HOSEA

GOD'S FAITHFULNESS TO HIS PEOPLE

OVERVIEW – 25 DAY STUDY

By Ann Ajet

Hosea was a man called by God to marry a promiscuous woman called Gomer. Hosea knew in advance that Hosea would cheat on him, yet God still called for Hosea to take Gomer back despite her serious infidelity. That would be like asking a young woman today to go on Tinder and marry the first pimp daddy that swipes right looking for sex. She knows he’s far from marriage material but she is called to swear an oath of faithfulness to a man who ignores her, tramps on her commitment, disregards her affections, has no desire to please her and rubs her face in it by seeking other women.

This brutal picture of unfaithfulness sounds cruelly unfair but this is how  God’s people – Israel, related to God and his unconditional love. Through this biblical account, we gain an accurate picture of the epic story of God’s unrequited love to us. We see the length God goes to in order to win his people back to him. This story runs from the very beginning of the bible to the end and is neatly depicted in the book of Hosea.

DAY 1 - God's faithfulness

Read: Hosea 1

Key Verse:When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea. Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD” (Hosea 1:2)

Hosea was given a unique calling to act out the relationship between God and his undeserving people. He was commanded to marry a prostitute named Gomer. Gomer trashed the sacred act of sex reserved exclusively to her beloved husband and exchanged it for monetary payment from other lovers.
 Sounds tragic but this is how the Israelites were then.

Their first love should have been God but they allowed the pagan influences around them to overpower them. As a result, they turned to worshipping the false Gods of their neighbours – Baal. They wanted to assimilate into their surrounding culture and swap rightful affection and worship towards God and unduly direct it to Baal.

This story rings true for us today, there is a Gomer in us all. We can easily give our attention and heart to things other than God. I gave a whole lot of my time this week thinking about owning a successful foodie business because I live in London – the place for startups. Everybody pours into the city with dreams of starting their own fledgling business.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being ambitious but I’m well aware that selfish reasons also lurk. I want to be esteemed by others as someone that is competent. My heart can also become intent on drawing attention towards myself and my thoughts can slide towards a self- exaltation.

Anything that we elevate above God is a lie and that includes ourselves, if we see reality for what it is then there is nothing on this earth that is above God because he architected it all. All creation is supposed to point to him and not the other way around. Our misplaced devotion has therefore frustrated God, Israel had abandoned their God and started to worship created things rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). As a result, God had no choice but to dissolve his covenant with them, they were not his people and he would no longer be their God (Hosea 1:8).

For a period, God had divorced himself from his people. The story up to this point can sound bleak however God’s judgment stood for a season because there was a bigger promise he initiated. God was going to set up an eternal marriage vow, an everlasting covenant to Israel so that one day he would be able to return to his people and his people be restored to him forever (Jeremiah 32:40).

One day we will be united to God, the covenant relationship will be restored and we will again be called sons of the living God all because our true groom rescued us by coming down and becoming a true sacrifice to us. In the sending of his son Jesus, hope wins the day not because of our faithfulness to God as seen in this parable but because of his faithfulness to his name, to his reputation as one who he is lavishly gracious and merciful to his people.

DAY 2 - Godly Gratitude

Key Verse: “She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine, and oil, who lavished silver and gold – which they used for Baal” (Hosea 2:8)

Before I became a Christian, my good friend IB use to tell me how she attributed the success of her graduation to God. She had graduated from UCL, and was selected to do a PhD, she couldn’t be more grateful to God for what he had done.

Without an understanding of God at that point in my life, what she said didn’t register with me. I use to think that this type of talk was non-sensical and self-deprecating. After all, I got into the same university but came from a completely different perspective. I believe that it was the assertion of my strong will, hard work and determination that got me there and by reminding myself of my achievement, it made me feel good about myself and my advancement in life.

In Hosea, Gomer lost sight of what God had done for her. She was unable to acknowledge that it was God that provided for her basic needs of food and money (Hosea 2:8). 

Acknowledge and gratitude is the birthing place to repentance. It’s a wake-up call, it’s the realisation that we are not the leading thespians in our own playwright, it’s the realisation that Copernicus made in 1532 – the earth is one of several planets that orbits the sun. We are not the centre of our stories as we like to think but our Great God is. He is not part of our story, we are part of HIS story.

Viewed correctly and every success, every accolade, every academic qualification in life can be extrapolated back to God. After all, he gave us our minds, our gifts, our abilities, and our passion to work and build in the first place. God is the source of all our blessings, he has given us simple pleasures in life like admiring the sunset or watching our children grow. But above all else, he has given us his son (John 3:16). Start the day well, enter today with thanksgiving in your hearts and praise for his mighty name (Psalm 100:4).

DAY 3 - Our Thirsty Soul Longs For More

Key Verse: “I will make here as bare as on the day she was born, I will make her like a desert, turn her in a parched land, and slay her with thirst” (Hosea 2:3)

God turns the hearts of men whichever way he pleases (Proverbs 21:1) and he does that for Gomer. He does that by making her like a desert, dry and arid and in search of nourishment. He gives her parched lips and a soul thirst that only he can satisfy. He doesn’t offer us only a glass of water but water on tap, you come back for more and more because he promised that whoever drinks from the water he gives them will never be thirsty again (John 4:13-15). And if that sounds good to you then it’s probably because we were made for something beyond ourselves. As CS Lewis puts it “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is we are made for another world”.

You see God doesn’t hold a bat over our heads and club his way back into our lives. He doesn’t bully his way into a relationship with him. God attracts us to him. His intentions are pure, he wants to lead us away from our false loves and allure us to the wilderness. A private space so he can whisper tender words of compassion to us (Hosea 2:14). When you are with God, he wants you to experience the words of King David who said, “better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84:10).

