Bible reading for weekend Nov 3 -- 4
Nov 3 -- Hosea 9 and Psalms 126-128
Nov 4 -- Hosea 10 and Psalms 129-131
"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." (Hosea 10:12)
GOOD-BYE, GOOD TIMES (ch 9). "The days of recompense have come" (v 7). All the good things in life that Israel pursued apart from God will be taken from them. There is a glory for humanity, but it is the glory of knowing God as Maker, Redeemer, and Provider of every good thing. What glory Israel had at that time would "fly away like a bird" (v 11). The city of Gilgal (v 15) was party-central for the nation's idolatrous activity (cf 4:13-15). The principle here is that if you pursue happiness apart from God you will ultimately lose both happiness and God, too. Consider these two quotes from C. S. Lewis: “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing” (Mere Christianity, p. 50). And, "God gives what He has, not what He has not: He gives the happiness that there is, not the happiness that is not. To be God - to be like God and to share His goodness in creaturely response - to be miserable - these are the only three alternatives. If we will not learn to eat the only food that the universe grows - the only food that any possible universe can ever grow - then we must starve eternally" (The Problem of Pain, p. 47). There is no true, ultimate, and lasting happiness apart from God.
THE HALLMARKS OF IDOLATRY (ch 10). Look at the following traits of this idolatrous society, and see if they sound familiar... They pursued prosperity apart from God (v 1). They rejected the authority of the Lord (along with most other notions of authority)(v 3). They gave empty oaths, meaning they made vows and didn't follow through on their covenants (v 4). They practiced iniquity, injustice, lying, believing lies, and trusted in their own resources, especially their military (v 13). Verse 12 gives the only way out: "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." That is, stop trying to be prosperous in material ways -- planting, reaping, asking false gods to provide rain -- return to the Lord in earnest, break up the fallow ground of your hearts (repent!), and sow with a view to a harvest of righteousness from God. This is what the author of Hebrews calls "the peaceful fruit of righteousness" (Heb 12:11). And with that comes every good thing from God.
DO WE HAVE A RIGHT TO HAPPINESS? Speaking of C. S. Lewis and happiness, read this article he wrote shortly before his death in 1963: "We Have No Right To Happiness."
"But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore." (Psalm 131:2-3)
SONGS OF ASCENT. Again, these fifteen psalms (120-134) are called the psalms of ascent, because traditionally they were recited on the way to worship at the temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Why are they in the Bible? I believe that it is because we need to know that we are citizens of the kingdom of God, sojourning in this world as resident aliens, and we're on our way to the new heaven and new earth (Matt 6:33; Heb 11:16; 1 Pet 2:9-12; 2 Pet 3:13; ). Each psalm has a particular theme related to being a pilgrim on the road to the Father's house. Here are the next six themes: joy, fruitfulness, blessing, persecution, hope, and trust.
JOY (Ps 126). Walking as a pilgrim on a long journey can be a tiring and cheerless task. Think: a very long, hot, dry hike. This psalm reminds them (and us) that after the hardships of the journey, God will fill our mouths with laughter (Ps 16:11; Heb 12:2, 11; Rev 21:4). Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit within us (Gal 5:22), especially as we consider the goal of our journey. We should pray this for ourselves and for others: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope" (Rom 15:13).
FRUITFULNESS (Ps 127). Family and children are a blessing. Not all are able to have this joy on the journey, but those of us with families should surely count them as blessings which the Lord has given. In any case all of us are given people for whom we can love and care...the widow, the orphan, the poor, the immigrant, etc. Further, without the Lord any of our labors would be in vain (John 15:4-5). As sojourners in this world we should be "always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Cor 15:58).
BLESSING (Ps 128). Prosperity under the Mosaic covenant is often described in material ways, but it is never simply that. It is the enjoyment of life walking with the Lord who generously provides. What is commended is the ability to enjoy whatever the Lord has provided (Eccl 2:24; 3:13; 9:9) and the privilege of passing on biblical truth to future generations (Deut 6:7; Ps 78:5-6; Eph 6:4). Our Lord Jesus expands the blessing to include the relationships we have with others in his kingdom (Mk 10:29-30).
PERSECUTION (Ps 129). As pilgrims, God's people are resident aliens in this world (John 18:36). As such, they will be ill-treated by others, but those who have persecuted the people of God will face his judgment (2 Thess 1:5-8). Billy Graham once said, "It is unnatural for Christianity to be popular." We must always be prepared for this.
HOPE (Ps 130). We need hope on this journey! The night will seem long and the dawn so far away. We must wait patiently and expectantly for God to fulfill all of his promises to us (Isa 40:31; Rom 15:4, 13). "Hope means expectancy when things are otherwise hopeless." (G. K. Chesterton)
TRUST (Ps 131). What a beautiful picture of childlike faith! Along this journey we must trust our Father, for we are his beloved children (Isa 49:15-16; Matt 18:3-4). He knows that we are dependent upon him! Often in this life we may be tempted to panic and to let our thoughts run wild, but like David, we must learn to compose and quiet ourselves in the presence of the Lord.
REFLECT. So, how's your journey going? Is it characterized by joy, by fruitfulness, and with a sense of his blessing? Are you prepared for persecution, being patient in hope, and trusting God as his beloved child? Remember, you are a pilgrim passing through this present world on your way to a new and better creation.
Image credit: photo above by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash. About this newsletter: I'm Sandy Young, and I post three times a week on my Bible reading, following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Subscribe for email at Buttondown.email/Sandy. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. A very helpful resource is the NET Bible with its excellent notes at netbible.org.