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FAR AWAY

JOEL 3:6

“and sold the sons of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks in order to remove them far from their territory,

I have mentioned several times about my 30+ years in the Child Welfare field. Most of those years were great years. I learned a lot and grew both professionally and personally. But one incident sticks in my mind. I was working at children’s home and three of the children I worked with were set up to be adopted. That sounds great. But this adoption was done without the children ever having met the family before. I still remember that day having to physically put the children in the back of that car. It was tearful and sad, instead of joyous.

That scene comes to mind when I read today’s verse in Joel. Part of the reason the Lord is judging these nations so harshly is because they had sold the Judeans to other nations to move them far away. That was part of the process when a nation defeated another nation. They dispersed them to prevent them from reforming and starting a rebellion. God was not happy about that and held them accountable.

APPLICATION

How do you apply a verse like this to your life?  Let me ask you this question. What have you removed far away from God? What are you holding on to? Now, you really can’t remove anything from God. He is everywhere and is all knowing. But we can withhold things from Him that need to be surrendered. Do you have a “secret stash” of things that you just can’t let go of?

God desires total surrender from us. He wants us to turn everything over to Him rather than tucking stuff away. Unlike the nations’ plan to move Judea away to prevent rebellion, our moving stuff away actually leads to rebellion. The more stuff we hold on to, the more those things can lead us away from our Lord. We need to give Him our all.

I have experienced periods in my life when I was holding on to something. It was something I could fix, something I could handle. Each time I did this, I eventually realized the futility of my efforts. I learned to surrender it. Now, I’m a little hard-headed. Just ask my wife, lol. But I do know His way in the right way. Do you?

I bring all my “tucked away” things to You, O Lord. I desire to walk in freedom.

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WHO KNOWS?

WHO KNOWS?

JOEL 2:14

“Who knows, He might turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him, resulting in a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God.”

Have you ever wondered if someone was going to do something? I have. I have spent a lot of time doing that. I waited and waited for something to happen, and it never does. Waiting on others can be very frustrating. Other times, the wait pays off. The thing you are waiting on happens. Then you forget about how long you waited.

Here in today’s verse, Joel brings that thought to us. If you read the previous verse, he is talking about God’s mercy and grace. Then he poses this thought. “Who knows, He might…” God’s actions towards Judah depends on their return to Him. Then He is able to do for them. He may even restore the grain and drink offerings to Himself that they have gone without for so long.

APPLICATION

It is the same for us, brothers and sisters. God wants to do so much for us. Do you believe that? He wants to bless us. He wants to “leave a blessing behind” for us. What do you need the Lord to do for you today? I bet there is something you have been praying for, maybe a for while. The thing required is your return to Him.

When we come to Him in complete surrender and put ourselves at the feet of the Master, He lifts us up. Many of us don’t like that picture – bowing before anyone. But pride and self-centeredness will not put us the place to receive those blessings from our Lord. He desires each of us to come to Him willingly and selfishly. That blesses His heart, and He releases His blessings in our lives.

I desire God’s blessings over His testings. Don’t you? I know living a godly and surrendered life is what He wants for me. I am willing to live that life because I know the result. I obey Him because I know He loves me and wants what is best for me. I don’t obey to get loved. I am already loved. He’s my father. He’s my Lord.

Lord, come to me with blessings as I serve You. I will return those blessings in the form of praise and worship to You.

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BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SEE

JOEL 2:4

“Their appearance is like the appearance of horses; and like war horses, so they run.”

Sometimes things take on the shape of other things. Clouds can look like a rabbit. Shadows can appear to represent an image of a person. In the fog things can look very different. You have to look closely sometimes to make out what you are really seeing. After all, your eyes can play tricks on you.

Theodoret, a Bishop in Syria, once said while describing the locusts he observed there, “You will find it exceedingly like that of a horse.” Whence the Arabs, of old and to this day , say, ‘In the locust, slight as it is, is the nature of ten of the larger animals, the face of a horse, the eyes of an elephant, the neck of abull, the horns of a deer, the chest of a lion, the belly of a scorpion, the wings of an eagle, the thighs of a camel, the feet of an ostrich, the tail of a serpent.’” (Barnes’ Commentary of Joel). This is what Joel is talking about here in today’s verse.

APPLICATION

You are probably wondering how in the world we can get any application for our lives from this verse. What do locusts or how they look relate to me? Will you give a little room to make this application? After all, every word of the Bible is inspired, right?

God allows these “hordes of locusts” into our lives sometimes. He allows them to come in and seemingly destroy everything in sight. But you have to remember that if God allows it, it is always to make us more like His Son. Those locusts may look terrifying. We may be shaken at the very sight of them. However, in Christ we have the strength and power to face any horde sent our way.

