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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?   

 

     

 

 

        

 

 

 

        

 

 

 

  

 

   

 

 

 

 


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