Tempted by Less Than We Expect

Hosea is one of those difficult books with a difficult image. It is not that the image is difficult to understand, but it is tough to look at. It is an ugly image, an emotionally disturbing image.

When God speaks to the people of Israel, he draws a parallel between the nation and an unfaithful wife. As the people forsake the Lord, God uses very strong language to describe their spiritual adultery.

What I notice as I read through this passage is what it was that Israel seemed to be drawn after. This is important, as it catches people still today.

Hosea 2:5

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, my oil and my drink.’

Without thinking too deeply about why God uses this image for Israel, notice what the six things are that draw Israel, as an adulterous wife, away from the Lord. They are seeking bread and water, wool and flax, oil and drink. These are simple items for living with perhaps a luxury thrown in. These are people who are forsaking God as they chase after basic, material wealth.

Interestingly for the Old Testament culture, God had promised his people all of those things in abundance if they would merely keep his law. But the people would not believe God enough to obey. They preferred to ignore the law of God and seek their material prosperity on their own.

But how might this apply to us today? Are we willing to turn from the Lord for material blessing? Be careful. If you answer this question from a position of security, consider how you would answer that question during a time of want and of persecution.

Friends, we need to understand that it is a common human temptation to turn away from the Lord in order to gain material security or safety. But those who love the Lord determine that we will be faithful to the Lord in times of plenty or want. Paul said that he had learned to be content in wealth or poverty. We must learn the same. We must not be willing to turn from the Lord for physical comforts. And we must not underestimate the temptation that this presents, as people have shown us in the past how easily they fail.

When we are not careful, when we are not faithful, we find ourselves tempted by small things. Bread and water, wool and flax, oil and drink, these should not be major temptations. But in hard times, we can find ourselves tempted by far less than we might think would tempt us at present. May we love our Lord so much that we are ready and faithful regardless of how hard times get.

We Want To Look Normal

In 1 Samuel 8, the people of Israel sin against the Lord by demanding that God give them a king. Before this time, the people had covenanted with God to be under his personal rule and protection. But as time passed, the nation began to desire a human ruler.

Samuel even warns the people that having a king will be to the people’s harm, not to their good. The king will require servants, taxes, and a military. The king will cost the people a great deal without bringing them benefits.

But here is how the people respond.

1 Samuel 8:19-20 – 19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

The people demand a king, even when they know that they are violating the will of God and are asking for something that will hurt them. Why? What motivates them? They want to be like all the other nations around them.

Now, without over-interpreting this, let’s simply ask ourselves if we are susceptible to that temptation? Just watch the modern church. Isn’t it obvious? How often will modern Christians turn away from the word of God and choose a thing that God says is not his will simply so that they can be like all the people around them? How often will we do what hurts us spiritually simply to look normal to society? How often will we embrace sin, violations of Scripture, in order to have others who hate God approve of us?

Dear believers in Christ, may we learn from the mistakes of others here. May we repent and love the word of God. And may we throw off the desire to be just like all the peoples around us. Instead, may we desire nothing more than to be pleasing to our Lord, regardless of how strange that looks to the world.

Walking in the Truth

When the apostle John was old, he wrote two lovely, short letters to churches and friends. And in them, we learn something about what makes an old apostle happy. While that might not strike you as the most important thing to think about in 2018, stop and really give it a second. If the apostles are the men chosen by God and sent out by Christ to communicate the word of God and lay the foundation of the church, what makes such men smile matters. And John, the last remaining apostle, has told us what makes him smile.

3 John 4 – I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

There it is. What makes an old apostle happy? It makes him happy when he hears that his children, those who have been taught by him and shepherded by him, are walking in the truth.

I would suggest, dear Christians, that this is what the Lord wants of us too. He wants us to walk in the truth. These are easy words, but they require us to take them seriously.

Truth is an easy word. But to accept it here is to accept the fact that there is such a thing as truth. Truth is true, for real, no violations or gradations. There is such a thing as truth in which we are to walk.

Christian, this is the word of God. You and I are to believe that truth begins with Jesus, the Son of God, the word of God. We must believe that God’s truth is revealed as holy Scripture. And we must believe the claims and teachings of Scripture.

But we are not only to believe the truth—that is actually the easy part. We are to walk in the truth. That means that we, as followers of God, not only believe the word of God, but we do what it says. When the word says not to commit sexual immorality, we are to obey. When it says husbands love your wives in such a way that you would lay your life down for her just as Christ did the church, you obey. When the word tells us to worship the Lord together and not to give up that practice, we obey. When the word tells us that the God who made us is to be our number one priority, that we are to have no other gods before him, that we are not to make up things to worship in his stead, we must obey this. When the word says not to kill the innocent, we obey. When the word says to care for the needy, we obey. When the word says to pray for our political leaders, we obey. When the word tells us to avoid gossip, slander, greed, drunkenness, sexual deviancy, violence, abusive speech, and so much more, we obey.

And to walk in the truth is to obey the command to make the Lord our God our first love. We are to believe in the holiness of God and let that overflow in worship. WE are to find delight in the character of God and his mind-blowing mercies on us. We are to find our joy in the glory of the Lord and let that thrill our souls for eternity. We are to live in a loving relationship with the Lord now, with his Spirit living within us, even as we long for an even better day when we live in the eternally sinless state to come. We walk with our eyes fixed on heaven and our hearts set on the Lord. And we strive with every step to reflect the glory of our God in the here and now.

You see, walking in the truth is beautiful. It is to believe the word so as to have it shape your life in every step. Such faithful living makes an old apostle happy. And I think we can see that, since the Lord inspired John to tell us this, it pleases the Lord too.