Tag Archives: Israel

Little By Little

 

“Little by little…” Exodus 23:30

In the 23rd chapter of Exodus we find ourselves in the midst of Sinai and God’s communication of the law to Moses.  Among the prohibitions and remembrances of Sabbaths and festivals in this chapter is also the promise of the conquest of Canaan.  The full passage is below

27 I will send my terror before you and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. 28 And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you. 29 I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land. 31 And I will set your border from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates, for I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. 32 You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”

Historically, this promise was fulfilled to the children of the Wilderness Generation, who we may be reminded were afforded the blessing of entrance into Canaan because their parents fell under the wrath of God, due to their rebellion, and were thereby forbidden from entering the land themselves.  Their children, however, were allowed entrance into the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua.

Using the Old Testament

As is the case with much of the Old Testament, whether we view it typologically as it points from itself (type) to events, persons, or places in the New Testament (antitype) or whether we see it as an example for our lives (see Hebrews 3 & 4), this passage is relevant and practical for us today.  Along these lines, there are seemingly many parallels between the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and the Christian life, that extends beyond the concept of redemption, that from Egyptian slavery in the former and Sin slavery in the latter.  Here, in Exodus 23, we have painted for us, through the very real, historical working of God on behalf of the Israelites, a picture of sanctification in the Christian life.

To reiterate, historically God promised to drive out the pagan nations as He went ahead of the Israelites into Canaan.  However we must note a significant observation in this passage on God’s promise, namely that He promised to do so “little by little”.  Here we are given 2 negative reasons for the progressive nature of this pagan eradication, “lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you” and two positive reasons, “until you have increased and possess the land”.  God had promised to eliminate Israel’s enemies slowly, one by one, in order to avoid desolation of the land and the multiplication of beasts against them.  In our historical context, had God simply eradicated all of the pagan countries at once, allowing the Israelites full, unencumbered, and peaceful access to the land, there were two great dangers. 

Two Great Dangers

The first was desolation of the land.  In other  words, there was the danger of complacency on the part of the Israelites and failure to properly “tend” the land.  This points, at least conceptually, back to Adam in the garden.  There, remember, Adam was afforded the luxury of a land that produced effortlessly, yet he was unsatisfied and became complacent, ultimately failing to guard his wife and the garden.  Which brings us to the second great danger Israel would’ve faced should God have granted immediate eradication of their enemies, a failure to protect the land from being overrun by wild beasts.  With enemies eradicated for them, there was a great danger of complacency leading to a dry and desolate land and an influx of wild beasts.

As the Scriptures tell us, this promise was fulfilled and that by leaving the enemies to be eradicated one by one, the land was bountiful as it was promised in Deuteronomy 6:11 and then fulfilled in Joshua 24:11-13.

11 And you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, and the leaders of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And I gave them into your hand. 12 And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. 13 I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.’

However, despite being given land, cities, vineyards, orchards, etc., opportunities afforded by the little by little eradication, Israel still rebelled and failed in their own garden experience, as did their father Adam.

Believer’s Sanctification

As little by little relates to our sanctification, consider the parallels of the pagan nations with our own enemy of indwelling sin.  This progress against the enemies that wage war within us is called sanctification and it too is little by little, or progressive.  Contrary to ideas of Wesleyan perfection, sanctification is not completed in this life.  If it were, consider the dangers of complacency that we would face should our enemies be eradicated all at once.  We would forget the necessity and power of grace working in our lives.  We would become more independent and less dependent upon the provision of God.  What need would we have for prayer, for the Scriptures, for fellowship with the brethren?  This complacency would expose us to the influx of greater enemies, predators for our very soul.

Similarly God has chosen not to expose us to all of our internal enemies at once, lest we collapse under the weight of them.  Instead, we may battle the Amorites of lust or the Hittites of pride.  Occasionally, by His grace, He may allow several enemies to coalesce against us for the purpose of greater dependency on His provisions of grace and greater efforts in the duty of warfare.

