29 January 2010

Another Australian Victory: Most Sinful Nation on Earth

rubbernecking mennonites
Originally uploaded by -sina-

The Sydney Morning Herald reported today another Australian victory. Seems our country is #1 in the world in .... the Seven Deadly Sins.

Australians have come out on top as the world's most envious people in a tally of nations viz the seven deadly sins.

BBC magazine Focus found Australians also scored highly for the other six sins, making Australia the 'most sinful' country on Earth.

"Sin-prone" Australia was followed by the US, Canada, Finland and Spain.

Researchers used a points system to determine which countries committed the seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride), the most.

A bit of history, if I might. According to Sacred Origins of Profound Things, by Charles Panati, Greek monastic theologian Evagrius of Pontus first drew up a list of eight offenses and wicked human passions:. They were, in order of increasing seriousness: gluttony, lust, avarice, sadness, anger, acedia, vainglory, and pride. Evagrius saw the escalating severity as representing increasing fixation with the self, with pride as the most egregious of the sins. Acedia (from the Greek "akedia," or "not to care") denoted "spiritual sloth."

In the late 6th century, Pope Gregory the Great reduced the list to seven items, folding vainglory into pride, acedia into sadness, and adding envy. His ranking of the Sins' seriousness was based on the degree from which they offended against love. It was, from most serious to least: pride, envy, anger, sadness, avarice, gluttony, and lust. Later theologians, including St. Thomas Aquinas, would contradict the notion that the seriousness of the sins could be ranked in this way. The term "covetousness" has historically been used interchangeably with "avarice" in accounts of the Deadly Sins. In the seventeenth century, the Church replaced the vague sin of "sadness" with sloth.

You might think I'm being a bit worrisome about whether there is an order or even a batch of sins which warrant noting. After all on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, we spend literally hours listing and shamefully renouncing a litany of dozens of sins. The "Al Chet" confession of sins is said ten times in the course of the Yom Kippur services: Following the Amidah of the afternoon prayers of the day before Yom Kippur; just before sunset on Yom Kippur Eve; and twice during each of the following services--the evening service of yom Kippur eve, and the morning service, the Musaf service and the afternoon service of Yom Kippur day--once at the end of the Silent Amidah, and once during the cantor's repitition of the Amidah.

So if a short listing of 7 is tiring for you, imagine that Yom Kippur listing, whilst fasting at that!
I'm not necessarily agreeing with the Focus people of the UK, but if I had enough time, I should want to ponder the alternative.

Are there seven virtues? Where else do we go but user-defined, content-driven space Wikipedia. There we read: "In Catholic catechism, the seven virtues refers to one of two lists of virtues, most commonly referring to the 4 Cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Restraint or Temperance, and Courage or Fortitude, and the 3 Theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love or Charity; these were adopted by the Church Fathers from virtue as defined by the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle." Thanks Wiki!

Yes, those sound like things a nations should strive to attain. I'm not a Catholic, but I like all seven of those. Justice, (ever give it, never demand it), Restraint (self-control, that's a worthy goal), Courage (I so admire guys like the Apostle Paul, a no-matter-what kind of guy), Prudence (the beginning of wisdom is.... get wisdom!), and faith, hope and love.

I'm wishing we could be known as a country full of those. Where even the idea of a virtuous country would be held in honor and esteem. Where at a party of friends, the topics of prudence would be met with story after story rather than dismissal. Or after 18 holes of golf, the fellas would talk about courage and restraint rather than #19 in Tiger's list.

Listen, it starts with one person. You. And it grows one person at a time. Share what matters, what is value-able, to the person near you. Don't mock; don't listen to mockery. Faith is admirable in Haiti just now. Love from all corners of the world to the half-island nation is glorious and ought to be heralded.

Let's do this. Let's make Australia a glorious nation, known for justice and hope, for us and for all mankind. Then I'd still call Australia 'home.'

27 January 2010

Freedom of speech

Originally uploaded by bobmendo
Let 'em speak! That's the idea of the concept of 'freedom of speech.' It's a work in progress here in Australia. Although there is no legal statement of such in any Bill of Rights, it's been a right that is assumed. But that right is being challenged as reported today in the news.

A row has exploded between retailing groups about politicians making public appearances in shopping malls.

Shopping Centre Council of Australia executive director Milton Cockburn told News Limited newspapers that shopping centre managers had to ensure patrons could visit centres without interference or harassment.

But the national executive director of The Retailer's Association, Scott Driscoll, said local politicians were only in the shopping centres for a short amount of time to connect with the real people.

Can a politician speak about his issues on such private property as shopping centres?

