaspheme – even us. In our days, almost nothing happens to people who blaspheme, or so it seems. Is it because it is not that serious any more, or is it because there are no consequences anymore?

Blasphemy was a serious crime in the law God gave to Moses. The Israelites were to worship and obey God. In Leviticus 24:10-16, a man blasphemed the name of God. To the Hebrews, a name wasn’t just a convenient label. It was a symbolic representation of a person’s character. Let’s listen to the Word of God, in order to see what happened to people in Old Testament times who blasphemed God’s name and then specifically to the man mentioned in Leviticus.

  1. SCRIPTURE READING:

Leviticus 24:10-16 (ESV) ~ 10 Now an Israelite woman’s son, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the people of Israel. And the Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought in the camp, 11 and the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name, and cursed. Then they brought him to Moses. His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. 12 And they put him in custody, till the will of the Lordshould be clear to them. 13 Then the Lordspoke to Moses, saying, 14 “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. 15 And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever, curses his God shall bear his sin. 16 Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lordshall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.”

  1. EXPOSITION:

We will be looking at the very important topic of “BLASPHEMY”this morning and we will do it according to the following seven headings:

  • Blasphemy – What it is.
  • Blasphemy – Forbidden.
  • Blasphemy Against God.
  • Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit.
  • Blasphemy Caused by our Sins.
  • BLASPEHMY – WHAT IT IS: The word blasphemy is mentioned fourteen times in the King James Bible. It is used only twice in the Old Testament and twelve times in the New. Two of the main Scriptures that use the word are found in the books of Matthew and Revelation.

Blasphemy is derived from the Greek term βλασφημία(“blasphemia,”)which most probably came from two root words – “blapto,”to injure, and“pheme,”to speak. The word would thus suggest, injurious speech.

According to the “Theological Dictionary: (TDNT – Abridged),in Greek Literature, the word “blasphemy” means a) ‘abusive speech,’b) ‘personal mockery.’

In the LXX (The LXX, also known as the Septuagint is the earliest extant Koine Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures. It is estimated that the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Torah or Pentateuch, were translated in the mid-3rd century BCE and the remaining texts were translated in the 2nd century BCE – Wikipedia)and Judaism tradition, the word “blasphemy” always referred to God, e.g., disputing His power (2 Kings 19:4), desecrating His name (Is.52:5), violating His glory (Ezek.35:12), wicked speech (Is.66:3), or human arrogance towards God (Lev.24:11).

We see in the New Testament that blasphemy is a violation of God’s power and majesty. It may be directly against God (Rev.13:6), His name (Rom.2:24), the Word (Titus 2:5), angelic beings (Jude 8-10; 2 Pet.2:10-12), or even, according to Acts 6:11 against Moses. The concept is a Jewish one; hence Jesus, according to the Jewish high priest, seems to be blaspheming when he forgives sins (Mark 2:7), or claims to be the Messiah (Mark 14:64), thus making Himself equal to God (John 10:33).

In short then, according to the “NRSV Cultural Backgrounds Bible,” “blasphemy” is according to the Old Testament, any attack on the majesty, honour or authority of God (Ex.20.7; Lev.24.10–16; Neh.9.26). The meaning is extended in the New Testament where God is blasphemed in the abuse of His representatives (His children – Acts 6.11).

To treat God with abuse, or speak of God with a lack of respect and in an unworthy manner and taking His Name in vain, or criticize, or angrily insulting any of God’s works or deeds, is strongly forbidden by Him as dishonouring to His name ~ “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain”(Ex.20:7).

“Blasphemy therefore, is any attack on the majesty, honour or authority of God, as well as the abuse of God’s children.”

According to the “Nave’s Topical Bible,” there are several examples of blasphemy in the Word – just to mention a few:

  • In Lev.24:10-16 we find the depraved son of Shelomith, who, in an altercation with an Israelite, cursed God.
  • Job 2:9 – Job’s wife, when she exhorted Job to curse God and die.
  • 26:74 and Mark 14:71 – Peter, when accused of being a disciple of Jesus.
  • And many more.
  • BLASPHEMY FORBIDDEN:Blasphemy is clearly forbidden in the Old Testament. The verse that tells us exactly how the Lord feels about blasphemy is Leviticus 24:16 (ESV) ~“Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.”

In 1 Tim.1:18-20 Paul tells Timothy that he must fight the good fight, by holding to the the faith with a clear conscience. He continues by saying in 19b-20 ~ “…By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”Clearly Paul is telling Timothy, that rejecting your faith, is not only sin, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and such a blasphemous person will be handed over to Satan.

This reminds me of two prominent people in the Christian world that rejected the Christian faith the past month or two. First was Joshua Harris, a former pastor and evangelical author who now demonstrates his support for the LGBT community. Less than a month after he announced that he and his wife Shannon are separating. He no longer considers himself a Christian, and he regrets having taught that marriage is a union only between a man and a woman. In 1997 he published the bestseller book, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”, which discouraged dating and influenced the purity movement.

Another prominent person who also came out renouncing his faith (not that you can. if it was given by God), is Marty Sampson, one of Hillsong’s worship leaders and songwriters (music that is in any case not God centred and always God honouring).

It is clear from both Old- and New Testament, that blasphemy is strictly forbidden

  • BLASPHEMY AGAINST GOD:When people (we)blaspheme, against whom do we blaspheme? One can blaspheme against either God and Jesus Christ, or against the Holy Spirit.

Let’s first look at blaspheming against God and Jesus and then we will look at blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.

We’ve already seen that a life that is not honouring God, is a life that blasphemes God and that is why Jesus warns against blasphemy in 2 Tim.3:2-9 ~ “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy”(2 Tim.3:2). Sin in general is therefore, blasphemy against God– all sin is blasphemy against God! Why, because plainly stated, sin is to dishonour God.

According to Genesis 1 and 2, the story of man and woman pictures the perfect unity between God and His “made in His image”(mankind). We read in Gen.1:26a ~ “Then God said, “Let us make man INour image, after our likeness.”A more recent view, based on a possible interpretation of Hebrew grammar and the knowledge of the Middle East, interprets the phrase as meaning ~ “Let us make man ASOur image.”In ancient times an emperor might command statues of himself to be placed in remote parts of his empire. These symbols would declare that these areas were under his power and reign. So, God placed humans as living symbols of Himself on earth to represent His reign. When we are in sin, we are not representatives of His reign and are therefore making a mockery of Him (keep our definition in mind), thus blaspheming Him.

Let me therefore say it again, “all sin is blasphemy against God!”

What is interesting, is that according to 2Pet.2:10-12 and Jude 8-10, slandering celestial beings also blasphemes God – two passages ~ “…and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction”and Jude 8-10 ~ “Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.”

The Word is clear about the fact that blasphemy against God will be punished. Ezek.20:27 ~ “‘Therefore, son of man, speak to the house of Israel and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: In this also your fathers blasphemed me, by dealing treacherously with me.’”How did they blaspheme God? Verse 31 ~ “When you present your gifts and offer up your children in fire, you defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. And shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live, declares the Lord God, I will not be inquired of by you.”God would not give an audience (will not listen to them) to anyone who disobeyed His ways and blasphemed Him (we have the same idea in 1 Pet.3:7 ~ “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered”).

According to the record of Matt.27:39, as Christ was hanging on the cross, certain people passed by Him while hanging on the cross and reviled (insulted) Him. The Greek literally suggests they blasphemed (“blasphemeo”). Matthew then tells us that these who repudiated (rejected)the divine sonship of Jesus were guilty of blasphemy.

We also see however, that blasphemy against God the Father and God the Son, Jesus Christ is pardonable. Any sin for which one seeks forgiveness through God’s prescribed plan can be forgiven (accept for one – we will get to that just now). Matt.12:32b ~ “…And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven…”

This can also be demonstrated by the case of the apostle Paul. Prior to the time of his conversion to Jesus Christ, Saul of Tarsus was “a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious,”but, he “obtained mercy”(1 Tim.1:13). In Acts 22:16 we read that his sins were forgiven. We also know that the same gracious promise of forgiveness is available to every child of God. Those who have blasphemed God, and repent of his/her wrong, acknowledge it, and ask the Lord’s forgiveness, will be forgiven ~ “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”(1 John 1:9).

