Christian women, Idolatry, Sanctification, Throwback Thursday, Women

Throwback Thursday ~ Little Women

Originally published June 13, 2014PicsArt_1402623766791

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame
I’d rather be true to His holy name

We sang this lovely hymn in church the other day, and it was perfect timing. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking about women I’ve known across the years, women I’ve known of (but not personally) across the years, and the woman I’ve known best across the years, me. And I’ve been thinking about how and where we find our worth, fulfillment, and contentment and where we should find it: in Christ.

I don’t know about you, but one of the sins I constantly struggle against is coveting. It’s a sin we don’t think about very much. A private one that, often, nobody knows about except God and me.

And you know what I covet? What I think we all covet? Men’s applause. Worldwide fame. Or, at least, fame in my little corner of the world.

When we were children in Sunday school, coveting was sometimes explained to us as “wanting for ourselves what someone else has.” Her new doll. His fancier bike. It’s a decent kid-level definition, but in the same way that Jesus reminded us that the root sin of murder is hate and the root sin of adultery is lust we need to mature in our understanding of coveting, and realize that it also has a root sin: discontentment. Sometimes, it’s discontentment with what we have (greed), and sometimes it’s discontentment with who we are.

And who are we?

As Believers, we are children of the God of the universe who, despite our sin and rebellion against Him, loved us enough to lay down His own life to rescue us. He listens to us. He accepts us. He provides for us. And don’t even get me started on Heaven.

And if contemplating all that isn’t enough, the Bible tells us to be content. So why aren’t we? Why woud we rather have Jesus and men’s applause, and worldwide fame?

Because, as John Calvin so aptly put it, “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.” Our sinful flesh is always looking to gratify itself rather than glorify God. Any time our hearts say, “God’s not enough. I want more,” we’re committing idolatry, because whatever the “more” is, it’s other than God and lesser than God, and we’re seeking it instead of seeking God. And, as women, one of the biggest “more” idols we seek is feeling good about ourselves, or feeling worthy of love and acceptance.

But instead of looking to Christ and letting Him define for us a right perspective of ourselves, we hit the crack pipe of the praise of men. It’s fast. It’s cheap. It’s easy. And the high is nearly instantaneous. How? Allow me to introduce you to some frenemies of mine:

Mother and Daughter HuggingMarla MegaMom- Marla lives for and through her kids. Their successes are her successes. Their failures, her failures. She subtly or overtly pressures her kids to achieve because if they fail she’s afraid others won’t see her as a good mom. And being a failure as a mom means being a failure in life.

Woman Singing

Dina Diva- Dina literally seeks the applause of others. She’s the top church soloist and the star of every Christmas production. She’s a public speaker or an instrumentalist or an actress, anything that can be done on a stage. Dina doesn’t feel good about herself unless people are clapping for her.

woman-164299_640-1978279293Veronica Victim- Poor Veronica. Everything in her life is always going wrong at home, at work, at church, with friends, with her health, with her car, with her dog. Nobody understands just how hard Veronica has it, so she makes it her life’s mission to let people know. In every story she tells, Veronica is the victim, and somebody else (or everybody else) is the bad guy. Please feel sorry for Veronica, because that’s the only way she can feel better about herself.

woman_angel_costume_kindlephoto-8131448Helen the Heroine- Helen is Veronica’s cousin. In every story Helen tells, she’s the heroine, the paragon of virtue, the one who did everything right short of severing a limb to make everything work out, and somebody else is the bad guy. Helen is divorced and the bad guy is usually her ex-husband, but she’s versataile enough to apply her story telling skills to situations at work, church, with friends, etc. Helen thinks if you don’t see her as a heroine, she’s worthless.

Photo courtesy of

Sally Superwoman- Sally does everything, and she does it superbly. She’s employee of the year at work and world’s best wife and mom at home. She’s a gourmet cook, flawlessly recreates every cake and craft on Pinterest, and her house looks like a photo shoot for Better Homes and Gardens. Other women know she’s got it all together, so she keeps all her plates spinning at a furious pace, because if one of them fell where would she be?


