Peace and Hope in the Storm

Acts 27

May 15

In this chapter, Paul, awaiting a trial before Caesar, finds himself stuck on a ship in the middle of a storm with 275 others. To me, this sounds like a very frustrating situation to be in; being taken as prisoner despite being innocent, and then being completely ignored when you (an experienced traveler on the Mediterranean) warn against continuing on through the storm even in this current season, and consequently being trapped at sea in the midst of a perilous storm. 

But Paul did not lose faith, and he would not let his fellow passengers give up either. After being tossed about in the storm for days on end, Paul encourages everyone onboard:

“Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.” Acts 27:21-22

He proceeds to tell them of the angel who promised not only his own safety, but also that of everyone with him on the ship.

“‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has also granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.” Acts 27:24-25

Weeks passed, and though everyone stayed alive, their situation had yet to improve. But still, Paul insisted that they would all be okay, urging them to eat while giving thanks to God. Eventually there was a shipwreck, in which the soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to avoid their escape, however the kind centurion Julius would not allow them to carry out this plan, and they all made it safely to shore. 

In Acts chapter 27, we watch as an epic tale unfolds (once again), and points us to the unrelenting faithfulness of our God. This amazing miracle was a small-scale example of what God is going to do for the entire world. As terrible as it gets, and as hopeless as our situation may feel, God’s promises do not change; He will always follow through. So we can eat our bread and find peace, even in the middle of the most terrifying of storms, resting in the knowledge of God’s coming Kingdom and never losing faith that His promises prevail. He will not fail you, He will not let you down, and He will not break His promises. So take heart, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. 

-Isabella Osborn

Discussion Questions:

  1. How can you be an influence to help others find hope in their storms?
  2. In what ways has the knowledge of God’s promises and faithfulness affected your life?
  3. When do you find it most difficult to take heart? How can you help remind yourself, even in these trials, of the hope we have in Christ Jesus? 

Tell the Next Generation

Judges 2

February 27

As the book of Judges opens, we are very hopeful for the future of Israel. Joshua came after Moses and brought them into the Promised Land. The Israelites had become strong and were beginning to drive out the other nations from the land, a punishment from God on their deeds (see Genesis 15:6 and Deuteronomy 20:17-18). Unfortunately, as the generation after Joshua dies off, we find out that the Israelites are in serious trouble: they have not been listening to their God, and are doing things that were evil in His eyes, just like the people they were supposed to drive out.

One of the major reasons why they didn’t obey God is that this new generation did not know God or His ways (v. 10). How would an entire generation of Israelites not know the stories of the exodus from Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, or God’s faithfulness through the wilderness? This is probably baffling to us looking back on it; surely these stories from the past would have been enough to convince anyone to believe and obey God, right? But what if this story is the same as our own? What if we have forgotten God’s faithfulness and mercies over the years, or not talked about them with the next generation like we are commanded to do? (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

Things around us in the United States and in our churches have changed dramatically over the last few decades. There are many who have been raised without any knowledge of God or Jesus, and one of the major reasons why is the lack of people passing down their stories and beliefs to the next generation (not the only reason, but a big one). In fact, I had a friend who didn’t know that we celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Jesus until he was 21 years old! Former missionary fields, like Africa, are now sending their own missionaries back here because we have fallen so far away from the faith. Maybe the writer of Ecclesiastes had it right: “there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

-Talon Paul

Questions to Consider

  1. Think about your life and story; are there ways that God has moved and worked to bring you to the place where you are now? Don’t forget these stories, like the Israelites before us. I encourage you to take time this week and reflect on how God has been faithful to you.
  1. To those who have been in the faith for many years: have you been telling your stories and testimonies to those who are younger? What can you pass along to the next generation to help them trust in God more?
  1. To this current, young generation: Israel was punished for their disobedience, but we don’t have to be. We can make a decision right now to be different from them and choose to worship the one true God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. Will you make that decision today? Will you forsake the gods you have set up in your hearts and trust in the only One who can truly save?

Devotion

Matthew 1

January 1

de·vo·tion | \ di-ˈvō-shən (noun) – 1. a feeling of strong love or loyalty; 2. the use of time, money, energy, etc., for a particular purpose 3. prayer, worship, or other religious activities that are done in private.