2.4BLASPHEMY AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT:The Bible is very clear about the fact that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unpardonable – it cannot and will not be forgiven. Mark 3:29~ “…but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.

How can we define blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? John Piper defines it as follow: The unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an act of resistance which belittles the Holy Spirit so grievously that he withdraws forever with his convicting power so that we are never able to repent and be forgiven.

Or, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the denial of the work of the Holy Spirit in the ministry of Jesus Christ, or saying that what He has done was demonic.

John Piper asks and answers the question, “…but why does this one particular sin, this one blasphemy, make it impossible to repent and be forgiven? What about blasphemy against the Son of God, or God the Father, or angels, or Scripture, or the church? Why do these not put us beyond repentance and forgiveness? Why only blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? I think it’s because of the unique and decisive role the Holy Spirit plays in our salvation. If we look to God the Father and then turn from his glory to embrace sin, that is bad. If we look to his Son Jesus Christ whom he sent into the world and then turn away from his glory to embrace sin, that is doubly bad.

But in either case there is hope. The Father has planned redemption and the Son has accomplished redemption. This wonderful redemption is outside ourselves and available to us if we repent of our sin and turn back to Christ in faith. But it is the unique and special role of the Holy Spirit to apply the Father’s plan and the Son’s accomplishment of it to our hearts. It is the Spirit’s work to open our eyes, to grant repentance, and to make us heirs (beneficiaries) of all that the Father has planned and all that Christ has done for us.”

A further problem with blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is that we shut ourselves off from forgiveness and no man will be saved without forgiveness of sins. In Genesis, we see that the result of the original sin was that man was separated from God and experienced a loss of holiness and righteousness. Paul writes in Rom.5:12 and 19 ~ “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned . . . For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners…

  • BLASPHEMY CAUSED BY OUR SINS:There are several ways that we as believers can blaspheme indirectly, but before I mention one or two of those, just remember not to make all kinds of laws about this … remember what I’ve said in the beginning: “All sin is blasphemy against God!”Don’t start categorising blasphemy – “this I must avoid, because it is blasphemy”and “that I must not do, because it is blasphemy”– NO, rather stop sinning than being sensitive about certain things that might or might not be blasphemy (except of course blasphemy against the Holy Spirit).

When we would rebel against the Word of God, in other words, when we don’t want to obey and/or submit to God’s Word, we are blaspheming God ~ “…for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High…”(Ps.107:11). When the people of Israel confessed their sin in Neh.9, they recalled what happened to their forefathers and they said the following about them in Neh.9:29 ~ “And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey.”The Israelites declared that their forefathers were blaspheming God because they turned away from God’s Word.

The sins of God’s people may cause others to blaspheme ~ “Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants regard their own masters as worthy of all honour, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled”(1 Tim.6:1). Because the Lord was concerned for His Holy Name after He scattered the Israelites amongst other nations, He spoke to Ezekiel in Ezek.36:19-21 and said ~ “I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries. In accordance with their ways and their deeds I judged them. But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord, and yet they had to go out of his land.’ But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came.” In Rom 2:24, Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome and said ~ “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

Despising the poor is another way of blaspheming God ~ “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker”(Prov.14:31a).

  1. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:

To curse or insult God is an especially grave sin. It can be done by word or by deed. There is little distinction between the sinner who deliberately abuses the name of the Lord, and the one who deliberately disobeys God’s commandments.

John MacArthur once said the following: “…in this contemporary sort of Christian evangelical church world, people are a little less reluctant to bring dishonour on the name of God and the name of Christ, but they think they have free run at dishonouring and abusing the Holy Spirit, apparently, because so much of that goes on. I’m not here to defend the Holy Spirit; He can defend Himself. But I am here to say that reproaches (insults)that are falling on His holy name are falling on me as well, and mostly this comes in the professing church from Pentecostals and Charismatics who feel they have free license to abuse the Holy Spirit and even blaspheme His holy name and they do it constantly.

How do they do it? By attributing to the Holy Spirit words that He didn’t say, deeds that He didn’t do, and experiences that He didn’t produce, attributing to the Holy Spirit that which is not the work of the Holy Spirit. Endless human experiences, emotional experiences, bizarre experiences, and demonic experiences are said to come from the Holy Spirit. Visions, revelations, voices from heaven, messages from the Spirit through transcendental, means dreams, speaking in tongues, prophecies, out-of-body experiences, trip to heaven, anointings, miracles – all false, all lies, all deceptions – attributed falsely to the Holy Spirit.

You know enough to know that God does not want to be worshiped in illegitimate ways. God wants to be worshipped for who He is, for what He has done in the way He has declared. It is open season om abusing the Holy Spirit, outrageous dishonour of the Holy Spirit, claiming He is saying things and doing things and generating things that have nothing to do with the Holy Spirit at all. It is a reckless kind of movement, it is a shameful and dangerous sin to heap up such abuse on the Holy Spirit.”

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Hosea – God’s Great Love Story – 05  (“Hope for the Future”)

Hosea – God’s Great Love Story – 05  (“Hope for the Future”)

  1. SCRIPTURE READING:

Several Scripture portions from Hosea(Hos.4-14).

  1. EXPOSITION:

Today, we will be looking at several chapters of the book of Hosea under the following main points:

  • More Accusations and Warnings;
  • Hope for the Future;
  • The Solution.

3.1More Accusations and Warnings:The book of Hosea is divided into three main parts or sections.

In the first section (chapters 1-3) God told Hosea to marry a prostitute, called Gomer. After having children with Hosea, Gomer became unfaithful to him and left him for other men. In the process she had two children from another man or men. In spite of the fact that she left  Hosea and became a prostitute (maybe again – we are not sure), God told Hosea to go and find his wife, pay off her debts that she had and bring her home again. He had to commit his life and love to his wife again.

We’ve already seen, that Hosea’s life and marriage and his unfaithful wife, as well as his reconciliation with Gomer, is all a prophetic symbol of God’s love (His intimate relationship) to Israel.

God is like a faithful Hosea who rescues His bride from slavery. God led the Israelites from Egypt to Sinai. He led them by a cloud in the day and a fire column at night (Ex.13:21). God called Moses to ascends the mountain, where he is instructed to offer a covenant to the Israelites (a covenant: Literally, a contract. In the Bible, it was an agreement between God and His people, in which God makes promises to His people and, usually, requires certain obedience and/or action on their part. In the Old Testament, God made agreements or covenants with e.g. Noah, Abraham, and Moses). This covenant that God offered to the people of Israel was a covenant that they could either accept or reject. In light of all He has already done for them, God invites the Israelites to be His treasured people forevermore, as long as they agree to obey His commands. We read in Ex.20:1-3 the following ~ “And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me….”and then the rest of the Ten Commandments follows.

After Moses gave this message to Israel, they immediately accepted the covenant, even before they heard the terms of the covenant (Ex.19:1–8). We read in Ex.20:18-21, that the people feared God and they trembled and… ~ “…stood far off and said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.’ Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.’ The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.”So, Moses went up the mountain to God again and he was with God for another 40 days. While God gave more laws and instructions to Moses, the people of Israel took matters in their own hands – Ex.32:1-6 ~ “When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, ‘Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ So Aaron said to them, ‘Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.’ And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play…”

This accepting of a covenant and then rejecting the covenant and again accepting God’s gracious new covenant and again rejecting it,  would be the pattern for the rest of the history of Israel in the Old Testament, because as a whole, Israel clearly failed in its calling to worship and serve the Lord. God promised in 1 Sam.12:22, that He would transform Israel into a holy nation ~ “For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself”(also see: Gen.15; Ex.32:1-14). Although God had all the reason to abandon (or cancel)the covenant, He stuck to His promise that He won’t forsake them, because of His own love, compassion and faithfulness for them.

