devotions written by Deborah Galyen
“Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall” (v18). Walking in integrity means living out, day by day, the values we say we believe in. According to this chapter, a life of integrity includes working hard (versus laziness, v19), generosity, honesty, honoring God and honoring others (including our parents, v24). The Scripture says that those who live this way will be “delivered,” while those who live deceptively are walking toward destruction.
We cannot avoid trouble and suffering, but as we sink our roots deep into God’s love and goodness, when the wind and the rain come, we are not easily shaken.
“For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place” (v13). From Genesis onward, God has wanted to be present among His people. Our sin separated us from Him, yet Israel’s history demonstrated God’s mercy and His persistent desire for reconciliation. In David’s time, God was present in the rituals of sacrifice and celebration in Jerusalem, and then God sent “the Word who became flesh and dwelled among us.” And whenever God is present, so are His gifts – salvation, provision, and protection (v14-18).
Now we are “God’s dwelling place by the Spirit” (Eph 2:22), and in this living Zion, His presence produces the same results: salvation and joy (v16).
“I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them” (v4). Hosea called Israel to “return” to God and to repent of their rebellion (v1). Repentance means no longer worshipping the works of human hands – not idols, or wealth, or sexuality, or power (v3). Instead, Hosea called Israel to remember God’s character; He is the One who shows mercy to orphans and to everyone who humbles themselves.
God doesn’t forgive grudgingly; He welcomes us back with open arms. “They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine” (v7).
“It was I who knew you in the wilderness … they were filled, and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot me” (v5-6). God had rescued Israel from Egypt and given them the Promised Land, but once they were comfortable and secure, they turned away from Him. They made idols of silver, just like the pagan nations surrounding them, forgetting that God was their Source.
Israel’s rejection of God had terrible consequences, because – despite their accomplishments and prosperity – they could not live without their Rock. “You know no God but me, and besides me there is no Savior” (v4).
“So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God” (v6). Hosea used the story of Jacob to remind the Israelites that God listens when we repent and call out to Him. Jacob was a deceiver and a manipulator, yet when he called on God at Bethel, God responded. Hosea warned northern Israel (Ephraim) and southern Israel (Judah) to give up their arrogant, sinful ways (v8), as Jacob did, before it was too late.
Arrogance and self-justification can keep us from asking for the help and forgiveness we desperately need. But when we humble ourselves, God is quick to respond.
I Peter 1:1-12
“He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (v3). When we by faith embrace Jesus’ death and resurrection, we become “born again to a living hope” that is the beginning of our salvation. Peter wrote to a suffering church (v6), and he assured them that God was keeping their “inheritance” (v4) for them, and no earthly suffering could harm or lessen the joy that was their destiny.
We are not alone as we wrestle with the difficulties of life. We are “being guarded through faith” so that, in the end, we can experience the full joy of our salvation (v7-9).
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (v16). James acknowledged the world’s injustice, declaring that God would punish the wealthy who did not pay a fair wage to their laborers and yet lived in “luxury and self-indulgence” (v5). Rather than becoming bitter, believers should “be patient” (v8), trusting God’s judgment, committing themselves to worship, prayer, confession, and love (v11-20).
We can’t help anyone if we are filled with bitterness. But motivated by love and faith and supported by prayer, God can lead us to the right action.
“Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (v4). James addressed our tendency to use ungodly methods to get what we want, even as believers. At this time, Rome oppressed the Jews, and some were speaking violently about revolution. James warned believers about being “double-minded”; if they were Jesus-followers, they could not also embrace rage and destruction. Instead of giving in to selfish “passions,” they should go to the Father for what they needed (1-2).
“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (v8). Our desires don’t have to control us; we can go directly to God and find peace in His presence.
“But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me” (v2). Some psalms are shouts of celebration, and others are cries of pain, but this psalm is a quiet affirmation of trust. The psalmist offered himself to God like a trusting child, believing that God’s love and power are sufficient for everything. The psalmist said that, for him, some things were simply “too great and too marvelous” (v1) to understand, but God is always able.
The very moment that we lean on God, trusting Him for our lives, He gives us strength. The Lord “lifts up the humble” (Psalm 147).
“I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love … and I bent down to them and fed them” (v4). This was God’s history with Israel – kindness and undeserved mercy. God rescued them from Egypt, gave them manna in the desert, and led them into the Promised Land. Their persistent rebellion against God led to defeat by the Assyrians, but God’s love never changed.
“I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath” (v9). God’s loving nature was ultimately displayed in Christ, who bore the sins of both Jew and Gentile so that we could receive mercy.
“You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice” (v13). Through the prophet Hosea, God told the northern kingdom of Israel that their days were numbered. Soon, the Assyrian empire would conquer their capital, Samaria, and its king (v7, 15). After generations of rebellion among the people and leaders alike, sin’s natural consequences were overtaking them. They had refused to remain within the protection of God’s care, and therefore they had no defense.
“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD” (v12). While their nation was falling, God still called them as people to seek Him and find mercy.
“For their bread shall be for their hunger only; it shall not come to the house of the LORD” (v4). Hosea warned that God had had enough of Israel’s false worship. They were “deeply corrupted” (v9) by idolatry and immorality and violence, and no amount of religious rituals could cleanse them. The regular Temple offerings (wine, grain, and animals) were supposed to bring Israel closer to God and nourish their spirits, but the prophet declared that their hypocritical worship would leave them empty.
“Their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit” (v16). When our hearts are far from God, we are separated from our source of life, joy, and fruitfulness.
“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom” (v13). According to James (and the rest of the Bible) no one is really wise unless they have self-control and humility. No matter how articulate, or educated, or successful, leaders with “jealously and selfish ambition” in their hearts only produce “disorder and every vile practice” (v14).
Mature believers look less like winners in the eyes of the world and more like Christ himself: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy …” (v17).
“So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (v17). James is not contradicting the truth that we are saved by grace through faith; instead, he explains that living faith produces a life pleasing to God. Like a seed, faith that is dead produces nothing. But when we look at Abraham, who followed God into the unknown and offered up his son Isaac, “faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works” (v22).
Jesus said “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” (John 14:23). Faith and love come first, and they produce the fruit of obedience.
September 17: I Peter 1:1-12 (09/17/2014)
September 16: James 5 (09/16/2014)
September 15: James 4 (09/15/2014)
September 14: Psalm 131 (09/14/2014)
September 13: Hosea 11 (09/13/2014)
September 12: Hosea 10 (09/12/2014)
September 11: Hosea 9 (09/11/2014)
September 10: James 3 (09/10/2014)
September 9: James 2:10-26 (09/09/2014)
September 8: James 2:1-9 (09/08/2014)
September 7: Psalm 130 (09/07/2014)
September 6: Hosea 8 (09/06/2014)
September 5: Hosea 7 (09/05/2014)
September 4: Hosea 6 (09/04/2014)
September 3: James 1 (09/03/2014)
September 2: Hebrews 13 (09/02/2014)
September 1: Psalm 129 (09/01/2014)
August 31: Proverbs 27 (08/31/2014)
August 30: Hosea 5 (08/30/2014)
August 29: Hosea 4 (08/29/2014)