So it begins.  A new year, a new beginning! (but in reality, pretty much the same as yesterday, just with a couple minutes more or less daylight than the surrounding days depending on which hemisphere you live in.) As anticipated, we are beginning a new set of readings for this year! Yay! Today it begins with Matthew 1, which goes through the family tree of Jesus through the line of his father, Joseph., and the DM from God about Jesus.  It is a showcase of how God has been devoted to his people, Israel, faithfully moving generation-to-generation, literally or metaphorically, to begin the path of Jesus Christ and the redemption of us who follow Him.  In so doing, God displays his devotion to us; His love, His use of time, and the pouring out of His holy blessing.  Because of this, we should do nothing less than be devoted to Him in the same manner (John 4:19). What does it mean to be devoted to God?  Today, we look at the three definitions for the word devotion to gain a clearer picture of how we can remain faithful, not only to reading God’s word this year, but drawing closer to Him through this daily activity.

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. – Matthew 1:24-25

1. A Strong Love or Loyalty – On our very best days, we seek God in every aspect of our day.  We plan alongside Him; we move with Him; and it is because we love Him and desire to do His will.  But then there are other days where we are faithful and devoted to Him, and our flighty human nature begins to tug.  Those days, usually Mondays, we are in a place of love, but not necessarily acting on a response.  We still must find the will to be faithful, true, and loyal, because God is still in these moments forgiving, restoring, healing, and moving us.  Devote yourself to reading the Word of God throughout this year. Hopefully, in this blog. Follow, share, and do His will in this manner and your relationship with Him will grow stronger. 

Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. – Matthew 1:17

2. The Use of Time for a Particular Purpose – It is obvious from reading the genealogy in Matthew 1 that God uses time precisely. This may be used as evidence that God had created a family tree from Adam to Second Adam, Jesus, before the creation of the world. He set them apart.  There is no doubt that setting aside time for a particular purpose has its perks.  Christians have been doing it for centuries, coming together at the same time and location to worship God.  In doing this, the weekly life of the family or individual is governed by their meeting as a body of believers, “Sorry, we can’t do that because we have church.”  In the same manner, your individual time of worship and devotion with God should govern each of your days, not simply be the remaining portions.  Set aside time that doesn’t have distractions, doctor’s appointments, or drudgery. This is time only for you and God.

Because Joseph, her husband, was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. – Matthew 1:19-20

3. Religious Activities Done in Private – Joseph wanted to “put away” Mary privately instead of humiliating her in public because he was faithful.  WHAT?!  He was faithful to the law and the customs of His people, which many of us often confuse with the Will of God.  It is also in private that Joseph receives a direct message – God’s will is moving in a much different direction and will change the foundation and fulfillment of the Law.  Being devoted to God is not solely in the public display, although the symbols of baptism and communion are important public, visible representations that acknowledge our walk with Christ.  Before giving us the model prayer in Matthew 6, Jesus discourages us from making our prayer, devotion, and fasting times something that we draw attention to because when we do, we draw attention to ourselves.  It is welcome, and highly encouraged, that you read these devotions alongside someone you know, but it’s not to showcase your devoutness, or to shout in the streets your sufferings for Christ, or to display your streaks.  There will be time to declare your faith and testimony in public, but it is guided by what is done behind the closed doors of those who are devoted.

-Aaron Winnner

QUESTIONS TO PONDER/DISCUSS

you may pick and choose your favorites

  • In this chapter we see several names for the baby born. What names do you find in verses 1, 16, 21, 23, 25 (some are repeated) and what is the significance and meaning of each? Footnotes may be helpful. What will help us remember the importance of these names?
  • Which definition of devotion do you feel you are doing the best with right now? Which one could use a little work? What would your family, friends, neighbors say you are devoted to? Better yet – what would God say you are devoted to?
  • The angel told Joseph in a dream, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife…” (Matthew 1:20). Think about what God may be wanting you to do today, this week, this month, this year. It might go against your natural tendencies or the customs of the land. It may be something that causes you fear and some anxiety. Pray for the direction and follow-through to step out in devotion to God and be an active part of His plans for redemption.
  • Many people find great benefit from the practice of journaling – often writing down thoughts, questions, feelings, quotes helps them stick a little better. You may enjoy daily writing out a verse from each chapter. You can either write out the verse pictured with each devotion, or when reading through the day’s chapter look for a special verse that you want to write down to take with you through the day.

The link to read today’s chapter, Matthew 1, on BibleGateway.com is now at the top, directly below the title and picture.

And here’s the reading plan for the year to print and mark your progress. Looking forward to Seeking Growing and Loving together with you in 2022! God has good things in store for those who seek Him!