God called Hosea to describe the continued unfaithfulness of Israel towards God. He also describes how God’s love for Israel continues and that God always stuck to His covenant until Israel broke their promise to obey the covenant. God would also keep His promise (His covenant)that He eventually, will make His people a new people, a holy nation ~ “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you”(Deut.31:6). The Lord never abandons His children, no matter how bleak our prospects in life or how frustrating and fearful our circumstances. How will God honour His promise to an unfaithful nation? We will eventually see in chapter 14, that God will bless all the nations through the family of Abraham and thus create a new Israel for Him – a new nation in Christ Jesus.

Back to the second section of Hosea (chapters 4-11). The Northern Kingdom of Israel enjoyed some success from conquering neighbouring kingdoms, but they were spiritually bankrupt on the inside. God sends Hosea to Israel during King Jeroboam II’s reign to warn (admonish)them of their wrong doings, by worshiping idols.

King Jeroboam II, one of the worst kings in Israel’s history, allowed idol worship and thus opening the doorway for Israel to cheat, steal, have unlawful sex and even murdering each other on a constant basis. The fact that they grew cold and distant from God, not knowing Him as their first love anymore, led them into disaster and they will eventually be beaten and exiled by other nations.

Later in this second section, it is clear that God does not forget Israel even in their self-destruction, and He teaches us that love is the strongest force of all, even over sin, and that is what will happen with Israel too – they will eventually come back to Him and love Him again, and God will, in return, put them under a new Messianic King from the line of David, who will bring God’s blessing. Hope would therefore, still be restored and come through God’s Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

In this opening section of Hosea we have seen that all the main themes of the book have been introduced – Israel’s sin and spiritual prostitution (i.e. their rebellion against God); the consequences of their rebellion and especially their lack of knowledge of God. We also saw that the word “knowledge”means more than just an intellectual activity, in this case, the Hebrew word “Yada”  means a personal, relational knowledge of someone – it is more than just knowing about someone, but actually and really knowing that person. Israel therefore, did not have a personal, relational knowledge of God anymore.

God wants Israel to know Him like that – He wants them to know Him intimately, personally and relationally, in order for them to experience God’s love for them. This kind of knowledge and relationship will change their hearts and lives, so that they will love Him in return. In short, in this section, Hosea describes God’s mercy and love which is far more powerful than Israel’s sin.

In the third section of Hosea (Hos.12-14), he carries on pointing out the sins of Israel over decades of being God’s people. He referred to Jacob’s lying and deceit in Gen.27-28. Again, he refers to Israel’s rebellion in the wilderness after they’ve left Egypt (Num.12-20). He also refers to all the sinful and corrupt kings of Israel, specifically Saul (1 Samuel 12, 15). It is almost as if Hosea wants to tell Israel, that it is the same old story over and over again. God’s heart is broken over His children – He who, according to chapter 11, loved them as His children and He called them and led them out of Egypt to a better life, but they broke His heart, because in 11:2 He says… ~ “The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols.

3.2Hope for the Future:The question is, what is God going to do? Is He going to wipe them off the face of the earth? No, we’ve seen in chapter 3 that God is going to keep His promise of restoring His people and this brings us to chapters 11 and 14 – there is hope for Israel; there is hope for the future – similarly, there is hope for the people of our day – for you and me, because in 11:8-9 the Lord says ~ “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.”

3.3The Solution:We find the key verse of the Book of Hosea in Hos.14:4 and this is Israel’s hope for the future (and ours)  ~ “I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them.” It is clear from this verse, that God will never abandon His people and that He will heal His children – but how?

The final words of Hosea in chapter 14 are very important, not only for the people of Israel, but also for us today. Hosea appeals to them to choose righteousness over sin, salvation (deliverance)over judgment, life over death, repentance over rejection, and godliness over wickedness ~ “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take with you words and return to the Lord; say to him, “Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vows of our lips. Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride on horses; and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy” (Hos.14:1-3). This is the Lord’s final appeal and promise to Israel and they don’t really have a choice. And therefore, they have to do something to follow the Lord.

What must they do? The Lord tells them what to do:

  • The people had to acknowledge their sinfulness (14:1). It was sin that would cause God’s judgment to fall upon them. Sinful, wicked behaviour and corrupt society was part of the nation. But before the problem could be solved, the people had to acknowledge that the problem existed. Sin was causing the downfall and collapse of the nation as well as the eternal damnation of the people who refused to repent. The only hope of escaping God’s hand of judgment was to acknowledge their sin and return to Him. Paul affirms this fact when he says in Rom.3:23 ~ “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

The only hope that we have, in order to escape God’s eternal judgment, is to acknowledge that we are sinful.

  • The people had to ask for forgiveness (14:2). The people had to seek for forgiveness of their sins. In 1 John 1:9 John tells us how to do it ~ “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”They must go to the Lord and acknowledge that they have sinned and they must tell Him what their sins are and then ask Him to forgive them. Have you done this already? Are you doing this on a daily basis? Are you asking for forgiveness, the moment you are sinning?
  • The people had to know that no earthly power could save them (14:3). Nothing in this world has the power, or authority to forgive anyone’s sins – not a tree trunk, no person; nor an earthly king; nor Buda or Mohammed – no one, except God the Father in and through Jesus Christ – He alone is the Saviour and the only One that can forgive our sins – Luke teaches in Luke 5:24… ~ “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”
  • The people had to confess that mercy is found only in the Lord (14:3b). There is no clearer proof for this – mercy can only be found in Jesus Christ ~ “Jesus said to him (that was Thomas), ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”(John 14:6).

The Lord gave six wonderful promises to those who would truly repent:

  • God will heal them of their wicked behaviour and shower His love upon them. If the people of Israel truly repent, they will never again suffer due to sinful and evil behaviour.
  • God will give new life to the person who truly repents. “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him” (1 John 5:18).
  • God will make His people strong (14:6-7). “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar in Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green”(Ps.92:12-14).
  • God will erase all idolatrous worship among the people (14:8a). No person will put his trust and hope in false and useless gods when they trust and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who truly repent will know the Lord and will never again put their trust in idols.
  • God will answer the people’s prayers and meet all their needs, demonstrating His loving care for them (14:8b). “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him”(1 John 5:14-15).
  • God will give all the righteous people, eternal life in heaven~ “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates”(Rev.22:14).
  1. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:

We have the assurance that we as true believers in Christ Jesus, will always have the presence of God to guide and protect us, even when we go through hard times – the trials of life. He will give us the strength to endure and to be victorious. We have this assurance because God is the only sovereign God and the only omniscient (all-knowing)God and nothing will happen to us, without Him allowing it… ~ “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars”(2 Chron.16:9).

Let us be encouraged by the words of Jesus ~ “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand”(John 10:27-28). Moses also says in Deut.31:6 ~ “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”The Lord never abandons His own, no matter how bleak our prospects in life or how frustrating and fearful our circumstances.

Thus, the Lord created a new Israel for Him – a new nation in Christ Jesus.

 

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Hosea – God’s Great Love Story – 04  (“The Indictment”)

Hosea – God’s Great Love Story – 04  (“The Indictment”)

  1. SCRIPTURE READING:

Hosea 4:1-19 (ESV) ~ “Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel, for the Lordhas a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; 2there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. 3Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens, and even the fish of the sea are taken away. 4Yet let no one contend, and let none accuse, for with you is my contention, O priest. 5        You shall stumble by day; the prophet also shall stumble with you by night; and I will destroy your mother. 6My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. 7The more they increased, the more they sinned against me; I will change their glory into shame. They feed on the sin of my people; they are greedy for their iniquity. 9And it shall be like people, like priest; I will punish them for their ways and repay them for their deeds. 10They shall eat, but not be satisfied; they shall play the whore, but not multiply, because they have forsaken the Lordto cherish 11 whoredom, wine, and new wine, which take away the understanding. 12My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles. For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the whore. 13They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth, because their shade is good. Therefore, your daughters play the whore, and your brides commit adultery. 14I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore, nor your brides when they commit adultery; for the men themselves go aside with prostitutes and sacrifice with cult prostitutes, and a people without understanding shall come to ruin. 15Though you play the whore, O Israel, let not Judah become guilty. Enter not into Gilgal, nor go up to Beth-aven, and swear not, “As the Lordlives.” 16Like a stubborn heifer, Israel is stubborn; can the Lordnow feed them like a lamb in a broad pasture? 17Ephraim is joined to idols; leave him alone. 18When their drink is gone, they give themselves to whoring; their rulers dearly love shame. 19A wind has wrapped them in its wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.”

