December 9 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, ‘Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.’” ~Hosea 1:2

OLD TESTAMENT

The final 12 books of the Old Testament are referred to as the Minor Prophets because they are shorter in length than the previous prophet books. Read them like sermons because that is what they are. Each one calls God’s people back to what they have abandoned—the love and worship of God.

The books are arranged in the order they were written (approximately). Here is a simple, easy-to-remember chronology of Israel (and Judah). The dates are approximate.

1200 BCE The exodus & the birth of a nation.
1000 BCE David takes the throne.
  722 BCE Northern kingdom falls to the Assyrians.
  597 BCE Southern kingdom falls to the Babylonians.
  538 BCE Exiles return to Jerusalem.

The ministry of the “writing prophets” spans the period from just before 722 BCE to some time after 538 BCE. The historical background will help us appreciate the prophets’ messages. In some sermons, they call for repentance and in others they encourage God’s people after they have already faced His judgment. In still other cases, a prophet warns the people not to forget the lessons of the past.

Hosea is the only prophet to come from the northern kingdom, and his ministry dates to the period prior to the Assyrian invasion in 722. During this time, the people’s unfaithfulness so upsets God that He decides to stage a dramatic morality play of sorts. He tells the prophet to get their attention by doing the unthinkable—marrying a prostitute (or unfaithful woman). Hosea is to have children with her and to pursue her when she leaves him. Can you imagine the gossip? Scandalous! Through it all, Hosea keeps repeating God’s objective: I am doing this because God wants you to see how you have broken His heart. Yet He loves you, and He refuses to give up on you. He will pursue you and restore you.

Hosea’s life was a living sermon. When God’s people saw him and his family they were reminded of their own sin and God’s loving and impassioned pursuit of them. The people had abandoned the Lord, and the priests had failed to teach them His Word. Yet God refuses to give up on them (us) because He loves them (us). He is determined to win them back, to “allure” them. The words could even be translated as “to entice” them. All of this God does in order to restore His people and their nation. He is, to use the words of the poet Francis Thompson, the “Hound of Heaven,” the one who will ever pursue. “I fled Him, down the nights and down the days: I fled Him, down the arches of the years… though I knew His love Who followed…” (Francis Thompson, “The Hound of Heaven”).

I’m so glad the “Hound of Heaven” never stops pursuing us, like a man who continues to love a woman who has been unfaithful to him again and again. Wow! What a picture of God’s unrelenting love for us! What scandalous grace!

NEW TESTAMENT

Jude doesn’t use the terms “false teacher” or “false prophet,” but he still shares a message of caution regarding whom we listen to and follow. Some of those who lead God’s people astray actually start off well. They are likened to those of God’s people, who after being delivered from Egypt, were judged in the desert. They are likened to the angels, who were in heaven but fell because of their pride. They are likened to Sodom and Gomorrah, once beautiful cites in the Levant, which encountered God’s destruction. Watch out for shepherds who look and sound good but “who feed only themselves.”

How can you spot a true shepherd? I think there are several things to look for. They preach the whole counsel of God without compromise. They clearly proclaim the gospel and constantly exalt the God of the gospel. Those under the influence of their ministry grow and change and “bear fruit” in a way that is consistent with the gospel. Their own lives are characterized by things like faithfulness to family and friends, concern for their flocks, and the simple enjoyment of God given blessings (as opposed to a lavish lifestyle, which often characterize false teachers).


Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.