I don’t like hordes of anything attacking me or my loved ones. I want to fight back. I think I can defend myself. But God whispers to me to back off and let Him do the defending. If you are facing “hordes of locusts” right now, stop fighting so hard. Lay down your feeble weapons and allow the Lord to defend you. He has the power to do great and mighty things in and through us.

I thank You for coming to my defense when I am under attack. When all else falls apart, I know You can be depended on.

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PROSTRATE

JOEL 1:13

“Put on sackcloth and mourn, you priests; wail, you ministers of the altar! Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you ministers of my God, for the grain offering and the drink offering have been withheld from the house of your God.”

There have been few times in my life when I found myself lying prostrate praying to my God. Times of desperation can drive you there. I don’t need to go into what drove me there. You have probably have had times like that yourself. When you have no answers where do you go? To whom to you go?

Joel is calling on the priests to fall prostrate before their God. Sackcloth is called for. An outward sign for the nation to see was called for. Joel is telling them to show everyone that they, the priests, see their own sin and are confessing it before their Lord.

APPLICATION

Are you desperate for God? What has driven you to lay prostrate before Him? Perhaps you haven’t come to that point yet. You may think you are above that. Listen, no one is. We all have to come to the point of desperation for our sins. We all need to humble ourselves. We do not have the ability to “fix” ourselves.

But, thanks be to God, we know the one who is able to fix us. When we need cleansing, when we need to be lifted, we come to the one who has the power to raise the dead. We come to the one who can reach down and wipe away our tears. We come to the one we can trust with our very lives. He is able. No one else is. When will we all realize that?

I need humility in my life. I am like those other believers who can strut sitting down sometimes. I get full of myself. That is when I am the most vulnerable. I have to confess that as sin and come to my Savior. Will you join me? Come to Him now. He is ready to pick you up once you lay yourself out before Him.

Praise You, Lord, for seeing me. I am always in Your thoughts and You are ready to forgive me.

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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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SWIFT AND VICIOUS

HOSEA 13:7 

“So I will be like a lion to them; like a leopard I will lie in wait by the wayside.” 

My daughter had the opportunity to visit Masai Mara several years ago while she was living in Kenya. Going on a safari there was a thrill of a lifetime. She was able to see so many animals. As cute and adorable as the lion cubs appeared, she was reminded how deadly they are. When they attack it is swift and vicious. 

Hosea uses this same imagery when he describes God’s judgment of Israel. His would be a swift and ferocious judgment. He had tolerated the sins of the nation long enough. They would be completely caught off guard and powerless. God still loves them dearly, but He will not allow them to continue in their rebellion. 

APPLICATION 

We walk around the same way. We think we can ignore God’s law and skate through life unscathed. In fact, we might just do that. But judgment is coming. God will hold every single person accountable for their sins. There is no escape. When we take our last breath, we will come face to face with our decision to follow or not to follow the Lord. 

But praise be to God, there is a solution. God provided it. Jesus has shed His blood to cover our sins. All we have to do is claim that forgiveness. Have you done that? Have you asked Jesus into your life and surrendered your heart to Him? If so, that judgment is paid. God’s wrath is appeased. You are in His family. I pray you have made that decision. If not, do it today. 

The peace that overwhelms me because of my decision to follow Jesus is indescribable. Knowing my eternity is settled allows me to concentrate on the present. I want to live in such a way that others are influenced to follow Him too. I know too many people who aren’t walking with Jesus. It breaks my heart. Will you join me in doing all we can to bring them along with us to Glory?  

You are all I need today, Lord. I am thankful You rescued me. 

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PROUD HEART

HOSEA 13:6 

“As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, and as they became satisfied, their heart became proud; therefore, they forgot Me.” 

There is nothing wrong with being satisfied. Being content with things of life can be a good thing. Paul tells us in the New Testament to be content. He said godliness with contentment is great gain. But when we become satisfied with ourselves to the exclusion of God, that is not good. Our soul should always strive for more of Him. 

Israel had become self-satisfied. They had, in fact, become proud of heart. The word “proud” in the Hebrew can have the idea of exalted or puffed up. They didn’t need God anymore. After all, they had everything they needed, or so they thought. Hosea even says they forgot God. How sad! 

APPLICATION 

How do you avoid getting proud and satisfied? You have to acknowledge your need for a holy God. Have you done that? Do you realize how much you need Him in your life? I pray you have. We can accomplish a lot of things in this world. We may even think we have done it on our own. But every blessing you receive as a believer is the direct result of God in your life. 

Not me, Carl. I have worked hard for everything I’ve gotten. God never gave me anything. Oh really? How about the very breath you take? How about your heartbeat? Without those you certainly couldn’t go far. If you will stop and look at all the blessings in your life, you will see the source. He is the one who sends those blessings into your life.  

Without Jesus in my life, I know I am nothing. I owe all I am to Him. I am not worthy of one single thing. But I am a child of the King. Therefore, He sees me as worthy. He counts me as an heir of His kingdom. Of that I am proud – proud to be His.  

