Friday, November 29, 2013

EMMDEV Snippets from Psalms

"Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!" (Psalm 32:11)

Psalm 32, like Psalm 51, is a Psalm of confession. It starts with the lines, "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered." Rather than being a personal prayer though, this psalm is written more as an instruction manual for those in need of confession. It talks about the blessings of being forgiven and contrasts it with the guilt and burden of living under sin.

Our verse for today comes from the end of the psalm as the final statement in this area of confession. It talks of a rejoicing for those who are righteous and singing for those who are upright in heart.

It's an interesting end to a psalm that is all about confessing one's sin, to suddenly start speaking about those who are righteous or upright as it has just taught how all of us need to be confessing. However, in God's economy, an upright person or a righteous person is not someone who always gets it right (there isn't anyone like that). It also isn't referring to a person without sin (none of us are without sin).

It's referring to the forgiveness and grace offered to us. Us who are broken. Us who are dirty. Us who are sinful. Living post the New Testament – this concept has even greater meaning for us. We can understand that we are made righteous in Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:21 reads:

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

The righteousness of God. Our sinfulness and failures were placed on Christ as he hung on the cross. Now we stand before God draped in Christ's perfection.
What a glorious exchange.

And it is in this knowledge and truth that we rejoice because we are righteous, that we sing because before God, we are upright in heart.

This is the final devotion for the year. It has been a joy to write for you and begin to learn this skill that Theo has honed over the years. I pray that as you prepare to welcome the Christ child once again, that you sing and rejoice, knowing that the child to be born Is the one who came to redeem, to save, to reconcile and show us the unfathomable depth of his love for us.

Blessings and love to you all.


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Thursday, November 28, 2013

EMMDEV Snippets from Psalms

"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin." (Psalm 51:1-2)

Two days ago – when we looked at Psalm 91, I mentioned Psalm 51 as the well-known penitent psalm. Some believe this psalm to be the most quoted in liturgies, especially in calls to repentance or in times of confession. The psalm is attributed to King David after he sinned by committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband to cover up his deed. David is confronted by the prophet Nathan who brings a strong message from God about the sin he has fallen into – and it is at this moment that David turns to God, admits his fault and confesses his sin – begging God to not cast him away or take his Spirit away from him.

The scope of the psalm however is broader than the confession of one sin. David recognises that sinfulness is a condition rather than an act. "I am sinful" as opposed to "I do sinful things." What is so powerful here though is this change in tone from other psalms we have seen. The common thread in many of the psalms is the idea of difficulty – and an appeal to God to change the situation so we may praise Him. Here the cry is; "Change me – I am the problem!!"

It's sometimes easier to see the good in ourselves rather than the ugly. We don't really want to analyse too deeply the motivations for our actions, and the reasons for our thoughts. How good or bad we feel about ourselves is often as a result of a comparison – "well I'm better than those people" or "I wish I could be as good as him…"

But the truth is we are all in the same boat. Standing before the cross none of us are innocent, none of us are worthy, none of us have the right.
But all of us are welcome. All of us are loved. All of us are offered free grace.

The focus of the psalmist, while lamenting his sins, is on a God who is rich in mercy. Our two verses today speak of the Lord's unfailing love and great compassion. And so we come to God with our sinfulness, our brokenness and our failures and are not met with a man wielding a big stick. We are not met with a cold shoulder and silent treatment. We don't even get the look and the unbelieving "I can't believe you did that AGAIN."

Rather we are met with the open arms of a Father welcoming his wayward child home. We are met with love and forgiveness and an opportunity to be welcomed into fellowship with Him once again.

So stand before the cross
Pray the prayer
Receive the forgiveness
And rejoice in the love and grace that was won for us with blood and nails, with death and resurrection.


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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

EMMDEV Snippets from Psalms

"We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done... which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children." (Psalm 78:4-6)

Psalm 78 is actually quite long (72 verses long!) and is known as one of the historical psalms. From verse 8 onwards the psalmist starts recounting the deeds that the Lord has done for his people Israel and their response to him. This psalm specifically deals with the portion of Israel's history as they wander through the desert after crossing the red sea and then driving out the nations as they take possession of the promised land. It consistently talks of the faithfulness and generous provision and care of God, in stark contrast to the fickleness and faithlessness of his people.

Right at the beginning of the psalm – where our verses today come from – the psalmist gives the reasons for recounting this history. This is told so that the children and the children's children and all that follow will know the greatness and mercy of their God. This is a principle taught in the Old Testament and in the law. In Deuteronomy 11, after we read about loving and obeying the law, verses 18-29 read:
"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds… Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."

It is vital that our young people know about what God has done and is doing in the lives of his people. These youngsters who sit in our church and ask embarrassing questions in their 'not so quiet' voices, who crumple chip packets and drop crumbs on the carpet, who start crying or laughing in the most inappropriate times. These teenagers who are struggling to find their identity, who spend hours typing on their blackberries, who ask difficult questions about faith and life – these are going to be the elders in our church. These youngsters are a promise from God that he will continue to work with the next generation. Some may become ministers or missionaries. Some doctors and teachers. Some will become godly parents, and leaders in their community.

And they need to know now, who God is and what he has done.

It is this grounding that they will return to in difficult times.
It is this grounding that will enable them to make wise choices in their future.
It is this grounding that will allow them to walk through the storms that life will hold for them, hand in hand with Jesus.

I love the long term view of the psalmist – he sees beyond our children now to the children's children and to those who are not yet born. We don't get to meet the fourth and fifth generations that follow after us – but we do get to feed into that which will be fed into them. What a privilege.

I pray that you will consider what you teach all the young people in your life: your own children, nephews and nieces, god-children, and all the young people in the church. Speak to them about God, the stories of old and the ways in which he has touched your life. They are our greatest hope for the future.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

EMMDEV Snippets from Psalms

"Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him." (Psalm 91:14-15)

Psalm 91 is one of the more well known psalms, along with Psalm 23 (The Lord is my Shepherd) and Psalm 51 (The penitence Psalm). It is one which speaks of unwavering confidence in God's protection over those who "dwell in the shelter of the most high" – those who follow Him. It is also the psalm which Satan quoted during the temptation of Christ, telling Jesus to throw himself off the temple because (quoting from Psalm 91:11-12) "He will command his angels over you … you will not strike your foot against a stone."
These verses we are looking at today come near the end of the Psalm. They are the psalmist's final argument declaring that the Lord has said that he will do this.

One unfortunate misinterpretation of this psalm is that we as Christians will never face difficult times in our lives. That, because of our faith, God will guard all that we do so that life will be a constant ease and that difficulty, sickness, trauma, grief and pain will never cross our doorstep. Yet in real life we know this to not be true. We all face trouble and grief, heartache and pain and none of us are immune to it. In fact Jesus talks about this in the Sermon on the Mount saying that God causes the sun to rise and sends rain equally on the evil and the good. (Matt 5:45)

The hope I believe is in the line "I will be with him in trouble." No matter what we face God is in it with us. We are never alone. We see this with the angels in the Lion's den with Daniel and in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Jesus in the stormy waters with his disciples. Time and again Jesus tells us "I will be with you".

Thus the rescuing, the protecting, the answering, the delivering and the honouring mentioned here happen right in the midst of our pain, our fear, our loneliness and our loss. When all feels shaky and uncertain around us, the constant hope and truth we can cling to is that we are not alone. We are with the One who has been to the cross – and who can therefore understand our fears and our pain.

Isaiah writes this beautifully in chapter 43;
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name and you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour."

I pray that in all circumstances you will know the presence of a loving God
- Who meets you in your distress. 
- Who holds your hand through the dark times. 
- Who walks with you on lonely pathways. 
And who will never ever leave you.

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Friday, November 22, 2013

EMMDEV Snippets from Psalms

"Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care." (Psalm 95:6-7)

I love these lines from Psalm 95, they even read like poetry in the English! Psalm 95 is a call to worship the God who is the great God, creator of the universe and maker of his people. It's really broken into two parts though, the first is a call to worship the Lord of all the earth – the second (which is where our verses start) is a call to be submissive and obedient to him.

Bowing down and kneeling are signs of submission and obedience. It was done in ancient times where when you came into the presence of royalty. You always had to ensure that they were higher than you – and thus kneeling, bowing down to show reverence for the higher position were common practices. Bowing or kneeling also puts you in a weaker position. In some ways it renders you powerless before the powerful ruler.