On another topic, George Brandis is taking on Julia Gillard, Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. It has to do with yesterday's comments by the opposition leader, Tony Abbott and his opinion that pre-marital sex is wrong for young ladies. Asked if Ms Gillard had children she would see the issue differently, Senator Brandis replied: “I think so. I think that any parent I can imagine would agree with Tony Abbott.”

“I think people are entitled to know what their politicians think and beyond the narrow range of issues about public policy but it's, it is just bizarre - bizarre - to say that because a person, a politician says, 'well, this is my particular view about this particular moral issue,' they are somehow forcing their morality down other people's throats. Nonsense.”

Mr Abbott has also hit back at Ms Gillard's criticism of the remarks, noting the deputy prime minister was speaking as a politician, while he was speaking as a parent.

The Liberal leader's interview with The Australian Women's Weekly on pre-marital sex, abortion and maternity leave has sparked a national debate about his socially conservative views on pre-marital sex.

End of the day we all have the right to speak. I value that freedom. Pictured in this blog is Rabbi Harold Vallins, a friend from the UK, who graduated and got smicha (rabbinic ordination) from Leo Baeck and moved to Melbourne and then led the liberal Jewish congregation in Moorabbin. He started a family and then, in 1996 or 1997( I forget), came to faith in Jesus. His freedom to believe what he wanted and his freedom to speak about his convictions got him in trouble. He lost his wife and kids, the courts saw to that. Harold lost his congregation and thankfully found fellowship in the Body of Messiah in Melbourne and then many places in Australia and beyond.

Harold died in 2009 and I miss him. I was grateful he came to Sydney and helped me one night at an "Ask the Rabbi" night we sponsored. We worked at various meetings and had good fellowship.

God gives us the right to speak about what we believe. Of course, the octogenarian in Horsham who told police he was late to an appointment and as a result had to drive at 150 kph, then changed his story in court this week to 'falling asleep'...well that's another story. Ron Bell, 80, said his life has been destroyed by his act of hooning last July and he can no longer go to bowls or church.

It's important for us to have the freedom to speak and to speak the truth. The judge down in Horsham,Magistrate Richard Pithouse said this was the most "nonsensical'' excuse he had ever heard.

Mr Pithouse said Bell's legacy would be "the fool who speeded''.

Friends, let's use the freedom to speak. Let's speak the truth like Harold Vallins did. And Tony Abbott. And Jesus. He even claimed to BE the Truth. In John 14. 6 we read the words of Jesus, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father but by Me."

Wow, what a claim. What chutzpah. What Truth!

26 January 2010

Heidi does Australia (Tennis in Melbourne Park)

What is the role of an exectuive anyway? Isn't it to execute, to choose, to make tough choices? So where were the television Channel 7 executives at 5:55 pm today Sydney time? I know, it's Australia Day, and I'm celebrating with my family. I enjoy the barbie and the lamb (thanks, Sam, good recommendation). We had a lovely day. The weathermen were dead wrong calling for rain, and I felt confident in their wrongness so we did the laundry and hung it out this morning.

Speaking of wrong calls, back to Channel 7. You see, Channel 7 rides the back of the Australian Open (tennis) each year this time. It's a good partnership, almost as good as the Woodies.

So what did the executives do or not do? In the fourth set of the match between Marin Cilic of Croatia and Andy Roddick, with everything on the line, Channel 7 said, 'we'll be back at 7:30, with the match between Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.' That's it. No apologies, no "you can see the entire match in its entirety..." nothing. Wow, if it had been Lleyton Hewitt or Sam Stosur in the match, would the Aussies have pulled out for ...get this...local news! Following that in the next hour would be a feature news magazine program and a soap opera. But no more coverage of the crucial match.

Shame, shame executives. What were you (not) thinking?

Wikipedia reminds us about this similar event, four decades ago, from the US and the mistake the network executives made that day. "In American football, the Heidi Game (often referred to, facetiously, as the "Heidi Bowl") refers to a famous American Football League (AFL) game between the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders, played on November 17, 1968 in Oakland, California. This game is memorable largely because the NBC television network terminated the broadcast in the Eastern and Central time zones with 65 seconds left to play in the game in favor of broadcasting a pre-scheduled two-hour airing of Heidi, a new made-for-TV version of the classic children's story. (The telecast included commercial breaks; the actual film ran 104 minutes.)

With the Jets leading 32-29 with only 65 seconds left in the game, NBC executives attempted to reach their broadcast operations unit to extend coverage of the game but were unable to reach them in time to delay the cutover or reinstate coverage before the game ended. In the meantime, the Raiders came back and scored 14 points, winning 43-32. As a result, no fan following the game on TV was able to see Oakland's comeback live. The complaints to the network indicated a new height of popularity for the game in the United States."

