On a nice, warm July 11, 2015, the delegates of the Northern Plains Classis (NPC) gathered at First Reformed Church in Herreid, South Dakota. There were seven ministers, six elders, and one licentiate present at this meeting. The purpose of this meeting was to continue Licentiate Thomas Walter’s examination and assign him as the stated supply of Hosmer Reformed Church (he was already serving as stated supply for the church in Ashley, ND). The other item of business was to examine Mr. Cody Schwichtenberg (graduate of Heidelberg Theological Seminary) for licensure.
The meeting began with a gospel-centered, gospel-driven, Christ-focused meditation upon Galatians 6:12-15 by Mr. Schwichtenberg. His meditation brought us to Jesus Christ as our only boast in this life. We were encouraged to look to Christ as we minister to God’s people.
Shortly after this meditation and a few housekeeping matters of organization, the examinations were underway. Lic. Walters was examined in two areas, the Three Forms of Unity and in Philosophy. These exams were twenty minutes each. Lic. Walters sustained these parts of his examination and will be returning in March, Lord willing, with theological papers and with the affirmation of having memorized the Heidelberg Catechism. He was also designated as the stated supply for Hosmer Reformed Church.
Following a short recess, the body reconvened to oversee the examination of Mr. Schwichtenberg. His exam started around 10:00 am. He was examined in the areas the Constitution specifies. Each section lasted for about fifteen minutes, unless the examiner ran out of questions, which did happen on occasion. It should be noted though that Mr. Schwichtenberg’s exam officially started earlier in the day while Lic. Walters was being examined. During that time, Mr. Schwichtenberg received a written examination in the Biblical languages.
Mr. Schwichtenberg sustained these parts of his exam and will return in March before the NPC to be re-examined in Ecclesiology, present two papers, and affirm having memorized the Heidelberg Catechism.
The day was a wonderful day to join with the saints in Herreid. We enjoyed wonderful food. In fact, some of us left there with food to take home to our wives and children. God is so good to His people as we see our Good Shepherd providing men for the pulpit ministry in three of the churches in the Northern Plains. We have much to be thankful for today.
Rev. J.P. Mosley, Jr.
Pierre, South Dakota
God’s sovereignty is a much discussed topic in religious circles today. It has also long been a foundation of the Reformed faith.
Over the last year and a half the Lord has seen fit to place my family in the trial of cancer. We have learned that when you are going through a trial not only do you grow closer in your walk with the Lord, but you also develop a much deeper awareness of His attributes in the process. One such attribute we became more aware of is God’s sovereignty over all things in particular. The apostle James says, “ 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2–3, ESV)
I wanted to share my story and some of the ways my eyes have been opened to God’s sovereign guidance in my life. My hope in sharing this story is to say thank you to those who have supported and prayed for us throughout, to encourage you in your walk with the Lord, and to generate reflection and awareness of God’s sovereign control in each of our lives. As the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “ 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (ESV)
My story begins as a young boy. I grew up in a good Reformed Christian home. My father was a state trooper. As a young boy I only wanted to be a state trooper like my father. I geared my high school and college educations with that goal in mind. I was always an active, athletic person with outstanding health. I had no family history of any health issues except diabetes in my maternal grandparents. After college I was offered a position with the Iowa State Patrol in Des Moines, Iowa. I accepted this position and began the police academy within a month after graduating college. I had the understanding that if I spent two or three years in Des Moines I would be allowed to return to my home area in Northwest Iowa. I spent just over a year and a half in Des Moines between police academy and my first assignment. I was then offered a promotion to Council Bluffs. This was exciting but disappointing at the same time. Council Bluffs was still over two and a half hours from my home, family, friends, and girlfriend. I accepted the position again with the understanding that after a year or two I would be transferred home. That was in 2008.
