Reclaim – Hosea


The alarm needs to fit the danger it forewarns.  I was driving a newer car the other day.  A rental.  I didn’t realize it had a safety feature that beeps, flashes a light, vibrates and partially takes over the steering if you are drifting out of your lane!  I was clueless the first time it engaged (just about lost my coffee).  The warning fit the threat.  If my driving at that moment continued unchecked, I could have been rammed by a vehicle rapidly closing in on me from behind.

Imagine if the designers of Timzrental would have programmed their safety feature to softly suggest “you might want to check your mirrors” (in a soothing British accent).  Or worse yet, sent me a text message later in the day recommending I “mind my mirrors better next time”.  It would spare my ego in the moment, but fail brilliantly to keep me out of danger.

In RE-moment number three, Yahweh steps in with what he considered an appropriate alarm.  A rude siren through an obedient prophet named Hosea.  The warning fit the threat.  Before we open Hosea a quick word about the threat.  And a quick word about the warning.

The worst sin.

I know you’re not supposed to say what sins are worse than others.  Maybe that would imply some people are worse sinners than others.  But let’s not make this about the sinner.  Let’s talk about the sin.  If sin were cancer what could we observe about it? First we’d have to admit not all cancers are equally fatal.  What’s the worst cancer you can think of?  Wouldn’t it be the one that does the most damage in the most stealthy manner?  Before you knew you were sick, you’re chances of beating the dammed stuff would be just about zero?

The best clue about the worst sin rests with God’s greatest pleasure.  Take whatever it is that is God’s greatest favor and spoil it for him.  Block God from getting what he most wants.  That’s the worst thing.  Here it is:

“Hear O Israel the LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”  Deut 6:4

“I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before me.  You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or the earth beneath, or in the waters below.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God, am a jealous God…” Deut 20:2-5

This is the core.  Destroy this and you destroy Yahweh worshippers!  In the Old Testament.  In the New Testament.  In the Church.  You and me. The fastest way to damage your relationship with God is reject his love in favor of your own objects of devotion. Rejecting and replacing God thru idolatry – the most dangerous threat!

The loudest alarm.

The medium for a warning with such dire consequence can’t be something easy to ignore.  If it were a sound it would be sharp, ear-piercing, obnoxious.  Something visual? It would have to stab your retinae.  If it were verbal let’s just say it wouldn’t be nice to hear.

God shouted his lungs out over Israel’s idolatry.  But here the medium he picked wasn’t primarily verbal.  He reached into his communicator’s toolbox and pulled out Hosea. No kidding.  He used Hosea.  “Go, marry a sexually unfaithful woman, Hosea.  And introduce her to the tribes of the northern kingdom.  After you do that, let me do the talking – they’ll get the message loud and clear!”


By now you know the drill. Click here to download a fresh copy of the manuscript:

My scrawlings below will ruin it for you purists. We’re going to attempt to get a feel for the entire book of Hosea by looking at the beginning and the ending. At the top of the manuscript you’ll see the three selections we’ve chosen. As you scroll down below, you’ll find a series of inductive questions. I wrote about why I picked this moment to consider in the previous blog.

Questions for discussion:

1- Do you agree with the statement: “The most spiritually dangerous sin is and has always been idolatry.”? What idols do you see when you look at our world today? What forms of idolatry seem to have a draw even for Christians today?

2- The prophets were supposed to give God’s word to his people. If you were Hosea, how would it feel to you being told to marry a woman like Gomer and to raise a family with her? Why do you think Hosea is willing to do this (compare him with Jonah who actually fled in the opposite direction he was commissioned to go)?

3- Hosea is ministering to the Northern Tribes of Israel in the closing years before Assyria destroys their capital city of Samaria (722 BC). The exile was an act of severe judgement by Yahweh for their unfaithfulness. Skimming chapters 4 and 5 will give you vivid picture of their rejection of God’s word and their preoccupation with Baal worship. Why has their idolatry come to such an extreme point of failure?

4- What do the names of the children reveal about what is happening between Yahweh and Israel?

Reading books like Hosea and Isaiah, one notices right away that messages of pending judgment and punishment are situated right next to messages of hope and promise! Emotionally it can be quite a challenge to put yourself in the story. Hosea chapter 2 is such a lift. “In that day” (actually the day of Jezreel or day of judgment) Yahweh says his people WILL be restored (not merely punished).

