The Rejection of God

In Hosea chapter 8, God lays out Israel’s hypocrisy and the irony of the consequences of their actions. They have spurned God, rejecting his love and provision, only to turn to flimsy replacements. They had turned to their own enemies and so God warns that he will spurn their idols and sacrifices.

“Set the trumpet to your lips! One like a vulture is over the house of the Lord, because they have transgressed my covenant and rebelled against my law. To me they cry, “My God, we—Israel—know you.” 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.”

Hosea 8:1-4

Verse 1 begins with a warning similar to the one in Hosea 5. The blowing of a trumpet was used to warn of coming invaders and enemies. In lieu of their rejection of God, the Israelites would be overtaken by their political enemies (possibly referring to Assyria) in addition to becoming enemies of God himself. Enemy invaders will come like a vulture to devour a weakened and pitiful people. They rebelled against the law of God and transgressed the covenant, hypocritically crying out that they knew him. But they had spurned the good, and would reap what they have sown.

“I have spurned your calf, O Samaria. My anger burns against them. How long will they be incapable of innocence? For it is from Israel; a craftsman made it; it is not God. The calf of Samaria shall be broken to pieces.”

Hosea 8:5-6

Samaria is a reference to the capital of the Northern Kingdom, Israel. God says that he has spurned their calf, a comparison to the calf-idol made by Aaron in Exodus 32:1-4. Israel’s idolatry is not a new occurrence. His people have alway gone back to their ways of rejecting him for feeble idols. But God will spurn them in response of their spurning of him.

“For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads; it shall yield no flour; if it were to yield, strangers would devour it. Israel is swallowed up; already they are among the nations as a useless vessel. For they have gone up to Assyria, a wild donkey wandering alone; Ephraim has hired lovers.Though they hire allies among the nations, I will soon gather them up. And the king and princes shall soon writhe because of the tribute.”

Hosea 8:7-10

Israel had made their bed and would eventually lie in it. The Hebrew word for wind used in this verse is the same used in Ecclesiastes, where Solomon reflects on the vanity of his self-indulgence and toil. He says that all was vanity and a striving after wind (Ecclesiastes 2:11). This Hebrew word (Ruah) often means a lack of substance, vanity, or emptiness in other contexts that refer to its meaning as wind. In some contexts it also means breath or spirit. The Israelites sowed themselves in a vain and meaningless way. Consequently, they would reap something worse than what they had originally sown. The word used for whirlwind simply meant storm or tempest. Their vain sowing inflicted a raging storm upon themselves. Their enemies (whom they trusted in rather than God) would devour them, ravaging their lands and leaving nothing behind.

“Because Ephraim has multiplied altars for sinning, they have become to him altars for sinning. Were I to write for him my laws by the ten thousands, they would be regarded as a strange thing. As for my sacrificial offerings, they sacrifice meat and eat it, but the Lord does not accept them. Now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins; they shall return to Egypt. For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces, and Judah has multiplied fortified cities; so I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour her strongholds.”

Hosea 8:11-14

Israel had tainted the very means by which God provided to them for the atonement of their sins. In his mercy he gave them altars for sacrifice, for his people would not even be able to fathom his holiness let alone attain it for themselves. But they had turned those altars into altars for sinning, unacceptable to the Lord. God judges them and will so punish them for transgressing the covenant and not even the strongholds of the city would be able to protect them from his wrath.

These verses reveal that God is all holy, just, and powerful. It also gives us a great display of his love and mercy. His language as he chastises the Israelites is consistent to the mercy that he has always shown them as his covenant people and also foreshadows the display of love and mercy he shows the world in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In verse 1 he says that the Israelites have transgressed the covenant, not annulled it, which tells us that even in their sin, he still intended to keep his end of the covenant. Despite their faithlessness, despite their idolatry and blatant rejection of his law and love, he will show mercy.

We are like the Israelites in that we are never acceptable to God on our own. In our failure to keep every commandment perfectly, we become tainted and unworthy, ultimately rejecting God. Those who reject God are in turn rejected by God. But Jesus became rejected for us, though he was perfectly righteous, so that we would be accepted into God’s covenant. Like Abraham, only faith will be counted as righteousness to those who believe in him who raised Jesus from the dead, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Romans 4:24-25).

The Treacherous Bow

In Hosea chapter 7, God’s frustration with his people builds and he gives four similes for how Israel has been unfaithful. They are like an over-heated oven, a half-baked cake, a silly dove, and a treacherous bow. God goes into poetic detail about how his people had not only failed in their covenant with him because of their evil passions and foolishness, but had consequently become his enemy.

“When I would heal Israel, the iniquity of Ephraim is revealed, and the evil deeds of Samaria, for they deal falsely; the thief breaks in, and the bandits raid outside. But they do not consider that I remember all their evil. Now their deeds surround them; they are before my face. By their evil they make the king glad, and the princes by their treachery.”

Hosea 7:1-3

Israel progressed in their wickedness, unaware of the enemy they were making. Pleasing the world made them forget to please their God. The world may have approved of their sins but in reality God had ample evidence against them for their deeds and remembered them all for their future judgement.

“They are all adulterers; they are like a heated oven whose baker ceases to stir the fire, from the kneading of the dough until it is leavened. On the day of our king, the princes became sick with the heat of wine; he stretched out his hand with mockers. For with hearts like an oven they approach their intrigue; all night their anger smolders; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire. All of them are hot as an oven, and they devour their rulers. All their kings have fallen, and none of them calls upon me.”

