Today’s passages: Hosea, chapters 2-5; Hebrews, chapter 2
Scripture: Hebrews 2:1-4 (NRSV) – Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will.
Observations: This section of Hebrews chapter 2 is entitled “Warning to Pay Attention” in the NRSV, and I think that is a good title for all of today’s readings. Our Old Testament reading, Hosea chapters 2-5, talks about Israel’s unfaithfulness to God and the judgment that was coming upon them. We need to remember that in the New Testament world, the Church was the corollary to Israel in the Old Testament – so the “warning to pay attention” is a warning to the Church.
Hosea chapter 4 sets forth God’s charge against Israel: “Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel; for the Lord has an indictment against the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or loyalty, and no knowledge of God in the land. Swearing, lying, and murder, and stealing and adultery break out; bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns, and all who live in it languish; together with the wild animals and the birds of the air, even the fish of the sea are perishing. Yet let no one contend, and let none accuse, for with you is my contention, O priest. You shall stumble by day; the prophet also shall stumble with you by night, and I will destroy your mother. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” (Hosea 4:1-6)
The phrase “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” stands out to me, because of the growing degree of Biblical illiteracy among God’s people in the United States. Since May 2017, God has been reminding me daily how important it is to spend time in his Word. I’ve encouraged the people of the church that I serve to participate in these daily readings, and to spend time reflecting on what God is saying to them through his Word. I’ve been encouraged by the way that God is working in the lives of those who are participating – and I’ve been discouraged by the number of people who are not. On average, it takes about 40 minutes each day to read the passages and reflect on them – which is certainly not an unreasonable amount of time to spend listening to God!
I think that a big part of the problem is that people confuse this sort of reading with their “devotional” reading; most people use a devotional book for that. The problem is that “devotional” readings usually focus only on a few verses, and through the course of a year they do not come close to covering the entire Bible. The daily reading schedule that I use takes me through the entire Bible during the calendar year (twice through the New Testament, once through the Old Testament). I’m not saying that everyone has to follow that particular schedule, but daily reading and reflection should use a schedule that exposes us to the entire Bible during the year.
Reading Hosea always brings me back to the first day I started reading and reflecting on Scripture in this way, in May 2017. I had begun reading The Divine Mentor by Wayne Cordeiro for a class that I was taking, and God spoke clearly to me that I needed to start doing this kind of reading the next day. I hadn’t read enough of The Divine Mentor to get to the reading schedule, so I thought, “Where should I start reading?” God reminded me of a comment in the book about how often the Minor Prophets are ignored, and said, “Start reading in Hosea.” So I read the first three chapters of Hosea, and Hosea 2:16 jumped out at me: “’When that day comes,’ says the Lord, ‘you will call me “my husband” instead of “my master.”’” (NLT) (I was reading from the NLT last year because God led me to use a different translation than my “usual” translation, the NIV; I needed to read a less familiar translation to help me to focus on what I was reading, rather than just skimming through familiar passages. That’s the same reason I’m using the NRSV this year.) Here is my observation on that verse from May 9, 2017:
“The phrase “no longer call me ‘my master’” struck me – because we often think of God as ‘master’ – and he is. But this passage tells us that God’s desire is that we would not think of him solely as our ‘master’ – but as our spouse. That brings to mind all of the imagery of the Song of Songs, and the idea that God wants us to love him, to think about him, in the same way as a husband or wife thinks of their spouse. “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my beloved among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love.” (Song of Songs 2:3-5) “Delight to sit in his shade” – content to stay there, ‘doing nothing,’ just enjoying the moment. How often we rush through our time with the Lord, to get on to the things of the day, when God longs for us to want to stay in his presence.”
Applications: It’s amazing to me to think back on how much God has shown me since that first day of reflective reading – and today’s “Warning to Pay Attention” reminds me how important the knowledge of God’s Word is. I think about how many churches, and church leaders, choose to ignore the clear teaching of Scripture, substituting their own judgment of what is “right” for what God has said, and it is frightening. But even as I think about that, God reminds me that any church and any believer that neglects and ignores God’s Word is susceptible to the same danger. It is so easy for us to just assume that what we think is what God thinks! God is reminding me that I need to continue to stress the importance of reading and reflecting on God’s Word each day, because the spiritual dangers that this world presents to us requires constant connection with God.
Prayer: Father, I thank you for your goodness and mercy in helping me to understand how important it is to spend time in your Word each day. I know that this is not a legalistic thing with you; you simply show me how much it helps me to listen to you each day. Help me to continue to share this with others in ways that allows them to experience your direction and your presence each day through time spent in your Word. Amen.