Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Foreign, Meaningless, Accountable

The Minor Prophets Speak to Today 

Foreign, Meaningless, Accountable

Hosea 8:12-14 NLT

12 Even though I gave them all my laws,
    they act as if those laws don’t apply to them.
13 The people of Israel love their rituals of sacrifice,
    but to me their sacrifices are all meaningless.
I will hold my people accountable for their sins,
    and I will punish them.
    They will return to Egypt.
14 Israel has forgotten its Maker and built great palaces,
    and Judah has fortified its cities.
Therefore, I will send down fire on their cities
    and will burn up their fortresses.”

God's Laws Have Become Foreign To Us:

The Israelites, and to a degree the Jews, acted as if some of God's laws did not apply to them. They did the worship thing with the offering of sacrifices and following the form for sacrificial worship, but their lives, their countries' lives, treated God's applicable laws as if they were foreign to them or in other words as meaningless, the laws of a separate nation.

In America, and the other countries with a Christian identity, most of the people who accept the label of Christian also act as if God's laws do not apply to them. Those nations which identify themselves as Christian (America no longer does) act as though God's laws do not apply to them.

But, you object, they don't! Christ has come to displace the Law. That is not true. He came to fulfill the Law and free those who believe in him from the Law. The fulfillment of the law is living by his Law of Love.

Under grace the Law has been reduced to the Law of Love. Loving like God is one whole thing. Jesus stated it included two parts and then added two more:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."
"Love your neighbor as yourself."
"Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked."
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."
Most people who call themselves Christians act, and make excuses, as if these commands (laws) do not apply to them. They regard them as something foreign, which is the way the New International Version translates the passage above. Yes, they may act and speak as if they partially apply, but Christ's commands are to be wholly followed. To do them halfway is to not fulfill the Law of Love.

Likewise, those nations which are considered Christian do not apply these laws to themselves or within their code of laws, whether national law or international law. This, too, stands against Christ and God his father.

And So Our Worship And Its Forms Are Meaningless:

Christians, at least a few, do the worship thing. But even among those who worship sit a majority who do not love as Christ loves them. They do not love their fellow Christians as Christ loves them. They do not love their wives as Christ loves the Church. They do not love their enemies, the ungrateful, and the wicked the way Christ and his Father love the world. They do not love their neighbors as if they were themselves. And they certainly do not love God with all their whole heart, soul (emotions), mind, and body.

We fall short, same as the Jews and Israelites. Our worship, in God's eyes, is therefore meaningless even when it feels like it has meaning to us. For worship is the culmination of a life of worship, our fulfilling of the Law of Love and our receipt of God's love.

And We Too, In This World, Are Being Held Accountable:

God's accountability places us in danger of accountability in the world to come. We may find our name in fact is not written in the Lamb's Book of Life or, if it is, we will escape as through fire with all our rewards burned up.

Accountability and punishment go hand in hand in the Prophets. They also do so among believers. For whom the Father loves he disciplines and no discipline is pleasant at the moment. Those he does not discipline, he does not love. You will find that in the book of Hebrews.

When speaking of accountability, God adds a couple signs that his people are not following his laws:

"Israel has forgotten its Maker and built great palaces,
    and Judah has fortified its cities.
Therefore, I will send down fire on their cities
    and will burn up their fortresses.” 

Note that God says these are signs that his people have forgotten him, their Maker and the Maker of their nation. 

One sign of failure to fulfill the two great commandments is neglecting justice for all, care of the poor, and brotherhood, by spending one's blessings (and their ill gotten riches) on great palaces - symbols of their superiority, flaunting of their wealth so others will notice, building beyond what is reasonable for life and the care of themselves and others. This sign is the witness against them for failing to love their neighbors as themselves and failing to love those whom God loves and cares for - the poor, the stranger, and the alien.

The other sign is the multiplication of defensive and offensive fortifications. This violates the commandment to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. These fortifications reveal God's people's deep lack of trust in him. They also reveal their attempt to make themselves immune from his most common means of punishing his people, invasion by other nations. He sees them as saying we can take care of ourselves. We neither trust in God as our defender nor need him to defend us.

When such attitudes mark the Christian nation or the minds of individual Christians, God says he will punish that nation, that group of individuals, that individual, by destroying their symbols of wealth and prosperity and by destroying their defenses and taking away their ability to mount an offensive.

Neglecting the Law of Love and useless worship produce the same destruction today. That is the warning these scriptures were written down to preserve for those of us in the present day of grace.

How do you see these punishments in modern history?

How are these punishments happening among us and to our nation?

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