God in His wisdom and providence allows sanctification to be a process, little by little.  As such, we are in need of our daily bread and in need of daily deliverance from temptations.  He who began this good work in us will bring it to completion.  Total and utter dependence upon God is the substance of the Christian life, from beginning to the end.

 

An Old New Year, Part 2

 

The Book of Exodus in many ways lays the foundation for the nation of Israel and much of the remaineder of the Old Testament as God reveals His plan of redemption that culminates in the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.  The Israelite exodus from Egypt typifies the believer’s exodus from bondage and slavery to sin.  The former was marked by the tenth and final plague, the death of the firstborn, from which a household may be delivered if it followed the Lord’s instructions and spread the blood of a spotless lamb over the lintels of the doorway, likewise typifying the deliverance that would come by way of the shed blood of the Lamb of God.

This Passover event is inaugurated in Exodus 12.  In reading this passage, I was again struck by a detail that has so often been overlooked.  At the opening of the chapter where God outlines the instructions for instituting the Lord’s Passover, we see the following,

“The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.” Exodus 12:1-6

Notice the time period given by the Lord:

“It shall be the first month of the year for you.”

As in An Old New Year Part 1, we again have a significant time marker.  While in that post the New Year was slightly ambiguous and general, here we see a more narrow date given, namely the establishment of the Jewish calendar commensurate with the Exodus from Egypt.

Later in chapter 13 verse 4 we read, “Today, in the month of Abib, you are going out.”  Abib (called Nissan now) is the first month on the Jewish calendar, equivalent to the March/April time frame of the Gregorian calendar.

So is this date significant?  What is God trying to communicate by tying this New Year to the Exodus and subsequently the celebration of Passover?

As in the New Year given to Noah, which signified a new creation or the beginning of a new humanity, if you will, this date memorializing the inauguration of the nation of Israel follows suit.  As Noah functioned as another Adam, again in a typological sense, Israel appears on the scene as another Adam (Exodus 4:22-23). Like the first Adam, the nation of Israel will be placed in the garden of God, given covenant obligations, and like Adam will fail (Hosea 6), anticipating once again the last Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ, who will in every way fulfill the promises of God and succeed where those who preceded Him failed.

This brief meditation on one verse read in a yearly reading plan demonstrates how valuable all of God’s Word is, even those things that on the surface seem insignificant.  It also shows that we needn’t feel like we can only profit from familiar passages that “tell us what to do”.  There is profit everywhere, on every page, in every verse, to be had, if we only slow down and listen to what the Word of God is saying.

The Gospel According to Hosea

 

 

Hidden in the midst of obscure, difficult, and often times harsh prophecies from Hosea is one of, if not the most, glorious chapters in all of Scripture.  In fact, a chapter so majestic, James Montgomery Boice referred to it as “The Greatest Chapter in the Bible.”  If that’s even close to being true, then it deserves our attention.  Hosea chapter 3 is cited below.  May our hearts be inclined to read God’s Word in such a way that our affections are stirred more for Him with every word that passes under our eyes.

“And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. 3 And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” 4 For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. 5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.” Hosea 3:1-5

On a surface reading it may be difficult to see this chapter living up to the hype that Dr. Boice has placed on it.  In fact, it may be difficult to see anything at all beyond some archaic references and analogies to Hosea and his wife Gomer.  Unpacking this passage verse by verse will reveal not only that there is more here than meets the eye, but the glory of the Gospel, indeed the gloriousness of Christ Himself.

The context for Hosea 3 is supplied rather obviously from Chapters 1-2 where the Lord has threatened and prophesied judgment against the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  By way of analogy from His own relationship with Israel, God has commanded His prophet Hosea to take for himself a wife of whoredom and to have children of whoredom with her.  Throughout this prophecy we find an interweaving of this analogy of Hosea/Gomer with Yahweh/Israel, as God declares that He will strip Israel bare of her adulteries (prostituting herself with other nations and developing a syncretistic religion with Baal).  The threatening’s bring to mind the Exodus and Wilderness Generation where God chastened, sustained, and prepared  Israel for entrance into the Promised Land leaving the audience of Hosea in anticipation of a Second Exodus.  The latter half of chapter 2 offers the hope of a New Covenant to reverse the curses that God would levy on the nation, land, and even animals.  It is upon this foundation that chapter 3 begins with an optimistic note of redemption.