Like the affections of a husband, he wants you to relate to him not as your master but as your husband. No longer as a stranger, but one who pursues your heart and who wants your whole heart and not your hands (Hosea 2:16). God doesn’t want your religious and dutiful services to him, he wants your heart.

As a Prodigal wife, Hosea did nothing to deserve this treatment, she like the Prodigal son expected to be treated like a hired servant upon their return but instead they received an embrace.

A kiss.                                                                                                                             The best robe.                                                                                                                    A ring on the finger.                                                                                                     Shoes on the feet.                                                                                                             A fattened calf.                                                                                                               And a great celebration (Luke 15:19-24)

If God gave us what we deserve then we would have no hope. God’s plan from the beginning was always to bring about final restoration instead of judgement. With that in mind, let us confidently approach this living water. Thirst for it, drink from it because his well is deep and his water is satisfying.

DAY 4 - A Sacrificial Love

Key Verse: The Lord said to me “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes” (Hosea 3:1)

Now more than ever, it is easy for people to find dates. The advent of sites like eharmony, Match and Tinder has transformed the way people look for suitors and it seems the trend amongst these sites is getting increasingly shallow. Connecting with your date over a stroll in the park seems to have diminished and replaced with flicking through a catalogue roster of singles and swiping left for no and right for yes. With over 1 billion swipes on Tinder each day, casual hooks up and sexualised messaging are replacements for meaningful committed relationships.

The problem with these sites are that dating had become a numbers games, because of the sheer volume of people that flock to these sites and the ease of navigating, tapping and swiping. It cultivates a “supermarket” mind-set, where people become tins of food – put on display, paraded and ready to pick off the shelf if their shiny labels has enticed the minds of their consumer.

Like shopping, todays daters are overwhelmed with choice that many hold out for their “perfect date”. FOMO (Fear of missing out) has engulfed so many millennials that we become constantly weighed down by the nagging thought that there may something “better” out there and find it difficult therefore to commit.

Whether it’s the need for attention from the opposite sex, seeking validation from our work colleagues or hustling for that big break. We can assign our worth to these shifting circumstances. The God that made us is radically different, he assigns worth to us despite who we are. He doesn’t go by an online picture and a witty summary of our likes and dislikes. He sees past that and his opinion doesn’t shift like men.

Throughout the book of Hosea, God is aware of Gomer’s flaky and promiscuous reputation but he still calls Hosea to return to his wife. God is aware of our shady past, our self-centredness, our showiness to want to look good in front of others.  Warts and all, God sees all of us and doesn’t reject us and swipe left because whilst we were imperfect, God demonstrated the full extent of his gut wrenching love for us and sent his son for us. This was of huge cost to God but he still did it! (Romans 5:8). Coming down wasn’t an afterthought for God after we had sinned, but since the beginning of age God knew we would miss the mark completely and had in mind that Jesus would come down in human form (John 1:1-3).

There is no FOMO with God. God doesn’t think to himself “I wished I had done it differently” or “I wished I hadn’t sacrificed my son for those ungrateful lot” but whilst Jesus hung on the cross, with the power and capacity to send down ten thousand angels to save him (Matthew 26:53). Jesus hung on the cross and said “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

You can’t be fearful of missing out or have regrets when you are God.  God planned Jesus from the beginning and he knew us before we were in our mother’s womb. God knew us and set us apart for him (Jeremiah 1:5). God knows the intricate and trivial details of our lives that others wouldn’t care for, he knows the number of hairs on our head (Luke 12:7). Since he knows that level of detail, how much more do you think he cares about the bigger picture? Even if life doesn’t go the way we have planned or the cost of following Christ has caused some disruptions in our lives. Know that God has plans for us, plans to prosper us and to give us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

DAY 5 - Our Insignificant Loves

Key Verse: The Lord said to me “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes” (Hosea 3:1)

When God points out Gomer’s love for “raisin cakes”, he’s making a point of how stupid this sounds. It’s a bit like a child who’s been given a scooter for her birthday but is more enchanted by the box it came in than the gift itself. It misses the point completely and we can think “I get it. I know how God sacrificed himself for me” or “Of course I love God more than raisins cakes” but upon careful reflection, we see how it rings uncomfortably true for us too.

In the age of self-branding, we can cleverly curate our Instagram feeds to give others an indication of the things we ascribe value to, telling our followers something about who we are, how we want to be perceived and what we care about and can become like Gomer who “turn to other gods”.

For example, I enjoy my foods, I enjoy taking pictures of food. I enjoy discovering new restaurants and I’m usually the first one amongst my friends to tell others of the new and upcoming restaurants in my area. Through this, I can also subconsciously show others how I assign greater worth to very ordinary things than the truthfulness of the beauty of the truly extraordinary supernatural God.

God has given ordinary things for our enjoyment but if we derive more meaning from them than the one that created it all, we discredit God. A heart that sees first the beauty of God in everything can take pleasure in the small tokens of joy in life and appreciate God because he created it all for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17).

Question for Reflection: We live in a culture that tends to mute any talk of God. How can we speak of our passions in a way that demonstrates our first love is God?

God has made known to us the ancient paths that lead to life, if we remain in his love and abide in him. (John 15:9-11) Abiding, a word we don’t hear often today means following him and please don’t fall into the trap of thinking that God is competing against our joy. When we are in his embrace, we find complete joy and pleasures at his right-hand side (Psalm 16:11).

We can enjoy eating “raisin cakes”, drinking craft ales, driving fast cars, watching football but do we want to be famous for these things?

The sensual desires around us can only satisfy us momentarily. There is a far more glorious truth and firm hope found in Jesus, he is the radiance of the Glory of God (Hebrews 1:3). Taste it and see it how good he is (Psalm 34:8). Let’s boast about worthier and superior things (Galatians 6:14) because the world needs it.

DAY 6 - Weekly Worship

Take this day to rest, take notice of God’s tokens of beauty surrounding you. Fill yourself with joy and gratitude and sing praise to God.