Popular Polly- Polly is everybody’s friend. She’s one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet with never a cross word for, or about, anybody. She agrees with (or at least doesn’t obviously disagree with) whatever is being said by the person she’s talking to at the moment, so it can be hard to pin down what she really believes. When someone unfriends/unfollows Polly on social media, she takes it personally, wondering what she did wrong. She only likes herself if enough other people like her.

reading-216862_640Know It All Nettie- Maybe she’s got multiple degrees, or maybe she’s just well read, but Nettie is an expert. In everything. She sees it as her calling to educate people, starting a lot of sentences with, “Well, actually…” and rarely asking questions that would reveal her lack of knowledge on a subject. Ignorance is a weakness in Nettie’s mind, and she wants to be seen as strong.

MP900427741_kindlephoto-8317786 Maisy the Martyr- Whenever there’s a request for helpers at church, someone to pull overtime or fill in for a co-worker, volunteers at the soup kitchen, the fulfillment of the smallest need of her family, Maisy will be there, working tirelessly. She secretly gets angry when no one recognizes her for all her hard work or when people take advantage of her, but she’s afraid to say no because she’s afraid people will be upset with her, and what kind of person would she be then?

Woman Doing Sit-ups Let’s Get Physical Phyllis- Whether she’s one to wear revealing clothes so all the men stare or she’s an organic, vegan workout queen, or she’s a clotheshorse, Phyllis is all about one thing: her body and how it looks. Did a construction worker whilstle at her today? A co-worker compliment her outfit? If not, maybe Phyllis had better lose a few more pounds or get that plastic surgery she’s been considering. After all, if people stop looking, she’s nothing.

man-315069_640Man-datory Maude- Maude always has a man. Always. Preferably an awesome one, but even a mediocre or lousy man is better than no man at all. Why? It’s tangible proof somebody wants her. Otherwise, how will people be able to see she’s a worthwhile person?

MP900289528Take Charge Tallulah- Follow? You must be joking, darling. Tallulah was born to lead and plays second fiddle to no one. She’s the chair of every committee she’s on, and always the one to round up the worker bees and start doling out orders. No points for second place. If you’re not first, you’re last. Tallulah needs the submission of others to feel self confident.

Are you one of these women? Or, if you’re as Sybil as I am, maybe you’re all of these women. Little women, all. Little, because Maisy, Helen, Sally, and all the rest are coveting and settling for crumbs of approval from others when God is offering them the whole bakery of His delight in them. Little, because they’re zeroing in on one tiny aspect of their lives to earn the praise of men instead of lifting their eyes to the broad expanse of Heaven and focusing on the Christ who loves them and has set them free to rest in His acceptance of them through His shed blood.

There’s nothing wrong with eating right or being friendly, or serving, singing, or teaching. Those are all good things. But just as God can take the most evil things and use them for good, we, because of our sinful nature have a tendency to take good things and use them for evil. And evil isn’t too strong a word when we’re talking about taking the good gifts and talents God has given us and using them to pursue idolatry.

So what can we do? Romans 12:21 tells us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” When that evil coveting of praise and notoriety rears its ugly head:

  • Overcome it by confessing your coveting and idolatry and asking God to forgive you for it.
  • Overcome it by asking God to help you do everything for His glory, so that men will praise Him and make His name famous instead of yours.
  • Overcome it by letting go and saying no. If you’re Dina, it’s OK to let somebody else have the leading role. If you’re Maude, it’s OK to stay home on date night. If you’re Veronica and someone asks how you’re doing, it’s OK to smile and say, “Fine.”
  • Overcome it by preaching the gospel to yourself. Remember how big God is, how small and weak you are and the lengths of love that He went to to save you anyway. Not because of who you are, but because of who He is. Rest in that, and praise and thank God for it.

And let’s have no more of these little women.

Idolatry, Old Testament, Sin, Sunday School

The Benefit of Israel’s Experience ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 8-31-14

Benefit of Israel's Experience

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 35 ~ Aug. 24-30
Jeremiah 51-52, Lamentations, Ezekiel 1-15
The Benefit of Israel’s Experience

For weeks now, we have watched Israel and Judah sink farther and farther into idolatry and other sin, and now they are facing God’s wrath for it. It’s easy to look back thousands of years later and think this is an ancient story that has no bearing on us today. But Israel was God’s people, like we are. They were prone to sin, like we are. Among the many things we can draw out of Israel’s story is that we as God’s people don’t want to go down the same road to sin that they did. What can we learn from what they did wrong, and how do we keep from becoming like them?