And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.”

On this occasion, the Lord is speaking directly to Hosea which echoes the beginning of the book in Hosea 1:2. His directive for Hosea to “love a woman” generically suggests that Gomer has not warranted either mention of her name or mention of her title as a wife.  In fact, all that she was has been forfeited.  The analogy is carried through to the LORD’s love for the “children of Israel”.  It is curious that up to this point in Hosea a distinction has been made between Israel and her children, though the point need not be pressed home to feel the weight of this passage.

The translation of the ESV causes the meaning of “loved by another man” to be somewhat obscured, especially when combining the phrase, “even as the LORD loves the children of Israel”.  In keeping with the analogy and applying the phrase “even as the LORD loves”, this would imply that the love directed toward the woman was from Hosea himself, not a third party, as will be made clear.  The NASB translation supports this and is preferred, “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.”

It’s necessary to note that the love was not reciprocated.  In fact, God’s love was extended to Israel despite her idolatry and worship of other gods.  This is our first point of association with the Gospel.  As we read in 1 John, we love because He loved us first. 1 Jn 4:19 Similarly the driving force beyond God’s sending of His own Son was His love. Jn 3:16  The picture being painted through the brush strokes of Hosea 3:1 is that God has an unconditional love for His people.  The basis for all that comes afterward is the love of God.  The motivation for taking an unfaithful bride to Himself is His own love for her.

So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley.

In verse 2, we see further action on the part of Hosea in completing the command of retrieval given to him by God, specifically through the act of redemption.  While the details are left out, the implication seems to be that Gomer had found her way into slavery and was now on the auction block.  Whether this was due to outstanding debt or whether she was part of temple slavery prostitution we are not told.  The picture, however, remains the same.  She is being purchased by her bridegroom.  Some commentators have posited that when a slave was sold on the auction block, they were stripped naked and left ashamed in front of their bidders.  While we may not know this detail for sure, it would seem to correspond nicely with the threats given in chapter 2, “lest I strip her naked”, “make her as in the day she was born”, “make her like a wilderness”, “make her like a parched land”.

Additionally, the Mosaic amount charged for redemption from slavery was 30 pieces of silver (Ex. 21:32; Lev. 27:4).  Here we see Hosea offering 15 pieces of silver and some low quality food.  The settlement on 15 shekels gives an indication of the low-worth or the perceived value into which she had now descended.  The word “bought” used here indicates a haggling or bargaining on Hosea’s part, or what we might call negotiating the price that he would pay.  As the purchase process goes, the homer and a lethech of barley may have been intended for use to support Gomer.  In other words, already stripped naked of her clothing, jewels, and makeup with which she had once adorned herself to attract her lovers and now stripped of any delicacies in which she indulged from her income, she is now left with nothing but “black bread” and a paltry amount of money to sustain her.  Calvin comments, “the parsimonious gift, a sum of money which was but half the price of a female slave, and a pittance of black barley bread, typified the hard fare which the Israelites were to expect at the hand of God in their state of exile.”  The scene is reminiscent of the aforementioned Wilderness Generation that was led through the desert, stripped bare of the rich foods from Egypt which had become the expectation of their palates, and were left to rely on the providential hand of God for lowly manna and water.

Here we have Gomer on the auction block as it were, stripped naked and bare, ashamed before all those men with whom she had previous relations who now do not want to pay for her, but instead revile her.  She is simply reaping the wages of her sin.  Sins resultant destitution is not limited to Gomer or Israel, but is universal in its spoiling of all mankind. The wages of sin is death; it’s what it requires and what it pays.  It cannot pony up 15 pieces of silver or even worthless bread.  Sin always promises what it is powerless to deliver.  Only one man is left to redeem her, Hosea, her original husband.