In God’s Flow Zone

Lamentations 3-5

Accomplished athletes, musicians and artists alike are often asked what it means to be “in the zone”. In psychology circles, being “in the zone” is referred to a state of flow – when an individual is completely absorbed in doing a challenging, yet doable, task. They are somehow able to shut out all of the external noise and distraction to focus on the very present moment to do one thing. 

Performers and entertainers are not the only ones who are able to find their flow. Scientists and mathematicians; emergency responders; and everyday average Joes like you and me are able to concentrate so intently on a task that time just seems to slip away and we find ourselves doing something extraordinary.

As I meditated on Lamentations chapters three through five, I couldn’t help but be bombarded with how devastated the author was over losing their home, being held in captivity, and witnessing depravity all around him.

And yet, right in the middle of all those laments, there are these verses that stand out, that give hope and encouragement.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore

I will wait for him.”

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him;

it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

Lamentations 3:21-26

How is it that the author, in the midst of all the calamity, is able to break out these words of great expectation?

Maybe, the author was just for a moment, able to quiet his thoughts and instead of focusing on the turmoil he and the other captives were facing, meditated on God’s character. As he penned these words, he found himself in a state of flow of sorts.

Whenever we find ourselves in difficult situations, it is so easy to concentrate on all that is wrong; all that pains us; all that is overwhelming. 

But what if, instead, we were able to quiet our minds, to completely block out all of the negativity, and just simply rest in the quietness of God’s character: his love, his compassion, his grace and mercy, his forgiveness, his holiness, his faithfulness. 

This is the space where we are able to renew our hope, to find the strength to dig deep and do the hard things, to press on through the challenge having complete confidence that God is ultimately on our side; that He is bigger, greater, higher than anyone or anything that we may be facing. 

If you are in the middle of a difficult circumstance, you may be tempted to lament all day long to anyone who is willing to listen. Instead, I urge you to refocus your thoughts and “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things”. (Colossians 3:2) Find yourself in God’s flow zone. Here you will experience the peace that passes all understanding.

-Bethany Ligon

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Lamentations 3-5 and 1 Peter 1

A Captive in Sin

2 Chronicles 5-6

As much as I could go on and on repeating exactly what Paul says in Romans 2, I have much more to add and apply from the Chronicles passage, so focus your reading on those chapters. Mostly, I’ll be looking at chapter 6. Solomon has just built the amazing perfect temple that David definitely did not build (even if he prepared all the materials, drew the blueprints, and basically left only the annoying part of building a building to Solomon). And in chapter 6, Solomon is dedicating this temple to God. Take a look at verse 14, the opening of Solomon’s prayer where he addresses God. Notice, there’s almost a lesson in that God’s faithfulness is kept with those who “walk before [Him] with all their heart.” Of course, Deuteronomy 6:5 says more and Jesus even more of how much of you should be dedicated to God on a daily basis (hint: it’s literally all of who and what you are, Mark 12:28-31). But I mostly want to look at verses 36-39.

36 “When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to a land far away or near; 37 and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong and acted wickedly’; 38 and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity where they were taken, and pray toward the land you gave their ancestors, toward the city you have chosen and toward the temple I have built for your Name; 39 then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their pleas, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you.” – 2 Chronicles 6:36-39 – NIV

Reread those verses and think for a second… You may be saying “How does this apply? Isn’t this just an ironic prophecy about Israel’s inevitable collapse and occupation by Babylon?” And, yes, it probably is. But the beauty of the Bible is taking historical accounts and creating life lessons from them, so hear me out. When you’re buried in sin, and truly lost, it almost feels like you’re a captive in enemy land. And, in some spiritual sense, you are. Sin is the land of the world and of Satan, not of God. And you feel far and cut off from everyone, but look at 37. Then 38. Because if you pray to God, he will hear you, and if you truly wish to repent – to turn in your ways – and return to God in all of your heart (and soul, and mind, and strength) then God will forgive you.

“…Now, my God, please, let Your eyes be open and Your ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place…” – 2 Chronicles 6:40

-Liam Johnson

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Chronicles 5-6 and Romans 2

The Mind of Christ – in You

1st Corinthians 1-4


Have you ever been sucked into watching an infomercial? Have you ever purchased something from an infomercial? I have a few times. I believe that my purchases have involved some sort of exercise workout or nutritional program. All guaranteed me phenomenal results. The truth is I have not experienced all the effects that these infomercials promised me. Does that shock you?


