Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A temporal spanking?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Hosea 2:2-23

TO CHEW ON: "For she did not know
That I gave her grain, new wine, and oil,
And multiplied her silver and gold —
Which they prepared for Baal.
Therefore I will return and take away
My grain in its time
And My new wine in its season
And will take back My wool and My linen
Given to cover her nakedness." Hosea 2:8-9

When children are little, physical punishment is something they understand often better than words and reasoning (even though spanking is certainly out of favour with the modern parenting gurus). Here God threatens to administer a temporal spanking to Israel, who has been pursuing affairs with idols, just as Hosea's wife Gomer has gone after other men.

God's tone is one of hurt aroused to the point of indignation as He speaks to Israel about her unfaithfulness:

"She did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, oil; Therefore I will return and take away My grain...and new wine...She has said 'These are my wages that my lovers have given me,' so I will make them a forest..." Hosea 2: 8, 9, 12.

Israel is interpreting her physical abundance as the payment for her allegiance to Baal instead of coming from the God of heaven. So God says, in effect, I'll take it away. Maybe that will drive you back to Me.

As I read this, I think how we are often like that too. We attribute success, provision, all the good stuff we have as resulting from our own hard work, or keen intellect, or stable government, or luck, or karma — anything but God. It's interesting to view, as a contrast, the range of temporal blessings that the Bible says come from God's hand and are an evidence of His favour:*

  • The wealth of the patriarchs - Genesis 24:35; Genesis 26:12.
  • The sturdiness of the Israelites' clothes and shoes while they wandered for 40 years over rough desert terrain - Deuteronomy 29:5.
  • The well-being of Obed-Edom's household while he housed the Ark of the Covenant - 2 Samuel 6:11.
  • The riches and honour of Solomon, given as a by-product of his request for wisdom - 1 Kings 3:13.
  • Rain and the seasons to make earth productive - Psalm 65:9; Acts 4:17.
  • The success of secular rulers to the extent that even the animal kingdom is on their side, as they serve God's purposes (though they may not realize or acknowledge it) - Jeremiah 27:6
  • Along with material wealth, the ability to flourish spiritually - 2 Corinthians 9:10.

Do we acknowledge the real Source of the myriad blessings in our lives? When week after week there is food in the fridge, money for gas, health to live comfortably, do we thank God? Or do we, like the Israelites, attribute those blessings to ourselves or someone else? If we do we may, like them, be at risk of God withdrawing His bounty as He seeks to draw our attention back to Him.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to understand the degree to which I am dependent on You for all the good things in life. Help me to be a person of habitual thankfulness for Your blessings to me throughout my days. Amen.

MORE: "How is God making my life full right here, right now?"

In her book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp writes about how nurturing an attitude of gratitude toward God changed the outlook of her life. Moira Brown of 100 Huntley Street interviewed Ann about the book in March 2011. In the two segments below, Ann explains what brought about the focus of gratitude in her life and how she continues to foster it.

Part 1 − 8:30 minutes

Part 2 − 9:38 minutes

*Email subscribers: to read the verses without looking them up, visit the article on the web, where a text box widget displays the verse when you hover the mouse over the reference.

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