Dear Christian if this isn’t a beautiful picture of God’s redeeming love and the price that He paid, much more than 15 pieces of silver, rather the infinite worth of His Son’s shed blood, then there is nothing more that may move our hearts to worship.  The Lord Jesus redeemed His bride with His own precious blood.  There was no merit in her, nor did any of her adulterers show up with a competing bid.  Far from being a trivial amount, it was of infinite worth so that she might realize her own value is not found in herself, but in Him alone to the extent that she might say with all affection of a heart overjoyed with gratitude, My Beloved.

And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.”

Sweeping color now across the canvas of our Gospel portrait we arrive at verse 3 and read of Hosea’s stipulations to his humbled bride.  First, we may note the possessive language by which he addresses her and then the time period of “many days” given.  By way of analogy, this applies well to God’s faithless bride Israel.  During this extended period, Hosea instructs her that she will definitively no longer participate in whoredom or have intimate relations with any man, including himself.  This deprivation of her most distorted desires are for her purification.  This is the hedging-in period toward which God had alluded in Hosea 2:6.  She has been publically purchased, will come into possession of Hosea, and will no longer participate in her wanton behaviors.  Not only would their marital bed be undefiled, but their marital bed would remain abandoned for an extended time.

Christ redeemed His bride at the cross through the shedding of His blood in the marital (New) Covenant that He now mediates.  She has been betrothed to Him, yet she is undergoing the time of her purification until He returns for His bride and consummates their relationship with the celebration of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Of the New Covenant promises, one is purification through the “sprinkling of water” (Ezek. 36:25) a picture that recalls the ceremonial cleansing of Levitical law (Lev. 17:15-16; 22:6; Num. 19;19-21).  The symbolic act of Hosea withholding marital relations from Gomer for the purpose of purification would seem to correspond with this anticipated action by God toward His own bride.

For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods.

As this chapter develops even further we find a transition out of the analogy with Hosea and Gomer towards a clearer picture of God’s relationship with Israel.  This verse begins with the second address concerning the “children of Israel” which again appears in contradistinction with “Israel”.  Nevertheless, the promise is that the children will be absent king or prince, sacrifice or pillar, ephod or household gods.  These accoutrements seem to have a national flavor lending itself to the idea that very gifts that God had bestowed to the nation Israel originally, established under the dynasty of David and now abused and drowned in syncretism by the rogue Northern Kingdom, would be entirely stripped from her.  The indication of “household gods” punctuates the negative connotation that this list carries.

The natural, sinful condition of man’s heart always inclines him to distort the good desires and gifts that God has bestowed upon him or her through His grace.  It was no different in Israel’s day through the rampant wickedness that ruled on the throne to the idolatries that the priests led the people into, to the unholy sacrifices offered on the altars.  From the public worship to the private closet, the idolatries of the heart were Israel’s undoing and theirs is a picture not too unfamiliar from our own.  Thanks be to God that He has not only sprinkled His bride with clean water, but that through our purification He has removed all our idols.  The prophet Ezekiel makes this connection through his own unfolding of the gospel covenant, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.” Ezek. 36:25  Hosea 3:4 is nothing less than this promise by God to remove the idols from the heart of His own bride.  It would not be sufficient to be washed clean if the tub of mud remained within her reach.

Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.”

Our third mention of the children of Israel in this passage comports well with Hosea’s development of a recurring series of three’s throughout the opening chapters of his prophecy (see VERSES 3:4) and introduces the first indications of positive actions that they will accomplish through the sovereign grace of God.  First we see a return to the Lord.  A return, or turning, involves a change in disposition or what we call repentance.  It is forsaking the path that one was on and essentially turning in the opposite direction.

Secondly, we see the children of Israel will seek the Lord.  Seeking carries with it the idea of acting on one’s desire.  Scripture is replete with verses that indicate God will be found when He is sought with the whole heart.  Like the merchant in search of fine pearls who gives himself over completely for the Pearl of Great Price, so too will the children of Israel seek the Lord their God and David their King.  This necessarily implies a change of heart from one that was seeking idols under every green tree and every public square to one that now seeks the Lord God.  Given the removal of idols and subsequent desires for them, those desires are supplanted with fresh desires to seek after God.  Notice now the reciprocal possession, this time of the bride for the bridegroom, “their God” indicating a complete reversal of Baalism that was rampant in Israel.