 

  1. INTRODUCTION:

The focus on Hosea’s marriage and family situation disappears now and the focus shifts to Israel’s gross unfaithfulness already introduced in chapters 1-3.

God starts a “court case” in which He charges Israel because they are unfaithful, they lack loyalty, and don’t have knowledge of God and that leads to the people of Israel betraying God. Betraying God leads to betraying loyalty to fellow human beings, thereby unleashing social chaos. Isn’t this exactly what we are experiencing in our beloved country, South Africa, right now. In fact, we see this happening all over the world. There is disrespect, very little or no submission to authority; no respect for life, no for fear of God. And, don’t think for a moment that we as professing Christians are not part of these social chaos and sin. Absence of God leads to social chaos!

In the light of this serious accusation, we must carefully listen to this word by Hosea, because it is also applicable on us as a nation. However beloved, keep in mind that not all Israelites were worshipping the Baal gods of Babylon – think of Daniel and his friends. But they were also exiled and sent to Babylon – the faithful also experienced the effect of God’s wrath on the nation.

  1. EXPOSITION:

We will be looking at our passage for today under the following four headings:

  • The Sins of the People (4:1-3);
  • The Sins of the Priests (4:4-11);
  • The Idolatry of the People (4:12–14) and
  • A Special Appeal to Judah (4:15–19).
  • The Sins of the People (4:1-3): In the opening verse of chapter 4, Hosea addresses the ten tribes in Israel – the northern kingdom. He tells them that they must listen, because when he speaks, it is actually the Lord addressing them and therefore they must pay close attention.

Hosea continues by telling them (the people), that the Lord has brought charges against them – i.e. there is an indictment laid against them (case against the people). We have to do with legal terminology here and the NKJV translates it correctly, when it says… ~ “For the Lord brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land.”Hosea informs them that they are in the “accused bench” and involved in a court case where the Lord God is both the prosecutor and the Judge – what a terrible and frightening situation to find yourself.

The Lord issued a strong indictment against Israel. Tenvery specific charges were brought in against the people. The charges were serious, so much so that the people were exhorted (told) to listen very carefully. After all, it was the Lord Himself who was issuing these charges.

The charge sheet contains the following charges: They are unfaithful; there is no steadfast love present in their lives; they have no knowledge of God. Furthermore, they are a bunch of swearing, lying, stealing, adulterous, murderers. It is interesting to note that five of the Ten Commandments are summarized in 4:2 and they have violated all five of them. Violent crimes had become so common that one seemed immediately to follow another. That is why the land was in such a bad state.

The people of Israel deceived and betrayed others. They made promises to both the Lord and others, but they did not keep these promises.

The people showed no mercy or love to others. People were self-centred, focused on their own lusts and desires. This reminds us of 1 John 2:16 ~ “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”They abandoned God and the knowledge of Him (4:1). When the Bible speaks of knowing God, it does not mean knowing facts about God. It means knowing God personally and intimately. It means to establish a personal relationship with God, to walk with Him and fellowship with Him through prayer. It means to listen to Him through the study of His Holy Word. But, tragically, there was no personal knowledge of God throughout the whole land of Israel. No one recognized or accepted the Lord or had a personal relationship with Him. Apparently, the whole population of the Northern Kingdom was ignorant of the Lord.

 The people filled the land with cursing, lies, and murder(4:2). Cursing or swearing was a violation of the third commandment, which forbids taking the name of the Lord God in vain. No person should ever misuse God’s name in any way, whether speaking profanely (unholy), giving false testimony, or making deceitful oaths (oaths that they did not mean)~ “You shall not take the name of the Lordyour God in vain, for the Lordwill not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain(Ex. 20:7).

The people were also guilty of stealing and of committing adultery (4:2). A spirit of selfishness and covetousness flooded the land. People took whatever they wanted and cheated whenever they could. Businesses overcharged customers by using unjust scales, overpricing products, or promoting cheaper quality materials. The general public shoplifted and stole from both businesses and neighbours whenever they could. Stealing is a violation of God’s eighth commandment ~ “You shall not steal”(Ex. 20:15).

People did what they wanted, when they wanted. They did this without any restraint whatsoever on their behaviour. They did not care about the consequences of their actions. They lived self-centred, shallow, and materialistic lives. They claimed the right and license to indulge (feed) their fleshly, covetous (selfish) desires. They denied God and ignored all the restraints (restrictions) of His Holy Word. And they hardened themselves against the restraints of conscience and reason.

The inhabitants of Israel were guilty of allowing violence to run wild (4:2). Day after day news reports of violence and bloodshed filled the air. A steady stream of raw physical abuse, assaults, and killing flowed throughout the land. People of all levels of society were willing to do anything to fulfil the lustful cravings of their hearts.

They were also guilty of blaming others instead of accepting responsibility for their own behaviour and admitting their own guilt (4:4).

Morally and spiritually, the nation was in bad shape. There was also a tendency to blame others, especially the priests. But charges and counter-charges were not the answer to the nation’s problems. Thus, the Lord exhorted the people to quit blaming others and accept responsibility for their behaviour. They needed to confess their guilt and repent of their sins, not accuse others. Each person was responsible for his or her own behaviour. And each one played a part in the problems within the nation.

Do all of these accusations sound familiar? Think of plastic, oil, sewerage, air, etc. pollution. Think of rhino and elephant pouching, think of abortion, rape, heists, corruption, murder, state capture, etc. Think of lawlessness – simple and serious lawlessness – how many people have you seen skipping stop signs and exceeding the speed limit. How often do we read and hear and even experience lies, irresponsibility, laziness, etc? The 8thcentury BC book of Hosea, is almost a mirror image of the 21stcentury AD South Africa!

Such accusations, as in the case of Israel, challenge us to ask if our Christian worship is that much different from theirs – where do we stand? Are we part of the small band of people who still worship the Lord (like Daniel and his friends), or are we also lazy, skipping stop signs, lying, murdering, being plain lawless like the majority of people in Israel? Are we praying for revival in our country? Are we ready to accept the Lord’s sovereign decision to punish all the people (and nature)in our country like He did with Israel even if we are innocent? We must not think that the small band of obedient people in Israel and later Judea, were not taken away in exile – they also experienced the punishment of the Lord (again think of Daniel and his friends).

3.2The Sins of the Priests (4:4-11): The Lord, through the prophesy of His servant Hosea, also holds the priests and to a lesser extent the prophets responsible for the sad state of affairs in Israel. They have neglected the Torah (the Law of God as revealed to Moses – guidance, teaching, instruction – 4:6). Priests have not taught the knowledge of God (4:6) and, together with the people, participated in a multitude of Canaanite religious practices collectively called adultery and prostitution (4:10-19).

Of course, the nation was responsible for their own sins, but the priests were also guilty of not guiding the people on the right path, because they did not know ~ “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge(4:6). We read in Hebr.13:17 the following ~ Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give an account.” It is clear that the responsibility lies on the shoulders of the congregation to live holy lives and to listen to the teaching and reproofof their pastors. However, there also is a huge responsibility on the shoulders of the pastors, to feed their flock and to feed them the whole Word of God. Paul tells Timothy the following in 1 Tim.4:13-14 ~ Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.Paul also tells Timothy in 2 Tim.4:2, to… ~ “…preach the Word.”

The priests in Israel, did not do that. This reminds me of the question that XX asked last Wednesday evening during our Midweek Meeting, how she must handle the fact that she partook in the holy Communion for many years while she was unsaved, and that happened because her pastors never told her that she cannot partake in the Communion if she is not saved – those pastors did not devote themselves to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation (explaining) and teachingof the Word of God and therefore misled many people.