In 2013 I was still working in Council Bluffs. I was very frustrated with my situation. “There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21, NKJV) The upper management at the State Patrol had very little interest in moving me closer to home for family or church worship reasons. I had married my long-time girlfriend, Gina, in 2010. We had been searching for years, unsuccessfully, for a faithful church to attend in the Council Bluffs area. I had just been denied a transfer back home to an empty county that no other trooper had put in for (this never happens…positions once posted as vacant in the State Patrol are filled by seniority). The opening had been posted in 2012 and I had waited for over a year with no answer before being told that I would not be permitted to move. “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9, NKJV)
During this time Gina and I had been attending church in Northwest Iowa where we were still members, searching for a church in the Council Bluffs area, and watching sermons online when we were not able to make it home to worship. I was on patrol on a Sunday morning when the frustration reached its highest point. I parked in the median of I-29 and prayed to God. I asked why He wanted us to be in Council Bluffs so far from family and church, but He was not providing us with a place to worship. After praying I thought there has to be some place God wants us to worship in the area if He again denied our transfer home. “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9, NKJV). I Google searched for Reformed churches in the Omaha area. I received all the same results that I had received numerous times before. However, the fourth or fifth link was a different link than I had seen previously. The link was for a Facebook page for Heritage Reformed Church in Bellevue, Nebraska. Bellevue is just a couple miles from where we lived south of Council Bluffs. I read the information on the Facebook page and it intrigued me. I was still very skeptical after visiting so many churches over the years and being disappointed. The next Sunday Gina and I went to the church. We were very surprised to find a small group of about fifteen people meeting in a public middle school gymnasium. The kicker was the hallway was so long you were committed to stay once you peeked in. So we sat through Sunday school and worship. Imagine our joy when we heard the Heidelberg Catechism and the truth of the Word of God preached in a solid Reformed manner. After the service we were introduced to the small group and learned that it was a mission work of the St. John’s Reformed Church in Lincoln, NE. We began worshipping there regularly and shortly after became members. What a blessing. We were so much more content with our lives in Council Bluffs with a place to worship on Sunday.
In July 2013 we were blessed to learn that we were expecting our first child. We were very happy and our new church family was very excited as well.
In January of 2014 Gina and I decided it would be a good idea to look for some life insurance since our baby was due in March. My blood work for the life insurance company came back slightly off, and they flagged me in their alcoholic bracket for rates. First, this was ironic because I drink maybe one alcoholic beverage per year. Second, being a tight Dutchman with my cash I called the insurance agent and asked if I went in to my personal physician for follow-up if that would reduce the rate. I followed-up with a family doctor. He told me my liver was fine, however, I needed to see an Oncologist/Hematologist immediately. After having a bone marrow biopsy I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a very aggressive blood cancer and began chemotherapy treatments two days later in February 2014.
From this point on the awareness of God’s sovereign control in our lives became so acute and overwhelming that it brought us to our knees in weakness and humbleness. “From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Psalm 61:2, NKJV) Gina had researched and picked an OBGYN, Dr. Platt, from the internet. Several co-workers also recommended Dr. Platt after we picked her. While we were doctoring with her, Dr. Platt was diagnosed with very aggressive cancer while pregnant in October 2013. Dr. Platt continued to doctor throughout her treatments. When I was diagnosed I was referred to the same hospital that Gina was seeing Dr. Platt, Jennie Edmundson Hospital in Council Bluffs, IA. Dr. Platt’s office was on third floor. I received my treatments and spent 28 days on fifth floor. This was a huge blessing. Dr. Platt was so helpful and understanding. They would prepare the room for Gina’s appointments and then I would don all my protective clothing and walk with my IV pole holding all the bags of medicine, poison, and fluid, to the third floor. I didn’t miss a single appointment.