Thankfully, between people, this practice is seldom seen today – and rightly so. However I wonder if in losing that practice we have lost something in our relationship with God. How often do we literally go on our knees before him in our quiet times? When last did you literally bow down in reverence? While I don't believe in legalism in these areas, perhaps the simple action of physically kneeling before our King, would remind us powerfully of the true position we hold in relation to him.

Aside from the action though – bowing and kneeling are truly attitudes of the heart. We are incredibly privileged to worship a God whom we can call Father; Jesus who we can call friend and brother and the Spirit who we can call counsellor. Yet we dare not ever forget that he is King of kings and Lord of lords. That he made all that we see with simply a word. That the true power of life and death lie in his hands.

Knowing God as the shepherd continues this same idea though some may not think so. It is a royal image that was used in the time to describe the relation of a king to his kingdom and understand his role of leader, provider and protector.

I pray that as you go into your day, that you assume the position of kneeling within your heart before a God who created you, loves you, redeems you and cares for you. May you know him as your Shepherd King.


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Thursday, November 21, 2013

EMMDEV Snippets from Psalms

"O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins." (Psalm 130:7-8)

In some ways this Psalm picks up on similar themes to the one we dealt with yesterday. Yesterday the psalmist cried out to God to be saved from the brevity and frailty of life. This psalm deals with the psalmist crying out for help in his distress because of sin and the nature of the human heart. It is again a psalm of ascent like Psalm 127 that we spoke about a few days back. This is a psalm used by pilgrims as they travelled to Jerusalem – and this psalm especially would have dealt with the hope one had that ultimately one day the Lord would deliver his people from all their sins.

Our two verses again come right at the end of the psalm. They finish off a psalm that starts with "Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord" and express the hope and trust that even in the depths of one's sin, God is able to redeem because of his unfailing love.

Sin (or iniquity as some translations put it) is an unpopular concept today. We so often are more comfortable talking of our 'mistakes' or 'short-comings' or even 'brokenness' but sin or iniquity sounds a little harsh to our twenty-first century ears. While we tend to blame people's shortcomings on a lack of education, or their upbringing, or perhaps even some psychological problem in extreme cases – many times society actually has no answer for why some people behave in the way they do. As we look at the cruelty and the horrific nature of the crimes we see committed in our country we can only acknowledge that there is something profoundly evil at work.

Before we point fingers too readily at others though, it is important to recognise that there is a crooked way in each of us. While it may not be the overt criminal activity that catches us out, the sneer and disdain with which we listen to the tall story of a beggar, the judgemental attitude towards those who commit a certain kind of sin, and the lack of love we have for our fellow man are all forms of evil. My previous minister defined sin as the "deliberate claim to the right to our own lives, and the equal refusal to worship God as God." And none of us will be found innocent.

The apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans cried out in the same way the psalmist does saying, "We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin… When I want to do good, evil is right there with me …"
Our verse today is the psalmist final cry of hope and triumph – God will never go contrary to his unfailing love – God will redeem. Paul finishes in the same way, "Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord!"

Just as yesterday the Psalmist look forward to a time of living under God's favour, today he looks forward to a time of living under God's grace. And that's where we are. We live in a time where God has paid the price of our sin, and offered us his free gift of grace. A time where he does not leave us to struggle in it alone – but provides his Spirit to work in us to change us and guide us.

If there is something you need to bring into God's forgiving light this morning – do not delay. We do not need to struggle in our sin and guilt alone – his redemption is complete and his forgiveness free.



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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

EMMDEV Snippets from Psalms

"May the favour of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands." (Psalm 90:17)

Psalm 90, a psalm attributed to Moses, focuses on the frailty and brevity of human life here on earth in contrast with God's eternity. It is both a prayer – a plea to God to have compassion on his people who are simply dust, and a teaching to a community about the wisdom in recognising the number of our days.
Verse 17 is the final line in the psalm. The writer has made his case for the shortness and struggles that this life brings and then in the last three verses changes to asking that God will fill their short days with his unfailing love. He also asks that God grant them a spirit of gratitude and then it comes to this request that God's favour will rest with his people and establish the works of their hands.

The word for 'favour' can also be translated as 'beauty'. We encounter this same word in Psalm 27:4, a well-known verse reading: "One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek … to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple." And while favour is a better fit in this context, it simply brings a picture of the beauty or the magnificence of God's favour that rests on us.

When someone does something incredibly generous or kind towards another, it can be said that they have done a beautiful thing. So too, God's favour or his kindness or his generosity towards us is truly beautiful.

In simpler translations, the line: "establish the work of our hands" is written as, "make our efforts successful". Here the psalmist after belabouring the point that life is frail and full of pain and heartache – asks God to make it into something more. Make it worthwhile. He asks for a change not in the length of our days, but rather in the nature of our days – that days that are lived under God's wrath are exchanged for days lived under his favour. That our time on earth will be a time of satisfaction and joy instead of toil and trouble. To 'establish' then is also asking that we can be involved in something that lasts, something eternal rather than something temporary.

The incredible news is that we are living in the answered prayer of this psalmist. Through the coming of Christ we now live under God's favour. The grace afforded us by the cross allows us to live a different kind of life. A life lived in communion with God and in the experience of his everlasting love for us. A life lived in the freedom of forgiveness and without fear of God's wrath. A life where the work the Lord calls us to (and all forms of work can be a calling) can be lived to his glory and for the building of his kingdom - a kingdom which lasts forever.

Life is no longer futile and final. The greatest enemy – that of death – has been swallowed up in victory. We live under God's favour and in relationship with him and he establishes the work of our hands. How incredibly blessed we are!!


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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

EMMDEV Snippets from Psalms

"For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him" (Psalm 103:11-13)

Psalm 103 is again one of those favourite Psalms, so often used in worship, and in private meditation. It is a Psalm focusing on the grace of God shown towards those who sin. It extols the greatness of his love and compassion towards his people and towards David. It begins and ends with the line, "Bless the Lord, O my soul!"

The three verses we are looking at this morning, are three repetitive comparisons building a case for the greatness of God's love.

The first line, speaks of the height of the heavens being the measure of his love. This word for love is again the "Hesed" – steadfast love, which we spoke about earlier. We remember that this is both God's character and an action. Not only is he himself love, but his actions towards us are ones of continual helpfulness, always acting for our best interests, always having us on his mind. The psalmist then talks about this love in a comparison that shows us that it is so infinite and abounding that it fills all of time and space.

The second line shows the extent of his forgiveness and grace. Not only are we forgiven but our sins are completely cast away – so far from us that they would never be found. This contrast appears in differing forms throughout Scripture. In Isaiah it reads
"Thought your sins are like scarlet they shall be as white as snow…" (1:18)
"You have put all my sins behind your back" (38:17)
"I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more." (43:25)
His love covers all our sins – to the point that they cannot be seen or remembered.

Lastly he compares the compassion a father has on his children, to the mercy God has on those who fear him. This is to bring it home to a place that we can relate to once again. Just as a parent would get angry with a child, the anger is momentary but the love for the child never changes. So too God's love for us is unchanging and constant.

The love of God is so vast and infinite that it covers our sins and is unchanging through time. I pray that this morning you can spend some time with the Father just acknowledging him and praising him for his great love. I pray that you, together with all believers, may grasp how wide and long and high and deep is this love that he has for you. (Eph 3:18)

One of my favourite worship songs simply says this

"Think about his love
Think about his goodness
Think about his grace – that's brought us through
For as high as the heavens above
So great is the measure of our Father's love
Great is the measure of our Father's love"
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Friday, November 15, 2013

EMMDEV Snippets from Psalms

"Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground." (Psalm 143:10)

Psalm 143 is known as a penitential psalm, a guide in the practice of repentance. It begins with the psalmist crying out for mercy and saying to the Lord in verse 2, "Do not bring your servant into judgement, for no-one living is righteous before you." He goes on to talk about his troubles and calls God to hear him and not turn his face away.

He then gets to our verse that we are looking at today.

Repentance is something that doesn't often get spoken of or taught on, but yet forms a key part of our liturgy on Sunday mornings. We know when we get taught the different ways of praying like A.C.T.S. (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication) that it should form a part of our daily prayer life, and yet sometimes gets too little or too much attention. We are promised however that when we do confess, when we do admit to our weakness, our failures and our need for God, he has promised to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9)

But there is the part of repentance that goes beyond the words we pray. Repentance actually means turning away from our sins and doing them no more. The grace we receive, the unconditional love is no excuse to continue in the ways of the world, in activities that go against the calling of the spirit, in the lifestyle that is lived outside of the influence of God. Rather as the psalmist asks, we should be seeking to change. Our heart cry should be that God molds us to be more and more like Jesus, more and more in step with His Spirit, more and more loving towards others.