Priests in those times and pastors in our days did not and do not preach against sin. The priests, who eat portions of the animals sacrificed for sin (Lev. 6:26), encouraged the people to sin so that they will have more to eat. In a figurative sense, the priests are gratified by the people’s sin. So, people and priests were both corrupt. Despite their priestly office, they would share the punishment of the people. Their punishment will be that God will give them over to their own sin and they will not get enough of wine and adultery.

John Owen once said: “The first and principal duty of a pastor is to feed the flock by diligent preaching of the Word.”This, the priests, in those days, did not do… and today? “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge”(4:6).

These corrupt priests would not escape the punishment of the people of Israel ~“And it shall be, like people, like priest”(4:9). Their position as priests would not give them a free pass from judgment. The Lord threatened them by saying…~ “I will punish them for their ways.”They would be rewarded…“…for their deeds,” i.e., they would receive the wages of sin (4:9).  In fact, James 3:1 says ~ “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

These priests would experience frustration in their lives, even before the rest of Israel would be punished. First ~“…they shall eat, but not have enough”(4:10).Their lust to consume more and more of the offerings would be punished by unsatisfied hunger. This type of punishment was described many years before in the law of Moses (Lev.26:26).

Second, the priests ~they shall play the whore, but not multiply, because they have forsaken the Lordto cherish(4:10). This has been taken to mean that the priests would multiply wives and concubines; they would also engage in idolatry; and participating in temple prostitution.

As a result of their sins, their understanding, i.e. their ability to judge and think clearly would be taken away and that will frustrate them.

3.3The Sin of Idolatry(4:12–14):In 4:12-14, the focus, yet again, turns back to the whole nation. Harlotry, unfaithfulness, disloyalty and not really knowing God, is a continuing theme. We’ve already seen, that the expression harlotry or prostitution, was used when the people of God turned their backs on Him and bowed their knees before foreign gods – they “sold themselves”to other gods.

The Lord points to the fact that the people are involved in idolatry ~ “My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles. For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the whore(4:12). The piece of wood referred to here is literally in the Hebrew, “their wood.”This may refer to the Asherah pole beside a Canaanite shrine. Probably a divining rod, or perhaps a small figurine of Asherah ~ “You shall not plant any tree as an Asherah beside the altar of the Lordyour God that you shall make(Deut.16:21). Or, this wood could also refer to some other deity ~ “What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it”(Hab.2:18-19).

The people were worshiping and looking for guidance from false gods rather than from their own true God. Adding to that, we see that the people were also ~ “…led astray, (a spirit of whoredom) and they have left their God to play the whore(4:12). Trees were associated not simply with shade, but also with goddesses and sex. The type of trees mentioned here in 4:13 (oak, poplar, and terebinth)supports a fertility link. All of these evergreen trees were a logical place for fertility rites (i.e. people believed that these trees were places where they could bring offerings to the fertile gods in order for the worshippers to be fertile, or even their livestock). In 4:13-14, Hosea describes men who participate in these sacred rites on the mountains with females who were all whores and prostitutes.

God threatens to punish the men more harshly than the women, because these specific women were more sinned against than sinning themselves.

3.4A Special Appeal to Judah (4:15–19):In 4:15-19, Judah (the southern kingdom)is warned not to follow Israel’s wicked example. Israel is stubborn, refusing to be separated from its idols and loving shame more than glory ~ “Like a stubborn heifer, Israel is stubborn; can the Lordnow feed them like a lamb in a broad pasture?(4:16).

Judah is warned not to“become guilty”in committing harlotry, i.e., getting involved in idolatry. Second, Judah should not “come to Gilgal.”Gilgal was an idolatrous shrine of the northern kingdom, located about one mile from Jericho (4:15a – on the doorstep of Judah).Third, Judah should not “go up to Beth-aven.”Beth-aven seems to be another name for Bethel (Amos 4:4; 5:5). The name Bethel, which means “house of God”is changed to Beth-aven which means “house of nothingness.”The name is either changed to indicate what the place had become in the sight of God – a place which became a house of idols.

Judah was also instructed not to make a mockery of a solemn oath in the name of the Lord. “As the Lord lives”(4:15)was a standard oath formula in ancient Israel. Swearing by the name of the Lord was commanded in the Law (Deut. 6:13; 10:20). This oath, however, was to have its roots in the fear of the Lord. It was not to be used by idolaters.

Hosea gave four reasons why Judah should not follow in the path of Israel:

  • In 4:16 he warns them by telling them that Israel has become “…a stubborn heifer.”A heifer (a cow that has not borne a calf, or has borne only one calf)was a symbol of obstinacy (stubbornness or self-will). Hosea says that this stubborn cow would be fed by the Lord like ~ “…a lamb in a broad pasture (or a wide field)(4:16). There will be no shepherd looking after them and they will therefore, become prey of wolves and wild beasts, because they are unguarded.
  • In 4:17 Hosea warns Judah, that “Ephraim is joined to idols.”Who is Ephraim? Ephraim was the most prominent tribe in northern Israel. Hosea often uses the name of this tribe for the entire nation. Hosea warns Judah that one who is “joined to idols”is so involve with idols that he cannot give them up and that is what happened to Israel.
  • In 4:18, Hosea says that Ephraim (Israel) was morally so corrupt, that their drinking parties led them to sexual immorality at the Baal temples.
  • Hosea warns Judah by telling them in 4:19, that Ephraim is doomed. He tells them that “A wind has wrapped them in its wing,”meaning that they will be conquered in a violent way and even.. ~ “…they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices” – their sacrifices to idols, while at the same time professing loyalty to Yahweh. They would also be ashamed because the deities (idols) which they worshiped, could not deliver them from their enemy.
  1. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:

God also warns us today to follow Him and not be stubborn like a heifer. He warns us that stubborn people become the prey of wolves and beasts.

He warns us that we should be careful of idealising money, people, health, etc.

He also warns us against moral corruption, such as drinking parties and sexual immorality.

If we don’t pay attention to these warnings, our end might also be violent and no-one will be able to rescue us.

Beloved, we must pray that the Lord will protect us from becoming idol worshippers and spiritual prostitutes. And we must seriously pray for revival in our country, because without Jesus Christ the Saviour, our country will have no future – we will have no future!

Posted in Church, English, Faith, Forgiveness, Hosea, Kobus van der Walt, Prophesy, Prophet, Sermons (English), Sin | Leave a comment

Hosea – God’s Great Love Story – 03  (“Redeemer of a Prostitute”)

Hosea – God’s Great Love Story – 03  (“Redeemer of a Prostitute”) 

  1. INTRODUCTION:

The harlotry of Israel and the jealousy of Yahweh (God) reached a climax in the 8thcentury BC, but in order to understand better why this happened, we need to look at a little bit of history (on request).

“The United Monarchy” is the name given to the Israelite kingdom of Israel and Judah, during the reigns of king Saul, David and Solomon. King Saul was the first king of the Kingdom of Israel and Judah. He reigned during the late 11thcentury BC (1030-1010 BC – i.e. 1030-1010 years before Christ was born – in other words BC means “Before Christ”).

David was the 2ndking and he reigned as king from 1008-970 BC David was a young shepherd who gained fame first as a musician and later by killing the enemy and giant Goliath. He became a favourite of King Saul and a close friend of Saul’s son Jonathan. Worried that David might try to take his throne, Saul turned on David. After Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle, David was anointed as King.

In the meantime, we must keep in mind that the Israelite kingdom was still not seated in Jerusalem, because the Jebusites, who were one of the seven nations that God commanded the Israelites to destroy after their entrance into the Promised Land, was not completed yet and these Jebusites were still reigning in Jerusalem.

Later, David conquered Jerusalem, he took the Ark of Covenant into the city, and established the kingdom of Israel in Jerusalem. David is honoured in the Bible as the ideal king and the forefather of a future Messiah, Jesus Christ, and he wrote many Psalms. Before David’s death, he chose his son Solomon as his successor.

Solomon was a very wealthy and wise man. Solomon’s reign was from 970 to 931 BC. He is described as the final king of the united Israel (“The United Monarchy”), i.e. the two tribes of Judah and the ten tribes of Israel.