Whatever it is, we humans like guarantees. We crave guarantees because we know that we’re likely to mess it up and we want something that can still be true even with a faulty operator. 


Thank GOD that His faithfulness to me is not dependent on my ability to do right. Even on my best days I still fall short. 


One of God’s promises to us is that we have the mind of Christ.  


Not: We will have the mind of Christ – something that is promised for the future.


Not: We can have the mind of Christ – something that is contingent upon something else.


Not: We might have the mind of Christ – something that is uncertain or not yet determined to be true.


We have the mind of Christ…NOW! It’s guaranteed! Isn’t that amazing?!?!


What are the implications of this truth for you – YOU HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST. It’s a done deal. How will this reality change the thoughts that you think, the words that you speak, the actions that you take? 


Take a bit of time today and prayerfully consider the kind of response God might be asking of you.

-Bethany Ligon

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at Bible GateWay here – 1 Corinthians 1-4

Tomorrow we continue with 1 Corinthians 5-8

Haman’s Pride and Prejudice

Esther 1-5

When we read a good book, there are several things that we look for. A hero, a villain, a little romance, and some intrigue. We always enjoy a book with some plot twists to keep us guessing. The book of Esther has all that and more. Many scholars have mentioned that God is not mentioned in Esther, but the story is all about His faithfulness to His children.

Once upon a time in a land far away, King Ahasuerus, King of the Medes and Persians was throwing a banquet to show off his wealth and power. He wanted to show off his beautiful Queen Vashti, but she refused his summons. His advisors demanded he divorce her because the other wives in the kingdom would not honor their husbands. They decided to host a beauty pageant of all the young ladies in the land to choose the next Queen.

In the city of Sushan, lived a Jew named Mordecai, his father was one of the captives under Nebuchadnezzar. Mordecai was raising his first cousin, Esther, because she was orphaned. Esther was picked to be one of the candidates for Queen. Esther had not told anyone she was a Jew due to Mordecai’s advice. Some of the people looked down upon the Jews. Esther went before the King and found favor in the sight of all. 2:17a “The King loved Esther more than all the other women.” He made her his Queen.

Mordecai sat at the gate and heard Bigham and Teresh, the doorkeepers, plotting to kill King Ahasuerus.  Mordecai told Queen Esther, and she told King Ahasuerus in Mordecai’s name. It was checked out, found to be true, and both were hung on gallows and it was written down in the book of the chronicles, in the presence of the King. 

There was an evil prince named Haman whom King Ahasuerus promoted over the other princes. Everyone had to bow and pay homage to Haman. Mordecai would not bow to him, and it filled Haman with rage. He convinced the King that all the Jews were opposed to the King and that they should be destroyed. The King told him in 3:11 “to do with them as seems good to you.” Haman sent out a decree to kill, destroy, and annihilate all the Jews, both young and old on one day.  When the Jews heard of this, there was great mourning, with fasting, weeping, and wailing. Many wore sack cloth and ashes. Mordecai sent Esther a message and showed her the decree, and he suggested that she go to the King and plead before him for her people. She said she had not been called to visit the King in 30 days, and she would be killed if she went before him and he did not extend his gold scepter to her.” Esther promises to approach the King and asks all the Jewish people to fast and pray for the three days prior to the meeting. So, Mordecai did all that was asked of him.

On the 3rd day she went before the King in her royal robes and found favor. He held out his golden scepter. The King asked her request and in 5:3b “It shall be given to you, up to half of the kingdom.” She asked the King and Haman to come to a banquet that she would prepare. They went to the banquet, the King once again asked for her petition and said that it would be granted her. She asked for him to come back the next night along with Haman to another banquet. Haman went out joyful but when he saw Mordecai in the Kings gate, he was filled with hate in his heart. He told his wife that Queen Esther had invited him to a banquet with the King, and he was invited back for the next day. But he couldn’t enjoy it as long as Mordecai the Jew sat in the Kings gate. His wife suggested he build huge gallows and then suggest that Mordecai be hanged from it in the morning. This pleased him and gallows was built. You will need to come back tomorrow for the…. rest of the story.

When we read this story it’s easy for us to think we would do the same thing that Esther did because we know how it will end, but it took a lot of courage for her to even go before the King with her request because she knew that he could command to have her killed if he so chose. These are a couple of my favorite verses in this passage 4:13-14 “And Mordecai told them to answer Esther; ‘Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.’” And Esther sends this reply to Mordecai 4:16b “And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” Mordecai totally trusted God to save the Jewish people, somehow, someway. He reminds Esther that maybe God put her in the position she is in for just this reason.

