Category: Minor prophets
Scripture reading for September 12th: Amos 1-2
Fire is a devastating force when not properly controlled and utilized. It has the capacity for great good and also for brutal destruction. I was helping an uncle shell corn at his farm about 6 miles south of our farm in Iowa. I was a young farmer and had started farming with a small hog herd and had about 25 sows (mother hogs) with their babies in a building. It was winter time and we were using heat lamps and furnaces to keep the hog building warm. One of the lamps must have fallen onto the straw, and a blaze erupted that swept through the building. I remember hearing the call to come home from my distraught aunt. “There’s a fire in the hog house!” I arrived home to find a charred building and some charred animals! It was devastating and caused great anguish to me and loss of my precious animals!
Amos was a fig (not pig!) farmer and shepherd who was called to be a prophet. (Amos 7:14-15) The reading today contains several warnings of “fire in the house!” These warning were to nations and peoples surrounding Israel and I imagine God’s people were probably cheering as their wicked neighbors were warned by God. (Amos 1:4, 7, 10, 14; Amos 2:2) God, however, is no respecter of persons and we as people all have the same malady at our core: sin. Amos also warned Judah and Israel that they also had fire coming to their houses as well! (Amos 2:4-16)
What was the root cause of these fires? Sins! Sin brings God’s wrath and fiery judgment. God hates sin because it is totally foreign to His nature of love. Sin brings destruction, anguish, and great eternal loss to those made to enjoy His blessing and glory! But our God is very merciful! He always warns His people of their sins and even provides a way of escape for them. (1 Corinthians 10:13) He wants no one to perish but all to come to repentance and deliverance. (Amos 3:7) This is why He sends the prophet, preachers and saints to testify of His mercy and grace!
Our nation is saturated with the gospel! We have more churches, preachers, and radio and television preaching than anywhere else in the world. To whom much has been given, much will be required! The gospel warns people that there is ‘fire in their house’ and provides a Savior who took the fiery wrath of God against our sin. The gospel offers us a new form of fire in our house, the precious Holy Spirit! This ‘fire’ is redemptive and empowering to the humble and teachable. It gives us power to live free from sin and to take the gospel to those who have the wrong kind of fire in their house. Take time today to thank the Lord for His mercy and His wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit!
Scripture reading for September 11th: Joel 1-3
“Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine. The Lord will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; The earth and sky will tremble. But the Lord will be a refuge for his people; a stronghold for the people of Israel.” Joel 3:14-16
I remember September 11th, 2001 very vividly and I would bet you do, too. It was a day that stunned our nation and cost the lives of thousands of innocent people in the twinkling of an eye. What was worse, was that we got to watch it in living color right before our eyes. I was in the surgery waiting room visiting a patient when I saw the plane fly into the building. Smoke and fire exploded and people were running everywhere. It seemed that the world had been turned upside down and America was under attack!
This book of Joel is an appropriate reading for today–I am always amazed at God’s timing! Joel was a prophet of God who spoke to God’s people during a terrible plague of locusts. (Joel 1:4) God used this locust plague to speak to his people of their coming judgment if they failed to repent and turn to Him. (Joel 1:13-14) Joel called God’s people to fasting and prayer for God’s mercy. A trumpet was to be blown calling all to God’s temple for serious intercession. Joel spoke to them about the ‘day of the Lord’ being near and their need to be ready.
The preparation for this coming day of the Lord was preparation of the heart. The custom for fasting was to put on sackcloth and sprinkle ashes on their heads. They would cry out in weeping before God, symbolically in mourning for their sins. But God was after something else. He desired a broken and contrite heart! (Psalm 51:17) (Joel 2:13) God through Joel called all the people together to rend their hearts. They were to say, “Spare your people, O Lord.” (Joel 2:17) God’s grace and compassion was the motivation for the fast. The goodness of God always leads His people to repentance! (Romans 2:4)
The answer from God to this fast was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the whole land! (Joel 2:28-32) (Acts 2:14-21) As all came to fast, all would be anointed with God’s Spirit! There would be signs and wonders in the earth among God’s people, young and old, men and women! This would happen right before the ‘day of the Lord’! Everyone who would call on God would be saved! (Joel 2:32, Romans 10:13)
Joel ends with a vision of the coming ‘day of the Lord’. Joel sees multitudes of people gathered in the valley of Jehoshaphat. There God enters into judgment against the nations that have reject Him and His people. There are multitudes who will be judged and eternally lost! (Joel 3:1-2) This will be a terrible day for the unsaved when the lights of heaven grow dim and eternal darkness covers their souls. But God will be a refuge for His people! Whose side will you be on? Maybe it’s time for another fast!