And today, Heidi does Australia. To be sure, Cilic ran the table in the fifth set and beat Roddick. OK, fair enough and they won't have to eat any crow with their lamb. But wait, maybe they should?

Think about the effect of carrying afternoon matches, Channel 7. They may well run long, and you have an obligation to carry them to the finish, don't you?

24 January 2010

Country and Preferences

Tonight in Tamworth the party of the year let loose. Earlier presenters distributed the Golden Guitars, and country and western noteworthies enjoyed the night. The Country festival has been going for 8 days, and what a way to conclude.

Wait, you say, you aren't into country music. I understand. It doesn't seem right. Some say it's too much honky-tonk, it's too much sadness, it's too much the same.

Felicity Urquhart was awarded her first solo Golden Guitar as Female Artist of the Year. Troy Cassar-Daley walked away with a total of six Awards for his ARIA-Award-winning album, I Love this Place. The impressive win brings Troy’s cumulative total of Golden Guitar trophies to 20. Keith Urban won an award tonight and received it via video feed, maybe next year Keith will come along.

Blake Shelton and Trace Adkins sing Hillbilly Bone and get all kinds of uppity New Yorkers off their chairs. You really have to watch the video. It's a hoot. I think that's the way it is for me. Those boys weren't in Tamworth, but their influence is deep.

You see, I don't like opera and I don't like hip-hop (apologies to my son), but I can appreciate that there is good opera and good hip-hop and bad opera and bad hip-hop. What I like or don't like doesn't make something good or bad. There are mechanisms to evaluate music or art or drama, even country music, but your tastes are not the mechanisms. Nor are mine.

That said, maybe I can apply this lesson to religion. The mechanisms to evaluate religion and religious claims are not preferences. That I like a religion or don't doesn't really matter. Truth stands alone and must stand alone.

It would be good if your preferences line up with the religions which are right, and the truth claims which are right. So find out what's right, who is right, and then line up with Him. That's my recommendation. And hey, give country music another listen. You may just travel to Tamworth for January 2011.

13 January 2010

Sabbath... Sunday.... Saturday... help!?

Originally uploaded by bobmendo
So many write our office and request information or clarification or support for their own views... "Do you believe in the 7th-day Sabbath?" or "When do you people worship?" or such.

I pondered this question and my usual answer again this evening as I looked through these photos of our trip to Adelaide last year. What a great time we had. You can see them on Bob Photos
One of the ones that made me smile was this one of Stacey, the young woman who led the service (SDA folks title her role 'hostess') that morning in May 2009. She did a great job that morning.

Back in Washington, DC, where I worked for 7 years in the 90s, I first found the SDA denomination. Seventh-day Adventists and one of its leaders Cliff Goldstein. Here's the link for Cliff's wikipedia information, Goldstein

So I was challenged to read and did read a lot.

All the while I ran all this information through the grid of the Bible and my own experience and my background as an Orthodox Jew.

Then I kept finding people who could never settle into a church, and packaged their frustrations and mis-trust of churches in the wrapping of Sabbath observance.

So when and how do we worship? And what day is the right day to observe/ keep/ follow the Sabbath?

The reality is Saturday is the Sabbath. Even the latin 'Sabbatum' translates to the Spanish 'Sabado' (the word for Saturday!). That's not the real question is it?

The real question is how do people observe it and why? What's the motivation? If our answer is God wants me to take a day off; He loves me and wants me to rest once a week, then you are on the right track. If your answer is God requires me to do it, and if I do it then he will reward me with x or y, then you are missing it. If you say that it's required because Y'shua said, if you love me you will keep my commandments, and leave it there, then there's something missing.
If you are trying to earn points with God, you will only fail and that's not what Sabbath is about.

Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2.27)

I cannot find any verse in the Bible where both worship and rest(sabbath) are used. Not one in the same verse. Did I miss anything? Then why do we say Sabbath is the day of worship?

Point gathering is not what Sabbath or any Torah observance is about. Keep your eyes on Y'shua, not on any other prize. Love God; love your neighbour. And that means those who don't observe the same day, or who think a different way about Sabbath at all. Read Romans 14 and believe it.

"Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God." (14.4-6)

The key phrase is 'for the Lord.' Do what you do unto the Lord. Don't do what you don't do, because of what you believe God wants. And don't lay your trip on another.

Moishe Rosen taught me to ask SDA folks and others who asked me about my own Sabbath observance the following: There are two kinds of SDA; which are you? Those who believe in Jesus and those who believe in the Sabbath. Stacey quickly answered that she believed in Jesus.

