Pastor Keith's devotional goes through the books of the Bible a chapter at a time. Each day he shares thoughts and insights from a pastor’s perspective that are intended to be encouraging, challenging, and life changing. Here’s how Pastor Keith's daily devotional works best:
Really, it’s as simple as that. Okay, here we go…
In a weird way, the Israelites were sort of like an evil version of the Three Stooges. They were bumbling around doing all sorts of things wrong, yet they never considered that they were on the movie screen and everyone (including God) was watching them. Didn’t they know that the volume of sin they had committed had piled up in a heap that reached all the way up to heaven? They were surrounded by their evil deeds, but they never even considered that God saw their sin or was angered by it. What in the world were they thinking?
But they do not consider that I remember all their evil. Now their deeds surround them; they are before my face. (v.2)
The truth of the matter is that when we get involved with sin, it captures our focus and passions to such an extent that we shut out the rest of the world, the Word of God, and the very God who made us; in a word, we become consumed by it. Since we don’t think anyone can see us, we allow our passions to burn out of control within us; that’s why Hosea described the Israelites as being hot as an oven that never went out, ready to blaze like a flaming fire at the break of day (vs.6-7). So I guess there’s a reason our parents (and Smokey the Bear) told us not to play with matches; a small fire can take down an entire forest; in the same way, playing with sin can set our oven of passions aflame, something of which God will definitely take notice.
Ephraim is like a dove, silly and without sense, calling to Egypt, going to Assyria. (v.11)
You might not know this, but every one of the twelve Minor Prophets has a key animal by which you can remember it. (I know this because I’m writing a book called The Prophet’s Zoo.) The book of Hosea’s key animal is a silly dove, which describes the nation of Israel to a T. Wow, how bad is it that Israel would be known as a senseless bird that didn’t know it’s home, having foolishly wasted away its energy flying and flittering around it’s neighbors (like Egypt and Assyria) looking for help rather than seeking the protection of God? Today, let’s be careful to make sure we don’t emulate Israel by succumbing to silliness, straying from God, and then getting caught in a net spread out for discipline and destruction (v.12)
Bonus Name Contest: What one animal would you use to describe the United States of America? To enter this contest, submit your entry in the Comment section for this devotion.
Now here’s an astonishing thing: Even though the Israelites were committing spiritual whoredom, and though their priests were guilty of murder and mayhem, and though they were going through the motions of ritual worship and sacrifice to the LORD (while their hearts were set on bowing down to other gods), God didn’t give up on them. How could that be? Well, let’s just be glad that when we get all tangled up in sin, in God's great grace, he shows us a way forward rather than giving us what we rightly deserve.
“Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.” (v.1)
Don’t you wonder what the Israelites were thinking when they heard the call of Hosea to repent of their ways? While the whole nation was sliding (running, really) into all sorts of defilements, there was Hosea in the middle of the town square waving his hands and shouting at the top of his lungs for them to turn around and seek God. Hosea was convinced that if they would sincerely turn from their evil ways, God would return to, care for, and spiritually revive them. Well, as you might have suspected, the Israelites thought Hosea was a babbling crazy man; as history reveals, they totally ignored his warning.
“Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” (v.3)
Busy having a grand time in the frenzy of their spiritual whoredom, the last thing the Israelites wanted was to repent, pick up the broken pieces of their lives, and start following the Lord; but that’s exactly what Hosea was calling them to do. He wanted them to pursue God, get to know him once more, and come under his refreshing rains of blessings. Sadly, they would have none of it. If you are one today who has run after that which is, well, not of God, then I encourage you to hear the words of the prophet Hosea, come to an understanding that the only way forward to an abundant life is by repenting and coming towards Jesus, and then begin the fulfilling life long journey of pressing to know God with all your heart, soul, and might. Oh, and if you’re one who hasn’t stepped off the narrow path, you might want to ask yourself just how passionately you’re pressing in to know the Lord.
The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. (Psa 14:2)
And the revolters have gone deep into slaughter, but I will discipline all of them. (v.2)
Driven by a spirit of whoredom, the Israelites had defiled themselves by having committed all sorts of faithless and atrociously sinful acts. What was God’s response to their spiritual madness (v.4)? As the Israelites stumbled in their guilt, God was slowing pulling away from them, which makes sense, because he is so holy he can’t look upon evil (Hab 1:13). Now, as it turned out, God still loved them so much that he decided to get them back on track by, or all things, disciplining them. What, can discipline really be a useful tool for correction?
The princes of Judah have become like those who move the landmark; upon them I will pour out my wrath like water. (v.10)
In case you missed it, Hosea reveals to us that God’s discipline upon the wayward Israelites was going to be epic; they were going to get crushed (v.11). God pouring out his wrath like water upon a rebellious people; what nation wants to be on the receiving end of that? God was going to be to them like a moth, like dry rot, and like a lion that would tear them up and carry them away. Oh, that’s right; God did send the Assyrians to pounce on them, tear them up, and carry them off into exile, didn’t he?