I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how he could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.

How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How wonderful
Is my Savior’s love for me.

DAY 7 - Mighty Morsel

The word of God is like bread, we are to live and feed off it. The word provides nourishment for the soul and sustains us daily. Carry this verse with you today and bind it to your hearts by committing it to memory. 

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name” (Jeremiah 15:16)

DAY 8 - Outward Decay, Inward Renewal

Key Verse: “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery, they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Because of this the land dries up, and all who live in it waste away, the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea are swept away” (Hosea 4:1-4)

Sin has destructive consequences not only on ourselves but on those around us, I see this in life when impatience enter relationships. Hurtful comments become conflicts and sometimes it takes hours before reconciliation and peace is restored. Before then guilt and shame weigh heavy on hearts which gives way to a disconnection with God, work and family and can sets us back 2 steps.

Sin starts off with selfish desires and grows. (James 1:15) The full-grown sin that leads to death is not necessarily a physical death but a moral decay. Israel has gone into spiritual bankruptcy, they have alienated themselves from God. Their lack of love and acknowledgment of God brings about their moral decline and not only does God weep but the land weeps too as it wastes away.

They have used the lips that God has given them for cursing and lying, instead of praising him (Psalm 51:15). They have used the hands God has given them for stealing instead of working to cultivate the garden he has placed them in (Genesis 2:15). If we contrast this picture of deterioration to the book of Genesis, we get a stark contrast to how God intended the Israelites and for all of us to live.

“God blessed them and said to them “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28).

God gave humans a special purpose as his image bearers to continue the pattern of work that he started when he created the earth. Applying our hands and minds to building human societies by using the natural resources on earth. We are to be God’s agent, exercising stewardship over the land and the animals. When we thrive like this, we get a picture of life, vigour and abundant fruit.

Sin disrupts that pattern of growth that God created for us humans to flourish, it misuses the way God designed us. Sin was introduced into the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed the command to not eat from the Tree of Life. It wasn’t the eating of the fruit per se which was wrong but the wilful act to decide for themselves that they didn’t want to live according to God’s way. Rather they trusted that their way was better and in effect made themselves “like God” deciding what was right and wrong. We see this same thinking and behaviour mirrored in the Israelites. Their decision to turn away from God produced a spiritual decay and this was physically represented in the land, birds, and animals that were dying.

This deterioration can also be seen today in our societies when drug and alcohol addictions lead to lives being squandered and families being torn apart. You and I are also decaying in some way. As each day goes by, our bodies age and we are not as supple as we used to be. Outwardly we are wasting away but as spiritual beings, we don’t lose heart because inwardly we can be different (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).

Every day, we can choose to not conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed in the renewal our minds by fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and perfector of our faith (Romans 12:2). In Christ, we are new creations, let us continue to usher in the new you and say goodbye to the old! (2 Corinthians 5:17).

DAY 9 - Remember Your God, Savour His Word

Key Verse: “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6)

I am constantly teaching my child about good basic routines. At the age of 2, her young mind is unable to fully grasp why she needs to brush her teeth every night as she protests and runs away. She is also unable to comprehend healthy boundaries that I set her “That’s enough TV” or “No more sweets’ are met with exclaims and tantrums. I don’t enjoy repeating myself but I have to remember the long-term gain.

As a young parent, I get a tiny glimpse into what God feels when he sees his people destroy themselves. The Israelites in Hosea drifted so far from God’s truths they woke up one day unable to see the shoreline. They became children that ran amok, unable to see the delight and wisdom in God’s truth. God accuses the religious leaders of the day for keeping the people from him by failing to teach them about who he is (Hosea 4:7). They had forgotten what God had done for them in the past and along with “their lack of knowledge’ they also lost their sense of awe and wonder of the miraculous God.

The Mighty God who…

Commanded from his mouth and was able to speak the creation into existence. God said, “Let there be light” and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)

Was able to allow their forefather Abraham to conceive a child with his wife Sarah even though they were both well past the age of fertility. (Genesis 21:2)

Was able to defy all the natural laws of physics and parted the red sea for Moses and Israelites. Then God allowed the waters to flow back again crushing the army that was chasing them. (Exodus 16:21)

 Was able to bring down an unnatural occurrence from the sky and instead of rain brought an abundance of manna to sustain the Israelites for the next 40 years (Exodus 16:4)

Unfortunately, the Israelites lost their reverence and their licentious lifestyle soon followed. The priests of the day were not to be relied upon, their inability to correctly lead the people had sent them astray.

In part, we are to take responsibility for our spiritual lives today. The good news is we no longer need a priest or a middle man to offer sacrifices on our behalf, Jesus became our perfect high priest and became a sacrifice for us, once and for all. Therefore, we have direct access to the fountain of life everyday through his word, why settle for anything less. As Simon Peter succinctly puts it “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).   

This access to Jesus himself means we don’t rely on Sunday sermons to provide all the fuel we need for the week nor do we rely on a cocktail of worship songs and a scripture every other day. God has laid out a banquet of fine foods in his word and invites us to feast in this daily. Why choose fast food when you can savour every morsel from the book of life, digest it slowly and you will see more of God’s glory, taste the flavour of joy and everyone he invites to the banquet will never go away feeling empty. (Deuteronomy 32:47)

DAY 10 - Puffed Up Hearts Not Heads

Key Verse: “A people without understanding will come to ruin” (Hosea 4:14)

The first time I watched an episode of Breaking Bad, I found myself drawn to the lead character Walter White and his world. The plot lines, characterisation and stories were so compelling that I decided to do a screenwriting course to understand how to write good stories. It wasn’t enough for me to know that Breaking Bad was a good story, I wanted to go underneath the bonnet and understand the mechanics behind a good story.