Hosea 7:4-7

The first of the four similes used in this chapter is that Israel is like a heated oven whose baker ceases to stir the fire. Their hearts burn with a quiet and suppressed passion for evil. God compares this passion to anger that smolders until it violently erupts like a blazing fire. V. 7 gives us some insight on the passions of Israel; their fallen kings and devoured rulers may refer to the six previous kings who had been assassinated. Israel’s lust for political control had been leading them to their own demise.

Ephraim mixes himself with the peoples; Ephraim is a cake not turned. Strangers devour his strength, and he knows it not; gray hairs are sprinkled upon him, and he knows it not. The pride of Israel testifies to his face; yet they do not return to the Lord their God, nor seek him, for all this.

Hosea 7:8-10

Here God compares Israel to a cake not turned. They had become an impure people after mixing themselves with foreign nations. Their acceptance of foreign gods and religion made them like an unturned cake; half-baked and apathetic. They were like a bride with a wandering eye, not fully committed to her love. The gray hairs (likely imagery of mold growing on a cake) sprinkled upon them was a sign that they were no longer acceptable to God.

Ephraim is like a dove, silly and without sense, calling to Egypt, going to Assyria. As they go, I will spread over them my net; I will bring them down like birds of the heavens; I will discipline them according to the report made to their congregation. Woe to them, for they have strayed from me! Destruction to them, for they have rebelled against me! I would redeem them, but they speak lies against me.

Hosea 7:11-13

Israel is described as a silly dove who foolishly flits from nation to nation. They willingly submitted themselves to former enemies, without realizing the consequences or repercussions. But God is not merely an opposing nation that they would war with. To God, they were as easily subdued as prey was to a predator and he would discipline them for their rebellion and arrogance.

They do not cry to me from the heart, but they wail upon their beds; for grain and wine they gash themselves; they rebel against me. Although I trained and strengthened their arms, yet they devise evil against me. They return, but not upward; they are like a treacherous bow; their princes shall fall by the sword because of the insolence of their tongue. This shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.

Hosea 7:14-16

The Israelites were fully responsible for their treachery and had proved time and again that their passion was to serve and satisfy themselves and they would go through any means to achieve this. Their pride and lust led them to rebel against God and chase after enemies as they would a lover. And in their time of need they cry out, but not to God. To God, they had become enemies. In the last simile, God says that they are like a treacherous bow. Their aim is directed at God and God sets his bow to aim right back at them, similar fashion to a husband and wife in a divorce trial standoff. The upper hand in this battle is obvious, but the outcome is not.

God uses the story of Hosea not to show how his people deserved his mercy, but just how much they did not. Hosea rescued his unfaithful bride with undeserving reconciliation. He put his bow down to receive her into his arms. But this metaphor does not completely work with how we nor Israel are reconciled to God. Hosea receives his bride out of obedience and not because he was in any position to atone for her sin, for he considered himself among those who needed to repent. So, how do we escape the bow that is deservingly aimed toward us? Do we lower our own in humility to be considered acceptable? What we so often forget is how much we are like the Israelites. We burn with yearning passion for things other than God, we are half-baked, silly doves and it is impossible to humble ourselves before God. Because of this, God in his mercy and love instead aims the bow in his own direction. Jesus Christ took on the treacherous bow for our sake and became an enemy in our stead so that we could be reconciled. And through him we can do what God wants from us, what he cries out for the Israelites to do in Hosea: to call upon him, to seek him, to be redeemed by him, and to cry to from the heart as we return to him.

The Covenant Promise

In Hosea chapter 6, Hosea pleads with Israel to return to the Lord. In their sin they had not only broken the Law of God, but had broken covenant with him. He points to the Lord in his faithfulness to restore them if they would just repent and know him again. But God cries out in the latter part of the chapter, revealing his frustration with a faithless people. Because of their inability and unwillingness to uphold their end of the covenant, the Israelites face wrath, but because of God’s faithfulness to fulfill his covenant promise, he grants mercy.

“Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

Hosea 6:1-3

In vs. 1-3 Hosea includes himself in a plea for the people of Israel to return to the Lord. In the midst of their punishment, Hosea points to the Lord’s faithfulness. His purposes are to reconcile them and spare them from his wrath and Israel’s response should be to return and press on to know the Lord so that they may live before him.

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away. Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light. For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Hosea 6:4-6

In his frustration, God now addresses his people. The Israelites have acted wickedly, but God’s personal plea reveals the heart of the matter- their love. He does not criticize their deeds here, but their affection for their God- It is as precarious as the morning cloud and dew. They did not uphold the end of the covenant made between God and his people just as Gomer did not uphold her vows in marriage to Hosea. Her love resembled the tainted love that the Israelites had for their God. Sacrifice and burnt offerings were means of atonement given by God to temporarily satisfy wrath, but it was not the heart of the covenant. God desired steadfast love and the knowledge of God for his people. Since they had not upheld their commitment to do so, they therefore would be cut off, slain by the word of God, his judgement shining light on their sin.

But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me. Gilead is a city of evildoers, tracked with blood. As robbers lie in wait for a man, so the priests band together;
they murder on the way to Shechem; they commit villainy. In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing; Ephraim’s whoredom is there; Israel is defiled. For you also, O Judah, a harvest is appointed. When I restore the fortunes of my people,

Hosea 6:6-11

In v. 6 God references and compares Israel’s sin to Adam’s. God’s bond with Adam suggests that it was the first covenant made between God and his people. God’s covenant commitment to Adam promised blessing (Gen. 1:29-30) contingent to their obedience and faith. Their lack of faith and disobedience would lead to judgement. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden, they received a curse for breaking their covenant (Gen. 3:17-19). God established new covenants throughout the history of his people, from Noah to Abraham to Moses to David- all of which were broken on their part, but faithfully upheld by God.