In addition, with such a small congregation Rev. Henry, our minister at Heritage RCUS, was able to visit us in the hospital, encourage us, and teach us the Word of the Lord at least every other day. Without his spiritual guidance and friendship I would definitely have missed the opportunity to witness through the trials. I was still able to hear sermons throughout my stays in the hospitals by Sermon Audio or cell phone. In Council Bluffs they would place my wife’s cell phone on the pulpit and then call me. I would mute my end. Then I was still able to hear the entire service, including Rev. Henry’s singing. Nurses and staff would come and go checking on me during the sermons, and it generated some great opportunities to witness as well. Another great little example of God’s providence occurred during one of those opportunities. A nurse was swapping out one of my dressings, and she said this sure sounds like one of those Dutch Reformed preachers. I asked her how she knew about Reformed preaching. She said that her parents were raised in Doon, IA, and everybody there was Reformed, except her family (which was Lutheran). Now this is how a trial makes you acutely aware of God’s providence. Both my mother and my wife were born and raised in Doon, which is a small NW Iowa town of a few hundred people. So when a nurse in a very large hospital in Council Bluffs tells you that her family was from Doon and she knows what Reformed preaching sounds like, what else can you do except stand in awe of how God works in mysterious ways?
Also while I was in the hospital in Council Bluffs I was given a job transfer in order to be closer to our families when my wife needed help with the new baby. I was largely unable to help with things like changing diapers due to my immune system being virtually non-existent. This was just another way God’s providence showed up in the time of trial. Another part of the transfer process was that I would have to transfer my medical care to another hospital. God’s hand in this was also extremely evident. Even before I was transferred my doctor had been mentioning a blood cancer specialist that he had recently heard speak. My doctor thought I should visit this specialist given some of the unique aspects of my disease. He also said that this specialist was based in Sioux Falls, SD, at Avera Hematology Group. Imagine our surprise when he said this. He wasn’t recommending that I transfer to a huge medical center or cancer center, but to a hospital that had a renowned bone marrow transplant expert, just forty-five minutes from Doon. When the opportunity to transfer home, which we had been praying about for years, and the opportunity to transfer medical care to an expert in Sioux Falls came at the same time, once again we were left stunned at the sovereign control of God in the trial.
The Heidelberg Catechism #27 declares, “What do you understand by the providence of God? The almighty, everywhere-present power of God, whereby, as it were by His hand, He still upholds heaven and earth with all creatures, and so governs them that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things come not by chance, but by His fatherly hand.” There is no way both of these events randomly collided by chance. God perfectly brought these together in order to bring us to NW Iowa in His time, teaching us patience along the way, and then making it obviously clear when it was time to move. Again, the Heidelberg Catechism teaches in #28: “What does it profit us to know that God created, and by His providence upholds, all things? That we may be patient in adversity, thankful in prosperity, and for what is future have good confidence in our faithful God and Father, that no creature shall separate us from His love, since all creatures are so in His hand, that without His will they cannot so much as move.”
At the same time some big decisions were being made about the RCUS mission work at Heritage. Our congregation had been fairly small consisting of four families for the most part. We were scheduled to move the first week of May. One of the families was in the military. They were reassigned and moved to Hawaii in the middle of May. Another family moved to Washington for a better job opportunity. Two adult children of the fourth family enlisted in the military and moved away. Our pastor also accepted a call to Providence RCUS in Vermillion, SD. This all happened within a couple of months, leaving Heritage with five members. Once again God’s providence was evident as each family had their tough decision to move validated by the convergence of the events of the other families in our small congregation. The growth or shrinking of a congregation is the work of the Lord, not men. It was God’s plan that the mission work in the Omaha area not grow into a self-sufficient church at that time, and He made that clearly evident by the circumstances and events of each family in the church.
There were many more ways that the Lord showed us little parts of the intricate tapestry of his sovereign plan. We are so grateful that He placed the mission work of Heritage RCUS in Bellevue. I know ultimately the work struggled and did not blossom as hoped. However, please know that it was a success and God used it in many ways. We were exposed to a great number of fellow believers all across the world through the illness. The support of the Church of Christ was truly felt in our lives. What a blessing to know the love and support of fellow believers in Christ. What a blessing to have been led in God’s providence to Heritage and the RCUS denomination after searching so long for a true church. It has and continues to truly be a blessing to share this with others. Your continued prayers are greatly appreciated as we continue to bear witness to our Lord and Savior through the gift of this trial.