I guess that's what I liked in Adelaide that day in November 2008. And still appreciate about so many SDA and other folks.

Get your priorities and motivations right, and everything else falls into place.

02 January 2010

Looking forward?

As 2009 ended I wrote a blog on Looking backward. So many are historical, in their perspectives and their conversations. Or they live in the rosy or cloudy past and that is their comfort.

The discomfort for them and for many of us, comes in looking forward. Now, to be sure, some are forward thinkers. Some are planners (I avoid the redundant 'forward planners', after all how can you plan otherwise?) And in a way, we all plan, anticipate, dream, look ahead. We want to know who is going to be at the meeting. What time will my favorite game or show be on television? When is that appointment at the dentist?

But the bigger picture and the bigger questions are also in view for planners. Questions like what happens if I lose my job? Where do I find groceries when I move houses? Who will look after me when I'm old?

See what I mean? That's uncomfortable.

And I don't wish you discomfort at all in 2010. But the reality is-- the unknown is discomforting. Back in the biblical days of the Jewish people, then called the Hebrews, leaving Egypt was something for which they longed and prayed. 400 years of being in the wrong place, then finally God and Moses and Passover and voila, out we go. Hooray, God answered our prayers, but before too long, some didn't like the freedom of not knowing.

We read "And as Pharaoh drew near, the sons of Israel looked, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons of Israel cried out to the LORD. Then they said to Moses, "Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” (Exodus 14.10-12)

The discomfort of the wilderness and the attending freedoms were too much for some of the people. They preferred the known over the unknown. Even though it included slavery and despair. Fascinating, eh?

So what will you do in 2010? Will you be looking forward, anticipating and dreaming? Of course, there are real troubles ahead for world economies and for people on some airplanes. Yes, there will be terrorist attacks and reasons to worry.

The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside; I shall be slain in the streets!” (Proverbs 22.13) That gives the sluggard a reason to stay inside and worry and waste away and do nothing. But 2010 is a year for taking control of your own life and doing what needs to be done.

Are you looking forward with me? Let's dream together. Let's make the world a better place. Let's bring God's life to all people, in all places.

01 January 2010

Art Katz on Hosea and Gomer and End Times

God’s endtime strategy for the restoration of Israel back to Himself

Written by Art Katz (see end for bio)

God gives us the prophet Hosea and his relationship with his adulterous wife as being a perfect parallel of His relationship with an adulterous Israel. The prophet has to experience God’s grief for His nation. If Hosea is going to be the mouthpiece of God, he is going to proclaim some hard things, and therefore needs to share God’s grief for the people he is addressing.

Gomer did not begin as a hardened prostitute. She began as a woman of Israel, and by a process of moral deterioration relative to the rejection of the knowledge of God, there was a corresponding moral decay in her own life. Jewish commentators frequently treat the prophets as champion of social justice, as if their only message was the issue of social concern; but they do not understand that when the prophets addressed the social concerns, it was the symptom of a much deeper malady, namely, a turning from God Himself. The sinfulness of man in His rejection of God will find its expression in a lack of compassion, in a tendency toward violence, injustice and unrighteousness. In other words, the external behavior of mankind is the visible expression of an otherwise unseen condition of heart toward God. Gomer, as with Israel, mirrors and reflects all of that. Her condition finally became so bad that she not only has become a prostitute, but also a slave. She has completely lost all moral sense.

Hosea then speaks about God’s judgment. The word “Baal” actually means “Lord” or “Master.” Someone speaking of the God of Israel as “Lord” would at the same time take the word “Baal” into their mouths, and someone using the word “Baal” to refer to the pagan deity would mindlessly think that he is referring to the God of Israel. That is why Elijah, when confronting the false prophets of Baal in Israel, said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? How long are you going to be a mixed-bag thing? If God be God, follow Him and serve Him. Disassociate the pagan entity from the God of Israel.”

When God finally restores Gomer, He takes the Baal language out of her mouth. She will never again refer to God as Baal. The Lord is not going to take the risk of allowing a use of language that could be deceptive. In other words, when we are saying “Lord,” we need to be referring to the God who is Lord. God does not want our hearts going after a deity of our own choosing or our own making. God takes the name “Baal” out of her life and out of her mouth, “And now you will call Me Ishi, which means “my Husband.” She is being required to recognize God as husband; not just as some impersonal deity who provides her flax and wool and wine¾but the lover of her soul and the One to whom she is called to intimate relationship. God wants to save us from going whoring after other gods, and so long as we do, we will have a false and counterfeit intimacy where love becomes lust.

God’s judgments are very severe:

For she does not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the new wine, and the oil, and lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal (Hosea 2: 8).