5- List everything Yahweh will eventually do for his people through (and in addition to) this coming act of judgment on them.

6- The LORD’s acts of healing and restoring are all cast in marital and familial terminology (my children, my husband, covenant, betrothal, etc). How do terms like this describe what it means for Yahweh to reclaim his chosen people?

7- Baal worship was a system of trying to please a pagan deity with sexualized acts of worship. A happy Baal meant that their crops and flocks and families would all be fruitful and multiply? How does this help us see why the LORD can tolerate no other gods before himself?

The Hosea and Gomer story comes back center-stage. It’s the classic relapse chapter. Remember that the story of Hosea’s family is telling the story of Israel and Yahweh.

8- Gomer has been rescued from a life of promiscuity (most likely prostitution). Why after being given a stable family identity (husband and three children) would she return to a life of sexual unfaithfulness – likely involving abuse and addiction?

9- Abstinence, deprivation, a season of radical estrangement – how is dealing with Gomer’s unfaithfulness similar to what Yahweh will impose on Israel via the exile? What gives Yahweh the right to require Israel to sever ties with all other gods?

The pathway of healing for Israel means not only will the LORD reclaim his people from their idolatry, but they also will reclaim Yahweh as their God. The identity and ownership once again will flow both directions. God will love and care for his people. God’s people will worship, serve and bless him.

10- Israel vows to never again give the devotion Yahweh rightfully deserves to something of their own making. Does idolatry still work the same way today? Explain.

11-Anger is a clue to idols. Not only does idolatry anger a God who loves us and longs for our good, anger is what people experience when our idols are exposed. Consider this quote from Tim Keller’s book Counterfeit Gods:

“When anything in life is an absolute requirement for your happiness and self-worth, it is essentially an ‘idol,’ something you are actually worshiping. When such a thing is threatened, your anger is absolute. Your anger is actually the way the idol keeps you in its service, in its chains. Therefore if you find that, despite all the efforts to forgive, your anger and bitterness cannot subside, you may need to look deeper and ask, ‘What am I defending? What is so important that I cannot live without?’ It may be that, until some inordinate desire is identified and confronted, you will not be able to master your anger.”

Is there an idol or a false god in your vicinity that leaves its fingerprints on you through your anger or other strong emotions? Explain.

12- Since idols can be almost anything, what is the best way to discern which things in our life, though in and of themselves might be good, have become an idol we must part with? In your experience, what is the best way to put an idol to rest?

13 – What forms of God’s goodness and care do you most long to enjoy without interruption? Would you say that your life is firmly in God’s grip of safety and care, or are you experiencing estrangement or waywardness? Why?

We’ll keep the series coming at you here! Hope you can join us.

Hosea… or not?


So today I’m just putting this out here on the blog with no push notification. That means readers will on their own have to scroll down here to read this. It was so good for me to process this particular study in the series I’m developing. If haven’t noticed yet, I’m writing a series of bible studies on God RE-making, RE-newing and RE-building what the world manages to to tear apart. I’ve made a map for the RE- series that includes 12 stopping points in scripture. This week I’ve reached the first point in these studies that has given me pause – can I really take people here? Hosea, the prophet of God told to marry a prostitute!

When you realize that Hosea isn’t about adultery as much as it is idolatry, then the challenge seems somehow different. Adultery always sizzles! But no one really seems to want to talk about idols. I convinced myself today in my quiet time that we really should delve into Hosea as precarious as I’m sure it will turn out to be. In this post I reveal a few of my musings and the basic argument that convinced me. Hosea should be a RE- moment we look into because idol-making is more toxic and destructive than we realize. After we get further into the story you can tell me if you agree!

By the way these are just shots from my front porch quiet time journaling this morning. Enjoy.

Renew, Isaiah 61 – part 2

Isaiah 61

God’s heart for Renewal springs from his commitment to Justice. We’ll see in Isaiah 61 that God concerns himself not only with the personal renewal of people spiritually, but he cares about their material needs in the process. The same God who comes bringing healing and freedom, also brings vengeance and judgment against the very things that have devastated his people. Finally we’ll consider how God’s renewal brings a redefinition of identity. God’s people are transformed in how they are recognized from the outside looking in. God’s justice, via renewal, imprints a new image on his people and displays it for the world to see. That image is Righteousness.