A harvest of judgement awaited the Israelites, but there would come a day when God would redeem his people. The Israelites looked forward to the hope of the Messiah (Isa. 42:1-9), the chosen one who would bring forth justice to the nations and bring them out of darkness by being a covenant for the people. The prophesy in Isaiah 42 pointed to the Lord Jesus Christ, who not only satisfies the wrath of God, but becomes the covenant himself for the people. Israel proves time and again that humanity could never uphold their end of the covenant, yet God is faithful and merciful. God proved that he alone could uphold the covenant promise, so he sent his Son to uphold it for his people. Instead of his word cutting them off and his light judging him, the Word and Light of God would become their salvation. God established a final covenant, the new covenant in Jesus’ blood (Luke 22:20). All who rest in the covenant of Christ are justified not by works or ability to uphold the covenant, but in faith in Christ alone, the everlasting promise of God.

The Holiness, Wrath, and Mercy of God

In Hosea chapter 5, God continues to bring forth his contentions with Israel. He lays out their sin, holds the priests and royal leaders responsible, and warns of the impending judgement on the people. Israel is going to receive the punishment and discipline that is justly due to them. But God does not fully desert them, nor execute his full wrath. In his perfect holiness he is right to judge the Israelites for their sin, but in his goodness he extends mercy. This points to the complete mercy that he has shown us through the Lord Jesus Christ in his atonement of sins and the complete grace that we are able to receive because he has reconciled us to God.

 Hear this, O priests! Pay attention, O house of Israel! Give ear, O house of the king! For the judgment is for you; for you have been a snare at Mizpah and a net spread upon Tabor. And the revolters have gone deep into slaughter, but I will discipline all of them.

Hosea 5:1-2

In verses 1-2 The religious and royal leaders of Israel are addressed for the judgement of their sin. Mizpah and Tabor were revered, historical sites that had now been defiled by their leaders. The imagery of the net and snare depicts Israel as the prey of the priests and royalty. The revolters (the corrupt who have turned from God) bringing the people to slaughter by misleading them to worship false gods in places where the Lord should be worshipped. For this, Israel would not only suffer active discipline from God, but natural consequences for their actions.

I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hidden from me; for now, O Ephraim, you have played the whore; Israel is defiled. Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. For the spirit of whoredom is within them, and they know not the Lord. The pride of Israel testifies to his face; Israel and Ephraim shall stumble in his guilt; Judah also shall stumble with them. With their flocks and herds they shall go to seek the Lord, but they will not find him; he has withdrawn from them. They have dealt faithlessly with the Lord; for they have borne alien children. Now the new moon shall devour them with their fields.

Hosea 5: 3-7

God lays out the consequences of spiritual adultery. Israel had become defiled because of their sin. Consequently, their deeds kept them from returning to God. Because they did not know their God and they were trying to satisfy themselves with the worship of false idols, God withdrew from them in order to leave them to the fruit of their spiritual adultery; separation from God and his wrath poured out on them. Israel was not hidden from God, though ironically he had hid himself from them. He knew his people, though they do not know him. They had become defiled from their union with false gods. They were like Gomer, who by her adultery, defiled her marriage with Hosea. Like Israel, Gomer’s deeds did not permit a return to her husband. The holy God of Israel would not be reconciled with a defiled people. Their wonderful covenant had been tainted and festivals that once celebrated the goodness of the Lord now pointed to their destruction. The Israelites had been judged guilty of sin against God. All sin has consequence. As we stray from God’s perfect law, we reap the fruit of unwise and evil actions motivated by the flesh. But sin is also punishable by God. At the fall, Adam and Eve were exiled from the garden, from the presence of God. From then on they were to suffer death and the wrath of God unless their sins could be atoned for. Throughout the history of God’s people God set up ways to atone for their sins in order to temporarily delay impending punishment and provide a way for temporary and partial communion with God. (i.e. through the giving of the Law, temple rituals, and covenants)

Blow the horn in Gibeah, the trumpet in Ramah. Sound the alarm at Beth-aven; we follow you, O Benjamin! Ephraim shall become a desolation in the day of punishment; among the tribes of Israel I make known what is sure. The princes of Judah have become like those who move the landmark; upon them I will pour out my wrath like water. Ephraim is oppressed, crushed in judgment, because he was determined to go after filth. But I am like a moth to Ephraim, and like dry rot to the house of Judah. When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound, then Ephraim went to Assyria, and sent to the great king. But he is not able to cure you or heal your wound. For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear and go away; I will carry off, and no one shall rescue.

Hosea 5:8-14

In verses 8-14 Hosea continues in irony saying to “blow the horn in Gibeah, the trumpet in Raman, and to sound the alarm at Beth-aven.” The blowing of horns was meant to warn the community of danger, but also summoned religious festivals. Hosea’s message was to warn the Israelites of God’s coming judgement. The punishment for their sin was justified. God compared them to those who “move the landmark” — a reference to those who would move their neighbors boundary mark to impede on their land. The wrath of God would be poured out on those who tried to take inheritance that was not theirs. Even After realizing their affliction, they still ran to worldly kings for aid instead of repenting to the true God. No one can hide from the wrath of God. He not only has the right to exact his judgement, but the power to carry it out completely.

I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face,  and in their distress earnestly seek me.