Jesus told far more profound stories, he used literary devices called Parables when speaking to large crowds, veiled messages chocked with life and death meaning to see who would come forward to try and unveil the meaning of them. Jesus wanted genuine seekers, those that wanted to understand spiritual realities and the keys to living a fulfilled life.

To everyone else, the parable landed on deaf ears. The lackadaisical dropping in to hear Jesus would just hear “nice moral stories” and the religious would get offended and hear defiance against their rules and traditions and enter into debates. Why speak in riddles? Why not speak in plain English so that everyone can understand the meaning? Jesus wanted to do more than tickled people’s brain. He wanted to engage their hearts because he knew once he had their heart, the rest would follow.

In the book of Hosea, the people knew of God but they didn’t allow the realities of God to be enlarged to its proper proportions. So God was reduced to an abstract concept without any real impact in their lives. For some of us who have been going to church a large chunk of our lives, it’s possible to gain a lot of head knowledge and know a lot about the doctrines of God but not be enthralled by him or the gospel. In other words, we can listen to God but not have an understanding of God. 

God invites each one of us into a personal saving relationship with him, he longs for us to drink from the root until it bears fruit in our lives. It’s important to bear in mind the most important commandment, to love God with all that we have. That includes our minds, our bodies and our souls (Matthew 22:37).

God’s love is the petrol we need to rev up our engines daily. If not, then everything else becomes meaningless because if we can fathom all mysteries and knowledge but do not love. We are nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2). There is a reminder for us who have been in the faith for a while to embrace a godly and biblical type of understanding that leads to love building up and not knowledge puffing up (1 Corinthians 8:1).

Secrets are not known by everyone, they are hidden treasures that are available for the few who are prepared to do some digging. Understanding the secrets of the Kingdom means cutting through the noise. And searching with all our hearts and being confident that God will be found by us if we give ourselves wholeheartedly (Jeremiah 9:13). Let go and allow the seeds of God’s word to be securely rooted in your heart. Do whatever it takes for God to be your first love. Delight in his ways above your own and you will be like a tree planted by a water, you will yield good fruit and whatever you do will prosper (Psalm 1:3).

DAY 11 - The Truth Will Set You Free

Read: Hosea 4

Key Verse: “The Israelites are stubborn, like a stubborn heifer. How then can the LORD pasture them like lambs in a meadow?” (Hosea 4:16)

We’d been playing our favourite board game Catan for a while when my husband decided to read the rules booklet. It transpired that we’d been placing the settlements on the board incorrectly the whole time. Despite this new revelation, I dug my heels into the ground and insisted we stick to the old rules because it was what I was used to and I didn’t want to change.

God’s desire is to direct us towards green pastures like trusting lambs and not like stubborn heifers that need to be pulled along.  Stubbornness gets in the way of us joyfully following God’s leading in our lives. Stubbornness often acknowledges the goodness in God’s direction but refuses to change its attitudes and position.

At the root of this gremlin is pride. Pride effectively puts us in opposition to God and that’s a very risky place to be. God’s appropriate response to this is to oppose the proud (James 4:6). And unlike other sins that lead us further away from God, pride puts ourselves in a position above God and say’s “I’m better and I know better”.

God lays bare his heart to the Israelites and his desire for them to turn away from their false idols. He offers them love and compassion (Hosea 2:19) he wants to speak tenderly to them (Hosea 2:14) and give them vineyards (Hosea 2:15). Their false idols offered them nothing compared to the what God was prepared to do for his bride. But they persisted and were dragging their neighbouring kingdoms down with them in their idolatry because they drowned out God’s shepherding voice in their lives.

How then can God pasture us like lambs in a meadow? Firstly, I wanted to address a big fat lie that says that God’s commands are burdensome and dutiful. Satan wants us to believe that God doesn’t want us to be joyful and that living within his gracious boundaries is the opposite of our self-fulfillment and happiness.

The truth of the bible is that following Jesus sets us free from the destructive nature of sin and our bondage to it (John 8:32). A freed heart is a joyful heart. Its the same way with fishes, they can only survive in the confines of water. If you set it free into the open to explore, it will no longer be able to breathe and will eventually die.

Freedom is not the absence of constraints, it is finding the right ones that fit in with our God-given nature. Since God created us, he knows us and understands how best to pasture us.  If we hold this attitude and see ourselves as God’s children, then we become humble lambs. Lambs with humble hearts that hear the voice of our Great Shepherd. The shepherd who protects and guides us and nothing can pluck us from his hands (John 10:27-30).

DAY 12 - God The True Healer

Read: Hosea 5

Key Verse: “When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his sores, then Ephraim turned to Assyria and sent to the great king for help. But he is not able to cure you” (Hosea 5:13)

My husband’s shirt looked much tighter on him than usual so I brought it to his attention. He suggested the washing machine needed seeing to as it kept shrinking all his shirts. Unable to contain the obvious, I gently pin pricked his bubble and told him he probably needed a fitness coach more than a plumber. This is an amusing and classic example of how we can misdiagnose our problems.

On an epic scale, Ephraim (another name for Israel) understood that their open bloody sores needed bandaging. The country had gone into large-scale turmoil and thought the solution to their problems was to throw more money and power and seek political help from their neighbours, Assyria. Israel was unable to see that its rotting sickness was symptomatic of a much bigger problem. Without going to the root of the matter, it was only dealing with the surface. And like a computer system that doesn’t does go through the arduous task of going into the back end and sorting through code to fix the bug, their problems will re-occur.

As powerful as the King was, he was unable to cure them. They needed the repair and healing of redemption. If God has made man in his image, to have a relationship with him and we chose to break off that relationship and go our own way without him. Then only God can forgive and restore that original relationship through his plan of salvation and grace.

People often categorise problems to groups of people. Someone people say the biggest world problem is Islamist terrorists others say its unequal distribution of wealth and some says its racism.

