September 1, 2015

Listen and respond accordingly

Hosea 1:1–2:23, Acts 1:1–26, Job 15:1–9, Revelation 2:2-5

Writers and speakers know that illustrations have great power to put a truth into the hearts and minds of their readers and audience. Sometimes I remember the stories for hours, days, even years afterwards.

God started this. In one situation, He instructed a prophet to marry a whore who was unfaithful to her husband so that the people of Israel would have a vivid understanding of their unfaithfulness to God.

In the beginning of his book, Hosea wrote what the Lord said to him, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” (Hosea 1:2)

Hosea married a woman named Gomer and had three children by her. God told him to name two of them with words that meant, “She has not received mercy” and “Not my people.”

The first couple of chapters dramatize this way God used to show His love for His people and how He viewed their rebellion against Him. They were like a woman who forsakes her husband for another.

God’s passion and righteous jealousy deeply affect me. His severe love for His people and severe hatred for their sin moved Him to command His prophet do something that elsewhere He calls sinful and disgusting. This was so His people would realize the seriousness of their sin.

As I read it, I thought of the times I’ve relied on other people and other things when I should have been totally devoted to the Lord. I put myself in this story of God’s prophet and this immoral woman and it makes my stomach heave and my heart feel wretched. I get it. I understand the depth of God’s outrage and feelings of betrayal every time I drift away from my “first love” for Jesus Christ.

God refers to this in Revelation 2:2-5. “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:2–5)

In these verses, God knows that His people were trying to live for Jesus. He knows my desire too, but he also knows how easily I can move from that first passion for Jesus into a reliance on other things, even on myself, rather than total dependence on Him. When He charges me with idolatry, I know exactly what He is talking about and exactly how He hates this sin.

Job did not experience this in the same way. His ‘friends’ charged him with sin but they missed the target. For example, Eliphaz accuses Job, “Should a wise man answer with windy knowledge, and fill his belly with the east wind? Should he argue in unprofitable talk, or in words with which he can do no good? But you are doing away with the fear of God and hindering meditation before God. For your iniquity teaches your mouth, and you choose the tongue of the crafty. Your own mouth condemns you, and not I; your own lips testify against you.” (Job 15:2–6)

God later said that this was not right, and Job knew it was not right when he heard it. He knew that he was falsely accused because he was sensitive to the Holy Spirit. When the accusations hit, he knew he should not take them to heart; they were not right.

I need to be that sensitive. If I am accused or feel conviction and pay attention, I will also know if that conviction is from God. If it is not, then I can ignore it. Hosea listened. Job listened. I must also listen, and carefully.

The first Christians listened too. After the resurrection, Jesus told them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the baptism of Holy Spirit. They did. They asked Him if the kingdom would now be restored to Israel and he said this was not for them to know. Instead, they were to “be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And they listened and did as He said.

After that, Jesus ascended to heaven and they were told He would return the same way as He went up. They listened, believed Him, and lived accordingly. (Acts 1:4–11)

From today’s reading, I’m hearing God say, “You know how unloved you feel when people do not believe what you say. Remember this: if you love Me and have faith in me, then live like that. Listen to Me as a person who really does love and believe Me.”

Today’s application is simple: Consider Hosea and Job. Consider those early Christians and their love for Jesus. Consider how they listened — then go and do likewise.

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