Hosea 5:15

God had every right to punish his people and destroy them indefinitely. Just as Hosea had the right to divorce his wife and desert her for her adultery, God had the right To abandon his people and leave them to the consequential judgement for their sin. Instead, in verse 15 God says that he will return to his place until they acknowledge their guilt and earnestly seek him. God had the right and means to destroy his people, instead he shows them mercy. No one had the power to rescue the people from their sin and God’s wrath but God. Even when they ran to other means to save them, God would wait patiently for them to return to him.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 5:6-10

Our God is a holy God. He cannot be united with unholiness and sin. We are a defiled people, deserving God’s wrath as punishment for our sins. Like Gomer we not only deserve to be separated from God, but that is the reality of our status when we are without Christ. God showed the Israelites temporary mercy for their sin, but now we have all-encompassing grace and mercy through Jesus Christ. Only God has the power to ultimately save us from his wrath. Jesus took on the burden of sin for us, not only to save us from eternal punishment, but to make us holy so that we may be reconciled to God. It was not Gomer’s righteousness that lead Hosea to reconcile with her but God’s command to Hosea to do so. Hosea shows us that God redeems us through his own holiness. Jesus is the great high priest who is the mediator between us and the Father. In Christ’s holiness we are made holy.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5

Let us rejoice that God has the power to justify us and reconcile us to God. His deeds permit us to return to the Lord and he was crushed in the judgement that was meant for us. Let us also rejoice that he is also powerful enough to sanctify us through his Spirit. Because of our justification through Jesus Christ, we have peace with God and because of the power of his resurrection we have new life in the Spirit.

Righteous Living

In Hosea chapter 4, the prophet’s focal point is the people. God continues to lay out accusations against Israel as a legal proceeding. He not only lists their offenses, but proceeds to reveal the cause for their transgression and future consequences. The Israelites had broken God’s law, the first of the ten commandments, but they also had strayed far from reflecting his character as his children. As Hosea lays out God’s controversy, he reveals that the reason for the Israelites’ behavior is that they had no knowledge of God in the land. The blame for their lack of knowledge was laid on the priests, who had failed to properly lead God’s people because of their own sin. Both the priests and the people of Israel would suffer consequences for their sin if they did not repent for their spiritual adultery and turn back to their God. We see in previous chapters that God had chosen Hosea as an example to show how desperately he pursued his people even though they had committed offenses against him and broken the covenant. God desires for his children to return to him, even if it means that he would be giving them over to their own self-destruction to do it. This chapter shows us that, to God, his covenant with Israel was not about following rules, or giving them everything they desired. It was about his relationship with them. Their sin and the consequences they faced were only the result of not knowing God.

4 Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel, for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; 2 there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.3 Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens, and even the fish of the sea are taken away. 

Hosea 4:1-3

Hosea addresses the children of Israel and begins to lay out the controversy God has with them. They reflect no characteristics of God because they have no knowledge of him and as a result break his laws. In v. 3 we see one of the consequences of their sin. The land mourns because the Israelites inhabit the land. Like at the fall in Genesis, which infected all of God’s creation with sin, the land and all creatures are affected by the weight of sin.

4 Yet let no one contend, and let none accuse, for with you is my contention, O priest. 5 You shall stumble by day; the prophet also shall stumble with you by night; and I will destroy your mother. 6 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. 7 The more they increased, the more they sinned against me; I will change their glory into shame. 8 They feed on the sin of my people; they are greedy for their iniquity.

Hosea 4:4-8

God placed the blame for Israel’s waywardness on the priests. The line of priests were established to be the mediators between God and his people. They made sacrifices to temporarily atone for their sin. But the priests were led astray themselves by their own sinful hearts and now the Israelites had no relationship with God. Therefore, God warned that they will be punished. They will stumble in their ways and God will reject them as they had rejected his law. 

9 And it shall be like people, like priest; I will punish them for their ways and repay them for their deeds. 10 They shall eat, but not be satisfied; they shall play the whore, but not multiply, because they have forsaken the Lord to cherish 11 whoredom, wine, and new wine, which take away the understanding.12 My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles. For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the whore. 13 They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth, because their shade is good. Therefore your daughters play the whore, and your brides commit adultery.14 I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore, nor your brides when they commit adultery; for the men themselves go aside with prostitutes and sacrifice with cult prostitutes, and a people without understanding shall come to ruin.

Hosea 4:9-14

God continues to lay out his contention with Israel and further describes the consequences of their sin. As they continue to go after their idols, God warns that they will never be satisfied or be able to flourish in their sin. Ultimately, the feeding of their flesh would lead to their own self-destruction. Israel is committing idolatry and as a continued reference, compares them to a whore, like Hosea’s wife. The people of God were giving themselves to idols and their spiritual immorality led them to commit physical immorality. They were mixing their “worship of God” with idol worship in temples to false Gods. Some of these rituals would include sacrifices made with cult prostitutes. As punishment, the Israelites would have to suffer by having their daughters and wives of the next generations stray into sexual immorality.

15 Though you play the whore, O Israel, let not Judah become guilty. Enter not into Gilgal, nor go up to Beth-aven, and swear not, “As the Lord lives.” 16 Like a stubborn heifer, Israel is stubborn; can the Lord now feed them like a lamb in a broad pasture? 17 Ephraim is joined to idols; leave him alone. 18 When their drink is gone, they give themselves to whoring; their rulers dearly love shame. 19 A wind has wrapped them in its wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.

Hosea 4:15-19

Judah is warned to not follow into the same footsteps as the northern kingdom, Israel (though they eventually did). He warns them not to enter Gilgal or go up to Beth-aven, where temples of foreign gods were located, and swear “As the Lord lives.” It would be committing spiritual adultery to go into the temples of false gods as if they were there to worship their true God. He calls Israel a stubborn heifer, wanting to worship and serve other gods, and God pleads for them to be the lamb of his pasture that he will care for. But he says that they are wrapped in the wings of a wind (or spirit,) alluding to a spirit of whoredom also being a factor in their sin. Ultimately, their sacrifices, made to false gods, would lead to their shame and ruin. 