Christians have a unique view which says that the issue is one of the heart, not a person or a camp but the problem is sin. The insidious nature of sin affects us all, therefore, it is not enough to split the world into two camps, the good people, and the bad people. If we do that then we isolate the problems to groups and seek solutions to mediate “them”. 

The bible says that the world is fallen and disconnected from God. And we need redemption through forgiveness and restored back to a relationship to the one who created us, God. God is the only one that can forgive us for all our wrongs and bandage our bloody wounds. His grace not only covers our past sins but gives us all we need daily to lay down our lives for him.

DAY 13 - Weekly Worship

Take this day to rest, take notice of God’s tokens of beauty surrounding you. Fill yourself with joy and gratitude and sing praise to God.

You’re rich in love
And You’re slow to anger
Your name is great
And Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness
I will keep on singing
10, 000 Reasons for my heart to find

DAY 14 - Mighty Morsel

The word of God is like bread, we are to live and feed off it. The word provides nourishment for the soul and sustain us daily. Carry this verse with you today and bind it to your hearts by committing it to memory. 

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taugh, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6)

DAY 15 - Your Heart Not Your Sacrifices

Read: Hosea 6

Key Verse: “For I desire your mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6) 

To borrow a line from Justin Bieber’s infamous song – Sorry. He chimes “Is it too late now to say sorry? I know I did more than let you down”.  Who knows what Bieber did but true apologies carry with it a remorseful heart and a deep change which often starts with the word “Sorry”.

There is a glimmer of hope at the beginning of Chapter 6. Ephraim has recognised their need for healing and why they should return to their God. So he can bind their wounds (Hosea 6:1). They came to an acknowledgment of God and all that he had done and trusted that God still offered them an outstretched arm. “As sure as the sun rises, he will appear” (Hosea 6:3). Sadly, their repentance turned out to be short-lived and as shallow as a puddle. They viewed God as an Aladdin’s lamp, one stroke and he appears. Their love for God revealed itself to have little substance and like the morning mist. Their love was there for a moment and evaporated the next.

In the plight of our despair, many of us call out to God. Even professing atheists, when alone and helpless – offer a prayer to God asking him to save them from their situation. I think deep down when humans are stretched to their emotional capacity. Unable to find a human solution to their despair, will often call out to God. We like the Israelites when faced with sickness or death see God clearly. But when that goes away, God seems to fade into the background too. The Israelites soon returned to their old ways and the city of Gilead slowly became corrupt.

The Greek word for repentance is “Metanoia” which means a change of mind. The Israelites return to their sin exposed their heart and the shallow depths of their repentance. Their repentance was merely an outward change in behaviour more than a clinging onto of God’s grace for the removal of their sins.

Today, if we find ourselves returning to the same sins as the Israelites. Perhaps we need to do a bit of soul searching and ask ourselves. What are you sorry for? Worldly sorrow is feeling bad for something you did and remediating this yourself to appease and correct this imbalance. It’s like a cheating husband who comes home with guilty flowers to his faithful wife. But God desires your mercy and acknowledgment, not your sacrifices (Hosea 6:6)

One man that understood true repentance was David. David in the books of Psalms finally understood that his act of adultery to Bathsheba had grieved God greatly. In time, it eventually grieved David. This godly sorrow brought about a pleading to God “Have mercy on me O’God, blot out my transgression and wash away my iniquity, for against you I have sinned”. David knew God wasn’t looking for a sacrifice, but he desired a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17).

Turn to God for healing with the right sorrow and God’s compassion and unfailing love can cover our multitude of sins. Ask God to create in us a pure heart and renew a steadfast spirit inside us today (Psalm 51:10). A steadfast spirit that continually turns to God everyday as he refreshes us with his love and his mercies that are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Great is his faithfulness!

DAY 16 - Innocent as doves, shrewd as snakes

Read: Hosea 7

Key Verse: “Ephraim mixes with the nations, Ephraim is a flat cake not turned over. Foreigners sap his strength, but he does not realise it” (Hosea 7:8)

There are simply not enough hours in the day to do everything we want. I wish I was a faster reader, then I would be able to get through all the books on my reading list a lot quicker. We all have finite levels of energy meaning we can’t apply ourselves to everything. We need laser-sharp focus to do the most important things first. When God calls us to love him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. He is asking that we give him our priority in terms of our time, energy and resources. We live in an age of unprecedented distractions. Our phones alone give us an endless supply of news, media and entertainments and can easily derail that focus.

The Israelites had intermarried with the surrounding nations and allowed themselves to become negatively influenced. In time, their poor decisions revealed themselves as their devotion to God waned and their strength was sapped by their partners.

They did not realise how distant that had become from God because they were easily ensnared. “Ephraim who was like a dove, was easily deceived and senseless” (Hosea 7:11).  Rather than standing firm in their identity as God’s holy people, they followed the other nations in their sin. Gradually, temptation has taken roots in their lives and their ways started to become corrupt too.

If the Israelites can be deceived in this way, it is a warning to us today that we can also be duped into making decisions that can take us away from God.We too can be deceived, that’s why Jesus taught his disciples to live the tightrope between being innocent as doves and as shrewd as snakes (Matthew 10:16).  Shrewdness is having the power of judgement and discernment and knowing the tugs on your heart so you know when to switch off.

Another way we can overcome sin’s deceitfulness is by surrounding ourselves with godly friends or encouraging the ones we have so we can “See to it brothers and sisters that none of you have a sinful and unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God but encourage one another daily as long as it’s called today so you won’t be harden by sins deceitfulness”(Hebrews 3:13)

Despite the mess that the Israelites got themselves into. They could have cried out to God for rescue at any point (Hosea 7:14). Instead, they threw themselves a pity party and wailed upon their bed (Hosea 7:14). 

