Affection, Belief, Bible, Calling, Deception, Encouragement, Following, Inspirational, Judgment, Modeling

NO OTHER

JOEL 2:27

“‘So you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God and there is no other; and My people will never be put to shame.’”

I don’t like imposters. People who pretend to be someone or something else just get under my skin. There, I said it. Is that judgmental? Yes, I guess it is. But people who do this are simply deceptive. Deception is the work of the evil one. There is no doubt about that.

But God is not a deceiver. Nor is He a pretender. He is the only true God. Here in Joel, He says that He is the Lord your God and there is no other. Why did the Lord say that? Because He needed to remind the Judeans why they have just come through their judgment. They had pursued other false gods, who really aren’t gods at all. There is only One God.

APPLICATON

I probably don’t need to tell you that there is only one God. You probably know that. But are you living as if that is true? Do you put your trust in other things? Do you rely on money or prestige to get you through? There is only one source for all your needs. That is the Lord your God. He is still playing that role today.

When I say playing that role, I don’t mean He is pretending. Of course, not. He is simply fulfilling His role. He is the creator of all that there is. He knows there is no other God. There is not any who rival Him. Satan is not His evil, equal adversary. Satan would want you to believe that, but he isn’t. He is subservient to God and will ultimately be judged and cast into the lake of fire. You can’t call that equal.

I do things sometimes that God may question my actions. He may think I doubt He is the only one. Of course, that is not true. But I resort to trusting sources other than Him. And when I do, it always ends bad. Don’t do what I do. Acknowledge Him as the only God. He believes you are the only you.

I praise You, O God, for being the one and only true God. I bow before You!

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Affection, Bible, Blessing, Caregiver, Comfort, Encouragement, Fruit, God's Will, Intimacy, Loyalty, Protection, Relationships, Scripture, Surrender, Trust

OUR CARETAKER

HOSEA 14:8

Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like a luxuriant juniper; from Me comes your fruit.”

Isn’t it nice to have someone who looks after you? When I was growing up, my parents did that. Now, I liked that until I became a teenager. Then, not so much. Lol. I wanted my independence. I didn’t want anyone watching my every move. But my parents continued to do that, even when I went to college. They were always checking on me to make sure I was alright.

God says here, “It is I who answer and look after you.” Through all Ephraim’s rebellion, God was still look watching out for them. Even though there were consequences for their disobedience, God still loved them and wanted what was best for them. He says from Him comes their fruit. God was the source of their blessings.

APPLICATION

We need the Lord in our lives to give us purpose and power. It is only though His watchful gaze that we are able to do the things we do. Just like His care for Ephraim, He will care for us. But what does that mean? How does God care for us? Does He give us everything we want or desire?

The Lord puts His umbrella of protection over His children. That doesn’t mean we will never suffer. Just the opposite. We may be chosen by Him to suffer. Suffering is a privilege. God only allows suffering on those who can endure it. He will see you through it. His eye is on you constantly. If you believe that, then you know He cares for you.

I know through many situations in my life that the Lord is watching over me. I could name dozens of times in my life when the Lord showed His care for me. It is comforting. It is peaceful. And He does produce His fruit through me. All I have to do is let Him.

Father, thank You for watching over me. I want You to use me however You see fit.

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Abiding, Affection, Bible, Encouragement, Following, God's Will, Healing, Inspirational

JEHOVAH RAPHA

HOSEA 14:4

I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, because My anger has turned away from them.”

I have been through some challenging physical ailments in the past years. I have gone through two stem cell transplants (2010 and 2020), melanoma surgery on my chest and a brain fistula surgery. To say the least, I have called on Jehovah Rapha a few times. He has come through time and time again.

But Jehovah Rapha heals more than the physical. Here in today’s verse Jehovah is healing them from their apostasy. Do you know what that is? The Hebrew word can mean backsliding or turning back. God’s love will draw them back into a relationship. This is spiritual and relational healing. Isn’t that great?

APPLICATION

What kind of healing do you need? Physical healing? Spiritual? Relational? We are all in need of some kind of healing. What are you waiting for? Jehovah Rapha is still healing people. But we have to understand something about His healing. He heals according to His timetable and according to His will. Sometimes the healing happens later, even in eternity. But He will respond.