Scripture reading for September 10th: Hosea 12-14
“But I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt. You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Savior except me. I cared for you in the desert, in the land of burning heat. When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot Me. Hosea 13:4-5
For people who have been saved from sin and delivered by God from bondage and slavery, God’s love initially seems so good and following Him is our heart’s delight. God is good and moves us from poverty into a new realm of abundance and true soul satisfaction. It would appear that such a people would love and follow God forever, enjoy the abundant life, and celebrate their deliverance. (John 10:10) In the completion of this book of Hosea, God tells how his once faithful and thankful people became satisfied but promptly forgot Him. The source of this forgetfulness was none other than pride! (Hosea 13:6) This pride became their downfall! (Hosea 14:1)
Pride is the sin that caused Satan’s downfall from the highest heavens. Satan desired to be like the Most High and to sit on the throne of God. God’s abundant blessing on his life in making him beautiful and giving him a place of honor brought out iniquity hidden there. (Ezekiel 28:1, 14-17) He was cast down from heaven’s glory to earth. Satan’s sin of pride was his downfall and now he tempts man made in God’s image with forgetting God and His grace in our lives! We must be vigilant for this subtle sin that can creep into those who bear God’s image and carry His glory!
“Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him: “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously; that we may offer the fruit of our lips.” ” Hosea 14:1-2
God’s mercy is also toward those whose sins have taken them down! Hosea gives a wonderful altar call of repentance. Repentance is an act of faith in the patience, kindness, love and mercy of our Lord. We can offer Him nothing but ourselves and our words. Life and death are in the power of our tongue and confession brings life! (1st John 1:9) God desires to heal us and love us. Repentance restores the flow of His love. It is so simple, yet so profound and hidden from the rebellious! Check your heart and attitude today and ask God to expose any pride that could be your downfall.
“I will heal their waywardness and love them freely; for my anger has turned away from them.” Hosea 14:4
“Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.” Hosea 14:9
Scripture reading for September 9th: Hosea 9-11
“Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to see the Lord, until He comes and showers righteousness on you. But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception.” Hosea 10:12-13a
Hosea loved farming illustrations and so do I! I loved to plow ground when I was younger. We would often plow under red clover that was sowed along with the oats crop. Red clover would produce nitrogen that would make the corn grow better the next year. It would be a lush crop and then we would plow it under. The dirt turning over and the smell of that fresh soil was special. Usually a flock of seagulls would follow the plow to pick up worms and a chicken hawk would scout out scampering mice as they ran down the furrow. At night, coyotes and foxes would also come out and find rodents running in the furrows. You could see them in the tractor lights as you plowed each round.
Hosea’s illustration was not about plowing dirt, but about the soil of hearts that had grown hard and had not produced a crop in a long time. The ground had to be broken up to receive the seed in hope of a crop. The sowing had to change, too. Instead of wickedness, false promises, lawsuits and idolatry growing and making bad seed, the people needed to sow a crop of righteousness so they could reap a crop of unfailing love. (Hosea 10:4-5, 12)
God often takes the weeds of our lives and uses those bad seeds to become fertilizer for a good crop. For instance, if we were delivered from a life of drugs and drunkenness, we are able to minister to those who are bound by those habits. Someone else might have struggled with sexual temptations and upon breaking up their fallow ground, the old habits enable that person to minister to others who have similar strongholds. The plow has to be put to the hardened and overgrown ground to prepare it for the crop of righteousness.
Waiting for the harvest requires patience. Hosea encourages the people to seek the Lord until He comes and showers righteousness on them. We must ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking and knock and keep on knocking until the answer and crop comes. Prayer keeps an open line with the Lord and keeps us moving forward in hope and expectation.
In simple summary, we must keep our heart’s soil soft and teachable through brokenness. We must sow good seed of right living and make right choices to obey and follow God’s word and laws. As we sow righteous living, we will reap the fruit of His eternal and unfailing love. A broken and contrite heart, He will not despise! (Psalm 51:17)
Scripture reading for September 8th: Hosea 7-8
“Woe to them, because they have strayed from Me! Destruction to them, because they have rebelled against me! I long to redeem them but they speak lies against Me. They do not cry to me from their hearts but wail upon their beds. They gather together for grain and new wine but turn away from Me.” Hosea 7:13-14
“They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind.” Hosea 8:7
God so longed to redeem His people but they continually rebelled against Him. What form did the rebellion take? There were thieves breaking into houses and bandits robbing on the streets. The land was full of adulterers and the princes were drunk on wine. They were speaking evil of their rulers and then when they fell, they did not call on the Lord. They were arrogant and unresponsive as they went about their business of sinning. A consequence of a nation turning from God is an increase in violence, lawbreaking, and trouble with those ruling. Is there anything new under the sun?
On top of all the usual sins, they chose their leaders without the consent of the Lord or His approval. They made idols of silver and gold. They cried out to the Lord as if they wanted to know Him, but their hearts were far from Him! Hosea stated that Ephraim had built many altars for sin offerings but they became altars for sinning! (Hosea 8:11) God wrote them His law, but it was rejected and foreign to them by choice. God had no choice but to send fire of judgment on their cities. (Hosea 8:14)
As we read these sad words about religion without heart or loving obedience, we think about the church in America. Many who name the name of Christ are involved in adultery with those who are not their married partners. They watch on television and movies every sort of perversion and go to church on Sunday without ever asking God for mercy. They choose their rulers without ever consulting God or His holy word to find out if He would approve of their moral conduct and political decisions. With their lips they acknowledge God, but their hearts are far from Him! Some claim to love God and yet get drunk or high on drugs regularly. Others lie and cheat and do violence with their gossip, yet claim a relationship with God. Sounds like the time Hosea was describing, but it is today as well!