“What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.” Heidelberg Catechism #1
Jeremy, Gina, and Caleb Hilt
Sermon by Rev. Richard Stetler
Grace Reformed Church, Lancaster, CA
Scripture Reading: Hosea 11:1-11
Text: Hosea Chapters 11-13
I can’t tell you how many times we have started on a trip and a few miles down the road, I remembered I forgot a basic necessity—like a toothbrush—and we had to turn around to go back. Sometimes our forgetfulness is for small things. Other times it may be deliberate forgetfulness. There are consequences to that sort of forgetfulness.
Have you ever had a friendship where you were betrayed by someone whom you had spent time and energy to care for and love? Imagine what it would be like to be a friend to someone, whom you had helped over many years. You were always there for them, helping them to get through their troubled times, supporting them when no one else would. But then all of a sudden that friend you helped and supported for many years turns on you, even denying all that you had done for him or her; not only pushing you away, but just forgetting about you altogether. Wouldn’t that be a cause for great hurt and disappointment?
And yet, that is what happened to the Lord. Hosea records how Israel had done that. People in our day also forget the Lord. There are many who profess faith in the Christ, attend church, and live, what might be seen from our perspective, a “good” life. Indeed, they grew up being taught who Jesus Christ is and how to conduct their lives as Christians. But they have forgotten the Lord, who the Lord is and what He has done and is doing for them. This is exactly what the people who made up the kingdom of Israel did. They forgot the Lord their God. In the final chapters of Hosea, the prophet reminds the covenant people of God what the Lord has done for them and who He really is; the Lord their God, whom they have forgotten. In chapters 11 through 13, we will see the Lord, through the prophet, reminding His covenant people of all He has done for them, and then what He will do to them, because they had forgotten Him and all His blessings in their rebellion. And then after He has punished them severely, we will see God’s resolution in Mercy.
In these three chapters, there are many rich truths that the Lord has revealed to the people of Israel and to us. However, we will focus on an overall theme found in these chapters. Even in the midst of His hot wrath against the people of the Northern Kingdom (Israel), we will find the Lord’s resolve in mercy. This mercy is an attribute of the Lord that is driven by His great love—His love for His people, who deserve nothing other than His eternal wrath and punishment.
In chapters 11 through 13, we see the Lord explain His resolve in mercy to deliver, preserve, save, and redeem to Himself a peculiar people, who will love Him and serve Him, exclusively. These people to whom He shows His mercy are an obstinate people, who prove, over and over again their unworthiness to be the recipients of His mercy. So as we look at these chapters a pattern of contrasts is seen, where the Lord contrasts His faithfulness to His people against their unrelenting rebellion and idolatry. They have forgotten the Lord their God and followed after other gods and exalted themselves.
In light of this contrast, we will see that there is a common theme that tells us God’s Mercy is seen by His Love for His people, despite His people having forgotten Him. With this in mind we will examine these two thoughts: first, God’s Mercy is driven by His love (Hosea 11:1-4), and second, the depth and strength of this mercy that is driven by God’s love (Hosea 13:7-9).
God’s Mercy is driven by His love (Hosea 11:1-4)
In the first four verses of Chapter 11 we see the Lord expressing His love for His people in what He did for them in mercy from the very beginning, when Israel was just a child, a child in bondage to Egypt. We read, “ 1 “When Israel was a child, I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son. 2 As they called them, So they went from them; They sacrificed to the Baals, And burned incense to carved images. 3 “I taught Ephraim to walk, Taking them by their arms; But they did not know that I healed them. 4 I drew them with gentle cords, With bands of love, And I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them.” (Hosea 11:1–4, NKJV)
From these verses, we learn that the Lord showed His mercy to Israel in four ways, reminding the people that He called them, He taught them, He drew them, and He fed them, in verses 1, 3 and 4. And then, in verse 2 we learn how the people responded to the Lord’s mercy shown to them.