The law and rituals that God enforced on his people were to reveal and provide a temporary solution to their sin. Even so, the priests who were meant to represent the people in the atonement of sin through sacrifice had failed. God condemns the priests and the sacrifices of the people. There was a right way for his people to be led and to worship. The reason they were doing it wrong was because the people lacked knowledge of God due to the priests straying from God and following their flesh. The knowledge of God was the key to their righteous living.The priests were not able to be good representations for the people and the people were making shameful sacrifices.

God gave the Israelites priests to lead them into his knowledge and to be a way to atone for their sin. They rejected and failed at these things. Their failure points to a need for perfect leaders and sacrifices if they were ever to avoid judgement. This points to the need for Jesus. He is the only perfect solution. We are in the same position as the Israelites. We face consequences for our sin. We cannot follow the law just as the Israelites could not and we can look to no other to lead us than Jesus. We cannot know God the way that he desires for us to because of our sinful state. So, God sent his son to atone for our sins and lead us into righteousness. Jesus is the true shepherd, who cares for us and gives us all that we need. Jesus is the true priest, the perfect mediator between us and God, atoning for our sin and saving us from his wrath. Jesus is the true sacrifice, shedding his blood and taking our deserved punishment upon himself.

Like the Israelites, the only solution to our standing with God is to know God. We are not saved simply by following Christ’s lifestyle and teachings. We can only know God by becoming righteous through Jesus. The Israelites understood that there was something missing without God, but attempted to fix and fill themselves. This led to their shame and destruction. We are the same. We try to replace God with other things and ultimately it will lead to our ruin. How do we know God? Through Scripture. Christ is revealed to us by the Spirit when we read. We can know God through Jesus revealed to us in the Word of God.

A Return to the King

Hosea 3

And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.”

Hosea 3:1

In Hosea chapter 3, God commands for Hosea to redeem his wayward wife. Hosea had given the same treatment to Gomer that God would give to the Israelites. As mentioned in the previous chapter, God vowed to hold back his blessings, allowing Israel to fall into devastation so that they would realize who their God truly was. When the time came, Israel would return to the Lord as his Children, reconciled in God’s mercy and righteousness. Now, Hosea was to live out this redemption in his marriage as a metaphor. God commands him to go and love his unfaithful wife, showing her underserving mercy in order to give example of what God’s love is truly like.

So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” 

Hosea 3:2-3

Hosea obeys and buys back (redeems) her for a specified price, revealing that her desperate condition had forced her into an unspecified state of slavery- a situation the Israelites would soon find themselves in. Hosea pays her wage to free her from captivity and then gives her a command. He says that she must live as his, and belong to him. She must reject her life of whoredom. Then, he makes a return promise: that he will also belong to her and be faithful to her. Hosea beautifully restores the covenant with his adulterous wife after rescuing her from her deserved fate.

For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.

Hosea 3:4-5

The Israelites will have the same fate as Gomer- God will give them to what their desires in an effort to win their hearts so that may return and seek the Lord. One day, they will come to fear the Lord and return to his goodness.

But, Hosea mentions that they will not only return and seek the Lord but also David their King. Why mention David? The northern kingdom, Ephraim, whom this addresses, had rejected the house of David. They had been in revolt against it for two centuries. David was whom God had made covenant with for the people of Israel so, in rejecting the head lineage of God’s chosen people, they were rejecting their covenant with God. Being united again to the house of God represented being reunited under the covenant. But no matter how the Israelites responded to the covenant, God would be faithful and intended to honor his covenant with David, though the Israelites were underserving by actively rejecting him.

Time and time again the Israelites would prove unworthy of the covenant, but God had always planned for the redemption of his people. V. 5 was not merely a prophecy that the Israelites would return to him after exile, for the Israelites continued to fail their God. It points to a future hope, when the covenant would be completely fulfilled in the latter days. It points to Jesus Christ. Jesus came from the lineage of David and thus Hosea’s words ring true that the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God and David their King. Jesus is the King of Kings, the Son of David.

Jesus did not just come to fulfill the covenant for the Israelites but came to bring a new covenant in his blood. The new covenant reconciles by grace alone. Jesus purchased his people by the cross so that all who are called would be reconciled and redeemed through him and not by any other means.

In the Old Testament, God’s people, by faith, obeyed the laws and offered sacrifices as a means to uphold the end of their covenant. Through Jesus, all who are called to him are ushered into the presence of God to be reconciled eternally. We can be fully restored to seek God as his children by seeking Christ, Son of David and King of Kings. We shall fear the Lord as we were meant to and live in his goodness.

Like the Israelites and Gomer, we fall short and succumb to our flesh and desires. We sin against God in our spiritual adultery. But God is faithful and he has proven how much he loves and how far he was willing to go to redeem us. He sent his Son to take our place, being sacrificed as our atonement. Through Jesus, we can return to our true King and love. We can belong to God and he to us- A promise made by God and fulfilled completely through Jesus Christ.

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

Hebrews 9:11-15

You Shall Know the Lord

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Hosea 2

2 Say to your brothers, “You are my people,” and to your sisters, “You have received mercy.” “Plead with your mother, plead—for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband—that she put away her whoring from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts; lest I strip her naked and make her as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and make her like a parched land, and kill her with thirst. Upon her children also I will have no mercy, because they are children of whoredom. 5 For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’

Hosea 2:1-5

Hosea chapter 2 contains Hosea’s address to the Israelites using his own experience in the legal process of an offended husband as an image of God’s plan to deal with Israel.