"Teach me to do your will, for you are my God;" is the way he says it. It is a request to, not only know God's will and plan, but to actually do it. Knowing his will comes from spending time in his presence and learning his heart for us and the world. Doing his will comes from relying on the courage the Spirit breathes inside us.

"May your good Spirit lead me on level ground" speaks of following the promptings of the Spirit. Learning to hear His whispers as he guides us in our day to day lives. It results in living a life that is coming alongside God and the work that he is doing in the world.

May this be your prayer this morning. May you have the bravery to open your heart up to God that he might work in you and change you. May you have the sensitivity to hear the Spirit and the courage to obey.

I pray that in this you will see the work of God in your life and the lives around you! Have a wonderful and blessed weekend!


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Thursday, November 14, 2013

EMMDEV Snippets from Psalms

"But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand." (Psalm 10:14)

Psalm 9 & 10 are actually one Psalm which has been split in two for liturgical reasons. They are a prayer to God which begins in thanksgiving and praise to God for deliverance and salvation. It then changes to a prayer that evil is not left unpunished, and finally ends with an expression of confidence in the Lord that he hears the cry of the afflicted, and he encourages, defends and sees that justice is meted out.

This morning's verse talks about the fact that God sees. He observes trouble and grief. This is a quality of God that caused him to be named, 'El Roi' – "The God who sees me". In Genesis 16, we see Hagar who has fled from the cruel treatment of Sarai, and who is out in the desert, pregnant and alone. An angel meets her there and promises her that God has not forgotten her or her child, and that he will bless her, that her child will be the start of a great nation, and that he will take care of them both. In response to this Hagar gives the LORD the name of El Roi.

El Roi is the God who sees what happens in our world. In terms of the bigger picture, God sees the injustice in our world. He sees the corruption that happens behind closed doors. He sees the horrors of slavery. He sees the brutality of war. And while we are tempted to despair – we can be reminded by the second part of the verse that he 'takes it in hand'. Evil will not flourish forever. We can be assured that in the final reckoning justice will prevail. Those who appear to 'get away with murder' will meet face to face with a God who hates oppression and cruelty.

So also when it comes to us and our personal walk with God – we can be assured that God is seeing what is happening. So often when we are struggling with something – whether it is people who hurt us, systems that are flawed and callous, illness that destroys our health or the health of a loved one, grief or fear about the future- we feel alone. We feel as though no one knows or understands our hearts.

God is not far off. He observes trouble and grief. He sees and he is there. He knows and he understands better than you do.

May you be reassured this morning that we serve El Roi, the God who sees us. May you rest in the knowledge that justice will be done in our world. May you know that he sees you personally, and trust that he will meet you in whatever desert you find yourself in as he did for Hagar.


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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

EMMDEV Snippets from Psalms

"It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great." (Psalm 18:32-35)

Psalm 18 is a long psalm praising God for the achievements of a king, most likely king David. The wording in the psalm as a whole also lends itself to a form of prophecy – speaking of the Messiah who would come in David's line and be the ultimate conqueror over sin and death.

David went through some very difficult times. He was anointed king as a young man while another king was reigning. He had massive military success from killing giants with a sling-shot to leading armies but found himself abandoned and running for his life. He is known as a friend of God, and yet fails badly, progressing from adultery to murder.

Yet we see in this psalm his total trust on God, and his total acknowledgement that his success and his strength to endure come solely from God. As he flees over mountains so God makes him as surefooted as a deer. As he leads armies, it is God who is his trainer and shield. As he struggles with betrayal and abandonment, it is God who sustains him and who ultimately brings him out again.

The last line, "your help has made me great" is translated differently in other Bibles. Some say, "you stoop down to make me great" and others, "your gentleness has made me great." What a phenomenal picture.
The tenderness in the image of God stooping down to raise up David – an picture that you can see in your mind's eye of a father reaching down to his child to encourage or bless or even physically pick up and place on his shoulders – stooping down to make great.
But gentleness is a word and a quality that doesn't often get spoken of today. It is the quality of controlled strength. A weak person isn't gentle, he is simply weak. It takes a strong person to be gentle. God deals with us with tenderness and gentleness. Elsewhere in the psalms it says that 'he remembers that we are dust" – he knows our weaknesses our areas of hurt, the sins we continue to stumble with – and he deals with us gently.

Take a moment to think back over your life. Can you see times where he has given you strength to endure? Can you see a time where he has given you the courage to stand up for what was right? Can you see times where he has guided and trained you? Can you remember times where he has dealt gently with you?

Remember and give thanks – this is our God. The one who arms us with strength and makes our way secure. The one who trains and sustains us. The God whose gentleness makes us great.



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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

EMMDEV Snippets from Psalms

"Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain." (Psalm 127:1)

This is a Psalm actually attributed to Solomon, and is known as one of the ascent psalms. These psalms were written as liturgy to be used by pilgrims as they travel to Jerusalem to worship. It is a psalm that picks up on a similar concept to the one written about last Thursday, that of dependence on God in the basic areas of our human life. It is a short psalm where the first two verses speak of the endeavours or work of life, and the last three verses speak to the family. The second part of verse two which isn't recorded above, reads, "He gives his beloved sleep" – a beautiful line that many of us need to hang on to in challenging times!

But our verse this morning speaks about the fact that hard work alone is not the secret to success. This flies in the face of so much we have been taught as we grow up and live in the society we do. There is a belief that hard work will reap results regardless… with hard work one can do anything. And there is certainly nothing wrong with hard work – in fact the Bible encourages it and tells us that in all our work we should be working as though we are working directly for God, so that he will be glorified in us.

The problem comes in when we rely entirely on ourselves and on our ability to create success, wealth or safety apart from God. While this psalm speaks about work and family, both involve a mysterious uncertainty – both are indeed human endeavours but human action is not the only determining factor. Work does not always produce fruit. Marriage does not always produce children. And so these verses are grounded in the idea that God is the ultimate deciding factor in all of life.

And so working and worrying as though the burden is all on you is fruitless. Work needs to be an outworking of trust, rather than a source of anxiety or arrogance depending on which side you feel you are on. The call of this verse then is to commit your way to the Lord, to seek his will and purposes in the work you do and trust the results to him.

The beautiful promise in all this is unlike the defeatist or fatalistic claim of "It is the will of Allah"… the implication being that it cannot be changed, we can go to God with our worries and anxieties from the work place. We can take situations where it feels like the labour is in vain and seek his counsel and his blessing. That is the beauty of our relationship with a Father who loves us, and longs to be involved in all aspects of our lives.

I pray that as you go into your Tuesday, into whatever work or task you find yourself faced with, that you will see it as a gift and opportunity from God – and commit it entirely to him.


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Friday, November 8, 2013

EMMDEV Snippets from Psalms

"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." (Psalm 139:7-10)

My favourite Psalm! Psalm 139 contains the most intimate language for relating to God that we have in the Old Testament, it is an exploration of the Psalmists relationship with God, personally and currently. The first part of the Psalm talks about being known, accompanied, created and sustained by God and it is into this section that our verses fall. I'm sure we will return to this Psalm at a later day again to look at some of these other beautiful verses!

Some commentators look at this section of the Psalm, verses 7-10, and label it 'The Omnipresence of God' which while true, loses an aspect of the personal quality of these lines.
Where can I – I Jackie Barker – Where can I go from your Spirit Lord? Where could I, as I am today, ever be out of your presence?

The juxtaposition of the words 'heavens', and 'depths' literally mean as high as I can go, and as low as I can go, the two vertical extremes – God is there with us. In the same way the wings of the dawn denotes the east and the far side of the sea (which is the Mediterranean) in the west… so horizontally as well, there is no place outside of God's presence.

But beyond the literal understanding of this – there is also the understanding that no state of being separates us from God's presence. From heights of joy and celebration – to depths of grief and depression, from far swings to the left and right of our beliefs, emotions, doubts and fears – there is nowhere that God cannot reach in and touch, that God cannot hear and see, that God cannot intervene and that God cannot love.