Questions for discussion:

1- Name a few places in our world right now that could use God’s renewal like it is described in vv 1-3. What people groups in your own community are experiencing oppression, pain or brokenheartedness? Has your path ever taken you to a place like this – explain?

2- Why does the Messenger talk about the LORD’s favor and the LORD’s vengeance (v.2)?

3- The Spirit of the Lord empowers the Messenger to make an announcement about renewal. In addition to his proclamation, the Messenger will demonstrate his message with his actions? What will he do in addition to what he will say?

Isaiah himself lived at a time when the Northern Kingdom of Israel was being swept into exile by the Assyrians. He could have witnessed the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C. Yet this oracle portrays restoration set in a time long after the fall of Jerusalem by the Babylonian Empire (586 B.C.).

4- Why is the Messenger reassuring God’s people of such material restoration when the devastation of the exile will be so complete and take so long to realize? How will those reading Isaiah’s prophecy be impacted by a vision like this?

5- The rebuilding, restoring and renewing seems to happen through the efforts of the people themselves? What is the Lord’s part? What is the people’s part?

6- In our RE-series, our first study was from Ezra chapter 3 – the period of time when the exiles are coming out of captivity and re-inhabiting their lands (538-516 B.C.). What might Isaiah’s message mean to them as they were permitted (even blessed) to return?

The LORD himself is speaking now. We learn why he desires renewal and restoration for his people. Oddly it has to do with reputation. The nations will see who Yahweh is by looking at the Israelites. Rather than being an oppressed and scattered people, he desires them to be Oaks of Righteousness displaying his attributes.

7- Describe the connection between God’s renewal and God’s justice. Is God the same today with his people, the Church? How does the Church make God’s justice visible today?

8- Righteousness is what the Messenger displays to all who look at him (vv 10-11). It’s how he’s dressed from head to foot. Righteousness in the Hebrew language connotes right actions, doing and being right. What does it mean then that righteousness will be what the Messenger and God’s people will cultivate among the nations?

9- How do God’s people cultivate Righteousness in our world today? In society? In the Church?

A new identity

Oaks of Righteousness. Priests/Ministers of the Lord. The renewal the LORD wants to bring his people lifts their identity out of the pit of the exile and sets it on a new path. The oracle of Isaiah 61 actually continues through the end of chapter 62. The re-branding continues. No longer Deserted, you’ll be called Delight. No longer Desolate, you will be called Married. The Holy People. Redeemed of the LORD. Sought After. City No Longer Deserted.

10- Why is a transformed identity so important to God’s idea of renewal for his people? Why do names matter?

11- Are believers today aware of their reputation “among the nations”? How can our commitments to justice and righteousness affect how Jesus is seen and received in our culture today?

Renew, Isaiah 61

Isaiah 61

The sermon that nearly got Jesus killed!

The Gospel writers each have their own way of portraying Jesus’ first miracles. It was as if John interviewed people at Cana. “We hear that Jesus worked his first miracle there at a wedding. What did he do?”

“It was incredible, the host of the wedding ran out of wine, Jesus just took 6 stone jars of water and made them into the best wine anyone had ever tasted! He saved the reputation of that bride’s family as well as the owner of the vineyard.” It was just incredible!

Mark interviewed people from Capernaum where Jesus began his teaching ministry in their synagogues. “What was happening, there, Peter?”

“It was unbelievable! There were people in the synagogue possessed by evil spirits and he drove them out. People were coming with all kinds of diseases like leprosy or paralysis and he healed them one after the other. He come to my home not far from the synagogue where my wife’s mother was sick and getting worse. He just picked up her hand and she got up out off the bed with no effort, completely restored!”

And then there was Luke. Luke tracked down people from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. “I’m writing an orderly account of the life and ministry of Jesus. I heard he also came to your town during his first Galilean tour. How did it go? Did he work any miracles?

“Well, he DID technically work a miracle, but none of the ones we were hearing about. It quickly became a problem. He did all these amazing things in Capernaum, but just stared us down after reading the scroll of Isaiah in our synagogue. We took him out to the precipice and were about to cast him down. That’s when the miracle happened.”

