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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ezekiel delivers More Messages from God


Ezekiel delivers More Messages from God



God called Ezekiel to be His prophet and deliver His messages to the Jewish people during their darkest hours.  Jerusalem had fallen to the Babylonians and the city and temple were later destroyed.  The citizens of Jerusalem along with Ezekiel had been carried off to Babylon as slaves in 597 B.C. and Ezekiel was living in captivity in Babylon when he delivered God’s messages to his fellow Jews. 


Because there is much in the book of Ezekiel that is mysterious, dark and hard to understand, the Jewish religious leaders forbade their young men under thirty from reading the book.  Ezekiel is a book of symbolic actions and flamboyant visions and some of the visions merge from scenes of what was happening back then (595 B.C.) to what would be happening in the end times and afterwards on the new earth!    


Much of the book of Ezekiel warns and foretells of God’s judgments and punishments that will soon come upon the Jewish people because of their rebellion.  God is jealous that His beloved people have forgotten Him and have turned to worshipping idols and He angrily confronts them through Ezekiel’s visions and preaching.  But alas, they don’t listen! 


 So Ezekiel is un-popular with his fellow Jews because he faithfully tells them what God has told him to say and they don’t want to hear what he is saying! The Jewish tradition has it that because of his unpopular preaching, Ezekiel was put to death by the Jewish captives in Babylon and his brains scattered on the ground when he was murdered!  If this is true, Ezekiel is just one of many thousands who have paid with their lives because they were faithful to God’s call.    


Ezekiel didn’t only warn the Jews of God’s coming judgments but he also gave messages of God’s comfort and reassurance to the Jewish people left behind after the judgment came and these messages made up part of the book of Ezekiel as well.  And some of the chapters in the book of Ezekiel were written to other nations.  God also cared about the Gentile nations and how they lived out their lives. 


The book of Ezekiel ends by recording another breath taking vision from God - an apocalyptic vision of the end times when God restores Israel and comes to live in a new temple on the new earth with a river of living waters flowing out for all!  God is telling his people that the Day will finally come when all of their dreams will come true and then some!


There were other men and women in Ezekiel’s day who pretended that they too were prophets from God!  But these fake prophets spoke their own words and not God’s.  They were never judgmental about the people’s sin like Ezekiel was.  Instead they told the Jewish people what they wanted to hear, and didn’t worry about what God wanted the people to hear.


Unlike Ezekiel these false prophets wanted to be popular with the Jewish people so they avoided talking about negative things.  They gave the Jewish people a false sense of security by assuring everyone that all would soon be well again and that the Jewish people had good reasons to worship idols and forget the God of their fathers.  Some of the women in the group of false prophets sold magic charms that were supposed to bring good luck!  These lucky charms were popular in Israel and everyone wanted them.


The whole thirteenth chapter of Ezekiel is taken up with God’s strong words against these false prophets.  Here are some of God’s words spoken through his prophet Ezekiel.  “The word of the Lord came to me, ‘Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are prophesying out of their own imagination.  Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have not had any visions or messages from Me!  These prophets have not gone up to the breaks in the wall to repair it for the house of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the Lord.”  (Ezekiel 13:2,3 and 5)  These self made prophets are hurting Israel by telling her that she is in good shape when truthfully she needs repairs in her moral and spiritual walls so that they won’t fall down. 


Ezekiel speaks to the false prophets for God.  “I am against your magic charms (Ezekiel 13:20)  (God wanted his people to trust and thank Him for the good things that came into their lives instead of trusting  magic charms to bring good things!) Scripture says: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father.”  (James 1:7)


God continues speaking to the false prophets through Ezekiel.  “Because you have disheartened those that were honest and good  and have encouraged the wicked and profane not to turn from their evil ways (which would have saved their lives), and have promised peace when there will be no peace -  therefore you will no longer see your visions or practice divination.  I will save my people from you and then you will know that I am the Lord.”  (Ezekiel 13:22-23) 


There have been false prophets and teachers down through the ages.  We need to stay away from the false teachers who are out there today.  They are doing terrible damage to people by leading them astray.  But how do we know that a teacher is teaching false doctrine?