Rehoboam (around 930 BC) was appointed king after his father Solomon. We then read of the split of the Kingdom of Israel into two kingdoms – i.e. the Kingdom of Israel (including the cities of Shechem and Samaria)in the north and the Kingdom of Judah (containing Jerusalem)in the south.

After the split of the Kingdom of Israel, Hosea was a prophet to the kingdom of Israel and he called on Israel to repent of its sins and warned them of a coming judgment from God. 

This judgment of God that Hosea warned them about became a reality about 15 years later (735 BC),  when King Shalmaneser V, king of Assyria (726-722 BC) marched on to the Northern Kingdom. The ten northern tribes of Israel ceased to exist as a people and were taken to Assyria and Babylon as captives. Again we see God’s grace in action, because He warned His people for fifteen years before He gave them over to the Assyrians and we also see His truthfulness in action, when He fulfilled His promise of punishing them for their disobedience.

Yet, within a few short decades, the Assyrian Empire had crumbled before the onslaught of the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar. During this time Daniel and his friends were in Babylon and were casted into the burning fiery furnace (Dan.3).

After Nebuchadnezzar’s death, Cyrus the Great came to power and in 559 BC he decreed (or made a law) that any captive Jews in Babylonia who desired to, could return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Cyrus even allowed the vessels of gold and silver stolen by Nebuchadnezzar’s troops to be returned.

  1. SCRIPTURE READING:

Hosea 3:1-5 (ESV) ~ “And the Lordsaid to me, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lordloves 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 Lordtheir God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lordand to his goodness in the latter days.”

  1. EXPOSITION:

We will be looking at our passage for today under the following three headings:

  • God’s Command (3:1);
  • Hosea’s Obedient Response (3:2-3);
  • Object Lesson (3:4-5).

3.1GOD’S COMMAND (3:1):In 3:1, Hosea receives a similar command from God than in 1:1, but with a twist – this time, the Lord does not tell him to take a wife who is a prostitute, but to demonstrate his love to his promiscuous wife – his adulterous wife, who wondered off to sleep with other men from which two children were born – a girl named “No Mercy”and a boy named “Not My People.”This action by Gomer led to Hosea divorcing her, but now he must take her back.

These events and behaviour by Gomer pointed to Israel who became unfaithful to God, by turning to the Baalim gods and thus loving the “sacred raisin cakes”(which was a delicacy), more than God. This sudden and almost unexpected mentioning of “sacred raisin cakes”seems out of place – but, that is exactly the point. Gomer’s love is totally misplaced. No matter what she may tell herself, she does not love God. She loves Baal, for (according to 3:1) she “is loved by another man and is an adulteress.”But the last clause of 3:1 hits the “bull’s eye”, namely that what attracts Israel to her false lover is an insignificant, fleshly and earthly pleasure. The nation is like a princess who leaves the palace in secret to go drinking with the underclass (riffraff men)of the town in the bars and Shebeens. Israel does not hunger for the spiritual things that God offers, similar to Gomer who does not love Hosea. God rejects the nation of Israel, by giving them over to the Babylonians, as we have heard previously.

But we also heard that Cyrus the Great allowed Israel to go back – God brought His “wife” (the Israelites) back out of captivity and exile after they’ve repented from their sins. Hosea had to follow God’s example by bringing Gomer back home.

As God redeems (saves) His people from exile and as Hosea redeems his wife from the streets, similarly God redeems and saves His elect (His chosen people)from being lost to salvation.

3.2      HOSEA’S OBEDIENT RESPONSE (3:2-3):Hosea obeys the Lord’s command and responded by buying his wife (Gomer the prostitute) back. The fact that he had to buy her back, is an indication that she most probably had come under some kind of “debt-slavery,”also known as debt bondage.” Debt bondage” occurs when a person is forced to work to pay off a debt. They are tricked into working for little or no pay, with no control over their debt. Most or all of the money they earn goes to pay off their loan. Gomer most probably ran into debt because she did not earn enough money for her job as a prostitute and had to borrow money for food, but we don’t really know what led to her being in debt-slavery.

Hosea bought her for ~ “…fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley” (3:2). Unfortunately, it is impossible for us to know silver’s value in Biblical times, but some people reckon that one “shekel” of silver were worth around R140. Therefore, the worth of fifteen shekels were approximately R2,100, which was most probably a lot of money in Hosea’s time.

One “homer” of barley was about 4 kg and in Hosea’s time and a “lethech” was a half a homer. We also don’t know the worth of 4,5 kg of barley. Whatever Gomer’s price was in cash, Hosea doesn’t have it.  He has to make up for his lack of cash by adding barley to his available cash in order to buy his wife free from “debt bondage.” The fact that Hosea did not have enough money and had to get hold of enough barley to buy his wife back is indeed praiseworthy – a woman who turned her back on her husband and children for her old life of prostitution, shows Hosea’s commitment to, not only his wife, but especially to his obedience to God.

We already know that Hosea represents God in this story and God is saying – “Look!  This is Me, this is what I am doing for you…this is the price I’m willing to pay.”  He did, of course, pay the highest price – he gave himself as a sacrifice for our sins.  The name “Hoshea”is the same name as “Joshua”(Jesus in the Greek language)and means “God is salvation.”

The image of Hosea counting out every last coin, sweeping up every last kernel of grain to come up with enough to buy back his adulterous wife is an image of God redeeming (saving) us.  Let us never forget that image, never forget the price that Jesus paid for His saved ones.  To forget the price would be to forget just how much we are loved.

He purchases her back, but tells her, that she should wait for a long time before she should be restored to her marriage rights. So, Israel is to live for a long period without her ancient religious customs and rites (i.e. having a temple and not been able to bring sacrifices to the Lord)- yet they would be free from idolatry. This also applies to us – Although we are saved, the perfect and final redemption still lies in the future with Jesus’ return.

3.3OBJECT LESSON (3:4-5):As we’ve already seen in 3:2-3, the conditions of Gomer’s return which involved a lengthy period of true faithfulness to her husband, during which she would remain at home withhim and isolated from all potential lovers, symbolises that Israel will go through a time without a Royal or religious leadership (no king and no high-priest) until they repent and God restores them fully.

During this time they would not be able to bring sacrifices to the Lord and only if they remain faithful and devoted to the Lord during this period of time, they will be able to bring sacrifices to the Lord again. The reason why they could not bring sacrifices during this time, was because their sacrifices were previously mixed with Baal worship and by the people’s failure to obey “…the more important matters of the Law”(Matt. 23:23; Hos.6:6; 8:11–13).

After Israel’s period of isolation, they will repent and seek the Lord, rather than false gods (2:7; 5:15; Deut. 4:29). Israel will also recognise the authority of a king, which they rejected at the time of Jeroboam I (1 Kings 12). The nation will approach the Lord with new respect and fear and they will serve Him again as their Lord and God and they will acknowledge His provisions.

When Hosea uses the expression“in the latter days”in 3:5, he uses the same expression that Moses used earlier, as well as some of the other prophets. All of them referred to a time when Israel would return to the Lord (e.g. Isa. 2:2; Micah 4:1; Deut. 4:30 and now Hosea prophesised about this returned of Israel to the Lord, with the same words ~ “Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lordtheir God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lordand to his goodness in the latter days.”

  1. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:

What can we learn from Hosea? For us today, I believe Hosea can help give us answers to three big questions. 

  • What does unfaithfulness look like? 
  • How does God love us despite our unfaithfulness? 
  • What does God desire from us in return?  
  • What does unfaithfulness look like?  When people were unfaithful to God in Old Testament times, they were compared with adulterers and prostitutes. The people of Israelwas considered to be the wife of God, and any worship of other gods was adultery.  It was also prostitution, because the nation “sold itself”to these other gods, presumably in exchange for some desired benefit, such as protection or good crops. 