God had a legal obligation, just as Hosea did, to act upon the unfaithfulness done against them. The Israelites had broken their covenant with God. They had turned to idols and called them lord. They worshipped gifts and blessings given by a false god. Now, God had every right to turn away from them and take back all that the Israelites had ungratefully forgotten. Hosea urges the people to repent, for God had made it clear that he would not sit idle on the sins of the Israelites. God is a husband not only wronged but injured by his betrothed pursuit of other lovers (gods), just like Hosea. Hosea doesn’t warn them because God is about to pour out just wrath and punishment. God’s goal is redemption. A husband who truly loves his wife will go to any measure to have his love return to him. This was a pain and pursuit that Hosea knew personally and was warning the people of what great lengths God is about to go through if they did not repent. God will do what he has to to make himself known to his people.

Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths. She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them and she shall seek them but shall not find them. Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.’ And she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal.
Hosea 2:6-8

In response to their lust, God put a hedge around his people to prevent from straying and spark return. Without being able to find her lovers, the wayward wife returns to her first love. In vs. 8 it says that the wife (Israel) did not know that all of the gifts that they had used for Baal had been given to them by their God. His intentions for breaking them off from seeking their idols is to get them to know God again as their provider. The one who truly loves them.

Therefore I will take back my grain in its time, and my wine in its season, and I will take away my wool and my flax, which were to cover her nakedness. 10 Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall rescue her out of my hand. 11 And I will put an end to all her mirth, her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts. 12 And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees, of which she said, ‘These are my wages, which my lovers have given me.’ I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall devour them. 13 And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them
and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the Lord.
Hosea 2:9-13

In response to blind stubbornness, God will take away the blessings he once bestowed. Blessings were not a means to an end here, but a sign and measure of their relational standing. In v. 14 it says that the punishment served for the fact that the Israelites held celebrations and offered sacrifices to the Baals and forgot the Lord. When God took back all of that which he bestowed on them, then the fruitlessness of their false god lovers would be exposed. No longer could they receive God’s goodness while paying tribute to a deity because it served their fleshly desires. They would soon find that they could never be truly satisfied by idols.

14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 15 And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.
Hosea 2:14-15

In response to Israel’s adultery, God will allure and woo his people back to him, revealing that his plan was always for redemption.

The people had begun to worship the blessings over the giver. They did not love God, they loved all that he could give them. And now what they wanted was to find a new lord (Baal) to give them the things of their flesh.

God is not just punishing them out of spite. Though he is righteously angry and jealous, he has a purpose for the consequences he sets for the Israelites. He will strip them bare of all that he gave them and block them from running to their other idols. He will bare their nakedness so they can face the shame of their sin.

The Israelites needed to remember who their God was. He was not the blessings. He was their God, their Lord, and love.

He had every right, as Hosea, to punish the Israelites for their adultery. But his goal was to win back their hearts. In the wilderness they were forced to rely on the Lord and draw close to him. The reference Hosea makes to the wilderness was one of endearment. He is saying, remember the time when I was your only God, when you looked to me for provision and deliverance and satisfaction. In the wilderness, the Israelites knew God and remembered him in worship.

God’s ultimate goal for us is to know him. And we must realize that there is nothing else that we can run to for satisfaction.

16 “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ 17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. 18 And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. 19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.
Hosea 2:16-20

To know the Lord is not to simply know him, it is to belong to him. God doesn’t want nor need our acknowledgement, he wants to be with us. God wanted to bring the Israelites back to a time of wilderness because that was when they drew close to the Lord. It was easy to see the goodness and tenderness of the Lord, when their surroundings were so hostile. But now, other gods were seducing the Lord’s people with false promises and blessings. They could never fulfill the way he does and in his jealousy and anger, he revealed the idols for what they were and in the process revealed the adulteress hearts of the Israelites.

Even when the Israelites deserved it, God was merciful because his utmost desire is to be with us, for us to know the Lord.  

This is why God sent Jesus, his Son. We could never fulfill the terms of the covenant with God. That’s the point of Hosea. It gives us an up close picture of what heartache it brings God to have us reject him for idols, to sin against him. He is not just offended by our sin but injured by it. It directly affects him, just as a man like Hosea, who was cheated on by his wayward wife.

We have broken the heart of God, who has given us everything. We deserved wrath and yet, he sent us Jesus as our our mediator. In v. 19-20 Hosea points to a hopeful future of redemption. They could look forward to the day where they will be betrothed to God forever IN righteousness, justice, steadfast love, mercy, and faithfulness. Jesus came to fulfill our covenant on our behalf. He is the only one who could be all those things for us. In him, we are the perfect bride for Christ. The bow of sin was broken through Jesus’ death and resurrection. For he became our sin and was broken on the cross and raised to new life in victory over it.

God desires for us to know him, to be with him. And through Jesus we can.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

John 14:6-7

Children of the Living God


Hosea 1

10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” 11 And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.

Hosea 1:10-11

The book of Hosea is a prophetic book, written by the prophet Hosea to the northern kingdom of Israel right before it fell to Assyria around 722 bc, during the reign of one of Israel’s worst kings, Jeraboam II. The book consists mostly of poetry and uses the life of Hosea as a metaphor for the relationship between God and his people. Just as Hosea’s wife was foretold to be unfaithful to him, so the Israelites had been unfaithful to their God.

In the latter days of the 8th century, the nation of Israel had been split into two kingdoms, Northern Israel or as referred in Hosea, Ephraim, and Judah. Hosea’s prophecy mostly concerns Ephraim. The northern kingdom was under constant fear of conquest and exile from Assyria (which would eventually come to pass). Political instability was a great motivator in their temptation to serve other gods and put their trust in surrounding political leaders such as Assyria and Egypt. Baalism was a largely accepted religion in which the Israelites worshiped Baal, the God of agriculture, conforming to practices that included sexual rituals, drunkenness, human sacrifice, mutilation, and incest.