 Scripture says that the teachers who are listening to the Spirit of God will always acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (lived here on earth as a man) (1 John 2:22: 4:2-3) and also that He is the Son of God.  (1 John 4:2)  These Scriptures read:: “By this you shall know that God’s Spirit is behind the person – if a person or teacher confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, that person is of God…”  Also 1 John 4:15 says:  “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in that person and the person lives in God.”  


Colossians 2:3 says: “For in Him (Jesus) all of the fullness of the Godhead lives in bodily form.”  And Romans 10:9-10 says:  “If you openly confess the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”  We thought we would have to do hard work in order to make it to heaven and all we are asked to do is believe and confess!  All of this is a mystery and we accept it by faith. 


There are religious denominations today that don’t believe or confess that Jesus is the Son of God or the Savior.  Believing that Jesus is just a super star or a great teacher isn’t good enough according to Scripture!  What we believe and what we do with Jesus is everything since He is our salvation!  Jesus is the Son of God and the only Savior who came in the flesh and we cannot believe that without the help of the Holy Spirit.  (1 Corinthians 12:3 and 1 John 4:2)And if we do believe that, the Spirit is in us according to Scripture. 


The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is “a god,” and not the Son of God.  And the Mormons also do not believe that Jesus is Son of God or Savior.  Both of these church groups believe that they have to work their own way up to God.  Neither of them believe in the Trinity – God the Father, God the son and God the Holy Spirit.  The Mormons’ use the word “Trinity” but they give a different meaning to the word.  The Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is a Christian belief. 


In Ezekiel’s day the false prophets were just one of the problems that kept the people from returning to their God.  The people’s worshipping of idols and their rebellion against God eventually caused their downfall.  And it didn’t have to be that way. God loved them so much and had so much to give them.  He sent Ezekiel and other prophets to his people begging and calling to them and trying to woo them back. But they wouldn’t listen!  Today God also wants us for Himself and He is calling out to us as well.  Let’s not ignore His call and make the same mistake the people in Ezekiel’s day made!      






Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Glory of God Leaves the Temple


The Glory of God Leaves the Temple

Ezekiel 10


The sight is very sad.  The Spirit of God is departing from the temple in Jerusalem.  The cloud of God’s glory fills the inner court and then slowly moves out. (Ezekiel 10:3)  As Ezekiel watches “the glory of the Lord rises from above the cherubim and moves to the threshold of the temple. The cloud fills the temple, and the court is full of the radiance of the glory of the Lord.” (Ezekiel 10:4)  The year is 587 B.C. and the Spirit of God is leaving the sanctuary - the place where He has been among the people for hundreds of years.   


God’s shinning glory stops and stands over the threshold of the door as Ezekiel watches. (Ezekiel 10:4) And then after a long pause the cloud of glory rises from the threshold and with the whirling wheels moves further away over the cherubim.  (Ezekiel 10:18)  “And immediately the cherubim lifted up their wings.” (Verse 19)  “The cherubim and the glory of God above them stood at the door of the east gate of the Lord’s house, ready to depart and leave the house.” (Ezekiel 10:19) 


With many pauses and stops the Spirit of the Lord covered with light reluctantly departs from the people He loves.  He doesn’t want to go but He has been replaced by the idols – the foreign gods.  Is the Spirit of the Lord waiting to see if any one might care that He is leaving and repent and ask Him to return?  God removes by degrees away from a provoking people.  He would quickly return in mercy if they would care and turn from their idols and worship Him.


 But most of the people of Jerusalem have thrown away the God of their fathers and they don’t care.  They are busy worshipping idols and sacrificing their children to them!  They have even brought their idols into God’s holy temple and the priests and the people are all worshipping the idols in the very temple that had been dedicated to the Lord!  Violence and bloodshed are everywhere in the streets of Jerusalem and the poor have been forgotten.  Nearly all of the people in the city have given up truth and goodness for cruelty and evil!  God promises Ezekiel that judgment will follow soon!


  But there are a few people – a remnant - still left in Jerusalem who are upset by all of the blood shed and idol worshipping.  These few men and women want to return to the God of their fathers and they weep over their beloved city because it has changed and become such an evil place.