Jesus’ first Miracle in Luke’s Gospel

“Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.'” “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown…

When you visit the Holy Land today, this is were you’ll be taken – Mount Precipice, Nazareth.

“All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” (Luk 4:23-30 NIV)

Jesus supernaturally quelled his deranged hometown. That was the only miracle he worked at Nazareth that day. What did Jesus say about Isaiah 61 that could have ignited mob violence? Why does Luke begin Jesus’ ministry like this? Isaiah’s prophecy is a famous redemption oracle about God renewing his people. Maybe the Nazarite response shows us that God’s idea of renewal isn’t what everyone wants. Let’s dive in and see why.

Click here for a clean copy of the Isaiah 61 Manuscript.

I’ve divided the chapter into 4 sections. I did this because of the change of voice in vv 8-9. The messenger (evangelist) is speaking in the fist part. The LORD himself declares his intentions. Then the messenger returns to his oracle starting in vrs 10. Here are a few questions to get you started:

1- What do you notice about the anointed messenger’s intended audience?

2- List everything the messenger is commissioned to do.

3- What do you make of the vivid contrast in vrs. 2? What seems to bring together the ideas of FAVOR and VENGEANCE?

In the next section (vv.3-7) notice what renewal will bring to God’s people.

4- There are several identity statements. List them. How would you describe the impact of renewal on what these people will become?

5- In addition to renewed identity, what will God’s people do and experience with the new life they’re being given?

6- What challenges exist for people who have been deprived for generations (not merely for many years)?

Vv. 8-9 is the LORD, Yahweh himself speaking.

7- What is motivating the LORD’s redemptive actions?

8- There is another change in voice in v.10. What else do we learn about the anointed messenger in this last section?

Learn more about the prophet Isaiah at this article from the Zondervan Academic blog.

Grab a copy of the manuscript and get a friend or two to read it with you. What do you think of Isaiah 61? We’ll finish our study in the next post. Remember to write your questions in the margins as you scribble up your manuscript.

Blessings, and Peace

Starting again on campus

All around my four-state area ministries are re-starting this fall. Faculty groups as well as Grad student groups are regathering, face to face in most places. Here’s what it typically looks like. At Creighton for example our professional student group is focused in the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions (Pharmacy, Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy). Kathy Padilla is the best person I’ve ever worked an information table with! This year we had loads of very lively conversations at the end of which we had a stack of 19 contact cards. And that’s how it gets started.

Kathy is an InterVarsity alum, supporter and leader in our local faculty ministry. She teaches Spanish at Creighton and is the faculty advisor for our GFM group and our undergraduate chapter. She loves meeting students. She loves InterVarsity. And she loves Creighton University.

Pray for Kathy as she restarts her new year. Faculty at Creighton are relieved to be using only one platform this semester – face to face, in-person classroom instruction! After three semesters of turmoil and the complexity of being sometimes in-person, sometimes on-line, she’ll get to hear her students parse Spanish verbs live and up-close.

Pry also for this stack of cards! For the students whose names are on them, that is. This is what we have to re-start our fellowship this fall at Creighton. Last year we were a virtual community of at most 10 students. I met with three of those students for leadership, encouragement and prayer. The rest we met up with via our zoom bible study in the book of Ruth. We’re hoping to rebuild in-person community this fall. We’ll be meeting on the first and third Thursdays of the month. We’ll meet in-person for the first gathering, share some food and enjoy being together to do our bible study. The second meeting of the month will be virtual via zoom. We’re hoping to include distance students and alumni at our virtual gatherings.

Pray for me as I work through the list of people we met. I’m hoping to connect one on one before our bible studies get started. The biggest challenge with professional students in programs like Pharmacy or OT is TIME. Their programs are very demanding and all-consuming of their energy and attention. Pray that GFM will become a source of community they deem worthy to work their other commitments around!

RE- studies

So where are the rest of those RE- study guides Tim? They are in the works. I’ve been generating the entire series in rough outline form. So far I have identified 13 RE-moments I think will work well. They’ll be rolling your way soon. Isaiah 61 – RE-new, Psalm 85 – RE-vive, Mark 5 – RE-claim. And on and on. They’re coming!

Please keep us in your prayers as we get things going here in the rest of the month of August! Thanks so much.

The wedding was FABULOUS. That’s all I can say about it right now. Welcome to the Perry fam, Haleigh!