God, however, loves us. Just as Hosea was told to take back the adulterous wife, God will take us back if we repent and turn to Him with all our heart. We must not just cry on our beds, but honestly take responsibility for what we have done and turn to Him for mercy. He will abundantly pardon! If we want to avoid the whirlwind, we must stop sowing the wind!
Scripture reading for September 7th: Hosea 4-6
“Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the Land. There is only cursing, lying, and murder, stealing and adultery. . .” Hosea 4:1-2a
“You stumble day and night, and the prophets stumble with you. So I will destroy your mother–My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of Your God, I will also ignore your children.” Hosea 4:5-6
Hosea’s message to God’s adulterous people told them that they were unfaithful and unloving to Him. They knew what He required of them. Keeping His commandments was a sign of love in the Old Testament and the New! (John 15:9-10) The job of the priests was to live and teach the word of God. Hosea told the priests that they had rejected the knowledge of God’s word. It was a willful omission and so they would be willfully rejected by God–and He would also reject their children! When we reject or ignore God’s clear commandments, there are terrible consequences for us and our family as well!
God’s people are no different today! We are all called to be priests and kings before Him! (1st Peter 2:9-11) We are to show forth His praises by being a royal priesthood and a holy nation. When we curse, lie, steal, and commit adultery and murder, we show our lack of faithfulness and love. We are rejecting and ignoring our wonderful lover and faithful Father! These sins cut off our fellowship with God and also put stumbling blocks in front of our children who are watching our bad examples. (Hosea 4:5) There is great peril for our souls and for the souls of our children!
Our nation is stumbling today because of the failure of God’s people to live what they say they believe. Whole denominations of Christians are calling homosexuality practiced by their clergy acceptable before men and God! Many who call themselves Christians vote to put those in office who will keep on murdering our children through abortion. We are allowing politicians to steal our money from us to use for all kinds of projects that are against the word and will of our God! We have been unfaithful and are in peril not because we lack knowledge, but because we have rejected knowledge and ignored the laws of our God!
Repentance and faith are the only routes back from the perils we are discussing. If you have not lived your life according to God’s word, repent and ask Him to cleanse you. He is loving, faithful, and merciful! He can restore you! Pray for our nation and ask God for mercy! Only repentance can keep us from stumbling into destruction!
Scripture reading for September 5th: Hosea 1-3
Hosea was a unique prophet called by God to let his whole life, his marriage, and his children be a prophetic word to God’s people. Hosea was told by God to marry an adulterous woman named Gomer. God’s plan was to show Israel how they behaved toward Him and give them a visual picture of His love for them. (Hosea 1:2) The children’s names also were prophetic and would remind the people of the consequences of their sins. God’s ways are often above our ways and He will go to great lengths to reach His people. Those whom He called to be His prophets had to be willing to obey His instructions, even in their personal lives. We are not our own, we are bought with a price! (1st Corinthians 6:19-20)
Hosea married Gomer and took her as his wife. She conceived and bore him a son. The Lord told Hosea to call the son “Jezreel”, because He was going to punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel and put an end to the kingdom of Israel. (Hosea 1:4) Gomer also had two daughters and they were also named by the Lord. One was Lo-Ruhamah which meant “no love left” and the other was “Lo-Ammi” which meant “not my people”. God was telling the Israelite about a coming judgment on their nation because of their sins of idolatry and spiritual adultery against Him. He wanted them to be reminded every time they saw the prophet and his family of their own state and God’s word spoken through those children’s names. (Hosea 1:4-8)
As I reflect on this story, I am reminded we are just like Gomer in our ways. We have been in spiritual adultery and unfaithful to God in many ways. We have not obeyed His command to be filled with His Spirit and to go out into the world and be His witnesses. We have run after other gods of pleasure and ease instead of wholeheartedly keeping ourselves for Him. Just as Gomer ran after other lovers who offered her food, and clothes and drinks, so we have not walked faithfully before our God. (Hosea 2:5-6) We have not recognized that God is the real provider of all the good things that we have and instead have used them to serve ourselves instead of Him. (Hosea 2:8)
However, as Hosea was commanded to take back his unfaithful wife and buy her back from the slave market, so God has done the same for us! (Hosea 3:1-2) He died for us in payment for our sins and deliverance from slavery to demonstrate His love for us! (Romans 5:8) Hosea did tell Gomer to leave her life of adultery and live free from that bondage and he would live with her. God tells us to depart from sin and live a holy life. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord! (1st Peter 1:14-15)
Jesus Christ is coming back for His Bride, the Church! She is to be a glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle, clothed in the white linen of His righteousness! Check your life today and check your robes! Your loving Husband could come today!