Tag Archives: repentance

New Year’s with JB

John the Baptist’s message is great for this week between Christmas and New Years.  He calls us back to a simple life-style. After all the feasting we may need repentance.

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.  Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. (Mark 1:4-5)

The wilderness in Scripture was not some beautiful garden-like place where people went on vacation.  Wilderness was wild, uncivilized, stripped of all niceties and refinement.  Israel had spent forty years in the wilderness during the Exodus to purify themselves from all the toxic Egyptian cultural practices. It was a place for spiritual death and rebirth.

John’s clothes of camel’s hair and leather belt, reminded the people of the Old Testament prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8).  Sort of like wearing a red cape to remind people of Superman. But John/Elijah had a stronger purpose than Superman, to call the hearts and lives of people back to God.

John called people to recalibrate their vision of life, success, and values.  They were baptized as a cleansing of their sinful ways so that they could begin anew, fresh and clean.

Now as 2011 concludes, we can come to our Lord seeking a fresh beginning, a new start in 2012.  We can confess our sin, knowing that God forgives us our sin and will give us a clean start.

Try this the next time you take a bath or shower.  As you wash the sweat and dirt of the day, say to yourself as you pray to God, “I am cleansed, body, mind and spirit, by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Then step out into the promise of vibrant new life in Christ. Resolve to act as a child of God, seeking God’s path this day.

Lord Jesus, cleanse me and make me new.

Words of Death and Life

The Old Testament prophets were poets and strong words were their tools. The prophet Hosea used offensive language to stir up the people and to call them back to God. The graphic words were to be a shock to the community in hope that they would repent.

Hosea and Gomer by Artist Cody F. Miller

In the first chapter, Hosea was directed by God to marry an unconventional wife.

The Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” (Hosea 1:2)

His chosen wife, Gomer, may have been a temple prostitute from one of the fertility cults or a simple street prostitute of the city. She bore children to Hosea to whom Hosea gave symbolic names, No-Pity and Not-My-Children, demonstrating God’s strong disfavor with the fickle people of Israel. Afterwards Hosea spoke an extremely harsh word to the people.

Plead with your mother, plead— for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband— that she put away her whoring from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts, or I will strip her naked and expose her as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and turn her into a parched land, and kill her with thirst. Upon her children also I will have no pity, because they are children of whoredom.

God was angry with Israel’s infatuation with other religions. Instead of being a shining beacon of the Lord God for other nations, they had embraced the gods of other nations, forsaking their unique covenant with God. They had become like a spouse caught in adultery.

The harsh violent language of Hosea can be a shock to our spiritual sensibilities. How can God speak in such cruel severe words?

Perhaps the words are so harsh, because the people’s hearts were so hard. Or perhaps they are so cruel because our hearts are so hard. The words of the prophet “killed” the people (including us the reader), so that God can create a new heart, a new life: a kind of resurrection.

Therefore I will now allure her and speak tenderly to her, . . . I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. (Hosea 2:14,19)

Finally the Lord declared, “I will have pity on No-Pity, and I will say to Not-My-Children, ‘You are my people’” (Hosea 2:23). I cling to these words of hope and restoration.

Lord Jesus, the Word of God, you absorbed our sin in your death on the cross. Speak to us again the Word of Life.