“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Heb 12:6)
Did you know that God is still in the business of disciplining his people? He doesn’t do it to be mean, but rather to produce lasting results. As God’s sons and daughters (through our faith in his Son Jesus), his desire is for us to be holy, faithful, pure, so when we sin outside the lines of the box (or book) of his Word, make no mistake about it, discipline is an option on the table. Today, I encourage you to do the best you can to not stray from the precepts of God, knowing that if you do, even though there is room for confession and forgiveness, the discipline of God is not out of the question.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Heb 12:11)
Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel, for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. (v.1)
Oh, oh, it’s never a good thing when you’ve done something wrong and God bows down from the heavens to make a case against you. Really, at that point, there’s nothing you can do but brace for impact. In the case of the Israelites, God took notice that they were deficient in faith, short on love, and lacking in the knowledge of God. It also didn’t escape his notice that they were swearing, lying, murdering, stealing, committing adultery, and getting caught up in all sorts of violence. Wow, doesn’t that sound a little too much like a country today that we all know and love?
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. (v.6)
Since it was the priests’ responsibility to teach the people the Law (the Word of God), they were the ones called out for the deplorable spiritual condition of Israel. God rightfully accused them of rejecting and forgetting the Law and instead chasing after wealth, women, and wine; the result being a nation that had no knowledge of God. So how is your nation doing in the knowledge of God department? Would you say that the knowledge of God is increasing and having a godly impact upon your nation, or is it lessening and therefore your nation is suffering the [ungodly] consequences?
A wind has wrapped them in its wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices. (v.19)
Not being taught and impacted by the knowledge of God, the Israelites instead found themselves wrapped in the deceptive winds of whoredom making unholy sacrifices and bowing down to pieces of wood (v.12-13). Though they may have thought they were doing the right thing, the reality was they were under the influenced of Satan to do his will – just like people in our country, and many other countries around the world today (2 Thess 2:9-12). I encourage you to pray that the knowledge of God would flood over the earth (especially your country), that people would come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil (2 Tim 2:25-26), and that many would be set free from the winds of deception to believe the truth of the gospel, repent and place their faith in Jesus Christ, and live godly and honorable lives before the Most Holy God.
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Hab 2:14)
As it turned out, Hosea woke up one day to discover that his wife Gomer was gone; he didn’t know if she had run away into an adulterous relationship with another man…or had decided to take off and resume her former manner of life as a prostitute. Now, a lot of husbands would have felt justified in going to the local courthouse and filing divorce papers, but that’s wasn’t the heart of God for Hosea on this matter. Instead of unmercifully saying good riddance to her, God wanted Hosea to seek after his adulterous wife, make a payment to her, and bring her back into a faithful marriage relationship – something that would mirror what God was doing with the nation of Israel.
And the LORD said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress." (v.1)
If we look into that mirror, we see that the nation of Israel had been “married” to God, her faithful husband, but then, succumbing to her carnal impulses and passionate desires (the love of raisin cakes), had run off into an adulterous relationship with a host of false gods. Rather than [justifiably] filing for divorce from his chosen people Israel (his bride that had rejected him for another), he lovingly went after her and brought her back; or at least that was his intention in the latter days (v.5)
So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. (v.2)
Hosea had to pay fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley to get his unfaithful wife to come back. Back then, that was probably the equivalent price to buy a slave (Ex 21:32). Now, turning to yet another mirror on the wall, we see that though we had all sinned (and become slaves to that sin), in a stunning display of love, God paid a price to get us back into a relationship with him. But in this case, he didn’t pay out pieces of silver or bushels of barley, but the life of his only Son, Jesus Christ. Today, let’s be thankful that God didn’t give us what we wanted or deserved – a life of slavery to sin, constantly chasing after unfulfilling raisin cakes – but instead chose to pursue us with his love, overcome us with his grace, and bless us with an abundant and eternal life in his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Pt 1:18-19)
“For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’” (v.5)
From whom do you get your stuff? I’m not asking the name of the store where you buy your groceries, clothing, or furniture, nor am I asking who delivers it (UPS, Federal Express, etc.). The question isn’t from where do you get your stuff, but from whom. For the Israelites living in the days of the prophet Hosea, they answered that question like this: “Baal is the one who gives us all things; all our bread, water, wool, and wine come from him.” You have to think that when God, their Creator, Provider, and Sustainer heard that misguided answer come out of their mouths, he wasn’t especially pleased; and you would be 100% right.