Ezekiel 14

It’s a slow fade (Exodus 14-17,32)
That’s the title of a Casting Crowns song. Another line of the song says, “People never crumble in a day,” and that is certainly true. In the same way that someone doesn’t just wake up one morning and decide to have an affair, Israel didn’t just wake up one morning with Asherah poles in their back yards and prostitutes in the temple. We’re in about 593 BC here in Ezekiel. The exodus occurred around 1445 BC, with the golden calf incident occurring not too long after that. Give or take, we’re talking about 800ish years that Israel has been involved with idolatry. This depth of depravity didn’t happen overnight.

But even back in Exodus, there were “smaller” sins leading up to idol worship: they didn’t trust God, and they weren’t satisfied with God. They coveted fleshly security. At the Red Sea, they doubted God and wailed and moaned that they were going to die. They didn’t trust God for water or bread. And, finally, they grew impatient and distrustful that God would ever bring Moses down from Mt. Sinai. All of that culminated in the making and worshiping of the golden calf.

What can we learn? (2 Timothy 2:22, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Matthew 5:27-30)
There is no such thing as a little sin, because little sins always lead to bigger sins. Ever watch the Animal Planet show, Fatal Attractions? It was all about these various crazy people who adopted baby tigers, chimps, bears, etc. into their homes and then were shocked when these animals grew up and ripped their faces off (sometimes literally).

That’s what a “little” sin will do to you. It starts off looking cute and cuddly and harmless and then you embrace it and nurture it and think you’ve got a handle on it, and it grows up to rip your face off or kill you.

“Small” sins have to be dealt with swiftly and decisively. We must immediately turn from them and ask God’s forgiveness. We can’t play around with them even a little bit. That’s why the Bible tells us to “flee” (2 Tim) from sin and to take even our thoughts captive to obey Christ (2 Cor.). Hey, poke out your eye or cut off your hand if you have to, is what Jesus said (Matt.).

Lip service is a lie
The elders in 14:1 were not genuinely seeking to worship or obey God. It had been a long time, if ever, since they had done that. They were making a pretense to make it look to the people of Judah like they were actually following God and that God was pleased with them. And God answered that fake inquiry with real judgment.

What can we learn? (Isaiah 29:13-14)
Merely going through the motions doesn’t cut it. Putting your body in church once a week, reciting memorized prayers, giving offerings out of habit, mindlessly singing the hymns does nothing to make you godly. In fact it can help lull you into thinking you’re good with God and have nothing to worry about with regard to falling into sin.

Isaiah said about the Israelites:

“…this people draw[s] near with their mouth and honor[s] me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me…” (Is.)

and look what happened to them.

The same can be true of us. We must ask the Lord to hold us close and help us cling to Him. We must daily run to God’s word and prayer, humble ourselves and remember our dependence on Him. We must celebrate the gospel every day, remembering the price Christ paid for our sin, His love for us, and our love for Him.

Repentance is always the answer
Even at the brink of destruction, God’s message to Israel (14:6) is repent. He had brought all these calamities upon them to bring about their repentance. But the people and their leaders would have none of it.

What can we learn?
We’re going to sin. There’s just no way around it. But when we do, the answer is always to turn to Christ in repentance. One of the verses we have talked about so many times in this class is 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

While the idolatry the Israelites committed was a grave sin, what was even worse was that they refused to repent.

Sometimes, the cheese stands alone (Genesis 6:8, Daniel 6:4, Job 1:8)
Noah, Daniel, and Job- what do we remember about these guys? Each of them stood for righteousness surrounded by a sinful culture, and they all stood alone or nearly so. Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord (Gen.). Daniel was “faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.” (Dan.) God Himself said Job was “a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job)

And yet, God said that even if these three men had been present at Ezekiel’s time, their righteousness would have saved only themselves, no matter how hard they prayed or preached, because Israel refused to repent.

What can we learn?
Daniel, Job, and Noah were not righteous in and of themselves. They didn’t find favor with God because they were good deed doers, but because they believed God, walked in repentance, and were faithful to Him– some of the things we’ve already discussed today.
It seems simplistic to say that the lesson here is “Be like Daniel, Job, and Noah, not like the Israelites,” but sometimes it really is that simple. We must be faithful to God like they were even when no one else around us is.

I’ll take you back
If you could boil it down to one sentence, what would you say was God’s end goal in hitting Israel so hard? Check out verses 10-11:

And they shall bear their punishment—the punishment of the prophet and the punishment of the inquirer shall be alike— that the house of Israel may no more go astray from me, nor defile themselves anymore with all their transgressions, but that they may be my people and I may be their God, declares the Lord God.”