 God shows Ezekiel in a vision that He is sending a man - a mediator - to go through Jerusalem and put a mark on each person who wants to return to God.  (Ezekiel 9:4)  Then when judgment does come to Jerusalem, the few people left who are marked and who still love God will be spared.  A remnant will be left to start anew and carry on.  God’s judgment (most of the people will die)  will be healing since it will enable the remnant – the ones left behind who still love God and truth-  to recover their faith and to begin again to build their lives free from the idol worshipping and violence that has been all around them.


Does this Bible story from so long ago have any relevance for us today?  This story about God’s Spirit leaving the temple with judgment following?  What do you think?  Today God’s Holy Spirit still abides with his people, but in a different way!  This ancient story from the Old Testament happened nearly 600 years before Jesus came and died on the cross for our sins.


 And later when Jesus, our Mediator, came, He changed everything!  Jesus left his Spirit for each of his followers.  (Acts 1)  Like the men and women of old in Jerusalem who still loved God were “marked” by the mediator so they would be saved when judgment came down; today each of us who love God have also been “marked” by receiving the Spirit of Jesus, our Mediator, so that we will be saved in the final Judgment..  Scripture says: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit by whom you were “marked” (sealed) for the day of redemption.”  (Ephesians 4:30)


 Scripture says that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit!  And God’s Spirit lives in our bodies, if we open our lives to Him.  Scripture says: “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God:…” (1 Corinthians 6:19)  The Bible says that today God’s Spirit lives within each person who believes in Him whereas before Jesus died and rose – in Old Testament times – God’s Spirit lived in the temple – a building built with human hands.  Today we don’t have to go to the church or the temple, as worshippers did in Old Testament times, to worship God.  We can worship Him anywhere since our bodies are His temples and His Spirit is right here in us!


After God’s Spirit and glory left the temple in ancient Jerusalem the people could tell the difference.  Life wasn’t the same, something was missing!  When the people of Jerusalem started having problems they asked their prophets for a vision and they went to the temple priests who worshipped idols and asked them for understanding and for the law of God, but Scripture says that the prophets and priests had nothing to give the spiritually hungry people.  And the elders who always gave good advice also lost their gift of counsel!  (Ezekiel 9:26b)  It’s scary!  Without God’s Spirit life goes flat!  The spark of life is gone!  There is no there there!


King David knew the importance of having God’s Spirit with him!  Once when David had sinned grievously he repented and prayed to God and begged that God not take his Spirit away from him.  (Psalm 51:11)  As a boy David had watched as King Saul had turned away from God and as God’s Spirit had departed from him.  (1 Samuel 16:14)  And David had been there to see how troubled King Saul had become when he no longer had the guidance and help of the Spirit of God with him.  Even though David messed up many times in his life, he loved God and really wanted God’s Spirit to guide him and be with him. 


It would seem that the Holy Spirit does more for us than we realize!  Scripture tells us that the Spirit holds us together and keeps us on the right path.  (And all that time we thought we were doing that all by ourselves!)


 Chapter one of Romans says that when we “exchange the truth of God for a lie, and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom.1:25)  and when we insist on our own way and fight and kick at God long enough, God finally lets us have what we insist we want. If we rebel long enough God’s Spirit finally stops holding onto us and stops moving us along on the right paths and lets us walk where we want to go even if that is a bad place.  A long list of sins follows - sins that God’s Spirit was holding us back from. (Romans 1:26-32)  A list of wrong ways and bad places and sins follow in the first chapter of Romans.  Sins that the Spirit of God was holding us back from falling into.  Scripture says that the Spirit of God can give us over to a debased mind if we keep insisting and rebelling against Him. (verse 28)  It doesn’t sound pretty!


It’s our call to be guided by the Spirit or not. -Like when God’s Spirit left the temple in ancient Jerusalem when the people rebelled and stopped worshipping Him, today God’s Spirit can leave us humans when we rebel and stop worshipping Him.  Scripture says that the Holy Spirit will not always strive with humans.  (Genesis 6:3)  God would not force his Way onto the people in Jerusalem long ago and He will not force his Way onto us today against our will.