It is an excruciating pain to lavish something on your wife as the expression of your love, and then for her to use that very thing to cater to the god who is your enemy, to the false deity and demonic alternative. She uses her gift from you to pander to the false god. It is like rubbing salt on the wound, a humiliation that God has had to bear with His unfaithful Israel.

Therefore, I will take back My grain at harvest time and My new wine in its season. I will also take away My wool and My flax given to cover her nakedness. And then I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one will rescue her out of My hand (Hosea 2:9-10).

We have seen this same scenario in modern times in the dealings of God with His people Israel: One of the conundrums of WWII was that the “St. Louis”, the passenger ship that left Hamburg harbor with one thousand German Jews, could not find a place to disembark; no one would take them in, not even Canada or the USA. That ship had to go back to Hamburg and disembark, and many of those Jews, if not all, ended up in the gas ovens. Jews are faulting these nations, and in a sense, those nations are yet responsible even while they were fulfilling a judgment of God. When His judgments come, they are severe.

“I will also put an end to all her gaiety, her feasts, her new moons, her sabbaths, and all her festal assemblies. And I will destroy her vines and fig trees, of which she said, “These are my wages which my lovers have given me.” And I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field will devour them. And I will punish her for the days of the Baals when she used to offer sacrifices to them and adorn herself with her earrings and jewelry, and follow her lovers, so that she forgot Me,” declares the Lord (Hosea 2:11-13).

These verses deserve our closest attention. This is no arbitrary judgment. It is severe, and touches the very things she enjoyed, the things she thought she was receiving from Baal. Not only is He going to take away the things that brought her comfort and enjoyment, He is also going to destroy and lay waste her vines. God is not just removing the harvest of the vine, He’s removing the vine itself. He is going to pluck it out.

We need to remember that God’s judgments are always redemptive. The vine and the fig tree are destroyed and rooted up. If she is ever going to be restored again in the future—God always has a future—she will receive the benefit again of those things; for if God were to leave the vines, and the produce was to come again, she may construe to think again that it has come from a false lover. There must be, therefore, a way by which this restoration comes that can be seen as coming from the Creator-Redeemer Himself.

Many people are chafed with me because I say flatly, “I believe that the future of the state of Israel is bleak, and that it won’t survive a coming time of distress.” And people say, “How can you say that? Hasn’t God said that the nation will never be removed as long as the sun gives its light.” My answer is, “Yes, the nation will never be abolished, but the state is only a political, Zionist entity.” In other words, God can remove it in the same sense as He destroys the vines. So that if ever there shall be again an Israel in that part of the world, it will not be the continuation of some Zionist thing that temporarily lapsed, but something totally recreated and new and given by God.

The judgment will be severe for Israel because the state has become an idolatry in itself. Worship of the state is greater than the worship of God. There is more trust in the state than trust in God. That is clear from any examination of present-day Israel. So, the parallel between what is spoken here of Gomer as a pattern and model, and the last days’ issue of Israel is acute. God will not just destroy the harvest from the vine, but also the vine itself. Gomer misconstrued the source of life and pleasure. God will not allow Israel to survive if they misconstrue the source of their national success, and think that it has come from “Baal,” or even themselves, which is to say, false gods. It has got to be clear that God is their source, and that He will bring everything down in order to raise it up.

If there is any people in the earth who should better understand the way of God, it is Israel; and yet, they still do not understand their own judgments or recognize them as coming from God’s hand. We are going to see that God’s redemption of Israel, as well as Gomer, is not through these judgments per se, but really the opposite; through a love and a mercy that is completely unmerited. It is this alone that instructs Gomer; and it will instruct a nation who has not historically been instructed by their judgments. That’s why this text is a powerhouse. There is an enormous punch line, which I got out of Matthew Henry’s commentary on Hosea.

In this act of redemption, God’s final, ultimate, and supreme revelation of Himself is not His judgments, but His love and mercy. His judgment is: “And I will punish her for the days of the Baals when she used to offer sacrifices…so that she forgot Me.” Forgetting is a willful activity in most instances. We choose not to remember because to remember brings inconvenience, or something displeasing to our own flesh. We hide behind a lot of this forgetting, and so when God says, “And you forgot Me,” He means, “You have willfully chosen not to retain Me in your memory. You have chosen not to keep me alive in your consciousness and before your face that you might walk in My ways. You have willfully put Me out of your consideration so that you would have the liberty to engage yourself in adulterous activity.”