Our hearts were made to worship, and that vacuum will be filled with other pursuits or “idols” if we allow it. We cannot loosen our grip to these “idols” until we strengthen our grip to something greater. God alone is worthy of our praise and he longs to redeem us (Hosea 7:13).

DAY 17 - True Rest For Those that Strive

Read: Hosea 8

Key Verse: “The Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind, the stalk has no head, it will produce no flour” (Hosea 8:7)

If you’ve ever seen a dog chasing its tail, it’s amusing. On the outside, you can see the futility of its ways and how it’s pursuit amount to nothing.  We see that same phenomenon played out in our daily life “It’s a chasing after the wind” as the author of Ecclesiastes puts it. In this story, King Solomon had amassed incredible fortunes and denied himself nothing.

“I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labour. Yet when I surveyed all that hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind, nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11). This is a sober reminder to us from someone that had it all yet still considered life apart from God to be meaningless.

God was trying to restore the covenant marriage to his beloved people but the Israelites forgot their Maker and wanted to go their separate ways and choose to build their identity in other things. They started to build palaces and forgot about God (Hosea 8:14). They made idols out of the silver and gold (Hosea 8:4).

The law of sowing and reaping tells us that you will get out whatever you put in. The Israelites had sown its spiritual seed to the wind. It invested in activities that lacked any real substance and therefore reaped exactly what they put in. A whirlwind of chaos grounded in nothing.

In the frenetic world that surrounds us, it’s easy to get busy. We don’t look lazy at all, in fact, we are running around urgently trying to get things done. We love to be productive and like to reward ourselves by posting about it on social media. Without something bigger than ourselves at the centre of our lives then it’s easy to be busy in the wrong places or put our identity in the wrong things. If you chase after a promotion or a relationship then when you are overlooked you get unreasonably upset. Chase after success and you will treat people as a means to serving your ambitions. Chase after social media followers and you will live with a discontent. And like the wind: we are tossed all over the place. The Israelites were caught up in a whirlwind of pursuits unable to take rest and reflect on where they were heading and in the end drowned out things they’d rather not face.

Facing the silence alone with God and seeking his face can be difficult for many of us. Choosing silence can seem unnatural but these are the places where God is often found. Not in the winds or storms but in the gently whispers. Often the discipline of solitude allows our souls to become detached from the busyness of life and gives room for God to work in those quiet moments. We absorb God’s word more deeply with a fresh and light heart.

There’s another reason to slow down, we take notice of the divine design around us that we miss daily when we get sucked into our virtual worlds or get caught up in the internal cogs turning in our brains. Look out for the beautiful tokens in God’s design around us. The squirrel that hops around looking for buried nuts. The birds tweeting in the trees. They all point to the majesty and wonder of our creator.

As life moves at a whirlwind pace of 100 knots. Remember we have an anchor for our soul that is firm and steadfast (Hebrews 16:9). Jesus provides rest for those who strive and carries the load of those who are weary. The work underneath the work is done, today rest in the finished work of Christ.

DAY 18 - God's first love

Read: Hosea 9

Key Verse: “O Israel, when I first found you, it was like finding fresh grapes in the desert. When I saw your ancestors, it was like seeing the first ripe figs of the season. But then they deserted me for Baal-peor, giving themselves to that shameful idol. Soon they became vile, as vile as the god they worshiped” (Hosea 9:10)

Reminiscing evokes happy emotions in the past which is why I sometimes listen to old school classics on the radio because it reminds me of my teenage years. I also cook certain meals in my kitchen because it reminds me of a summer holiday. Smells, songs or movies can activate feelings of nostalgia and takes us on a trip down good old memory lane.

When God thinks back to the old Israel, he fondly remembers his first encounter “it was like finding grapes in the desert. It was like seeing the early fruit on the fig trees” (Hosea 9:10). It was like the discovery of a first love, when boy locks eyes with a girl in a crowded room.

Fast forward from this first encounter and God demonstrated his commitment through the rescue of his bride from slavery and consecration of his vow to them on the Mount Sinai. Love was given and love was reciprocated. But after they arrived in the promised land where God had blessed them with vineyards and an abundance, they took God for granted. They were influenced by their neighbouring false Gods – Baal. “But when they came to Baal Peor, they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved” (Hosea 9:10).

The Israelites forgot their first love and snubbed him in favour of Baal, a fake imitation that offered them nothing. God’s sadness is poured out in the Book of Hosea as he watches his bride make a series of bad decisions. Israel had forgotten where they came from and who they belonged to. It was God who had sustained them but once they had chosen to no longer to drink at the roots, it withered away and no longer yielded fruit (Hosea 9:16). Despite God’s attempts to woo them back to him, they continued in their shameless and blatant acts of sin and rejoiced in their unfaithfulness.

At this point, their hearts to God had turned stone cold and God had every right to divorce himself from them. God is holy and has called his people to be set apart for him. When sin enters the equation, they choose unfaithfulness and wander away from him but God remains unchanged throughout. They were not looking for reconciliation or redemption from God even though their acts brought about corruption, chaos, and death in their land. They needed healing from God. Instead, they turned to Baal and their political allegiances but they were unable to save and bandage their deep wounds.

Without the gospel, the Israelites story and our story would end in despair. Jesus didn’t come into the world to judge the world but to save it. He is the good Samaritan that carries us away from danger, bandages and heals our wounds. He wants to rescue us again from the bondage of sin and be freed.

Therefore, we ought to hold tightly to the faith we profess and put our confidence in the hope to come by holding on to our original conviction firmly to the very end (Hebrews 3:14).

DAY 19 - An underserving love

Read: Hosea 10

Key Verse “Israel was a spreading vine, he brought forth fruit for himself. As his fruit increased, he built more altars, as his land prospered, he adorned his sacred stones” (Hosea 10:1)

The Israelites have set up camp in their deep pit of sin and begun to get so cosy they’ve pulled out a sofa and nestled themselves firmly and there they remained (Hosea 10:9). The hearts have become numb and deceived to their depravity, their sins grows and becomes like a spreading vine (Hosea 10:1).