But we lose so much when reject and grieve the Spirit until He sadly leaves!  Scripture says that the Spirit helps us do what we need to do!  Sets us on the paths that we need to take!  Guides and teaches us to say what we need to say!  Gives us joy and peace and faith and truth and a gentle spirit! (Galatians 5:22)


 How many times have we prayed for and received help in doing a job that we didn’t have the strength to do by ourselves? And Scripture says that the Spirit gives us strength and upholds us. (Isaiah 41:10)  The gifts and blessings the Spirit brings us just keep on coming!  They are new every morning!  Having the Spirit in our lives is having the good life!           

















Saturday, October 11, 2014

Ezekiel's Vision of Fire and Glory


Ezekiel’s Vision of Fire and Glory

Ezekiel 1




In 592 B.C. God called Ezekiel to be a prophet and bring God’s messages to the Jewish people.  Ezekiel was thirty years old at that time and he and all of his people from Jerusalem were living in Babylon as slaves.  Five years earlier the Babylonian army had destroyed Jerusalem and taken Ezekiel and all of his people away.  Ezekiel’s service as a prophet of God coincides with Jerusalem’s darkest hours!  


Ezekiel’s call to become a prophet was accompanied by his vision of God.  He saw God in all of his awesome majesty above and beyond the world of men, all-seeing and all-knowing.  Against this dazzling brilliance, Ezekiel saw his people’s sin in all its blackness.  And he saw how judgment would follow.  For some years after this all he preached was God’s judgment in hopes that some of the Israelites would repent and turn back to their God. 


Ezekiel’s vision is full of symbols and is believed to not only contain messages for the Israelites living in 592 B.C. but the vision jumps ahead and speaks to conditions during the end times also.  Many ancient Biblical prophecies do this – they speak of a problem happening at the time the prophecy is given and also the same prophecy speaks to the same problem that will manifest itself during the end times.  We who live inside of a time frame have a difficult time understanding words from our God who operates outside of time constraints.  There are mystical, apocalyptic (end time) messages in these visions and prophecies.


We will not be able to completely understand the mysteries and truths God is showing Ezekiel in this vision.  I am sure Ezekiel didn’t understand it all.  He was overpowered by the vision and fell on his face.  (Ezekiel 1:18b) There are hidden treasures - life and truth - in this vision and in everything that God shows or tells his children.  Scripture says that our faith grows by hearing God’s Word (Romans 10:17) and I believe that our faith can grow stronger and better when we discover some of the treasures buried in this glorious vision.    


Ezekiel’s symbolic vision from God can be divided into three parts.  The first part is a vision of the storm and the creatures! Ezekiel describes his vision this way:  “Then I looked, and behold, a whirlwind was coming out of the north, a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself: and brightness was all around and radiating out of its midst like the color of amber out of the midst of the fire.  Also with it came the likeness of four living creatures.  …Each creature had four faces and each had four wings.  Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like calves feet.  And they sparkled like the color of burnished bronze.” (Ezekiel 1:4-7) 


“Each had the face of a man, and each had the face of a lion on the right side, and the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle.  And their wings stretched upward, two wings touched one another, and two covered their bodies.  …and they went wherever the Spirit wanted to go ---and their appearance was like burning coals of bright fire and out of the fire went lightning.  And they flashed like lightning when they ran back and forth.” (Ezekiel 1:7-14)


Bible scholars believe that this vision is symbolic and apocalyptic (also speaks of the end times).  It is believed that the intent of the vision is to reveal that the sovereign Lord God Himself is about to intervene in history to judge the Jewish people – and also He will judge the whole world.  The whirlwind and fire is believed to symbolize the coming of God Himself because God comes and speaks at other times in Scripture out of storms or fire or whirlwinds.  (2Kings 2:1, 11; Job 38:1 Zech 9:14)  The four living creature’s four different faces perhaps symbolize God’s rule over all of creation.  And the number four is a number symbolizing completeness as in the four corners of the earth which God rules over. 


