Week 32, 2018 – Homesick for heaven yet? Keep reading God’s Word!

Sepsis throughout, or total healing? Sometimes it becomes an either / or, with nothing in between. 

DAY ONE – Hosea 6-9

“Come…” dad’s hand is extended to his little girl who is crying over the fresh boo-boo on her knee. “Come on, let me have a look; there now… it’s not so bad… see?” And as she curls on his lap he holds her in comforting arms until the crisis has passed. Years have gone by, and she is no longer a little girl; she is a young adult, and she has been gone for a long time, and she is in deep trouble, having mixed into her life destructive companions and lifestyle. Now she stands looking at her dad as he tries to cover his pained expression with the love he feels in his heart. “Come…” he says. Only this time her ‘boo-boo’ won’t be healed in a few minutes; there is a road ahead. “Come…” says Hosea.

Hosea 6:1-2  “Come, and let us return to Yahweh; For he has torn us to pieces, And he will heal us; He has injured us, And he will bind up our wounds. 2 After two days he will revive us. On the third day he will raise us up, And we will live before him. We don’t know why a child goes prodigal, but the self-destruction is predictable. We can only wait to see if our invitations and pleadings will make a difference. Though we send repeated warnings about what lies ahead if there is not a turning, we cannot make it happen. Yahweh could not, either. Israel was a wandering child; Judah strayed as well, and Yahweh God sent invitations, warnings and pleadings. The entire nation was at risk, and the danger was real; would wandering Israel return? Or would she choose to lose her identity among the nations, cast out of her own land? Would this end God’s grand design to save the world, or would there be another way? Centuries later another voice would be heard, and it would have a familiar ring…

Matthew 11:28-30  “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Father God, we come to you, we return to you, we learn from you. Our own way has proved vain and empty. Heal us, restore us as a nation, that we may live before you. Thank you.

DAY TWO – Hosea 10-14

Parents struggling with a prodigal have to face the most anguished of decisions: do I keep the door open with more pleadings, invitations and support? Or do I cut off my own flesh until there is willingness to return under our family covering? The prodigal holds the key but may find himself unable to take the first step toward restoration. Israel (Ephraim) was the prodigal, and Yahweh God was the parent. God’s angst is heard in chapter 11–“I loved you when you were a child… I brought you up out of Egypt… I taught you to walk… I drew you with gentle cords… O, Israel, how can I give you up?” The Father’s grief and suffering are clearly understood by any parent who has had a prodigal in his life. When does God surrender the child to his own inclinations? When does He pull the plug? When does He initiate the restoration process? Will Israel return, or MUST I allow him to go into an extended time of captivity and scattering? O, Israel, won’t you return? Just return, and we can work this out, but you must divorce your pagan lovers and put away your foreign gods. Our family cannot coexist with them. O, Israel, what will it be?

History writes the continuing story. From our vantage point we pretty well know what happened. But… LOOK HARD at the Father in Heaven, LISTEN to His pleadings, His promises, His HEART! What does it tell us… about His love, His forgiveness, His grace and mercy? And what does it tell us about the process of consequences and judgments? From our readings of Hosea, can you discover HOW and WHY the Father dealt with Israel as He did? What do you think our life lesson is as we finish these messages from the  pleading prophet?

DAY THREE – Isaiah 1-4

Modern dragsters go over 300 miles per hour in 1000 feet in just under four seconds! That is spooky fast. The prophet Isaiah, contemporary with Hosea, came out swinging and with no lost words. God’s message: My children are rebellious. And from there he paints the dismal picture of a nation that has become septic on their own sins. If it were medical it would be called sepsis–“Systemic infection by pathogenic microorganisms, especially bacteria, that have invaded the bloodstream, usually from a local source. Sepsis is characterized by fever, increased number of white blood cells, increased heart rate, and other signs of widespread infection.” Sepsis of the soul–that’s what Yahweh God must have diagnosed as the problem with especially Israel, and also Judah. The sins of corruption had invaded Israel and touched every area of life, from religion to justice and even social life. It was a no-holds-barred match between Yahweh and a corrupted people. It was so systemic that the entire nation was at risk. As with all the prophets, Isaiah was only a messenger, disadvantaged by the scope of his understanding. While Yahweh God saw the larger picture with both ends spread before his vision, the prophet had to deal with the immediate and the unknowable future. So he pounded away at the symptoms of spiritual disease, calling for radical change of behavior and return to the ways of God as revealed in His plan from the days of Moses and onward. But would it do any good? In the advanced stages of sepsis the patient may succumb even after massive and repeated doses of the strongest antibiotics. Would Israel survive? Could God do anything at this point? It’s fascinating that pronouncements of even the most dreaded judgments were almost always tempered with visions of a blessed future; would it be so for Israel? Isaiah spoke of a ‘remnant.’ Would God leave a remnant if His rebellious nation had to be removed? Would there be future blessings for a destroyed people? The prophet’s work continued through the administrations of four successive kings. The years rolled on; the problems mounted. God’s patience became threadbare.