It is a poetic and beautiful reminder of the verse in Romans 8,
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

How would your life look different if you lived in the constant knowledge of the Spirit's presence? Would it lead you to a holier, less sin-invaded life? Would it lend you the courage needed to do what was right? Would it remove your fear of rejection knowing that you are constantly and eternally loved?

May you grow in the knowledge this weekend that there is nowhere that God is not with you, guiding you and loving you.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

EMMDEV Snippets from Psalms

"This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them." (Psalm 34:6-7)

This is a Psalm of thanksgiving, which becomes a teaching, almost like the proverbs, on the benefits of fearing God and shunning evil. It is a Psalm that contains the well-known verse of "Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who takes refuge in him." (vs.8). A verse we most often hear in our communion liturgy. It is also the Psalm that contains what the Gospel writer John takes as a prophecy about Jesus crucifixion in verse 20: "he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken".

This morning however I want to pick up on these lesser known lines in verses 6 & 7, as I believe they hold deep truths.

This is a Psalm written by David, and so it makes for an interesting thought that he refers to himself as "This poor man…" In many other cases David would refer to himself as the king or the like, and yet here he lowers himself to the level of a poor man. It's important to note that poor does not necessarily denote one who has no possessions – rather it can mean one who is without resources to save his own life or secure his own well-being. And who knows it.

We so often in life live a lie that we are in control. We believe somehow that we have everything in hand. We write memoirs and take photos, do back-ups on our computers and have safety deposit boxes to protect the past, we take out medical aid and have security companies guard our houses to protect our present and take out life cover, house cover, dread disease and disability cover, (I am amazed by the number of different things insurance companies have come up with to 'cover') all to safeguard our future.

And so we feel safe. We feel in control. We believe we have it all together.

Yet the truth is that we have very little control over what happens tomorrow or even in the next ten minutes. While insurances and back-ups are great safety mechanisms to have in place, if we place our trust there we will fall horribly short of reality. One car accident, one fire, one phone-call… and our worlds can fall apart.

This is why our trust belongs with God. Our faith needs to be in Him and in His goodness and faithfulness regardless of the circumstances around us. God is the only unchangeable dependable force in our lives. He has the power to deliver, to restore, to heal, and to command angels to encamp around us, or hold us up in their hands when we need it.

While this may be a scary truth, the powerful reality is that we are never alone. God will never leave us nor forsake us regardless of trial or tragedy. I pray that you will base your life on this truth, recognising that we are all poor, and all in need of a God who will never let us go.



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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

EMMDEV Snippets from Psalms

"Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD" (Psalm 27:14)

This Psalm again like yesterday speaks of trust. It is a beautiful Psalm – one of those that deserves memorising. It's also a very well-known Psalm starting with the captivating lines of, "The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?" The lines ring with the same message as yesterday.

And yet it finishes with the words, "Wait for the Lord."

Waiting is not something we are very good at. We live in an instant society, instant messaging, instant pudding, instant cash and instant answers. We have drive-throughs and google and 24 hour hot lines. Everything in life is aimed at being quick, efficient and faster. And so everything that slows us down gets us frustrated. Traffic, queues, waiting rooms and the little loading sign that appears on my blackberry from time to time. If our computers don't boot up in 30 seconds there is a problem. If I get put on hold and have to listen to delicate piano pieces on the phone I'm tempted to hang up. If the truck in front of me decides to drive at 40km/hr I find myself tempted to cross the solid white line to pass him.

But in reality – in the real world – things of importance take time. There is no such thing as instant love, instant character or instant relationships. These things of value require intentional and extended time. My relationship with Tim (my husband) grows and matures as we travel through the years together. My fitness improves with many hours at the gym. My understanding of life and ministry comes with time and experience. My knowledge and love of God comes through years of watching his faithfulness and his goodness to me.

God is never rushed. When we hit a crisis, he is not short of time to meet our needs. He knows, he cares, and he loves you enough to know that sometimes instant answers produce shallow character and limited faith. When Jesus' good friend Lazarus was ill, Jesus took so long to get to him, that he had been dead for several days when he arrived. Was Jesus late? No. He was precisely on time to demonstrate God's mercy and power in what seemed to be a hopeless situation.

Waiting on the Lord is a strong feature in our trusting him. As hours or days tick by and we question why God has not answered, trust calls us to humbly wait on his timing and his purpose to be revealed.

Take a deep breath. Still up in your soul. And wait. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord.


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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

EMMDEV Snippets from Psalms

"When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?" (Psalm 56:3-4)

Psalm 56 is a Psalm of trust in the midst of fear. It was composed during the time that David was fleeing from Saul who was trying to kill him. It links to the stories of David in Gath in chapters 21 and 22 of 1 Samuel. Here David has fled alone, and once he arrives in Gath, he realises that the people there have heard about him and so he is afraid. He pretends to be mad and thus manages to escape and hide out in a cave. It is here that he writes this Psalm, trusting in God even though there are enemies on every side, and trusted friends had even turned against him.

Fear is a very real emotion that we all encounter. We experience it in exam rooms, in doctor's offices, in hospital waiting rooms, and before performance appraisals. It creeps into our souls when the phone rings at three in the morning or a loved one begins a conversation with, "we need to talk…" We live in a country where there is a shortage of work, where we are uncertain of the trustworthiness of our police and justice departments, where crime covers our newspapers and fills our twitter feeds.

And fear is a dangerous thing – it can cause us to make rash decisions, to lash out at someone we love or to hoard possessions. When I look back at some of my worst failures, so much of the cause was a fear – a fear that people would think less of me if I told the truth, fear that if I was generous here that I wouldn't have enough to make it through the month, fear that if I showed people my vulnerability that they would reject me.

David in this Psalm uses opposing words to make his point. He contrasts fear and trust, God and man. "When I am afraid, I will trust in you." He shows us that faith is not based on feelings – in fact without fear, without doubt, without worry there would be very little reason for trust. Calvin talks about this when he says, "Fear and hope may seem opposite and incompatible affections and yet hope never comes into full sway unless there exists some measure of fear." Trust belongs in situations where fear or anxiety or terror is possible.

Our trust is not baseless- it is placed in a God who has proved himself time and again. The Bible is full of times where it confirms that He is trustworthy and never changes.
"Fear not, I am with you." (Isaiah 41:10)
"This I know; God is on my side" (Psalm 56:9)
"If God is for us; who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31)

May you find courage in the situations you find yourself in this week. May you pray together with the Psalmist, "When I am afraid, I will trust in God."


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Friday, November 1, 2013

EMMDEV Snippets from Psalms

"Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds…" (Psalm 141:3,4)

Psalm 141 is a prayer to God that He will protect and rescue the author from wickedness and the pervasive evil that he sees around him. The author, David, offers up this petition as an offering to God. In verse 2 he even describes this prayer as incense – an image which we find again in Revelation chapter 18, where the prayers of the saints together rise up to God together with incense.

The central text to our Psalm though, is the one we have read here this morning – a plea to God that he would guard his mouth and his heart from that which is evil.

This is a prayer I need to pray every morning. The reality is that so many of the problems we face in life begin with what we say. A careless comment here can tear down self-esteem. A thoughtless passing on of information can destroy trust. A little white lie here can lead to a web of deceit. An angry word can break a heart.

James talks about the power of the tongue and says,
"So it is with the tongue: small as it is, it can boast about great things. Just think how large a forest can be set on fire by a tiny flame! And the tongue is like a fire. It is a world of wrong, occupying its place in our bodies and spreading evil through our whole being. It sets on fire the entire course of our existence with the fire that comes to it from hell itself. We humans are able to tame and have tamed all other creatures---wild animals and birds, reptiles and fish. But no one has ever been able to tame the tongue. It is evil and uncontrollable, full of deadly poison. We use it to give thanks to our Lord and Father and also to curse other people, who are created in the likeness of God." (James 3:5-9)

The second part is a plea to guard his heart. Jesus tells us in Matthew 12 that it is out of the heart that the mouth speaks, thus the condition of the heart is revealed in the words we say. Bitterness, arrogance, cynicism, racism, self-pity are all revealed in the words we say. Thus in order to keep what we say pure and holy, we need to keep our hearts from wickedness too.

We live in a world where we are bombarded by coarse language and joking, where we are tempted by materialism and lust, where we are confronted with negativity and pessimism.

Into this we need to realise daily that a faithful life depends on the faithfulness of God. We need to constantly throw ourselves onto his mercy and grace to set a guard over our mouths, and protect our hearts from wickedness.