Today, this can be compared with someone who trusts some things e.g. such as money or people more than trusting God; or when you are ashamed of standing up for Jesus in the company of others; living like the world; or when you deny Christ. In Matt.26:34 Jesus said to Peter ~ “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”

  • How does God love us despite our unfaithfulness? Hosea gave gifts for Gomer. And God gives gifts to his people.  “So, I (Hosea) bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley”(Hos.3:2). Hosea entered into a covenant with Gomer. He would maintain his loyalty no matter what. He would go so far as to buy (redeem)his wayward wife out of slavery!  We too, as God’s people, have been bought at a high price. We too have been redeemed from slavery – the slavery of sin! Christ the True and Greater Husband, our Redeemer(Saviour), paid for our freedom with His blood (Ephesians 1:7, 1 Cor.6:20, 7:23).

Hosea reassures Gomer that despite her former sin he will keep his promises. He will love her and be loyal to her.  Christ has redeemed us from horrifying sin. Despite our past, His affections for us as His blood-bought people, is indescribable ~ “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”(Rom.5:8).

The parable of Hosea and Gomer points toward (foreshadows)the perfect, redeeming (saving), and passionate love that God in Christ has for all His people throughout history.

  • What does God desire from us in return? Hosea 6:6 answers this for us ~ “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”He wants us to know Him, and desire Him. This is for our good and for our joy, because as new creations our core desires must reflect Christ’s desires. Christ alone is what will fulfil us.  

We therefore must get to know the One who chose us, saved us, and loves us with never ending affection. We must love Him. This love and knowledge will be what leads us to a life of blessing and obedience unto Him. From the beginning, God wanted us to know and enjoy Him, and that has not changed!  

Hosea entered into a covenant with Gomer. He would be loyal, no matter what. He would go so far as to save his wayward wife from slavery!  We too, as God’s people, have been bought at a price. We too have been redeemed from slavery! Christ the True and Greater Husband, our redeemer, paid for our freedom with His blood ~ “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace”(Eph.1:7). We also saw in 3:3 that the Lord says ~ “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.”

The whole book of Hosea points us to three things:

  • A heart of love;
  • A heart of forgiveness and salvation – a heart that seeks to save;
  • A demand for faithfulness.
Posted in Christ, English, Gospel, Hosea, Jesus, Kobus van der Walt, Prophesy, Prophet, Salvation, Sermons (English), Sin, The Redeemer | Leave a comment

Hosea – God’s Great Love Story – 02 (“You Are My People”)

  • INTRODUCTION:

We’ve seen in chapter one of the book of Hosea, how the Lord told the prophet Hosea to take a wife, but a wife of dubious (questionable)background, in fact He told Hosea to take a “wife of whoredom”(Hos.1:2)and her name was Gomer.Hosea’s call to an unhappy marriage, separation and divorce and final reconciliation is a demonstration of God’s relationship (or Yahweh’s relationship) to His people. Hosea’s experience of having an unfaithful wife who was also a prostitute demonstrates how God (YHWH) experiences the spiritual adultery of His people: primarily Israel, but also Christians today. We will however, eventually see how God’s anguish will turn into an unfailing love for His people, despite the depth of sin to which His loved ones fall.

We also saw last week, that the events described in chapter one reflect, the tragic conditions existing in Israel and Judah at the time of the prophet’s ministry. That is, the domestic tragedy in Hosea’s home was a miniature of a far greater tragedy in the nations of Judah and Israel. That tragedy was in the nation having turned from God to other gods. Such turning could only result in God’s displeasure and their destruction.

God could turn the present tragedy, expressed in the nation’s rebelliousness and idolatry, into triumph; this He would do indeed, but not in the time om Hosea’s ministry, He would do that later in “the day of Jezreel.”

The name of Gomer’s last child which was conceived out of wedlock, was Lo-Ammii which means “not my people.”This shows the attitude of Hosea toward the child. By giving the child such a name, the prophet was disowning his own paternity, meaning “I am not the child’s father.”He was declaring it to be the offspring of another. As in the previous case, the experience of Hosea was a symbol of the relationship between God and Israel. Israel, because of her relationship with and devotion to other god’s, was no more God’s children than Lo-ammi was Hosea’s. Thus, 1:9 comes to the heart of the tragic condition in Hosea’s family and shows the larger tragedy relating to the nation of Israel. In light of the sin within Israel, they were no longer considered to be God’s covenant people. By their actions they had broken the covenant. As a result, God would no longer be “I am”(literally, “I will be”)for them. What a tragic turn of events! Those who had once been God’s (“my people”) would no longer be His, and the one who had been their God would no longer be their God.

  • SCRIPTURE READING:

Hosea 2:2-13 (ESV) ~ Plead with your mother, plead – for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband – that she put away her whoring from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts; lest I strip her naked and make her as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and make her like a parched land, and kill her with thirst. Upon her children also I will have no mercy, because they are children of whoredom. For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax(flax is also called linseed. Linseed is a member of the genus Linum in the family Linaceae. It is a food and fibre crop cultivated in cooler regions of the world. Textiles made from flax are known in the Western countries as linen, and traditionally used for bed sheets, underclothes, and table linen), my oil and my drink.’ Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths. She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them. Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.’ And she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal. Therefore I will take back my grain in its time, and my wine in its season, and I will take away my wool and my flax, which were to cover her nakedness. 10 Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall rescue her out of my hand. 11 And I will put an end to all her mirth, her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts. 12And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees, of which she said, ‘These are my wages, which my lovers have given me.’ I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall devour them. 13 And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the Lord14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 15 And there I will give her, her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. 16 “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ 17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. 18 And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. 19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord. 21 “And in that day I will answer, declares the Lord, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth, 22 and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel, 23 and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’

  • EXPOSITION:

We will be looking at our passage for today under the following three headings:

  • The Offense(2:2);
    • The Judgment(2:3-13);
    • The Restoration(2:14-23).

3.1      THE OFFENSE (2:2):When the Northern Kingdom of Israel was taken captive by Assyria in 721 B.C., Assyria ruled most of the known world. Yet, within a few short decades, the Assyrian Empire had crumbled before the onslaught of the Babylonians. Under Nebuchadnezzar Babylonia became a world empire, inheriting for the most part territories and peoples conquered by Assyria. If these peoples resisted their new masters, Nebuchadnezzar responded swiftly and savagely and therefore, Judah fell in 586 B.C. Though the Lord used the conquering empires asscourges (a whip used as an instrument of punishment)in His hand to punish rebellious and backsliding Israel and Judah, once the same empires had fulfilled their purpose, they too came to a swift end.

Nebuchadnezzar’s vigorous rule in Babylon was finished in 562 B.C. He was the last great Chaldean ruler, and at his death the empire’s decline was rapid. The Babylonians’ own wickedness brought swift decline. Nebuchadnezzar was followed by about a half a dozen of short reigning emperors. It was during this time that Daniel and his friends were cast into the burning fiery furnace (Dan.3). 

Cyrus the Great emerged in history in 559 B.C. as ruler of the little province of Anshan, a district in north-western Elam just south of Media and east of the Zagros Mountains and he took over reign of Babylon in 539 B.C. Shortly thereafter, as recorded in 2 Chron.36:22-23 and Ezra 1:1-11, Cyrus decreed (or made a law) throughout his empire that any captive Jews in Babylonia who desired to, could return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Cyrus even allowed the vessels of gold and silver stolen by Nebuchadnezzar’s troops to be returned.

Although Judah is mentioned a lot of times, there is no doubt that Hosea was a prophet from and to the Northern Kingdom of Israel that had broken away from the kingdom of David in 922 B.C. after King Solomon’s death. 

The words spoken in 2:2 werewords spoken to a part of the restored nation of the future (2:23) and they were told by the prophet to plead with the rest of the nation of Israel (Northern kingdom) to put away their idolatry and harlotries (prostitution)or God will strip her naked and bring drought upon her.

The expression “plead”in 2:2 says that time is running out for them to return to God and escape His wrath (anger). Gomer’s gross sin must be dealt with now or never. The fact that 2:2 gives Gomer the opportunity to turn around from her sinful practices and that 2:3 starts with the word “lest”, seems as if a divorce was still avoidable.

The word “mother”(also in 2:2) refers to the nation of Israel collectively. The small minority of Israelites who are still loyal to God must plead with the rest of the nation. 