No matter how far they had strayed or what they had done, God still loved His people and wanted them back. His desire was never to destroy them but to reconcile them to Himself.

What can we learn? (Luke 15:11-32)
As the parable of the prodigal son so beautifully demonstrates, we may fall into all kinds of horrible sin, but when we come to God broken and sorrowful over that sin, He wraps His arms around us in love and welcomes us back. That’s what He wanted to do for Israel, and that’s what He wants to do for us. That’s the reason Jesus came. The reason for the cross. The reason for the empty tomb.

For some purpose, known only to Himself, God loves us and wants us back.

Christian women, Idolatry, Old Testament, Sunday School

Idolatry: No Turning Back ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 8-24-14


These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 34 ~ Aug. 17-23
Jeremiah 35-50, Psalm 74, 79, 2 Kings 24-25, 2 Chronicles 36, Habakkuk
Idolatry: No Turning Back

Israel is gone, carried off into captivity by Assyria. Judah has managed to hang on a little longer, due in part to Hezekiah’s and Josiah’s godliness, but, now, Nebuchadnezzar has beseiged and overthrown the last of Judah’s fortified cities, slaughtered the king and the nobles, and carried nearly all the citizens off to a 70 year exile in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar left a small remnant of the poorest of the poor to continue living in Judah to work the land, and set up Gedaliah as governor over them. Gedaliah was subsequently assasinated by the Ammonites, and the remnant decided -against God’s clear instruction through Jeremiah- to go to Egypt, and to force Jeremiah to go with them. This is where we now find them in chapter 44.

Jeremiah 44

God takes sin seriously.
As usual, Israel’s (here, Judah’s) main sin was idolatry, a clear violation of the first and second Commandments. That’s not something God just sweeps under the rug as an “oopsie”. In verse 3, He calls it evil. Verse 4, “this abomination that I hate.” In verse 6, God reminds them of His wrath and anger poured out becaue of idolatry. And think back over the scope of Israel’s history: the plagues, the pestilence, the snakes, the natural disasters, being conquered by enemies, and so on.

The vehemence with which God responds to idolatry shows us that He doesn’t take it, or any other sin, lightly. If there’s one major takeaway from the Old Testament, it’s that sin has a price tag, and somebody’s got to pay it.

Why does God respond so harshly to sin?  (1 John 4:8)
1. Because God is love (1 John). When we read that the penalty for sin is an eternity in Hell, we really have no idea what we’re talking about. We know Hell is bad, but that’s about the extent of it. God can see Hell. He knows precisely what it’s like, and He loves us so much that He doesn’t want a single person to go there. So much, in fact, that He was willing to go to the farthest extreme of sending His Son to provide us the way out of Hell and into Heaven.

2. Believers are God’s walking billboard to the world. When we share the gospel and walk in godliness, we can attract people to a saving relationship with Christ. But when we sin unrepentantly, and/or in what the world would consider to be a “big” way (adultery, embezzlement, drunkenness, etc.) we can turn people off to God. God wants to prevent us from doing that because He loves and wants to save those people just as much as he loves and wanted to save us.

3. Sin hurts people in the here and now. God doesn’t like that. He doesn’t want us to be victimized by other people’s sin and He doesn’t want us to hurt other people.

God pursues His people relentlessly, but not endlessly. (Romans 1:18-32, 2 Corinthians 6:2)
Take a look at verses 4-5:

“Yet I persistently sent to you all my servants the prophets, saying, ‘Oh, do not do this abomination that I hate!’ But they did not listen or incline their ear, to turn from their evil and make no offerings to other gods.”

Again, think back over all the ways and times God has tried to bring His people back to Himself. Hundreds of years, dozens of prophets, painful circumstances. Time after time as Israel rebelled against Him, God mercifully and patiently offered them opportunities to turn back to Him. He didn’t throw them away or give up on them. And here, even though He is about to destroy this remnant, it is not God who has thrown in the towel. It is the people who have relentlessly demanded His wrath. God could not have been more clear to His people in this chapter about what would happen to them if they continued to rebel, and still they said, “we will not listen to you, but we will do everything we have vowed” (16-17). So he gave them what they wanted- the freedom to reject Him forever.