May this Psalm challenge you in your prayer life today.


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Thursday, October 31, 2013

EMMDEV Snippets from Psalms

"How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
Look on me and answer, O Lord my God...
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me."
(Psalm 13:1, 3, 5-6)

This is a typical albeit short Psalm of Lament. It is a cry to God for help in the midst of perceived separation, struggle and heartache. Yet while it is only six verses long, it teaches us so much about prayer and about who we are before God when we bring our hearts to him.

The Psalm begins with a protest, a protest that the Psalmist feels abandoned, feels that God has withdrawn from him, that God has forgotten him. The earnest cry of "How long?" is one that we all can relate to, whether personally or even simply looking at the evil in the world around us. There are those situations in our own lives, struggles with depression, habitual sin, a persistent illness or consistent pain caused by a loved one. There are those situations we watch in other's lives, unhappy relationships, addiction problems or loneliness and there are those situations in the world, the recent bout of horrific child murders in our country, the injustice of corruption, the horror of abuse…
And for all these things we cry out to God and ask "HOW LONG"?

The Psalmist doesn't stop there though. He moves from Protest to Petition. Lord, you know and only you can help. I know that you have the answer. He addresses his Lord personally saying "my God" showing a move to trusting the One who has called him. This Psalm contains the double ask of Hear me and Help me!

And finally he moves into Praise. Yesterday we spoke of the word 'Hesed' and again we see it here – The psalmist is saying that he trusts in God's active love and faithful helpfulness. This is the kind of faith that cannot separate God from any experience of life – including life's worst. It is the kind of faith that cannot imagine a future apart from God's salvation and his work. Luther referred to the stance of this prayer as the "state in which hope despairs and yet despair hopes."

This prayer is thus speaking to us in our congregation's theme this year, "Singing the Lord's song in a strange land". That agony and adoration, pain and praise hang together in this life that we journey alongside Jesus. We live in the situation where we are saved, renewed by his grace, and building his kingdom of light and love around us, yet we are surrounded on every side by troubles and pain and injustice.
Thus we can cry along with the Psalmist, "How long, O Lord?" and with the same breath sing to the Lord for he has been so abundantly good to us.


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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

EMMDEV Snippets from Psalms

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever." (Psalm 136:1-3)

Psalm 136 is one of the well-known liturgical psalms. It is set out in call – response fashion where the priest would call out the first part of the verse and the people would respond with the refrain: "His love endures forever."

The psalmist continues to list throughout the rest of the psalm the great wonders that God has performed in the lives of the Israelites, starting with creation, but continuing up to and including the present time. It ends up becoming current and personal in verses 23 & 24, where the first parts read,
"to the One who remembered us in our low estate… and freed us from our enemies."

The word love in the refrain has been translated in other versions of the Bible as 'steadfast love', 'loving kindness', 'mercy' or 'faithful love'. The Hebrew word here is 'hesed' which commentators translate as the characteristic of reliable helpfulness. 'Hesed' is thus an action rather than a feeling. Each of the wonders that are listed is thus an outworking of this 'Hesed.'
Three awesome things to note then from this Psalm:

Firstly, the repetitive nature of the refrain, "His love endures forever" can also be seen as a poetic device to drive the reality of 'forever' into our hearts. Just as we repeat it over and over again, so God's love goes on and on and on. It's a love that cannot be measured or quantified. Paul writes to the Ephesians saying, "I pray that you… grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge."

Secondly that this love is not a general 'God loves the world' kind of love, but rather that it is a personal intimate kind of love. This is the kind of love that cares about sparrows falling from the sky, and that knows the numbers of hairs on our heads. God loves each of us, personally.

And finally, that this love is made visible in God's action. The praise in this Psalm is not thank you God for what you've done, but rather thank you God for WHO YOU ARE and how we see this identity in the wonderful works you do.

"Give thanks to the God of Heaven.
His Love endures forever."

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

EMMDEV Snippets from Psalms

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your heart to God."

Good Morning!

For my first devotional I am simply going to tell you a little about the coming weeks and the series that I have felt led to write about.

I'm calling it "Snippet's from Psalms" and rather than tackling full Psalms, or an entire book, I am selecting key verses from a variety of the Psalms and unpacking a few each day. I'll be commenting briefly on the context of the entire psalm that the verse will come from, and would encourage you, if you find a moment in the day, to read through the rest of the Psalm.

The Psalms is most probably my favourite book in the Bible, and I believe it has so much to offer us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the great theologians talks about its unique place in the Scriptures saying that; "It is God's Word and, with a few exceptions, the prayer of men as well"

Some commentators have even argued that the entire message of the Bible is contained in the book of Psalms. Martin Luther (the great reformer) was one of these as he wrote that the Psalter "…might well be called a little Bible. In it is comprehended most beautifully and briefly everything that is in the entire Bible. It is really a fine …handbook."

But beyond its theology and scope, for me the psalms are intensely personal. They provide words and expressions and ways of relating to God when I find that my own words and ways fail. We find every possible human emotion captured from anger to praise, grief to rejoicing, confusion to clarity and apathy to encouragement. We find that while David and the other authors may have lived centuries ago, they faced the same struggles and heartache that we do, and so in their writings we find ourselves.

A little while back, I was reading through the Psalms in my quiet times and when I came across a verse that specifically spoke to me, I made it my facebook status and tweeted it (more for my record that anything else). I was amazed at how many people commented on these few verses and how much they had meant to them that day. It is many of these verses that I will be unpacking and exploring in these devotionals.

I pray in the next few weeks that you will be blessed by the words, poetry and prayers of the psalmists.


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Monday, October 28, 2013

EMMDEV A quick heads up.

Dear Dev-readers,
For the next couple of weeks our daily devs are going to be written by Jackie Barker who is the probationer who has been doing an internship at Emmanuel and Grace for this year. For the dev-folk who aren't connected to Emmanuel or Grace and don't know Jackie, here's a quick intro:

Jackie and Tim Barker

Jackie and Tim

Jackie is a probationer, having completed her Theological studies, and journeying towards ordination. She has spent the last five years working with youth and young adults at St Mungo’s Church in Bryanston, where she met and married the man of her dreams – Tim, who is a high school teacher.

Prior to that she worked as a Sign Language interpreter for students in University having completed a BA in Psychology and South African Sign Language.

Tim and Jackie are both passionate about ministry and seeing lives change because of Jesus. They also love anything Scottish (Jackie does Highland dancing), anything outdoors and in the mountains, and most recently, archery.

Their family is made complete by two yorkshire terriors, Rodin and Raphael, the most awesome tiny dogs in the world.

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Jackie will start sending devs tomorrow - enjoy!

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Theo Groeneveld
theo@emmanuel.org.za Cell: 082-5510752

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Here's how I'm doing 2013:
"They who wait on the Lord will renew their strength They will mount up on wings like eagles..." (Isaiah 40:31)

Friday, October 25, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-10-25 [Treasure Cupboard] Prayer

This is one of those between-series devs. This one is from the "Reality Bytes" series I did a few years ago and this one came up for me - so this is a three-fingers-pointing-back EmmDev. Much love, Theo
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Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans12:12

Reality bites us and we think that we are too busy to pray.
If we want to avoid running out of steam, the reality byte we need to download is this: "Be faithful in prayer."

I have an over-busy mind and always seem to be over-run with things that must be done. When it comes to maintaining spiritual fervour through prayer, I am still learning.

Here are some quotes from people who have mastered the truths that I am still learning:

Martin Luther said: "I have so much to do today that I _need_ to spend the first hour in prayer."

Someone else said: "Seven days without prayer makes one weak!"

What about this one? "I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had absolutely no other place to go." -- Abraham Lincoln

"One can believe intellectually in the efficacy of prayer and never do any praying." --Catherine Marshall

"Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?"-- Corrie Ten Boom

Fredrik Wisloff said: "You may pray for an hour and still not pray. You may meet God for a moment and then be in touch with Him all day."

And this awesome one: "Pray often, for prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge for Satan" --John Bunyan

What I'm learning is to stop making excuses about being busy, about not knowing how to pray and just not quite managing to make time to pray, and I am simply grabbing moments to connect deeply and intimately with God.

And whenever I do, it's like taking a huge breath of fresh oxygen and realising that I've been holding my breath and that I actually _want_ to breathe more often.

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Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-10-23 [Hosea Highlights] Concluding...

