My People Perish For Lack Of Knowledge
I hope you are delighting in the wonderful gift of good weather that the Lord has given this week. I also hope that you are delighting consistently in the better gift of the grace we experience through His word and prayer. Here is the reading plan for the next several days.
May 20 – Hosea 8-11
May 21 – Hosea 12-14
May 22 – Joel 1-3
May 23 – Amos 1-3
May 24 – Amos 4-6
May 25 – Amos 7-9
May 26 – Obadiah
Devotion in Motion
Yesterday we read Hosea 4:6. “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.”
Although the Israelites were under a different covenant with different promises, there is still something to be applied to our own lives. If you are in Christ, your salvation and your access to the Father is not taken away. You are sealed with the Holy Spirit as a child of God.
However, you are called to know the Lord abundantly and increasingly. You are probably a master of trivia in one area or another (ranging from car parts to movie scenes). But are you loving the Lord with all of your mind? Are you studying Him and learning more about Him through His word?
Notice God’s accusation against the people of Israel. What is the reason He is judging them? Because of their lack of knowledge. This is not innocent ignorance, it is willful ignorance. The people have “rejected knowledge.” They prefer not to know about God or His covenants or His law. People of God, beware willful ignorance. Romans 15:4 tells us that the things that have been written are for “our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”
This week we jumped into the section of the Old Testament known as the Minor Prophets. These twelve books are sometimes collectively known as “the book of the twelve.” This week we are covering the first four of these twelve prophetic books. This is probably the most overlooked part of our Bibles. Instead of doing a massive breakdown of each book, I just want to help you to know the big picture of each one.
Hosea prophesied to the northern kingdom near the time of its destruction. The most well-known part of the book is the narrative contained in the first three chapters. There we see that God commands Hosea to marry a prostitute in order to make a point to Israel. As could be expected, she continued in promiscuity and had two children. The two children’s names represent God’s response to Israel’s sin. Lo-Ruhamah means “I don’t love you” and “Lo-Ammi” means “not mine.”
I have often imagined what it must have been like sitting at the dinner table with this family. Hosea says, “Hey, one that I don’t love, pass me the salad. And move over, you are crowding me, child that isn’t mine.” These names describe Israel’s offspring as illegitimate because they had been unfaithful with other gods.
The wife, as could be expected, went back to her old ways of promiscuity. Eventually, she ended up a slave ready to be sold. But, God informed Hosea, go to that slave market and buy her back, even though she is unworthy. That picture of redemption is a foreshadowing of the gospel. Jesus came to purchase an idolatrous people for Himself, even though we are unworthy.
Chapters 4-10 explain God’s anger. You will see that he primarily targets their sexual immorality and idolatry. But then, in chapters 11-14 we see God’s promise of mercy that would come through the Savior. Jesus is that Savior. Jesus is the message of Hosea.
Joel also speaks to the northern kingdom about coming wrath. The primary illustration is that of the locust swarm that would come and devour everything. There are two different ways that scholars have understood these divine threats. First, some see this as a literal swarm of locusts, like the plague that came against Egypt. This would have devastated the economy and livelihood of many, resulting in famine, poverty, starvation, and death.
However, there is a second possible (and I think more likely) way that people have understood this passage. The locusts are described like soldiers, and the destruction that they cause could easily be attributed to what took place under the Assyrian raids into Israel. I lean in this direction and understand this to be a prophecy about the impending doom of Israel due to their rebellion.
But the best part of Joel is the section of promises of the salvation that will come at the ‘day of the Lord.’ Amazingly, Peter quotes this section of Joel in his sermon at Pentecost and he says that the people of that day had seen the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. Jesus brought that promised salvation. Jesus is the message of Joel
Amos begins as an equal opportunity book of judgment. In the first two chapters, Amos condemns Aram, Philistia, Phoenicia, Edom, Ammon, Moab, and Judah. The greatest condemnation, however, is for the nation of Israel. Their section of judgment begins at 2:6 and runs through the remainder of the book.
Amos was a shepherd, and as such, God utilizes his experiences and vocabulary to exhibit pastoral illustrations about Israel’s rebellion and God’s judgment. The main sin that Amos prophesied against was the sin of injustice. The people had treated the poor and lowly with disdain. They had extorted, abused, and oppressed them.
God makes clear to them that He is not interested in their religious observances while they hate one another and pervert justice. Amos makes clear that God’s justice is perfect and unwavering. God will never act in a way that is unjust. And God expects His people to pursue justice and mercy as well. God promises that He will uproot Israel, but He promises at the end of chapter 9 that His people will again prosper.
Amos is quoted twice in the New Testament. The first time is by Stephen, the first martyr. Before he is stoned to death, he buttresses his argument about God’s judgment against the Jewish people by quoting from Amos. The only other time the New Testament draws on Amos’ teachings is in Acts 15. This shows us that the way the apostles understood the conclusion of Amos, and therefore the way we should understand it, is that God is bringing the Gentiles into the Lord’s family. They understand the rebuilding of David’s tent to be the global, universal church rather than a reestablishment of national Israel. The book of Amos is all about God’s justice and mercy, which we receive through our Savior. Jesus is the message of Amos.
This is the shortest book in the Old Testament clocking in at only 21 verses containing 291 words. The message of Obadiah is difficult to understand without the context. The people of Edom are the descendants of Esau. Jacob became Israel, Esau became Edom. The cities of Edom had become a dominant trade hub between Asian, African, and European kingdoms. This had made them wealthy and proud.
From the heights of their hill country, Edom antagonized Israel on many occasions. If you have ever seen the mighty city of Petra (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world) you will note that the Edomites were a nation of wealthy and powerful people. From their lofty positions, they would mock and deride the Israelites whenever the people of God experienced suffering or judgment.
The book of Obadiah is written against the nation of Edom. However, it is written for the benefit of the people of Israel. God tells the Edomites, “Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the Lord.” (Obadiah 1:4) I doubt that any Edomites cared about this warning. It is unlikely that any of them listened to Obadiah and repented. It was much more for the people of Israel who heard God declaring, “I will stand up for my people and defend them.”
In the same way, Jesus is the defender of His people. Although the world may mock and scorn us, He will never forsake us. The world will think that they are winning because they have the power and wealth, but God will shake it away from them in His time. We have a great Defender, Jesus Christ, who has stood for us against the world, the devil, and even our own sin. Jesus is the message of Obadiah.
Grace and Peace,