The second part of the vision is about the wheels and the glory of God.  Ezekiel describes what he sees this way:  “Now I looked at the living creatures, and a wheel was on the earth beside each living creature with its four faces.  The wheels were like the color of beryl and all four wheels were the same.  They looked like they had a wheel within a wheel up in the air and when they moved they went toward any one of four directions, and as for their rims, they were so high and awesome and their rims were full of eyes, - eyes all around all four of them.”  (Ezekiel 1:15-18) 


Scholars believe that the wheels with the high rims that were full of eyes symbolize God’s all seeing nature.  The wheels and the eyes may represent the omnipresence of God.  The wheels may represent that God’s Spirit is capable of moving in any direction He wishes.  And even though sin causes deadly consequences, the eyes and wheels may represent that God sees and can move and work through this. The glory of God appears not only in the splendor of the upper world, but in the steadiness of his government in this lower world.  What God’s Spirit does, and how He moves are symbolized by the wheels. 


 There will be victory through Christ even if we do not see it until we reach heaven.  Things happen here on earth not by blind fortune, but by those “eyes of the Lord which run to and fro through the earth, and are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.” (Proverbs 15:3: 2 Chronicles 16:9)  It is comforting to believe that when troubles come that the wheels and eyes of the Spirit are there seeing and moving behind the scenes! 


And the third part of the vision is about the heavens and the throne of God. (Ezekiel 4:22-28)  Ezekiel describes it this way:  “The firmament above the heads of the living creatures was like the color of an awesome crystal.  And under the heavens their wings spread out straight, one toward another.  Each one had two which covered one side, and each one had two which covered the other side of the body.  When they went, I heard the noise of their wings, …, like the voice of the Almighty, a tumult like the noise of an army: and when they stood still, they let down their wings.”  (Ezekiel 1:22-25)


“And above the heavens over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone: on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a Man high above it.  Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it: and from His waist and downward I saw the appearance of fire with brightness all around.  Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it.  This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.”  (Ezekiel 1:26-28) 


What truths can we glean from this last part of Ezekiel’s vision?  Bible scholars start out by noticing that the heavens in Ezekiel’s vision were situated over the heads of the living creatures.  They suggest that what is done on earth is done under the heavens and under its inspection and influence. 


It is believed that when Ezekiel sees the vision of the Man on the throne that that Man is Jesus Christ on the throne above the heavens.  His throne is a throne of glory, and a throne of grace, and one of triumph, and of government and of judgment. Jesus Christ sits on the throne having royal authority.  Scripture says that “All authority and power has been given to Christ” (Matthew 28:18) 


Ezekiel’s vision ends after he sees the throne of God surrounded with a rainbow.  (Ezekiel 1:18)  John also had a vision of the throne of God surrounded by a rainbow. (Revelation 4:3)  Bible scholars believe that the rainbow around God’s majestic throne is a pledge of mercy and a confirmation of the promise that God made long ago to Noah and his family when they left the arc after the flood.  (Genesis 9:11-17)


 God had promised that the rainbow in the sky would be a symbol of His promise or covenant with mankind to never bring a worldwide flood on the earth again.  God was angry with his rebellious people in Jerusalem because they were worshipping idols and forgetting the poor.  But God in his anger would look down on the rainbow and remember His promise of mercy, like He had done with Noah’s descendants after the flood.  God would measure out his judgment upon Israel during Ezekiel’s time but as a God of mercy He would follow it up with his abundant mercy.


The vision of God in all his awesome majesty on a throne above and beyond the world of men, all- seeing and all-knowing in fire and glory – this vision never left Ezekiel.  And Ezekiel never stopped describing his vision of God in all of His sovereignty to his rebellious countrymen.  We today in our materialistic, man centered world need to picture Ezekiel’s vision of the sovereign God enthroned in the heavens with the rainbows surrounding His throne.


 Ezekiel’s vision reminds us of our own accountability before almighty God.  We are not living our lives just for ourselves but there is a God surrounding us who sees and moves in our lives and cares how we live and what choices we make.  We need to remember that He is a God of judgment – but He is also a God of love and mercy.             


Saturday, October 4, 2014

God's Prophets Warn Israel of Impending Doom

God’s Prophets Warn Israel of Impending Doom



Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are the ancestors - the Patriarchs - of the Jewish people.  The Jewish people can trace their lineage back through these three men of old– Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  And the Jewish people make up the nation of Israel. 


The reason the Jewish nation is called “Israel” is because their forefather Jacob wrestled with God and God changed Jacob’s name to “Israel.”  After Jacob had wrestled with God all night, God spoke to Jacob and said: “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but it will be “Israel” because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”  (Genesis 32:20)  Jacob or “Israel” was a man who, like his father and grandfather, loved God and struggled to have more of God in his life! 