O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols?
I will answer him and care for him.
I am like a green pine tree;
your fruitfulness comes from me."
9 Who is wise? He will realize these things.
Who is discerning? He will understand them.
The ways of the LORD are right;
the righteous walk in them,
but the rebellious stumble in them. Hosea14:8-9

And so we get to the end of Hosea.
It has been a powerful message:
- God reveals Himself as a faithful husband and loving father.
- He has spoken urgently to the Northern Kingdom (Ephraim) who won't listen.
- He offers blessing to those who embrace Him...

And so the book ends on a "Proverbsy" note...

What more does God have to do with idols??
The no-brainer answer is "nothing" and neither should we.

God is depicted as the fruitful pine tree - we should come to Him.
If we were wise and discerning we would get it.
(Unfortunately Israel wasn't and didn't)

And so the conclusion of the book is this:
God's ways are right and we have a choice to make!

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Hope you have enjoyed our journey through Hosea.
Any suggestions for the next couple of weeks??


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Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Friday, October 18, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-10-18 [Hosea Highlights] A striking parallel (part 2)

"I will heal their waywardness
and love them freely,
for my anger has turned away from them.
5 I will be like the dew to Israel;
he will blossom like a lily.
Like a cedar of Lebanon
he will send down his roots;
6 his young shoots will grow.
His splendor will be like an olive tree,
his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.
7 Men will dwell again in his shade.
He will flourish like the grain.
He will blossom like a vine,
and his fame will be like the wine from Lebanon. Hosea14:4-7

Experiencing the compassion of the Father is the fifth part of the parallels between Hosea and the parable of the Prodigal Son (which Tim Keller rightly says is actually about the Lavishness of the Father's love)

In the story of the Lost Son and Lavish Father, we read that the son returns, expecting nothing more than to be given the status of a lowly servant... But look at what the Father does:
"But the father said to his servants, `Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate." (Luke 15:22-24)

Through Hosea, our Father in Heaven shows the same beautiful generosity:
- I will heal their waywardness
- My anger has turned away (which is what Jesus did on the cross)
- There can be growth - note the many agricultural images (dew, blossom, cedar, roots, shoots, olive, shade, grain, vine, and wine)

What an incredible lavishness we see in this imagery.
What a gracious and kind God!
- When we can't change our ways, He will heal our waywardness by the power of the Holy Spirit who transforms us.
- Jesus has absorbed righteous wrath on the cross, turning God's holy anger from us
- We can bear much fruit (Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness...)

Do I hear an Amen or Hallelujah?
Let's especially glorify His name this Sunday in worship!

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Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Thursday, October 17, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-10-17 [Hosea Highlights] A striking parallel

1 Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God.
Your sins have been your downfall!
2 Take words with you
and return to the LORD.
Say to him:
"Forgive all our sins
and receive us graciously,
that we may offer the fruit of our lips.
3 Assyria cannot save us;
we will not mount war-horses.
We will never again say `Our gods'
to what our own hands have made,
for in you the fatherless find compassion." Hosea14:1-3

This is a beautiful passage of repentance:
Notice the steps:
1. Realise your brokenness
2. Prepare words
3. Return to the Lord
4. Acknowledge that nothing else can save you
5. Experience the compassion of the Father.

Now look at how Jesus tells the story of the Prodigal Son (remembering that Hosea has moved from the Husband metaphor to the Father metaphor.)

"When he came to his senses, he said, `How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' 20 So he got up and went to his father." (Luke 15)

Look at the steps:
1. Hosea: Your sins have been your downfall
Prodigal: I am starving to death - I have sinned.

2&3. Hosea: Take words with you and return
Prodigal: I will go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you

4.Hosea: Assyria cannot save us...
Prodigal: How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! (My own plan didn't work - I need to be with my father)

We'll look at 5 tomorrow...

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Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-10-16 [Hosea Highlights] GraveRobber

I will ransom them from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues?
Where, O grave, is your destruction? Hosea13:14

Chapters 12 and 13 of Hosea are tough reading... The text see-saws between judgement and mercy. Again and again, the judgement is justified and Israel's failure is made clear.

But there remains an ongoing "but"...
Although Israel has failed and by earthly standards has fallen beyond redemption, there is still unexpected mercy that interjects itself into their ongoing failure.

Even though these chapters pull no punches on the tough consequences of abandoning God, there are moments of grace, love and mercy throughout.

Here are some examples...
* God urges them to repent in 12:6 : "But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always."

* He reminds them of how He raised Moses to lead the Exodus in 12:13 "The Lord used a prophet to bring Israel up from Egypt, by a prophet He cared for Him."

* In 13:5 He shows His care for them: "I cared for you in the desert, in the land of burning heat."

And in our text verse we have the incredible promise that He will defeat the power of the grave - a beautiful promise that Paul quotes in 1Cor15 in relation to Jesus' resurrection.

Yes - we have sinned and our sin is terminal, but unexpected GRACE will rob us out of our graves.

What an amazing God!

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Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-10-15 [Hosea Highlights] Roaring

They will follow the LORD;
he will roar like a lion.
When he roars,
his children will come trembling from the west.
11 They will come trembling
like birds from Egypt,
like doves from Assyria.
I will settle them in their homes,"
declares the LORD. Hosea11:10-11

Have you heard a lion roar?
As a 17 year old I went on
walk-through-the-Timbavati-reserve-leadership-course. It was 4AM in the
morning and it was my turn to do campfire duty while everyone else
slept. The lions started roaring. My hair stood on end, the air vibrated
with the sound and I sat spellbound by the power and majesty of those
roars. I will never forget that moment. (We found their spoor less than
100m away from our campsite.)

God's promise to Hosea and Israel is that He would call them back and
that they would return. In typical Hebrew poetry fashion the past and
future are intertwined: While he looks to a future returning, he also
remembers the Exodus from Egypt.

Although the Northern Kingdom was never re-established, those in the ten
tribes who did not intermarry with other nations would ultimately return
to the after-the-exile-rebuilt Jerusalem and as a nation they would no
longer be Israel or Judah, but the "Jews."

But there is another angle:
One of the Messianic Titles for Jesus is "Lamb of God." It is a title we
are familiar with and comforted by. But, in sharp contrast, another
title for the Messiah is "Lion of Judah..."

When we talk about the crucifixion, we think of the Lamb of God dying in
our place, but there is a moment where the Lamb is a Lion... The gospels
speak of a "loud cry" as Jesus breathes His last and says "It is
Finished" and "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." (The Greek
word for "It is finished" is "Tetelestai" and it means "Paid in Full!")
The Lion is roaring: "You can come to me - I have done the unexpected -
I am dying for your sin and by death I will conquer death - It is done,
complete and finished!"

How was mercy obtained?
How is it that God could offer us forgiveness?
Because He is God and not a man!
We could not imagine a God who could be both the Lamb of Sacrifice and
the Lion who will conquer death, but this is who He is.

And His roar is this: "If you come to me, you will encounter majestic
and triumphant love that went to the cross for you!"

Hallelujah!

Friday, October 11, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-10-11 [Hosea Highlights] Not like us...

7 My people are determined to turn from me.
Even if they call to the Most High,
he will by no means exalt them.
8 "How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?
How can I make you like Zeboiim*?
My heart is changed within me;
all my compassion is aroused.
9 I will not carry out my fierce anger,
nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim.
For I am God, and not man--
the Holy One among you.
I will not come in wrath. Hosea11:7-9

As we saw in ch.1-3, God is the God who does the unexpected:
- Nobody would have blamed Hosea for giving up on his wayward wife.
- None of us would expect God to be patient when His "people are determined to turn" from Him.

But God is the God of the unexpected. After making His case clear and demonstrating that His people have completely overdrawn their accounts, Hosea shows us God's heart...

In an incredibly beautiful burst of poetry God makes His ongoing love and compassionate forgiveness for His people clear:
- How can I give you up?
- How can I let you be swept up in judgement?
- My heart is changed, my compassion is aroused

And it all hinges around this statement:
"I am God not man, the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath"

In essence God is saying: "I'm not like you."
I can balance Justice and Love,
I can hold Wrath and Mercy,
I can truly forgive.

We struggle with forgiveness - we come to a place where the wrong we have done or the wrong done to us or others is just too big - we just cannot deal with it.

Thankfully God is not like us!!!
(Let's celebrate that in worship on Sunday!)
Next week we'll see how His mercy works...