We need to trust in God to know that if we can do the right thing and glorify God in the process that God has us right where He wants us, and He will use us if we allow Him to. Esther didn’t go into this blindly, and she did things in the correct order. She asks everyone to fast and pray to God for her to find favor with the King, after they did that, she courageously put her life on the line, she was willing to lay down her life for a just cause. We need to be looking for our “such a time as this”, when we allow God to use us to fulfill His purpose.

-Sherry Alcumbrack

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Esther 1-5

Tomorrow we will read the rest of Esther’s story as we continue on our

Isaiah 37-39 & Psalm 76

I will defend this city and rescue it because of Me and because of My servant David._

In Isaiah 36-37, we read more about the good king Hezekiah. Like we learned last week, Hezekiah worked hard to take down the idols in the land and point the people back to God. In Isaiah 36, Judah came under attack from the neighboring nation of Assyria. Hezekiah then undergoes a battle for the minds of the people as he argues against King Sennacherib and the people of the court. In these two chapters, the Rabshakeh, a high-ranking military officer, tries to convince the people to forsake their kingdom and God. In his three speeches, we may see some similarities between what he says and the way that we are tempted today. At the heart of all of his speeches is a desire to turn Judah away from trusting solely in God. 

In the Rabshakeh’s first speech, he points out one of Israel’s insecurities. He says in Is. 36:4-6, ‘What are you relying on? Your strategy and military preparedness are mere words. Look, you are trusting in Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff that will enter and pierce the hand of anyone who leans on it.’ Israel and Judah had both sought protection and manpower from Egypt as we read about in Is. 31. Now the Rabshakeh was pointing out that weakness and mocking them for it! We’ve all experienced a time when we have had our insecurities pointed out. I’m a terrible volleyball player. When I would have to play volleyball in gym class, I remember one of the cute guys at my school saying to me ‘You just have to hit the ball like this. It’s not hard!’ You can imagine that in that moment – when a shortcoming of mine was pointed out – all I wanted to do was for someone to take that problem away from me quickly! In my gym class that meant sitting out the next game, but the Judeans didn’t have that option. The Assyrians gave them the option instead to give him 2,000 horses if they could supply riders for them (v. 8). Again, this pointed out the lack of manpower and ability for the Israelites to protect themselves. 

At this point, we would probably say, ‘Well, that’s fine! Israel doesn’t need to protect themselves – they should trust in God!’ The Rabshakeh thought of that too. In verse 7, he says, ““Suppose you say to me, ‘We trust in the LORD our God.’ Isn’t he the One whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You are to worship at this altar’?” The Rabshakeh twisted the actions of Hezekiah to make it seem like he had done something against God rather than something that God wanted. He even goes so far as to say in v. 10, “Have I attacked this land to destroy it without the LORD’s approval? The LORD said to me, ‘Attack this land and destroy it!’ In his second speech, the Rabshakeh describes how he had destroyed the gods of the surrounding nations, which would just show that God himself wouldn’t deliver the people either (v. 18-20). 

This is some powerful psychological warfare! We know the Judeans had trust issues to begin with. Now, someone is coming and laying out all of their insecurities for the world to see (right before they try to march in and destroy their kingdom)! The heart of all of the Rabshakeh’s temptation can be summed up with what he said in Is. 37:10, “Don’t let your God, whom you trust, deceive you by promising that Jerusalem won’t be handed over to the king of Assyria.” He basically says ‘Did God really say that he would save you?’ which may sound eerily reminiscent of another ancient tempter (Gen. 3:1). At this point, if someone had tried to break our trust in God in this way, we may have caved and believed them. However, Hezekiah does what we all should do when we have people who try to break our trust in God. He prays and then reminds himself of God’s unchanging character. 

God hears his prayer and we read about the victory that God brings in Isaiah 37:36-38 when an angel of the LORD strikes down the Assyrian army and the king is killed in the temple of his god, Nisroch.

When we face temptations and challenges that try to break our trust in God, we need to be reminded that he is who he says he is and will do what he says he will do. We can trust in what the Bible says. We can trust in the promises of God. 