Left to themselves, they would be stuck in sinking sand, unable to see the errors of their ways. They waywardness has sprouted moral corruption, oppression to the people and negligence to the land and animals. God looks in and like a ticking time bomb, he mourns at their self-destruction. As the drama unfolds, we wonder: Will God let them sink deeper and deeper into chaos? Will God give them another chance? or do they deserve the consequences of their rebellion?

We would be right in saying they didn’t deserve to be rescued, nothing they had done warranted God stepping into the picture. But despite, their idolatry – God still chose them. This is to shine a spotlight on God’s magnificence and sovereignty because none of what took place was a surprise to God. He knew in advance that the Israelites would painfully turn away from God yet he still “set his heart in love” and demonstrated this by instructing Hosea to marry the unfaithful Gomer. The language of “setting his heart in love” speaks of God’s unconditional love, a love that knows no bounds. It’s setting your heart on something and choosing to love regardless of whether it’s reciprocated.

This is true of God throughout the Bible, his essence, his character, his natures triumphs over man’s faithfulness and unfaithfulness. We learn that God’s grace doesn’t depend on us because God is our creator, he is outside of our realm and thinking. He doesn’t depend on anyone to inform who he is and there can be no descriptions for him –  I Am who I Am (Exodus 3:14). He is ultimately faithful to himself, he has chosen his cosmic plan of redemption and he has chosen us to be a part of that. Understood correctly and that means that we win and we are the benefactors of God’s nature, the riches of his mercy which he has prepared beforehand for his glory.

And by picking Gomer and setting his love on an adulterer. God has revealed to us the essence of his heart, this is displayed clearly in the new covenant promise “I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul” (Jeremiah 32:41). This promise pointed to the final redemptive act when God displays the full extent of his love, whilst we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).

God redemptive work that he began since the beginning of time has been finished. Rest in the finished work of Chris. Live today with admiration and satisfaction in your heart to God.

DAY 20 - Weekly Worship

Take this day to rest, take notice of God’s tokens of beauty surrounding you. Fill yourself with joy and gratitude and sing praise to God.

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart

DAY 21 - Mighty Morsel

The word of God is like bread, we are to live and feed off it. The word provides nourishment for the soul and sustain us daily. Carry this verse with you today and bind it to your hearts by committing it to memory. 

“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. ” (Psalm 27:4)

DAY 22 - Remember, Remember

Read: Hosea 11

Key Verse: “It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realise it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them” (Hosea 11:3).

On my wedding day, I remember my dad making his way down the aisle ready to give me away and entrusting me into the care of my husband to be. His decades of nurture and care was now being handed over to another. Up to this point God relates to Israel as his wife. A wife he sets eyes on from across the room. When he found her, it was like finding grapes in the desert (Hosea 9:10). Here, we see another side to God’s tender love. He sees us not only as a wife but he dotes on Israel as his children. The one he sets eyes on the day they were born.

God patiently taught Ephraim how to walk. He had tenderly taken their small limp arms and guided and picked them up when they fell. These memories were indented on God’s heart but sadly the Israelites failed to remember all the ways God had shown love and kindness to them. The more God called Israel, the further they went away from him (Hosea 11:2). Instead, that gave their hearts to a lifeless idol who had no history with them and showed them no affection.

Israel was stubborn in their ways, settled in their sin and determined to turn from God (Hosea 11:7). Despite the heartache, God painfully watches his children get themselves into a mess. God is unable to sever ties. “How can I give you up? How can I hand you over?” (Hosea 11:8). Hear the pain, yet feel the affection in God’s voice. His longing to see them come back into the father’s embrace and to heal them as he did when they were young.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are’ (1 John 3:1). Tim Keller says that when John says “See what kind of love the Father has given,” he is asking, “From what planet or what world does this kind of love come?” It’s unlike anything we have ever seen. Unlike anything, we could compare it to. It’s not from our world. It’s not like any love a human could give. It’s otherworldly, completely set apart.

It is indeed otherworldly, for he is God and not man (Hosea 11:9). Unlike any other loves, there is something paradoxical about God’s love for his children. God showed his ultimate love for his earthly children by giving up his heavenly child – his son Jesus. Through this divine act, he was able to accomplish his plan of salvation, through this God demonstrated his divine logic “that greater love has no one like this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

We are God’s children adopted in his family by the power of redemption. Jesus has won this for us. With hearts bursting with admiration and praise, let’s approach God and pray “Our Heavenly Father”.

DAY 23 - An eternal dwelling

Read: Hosea 12

Key Verse: Ephraim boasts, “I am very rich; I have become wealthy. With all my wealth they will not find in me any iniquity or sin.” (Hosea 12:8)

We see our need for God more clearly when we are in dark and obstructive valleys than when we’re on mountains able to look down on everything. In the land that flows with milk and honey, our material needs can become substitutes for our soul needs and that is a consistent pattern that we see in the bible.

The Israelites prized God during seasons of famine than seasons of prosperity. In their wealth, they go as far as to boast ‘they will not find in me any iniquity or sin”.

Far from reality, wealth had sucked the Israelites into delusions of grandeur. Rather than noticing what God was saying, they credited perfection to themselves because of their net worth. This produced an inflated view of themselves and they became superior and proud, boasting in their piety.

Our abundance today can look different from the Israelites. God has gifted us in different ways, some of us have natural winsome personalities and popularity. Some of us are mentally sharp but all of our talents are not God’s endorsement of us. Giftedness can be used for the common good but pride can sometimes twist what God has given us and lead us towards self-sufficiency.