From verse 1, we learn that the Lord had set His love upon a people that would grow into a nation. And out of His love for Israel, He called His son out of Egypt. The Lord called the children of Israel out of the bondage of slavery to Pharaoh. While there is a prophetic aspect to this verse, as it is noted in Matthew 2:15, the present context is a reflection back to the Lord bringing Israel out of Egypt with many miraculous and mighty works. Looking back we understand that the children of Israel were shown mercy because of the Lord’s love for them and the promises He made to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This was not a love that God thought He would try it, and hopefully it would work out. This was a commitment. A promise. Even His love that was set upon them was very much an act of mercy. We read in Deuteronomy 7, “ 7 The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; 8 but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:7–8)
The Lord did not choose Israel because of their greatness, since they were the least of all peoples; He chose them because He had set His love upon them and for the sake of the oath He gave to their fathers. In Jeremiah 31:3, the Lord reaffirms His everlasting love for His people, which is according to His abounding love alone. Isn’t this why God chose His elect, both Jew and Gentile, from before the foundation of the world, because He loved them and decreed from eternity to redeem them and make them His own, and for no other reason? That is what we also learn from Ephesians 1:3ff, and in Romans 8 we read, “ 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Romans 8:29–30) It is this love that is driving God to show mercy to Israel. That is what we need to understand.
Next, out of this love the Lord showed His resolve in mercy in that He taught Ephraim to walk, as we see from verse 3 of our text in Hosea Chapter 11. The Lord took Israel by the arm, in a manner of speaking, and helped him learn to walk after the Lord. He wasn’t helping them to walk again; He was teaching them to walk, period. He gave the children of Israel His commandments and ordinances that they were to obey. The Lord gave what was necessary for them to walk rightly before Him, healing them of their ignorance. It was as though He was teaching a lame man to walk after healing him. Deuteronomy 32 summarizes it this way, “ 10 “He found him in a desert land And in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye. 11 As an eagle stirs up its nest, Hovers over its young, Spreading out its wings, taking them up, Carrying them on its wings, 12 So the Lord alone led him, And there was no foreign god with him.” (Deuteronomy 32:10–12) And yet, we learn that though the Lord taught them to walk, they did not know that as He was doing that the Lord was healing them by His Word so that they could walk. They didn’t understand that this was not just a bunch of commandments to obey. God was teaching them how to walk rightly before Him. God healed them of their ignorance. No other nation had this knowledge of how to please the Creator.
And then, from verse 4, we learn of the Lord’s mercy in that He drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love; He did not rope them as He would subdue a wild horse, but was gentle with them, patient with them to lead them along, even when they complained insatiably. Israel was truly like wild horses, yet God used cords. In using cords, or bands of love, the Lord stooped down and fed them; not only with physical food, but also with the food of His word through the prophet Moses. Through the wilderness, He nurtured Israel. With the Lord so active in their lives, being with them and caring for them with such great mercy and compassion, how could they have forgotten the Lord their God?
And yet, in all these acts of mercy by the Lord, what was their response? In verse 2, we read “As they called them, so they went from them; they sacrificed to the Baals, and burned incense to carved images.” The “they” of “As they called them,” is a reference to the prophets that were sent by the Lord. These prophets called the straying people back to God, just as He had called Israel out of Egypt. In Hosea 12:10, the Lord reminds them again, “I have also spoken by the prophets, and have multiplied visions; I have given symbols through the witness of the prophets.” But, rather than going to the Lord to walk with Him and serve Him, they went away from Him. They went from the face of the Lord, which is the literal meaning in verse 2. They ignored the prophets, continuing in their unbelief, worshipping other gods, sacrificing to the Baals, and burning incense to carved images.
They refused to hear God’s Word. Rather than thanking the Lord for His abounding mercies they thanked an idol, sought help from other gods, and forgot the only true God. He was the One that delivered them, taught them, healed them, drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love, and fed them body and soul, caring for them as a loving father would for his children.