Abraham first loved and trusted God and wanted to follow Him.  And that meant so much to God, our heavenly Father!  God was so pleased that He promised Abraham that He would make him the father of a great nation that would be specially blessed.  And that in the future Abraham’s children would have their own land.  God would be their protection and salvation if they wanted that.  Abraham’s son, Isaac, learned to love God like his father Abraham had and he tried to obey God’s commands.  And Isaac’s son, Jacob or Israel, also followed in his father and grandfather’s footsteps and wanted to live his life for God. .


Jacob or “Israel” had twelve sons who grew up and married and had more children, who grew and had more children.  These burgeoning families, being led and blessed by God, were growing into the nation of Israel, a nation who only worshipped God, when all the other nations were idol worshippers.  As time passed and each of Jacob’s twelve sons’ families grew into larger groups, these family groups became known as “tribes”.  And since the man Jacob or Israel had twelve sons; the nation of Israel has twelve tribes.


By 800 B.C. the nation of Israel – the twelve tribes - had split and were divided into two sections or kingdoms.– the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom.  The southern kingdom was called “Judah” because the tribes of Judah and Benjamin – two of Jacob’s sons– had settled in the southern section of the land of Israel.  And the northern kingdom was made up of the other ten tribes that had settled in the northern section of the land, and it was called “Israel”.


Over the centuries God kept his promise to Abraham and blessed and guided his children, the Israelites and gave them their own land.  God made a covenant with Israel.  He would lead and protect and save them and they would obey his laws.  God miraculously led the Jewish people out of slavery in Egypt and fed and protected them as they crossed the desert and settled them into their new land.  As the centuries rolled by the little nation of Israel had tried to follow their God and God had provided for them and given them leaders and kings like Moses and Joshua and David.  But now things are different!


The Israelites had rebelled against God at other stages in their growth as a nation. One generation would rebel and the next generation would return to God.  God would call and eventually Israel would try to listen.  But this time it was different.


 This time Israel would not listen when God called because Israel did not want to hear God’s call!  The northern kingdom of Israel has completely turned away from God.  They felt they had outgrown God and now they could run their country on their own.  They were worshipping and sacrificing to idols like all of their neighbors and they weren’t about to stop.  And they were cruel and callous in their dealings with one another.  The poor among them were overlooked and the rich were getting richer by taking unfair advantage of the poor.  There was no justice in their court system and the young and old made use of temple prostitutes.  God is angry and grieved.  He has spent hundreds of years grooming and raising Israel and now they don’t want any part of it.  


God sends several of His prophets to the northern kingdom of Israel to call them back to Himself and to warn them.  Amos and Hosea are both called by God as well as several other prophets to go and plead with Israel to repent and to warn them of their impending doom!  Amos is a shepherd and he takes care of a grove of fig trees and he lives in the southern kingdom of Judah near Jerusalem.  Amos hears and answers God’s call.


The year is approximately 760 B.C. and Amos obeys God and travels to the northern kingdom with Gods’ message of judgment for Israel.  He tells the ten tribes of Israel that if they continue to reject God that they will be destroyed.  That their cities will be no more!  They laugh!  Then Amos sings a funeral dirge for Israel in anticipation of her demise.  (Amos 5:1-2)  The people of Israel ignore Amos and make jokes about his warnings and about the funeral song!  Affluence and comfortable living insulate them from the real issues, and breed false security.  Their false religious leaders want Amos to leave and threaten him. 


Amos tells the northern kingdom of Israel that true religion demands righteous living.  That the way a person treats her neighbor and treats the poor reveals her relationship with God. Israel was still bringing sacrifices to God sometimes but Amos tells them that unless they are fair and kind to one another and help the poor that their sacrifices are worthless.


Then Amos has a vision from God of the plumb line.  (Amos 7:7-9)   The plumb line is symbolic.  Israel has been carefully built by God to be “true” to God’s standards of righteousness.  But now God tests her by that standard of right conduct and justice with His plumb line and she is found to be way out of line.  Israel has not passed the test.  They need to shape up.