Because of Gomer’s fornication (or adultery), she has destroyed her privilege and status as wife of Hosea and therefore Hosea is not her husband anymore – this of course refers to Israel’s spiritual adultery. As a result of that, they are not “the wife of God”anymore and God is not their God anymore – BUT, there is still hope and a chance that the situation can be overturned – i.e. if the wife would turn around and repent.

Apparently, sometime after Hosea’s marriage to Gomer, he could see that his wife was treading on her old ways again, because of her outward appearance. Harlots (whores/prostitutes) in those days usually had tattoos and especially between their breasts which was revealed by wearing dresses with low-cut necklines. They also wore heavy makeup, golden jewels, nose rings, single layer dresses, tightly fitted clothing and usually clothing of scarlet colour, which was decorated with gold, and precious stones, and pearls. Many of them also whore face masks.

Israel also showed the signs of a harlot (a whore/prostitute) – a nation wandering away from God’s ways, thus the warning from God, but the call to turn around before it is too late, was indeed too late, because Israel had already turned to the gods of Baalim.

3.2THE JUDGMENT (2:3-13):Verse 3 starts with the word “lest”(some translations – “if”)which introduces a series of threats of discipline. If Gomer, doesn’t make a clean break with her adultery, she will be stripped naked and removed from the blessings of her present life. She will land in a wilderness which will be a threat to her very existence.

The similarity between Hosea’s situation which existed between God and Israel is obvious – like Gomer, Israel had become an unfaithful wife. Her unfaithfulness expressed itself in numerous ways, but primarily in idolatry. The mother (Israel) of the individual Israelites was entreated (begged) by her children to turn from her activity of following the Baalim gods. She was, in fact, begged not only to refrain from her compromising activity, but also to remove every indication of such a way of life (2:2b).

The unfaithfulness of Israel was further described in Hosea as “harlotry”(prostitution). This tragic practice was reflected in Israel’s looking to the Baalim gods as their sources of her bread, water, wool and flax for clothing, and drinks. These were referred to as luxury items. That is, the people not only acknowledged Baalim as the one who provided in their needs of life; they also credited these false gods with the luxuries of life (2:5).

To have done this was bad enough in itself. The other side of this tragedy, however, may be seen in 2:8. While Israel was thanking Baal for their livelihood and therefore, denying that God had been the source of everything. That was a rejection of God which added to the tragedy of their lives. And, as if that were not enough, they had taken silver and gold, provided by God, in their worship of the Baalim. They were using resources provided by God, but at the same time, ignoring the very fact that God provided it, and even worse, they used that which God provided, in their worship of the Baalim. That was the worst form of heresy.

In the latter part of 2:13, we find another statement of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. They were charged with having burned incense to the Baalim. The Israelites forgot that God will not share His place with another. When man attempts this or do this, he forgets the true God; and God in turn, considers forsaking them. And this consideration of God, to forsake Israel, becomes the focus of Hosea’s attention.

The normal and natural reaction of any man with a wife who gives herself over to prostitution, is to leave her, and disallows himself to be her husband. Normally in such a case the woman would be stoned to death. 

In this passage the relationship between God and Israel does not apply to a literal marriage, there is a covenantal relationship that exist between God and Israel. In fact, the covenantal relationship between God and Israel should have been more intimate then that of a marriage relationship between man and woman. It does implicate a sense of mutual affection and devotion. Yahweh (God) would be the nation’s God if they would be His people. The evidence of them being His people would be their keeping of the law. If, on the other hand, they forsook Yahweh, His first reaction would be to declare the dissolution of the relationship.

The first thing that God does can be seen in 2:3. According to Ex.21:10, God fulfilled His responsibility as a husband to clothe his wife, but now He would strip her naked, a thing often done to unfaithful woman. He would return her to the poverty which she knew when he found her in Egypt, i.e. without anything. He would even not have any mercy upon the offspring born to this unworthy relationship. He would also consider taking back all which He had formally given His bride (2:9).

3.3THE RESTORATION (2:14-23):The husband, in His great mercy, however, did not follow through, with that. Ultimately, He chose a different course altogether. Instead of reducing Israel to poverty and want, He chose to convince her of the folly and futility of the way she had chosen. He would not seek her destruction. He would seek to persuade her to reject her present course in several ways.

The first method He would use was, as we can see in 2:6 ~ (to) hedge up her way with thorns, and (building) a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths.”These restraints (confines) were depicted as a hedge of thorns and a wall. Both would keep the nation from finding the “paths”which led her to the Baal gods (2:6). This was simply Hosea’s way of saying that their rewards of their pursuit of the Baalim, would be so disappointing that her (i.e. Israel as God’s wife) rewards, would serve as a deterrent (a hedge of thorns or a wall)which should convince her, that what she desired, she will not receive, because of the way she was going. God did not seek Israel’s destruction but her restoration. He wished her restored to her former role of “wife” to God. 

God therefore, planned to allure (attract) her into the wilderness where there was nothing to distract her. There He would speak to her heart to heart (2:14). This gracious action on God’s part would open up the possibility of the restoration of the relationship which existed before the time of their forsaking God for the Baalim. It is clear that God wants to provide an avenue of hope to His bride (2:15a). This avenue of hope, referred to as the valley of Achor, was a reference to the place where Achon’s disobedience to God was avenged (Jos.7:26)“And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.”

By opening his wife’s eyes to the fact that Baalim could not provide in all her needs she would seek the renewal of the relationship with God – He that took care of her in the wilderness journey out of Egypt. She realised that it was better for her to have a restored relationship with God, than following the Baalim gods and that resulted in her returning to her first husband, God. She had seen the difference. She had benefited from her relationship with God while, in her relationship with the Baalim, she had experienced one disappointment and/or judgement after the other.

In addition to Israel’s own declaration of her intention to return, God announced that the nation would respond positively. She would respond to the troubled conditions she had encountered by returning to Him with the same delight and willingness she had experienced when she followed Him out of Egypt (2:15b). This happy prospect could but result in her denial of any reference to God as Baalim, which was a legal reference to her husband as the master of his wife. She would return to her former lover whom she affectionately refers to as Ishi (my husband). This referred to the deep interpersonal relationship of marriage (2:16). The Baalim, as a result, will not only be eliminated from the nation’s vocabulary; they would be forgotten altogether (2:17).

These events would result in Israel’s world becoming a place of peace and tranquillity (2:18). These were conditions to be realised no doubt in the Messianic age. It would be a time of peace among men. At that time, God would, having by then transformed Israel, betroth her to Himself as His bride for ever (3:19).

Out of the new and permanent betrothal (covenant in marriage)would come a bride who would know God intimately, as well as one who would remain faithful to Him (2:20). Such intimacy and faithfulness would result, in turn, in God’s goodness and faithfulness (2:21), and the nation’s being permanently planted upon the land (2:23a). When that time finally came, those who had been unpitied would then be the objects of His pity, and those who had been referred to as not being His, would be declared to be His very own people (2:23b). What a day that would be!

  • CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:

Thus, in this section, the book of Hosea proclaims the truth that the overwhelming desire of God is not for the destruction of those who reject or turn from Him, but for their redemption and the restoration, and to enhance these possibilities, God had embarked upon an endless quest (pursuit)to win them to Himself. His providences in such a pursuit, often result in men and nations turning to Him and their becoming the recipients of the most intimate of relationships, the beneficiaries of unbelievable supply for life.

Though sometimes as God’s children we are faithless and unfaithful, God remains faithful ~ “…if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny Himself”(2 Tim.2:13). He always desires to draw us to Himself.

It is such a security to know that the One who sought Israel still seeks man today through the Spirit of the Son! How meaningful the truth that He still responds to those who respond to Him! It was good news in Hosea’s day; it is wonderful news for us today.

Therefore, my friend, if you are not saved; if you not sure whether you are born again and God’s child, it is still not too late. God is calling you – and the Word is clear and simple – we read in John 3:18 ~ “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God”and in Rom.10:9 ~ “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”For those of you, who wandered away from God, like Gomer from Hosea, or Israel from God, it is also not too late for you to return to God, bow before God and confess your sins and repent and follow Christ again and you will also hear God’s words as in the case of Israel (or Gomer for that matter) ~ “You are my people.”

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