Hear the word of the LORD … for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.Hosea 4:1
A History Lesson
I signed up for Professor R.’s history class – I think it covered the Christian Church during the Crusades – because it was a requirement. As part of my seminary education, I had to take so many history classes.
Thankfully, I really like history! And the Crusades was one of the more interesting topics to choose from.
After about 2 weeks we had our first test. I had not taken this professor’s class before and I had no idea what his tests were like. I should have taken the time to find out, but I felt confident. I hadn’t missed any lectures (a first for me, by the way) and I liked the subject matter. I had also kept up in my reading of the several books on the required list.
As I sat down at my desk on a Friday afternoon, he handed me my test. I looked down. There were three questions on it. I was given the choice of answering one of them. The one I chose was:
“Describe the historical, political, and theological context of the months leading up to the First Crusade.”
I was expected multiple chose, matching, or short answer kind of questions. This was an essay test.
Like I said, I should have asked classmates who had taken this professor in the past.
I answered as best I could – or, at least I thought I did. I received a really bad grade.
After I received my bad grade, I made an appointment with the professor to talk with him about it. I also asked about him amongst fellow classmates.
I continued to read and attend lectures. And because I was armed with other student’s previous knowledge, when the second test came around, I was prepared! I received an “A”!
I went on to take this professor every chance I had to fulfill all my history requirements at seminary. I received an “A” on every test and in every class I took with him.
I also learned a lot of church history!
That was twenty-five years ago. But I haven’t forgotten what I learned from Professor R. I still incorporate much of what I learned about Church history from him in my Bible studies, sermons, and writing.
One of the things that he taught me quite clearly was that history is incredibly important for a man of God.
You may be familiar with the quote of George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” although it has also been attributed as being, “the one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again” (as it is posted in the Auschwitz concentration camp today).
Professor R. instilled this in me through his teaching of history at Concordia Seminary. And I still find this to be true even though I haven’t taken a formal history class since graduating.
Old Testament History Lesson
Recently I led a Bible class on Hosea chapters 4-10. Written seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, this Old Testament prophetic warning to Israel serves also as a warning to us today.
Hosea describes a list of sins that Israel consistently commits – even though they know better! Sins such as “swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery” (Hosea 4:2). All forbidden by their own commandments as recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.
Hosea warns Israel that their sins – and their continued idolatry of worshiping local Canaanite Gods (Baal and Ashtoreth) – have brought ruin on the land.
God will have to bring punishment to the people in order to preserve a faithful remnant through which the Messiah would come.
And so Hosea warns them about Assyria. His prophesy was that Assyria would come and take the people into exile. And this happened within one generation of Hosea’s warning.
Nothing Has Really Changed
“there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed”Hosea 4:2
Not only is this a description of 8th Century BC Israel, it is also an apt description of 21st Century AD America!
I recently saw a video of a political rally where children as young as five or six years old were using extremely vulgar language – swearing, actually – about the President of the United States.
Lying continues to be the language of the day in the media and in politics.
Every morning on the local news the lead story is about a person being injured or killed violently in the city.
And every weekend, churches are mostly empty and Bibles are opened less and less.
“There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land”Hosea 4:1.
What Can Be Done?
“Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up”Hosea 6:1
It starts by remembering our history. Look at the past. How did people live in the dark recesses of history? Find the answer to the question, “What was the result of how they lived?
And return to the Lord! He wants so much better for us!
He wants to revive us! That’s why He sent Jesus to be our Savior!
The prophet Hosea wrote these words, “on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.” (Hosea 6:2)
This happened when Jesus took all our sins on Himself and died on the cross. He was dead and buried in the tomb. But after three days Jesus rose from the dead!
St. Paul would write seven hundred years after Hosea:
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”Romans 6:3-4
History doesn’t have to be repeated! Jesus brought the power to end the cycle!
All we need to do is repent of our sins, turn back to God, and live a new life of steadfast love and faithfulness.
A Warning and a Promise
Hosea provides a warning that isn’t limited to the 8th Century BC. Today we can hear and heed his warning so as to prevent ourselves from slipping back into thanklessness and, worse, outright sin and rebellion against God.
But we can be richly blessed by Hosea’s promise of the righteousness of God that will rain down on us through the blessings of Jesus Christ who forgives our sins and promises us eternal life!
Our world is broken. Our nation is reeling from the effects of sin and the devil. But we can learn from God’s story (His-story) and break the cycle of sin and death.
Let us turn back to God and to lives of steadfast love and faithfulness.
Heavenly Father, help us to learn from history about the consequences of sin and the blessings of forgiveness that comes from Jesus Christ. Heal us so that our land may also find healing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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