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* "Admah and Zeboiim were cities that were overthrown when Sodom was destroyed." (NIV Study Bible)

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Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Thursday, October 10, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-10-10 [Hosea Highlights] First Husband, now Father

"When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
2 But the more I called Israel,
the further they went from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.
3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.
4 I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love;
I lifted the yoke from their neck
and bent down to feed them. Hosea11:1-4

We come to the last section of Hosea which deals with God's ongoing love for His people. Chapter 11 in particular is one of the most gripping Old Testament pictures of God's relentless and indomitable love.

When we looked at chapters 1-3 we were confounded by the image of Hosea being a faithful husband even though his wife was chronic in her unfaithfulness. In this "living parable" we saw how God's love goes above and beyond what we could expect. When the world expected Hosea to give up on Gomer, he did the unexpected to pursue her, woo her and restore her.

Now in chapter 11 the imagery changes:
Here God is portrayed, not as Husband, but as Father.
God is the Father and Israel is the son.

And what sad imagery it is:
From the very beginning the Father has loved Israel.
He has held them in His arms, He has taught them to walk, He has healed them, rescued them and fed them.

But there has been a sad cycle: He calls and they move further away!

This passage vibrates with emotion and sadness. If we imagined that God had physically written these words on a scroll, it would be easy to imagine the tear-stains on the ink.

Think about Jesus' parable of the Prodigal Son... I imagine that the Father in that story would read these words of Hosea and say "That's how I feel..."

It's easy to imagine God as a Righteous Judge being angry and indignant at our sin. Hosea's poetry catches us unaware. A Great God who grieves, heartbroken, over His children is not what we would expect...

But it's true.

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Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-10-09 [Hosea Highlights] It is time to seek the Lord

12 Sow for yourselves righteousness,
reap the fruit of unfailing love,
and break up your unplowed ground;
for it is time to seek the LORD,
until he comes
and showers righteousness on you.
13 But you have planted wickedness,
you have reaped evil,
you have eaten the fruit of deception.
Because you have depended on your own strength
and on your many warriors,
14 the roar of battle will rise against your people,
so that all your fortresses will be devastated... Hosea10:12-14

Hosea chapters 6-10 deal with Israel's persistent failure and hardened heart. These chapters document their disobedience and rejection of God's ways. At the end of chapter 10 we see the inevitable climax of their sin:
- They planted wickedness and reaped evil
- They (willingly) ate the fruit of deception
- They depended on their own strength.
And so war (in the form of the Assyrian invasion) will come.

But it is verse 12 that has grabbed my heart:
Even here, in midst of judgement, God is still appealing to them:
- Sow righteousness - reap love
- Break up your unplowed ground
- Seek the Lord.

It is a powerful image - Hosea sees a field (representing their relationship with God) - It is unplowed and unused.
If they would seek Him, He will bring showers of righteousness.

Imagine two fields:
One barren, dry, unplowed and unfruitful.
Another plowed, sowed, rain falling gently and plants sprouting.

If I want to be the second field, I need to walk in righteousness and love, I need to break the unplowed ground of devotion and seek the Lord.

And the rain will come!

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Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Friday, October 4, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-10-04 [Hosea Highlights] What God requires

6 I want your constant love, not your animal sacrifices. I would rather have my people know me than burn offerings to me. (Good News Translation) Hosea6:6

There are a number of places in the OT where God urges us to throw of the cloak of tradition and ritual and to get real. Hosea 6:6 is one of them. Here are some other passages that point us in the same direction:

Proverbs 21:3 To do what is right and just
is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.

Psalm 51:16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.

1 Samuel 15:22 But Samuel replied:
"Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

Isaiah 1:11 "The multitude of your sacrifices--
what are they to me?" says the LORD.
"I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats....
17 learn to do right!
Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.

Amos 5:21 "I hate, I despise your religious feasts;
I cannot stand your assemblies.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Micah 6:6 With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Psalm 40:6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but my ears you have pierced;
burnt offerings and sin offerings
you did not require.
7 Then I said, "Here I am, I have come--
it is written about me in the scroll.
8 I desire to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart."

This is certainly food for thought!!!

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Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Thursday, October 3, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-10-03 [Hosea Highlights] Hopeful call to repentence

Come, let us return to the LORD.
He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us;
he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds.
2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.
3 Let us acknowledge the LORD;
let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth. Hosea6:1-3

Chapters 6-10 are a description of the judgement that will fall on Israel because of her stubborn disobedience.

What is striking is that this tough section starts with the prophet's passionate cry: "Let us return to the Lord, because He will heal and restore us."

We may struggle with the idea of "He has torn us to pieces" and "He has injured us", but let's remember the imagery we started with: Gomer running away from Hosea and getting herself into trouble and slavery. If Hosea had restrained her from running away then she would not have got into trouble, so, in a way Hosea is responsible for her being in slavery.

It is in this sense that Hosea "blames" God for Israel's wounds.
They brought judgement on themselves, but only because of the freedom that God gave them.

What is hard to ignore are the parallels we encounter here:
- The three days that Jesus was in the tomb
- The prophecies of the wounded healer in Isaiah 53
- The way Jesus was "torn to pieces" when He was whipped
- The torn temple curtain that enables us to "live in His presence"
- And the promise of winter and spring rains and streams of living water.

Although we can't strictly call this a Messianic prophecy, I am certainly comfortable to see a Messianic pre-echo...

What a gracious God - that even judgement is preceded with mercy.

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Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-10-02 [Hosea Highlights] The extent of brokenness

Judah's leaders are like those who move boundary stones.
I will pour out my wrath on them like a flood of water.
11 Ephraim is oppressed,
trampled in judgment, intent on pursuing idols.
12 I am like a moth to Ephraim,
like rot to the people of Judah.
13 "When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his sores,
then Ephraim turned to Assyria, and sent to the great king for help.
But he is not able to cure you, not able to heal your sores. Hosea5:10-15

Hosea chapter 5 is all about the extent of the brokenness of God's people. In this chapter the prophet names the priests, the Royal House, the shepherds, Ephraim/Israel (Northern Kingdom), and Judah (Southern Kingdom).

It is a sad and depressing chapter. It catalogues the stubborn rebellion that has taken root in the hearts of the people:

* Hosea accuses Judah's leaders of moving boundary stones. This means that they have turned their back on ancient truths and traditions.

* Ephraim is even worse, in spite of the fact that they are experiencing consequences and judgement for their idolatry, they persist in their pursuit of idols. They simply refuse to learn from their mistakes.

In some ways, this is a reflection of modern society and even the church. As a society we are moving boundary stones - departing from tried and trusted norms and values and embracing "new moralities" without thinking through where these will take us. We're unashamedly worshipping at the shrines of techno-materialism and the adulation of ourselves.

The challenge of this chapter is to grasp both its _truth_ and its _purpose_:
- The truth is that it is a timeless and insightful analysis of a society that drifts away from God.
- The purpose is not to depress us, create images of God as a hard-to-please-judge, or produce paralysing guilt, but rather to understand the urgent situation we are in.

Israel tried to resolve their situation politically - but they would need to come to a place of admitting their need.

The chapter ends with God doing whatever He can to get their attention:
14 For I will be like a lion to Ephraim,
like a great lion to Judah.
I will tear them to pieces and go away;
I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them.
15 Then I will go back to my place
until they admit their guilt.
And they will seek my face;
in their misery they will earnestly seek me."

May we open our hearts to God long before He has to shake us up like this.

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Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Friday, September 20, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-09-20 [Hosea Highlights] Sad reality

The Israelites are stubborn,
like a stubborn heifer.
How then can the LORD pasture them
like lambs in a meadow?
17 Ephraim is joined to idols;
leave him alone!
18 Even when their drinks are gone,
they continue their prostitution;
their rulers dearly love shameful ways.
19 A whirlwind will sweep them away,
and their sacrifices will bring them shame. Hosea4:16-19

The main theme of chapters 4-6 is Israel's rebellion.
Our text for today is a very sad summary of Israel's rebellion and a very powerful picture of brokenness.

Israel should be lambs following the shepherd, but they are a stubborn heifer. I remember visiting a friend on a diary farm and having to deal with the dairy cows there. They're big and stubborn and like to do their own thing.

Israel are described as joined to idols and this is seen as prostitution. What is particularly sad is that their bad behaviour is not limited to times when they are inebriated. There are no "mitigating circumstances." They are sane and sober and yet they continue in their sin.

