Tag Archives: Assyria

Ephraim Oh Ephraim!

Our reading this week in Hosea 6-10 highlights Ephraim, most of us remember that Ephraim is one of two sons of Joseph. Instead of getting an inheritance himself, Josepha’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh each got a portion of the Promised Land.  Joshua, the leader of the nation Israel into the Promised Land was from the tribe of Ephraim, as was Jeroboam. Ephraim, endorsed David as King of the unified nations of Judah and Israel. Within the territory of Ephraim are Shechem and Shiloh, two very important worship centers before Solomon’s Temple was built.  It would seem that having such a proud legacy, that Ephraim would be a pillar for the people about true worship of Yahweh. However, in our reading Ephraim is another name for Israel; the Northern 10 tribes that broke away from Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. The history of the Northern Kingdom, which Hosea is prophesying against is a sorrowful story.

Jeroboam knew that if he didn’t build a place of worship like the Temple in Jerusalem, that the people would return; so he build Mt. Gerezim.  It is interesting that in the Northern and Southern kingdom the number 19 plays a big part. The Northern Kingdom had 19 dynasties [19 different kings]; whereas Judah had 19 kings but one dynasty. The Davidic line of kingship was reserved as God had promised David. Hosea is about Israel or Ephraim, which ever you want to use; and their idolatry and rejection of God. The time frame is prior to 722 BC, and the Fall under the Assyrian rulers. God has rejected Israel, He has decided to punish the nation for their rebellion and apostasy. Yet we find in chapter 6, that they say “let’s return to the Lord” and they just got told God was not going to hear them when they call. The presumption that God had to answer and heal them, when God is sovereign, He determines what He will and will not do.

In the Northern Kingdom the tribes inter-mingled with the pagan people, the exact opposite of what they were warned not to do.  Chapter 7:8 says the Ephraim is a flat cake not turned. This means that it is hard-cooked [burnt] on one side and raw on the other. The cake is useless, Ephraim had become useless. Instead of being the glory of God to the nations, Ephraim/Israel had departed from God and had become polluted by the ways and culture of the “enemies’ of God. In 8:4, the oven of Lust was so hot, the baker only stoked the fires once, and was not only able to rise the dough, but without stirring the coals, also able to cook the bread fully. In their attempt to become like the nations, Israel embraced both Egypt and Assyria. Egypt was where they came from [sin] and where they would return. Assyria, was the very power which would eventually conquer Israel in 722 BC. God’s indictment of Israel – “They have strayed; they have turned from Me.” When we think of Ahab and Jezebel and the Baal prophets, it is easy to see how the religious practices of Israel had become a violent stench in the nostrils of God.  We also find that Samaria has the “golden calf” this is a reflection back to the initial rebellion of Israel in Exodus 32-34.  Israel had trusted in the foreign kings to deliver them, but they failed to understand that God was behind the judgment of Israel, and that He was the one giving power to Assyria to conquer Israel. In the end, the judgment of God produced the “Lost 10 Tribes of Israel.” Only Judah remained; albeit they were just as guilty as Ephraim was in their idolatry and harlotry.

Such corruption in the people of the Northern Kingdom, they become carried away unto the four winds of the earth. After reading these chapters, I could not but identify with what is going on today in the Church. Have we become too friendly with culture? Have we compromised the Gospel for a crowd? Do the prophets speak of their own words instead of God’s? Is there severe judgment coming for us? Israel/Ephraim/Samaria all fell; Judah witnessed their fall. Yet Judah did not heed the warnings of God? Are we going the same path as they? “When I come who will I find faithful?”

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Discipline of the Lord

Isaiah 11-15 is our text for the week. I want to first go to Hebrews 12:4-11 and the discipline of God. Often we find ourselves in times of crisis and trials, when this occurs we ask ourselves many time “what did I do Wrong?” This is healthy as long as it doesn’t get out of control, for we do need to have spiritual obedience check-ups. Usually we go down our list of “normal disciplines” that we know we are supposed to be doing – much like a Sunday School envelope – in hopes of 100% for the week. As the writer in Hebrews indicates, our earthly fathers punished/disciplined us for our own good. Our heavenly Father does this even more. Actually this is a good test to determine if you are a child of God – Heb. 12:8.  The focus of punishment is to get the violator to repent and return to an appropriate behavior pattern. Again the discipline/punishment must be different depending on the level of disobedience and the length of disobedience. If there is a pattern of continual rebellion, even after other “nudges” of discipline, than radical or more severe punishment must be enacted.  Before a punishment is put into action, I know with my children I had to first determine did they know what they did was wrong. If it is an ignorance issue that means I have a teaching moment, but if they willfully disobeyed, then I must discipline.

Now looking at Israel, theirs is a willful, knowing disobedience. They were well acquainted with he Father and His desire for Holiness. He had proven His love for them. Everything about Israel was a direct result of the providential care of Yahweh. So in our passage we find that God has reached a point where there must be a severe discipline put in place. Now at the onset of entering the land of Canaan, Israel was told do not take on the culture, gods,  women or men of the Canaanite people for they would lead them astray. If the truth be known, Israel had always had a problem with “other gods.” Joshua 24: 12-15, show that even after being in the Promised land for years, Joshua still was fighting with people on who their God was going to be. Gods of the Mesopotamia region, Egypt, Canaanite tribes or Jehovah. While at times there was great allegiance to God, Israel as well as us, drift into culturalized worship. In our passages, we read that God is going to raise up some powerful enemies that will be under the power of God to inflict His judgment on the nation Israel/Judah. What a paradox, the very tribes and people who God displaced to put Israel in the Promise Land was now going to be the instrument of God to discipline His people in an attempt to restore them back to fellowship. Early on [Chapter 11] there is the Messianic hope of a deliverer. One cannot read this without getting both a then and future element of prophecy. Throughout Isaiah thus far we have learned of both the punishment of God and the hope of restoration of God. While there is severe punishment, He [God] does not give up on them. In Isaiah 14:1-14, the Fall of Lucifer is described; the basis of his fall was pride. It is the lie that was used to beguile Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the same lies that are perpetuated today for mankind to fall into sin and rebellion.

