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GOD'S WAY OF RENEWAL
A Message from Hosea: Contributed by Jack Gray
Among evangelical and charismatic Christians there is currently
much talk about revival. Prophecies are doing the rounds which declare
that an unprecedented revival is “about to engulf us”,
accompanied by signs and wonders on a hitherto unknown scale. Such
a revival, it is claimed, will sweep away denominational divisions,
authoritarian church structures and will promote deep repentance.
Predictions like these are eagerly received and cause excited anticipation.
People imagine crowded churches (their own brand especially of course)
and wonderful times with mass conversions and social change. But,
we have to ask, is such a scenario credible in the light of the
Scriptural revelation of the ways of God, and of the current spiritual
condition in our land? Repeated reading of the Old Testament prophets,
and long and prayerful meditation on their messages as they relate
to our contemporary state, lead me to believe that, contrary to
these popular prophecies, revival is not about to overtake us, and
that such prophecies of imminent revival are raising false and unjustified
The message of the prophet Hosea, particularly in the first three
chapters, came very sharply into focus for me as I was seeking the
mind of the Lord on these matters. The purpose of this writing is
to share some insights into the meaning and message of these three
chapters for us today.
DIAGNOSIS – HARLOTRY
As a medical student my teachers instilled into me that accurate
diagnosis was a first essential before instituting any treatment.
Hosea's first word from God is a diagnosis of the sickness of Israel
. God revealed to His servant the true nature of the trouble with
His people. “The land commits great harlotry by
forsaking the Lord” (Hosea
1:2) For “harlotry” other translations have,”
adultery”, “prostitution” or “unfaithfulness”.
The essence of this harlotry is that the Lord has been displaced from
His central and supremely unique place. No longer is “the knowledge
of God” the priority goal, but the people pursue other gods
and other goals. May it not be true that such a diagnosis is again
being pronounced over the church today? The centre today tends to
be man and his needs. Self-fulfilment, achieving one's potential and
psychological health is being promoted rather than the knowledge of
God and holiness of life.
A look around the popular titles in Christian bookshops or at topics
advertised for church services will quickly confirm what I say.
Then too, see how the world's methods, its popular psychology, its
current bandwagons are all absorbed and even fostered within the
churches. Promotional techniques in advertising and fund-raising
copied from the world; music distinguishable only by its lyrics
(when they can be heard!) from the music of the world; the world's
feminist agenda adopted; and here in New Zealand undiscriminating
biculturalism bringing a syncretism of animist beliefs and worship
of the one true God; acceptance of sexual mores clearly condemned
in the Scriptures; all these are evidence of harlotry such as that
which the Lord inspired Hosea to denounce.
The Consequences of Harlotry Throughout the prophecy
of Hosea the consequences and out workings of such harlotry are further
exposed. 1. Children are begotten of such harlotry.
“Children of harlotry” (Hosea 2:4)
“They have dealt faithlessly with the Lord; for they have borne
alien children.” (5:7) Even so,
in the church harlotry, such as has been described, spawns its offspring.
2. The world rewards the church for its harlotry.
Hosea says in verse 1 of chapter 9, “You have loved a harlot's
hire.” The hire of harlotry may be some temporary popularity
and acceptance by the world. Churches pursuing these “other
lovers” may be rewarded by seeming success in attracting more
people to their services. 3. Once harlotry invades the
church a “spirit of harlotry” takes control
this spirit leads people astray. “A spirit of harlotry has led
them astray, and they have left their God to play the harlot.”
(4:12) it prevents true repentance: “Their
deeds do not permit them to return to their God, for the spirit of
harlotry is within them, and they know not the Lord.” The people
come, in the end, to “cherish harlotry” (4:10b)
Furthermore, this spiritual harlotry is accompanied by physical immorality
as well. “I will not punish your daughters when they play the
harlot or your brides when they commit adultery; for the men themselves
go aside with harlots, and sacrifice with cult prostitutes, and a
people without understanding shall come to ruin.” (4:14)
what shame and reproach has been brought on many churches and on the
name of the Lord in recent times by just such immorality even among
prominent church leaders. Looking at the church scene in New Zealand
today it is hard to dispute God's diagnosis; “The land commits
great harlotry.” (1:2)
God's Judgment on Harlotry Hosea
3:3-9. The names given to the three children of Hosea's unfaithful
wife all had prophetic significance of the inevitable judgment of
God on harlotry amongst His people. Of Jezreel, God says, “I
will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.” (1:4b)
Of Lo-ruhamah, “I will no more have pity on the house of Israel
to forgive them at all” (1:6). Of
Lo-ammi, “You are not my people and I am not your God”
(1:9). This is the just and deserved judgment
of God declared on His harlot people. If the diagnosis was inescapable,
so also are the consequences of harlotry. Judgment awaits the harlot
churches, just as it was looming for Israel. Imminent judgment is
much more to be feared than imminent revival is to be expected. This
sounds like total darkness without hope, doesn't it? But, into this
gloomy prospect there shines the light of another and more glorious
outcome, God's heart-desire and His promise concerning the restoration
of His people.
God's Promise of Restoration Hosea
1:10-11 Yes, there is to be a restoration, and that a glorious
one, in which multitudes will be blessed and brought into the fold
of God's true household. People previously alienated will know a relationship
to the Living God as sons. The people of God will be united under
one Head, and great glory will be given to the “God who sows.”
(Jezreel) Such is the grace and mercy of God!
To a people who do not deserve it there is given a precious promise
God's pathway to renewal Hosea
2. The initial hidden and insignificant seed of restoration
consists of individuals renewed in their relationship to God by repentance
and inward transformation. This seed, planted by “The God who
sows” are those referred to in chapter
2:1 as those who are God's people and who have obtained pity
from Him. I believe that this initial work of the Lord is under way
in people who are separated in heart from the harlot system. Silently,
and with no trumpeting publicity, God is renewing individuals and
placing in their hearts the desire for a pure virgin Church to be
presented to her one Husband, Christ Jesus. To such
pioneers of the renewal God entrusts a two-pronged message for the
harlot churches. This message is first of all a call to repentance,
“Plead with you mother... that she put away harlotry from her
face.” (2:2b) and secondly, the
message is to plead with Israel (the harlot church) to recognize that,
in her present state, she is not the wife of the Lord, and that He
is not her husband. (2:2a) this statement
hit me with hammer-like force. I submit to you that it is a word of
God today to the fragmented and divided institutional and denominational
churches. This amalgam of religious organisations is not the Bride
of Christ. Her constitution is not organisational. The World Council
of Churches is not the Bride, nor is the Evangelical Alliance! The
heap of disjointed bones of modern Christendom is not the Bride. No,
the Lord is not the Husband of any institution or religious organisation.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that nobody in the
organised systems belongs to the Bride. Thousands in churches do belong.
But, what I am saying is, that it is not membership of
an organisation that makes you part of the Bride, but rather a living
relationship with the Lord Jesus. The message God wants
to be heard is, “Wake up! Recognise the true nature of My Church,
the Bride of My Son, which it is very different from what you have
known as and call “church”
The Bride is one living corporate person, and not a compound
of religious organisations. Sadly, there is little evidence
that the churches in New Zealand are ready or willing to listen to
either part of this twin message, and where the message is rejected
and not received, God has to set in train a long and painful process
before renewal and restoration can come about.
This process is laid before us in Hosea 2:6-23.