David’s killed Goliath in one slingshot, yet his strength was not in himself but God.  In the bible, he is able to express his connection to God so beautifully in the Psalms. Not because David took a love drug and became excessively sentimental. The Psalms were authentic expressions of the reality that David was facing, he was being hunted down and there was a step between him and death (1 Samuel 20:3). In these moments of hardships and struggle, God’s mercy and goodness were magnified and God became more precious to him (Psalm 23:6). David understood something of the eternal pleasures of “dwelling in the house of the Lord” forever over his situation and this was of surpassing worth to him.

Perhaps this is why God “will make the Israelites lives in tents again” (Hosea 12:9). He wants to point them to something far greater than their earthly dwelling, their material and temporary possessions. Tents are uncomfortable cloth shelters that are not meant to become permanent homes. God wanted them to discover a future prosperity, one that will outweigh everything they had built on earth.

This is what Paul is saying in the book of Corinthians “Our light and momentarily troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). That treasure we have is so precious that we will be unwilling to trade it in for fleeting pleasures. Instead, we hide it and in our joy sell all that we have to purchase that field (Matthew 13:44).

DAY 24 - Death has lost its sting

Read: Hosea 13

Key Verse“But I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt. You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Saviour except me”. (Hosea 13:4)

Their lifeless golden calf idols couldn’t save them but that didn’t stop the Israelites from worshipping Baal. They willingly bowed to their man-made idols, idols that were lifeless and had no power. This is the picture that we conjure when we think of “worship” – shrines and incense burning. Which makes it harder to identify the “idols” in our lives today.

The first of the ten commandments is “I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me”. Anything we put above God can become an idol which means we can make idols out of anything including the obvious ones – money, sex, and power. And like the lifeless, inanimate and unconscious Baal. Money, sex and power don’t sit on alters and cry out “Worship me”. But we can be seduced by its insidious powers and slowly give away self-control and give them permission to be our Gods.

As writer David Wallace Foster puts it

“There’s no such thing as atheism, there is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things — you will never feel you have enough. Worship your own body and beauty and you will always feel ugly. Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. And so on”

I think David Wallace Foster understood that fake idols can never satisfy. But we keep seeking them until it eats us alive. We seek things that only God can give us and wants to give us.

In the head to head battles of the idols, Baal vs God (1 Kings 18:38-39). God proves he is no match for the calf idol Baal. God is victorious over all our idols because our idols can only satisfy temporarily. No idols on earth lay claim to the fact that they have the keys to eternal life

God was making an exclusive and real statement to the Israelites when he says “there is no saviour except me” (Hosea 13:4). Because through Jesus’s death on the cross, God has redeemed and ransomed us. And that’s not the end of it. Through Jesus’s resurrection from the dead, God demonstrated that he has the power to overcome physical death.

“Where, O death, are your plagues?, where O grace is your destruction” (Hosea 13:14). Death has lost its sting. Jesus has unlocked this for us so that we no longer have to fear death like the rest of them. We worship God alone, he is the one that has taken away this fear and given us confidence that death is not the end but the beginning of eternity spent in heaven with Him.

DAY 25 - A renewed life

Read: Hosea 14

Key Verse: His splendour will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. Men will dwell again in his shade” (Hosea 14:6)

I thank God everyday that I have a second chance because the reality is – I’m a sinful being that needs my mind and heart to be renewed everyday. My Christian walk constantly goes through the renewal cycles of death and new life as God prunes my character. Putting to death my sinful nature doesn’t sound pleasant but I know that death gives birth to new life, a life that sets us free.

In this final chapter, God paints for us a vivid picture of the new life he sees for Israel. He compares them to a luscious tree full of beauty but also useful as shade for others. The final message is filled with hope for the future. God reveals how one day he will bring about his divine plan to heal and restore the Israelites and love them freely. “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them” (Hosea 14:4)

We have journeyed through 13 chapters together and have read the repeated cycles of Israel’s conscious turning away from God’s grace and setting him apart as their first love. They instead turn to adultery and give their time, attention and heart to worthless idols that cannot save.

Through all this, God is fully aware of the condition of their hearts and their fleshy nature to be pulled into the things that the world was offering them.

God watches on and mourns their lack of repentance. At the same time, God knows that they cannot save themselves and he longs for them to be back in a committed covenant relationship with him. This picture that God paints is of the New Covenant, the Gospel, the Good news. A day where God’s anger and wrath turns away from us and is satisfied through Christ’s death on the cross.

If you have followed the story from the beginning, then this is a romantic story of epic proportions, that covers the and width and breadth of time.

At the beginning of the age, boy meets girl and they are in love. Girl decides she wants to go her own way. Boy runs after the girl and loves her unconditionally. But she is not interested and shamelessly flaunts her other lovers in front of him. When she needs something, she remembers how generous he was to her and returns for a time. But then goes astray, breaking his heart all over again. Boy plans to win her back once and for all and he sacrifices the most precious thing in the world to him!

The length God goes to win us back and the patience he has shown us since the beginning of time blows me away. By meditating on this epic narrative, letting it marinade in our hearts will drive us to return to our first love and fall on our knees. The gift of repentance restores our relationship with God and brings about incredible blessings.

God speaks of sending roots deep down and young shoots growing and providing anchor (Hosea 14:5). The splendour of the tree can be seen from afar but it also gives off a sweet scent that others take delight in. Others are drawn to the tree for the purity of its fragrance and the cover it provides from scorching heat or the smashing rain. Its fruit provides a source of nourishment for others. The tree is producing such plentiful fruit that it has no space for dead leaves. It sheds, it grows and it’s this fruitfulness (Hosea 14:8) that will draw everyone to wonder what makes this tree so different from the rest of them.

This is God’s desire for us all, that we repent and experience the times of refreshing that come from the presence of the Lord (Act 3:19). Refreshing and resetting leads to renewal. A renewed life that is full of vigour, security and fruitfulness that comes from God.

Loving God with all your mind

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