Trying To Catch Back Up: This Reading: Isaiah 1-3; Psalm 9
Two amazing things jump out at me in this reading, both qualities of our great and glorious God.
First, as He discusses the fact that He hates their adherence to the ceremonial things of the Law while they ignored weightier matters like justice, God says, "I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly" (1:13).
All of the proper means and form of worship is worthless if we are caught up in sin. In fact, it is an affront to God to perform acts of worship while rejecting His teaching on such important values as justice and obedience. In other words, God is not fooled by sanctimony when our "hands are full of blood" (1:15).
But as disgusted as God is by their behavior, look at what follows as He instructs them to repent:
"Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land" (1:18-19).
We serve a God who is willing, indeed who desires, to forgive. He wants us to return to Him. He desires relationship with us, despite all that we have done to reject Him. If we are willing to obey, He is more than willing to forgive. Like a white snowfall covers an ugly bloodstain, His love can cover the blood on our hands, washing us clean to walk again with Him.
Trying To Catch Back Up: This Reading: 2 Kings 15-16
In these chapters, we have the exact opposite of the previous reading. While Jotham learned from his father's error, his own son Ahaz failed to learn the only lesson the wretched kings of Israel had to teach.
After dealing with multiple wicked kings in the North in chapter 15, we are treated to the story of Ahaz in chapter 16. The kings of Israel are a wicked, murderous lot. Four of them are assassinated and replaced by their murderers in this chapter, and they all act wickedly. Some end up paying tribute to Assyria, and some have their cities captured by that great power. None have God intervene for them.
But rather than see their wickedness as something to avoid, and his father's goodness as something to emulate, Ahaz "did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God, as his father David had done, but he walked in the way of the kings of Israel. He even burned his son as an offering, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel" (16:2-3). Further, he conspires against his brethren, turning them over to the king of Assyria, and he causes the priests to make a mockery of the worship God had instructed them in.
And so, failing to learn from Israel's mistakes, Ahaz becomes one of the most wicked kings in Judah's history, and starts them down the road that will cause them to be taken captive.
Trying To Catch Back Up: This Reading: Hosea 14; 2 Chronicles 26-27; Psalm 61
The Bible never offers humor for the sake of being funny. Still, there are some things that strike us as humorous, and the story of Uzziah is one of those. Uzziah was a good king in Judah, listening to the instruction of the prophet Zechariah, and leading the people in a revival of strength. But even as he was blessed with strength from God, he grew proud in his strength, and that led to a critical error. Uzziah decided to enter the temple to burn incense, something that was only authorized for the priests to do. When he was confronted, he grew angry.
At that point, God struck him with leprosy, and he lived the rest of his days as a leper, separated from the people. His son Jotham became king in his place, and it is here that we find some humor. "And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord according to all that his father Uzziah had done, except he did not enter the temple of the Lord" (2 Chr. 27:2).
I'll bet he didn't!
But don't get lost in the humor. Sometimes, we have a tendency to say that folks have to make their own mistakes. But that is not true, and sometimes, we would do well to learn from the mistakes of others. Jotham learned a hard lesson from the mistake of his father. He didn't have to make the same mistake Uzziah made, because he could see the folly of it in his father's life.
Don't fall into the trap of failing to learn from other's mistakes. When we see the pain that sin brings in the lives of some, we ought to be able to look carefully at that sin and learn to avoid it.
Today's Reading: Hosea 11-13
Most of Hosea's prophecy has been dedicated to the destruction that was coming to Israel. That destruction came about because they rejected God and served idols. At one point, God says of them, "they sin more and more" (13:2).
But what had their sin gotten them? They were not wealthy. They were not safe. They were not happy. They had all those things when they served God, and yet, they still deserted Him. Now, not only had they lost all those things, they were about to lose whatever they had left. Homes, children, land. All would be lost because they rejected God.
And in the midst of all that, God reminds them of one of their earliest rejections of Him.
"Where now is your king, to save you in all your cities?
Where are all your rulers—
those of whom you said,
'Give me a king and princes'?" (13:10).
Israel had wanted a king so that they would look like the nations around them. Now, they would be exactly like those nations, confined to the ashheaps of history. Carried away by the Assyrians, they would never again be a nation like their brothers in Judah. Instead, they would be utterly destroyed.
All because they rejected God.
Today's Reading: Hosea 7-10
Today's reading contains a classic case of action and reaction. The people have done something, and God is reacting to it.
"Israel has spurned the good;
the enemy shall pursue him.
They made kings, but not through Me.
They set up princes, but I knew it not.
With their silver and gold they made idols
for their own destruction" (8:3-4).
This is the repeated theme. Israel has rejected God. Turning away from Him, they have instead worshipped their own creations, idols with no brain, no heart.
God has seen this, and after centuries of trying to draw them back to Himself, He is reacting now with vengeance.
"Every evil of theirs is in Gilgal;
there I began to hate them.
Because of the wickedness of their deeds
I will drive them out of My house.
I will love them no more;
all their princes are rebels" (9:15).
How wicked had Israel become? So wicked that God now says that He hates them. When God rejects you, you have nowhere else to turn, and Hosea the prophet recognizes this.
"My God will reject them
because they have not listened to Him;
they shall be wanderers among the nations" (9:17).
But notice there is still one further response from God. He still offers hope to the one who would turn back to Him.
"Sow for yourselves righteousness;
reap steadfast love;
break up your fallow ground,
for it is the time to seek the Lord,
that He may come and rain righteousness upon you" (10:12).
Isn't that beautiful? Seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you. After all that they had done, God was still willing to forgive their sins, to welcome them back. What a comfort when we awaken from sin and realize we need God, to know that He is still there and will take us back.