Now, I’ve known plenty of people who prayed for physical healing and did not receive it this side of eternity. They were healed in glory. That’s hard for some of us to accept. But it’s the truth. If we yield to Jehovah Rapha, He will always heal us spiritually. That’s not easy for us either. We must die to our own desires and accept the healing.

I want that healing. I want Jehovah Rapha to heal me from my apostasy. I don’t want to back slide or turn away. I want to be following Him always. Don’t you? That’s possible when we surrender. Healing is needed. Healing is wanted. Jehovah Rapha offers it.

Father God, I thank You for healing my heart. I praise You for the gift of healing.

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Advice, Affection, Bible, Compassion, Condemnation, Destruction, Evil, Godliness, Grandchildren, Horror, Idols, Scripture

THE CHILDREN SUFFER

HOSEA 13:16

Samaria will pay the penalty for her guilt, because she has rebelled against her God. They will fall by the sword, their children will be slaughtered, and their pregnant women will be ripped open.”

As a parent and grandparent, my utmost desire has always been to protect my children or grandchildren. It would bring me horror to think I ever did anything to bring harm to them. As a minister to children for over forty years, the same holds true for any children under my care. Let me suffer, but never the children.

Hosea ends this chapter with some pretty, horrible descriptions of the coming judgment against Israel. Samaria was the capital city of Israel. It had been the center of the idolatry and rebellion against God, so God’s wrath upon that city would be harsh. Hosea is predicting what the Assyrians were going to do when they came. It’s one thing to slaughter men in war, but to kill innocent children, even the unborn, was unthinkable.

APPLICATION

You are probably thinking Carl, I would never do that or tolerate that! That’s good. I didn’t think you would. But are you protecting your children’s spirits? Are you guarding them from being influenced by evil? In our world today, we have to be so diligent to monitor and protect our children from this world. They can’t live in a bubble, but we can sure keep them safe in our homes.

Are you aware of what is on your child’s phone? Are you comfortable with the video games they are playing? How about their friends? Do you know them? Do you know their parents? We can’t just take our kids to church and think that gives them some kind of holy shield the rest of the week. That’s not how it works. You must guard their minds.

As an adult, I have to guard my mind. It is so easy to get off track when I am online. One little side post or ad can divert my eyes and before I know it, I can be chasing rabbits into a hole I can’t get out of. Scripture keeps my mind focused on Him and puts that shield over my eyes. Let Jesus keep your mind pure (1 Timothy 6:11).

Lord, help me protect the innocent as well as keep my own mind pure.

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Abiding, Affection, Bible, Blessing, Comfort, Contentment, Encouragement, Intimacy, Love, Scripture

I KNEW YOU

HOSEA 13:5 

“I cared for you in the wilderness, in the land of drought.” 

I have been married to my wife for over 35 years now. You would think by now I would know her pretty well. But there are still things about her that I am learning. Isn’t that amazing? Maybe it’s because she has not revealed all her secrets to me yet. That’s probably it, lol. More than likely it’s because I have not been observant enough over the years. 

In today’s verse, the word “cared” is the Hebrew word yada. This is an important word used throughout the Old Testament. It can mean to know, to know very well, to understand and even mean to have relations. The point is this – God knew Israel intimately. They were His people. He had chosen them. They were His. 

APPLICATION 

That is still true today. God knows us. He knows us well. He created us. He knows what makes us tick. He knit us in our mother’s womb. So, we can’t use the excuse that God just doesn’t understand us. Of course, He does. No one understands us like He does. We just choose to not believe it or accept it. 

When you and I finally realize that God knows what is best for us and learn to trust Him in that, life is so much easier. Now, I don’t mean easy as in no trials. I mean easy in that now our life is His to live. We just sit back and watch Him work it. We will all face hard times, even seemingly impossible times, but knowing God knows us helps us rest. 

My brother went to his heavenly reward yesterday. His family watched this and are hurting. Thankfully, they know the Lord and can trust He knows exactly what they are going through. He knows them intimately. He loves them deeply. He will carry them through. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ that my brother fully knows his Savior now.