Thirdly, they “shall come in fear of the Lord and his goodness”.  This is a striking statement and few commenters offer thoughts on this phrase, so I shall tread lightly.  We may ask, why would they return in fear of the Lord AND His goodness?  It’s possible that what is being conveyed here is the transition from fearing God as Holy Judge towards fearing God has Holy Father, or to keep the metaphor alive, as a Holy Husband.  The difference is significant.  The former fears the wrath of God hovering over them with pending judgment.  The latter stands in awe and reverence of God who with compassion and tenderness has redeemed for Himself a people.  What is described here is nothing short of an increased knowledge of God at an intimate level not previously known or experienced.

In this verse, placed in terms that are easily understood, is the fruit of a regenerate heart that repents, seeks, and fears the Lord God and it is the direct product of the chastisement that they have undergone.  Dear Christians, what a profound and beautiful picture of the Gospel.  That the Lord God should be so inclined through His love and mercy to redeem a people for Himself, giving them hearts to seek after Him.  How can it be that He would condescend to save those who rebelled against Him?  How can it be that He would give His Son for an idolatrous and sinful people?  Surely He would have been just to destroy mankind once and for all. Yet for His own glory He has saved some, as in the day of Noah.

Two phrases remain to be addressed, namely the presence of “David their king” and the time period given, “in the latter days”.  Each phrase has historically carried with it some interpretive difficulties.  The mention of a king here is a reversal of verse 4, “children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince” and brings to completion the chastisement that they were to undergo.  This implies either 1) A resurrection of King David along with the anticipation of a return to former glory or 2) The expectation of a Greater David and the hope of a greater glory.

The fulfillment of this promise seems more likely with the latter option in the person of Jesus Christ who is in Himself the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant.  Simply stated, Hosea 3:5 is a prophecy concerning the Messianic arrival, coronation, and ascension of King Jesus at which time He will draw all His people to Himself.  Held together with the phrase “latter days” we arrive at the prophetic perspective common among Old Testament prophets who so often express the unfolding plan of God as though it were a single event.  Thus the expectation of 1st Century Palestine for a Messianic King that would restore the Kingdom of Israel, not a Suffering Servant dying at the hands of sinful men for the purpose of redeeming a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.  While the Prophet does not give a clear indication of when these events may occur, the progressive revelation of God inclines one to see the inauguration of this at Christ’s First Advent and the expected consummation at Christ’s Second Advent.  It is this interadvental period that the King-Preist, Jesus Christ, is both ruling and reigning drawing a people to Himself.

Summarizing the Gospel According to Hosea:

  1. The Love of God for His people (vs. 1)
  2. The Redemption by God for His people (vs. 2)
  3. The Purification by God for His people (vs. 3)
  4. The Refinement by God for His people (vs. 4)
  5. The Consummation of God with His people in the person of Jesus Christ, the King-Priest (vs. 5)

Seemingly, Dr. Boice was not far off when he declared this to be the greatest chapter in Scripture and it’s not found in the Gospels, the Epistles, or even the New Testament.  But it’s found in an oft-overlooked, dusty, neglected book of the Old Testament.  Surely, our Lord was right when He declared to His apostles that all things written in the Law, Prophets, and Psalms were testifying of Him (Luke 24).

We were bought with a price.  Worthless, yet purchased with the precious blood of Christ.  We were purified and made ready for our Bridegroom and we now wait with baited breath for His return.

May our hearts be more inclined toward Christ after meditating on this passage and may our biblical reading and understanding be broadened to include not only the New Testament, but the Old as well such that our minds would be opened to see the gloriousness of the Gospel in the latter and the majesty of God in the fulfillment of all that He promised through His Son in the former.

Soli Deo Gloria!