It is interesting to read of the prophecies about Babylon, the Medes and Persians, for we read that earlier in Daniel and the Image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Historical accurate, and prophetically descriptive of how the kingdoms of the ancient worlds rose and fell.  The lesson to learn from our reading this week is summed up – God will use gentile kings and armies to discipline His people, but the kings and armies should not think they were the power behind the victories. Such was the prideful case of the Assyrians and Babylonians. God will inflict His discipline, but when the instrument goes further than God intended, the roles are reversed and the kingdom/armies falls via defeat of another kingdom.  It has to be asked; when we look at our nations, why are we experiencing such crisis and trials? Has/is God using our enemies to discipline us to bring us back to a holy people? This is an election year in America; the Presidential election looms large – but will we get a leader that will lead us, or will we be subjected to the leader God the Father gives us, because we have not turned/returned to Him?

King Nebuchadnezzar was God’s instrument to bring punishment for the prideful idolatry and rebellion of Judah. Though they may have complained and such, they were unresponsive to the “nudges” of God to return, so a more drastic measure had to be implemented. Even so, God will have mercy on His people, for while they were taken captive, they were spared the atrocities of the Assyrians and the Northern Kingdom, which is called the “Lost Tribes” of Israel. O, that we would be responsive in our churches and nations to come back under the gentle persuasion of Jehovah and not have to experience the harsh, severe punishment of God!

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Finding Hope in the Horror

This week our focal passage is Isaiah 6-10. When we look at these chapters, one cannot help but get a sense of terror and judgment. However, even in the justice of God on the idolatrous people Judah, there is still the future hope of restoration. God uses whatever means to correct and restore His people back to himself. Hebrews 12 tells us of the discipline of the Lord. In fact without discipline for wrong doing and habitual sin, we are not children of His. I look at it this way, there are times I would like to correct kids I see in WalMart acting up; but they aren’t my kids. even though I am perturbed by their actions, I have not obligation or responsibility to correct. However, when it comes to the children of God and believers, God will correct and discipline His own.  Isaiah is talking to Judah, the fall of Israel in the North has yet to happen. Assyria will be the instrument that God uses to punish the Northern Kingdom; yet the message of discipline and restoration is given to Judah. I know when I saw my sisters get punished for something, I took notice; the effect of them getting whipped made me take notice.  In history we know that Assyria and Samaria are taken siege and captive in 722 BC. There was the thought and attempt to continue down into Judah, but God was done with His discipline. Judah thinking that they escaped punishment, continues in idolatry and immorality. The Fall of Jerusalem, Zion happens with King Nebuchadnezzar around 587 BC, with three deportations to Babylon. SO looking at the advanced warning Judah got, one would think that they would wake up and straighten up – Nope!

Isaiah begins prophesying during King Uzziah’s reign, but the death of the King drove Isaiah to the Temple – at this time of crisis, as with most national tragedies, people flock to the church for answers. Chapter 6 has been used by so many pastors to develop the true spirit of worship. It is interesting that Isaiah probably had been to the Temple many times, but this time he sees the LORD, and the glory of the LORD. He also sees himself and his condition as a sinner.  The message here is that the world maybe tossed into chaos, but the LORD God stills reigns and is not moved! Out of this holy encounter, Isaiah is commissioned to be the mouth piece for God to bring an unfavorable message to Judah.  The prophetic message in chapter 7 is often clouded by the single verse 14, the promise of a son. The prophecy has been attributed to Jesus, in fact this is one of the characteristics of Isaiah, that makes understanding difficult; is Isaiah talking to the situation then, or for the future Messiah of Israel. This promise of a “sign” often overshadowed the war and tribulation that is coming to Judah because of their wickedness and unwillingness to repent and return to Yahweh.

In chapter 8 we are given a very descriptive account of what is going to happen to Israel [Northern Kingdom], yet within the pronounced judgment, we still get the hope of a “remnant” people through all of the devastation. The mercy of God is so entrenched within His punishment. God is holy, He is just and righteous, but He is also long-suffering. Instead of complete annihilation, God shows His great love for humanity. When thinking about how terrible the punishment will be for the children of God, the chosen nation; we must always understand that regardless of our position in Christ, He does not tolerate unrighteousness and immorality. God is a jealous God – the greatest sin of Israel was the blatant idolatry and rejection of the God that loved them and delivered them. The struggle with Israel/Judah was they felt they were exempt from the fierce anger of the LORD because of the high standing as His people. This should bring to American believers a wake-up call; for we often think that God is our God, yet it is the opposite, we are His people. No one is exempt from the righteous anger of the Lord. So we cannot boast of our elevated position as His children. He will deal with His children.

In chapter 9 and 10 there is the planned use of Assyria as God’s instrument of dealing with Israel/Judah. However, there is a limit to what God would allow Assyrian conquerors to do. In chapter 10, the pride of the Assyrian kings would be their downfall. When the instrument elevated itself above the user [God]; enough was enough. See 10:15-19.  Even with the prophetic destruction of Samaria and Israel, God still has the hope of a returning remnant. Sin will be dealt with, but God has not cast all humanity aside. He will inflict punishment to the point of bringing His people back. Oh that we would learn early under the slight nudges of discipline to return to the Lord!

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