O Lord, keep my heart proud only of You. Let my satisfaction come in You alone. 

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ONE SAVIOR

HOSEA 13:4 

“Yet I have been the LORD your God since the land of Egypt; and you were not to know any god except Me, for there is no savior besides Me.” 

I have been reading a book by Nik Ripken entitled, “The Insanity of Obedience.” It is an inspiring and convicting read. I highly recommend it. One thing Nik points out about the conversion of Hindu believers is the danger of incorporating Jesus into their many gods. True conversion of a Hindu will result in the removal of their altars to their other gods in their homes. There’s only room for one Savior. 

Israel struggled with the influence of pagan religions, the very thing God warned them about when they came into the Promised Land under Joshua. They allowed the nations they were supposed to defeat to defeat them from within by absorbing their beliefs. But God is a jealous God and would not allow that to continue. 

APPLICATION 

The same holds true for us today. God is still a jealous God. He will not share us with other gods. You may say, What other  gods?  The gods of our own making. As I have said before, we put all kinds of things before our Lord. We celebrate and worship the things of this world. We spend our time and money in places that have no eternal value. 

Have you torn down your altars and made room for just one Savior? Nothing or no one else can deliver you from the struggles of this life. No amount of Pure Barre or Orange Theory workouts can diminish the pain you are feeling. Only Jesus can remove what ails you. He can bring you into a perfect peace that will never leave you.  

I have tried different things in my life to get the peace that can only come through Jesus. Some of them actually seem to work for a while. I have even tried ministry to others to fill that void. Only time with Jesus can do it. Allow Him to occupy your mind and heart today. He is the only Savior you will ever need. 

Father, I am grateful for the Savior. Jesus is all I will ever need. 

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REPROACHED

HOSEA 12:14 

“Ephraim has provoked God to bitter anger; so his Lord will leave his guilt for bloodshed on him and bring his disgrace back to him.” 

Have you ever been reproached? Do you even know what that means? Well, Webster defines reproach as “to address someone with disapproval or disappointment.” Now, how do you answer that question? I can remember my parents being disappointed in me due to some of my behaviors. It is not encouraging. 

God has reproached Ephraim because of their sins. They had become immune, or so it seemed, to guilt due to their sins. They figured since they had forgotten them, God had also. Well, He hadn’t. God will not look the other way. He held them accountable.  

APPLICATION 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I like being reproached. I don’t want to disappoint my Lord. I want to please Him. One way to avoid being reproached is by doing that – pleasing Him. He really isn’t that hard to please. All we have to do is surrender to Him daily and allow Him to live through us. 

You may say Well, that’s not so easy, Carl. Sure, it is. We just die to self. We wake up each morning and decide to let God have His will that day. We lay down our agenda for His. We bow at His throne instead of sitting on ours. We yield to His Word to determine how to proceed. 

Don’t want to do that? Okay, live dangerously. I choose to bow. I want to live in victory, not defeat. It really is so much easier. I have fought against the Lord. I have been reproached. It’s not fun. I choose surrender.  

Lord, thank You for victory. Thank You for allowing me to walk with You. 

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THE PROPHET

HOSEA 12:13 

“But by a prophet the LORD brought Israel up from Egypt, and by a prophet he was protected.” 

Don’t you love the story of Moses? A baby is born in Egypt and doomed to die. Miraculously he survives a short voyage in the Nile among crocodiles to land in the arms of the Pharoah’s daughter. He grows up privileged and educated. Then God leads him away for forty years to prepare him for his role as liberator of the children of Israel.

Hosea is, of course, referring to Moses in today’s verse. This prophet, Moses, led and protected the nation. There was nothing special about Moses, except that he yielded to the will of God. He allowed God to use him, even though he felt unworthy. Remember, he even told God he stuttered so he couldn’t talk to Pharoah. But God used this humble man to be the leader of a nation. 

APPLICATION 

As I was reading this verse, I asked myself how the Lord may want to use me. How does He want to use you? Moses was tending sheep when he encountered the burning bush. Have you had a burning bush experience? I don’t mean you’ve seen an actual burning bush. But have you had a definite meeting with the holy God of the universe? Has He called you by name? 

He is calling us. He is calling us to do great and wonderful things on His behalf. Jesus told us we would do “greater things than these” as His followers. Are you willing? God will make you able. You just have to allow Him to. Ask Him today to use you in ways that you can’t imagine.  

I want to be used. I desire to be led by His Spirit. Often my own will and desires get in the way. It’s easy to get sidetracked and think I am doing His will, when in fact I am doing my own. That’s not my desire. My prayer today is to be that willing vessel surrendered to His will for my life – wherever that leads. 

Father God, I know I am headstrong and stubborn at times, but I want to yield to You. Led me as You led Moses to do great and mighty things for You. 

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