The next verse takes us absolutely by surprise! Instead of the penalty for willful forgetting, it is exactly the reverse. It is a blessing! How do you understand a God like this? When He has every right to bring judgment, He chooses in that very moment to display something completely unanticipated—blessing! Something comes to Gomer of a totally undeserved kind—not because of Gomer but because of who God is and what He is in Himself. When He says, “You did not know Me,” it means, “You did not know Me as the God who is utterly gracious, utterly forgiving, utterly kind, and utterly merciful. Your condition stinks. Unless I alter that, give you a new covenant that I Myself will keep, you will continue in that same sinful condition. You are unfaithful by nature, but here is what I am by nature.” This is the knowledge of God that He has called Israel to communicate to the nations as His witness nation.

Present-day Israel is going to know God in this way. She will be saved out of her whoredoms, her idolatries, her infidelities, and her willful forgetting. At the point where she knows she deserves judgment, God will enter her into a new realm or dimension of blessing. It is this that will overwhelm Israel, and make her to repent on her face. It will be the revelation of God as He is. How does anyone come to that knowledge? There is no textbook way that you can know God in this way, except as being the recipient of the mercy that comes instead of the judgment. Only then do you know.

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness, and speak kindly to her (Hosea 2:14).

To allure, or to entice, is the language of love. Paul speaks like this as an apostle. Very rarely do you ever hear Paul commanding his disciples. It is more frequently, “I entreat you…I beseech you.” True, godly leadership will always entreat, plead and speak kindly.

There are many reasons why God will bring them into a wilderness. A wilderness place strips away the amenities of civilization. There are cushions and layers of things in society that keep us from stark reality. Our lives are so hedged by things that keep the real issues from us. So, for God to bring people into the wilderness is to strip them of everything that would confuse or disguise the issues of truth and reality about God and man. How many of us have gone through our own wilderness experiences in order to face ultimate conditions where we see as we are seen. That is what God did for Gomer, and that is what He will also do for His nation Israel.

It is not just a physical wilderness either. It includes whatever is required to strip the Jew from their philosophies and their categories, in order to make them confront the grit issue of themselves versus God. God will be like a father who does not spare chastising his son. It is painful for them both, but he does not spare. It is an ultimate love. God does not spare Himself; He gave His Son. God will bring Israel into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. Speaking tenderly does not negate speaking truthfully. He will speak the truth and He will speak it tenderly rather than accusingly; but it is still the truth.

Then I will give her her vineyards from there, and the valley of Achor as a door of hope (Hosea 2:15a).

The word “Achor” means “trouble.” God will take Israel’s ultimate distress, and that will ironically be the door and key to blessing. She is brought to her final downfall, where everything is stripped in the wilderness. The very place of desperation and despair will be the point at which she will enter into abundance and blessedness. This is God in His intrinsic character and way! That is why He can say, “There’s yet a future for you, but your future comes out of what you think is the end. When there is no prospect for hope whatever, it is precisely there that the door of hope is found.

”And she will sing there as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt. And it will come about in that day,” declares the Lord, “that you will call Me Ishi (husband) and will no longer call Me Baali. For I will remove the names of the baals from her mouth, so that they will be mentioned by their names no more” (Hosea 2:15b-17).

This is a complete eradication of the name of Baal from her lips. God eradicates and takes it out, but He does not just remove it by that process; He removes it by a replacement. He puts something better in its place, namely, “my husband.” Note that it is my husband. There is a real sense of possession. Not just a husband abstractly, but my husband. And a woman needs that or else she is going to be tempted and be drawn away. So, it is very important for our wives and Israel to know that God is “my husband” and that the husband that you have is “your husband.”

In that day I will also make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds of the sky, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and will make them lie down in safety (Hosea 2:18).

Note every phrase where God says, “I will.” It shows He is the source of everything. This is total dependency on the God who is God. Baal is a fake! He can only give some appearance of blessedness and fertility. But God will take Israel from her abject condition of death, and this is what will happen, “I will do this for you, I will do that for you. I will, I will, I will, I will.” It has nothing to do with deserving!

…and will make them lie down in safety (Hosea 2:18f).

This implies that Israel’s last experience prior to being catapulted into the wilderness is violence and war in the Land. But now, God’s promise is that He will see to it that Israel will never again fear. Her safety will never again be at issue. He will have abolished war from the Land. He will say to Israel: “You tried everything to obtain your own peace. You forsook one Prime Minister and elected another. You tried the Oslo negotiation. Then you had the Wye River agreement, and every other kind of peace resolve since, but they will all avail nothing in establishing peace. I will abolish war and your safety will be permanent and never again be disturbed. That is the kind of God I am, and I alone am able to perform it.”

And I will betroth you to Me forever [i.e. You will never again experience unfaithfulness]. Yes I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion. And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the Lord (Hosea 2:19-20).