Lord, I am so grateful You know me. You know me perfectly and intricately. 

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Abiding, Affection, Belief, Betrayal, Bible, Blasphemy, Commitment, Devout, Disciplemaking, Idols, Intimacy, Modeling, Obedience, Relationships, Scripture

A KISS

HOSEA 13:2 

“And now they sin more and more, and make for themselves cast metal images, idols skillfully made from their silver, all of them the work of craftsmen. They say of them, ‘Let the people who sacrifice kiss the calves!’” 

A kiss seems harmful enough, doesn’t it? Have you ever blown someone a kiss? That’s one of the first things we teach our babies. It is so cute to see them blow you a kiss. But when you are an adult, you had better be careful to whom you blow kisses. Blowing those to the wrong person will get you in a whole heap of trouble. 

Ephraim was guilty of idolatry. They had multiplied their idols, even making them to represent any god they imagined. They covered them with silver and gold and bowed before them. They kissed them and when they couldn’t physically kiss them, they would blow a kiss towards them. Wow! How do you think God felt when He saw His chosen people kissing false gods? 

APPLICATION 

I know what you are thinking. But Carl, I don’t have any silver or gold idols in my house that I kiss and bow to. Most of don’t. We are too sophisticated for that. We would never have our idols placed out in front of everyone. We tend to hide our idols. We disguise our idols.  

What do you worship? Anything you place before God and His Son, Jesus, is an idol. Anything or anyone you prioritize over your worship of the only true God is an idol. So, what do you worship? It could be your family, your job, your possessions or even your health. Nothing can come between you and your Lord. Stop kissing the wrong thing. 

I have been guilty of placing things before God from time to time. I get busy and replace my quiet times with scheduling for the day. I get sidetracked and stop spending time with Him in prayer. It can happen to all of us. Take a minute right night and look at the day ahead of you. Make time with God your priority. Spend the time you need (and you need it) with Him today. Kiss Him today! 

I lavish You with my worship today, O Lord. I long to kiss Your hands and feet and pay homage to You for all You have done for me. 

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AND DIED

HOSEA 13:1 

“When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling. He exalted himself in Israel, but through Baal he incurred guilt and died.” 

My parents have both died. We grieved. We were heartbroken. Death seems to be so…final. But for a believer, it isn’t. My parents loved Jesus. We know they were instantly carried into the arms of Jesus. We did not “lose” them. We know exactly where they are and long to join them one day. 

Ephraim also died, but his death wasn’t so joyful. Ephraim had rebelled against God and was proud of themselves. They had invited Baal and Ashtoreth into their land. They had built elaborate temples for them both. His trembling wasn’t in humility. That would have been appropriate. Judgment was sure and certain. 

APPLICATION 

Pride certainly comes before the fall. How do we guard against being so prideful, like Ephraim? Our natural tendency is to be boastful and full of ourselves. That’s our sin nature. We fight that our entire lives. Outside the grace of God, we have no hope. 

But thanks be to God, through Jesus we can come before the throne of God and bow. Because of Christ’s shed blood we have forgiveness. Now, our trembling is in humility and gratefulness. We recognize God’s preeminence in our lives. We are nothing without Him. He gives us purpose. 

I want that, don’t you? I desire to be held in His arms and loved. My parents walked into their heavenly reward the day they died. Christ’s warm embrace enveloped them. And as they entered, I am sure they heard those words we all long to hear. “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into your reward.” 

Father, thank You for welcoming my parents. Love them well. 

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TENDER HANDS

HOSEA 11:11

“They will come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will settle them in their houses, declares the LORD.”

I can remember as a little boy finding baby birds that had fallen out of their nest. Some didn’t even have their eyes open yet. They were so defenseless. Usually, the mama would be flitting around trying to protect her little ones. I would pick them up so tenderly and, if I could, put them back in their nest. If the nest was too high in the tree, we would try to raise them in a box.