“Therefore I will take back my grain in its time, and my wine in its season, and I will take away my wool and my flax, which were to cover her nakedness.” (v.9)
Having become abandoned by his [unappreciative and unthankful] chosen people, God decided to take some serious action. In response to their spiritual adultery, he laid out a seven-fold punishment plan that looked like this: 1.He was going to take their grain and wine away, 2. Take their wool away, 3. Publicly expose their lewdness, 4. Put and end to their mirth and religious feasts, 5. Lay waste their vines and fig trees, 6. Have the beasts of the field devour them, and 7. Punish them for worshipping Baal. In a nutshell, they were going to get crushed, all because they had forgotten their God.
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. (v.14)
Amazingly, even though the Israelites had flagrantly committed spiritual adultery by running after false gods, God still intended to show them his mercy and blessings. Wow, that’s true and abiding love, isn’t it? If you’re one that thinks everything you get (all your stuff) isn’t ultimately from God but rather from your own hard work, realize that in a way, you’ve just like the Israelites who committed spiritual adultery. Again, if that’s you, there’s a door of hope for you today; don’t miss it. I encourage you to avoid God’s seven-fold punishment plan and come back under his grace; remember, he loves you dearly and deeply and wants you to enjoy the fullness of his blessings…provided you remember to faithfully give him thanks for being such a merciful God.
"And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord." (vs.19-20)
Come join me on a journey through the land of the Minor Prophets; you’ll be amazed at what we’ll see along the way.
Being a prophet of God to Israel, Hosea probably thought he had heard it all. Over the many years of his ministry, the messages he had received from God to share with the nation of Israel were most likely pretty much of the same theme; if they didn’t repent of their sins and return to God, they would all one day experience the wrath and fury of God. So it must have come to him as quite the surprise when God spoke one day and the message he received wasn’t for the entire nation of Israel, but rather for one specific person in that nation – a man named Hosea. Hold on a second, I know that guy; it’s me!
When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” (v.2)
We don’t know what Hosea’s marriage plans were up to at that point, but you have to think it didn’t include marrying a prostitute and having three kids with her. And yet, that’s exactly what God had in store for him. Obediently, and without question, he found a prostitute named Gomer, married her, and started having children. If you’re looking for the reason as to why God arranged this marriage, it’s actually quite simple and symbolic; the nation of Israel had abandoned the LORD and “married” a bunch of their neighbor’s false gods; in essence, they had left their first love and committed adultery. As Hosea and Gomer lived out their marriage, it was a constant portrayal and reminder to all of Israel of the adultery they had committed against the Holy One of Israel.
When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son.And the Lord said, “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.” (vs.8-9)
Hosea and Gomer ended up having three children right out of the gate, each child bearing a name that spoke to the spiritual condition of Israel. The first was a son named Jezreel (telling of the future destruction of Jezreel); the second a daughter named No Mercy (indicating that God was done showing mercy to Israel), and the last a son named Not My People (to let the Israelites know that God didn’t want them as his own anymore). Wow, who wants to go through life with such bleak names like that? Okay, so let’s ask ourselves this question: If we could rename our children (assuming we had some) based on God’s relationship with our country today, what sort of names would we give them? Today I encourage you to be thankful Jesus loves you and knows your name, regardless of what it means in the supermarket baby name book.
To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (Jn 10:3)
In the year 1954, there was a movie released called, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” If you’ve seen it, you’ll remember that it’s a comedy, drama, musical, romance, and western, all rolled into one. The gist of the story is that seven backwoods’ brothers wanted to get married, so they went looking for seven wives. You would think that’s a lot of wives to find, but did you know there’s a story, right in the Bible, where a certain tribe of Israel goes looking for 600 wives? That story is one of violence, destruction, kidnapping, and intimidation, all rolled into one. Now, how they got themselves into that situation, well, that’s a story that never got made into a movie.
And they said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, why has this happened in Israel, that today there should be one tribe lacking in Israel?” (v.3)
Upon first hearing this prayer, you really have to wonder if the Israelites had gotten too many knocks on the head during their contentious civil war. How in the world did they not know that they themselves were the ones responsible for getting in such a mess (like the potential loss of one of the twelve tribes of Israel? Let’s see, first a group of men tried to take sexual advantage of a traveling Levite; instead, they ended up abusing and murdering his concubine. Second, the Benjaminites came to the defense of those who had committed such atrocious crimes. Third, the Israelites decided to band together and totally wipe out the entire tribe of Benjamin (instead of just punishing the guilty parties). And finally, the Israelites had taken two rash vows (to kill anyone who didn’t join them in the battle and to not give any surviving Benjaminites a wife from their tribes). Clearly, what had happened to them didn’t come by way of accident; they had brought the dilemma upon themselves; you know, just like when we bring dilemmas upon ourselves when we sin and do stupid (as in definitely not in the wisdom of God) type of things.