It is easy for us to look at the Israelites critically.
We can condemn them for their idolatry and sacrifices to idols.
But lets be brave enough to acknowledge that we, with sane and sober minds, are often guilty of stubborn and sinful behaviour. It can bring a whirlwind...!

Let's keep Romans 15:4 in mind: "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."

Let's learn from Israel's mistakes.
-------------------------------------------------
EmmDevs will take a break for the school holidays...


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Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Thursday, September 19, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-09-19 [Hosea Highlights] A Lack of knowledge

But let no man bring a charge,
let no man accuse another,
for your people are like those
who bring charges against a priest.
5 You stumble day and night,
and the prophets stumble with you.
So I will destroy your mother--
6 my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.
"Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also reject you as my priests;
because you have ignored the law of your God,
I also will ignore your children. Hosea4:4-6

Verse 6 ("my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge") is often misquoted... most people use it to mean that people are destroyed because they have not been enlightened, because the knowledge didn't get to them, because they "missed out." But this is not what the context implies: They lack knowledge because they are arrogant and unteachable.

Arrogance and being unteachable are serious blunders.

Israel is very guilty of this:
- They want to accuse and blame each other. ("It's not me!")

- They are arrogant (normally a priest would be considered above reproach) and so it would be mischievous to bring a charge against a priest - but they are willing to to point fingers at priests when they are by no means any better. In a modern context we might say "You're like a drunk spectator telling the Referee how to ref the match!"

- They stumble in the day and the night

- It turns out that their prophets aren't particularly wise either.

- They lack knowledge and they reject it.

These failures have serious repercussions:
God warns that their mother (Israel) will be destroyed, that they will be rejected as His priests, and that their children will be ignored.

We need to learn to be humbly teachable.

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Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-09-18 [Hosea Highlights] Infection.

1 Hear the word of the LORD, you Israelites,
because the LORD has a charge to bring
against you who live in the land:
"There is no faithfulness, no love,
no acknowledgment of God in the land.
2 There is only cursing, lying and murder,
stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
3 Because of this the land mourns,
and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field and the birds of the air
and the fish of the sea are dying. Hosea4:1-3

If chapters 1-3 are about the unfaithful wife and the faithful husband, then chapters 4-14 are about the unfaithful nation and the faithful God. I won't deal with these chapters in the same detail as the first three chapters, but there are some key thoughts to pick up...

In chapters 1-3 we saw Gomer getting into all sorts of trouble because of her unfaithfulness. The next couple of chapters reveal the same truth concerning Israel.

What is striking about the opening verses of chapter 4 is how Hosea illustrates the destructive power of sin.
The chain reaction is clear:
1. No faithfulness or love or acknowledgement of God
2. Cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery
3. Bloodshed follows bloodshed.
4. The land mourns and beasts, birds, and fish waste away and die.

It's almost as though Hosea is saying that when we break the first commandments (the ones that have to do with God) it is inevitable that we will break the later commandments - the ones that have to do with others (four of the six commandments are alluded to) - and then the "fallout" of this unfaithfulness is that even creation suffers.

Selfish prideful sinfulness places us on the throne instead of God and it leads to the destruction of our relationship with others and also impacts creation.

It is an infection with dire consequences.

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Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-09-17 [Hosea Highlights] The Power of Love

1 The LORD said to me, "Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes."

2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. 3 Then I told her, "You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you."

4 For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or idol. 5 Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days. Hosea3:1-5

This five-verse-chapter offers an incredible insight into the heart of God.

Hosea is asked to go and show love to his prostitute wife.
He has to find her, buy her out of her slavery and take her home - living with the strong possibility that she might do it all over again (That's what the warning in v.3 is all about.)

What kind of love must a husband have to be able to do that? ? ?
- To SEEK, to PAY, to RESTORE and to RISK.

This is what Hosea does for Gomer.

And what God does for us.

It should have us come trembling to the Lord.

"Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?"

Enough said...

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Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Friday, September 13, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-09-13 [Hosea Highlights] ... and the Rescue

14 "Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her.
15 There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will sing as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
16 "In that day," declares the LORD,
"you will call me 'my husband';
you will no longer call me 'my master. '
17 I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips;
no longer will their names be invoked.
...
23 I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called 'Not my loved one. '
I will say to those called 'Not my people, ' 'You are my people';
and they will say, 'You are my God.' " Hosea2:14-23

Yesterday we saw Gomer's failure in detail and it was made clear that she had brought sad destruction on her own head.

BUT once again, God surprises us with Grace instead of Wrath.

And notice the nature of Grace:
He is not standing there with His arms folded and foot-tapping saying "Well, you miscreant... if you come crawling back to me, I may just forgive you..."

The picture painted here is breath-taking in the extent of its love:
- God intends to allure Israel - to woo her back. He pursues her!
- He wants to restore vineyards and turn the Valley of Achor ("Trouble") into a door of hope.
- He wants her to call Him "Husband" not "Master"
- He wants to woo her to the extent that she never names Baal again.
- He wants to plant her, love her and make her His.

The parable of the Prodigal Son tells the same story as the Father _runs_ to his son and gives him a robe and a ring.

This is the heart of our God:
- He shows mercy and love when we least deserve it
- He gives hope and restoration to those far lost
- To those who rejected Him He shows love and makes us His.

Charles Wesley put it like this:
And can it be that I should gain
An interest in my Saviour's blood
Died He for me who caused His pain
For me, who Him to death pursued
Amazing Love! How can it be?
That Thou O God shouldst die for me?
Amazing Love! How can it be?
That Thou O God shouldst die for me?

Let's worship Him this weekend!!

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Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Thursday, September 12, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-09-12 [Hosea Highlights] The Rebuke

"Rebuke your mother, rebuke her,
for she is not my wife,
and I am not her husband.
Let her remove the adulterous look from her face
and the unfaithfulness from between her breasts...
5 Their mother has been unfaithful
and has conceived them in disgrace.
She said, `I will go after my lovers,
who give me my food and my water,
my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.'
6 Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes;
I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way....
8 She has not acknowledged that I was the one
who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil,
who lavished on her the silver and gold--
which they used for Baal...
13 I will punish her for the days
she burned incense to the Baals;
she decked herself with rings and jewelry,
and went after her lovers,
but me she forgot," declares the LORD. Hosea2:2-13

In chapter 2 the story of Hosea's marriage is told from the perspective of God speaking to Gomer's children. In a sense God is explaining Gomer's unfaithfulness and the consequences. But once again (as we will see tomorrow) deserved judgment will be overtaken by mercy and love.

But for today we look at Gomer's mistakes...

1. She has been unfaithful - she has chased after lovers who have tempted her with material things.

2. She has not acknowledged or recognised God as the true source of her blessings. (There has been a lack of gratitude)

3. She burned incense to the Baals (worshipped false gods)

4. She decked herself with rings and jewelry. (Became self-obsessed)

5. She forgot God.

Today we get caught up in materialism and we take the many blessings we have for granted. We don't burn incense to Baals anymore, but we drink down the culture of the day (becoming slaves to it) and become obsessed with our own image and what people think of us. We forget God in our busy-ness.

Take a bit of time to see if you are making any of Gomer's mistakes... (and then ask God for His help!)

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Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-09-11 [Hosea Highlights] Yet....!

Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, `You are not my people,' they will be called `sons of the living God.' 11 The people of Judah and the people of Israel will be reunited, and they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel. 1 "Say of your brothers, `My people,' and of your sisters, `My loved one.' Hosea1:10-2:1

Hosea has built a strong case.
He has convincingly shown just cause why God should cut ties with Israel. They have been violent, rebellious, hard-hearted and fully deserving of being scattered, not-loved, and disowned (not-my-people).

But there is a "Yet..."

Israel fully deserves judgement YET God promises mercy, restoration and forgiveness.
The not-my-people and the not-loved will be fruitful, numerous and united.
Jezreel - the place of violence and scattering - will be great.
The disowned will be called 'sons of the living God' and the unloved will be known as the loved one.

This is the unexpected and wonderful reality of Grace.

Grace is unearned, undeserved, and unwarranted.
It is not something we can claim or demand - it is something God does because it says something about Him and not us.

We are loved, claimed and redeemed.
Not because we have earned it or have a right to it, but because God is "unexpectedly" and "unpredictably" good. He does not have to be good - we didn't deserve it. He does not have to show us mercy - we deserve judgement - but with God there is a YET...!

Hallelujah!

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Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/