The word of the Lord that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. 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.” So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

Hosea 1:1-3

In the first chapter it says that the word of the Lord came to Hosea, announcing that he is a recipient of a prophetic message. God commands him to take a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for God’s people had committed great whoredom and forsook the Lord. Hosea’s marriage serves as a metaphor for how God viewed Israel’s sins of idolatry. By chasing after other gods they were committing adultery in their hearts. After Hosea’s marriage to Gomer, the chapter says that she bears him a son and God tells him to name the child Jezreel.

And the Lord said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”
She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the Lord said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”
When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. And the Lord said, “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”

Hosea 1:4-9

Jezreel was the site of Jehu’s massacre of the house of Ahab and Ahaziah. God says that it is to be the place of Israel’s military defeat. The phrase “house of Jehu” is used as another name for house of Israel because during Jehu’s reign, though he had destroyed the house of the evil Ahab, Baalism had become prominent in Israel during this time. Jeraboam II was the fourth king of the dynasty begun by Jehu in 841 bc.  “The blood of Jezreel” refers to 1 kings 21 where Ahab, who promoted Baalism as the nationnal religion of Israel, permitted the murder of Naboth, a man loyal to the lord, in order to seize the vineyard in Jezreel.

When God promises to break the bow of Israel in v. 5 he is declaring his judgement of Israel’s sin of idolatry and the defeat of Baalism at the same place where Baal had seemingly triumphed over the Lord. Breaking a soldier’s bow was a sign of defeat.

The next two children conceived are not specifically said to be born of Hosea, alluding to the possibility that they are not of Hosea but were born in adultery. God tells Hosea to name the second child, a daughter, Lo-Ruhamah or No Mercy. The third child, a son, was to be called Lo-Ammi which means Not my People. The naming of Hosea’s children displayed the relationship God had with his people. Hosea’s marriage represented the sin that Israel committed against God. The children’s names represented God’s response to Israel’s sin. They were now stained by their sin and as a consequence God would be placing his judgement on them.

The book of Hosea presents us with a wonderful image of how sin has relational consequences. Israel is like a promiscuous wife and an illegitimate child. God had made covenant with Israel, bringing them into loving relationship with him and knowing him. He brought them in as children who inherited the blessing of having their God as their Father. Israel not only broke the first of the Ten Commandments by rejecting him and pursuing false gods, but they broke their covenant with him.

In our sin we do the same. The relationship God had with Israel shows us the kind of relationship we all have with God outside of Jesus Christ. We are the promiscuous wife and the illegitimate children. We reject his heart for us and pursue ourselves and the world. But Jesus offers us access to a new covenant. One that cannot be broken the way the Israel’s did with theirs because it is accomplished by his blood and righteousness.

The promise of Hosea is not that we can learn from Israel’s mistakes and do better. The reality is that we are exactly like the Israelites, never trusting in God the way that we are supposed to and loving other things before and over him. This Old Testament book of prophecy points to the hope of Jesus. At the end of the chapter, God says, YET the number of children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea and they shall be called Children of the living God. The two kingdoms will be united together under one head, they will go up from the land and great shall be the day of Jezreel.

Where sin was judged, there shall be redemption for God’s people. There is hope. Though Israel had sinned God says that it is still his plan to redeem them. How would he do this? In v. 7 God says that he will have mercy on the house of Judah and save them, but not by conventional military means. In other words, God would save them by allowing them to be destroyed by their enemy. After their conquest and exile they would finally turn back to God.

How does God redeem us from our sin and save us from the consequences of wrath and death? Through Jesus. The bow of sin was broken when Jesus took on the cross. At the cross the world’s sin was placed on Christ. At the same place where our sin was judged, we also find our redemption. Israel’s exile and punishment represent our spiritual exile in sin. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection achieved what neither we nor the Israelites could ever do, live up to our covenant with God. His is the new covenant, the head under whom we can finally be united with God making us children of the living God. Jesus takes our feeble attempts at being what God wants us to be, faithful, fruitful, obedient and did it for us. When we fail we can look to him and know that we have no fear of death and wrath because he has redeemed us. We can follow him because we know that he is the path to true righteousness and reconciliation.

Growing in Faith, Obedience, and Love


1 John 5

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

1 John 5:1-5

In the last chapter of 1 John 5, John concludes by bringing together all that he has spoken of in regards to love and obedience and emphasizes the core of all these things being faith. John has stressed that Christians are to walk in the light, deny the darkness of the world, being obedient to the life and standards that God has called us to. He highlights that the proof and fruit of obedience and right living is love, especially love of our brothers. We must be born of God, so hidden in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ that we, by consequence, become his children who naturally bear the loving image and character of the Father.

From the beginning of the chapter, John exposes the fact that there are forces opposing our revelation and potential for spiritual growth. False teachings that come from the world and the devil deceive us with subtle lies that say that enlightenment and our ability to live righteously can be produced by ourselves. They encourage to idolize the human heart and strength, drawing us not nearer but farther from truth and power of God. But John gives the true revelation that these things are only found and accomplished in God. Belief in Christ is the evidence of being born in God, which in turn stirs in our hearts for the love of God and our brothers. And what does this love look like? The obedience of God’s commandments, which John says are not burdensome. Without God, his commandments to love and be obedient are an impossibly daunting task. But the key element that he brings into the final closing of this letter is the faith that is required to accomplish the life of love and obedience God calls us to.