God is the same way today. He pursues people relentlessly, but not endlessly. Romans 1 makes this clear. Three times in this passage, he says, “God gave them up…” culminating in verse 28:

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.”

This is why there is such a danger in people putting off salvation, thinking they can get around to it on their death bed. If people reject God long enough, He will eventually give them what they want and stop pursuing them. The Bible says (2 Cor.) today is the day of salvation.

The goal of God’s pursuit and discipline is restoration. (Jeremiah 42:9-12, 2 Corinthians 5:20)
Even here at the end of God’s patience, God’s desire is still to restore His people to a right relationship with Him. Just two chapters ago, He told the people that if they would only obey Him and stay in Judah instead of going to Egypt, He would have mercy on them. The same loving Lord who says in 2 Corinthians, “be reconciled to God,” has always desired that His people walk in right relationship with Him, and He uses whatever means and measures He has to in order to turn His people back to Himself.

Women have the power to influence our families, communities, and nation for evil or for godliness. (1 Peter 3:1-2) 
The worship of “the queen of Heaven” (Ishtar, an Assyrian/Babylonian goddess, the wife of Baal or Molech) started with the women of Judah (15,19). They then influenced their husbands to participate in, or at least approve of, this idolatry. The women, and the husbands they had corrupted, stood in Jeremiah’s face and said, “We will not listen to you. We will keep on with our idolatry.”

Why? Because the women had the false notion that the reason they lately “lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine” (18) was becase they had stopped sacrificing to her. (Of course, the truth was that they were experiencing these things at the hand of God because they had been sacrificing to her.(23))

Several months ago, when we studied biblical womanhood, we discussed the line from My Big, Fat Greek Wedding where the mother tells her daughter, “The man may be the head, but the woman is the neck, and she can turn him any way she wants.” First Peter puts it this way:

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

Every day, we have opportunities to be like the women of Judah and turn our families and our communities away from Christ and towards idolatry. Let’s not be like those women, but, instead, women who, by our godly character, our respectful and pure conduct, and our submission to our husbands, turn the world upside down for Christ.

Idolatry, Old Testament, Sunday School

Jeremiah and His Message ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 8-10-14

Jeremiah and His Message

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 32 ~ Aug. 3-9
2 Chronicles 32-35, Nahum, 2 Kings 22-23, Zephaniah, Jeremiah 1-9
Jeremiah and His Message


Hezekiah to Josiah (2 Kings 21:11)
As you will recall, Judah had had a good king in Hezekiah. He had done his best to do away with idol worship and re-institute the proper worship of Yahweh. But outward reforms cannot change individual hearts, and idolatry was already so entrenched in Judah that when Hezekiah died, the people quickly turned back to their old ways under Hezekiah’s son Manasseh.

Manasseh reigned for 55 years and did more evil than the pagan nations God had originally told Israel to annihilate from the Promised Land. (2 Kings) He was followed by Amon, who was equally evil and reigned two years. By the time Josiah took the throne, the people had been under pagan rule for nearly 60 years. Since Josiah’s reforms (removing idolatry and idol worship paraphernalia) did not begin for another 18 years, the people were actually involved in the practice of idolatry for 75 years.

Jeremiah and Josiah (Jeremiah 1:2)
Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry began in the 13th year of Josiah’s reign (1:2). Josiah did not begin his reforms until the 18th year of his reign, meaning, he was likely influenced by Jeremiah’s preaching for five years preceding the reforms. In fact, it is probable that Jeremiah’s preaching, at least in part, led to Josiah’s reforms.

Jeremiah’s Message
Jeremiah was one of the final prophets God would send to warn Judah about her sin. In fact the first 45 chapters of Jeremiah can generally be summed up as: “Turn from idolatry and back to the Lord to avoid judgment and exile.”

Second Verse, Same as the First
As we read both the major and minor prophets of the pre-exilic era, their messages can sometimes feel very repetitive. To a great extent, they are. There are two reasons for this.

1. God had one, very simple message for His people: repent and turn back to Me. He didn’t have a long list of demands or complicated instructions, just “repent and return.” Even with varied object lessons, there are only so many ways a prophet can say that before you start feeling like you’ve heard it before. God wanted to drive this point home.

2. We need to keep in mind that the book of Jeremiah (and some of the other prophetic books) was not, at the time, a book for people to sit down and read from beginning to end. Jeremiah is a collection of sermons (and some writings) given in various places to various audiences over a period of about fifty years. Today, we’re looking at a representative sample of Jeremiah- chapter 7.