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Isaiah 37-39 & Psalm 76.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 40-43– as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Hosea 8-14

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you_ sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Reading through the prophets can be difficult. Just like the story of Gomer that we read yesterday, we may find ourselves wanting to reach through the pages across the span of time and just whip these people and nations back into shape. Because of our hindsight, we think (arrogantly) that we would have made better choices if we walked in the shoes of our ancestors. The Israelites downfall is that they always seemed to fall prey to idolatry, though that idolatry existed in many forms. Unfortunately, like we saw yesterday, we are quick to worship those same idols in different forms.

If we look back to the birth of the Israelites as a distinct set apart nation, we return to the infamous scene with the golden calf in Exodus 32. The Israelites had the choice to follow the word of God or follow the gods of the surrounding nations. While Moses was receiving the law, they chose to worship the golden calf. Hundreds of years later, the calf returned in 1 Kings 12:28-30. King Jeroboam of Israel created two golden calves and set up places to worship them, going directly against the laws of Moses that all of Israel has received. The Israelites had continued to worship the calf through Hosea’s time as we see in Hosea 8:5-6: “Your calf-idol is rejected, Samaria. My anger burns against them. How long will they be incapable of innocence? For this thing is from Israel – a craftsman made it, and it is not God. The calf of Samaria will be smashed to bits.” For hundreds of years the Israelites worshipped the calf, and because of it, they started to resemble the thing that they worshipped. In fact, we see the qualities of the cow come out in the Israelites in Hosea 4:16 where it says, “For Israel is as obstinate as a stubborn cow. Can the LORD shepherd them like a lamb in an open meadow?” They had held the cow as an idol for so long in their life that they started to imitate that. This imitation led them directly away from becoming the people that God wanted them to be. 

Israel thought that they knew God and were seeking after him (Hos. 7:16, 8:2-3), but they were really seeking after their own hand-made idols. A life that seeks after God cannot be categorized as lustful, greedy, selfish, or prideful. If our life looks like that, we have begun to imitate those idols that we may follow. A life that follows after God will be full of love, joy, peace, and the rest of the fruits of the Spirit. If we follow after God and not idols, we will seek his righteousness all of our days. 

So, ask yourself: Who or what are you worshipping? Who or what are you imitating? 

“Sow righteousness for yourselves and reap faithful love; break up your unplowed ground. It is time to seek the LORD until he comes and sends righteousness on you like the rain.” ~ Hosea 10:12

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Hosea 8-14.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 28-30– as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

 

Hosea 1-7

For I desire loyalty and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

When we think about the faithfulness of God, we tend to speak in terms that I would call fluff in the papers I grade in my English classes. We always say that we have a faithful God, but what does that really mean? When we describe the faithfulness of God and his faithful love, we can easily let these tired terms cause the meaning to get lost. Today’s reading snaps the striking, relentless love of God into sharp focus. In the book of Hosea, the prophet Hosea is commanded to marry a prostitute, named Gomer. She continues to be unfaithful to him, but Hosea is told to return to her each time. The relationship that Hosea has with Gomer is one that mirrors the prodigal love that God shows to the northern Kingdom of Israel. Israel pursues other gods and kingdoms, but despite this, God still calls them back to him. He still loves them. 

When I read these stories, I always question the characters’ motives. Couldn’t Gomer see how much Hosea loved her by the fact that he was always there for her? Why would she pursue other people? Hosea 2 gives insight to her reasoning. In Hosea 2:5, it says that Gomer would pursue other men because she thought they would give her “my food and water, my wool and flax, my oil and drink.” She pursued these men, because she thought they would give her what she needed to survive. Notably, these things are the basics of what she might need to live comfortably. Out of a lack of trust, she did not realize that she was actually missing out on the best things, because she was turning to these men to fulfill her desire for provision and possessions. In verse 8, it says, “She does not recognize that it is I who gave her the grain, the new wine, and the oil. I lavished silver and gold on her, which they used for Baal.” Gomer never realized that the person who would take the best care of her and give her the best things was the person that she continued to leave for other men, Hosea. 

Too often, we follow in the footsteps of Gomer and Israel. We pursue other gods that seem like they could give us satisfaction and comfort, like our families, boy/girlfriends, work, money, education, or our beliefs and ideologies. We don’t recognize that the best things in our life actually come from the one who we continue to leave behind, God. James 1:17 says, “Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” God will continue to give us the best things in life, but we need to turn back to him. Don’t turn to other idols. God is infinitely better than anything the world could offer. 

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Hosea 1-7.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Hosea 8-14 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

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