This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

1 John 5:6-12

Faith in Christ is our only means by which we can overcome the world; our flesh and the temptations of Satan. In his introduction, John used the testimony of the disciples to present the gospel. They proclaimed the Christ that they had witnessed with their own eyes, the eternal life that they now, out of the joy of their own salvation, share with John’s audience. Now, in his conclusion, John points to the greater testimony. It is not by man that faith comes but by the revelation of Jesus by the Spirit. The water- Jesus’ baptism that revealed his righteous standing with the Father, the blood- Jesus’ crucifixion that took on the punishment and wrath that the world deserved, and the Spirit- who works in the hearts of believers to convict of sin and reveal Christ’s saving love. If we are apt to believe the testimony of men- other believers- we should be far more willing to accept the greater testimony of God.

And what is the point of all of this? That we are to look at Jesus and believe in who God is and what he has done and thus live righteous lives, love God for loving us, and love others? This all sounds like great advice for times when I struggle with momentary spiritual growth. But there is a sobering and vital purpose for John’s letter. In his introduction he says that life was made manifest (in Jesus) and now they testify and proclaim it so that others can share in eternal life. Rich and fruitful discipleship and Christian living comes from the understanding of our eternal reality.

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

1 John 5:13-15

In his conclusion he emphasizes the purpose of the letter: that they may know that they have eternal life. We have eternal life in Jesus Christ! John is not just saying that we should grow in faith, love, and obedience just for the sake of growth. He is presenting the gospel of Jesus, so that his audience can be freed from the burden of the world and self-righteousness, and the lies the enemy tells. God offers us eternal life not because he wants to bribe us into holy living but because he is a God of love. He loves us and sent his Son for us to live righteously in our place, dying for our sin and rising to grant us every good gift. We can go to God with confidence, knowing that Christ is our advocate and that he wants to give us righteousness as a gift. There is eternal significance in sin. There is eternal significance in spiritual Growth. The gift of Jesus Christ is not a temporal fix but an eternal solution. In our momentary lives, we can be eternally satisfied. And this makes all the difference in the value and hope of how John says God calls us to live. The promise of God is to know him and in knowing him we have eternal life because he is the eternal life.

Let us run to him who has made a way to know the true God of eternal life and leads us to grow in faith, obedience, and love in Jesus Christ. Let us flee from all that causes us to stray from the truth of the gospel.

20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

1 John 5:20-21


Love that Casts Out Fear

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1 John 4
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

1 John 4:1-6

In 1 John 4, John provides clarity and a type of litmus test to help his readers fully grasp the realities involved in living a life in light and darkness/in Christ and in the world. The struggles of living a godly life are not merely temporal or material, they are spiritual. John makes the distinction between worldly and godly motivations by saying that we must test the spirits that drive our desires and actions. John has just finished his  statements in the previous chapter that focused on how loving our brother is the utmost consequence of Christ abiding in us and vice versa. Now, he says that there is more to consider when deciding on whether or not we are truly living lives that are pleasing to God. It is not only enough to love our brothers but we must also test the motivation and substance of  that love.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

1 John 4:7-16

And here is the standard by which we must measure our works of love: Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit reveals to us Christ, who is the manifestation and source of true love. Any teaching or motivation outside of Jesus is false and does not come from God but from the world and is of the antichrist. Why does John feel the need to make this distinction? The original audience was heavily tempted by opposing teachings of the gospel, especially Gnosticism- a teaching focused on detachment from the material world. He stresses the importance of understanding that love is not merely an abstract concept but is tangibly found in Jesus Christ. Without this measure, we can be easily deceived because the lies that the world tells about love are enticing to our flesh. Worldly love is egocentric and moves us to rely on ourselves and our own understanding on how to love and live good lives. But we must use the measure of  truth as our standard. John encourages that we need not fear the world’s schemes and lies. We are able to overcome because we belong to the one who has overcome the world by true love. These measures do not make it harder for us to discern spirits, but easier because we will know that when a particular teaching is from the world it is because it will deny (by word and deed) the truth and revelation of who Jesus Christ is.

17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.

1John 4:17-19

The true motivation behind worldly love and righteous living is fear. Fear in terms of God’s wrath and punishment. Most religions, and sometimes even among Christians, often function by the motivation of fear. Churches must be wary of teaching that our motivation to satisfy God’s commands stems from our understanding of the consequences of sin and disobedience. We cannot simply behave a particular way in order to avoid suffering or punishment.

John says that love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgement. It is a daunting thing to go before the Holy God of the Universe. When we are faced with approaching God, our unholiness is made ever more clear. We are unrighteous and unable to approach God without fear of his rejection, punishment, and just wrath. John says that there is no fear in love. If God is love, then why are we often motivated to follow his commands because of fear? It is because we forget Christ. John makes mention in this chapter of Jesus’ humanity and his deity. It is important to remember that Jesus was both human and God. He understands our weakness and was the only person able to overcome it because he is God. God’s love was perfected with us because we are the recipients of it. The world will try to tell you that love is an emotional substance or abstract construct but God is love and he displayed that love for us on the cross. True love casts out fear because if we abide in Christ there is no fear of judgement. He took on wrath for us. He cleanses us from unrighteousness so that we can have confidence before God in judgement, knowing that Jesus is our savior and our advocate.

When Jesus resurrected from the grave, the power of the Holy Spirit was displayed as death was conquered. Wrath is satisfied and death conquered in Jesus and that revelation and power is provided to us by the Spirit. We don’t have to try to love or live godly lives by our own strength, which will prove futile eventually. We can follow God’s commands by the power and strength that he freely provides to us as a gift. The more that we know that Jesus is our Savior, we can rest assured that it is by his Spirit that we are able to live in the way that is pleasing to God. Our motivation is not fear but love. The more we know the true, sacrificial love of Jesus, the more we are able to love others. Not as a prerequisite to faith but as a consequence.

20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 4:20-21