Note how the statement ends: “Then you will know the Lord.” There is a connection between God taking His wife forever on the basis of righteousness, faithfulness, justice, mercy, and love and “then you will know the Lord.” In other words, “I am not taking you because you won the Miss World title, or you were the most distinct charismatic model on the market. You are the actual opposite, but I am taking you as My wife forever, not on the basis of your attractiveness or any inherent trait that you have, but what I am in Myself.”

Five things are mentioned: “I am taking you in righteousness, justice, mercy, love, faithfulness. And you will know Me because that is what I am. That is going to be the foundation of our marriage. That is why you will call Me “my husband.” You will know me in those things because that is what I am. I am mercy, I am love, I am faithfulness. And you will know Me as the God who is faithful. You will know Me, and you will be My wife forever on that basis.”

And I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, and I will say to those who are not My people, “You are My people!” And they will say, “Thou art my God!” (Hosea 2:23).

That means that Israel will never again suffer violence or fear; for they will be sown and deposited in the land. In a word, God is reversing every judgment. He is now replacing and replenishing everything He took away.

The punch line comes in the third chapter:

Then the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes” (Hosea 3:1).

Even though we have read the conclusion of God’s answer in mercy, chapter three is not a continuation but a going back and showing another facet of something already expressed. This can be confusing if you do not understand the way God often unfolds His prophetic things. You read about judgment and restoration, and then you read about judgment again. Maybe it is because we cannot take it all it at one sitting. He has to give us a portion and then show us the recovery and the restoration that is coming so we can breathe again. And then, being able to breathe, He now goes back and deepens the description of His judgments. And then He will bring again His restoration. Prophetic statements are like that as well as prophetic speaking and prophetic men. We are not to expect from them an ordered sequence of statements in chronological fashion as you would from a teacher. They are a mish-mash of many dimensions and many overlays coming together. God is giving us a flashback of what was required of Hosea towards his wife, because in doing that, God is depicting what He is going to do for the nation.

“Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress…” In other words, “Don’t wait for her to reform; don’t wait for her to ‘show her best side’ and then you can love her. As she presently is, in the midst of her stinking condition, go and love her now.” It is like saying, “Go and show your love to a woman who already has a lover and is an adulteress. Don’t speak it; show it.” That is what God means by replenishing the vine, by removing what He had destroyed in judgment, by changing the meaning of the names. A people who were not a people shall become a people. One who is not to receive mercy will receive mercy. That is the showing of the love of God while the person is still in the condition of adultery. So, if that person is going to be changed, it is not by the judgment of God, but rather by the love of God shown to her while yet in that condition. It is a “doing” of an uncanny kind that violates and rubs against the whole grain of our natural, human disposition. Who can show love to a wife who is in the midst of her unfaithfulness?

This has everything to do with what the Church will need to show Israel when they meet with the Jew, face to face, in the wilderness. We have to show the Jew this unconditional love of God while they are yet sinners! It is easy to love them while they are cute, fetching, and admirable. It is another thing to love them while they are in an abominable and angry condition. This is at the heart of a redemptive God. When God will have a people through whom that can be shown, then the age will have ended. Therefore, the issue is not Israel, per se, but the issue of a people who can show “God as God” under deep vexation where the natural thing to say is, “You deserve this judgment! Don’t expect any mercy from me. Shape up and I’ll think it over.” Jews expect and understand that kind of response. It is the way they would act. And so God is wanting to show them the very thing they least expect, namely, His unconditional love. But He needs a people who can show that forth. That is what God is waiting for, and that is why we have to move from our organized, programmed system of doctrinal beliefs into the actuality of the faith. Only in this place can we appropriate the very nature of God Himself. The whole conclusion of the age waits for it. Nothing is to be expected from Israel. Only that one who can love her while she is in that condition will be the instrument through whom the age is concluded.

The love of God is antithetical to the human thing in every point and particular. God’s love is not sentimental or slobbery. He confronts Israel in the wilderness; He entreats her; He does not withhold the truth, but speaks it endearingly. He does not dismiss something that would be of a benefit for the person to hear in order that they might be brought to a place of redemption. It was so for us when we were in Israel’s condition.

“…though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.” This means that they actually made sacrifices to these gods and that these cakes were actually put before their altars. It is not that they had some abstract affinity for another god. They were to the point where they were literally making something for that god. Even in that abominable condition the love of God must be demonstrated.

So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley. Then I said to her, “You shall stay with me for many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you.” For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, and without ephod or household idols. Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their King; and they will come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days (Hosea 3:2-5).