And they said, “There must be an inheritance for the survivors of Benjamin, that a tribe not be blotted out from Israel.” (v.17)
Hmm, the Israelites should have thought about the [unforeseen] consequence of their actions before they made the decision to wipe out the Benjaminites, don’t you think? Well, what they lacked in forethought, they certainly made up for in creativity. First they wiped out a town to get 400 virgin brides and then they set up the Benjaminites to steal the remaining 200 brides they needed from an annual county dance festival going on just down the road. The happy ending is that there were 600 brides for 600 [sort of] brothers; the sad part is that a great number of innocent people were killed to make it happen, not to mention that one-third of the young virgins had been kidnapped from their fathers and brothers. I encourage you today to think through the consequences of your actions, knowing that God blesses those who commit their righteous plans to him.
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. (Prv 21:5)
As you might have expected, upon receiving various body parts of a dead concubine in the mail, the tribes of Israel got together to hear the story of the outrageous abominations that the sender of the packages, a certain traveling Levite, had encountered and endured in the town of Gibeah – which just so happened to be located within the borders of the tribe of Benjamin. Once they heard his account, they sent a delegation to the leaders of Benjamin, asking them to give up the men who had committed the atrocities about which they had heard. Okay, that wasn't an unreasonable request, was it?
“Now therefore give up the men, the worthless fellows in Gibeah, that we may put them to death and purge evil from Israel.” (v.13a)
The Israelites knew to a man that an evil had been done in the land and that they were responsible to God to exact justice for that evil; they couldn’t just look the other way as if nothing has happened. To fulfill their responsibility, they demanded the Benjaminites hand over the guilty parties they were harboring so that justice (in this case a sentence of death) could be meted out. You really have to commend the Israelites on this one, don’t you? They understood their responsibility before God to purge an evil from their land. Hmm, I wonder what that sort of a godly mindset would look like in our society today – not punishing, pushing to the side or justifying evil, but actually purging it away?
But the Benjaminites would not listen to the voice of their brothers, the people of Israel. (v.13b)
In quite the bizarre (and prideful) move, the Benjaminites actually chose to fight for their right to allow homosexual behavior and murder within the confines of their borders rather than hand over those who were guilty of such actions to suffer the just consequences of their sins. In the end, the Benjaminites ended up getting crushed by an Israeli army of 400,000 men. After losing 25,000 men in the lopsided battle, the Benjaminites were reduced to a remnant of only 600 men, who, to save their lives, ran and hid behind a rock in the wilderness. Today, let’s remember that evil is something we shouldn’t mess with, accept, look the other way at, nor in any fashion harbor; if we do, we might just end up hiding behind a rock...and shaking in our boots.
Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on. (Prv 4:14-15)
Do you remember the story of when, in great part due to their acceptance and practice of homosexuality, God rained down fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah? Strange as it may seem, even though those two nearby towns had been completely wiped out, a few of the Israelites totally forgot that God saw the practice of homosexuality as an abomination and figured he would just look the other way when they got involved in it (Lev 18:22). For them, it was okay to do whatever was right in their own eyes, especially when no one was telling them that they were going against the Word of God, or that there were severe and eternal consequences for their choice of deviant sexual behavior.
As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.” (v.22)
When a certain Levite and his concubine found lodging with a hospitable old man in a strange city, they probably thought they had it made; they would catch a nice homemade meal, relax a bit, and then fall off to sleep safe and sound. Oh my, that’s not what happened at all. Sometime during the night, “worthless fellows” came banging on the door of the house where they were staying demanding to have sex, not with the [female] concubine, but with the [male] Levite. Gross! As it turned out, the concubine was shoved through door and taken by the band of homosexual men, abused all night, and returned to die on the doorstep of the old man’s house.
Then he put her on the donkey, and the man rose up and went away to his home. (v.28)
(WARNING: Not for the squeamish)
Showing great restraint, the Levite picked up his dead concubine, put her on his donkey, and journeyed back to his home. Once there, he took out a knife, cut her into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout the twelve tribes of Israel. Okay, something like that had never happened in Israel before, so as you would expect, it got everyone’s immediate attention and focus. What was going on here? Well, part of the answer to that question is that one man had had enough of having to deal with the practice of homosexuality (and a resulting murder), and he was willing to make a strong statement to the nation in an attempt to combat and punish those involved in the sexual immorality and violence. Today, let’s toss off the blanket of constraint known as political correctness and take this story as a wake up call to stand up and call out all forms of sexual immorality (and violence) as against the express will and design of God, knowing that if we do nothing but quietly disapprove of this ungodly movement, it will only continue to spread and get worse.
Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10)
BONUS MATERIAL: If you want to read a biblical take on the practice of homosexuality on The Harbor Church website, CLICK HERE.