God also sends his prophet Hosea to Israel expressing the terrible pain and hurt that He feels at being rejected by Israel.  God is not an impersonal God.  He has feelings!  And God has cared so deeply about Israel for a very long time.  He values the faith she had in Him and He protected and loved her over the many centuries that they were His people and He was their God.  But now that Israel has thrown Him away, God misses her so much and feels like a jilted lover.  God wants to tell Israel how deeply He feels about her so He does it through His prophet Hosea! 


 God instructs Hosea to marry Gomer, a woman God knows will prove unfaithful.  Hosea obeys and marries Gomer and the couple have three children.  All seems fine until the day that without warning Gomer suddenly turns on Hosea and finds fault with him. Her previous words to Hosea of her endearing love for him quickly turn to words of her black hatred for him!  She can’t stand even the sight of her husband.  He is repulsive to her.  She leaves Hosea and the children telling Hosea how much better her lovers are than he is.  Then she rushes off to seduce other men to sleep with her.


 A stunned Hosea follows after Gomer pleading with her to return to their marriage but she coldly refuses each of his pleas and brags to him about each new sexual escapade she is enjoying with each new lover she is picking up.  Hosea can’t function and can’t believe that Gomer is not at all the person he thought she was.  And then he is angry that she has  betrayed his trust.   


Gomer laughs and goes off again prostituting herself and bragging about it to Hosea and running after her lovers.  She sinks into lurid acts of sexual depravity and brags loudly about every minute.  Hosea’s neighbors are watching all of this in disbelief and the gossip spreads around! 


A heartbroken and disgusted Hosea tells his neighbors and all the people of Israel that they have done to God what his wife Gomer has done to him.  Hosea’s voice crying and pleading with his unfaithful wife to return becomes one with the voice of God crying and begging the unfaithful Israel to return!  God was speaking to Israel through the prophet Hosea and God’s solution was to let Hosea be His own sermon.


Hosea is beginning to heal when God comes back and calls after him and tells him to go after Gomer and bring her back after she has strayed.  (Hosea 3:1)  Poor Hosea!  Hosea is repelled by prostitution and wants to run away, but he obeys God’s command.  God tells him that he is to show by his own love for Gomer the kind of love God has for Israel.  Through Hosea’s broken marriage God is giving his people a last opportunity to repent before judgment breaks in on the land. (2 Kings 17:13-14)  Yet even though they refuse, God’s loving purpose is not thwarted.  (Hosea 1:10-2:1)


Gomer has become a sex slave of another man and Hosea walks in to that dark dirty place and buys her back and puts her on probation in the desert.  She does not come back to be his wife for a season.  Hosea’s actions becomes an object lesson to Israel.  God will buy Israel back, and for a while Israel too will be on probation and deprived of the things she counted on – her king and her religious emblems and her land. – but in time she will turn back to God and love Him.    


History records that the northern kingdom of Israel was attacked by the savage Assyrians in 722 B.C.  Their kingdom fell and the surprised citizens of Israel were taken away to Assyria and Samaria to be slaves and no longer enjoyed living in their own land.  Scripture says that “they shall be wanderers among the nations.” (Hosea 9:17b) 


The last chapter of Hosea and the last chapter of Amos both tell of the day when the ten tribes of Israel will be restored to their land and healed of their infidelities and will be worshipping their God.  God will make it happen! 


When God gives warnings of judgment, He is not playing with words.  Some of the sins He condemned in Israel so long ago can slip into our thoughts and lives today if we are not vigilant.  God searches for his lost sheep and He asks us to join in the search with Him.  His search sometimes takes Him into dark dirty places and He asks us to come along with Him.  He gives of Himself and is humble He asks us to give of ourselves and be humble.  He loves and forgives us of our sins no questions asked and He calls us to follow His example and love and forgive one another as well. He gives us His peace and He asks us to pass it on to others. To be a blessing.  


Amos’s vision of God’s plumb line that measured Israel so long ago is measuring us today as well.  Are we true to God’s standards of love?  Do we forgive and live in peace with others?  Do we reach out to the poor and the disenfranchised?  Do we pass on His blessings to others?  Do we try to follow God’s generous standards?  Do we pass the test?