This is the pay-off, and this is where we need to brood over every choice word. This is so compact and full, and who can understand the wisdom of this? After buying this woman back, and therefore she is now legally his, why does he command her, “This is the end of your whoring; you are not going to continue that. But neither am I going to have any intimate relationship with you for many days.” What is the divine wisdom in that? Why could he not now possess this woman whom he had purchased and who is now his wife? It says “for many days,” so it is not going to be a permanent condition. The day will come when they will enjoy conjugal relations, but now, having bought her back, he is dispensing with that relationship. Although he has every legal right to possess the wife that is rightfully his, he does not have relationship with her as his wife. This is a God who has been denied a relationship with Israel for millennia. She has been whoring and has forgotten God for ages. It is an anguish of denial for her sake. If we would burrow into this and diagram what love is as against the human love, we will have a revelation of God in dimensions that are priceless. This is love. This is the revelation of God’s love¾self-denial for her sake.

But how does it benefit her to now be distanced from her husband? Remember, she is an ex-prostitute and a Baal-worshipping whore, and has had a relationship with many men. Her mindset would be: “Hey, now he has bought me back, I am sure that he expects this relationship. This is how men always are.” How would she differentiate her husband from all her past lovers if she just goes from the one to the other without a lapse and without an interim? However, this is another kind of husband who will not gratify himself at her expense. He knows she is the weaker vessel and that her integrity has been lost. She thinks that all she is good for is to be a piece of merchandise used by men. She fully expects that this man will now use her as other men have used her.

But, this husband is not going to use her. He is going to wait many days for the restoration of her mind, heart, and soul, until she herself will desire and love in response to his love. This is love as she has never known it, and moreover, it will evoke in her a response. Their coming together will cause the angels to sing and heaven to rejoice. It will be more than the issue of rights, it will be transcendent and glorious, and God is willing to wait for that in present-day Israel. He will return her to the Land, but it will be many days before she is restored and can come into a right mindset. After her long history of apostasy, it will take time to understand what it means to be rightly related in love to the God who has redeemed her despite her condition. This is the greatest demonstration of God as God, and Israel has got to experience this if she is to make Him known in this way.

This is the final turning point for Israel. This demonstration of unmerited goodness, even His willingness to wait many days, is the final revelation of God as God. It will even occasion reverence and awe for God. Where Israel have failed to learn from God’s judgments upon her, they are going to learn from His goodness. They are going to fear His goodness more than they ever feared His judgments, and that will be the final and conclusive thing that makes Israel the Israel of God.

It is not only the Lord and His greatness that we ought to fear, but also the Lord and His goodness. Not only His majesty, but also His mercy. I have never heard of fearing the goodness of God. I can respect it, I can admire it, I can appreciate it, and I can love it. But to fear or to have a reverence, that is to say, an ultimate recognition of God, not through His judgment but through His goodness, has never occurred to me. That is why Hosea is to Gomer what God will be to Israel: “Go again and show love to this woman while she’s in the act of adultery with her false lovers and bring her back. And then wait many days until she’s restored in her mind and soul and can appreciate that she’s not a piece of merchandise now being employed by someone who now owns her.”

This loving compassion will strike the soul of Israel. Present-day Jews do not understand this at all. On the contrary, they understand buying and selling, “you get what you pay for,” obligation and requirement. It is the name of the game, and they are good at playing that game, but this demonstration is of another wisdom. This is another way. This is their God whom they did not know, and you don’t know God until you know Him in His goodness. But to know Him in His goodness to the point where it’s something to be feared is awesome. And when you know God that way, you know God. It is this knowledge of God, through a restored Israel, that alone can bless all the families of the earth. And this knowledge can never be learned as textbook. It can only be learned out of being brought down and restored by the goodness of God and the mercy of God.

Paul reminds the church that by the mercy given us, Israel might obtain mercy. For to obtain mercy is to obtain God as He finally, ultimately, truly, and fully is. This is especially true when it comes at the very time when it is least deserved; while they are yet in their whoredoms. That is the genius of the book of Hosea.


Art Katz was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1929 of Jewish parents. Raised through the depression years and turbulence of World War II, and inducted into Marxist and existentialist ideologies, as well as merchant marine and military experiences, Art was brought to a final moral crisis as a high school teacher—able to raise, but not able to answer the groaning perplexities of the modern age.

During a leave of absence and on a hitch-hiking odyssey through Europe and the Middle East, the cynical and unbelieving atheist, vehement anti-religionist and anti-Christian was radically apprehended by a God who was actively seeking him. The actual journal of that experience, Ben Israel – Odyssey of a Modern Jew, recounts his quest for the true meaning to life, which climaxed significantly and symbolically in Jerusalem.