Judge thinking June 28 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Hosea 4:1- 5:7; Jonah

Judgment and Mercy

People can be difficult sometimes.When should we exercise judgment and when should we exercise mercy? In these chapters of Hosea and Jonah, God gives us some clues to this answer.

In the book of Hosea, the prophet’s marriage to a prostitute named Gomer was meant to picture the relationship of God to Israel. The message of Hosea was particularly given to the northern ten tribes of Israel, which were represented by the most powerful tribe, Ephraim. Both northern and southern tribes of Israel were guilty of the sins of idolatry, injustice, and wickedness, but the northern tribes were guilty of greater wrongs. Israel was arrogant in her wickedness.

Hear the word of the LORD, you Israelites, because the LORD has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying [by severe draught],” (Hosea 4:1-3, NIV).

These verses are a good guide which help us determine on whom we should exercise judgment: those who are guilty and incorrigibly unrepentant. The people of Israel, the religious leaders, and the priests were guilty of sins and were beyond the point of repenting. God had sent prophets to warn them, but they paid no heed to them. For this, God judged them with battle losses, drought and famine to try to get their attention. It did not work. The priests were supposed to instruct the people in the law of the LORD so that they might obey it. Hosea told them God’s reaction, “my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. ‘Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children,’” (Hosea 4:6, NIV). God was so offended that He was even going to destroy the mothers of the priests so their priestly line would cease (v.5).

How does this prophecy relate to us? As Christian parents we have a responsibility to set a good example and to instruct our children in the ways of the LORD. Church youth leaders have similar responsibilities; they are not merely there to entertain them. Christian adult ministry leaders and pastors must also lead by example and teach people the love and mercy of God, the faithfulness that God requires, and his judgment. Many Christian marriages are falling apart because they do not know what God requires and what godly marriages look like. Immorality, wickedness, and greed abound in America and many parts of the world. The ways of the LORD are found in the Bible, God’s Holy Word. We must teach it, preach it, and live it, or we will be just as guilty as those priests in Israel. Our negligence will lead to our destruction.

Besides the sinful examples of the priests, Hosea said,

A spirit of prostitution leads them [the Israelites] astray; they are unfaithful to their God. They sacrifice on the mountaintops and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar and terebinth, where the shade is pleasant. Therefore your daughters turn to prostitution and your daughters-in-law to adultery. ‘I will not punish your daughters when they turn to prostitution, nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery, because the men themselves consort with harlots and sacrifice with shrine prostitutes-- a people without understanding will come to ruin!’”
(Hosea 4:12-14, NIV).

Israel had a spirit of prostitution. She had established worship centers on high places for Baal worship. In the temples of Baal there were male and female prostitutes. By their behavior the Israelites were actually leading their children to become male and female prostitutes. Is there a spirit of prostitution in our hearts? Most of us may go to church on Sunday to worship, but what about Monday through Saturday? Do we worship at the altars of sex by what we view on Television, the internet or in magazines? Our children may very well see our immoral behavior and copy it, and then they also will have a spirit of prostitution, and God will be angry. If we have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we are his children, and he wants us to act like it. He offers us spiritual life and wants to bless us; he does not want to judge us (more...).

God would love to have had Israel back, but she would have none of it. God said, “The Israelites are stubborn, like a stubborn heifer. How then can the LORD pasture them like lambs in a meadow?’” (Hosea 4:16, NIV). Can the LORD pasture us like lambs or are we, too, like stubborn heifers? If we turn from our sins, God is always merciful and gracious (1John 1:9). If we do not turn to him, however, he may have to punish us.

At this same time, it appears that the prophet Jonah was sent to the city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. “The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me,’” (Jonah 1:1-3, NIV). But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. What was so bad about Jonah preaching against the destruction of Nineveh that Jonah ran away? After all, Assyria was Israel’s enemy. Why was he not excited to go and preach against Nineveh? Jonah knew God is merciful and actually might extend his mercy to Israel’s enemies, if they repented. Many think the book of Jonah is all about Jonah and the great fish, when actually the message of Jonah is about God’s mercy and compassion.

Jonah went the opposite way from Nineveh; he was a passenger in a ship headed for Tarshish and fell asleep in the hold of the ship, but Jonah couldn’t hide from God and neither can we. God hurled an angry storm at the ship, wherein Jonah lay. In fear of the ship breaking apart and being swept away, the crew awoke Jonah and told him to call upon his God. Jonah was stubborn. He did not confess his sins to God and pray for mercy. He did, however, tell the crew that he was the cause of God’s anger. He told them to throw him overboard and the sea and the storm would stop its raging. At first they would not do it, but finally they felt they had no other recourse and threw him overboard. After Jonah was thrown overboard, immediately there was a great calm, and the crew worshipped the true God of heaven. God was merciful and gracious to the crew. Jonah sought to flee from God, but God used Jonah’s judgment to bring salvation to the crew.

What happened to Jonah? God was merciful to the rebellious prophet.

The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God. “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple,” (Jonah 2:5-7, NIV)

Apparently, Jonah was almost dead as he slowly sank to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea when the fish swallowed Jonah. He may have rested unconscious in the whale three days and nights until he arose and came to his senses (Matthew 12:40). God showed compassion to his prophet - he rescued him and forgave him when he repented, and then he gave Jonah a second chance to do the will of God. What about you? Have you failed God? We all have failed him at one time or another. The good news is that if we genuinely repent, God will forgive us and may even give us a second chance to do his will.

As Jonah feared, God was merciful and compassionate to the Ninevites. When they heard God’s message of judgment, they were convicted and repented. What was Jonah’s response? He pouted. He still needed to align himself with God’s way of thinking. God later told Jonah, “‘Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?’” (Jonah 4:11, NIV). What about us? Do we love our enemies? Do we realize that we, too, were once enemies of God (Colossians 1:21)? We should be compassionate (merciful) to those who do not know God and are, like the Ninevites (Jonah 4:11), lost in their sins.

Lessons to live by:

  • Like those who are man and wife, God requires that we be faithful to him.
  • The ways of the LORD are found in the Bible, God’s Holy Word. We must teach it, preach it, and live it.
  • God may remove our position as teacher, preacher, or leader if we set bad examples and do not properly instruct the next generation.
  • Those who refuse to repent will be judged. Those who repent will be shown mercy (more...)
  • You can’t hide from God; he will find you out.
  • Often after punishment, God gives the repentant believer a second chance to do his will.
  • Let us remember the mercy and grace shown to us and then show compassion to everyone, even our enemies.

Today’s Bible memory verse:

Proverbs 28:13 “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (NIV)

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