September 2, 2015

Making sound judgments

Hosea 3:1–5:15, Acts 2:1–41, Job 15:10–20

On occasion someone is a position of responsibility is accused of immorality or a crime then later proven innocent. Even though the charges were proven false, that person’s life is ruined or at least changed forever. How important to make certain of what is said before charging anyone else with anything.

Perhaps God is the only one who is perfectly able to make sound judgments. For instance, His people went through all the right motions and looked righteous, but He knew their hearts. Sixteen times in two pages, God condemns His people with words like prostitute, adultery, and whoredom. Hosea says of them, “Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. For the spirit of whoredom is within them, and they know not the Lord.” (Hosea 5:4)

What does it mean to ‘know’ God? Some of the Hebrew words translated “to know” mean the intimacy of marital relationships, but this verse uses a word that is more like acquaintance, or to become familiar with something through experience. This doesn’t mean that these people had no knowledge of God. They knew He existed and knew His requirements, but their relationship was not one of personal experience that comes through faith or trusting in Him.

No one can ‘know’ God without that personal relationship of relying on Him. These were relying on everything else, including idols, or “a piece of wood,” or their “walking staff” (Hosea 4:12), and even going “after filth,” a word that can also be translated as “following human precepts” (Hosea 5:12).

Hosea said that what they were doing was preventing their return to God. The spirit of evil was inside them and kept them from having a rich relationship with Him. These chapters are sad, depressing, and offer little hope, until the last verse. There God says, “I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me.” (Hosea 5:15)

God had not written them off. He offered a way out of their condemnation, a way that is consistent throughout the Bible: confess sin and earnestly seek God in humble repentance.

Job’s situation was different. His misery was not because he had walked away from God. Instead, God allowed Satan to test his faith. Yet his ‘friends’ did not understand this. In their minds, the only reason that a righteous and God-fearing man would suffer is that he had done something evil, something that required confession and repentance. One of them said to Job, “The wicked man writhes in pain all his days, through all the years that are laid up for the ruthless.” (Job 15:20) Later, Job would call them “miserable comforters” because he knew, as God also proclaimed, that their words were not right.

The most interesting thing about the words of these miserable comforters is that they do have a ring of truth in them. Wicked people sometimes do writhe in pain, while the people of God often enjoy comfort and a carefree life. However, these words of comfort were not based on the reality of Job’s situation.

A few weeks ago, I shared a problem with a friend and endured a long description of what she thought was the answer to my problem. Her words were true, but they were way off-base as far as addressing my problem. What she said did not help, but in fact actually hurt me. She may have meant well, as Job’s friends likely meant well but she made me realized the importance of being slow to give advice.

When counseling others, I must make sure that whatever I say is what God wants me to say. The spirit within me needs to be pure, yielded to the Spirit of God and considering my feeble understanding. If I rely on my own judgment, I will miss the mark.

Having God’s Spirit in control usually means some surprising results. Acts 2 tells of a few of them, such as these new Christians being “all together in one place.” That alone would change Christendom today!

The reason for their unity was that they were filled with the Spirit. They spoke in tongues but this is not unique as some cult members also speak in tongues. But the effects were amazing; all foreigners gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost heard the gospel in their own language!

The Spirit also gave great boldness to Peter and the others as they connected the Old Testament Scriptures with their present experience. They shared Jesus Christ and people were convicted of sin (also a work of the Holy Spirit) and invited to repent. Many believed and were baptized. They were devoted to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer.

“And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42–47)

The idolaters in Hosea’s time had no such power. Job’s ‘friends’ were also powerless to comfort him. The disciples were fearful and useless until the power of the Holy Spirit filled them. My attitude and words have no power at all unless I’m totally trusting God and relying completely on His Spirit.

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