I had this picture in my mind when I read this verse today. God tenderly picked up Israel from Egypt and Assyria and placed them in their land again. They were shaken from their exile. They were dazed and confused, but God reached down with His tender hands and picked them up and loved them.

APPLICATION

Are you dazed and confused? Have you fallen out your nest? God’s tender hands are waiting to pick you up. You need to call out to Him. He doesn’t want to see you on the ground vulnerable to attack. He wants to protect you. But our tender God will not force His love on you. He will not come in uninvited.

Oh, but when you do call out, He is right there. And when you feel His tender hands (and believe me, you can), you just relax and realize that He has you. He will never let you go. He will carry you to your home. He will place you in a place of safety created by Him just for you. Do you want to experience that today?

I know I need His tender hands in my life daily. I love the feel of His hands on my life. I love it because I trust Him. His hands will never crush me. He will not squeeze me into submission. Don’t you love that? I do. Call out to Him today and feel His touch. You won’t ever forget it.

Lord, thank You for Your tender touch. Thank You for picking me up and taking me home.

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UPSET HEART

HOSEA 11:8

How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I surrender you, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart is turned over within Me, all My compassions are kindled.”

There have been times in my life when my heart was torn between two decisions. I wanted to do one thing, but I was confused. Both choices were good choices. Trying to decide between the two was frustrating. I sought advice to no avail. Those kinds of decisions are hard.

Hosea portrays God as being torn between two decisions regarding Israel – judgment or mercy. Admah and Zeboiim were two cities in the plains of Gomorrah that were destroyed by the hail and brimstone. God is wanting to spare Israel. His mercy is apparent. This does not mean He was indecisive. It’s just that His two attributes of holiness and mercy were both active.

APPLICATION

God sees us the same way. He knows our sins must be judged, but He also desires to show us mercy. His compassion is kindled towards us as well. Aren’t you glad? Which do you prefer – judgment or mercy? That’s kind of a dumb question, isn’t it? Of course, you prefer mercy.

How do you obtain that mercy? There’s only one way – Jesus. Through Jesus God showed us mercy by putting all His judgment on His Son. Our sins were judged at the cross. We deserve be treated just like Admah and Zeboiim, but instead, Jesus paid the price. God’s mercy is so beautiful!

I am so thankful for His mercy. And it is new every day. I don’t deserve it. I never have. But because I have aligned myself with His Son, I am guaranteed mercy every day. I am so glad God’s mercy is mine. Without it I would be lost. I would be doomed. Praise be to God I am forgiven and free. How about you?

Your mercies are new each day. I praise Your holy name.

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ROPES OF LOVE

HOSEA 11:4

I pulled them along with cords of a man, with ropes of love, and I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws; and I bent down and fed them.”

I remember a time when I was using a piece of rope as an object lesson for children in a children’s sermon. I asked the kids if anyone had ever been tied up with a rope. To my surprise, one of the little boys raised his hand and said his dad ties him up and puts him in a closet sometimes. You can imagine how low his dad slipped into the pew upon hearing that. (By the way, the child was making that up, lol).

When I read this verse, the phrase “ropes of love” puzzled me. I didn’t think how that could be used in a good way, but it is. Jehovah is showing compassion for Israel. He is not treating them as an animal is with ropes. He even lifts the yoke off of them and feeds them. He is tenderly caring for them, even when they don’t see it.

APPLICATION

Has the Lord placed ropes of love on you? If you are a believer, He certainly has. He has bound you up in His love. He is leading you tenderly. His ropes are not meant to cut or bruise you. They are simply there to give you guidance. You may see them as restrictive. They aren’t. They are for your safety.

If you were climbing a mountain with a group, you would want some ropes. I promise you. You may think those ropes are restricting your climb, but they are keeping you safe as you wander near an edge or have to grab an outlying ledge. Ropes are good, especially God’s ropes of love. Will you let Him “tie you up”?

I will willingly offer my hands and feet to His cords. I want to be bound up in Him. I want His hands to tie those ropes securely around me to keep me near Him. I know I am prone to wander. He will gently tug when I am drifting away. I need that. I bet you do too.

Father God, use Your cords to lead me. I submit myself to Your ropes of love.

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