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

Originally published 11/28/2017. Revised and updated 11/27/2019.

Psalm 135:13–21: This psalm continues to praise an eternal God who shows mercy:
Lord, Your name is forever,
Lord, Your fame for all generations
For the Lord champions His people,
and for His servants He shows change of heart. (13, 14)

Against this image of graceful magnificence, our psalmist describes the pointlessness of idolatry in words that certainly seem apropos today’s American culture:
The nations’ idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
A mouth they have and they do not speak,
eyes they have and they do not see.
Ears they have and they do not hear,
nor is there breath in their mouth. (15-17)

The psalmist reminds us how these lifeless statues may look human but unlike God-created humans they are blind, deaf, and dumb.  Today, we have advanced (or declined) beyond the need for gold and silver made into small statues. Instead, we worship gold and silver itself. Wealth and power have become the great measure of a person’s wealth. But in the end trust in these dead objects or objectives is pointless. Our psalmist reminds us that when we trust only in dead things, we are transmuted into the very dead objects we worship:
Like them may their makers be,
all who trust in them. (18)

And like those statues, wealth and power are a mere simulacrum—a pathetic and ultimately dead imitation of God’s true purpose for our lives.

The psalm concludes with a hearty praise chorus, reminding the singers that the true and living God lives in Jerusalem:
House of Israel, bless the Lord,
House of Aaron, bless the Lord.
House of Levi, bless the Lord.
Those who fear the Lord, bless the Lord.
Blessed is the Lord from Zion,
Who dwells in Jerusalem.
Hallelujah!  (19-21)

May we also remember at this time of thanksgiving how richly God has blessed us—not by our idols, but by the living God through Jesus Christ.

Hosea 5,6,7: The Moravians are certainly not looking to linger in this rather strange prophetic book that uses prostitutes as its central metaphor:
Their deeds do not permit them
    to return to their God.
For the spirit of whoredom is within them,
    and they do not know the Lord.“(5:4)

There is a certain despair that hovers over this book as Hosea names the primary sin of the people: pride:
Israel’s pride testifies against him;
    Ephraim  stumbles in his guilt;
    Judah also stumbles with them. (5:5)

Hosea outlines some of the historical events that occurred when Judah was under siege by Babylon, noting that without God, human efforts are futile:
then Ephraim went to Assyria,
    and sent to the great king.
But he is not able to cure you.

Hosea, seemingly shouting into the wind, says there is only way that Judah can be rescued and that is by turning to God, who promises that,
I will return again to my place
    until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face.
    In their distress they will beg my favor: (5:15)

Which is just as true for us today. As we can see easily from current events, human pride and the wanton exercise of power untethered from faith in God leads ultimately to downfall.

We encounter a remarkable verse in chapter 6 as Hosea continues to plead with Israel to repent:
After two days [God] will revive us;
    on the third day he will raise us up,
    that we may live before him. (6:2)

That third day rescue by God is certainly a parallel to Jesus’ three days in the tomb and then resurrection, although we know that Hosea wrote those lines with no knowledge of what was to come. Only God knew that.

But Hosea’s main purpose here is to call priests and officials to account as chastises them in the strongest possible terms:
As robbers lie in wait for someone,
    so the priests are banded together;
they murder on the road to Shechem,
    they commit a monstrous crime. (6:9)

His diatribe against the priesthood continues on into the next chapter with a new simile: an over-heated oven:
As robbers lie in wait for someone,
    so the priests are banded together;
they murder on the road to Shechem,
    they commit a monstrous crime.

For they are kindled like an oven, their heart burns within them;
    all night their anger smolders;
    in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire” (7:4, 6)

Just as the psalmist excoriates those who worship idols, Hosea tells us that the efforts of these priests and officials will come to naught because they have not turned back to God. Another reminder that human effort—especially speech—that ignores God is ultimately doomed to failure:
They turn to that which does not profit;
    they have become like a defective bow;
their officials shall fall by the sword
    because of the rage of their tongue.
So much for their babbling in the land of Egypt. (7:16)

So much truth for our own time…

Revelation 2:24–3:6: John advises those in the church at Thyatira to hang in there despite those members espousing corrupt theology, or as John puts it more colorfully, ‘the deep things of Satan,’ (2:24) Instead, they are to “only hold fast to what you have until I come.” (2:25) Inasmuch as John was a political prisoner on an obscure island in the Aegean Sea, his arrival could be a long time coming…

There’s a coded promise taken from the Old testament that God will eventually overthrow the clay pots of the Roman empire and reign in its place:
I will give authority over the nations;
to rule them with an iron rod,
    as when clay pots are shattered— (2:27)

Which eventually came true under Constantine some 200 years after John wrote. I wonder f the church at Thyatira held out that long?

If John was reasonably kind to the people at Thyatira, he has fewer nice things to say about the apparently comatose church at Sardis: “I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead.” (3:1) Doubtless, there are lots of comatose Sardis-like churches floating around today.

In a reference to Jesus’ final warnings to be alert, it looks as everyone there has forgotten his promise that he will return: “Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.” (3:3) But it’s not quite clear to me if the “I” in this sentence is referring to John or to Jesus. I’ll go with Jesus on this one.

Apparently the faithful remnant at Sardis who have hewed to orthodoxy is quite small: “Yet you have 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) That’s a nice metaphor: heterodoxy as soiled clothing. There’s doubtless a lot of soiled clothing in American churches. The pertinent question of course, is my own clothing soiled?

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