Psalm 135:13–21; Hosea 5,6,7; Revelation 2:24–3:6

Psalm 135:13–21: The psalmist writes, “For the Lord champions His people,/ and for His servants He shows change of heart.” (14) Does God really change his heart (or his mind)? I think not. However, if we look at God form our perspective and we change our behavior, then it may certainly appear that God has changed his heart. If we accept God’s offer of redemption through Jesus Christ and turn our lives around, then God will no longer appear to be and agent of punishment or irrelevance. Rather, we will begin to realize and experience God’s love that has been there all the time. It’s like driving down the road in one direction and then turning around and driving back. On the return journey we see perspectives and things that we missed on the way out.

The verses that follow describe the impotence and ultimate meaninglessness of the idols we create. [We saw a similar list back in Psalm 115.]  One verse perfectly describes our over-reliance on the benefits of capitalism, when we forget it is a means by which God bestows blessing on us to becoming the sole idol and object of our attention and worship: “The nation’s idols are silver and gold,/ the work of human hands.” (15) But as the psalmist points out, they are powerless because unlike God, they cannot speak, see, or hear. They lack the animation of life that only God can bring into being: “nor is there breath in their mouth.” (17b)

But what is most dreadful is that these idols suck the life out of us, as the psalmist observes, “Like them [the idols] may their makers be,/ all who trust in them.” (18) Is there anything sadder than to be so obsessed with our idols that the enjoyment of life evaporates and we try to live on in the empty void that the love of God could be filling? And yet, that is where our culture seems to be heading: into anger and ultimately into despair.

Hosea 5,6,7: These three chapters are written in prophetic verse very similar to what we encounter mostly in Isaiah. Chapter 5 begins with God’s warning to listen up:
  Hear this, O priests!
    Give heed, O house of Israel!
  Listen, O house of the king!
    For the judgment pertains to you; (5:1)

Hosea goes on to speak of Israel’s overweening pride and the downfall that awaits. But it’s not just Israel, Judah is also at risk if it does not repent and turn from wickedness: “Ephraim [Israel] will become a desolation…The princes of Judah have become /like those who remove the landmark” (5:9, 10) If they persist in their wickedness God will “be like a lion to Ephraim,/ and like a young lion to the house of Judah.” (5:14) and God will remove himself from them “until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face./ In their distress they will beg my favor.” (5:15)

This last statement bridges immediately to chapter 6, which describes the hope of repentance as we encounter a remarkable prophecy:
   “After two days he will revive us;
    on the third day he will raise us up,
    that we may live before him.” (6:2)

To us Christians this is a clear prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection. But to the Jewish disciples, who surely were aware of this passage in Hosea, it could mean only one thing: that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was God’s long promised restoration of Israel that God caused to occur in a wildly unexpected way. Hosea describes the hope for Israel that was implicit in Jesus’ resurrection:
For you also, O Judah, a harvest is appointed.
When I would restore the fortunes of my people,
when I would heal Israel. (6:11, 7:1)

If we continue in this vein, we can see that while Hosea has forecast the resurrection of Jesus, he has also forecasted the rejection of Jesus and the ultimate downfall of Israel, which we know occurred in occurred in AD70:
    Israel’s pride testifies against him;
       yet they do not return to the Lord their God,
     or seek him, for all this. (7:10)

Did Hosea himself know about the coming of Jesus? Obviously not. But as the Gospel writers are constantly pointing out, Jesus came and fulfilled prophecy. But only those willing to look at prophecy in a completely new light through the person and actions–and resurrection–of Jesus Christ would come to understand this.

Revelation 2:24–3:6: John tells the believers at Thyatira that have not fallen for the heresies of Balaam or the Nicolaitans to “hold fast to what you have until I come.” (2:25). Which is what we need to do too, especially as we enter the post-Christian era that I think awaits America. At the end of history, John tells us, quoting Isaiah, “I will give authority over the nations;/ to rule  them with an iron rod,/ as when clay pots are shattered.” (2:27) But in the meantime, we are to be patient and “ Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” (2:29). For us, that means we are to rely on the leading of the Holy Spirit, not on our own power or ideas, especially as we confront the wiles of the world.

Then John comes to Sardis, a dying church, as he gives his harshest assessment yet: “I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead.” (3:2) I don’t know about you, but I sure wouldn’t want an apostle writing to my church and telling me we’re dead. He admits there are”still a few persons in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; they will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.” (3:4) But it’s pretty binary: either you’re a Jesus follower or you aren’t. If you hang in there and resist temptation and heresy, “If you conquer, you will be clothed like them in white robes, and I will not blot your name out of the book of life.” (3:5)

The distressing implication to me, anyway, is that if you persist in sin, your name will be “blotted out of the Book of Life”[of which more to follow in later chapters). Do we really lose our salvation? My take on this is that if you persist in sin, you won;t care about your salvation and the point about whether your name is in the book or not becomes moot.



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