Jeremiah 7:1-28

7:1 (Matthew 4:9)
Notice where God told Jeremiah to preach this sermon: in the gate of the temple. Think about it. These people are supposedly coming in to worship God, and here God is (speaking through Jeremiah), at the entrance to His own house, speaking directly to them about what He wants from them. Do they listen? Obey? No, they walk blithely past Him into His house and do things their way.


Why? Because they didn’t want an actual relationship with God. They wanted to wallow in the sin of their idol worship while still getting all the benefits (agricultural blessings, protection from enemies, etc.) they thought God would continue to provide if they went through the outward motions of sacrifices and going to the temple. This blending of idolatry with the worship of God is called syncretism

Syncretism is alive and well today. There have been churches that have held Christian-Islamic worship services, churches that teach yoga (a Hindu worship practice), even when we join ourselves or our churches to “Christian” churches whose doctrines aren’t biblical, we are guilty of syncretism.

Let’s not forget what Jesus told Satan in the wilderness when Satan tempted Jesus to worship him:

You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’ (Matt 4)

After all Jesus did for us to save us from our sin, it is the ultimate understatement to say that He ALONE is worthy of all our worship, love, and devotion.

7:2-10 (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
“Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place.” That’s it. That’s all there was to it. It might not have been what they wanted to do, but it wasn’t impossible, and it was what God desired.

God urged the people not to trust in the empty words and false beliefs they wanted to believe and had convinced themselves were true–namely, that since the “temple of the Lord” was in their midst and they were still attending and making sacrifices, God’s favor still rested on them– but to believe and act on what HE was actually telling them: repent and return.

God exhorts us to do the same thing. We are not to be people who “will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Tim.) We are to believe and practice what His word says -not what we desire to be true- even if it’s difficult.

Ever since God had brought Israel out of Egypt nearly a thousand years earlier, He had been warning them of the consequences of idolatry. Here the time of His patience is almost at a close, and He will soon be carrying out those consequences. God even tells Jeremiah not to pray for the people. He knows they will not repent.

In a similar way, throughout our lifetimes, God persistently calls to each of us sinners to come to Him in repentance and faith in Christ. He graciously and patiently calls to us again and again, but, if, by the time we die, we have refused to surrender to Him, He will execute judgment on us.

How much better to turn to Christ early and experience the sweet fellowship that comes from being forgiven for our sin and reconciled to God. Jeremiah saw this and wanted this for his people, but they would not have it. We see in chapter 9 how grieved he was about this.

“Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh”- The burnt offerings were completely consumed by fire. Parts of the sacrifices (or peace offerings) were eaten by the one offering them. What God is basically saying here is, “Take what you would have offered as a burnt offering and turn it into a sacrifice and go ahead and eat both of them. You might as well just eat them, because I’m not going to accept them.”

God again takes the people back to the Exodus and reminds them that when He initially brought them out, and all during their wilderness wanderings, there was no sacrificial system. All He asked of them was to obey Him and walk in His ways. That was His priority. That was what came first: their love for Him and obedience to Him. The sacrificial system came later. Sacrifices were to be a natural outward expression of the people’s inward love for God.

It is no different for Christians. God is not interested in mere outward behavior, service, or religious practices. He wants our hearts. Our outward actions are to reflect the love for Christ that is already present in our hearts.

Unfortunately, even though Jeremiah faithfully preached God’s word, the people would not listen. Did this mean Jeremiah was a failure or that God was disappointed in him? No. He did exactly what God told him to do, and that’s what God judges His servants by, not the results.

We will experience the same thing at some point if we faithfully preach the gospel to people and stand on God’s word. People will reject the gospel, preferring to live in sin. People who call themselves Christians will reject the truth of God’s word no matter how clear it is or how nicely we present it to them. Does this mean we are failures or that God is disappointed in us? No. God considers us faithful if we believe, obey, and share the gospel. The results are up to Him.

Idolatry, Old Testament, Sunday School

An Overview of Hosea ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 7-27-14

Overview of Hosea


These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 30 ~ July 20-26
Hosea, Isaiah 28-43, Psalm 76
An Overview of Hosea

Hosea 1
Hosea was a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel. God used his family life as a picture of what he was prophesying. Hosea married a woman, Gomer, who would later prove unfaithful to him. God also had Hosea give his children names that reflected God’s message to Israel: Jezreel, No Mercy, and Not My People. But the real story of the book of Hosea is not Hosea or his family, but the love, reluctant wrath, and forgiveness of God towards His unfaithful people.