How should we react to the messages of the prophets? What parallels might we draw from the descriptions of their times? What ‘symptoms’ can we see that might be systemic? What options are open for us? How might we respond to God?

DAY FOUR – Isaiah 5-8

Yahweh is a great story-teller, as was His Son Yeshua. Israel is a vineyard, and God is a vineyard maker and grower. After a lot of time and energy invested in the vineyard, it produces wild grapes, not fit for consumption. So, says Isaiah, you judge, Israel; and you, Judah, what should be done with this vineyard? What would be OUR answer to that question? How would you answer God about His vineyard? Should it be saved, destroyed… or what? Before you answer, make sure you read Isaiah’s vision of God in chapter 6. I have been reading that story my whole life and I have trembled under its weight of glory. Who can answer Yahweh once His glory is seen and His words are heard? Nations are nothing… kings are weighed on His scales… armies are flies to be swatted. Yet the kings and nations rise up proud and angry to aggrandize themselves and take what they want. Syria and Israel arise together against Judah, intending to increase their own holdings and take more spoil. No matter that Yahweh holds their destiny in His hands. A whistle is heard, and Assyria prepares to amass against smaller nations and carry out God’s plan for judgment. A time is set; the countdown has started. Woe to those who transgress God’s plans, who call good evil and evil good; who set themselves against the Almighty. The clock is ticking.

At what point does mankind reject and ignore the Creator and His plan? How does the world fall prey to such evil and hardly take notice that God even exists, let alone that He is sovereign over all the comings and goings of the nations? With each new day, hope springs anew; but it must be a hope rooted in eternity. There must be a moral and spiritual foundation on which everything is built, or else it is just more of the same old thing! Israel and Judah turned their back on God and lost sight of His plan to save the world of mankind through them. Only grace and mercy marked out a remnant that would endure until the coming of Messiah. God always has the last word. What part of “love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength” do we lose sight of? And why? What if WE are now our Beloved’s vineyard? How are our grapes this season?

DAY FIVE – Isaiah 9-12

There is a distinct turning in these chapters, a compressing of history into a short span that includes days that are beyond even our own. For instance, Isaiah tells of a Child who is to be born–a Son–on whose shoulders the government will be established. His Name? “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” NO END. So right in the middle of threats of destruction is inserted this glorious promise of future blessings for the peoples of God. And that future stretches beyond our lifetimes and those yet to come. It connects to another piece of the story–“a rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” He is just like God… actually He IS God. And He ushers in the day of God for earth and all of mankind. In THAT day a calm has engulfed the whole world that allows man and beast to dwell together in peace. And in that day the remnants of Judah and Ephraim (Israel) are regathered from the four corners of the earth wherein they have been scattered by Yahweh God. From this we understand that God DOES have a plan to save the world; and it encompasses the ages of human endeavor, ALL of which have failed to bring a lasting peace and salvation to earth’s inhabitants. While peace and safety have eluded mankind throughout the millennia of his existence, leaving the world weary and ravaged, God causes a bright hope to shine into the future.

Isaiah 12   In that day you will say, “I will give thanks to you, Yahweh; for though you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you comfort me. 2 Behold, God is my salvation. I will trust, and will not be afraid; for Yah, Yahweh, is my strength and song; and he has become my salvation.” 3 Therefore with joy you will draw water out of the wells of salvation. 4 In that day you will say, “Give thanks to Yahweh! Call on his name. Declare his doings among the peoples. Proclaim that his name is exalted! 5 Sing to Yahweh, for he has done excellent things! Let this be known in all the earth! 6 Cry aloud and shout, you inhabitant of Zion; for the Holy One of Israel is great in the midst of you!”

Our Discussion Group has resumed on Wednesday evenings at First Assembly, Chico, 6:30 p.m. Room E1. First time? Join us, U R welcome!

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