Everything Israel gave away -as sacrifices to idols, as tribute to foreign potentates, as bribes for foreign armies to come to her aid- everything had been given to her by God.

When sinners persist in their sin long enough, God finally gives them over to what they want. (Rom. 1:18ff). Often sinners think the harshest thing God could do would be to try to stop them from participating in the sin that they love, but His wrath is most poured out when He gives them exactly what they want.

5:6, 15; 7:13-14
Seek the Lord while He may be found (Isaiah 55:6). God was calling Israel to seek Him before He gave them over to a hard heart and a reprobate mind. The Lord is always found by those with a soft heart whose desire is to repent and love Him, but He turns a deaf ear to those who continue in rebellion until it starts raining, only to beat on the door of the ark because they don’t want to die in the flood.

God is not interested in the worldly sorrow that is only grieved over the consequences of sin. That soul still has its eyes firmly fixed on self and how self is affected. The truly repentant heart has her eyes fixed on God and how her sin affects Him.

God doesn’t desire empty rituals, lip service, or going through the motions. He wants worship from the heart.

8:2, 5-6
God will not allow syncretism (the melding of unbiblical worship with biblical worship). He requires, not that He be first in our affections, but that He be ONLY in our affections.
It did no good for Israel to claim that she knew the Lord (2) because she was a) worshiping other gods besides the Lord, b) calling an idol (the golden calves) “God,” and c) not worshiping God in the way He had commanded. None of these were acceptable in God’s sight then, and because He is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), it is still not acceptable to Him today.

That’s why false teachers are so dangerous. People like Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, and TD Jakes may not be fashioning golden calves and calling them “Jesus,” but they are fashioning false gods with unbiblical words and ideas and calling them “Jesus.” This is what Matthew 7:21-23 is talking about when it says:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Just as Gomer has betrayed and forsaken Hosea, Israel has betrayed the Lord. She has loved adultery and the fleeting pleasures (Hebrews 11:25) that go with it instead of the true and lasting treasure that comes from loyalty to the Lord (Revelation 11:18).

The golden calf Israel worshiped would be used to pay off Assyria in tribute. God is sovereign. He will ultimately destroy everything that is raised up against Him. Idols, ideas, individuals.

God is not a cruel taskmaster. He led and cared for Israel with “cords of kindness” and “bands of love” as a parent leads a toddler. They didn’t have to live in fear of Him if they were walking with Him. Not so with other gods. With other gods, they could never be certain where they stood. Had they offered enough? Pleased it enough? Would it bless them with fertility or rain for their crops?

With God, on the other hand, His love for Israel came first. It wasn’t a reaction to whether or not their actions pleased Him. His love for them was there even before they knew Him (1 John 4:15-19). It was because He loved them that He lovingly spelled out everything He wanted Israel to do in worship, in daily life, and in their hearts. He also went into great detail about the things they could expect from Him, and He kept His promises time and again. They didn’t have to wonder how He felt towards them or what He required of them or whether He would come through for them. They could know.

It grieved God to destroy Israel as he had destroyed Admah and Zeboiim with Sodom and Gomorrah. God is not a God who delights in executing His wrath, but, rather, does so with a broken heart and only as a last resort.

“Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” Ezekiel 18:23

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

When Israel was in Egypt and in the wilderness where she had nothing to depend on but God, she was loyal to Him, but once prosperity came, she left Him, just as Gomer left Hosea for something she thought was better.

It is often only when people have no other choice but to turn to Christ that they do so, but when they don’t “need” anything, they turn away from Him. This is why Jesus said “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24).

By stripping away everything Israel had and sending her into exile, God was bringing Israel full circle to the neediness she had started out with in Egypt in order to bring her back to Himself.

God’s desire is, and always has been, for His people to repent and be reconciled to Him, and enjoy a loving, father-child relationship with Him. We see this in His post-Eden relationship with Adam and Eve, in His blessing of the earth after the Flood, in His bringing Israel out of Egypt, in bringing Israel out of exile, and in the most important way of all, in saving us out of our sin that we might be permanently reconciled to Him through the precious blood of Christ, to love Him and serve Him forever.

I will heal their apostasy;
I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them.