In Hosea 11:7, we read the Lord’s assessment of their mindset. I pray the Lord never makes this assessment of any of us. This is not the assessment you want to hear. The Lord said, “My people are bent on backsliding from Me. Though they call to the Most High, None at all exalt Him.” Though they called to Jehovah God, they saw Him in the form of an idol. Rejecting the call of the prophets the Lord had sent, they were bent on understanding Jehovah God, not in the way He had revealed Himself through His mighty works, and His word through the prophets, but rather as a golden calf, or as a Baal; they saw Him in the same way as the other religions of the world and their kings represented Him. And so when they called to the Most High, using His sacred name, they were doing so to an idol. Instead of the Lord God being exalted, an idol was being exalted. This is how they profaned the true and living Triune God. What we think matters when we come to worship. People today regularly claim to worship “God,” but what God are they talking about?
Now, to make matters worse, adding insult to injury, as one might say, we learn from the first 3 verses of Hosea 13 that not only did they refuse to exalt the Lord in their worship, they exalted the kings. Ephraim became puffed up, exalting himself. Just as Judah was the ruling tribe of the Southern Kingdom at this point in Israel’s history, Ephraim was the ruling tribe of the Northern Kingdom. Since Ephraim had set up the golden calves, the people of the Northern Kingdom started to look at Ephraim as their savior and deliverer. But in verses 4-5, they are reminded that there is only one savior; and no other that they are to love and serve. We read, “ 4 Yet I am the Lord your God Ever since the land of Egypt, And you shall know no God but Me; For there is no savior besides Me. 5 I knew you in the wilderness, In the land of great drought.” (Hosea 13:4–5) There is only One Savior, who is the Lord their God, from the very beginning, from the time they lived in Egypt, to their wilderness journey. We have to remind ourselves this too. Nobody is going to deliver us from our trials. Only the One Savior will be our deliverer. And in verse 5, the Lord says He “knew” them, which is understood to mean that out of His love for them He cared for them in the wilderness. No other god who saved them, no other god who cared for them, for there is no other savior, period! (v. 4)
And then, we read that as the Lord was blessing the Northern kingdom, increasing their prosperity in the Promised Land, they were taking all the credit for themselves. Verse 6, tells us, “When they had pasture, they were filled; they were filled and their heart was exalted; Therefore they forgot Me.” Although the Lord blessed them, and prospered them, they would still not acknowledge their true Savior, the Lord their God, Who caused them to prosper. They forgot Him.
The depth and strength of this mercy that is driven by God’s love (Hosea 13:7-9)
What was the consequence of forgetting the Lord? Forgetting a tube of toothpaste is no big deal compared to that kind of forgetfulness! Is it any wonder that the Lord punished them with such severity, as what is described in chapter 13? We read, “ 7 So I will be to them like a lion; Like a leopard by the road I will lurk; 8 I will meet them like a bear deprived of her cubs; I will tear open their rib cage, And there I will devour them like a lion. The wild beast shall tear them.” (Hosea 13:7–8) This is not a pretty picture. These two verses begin the second line of thought of the message, the depth and strength of this mercy that is driven by God’s love. Seems odd to focus on the severe punishment, but how else do you know how great our salvation is? We must see the contrast with the wickedness from which we are saved.
Let us note that back in Chapter 5, there is similar language used, where the Lord said, “ 14 For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, And like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear them and go away; I will take them away, and no one shall rescue.” (Hosea 5:14)
When the punishment comes, there will be no help from anyone. No ally will come to the aid of Israel. But even in the Lord destroying them, tearing them apart, as we just read, and bringing not just the Northern Kingdom to an end (the ten tribes of Israel), we see the Lord’s resolve in His mercy. He tells them and us also, that though they are an obstinate, rebellious, ungrateful people, who He could rightly destroy because of their impenitent idolatry, he would, nonetheless, be their help. Verse 9, implying that He is the only One, who is able to help, even as He is destroying them. Even in punishing His people He will show His mercy. We get a glimpse of this resolve to be merciful to His people. In Hosea 11:9 God says, “I will not execute the fierceness of My anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim. For I am God, and not man, the Holy One in your midst; and I will not come with terror.”
But, how is this to be understood in light of the fact that elsewhere in Hosea, the Lord says He will remove the king and the kingdom cease to exist? The answer is found in Chapter 13, where we find in verse 14 how He will help them, even though He is the One who will destroy them as a nation and as a people. We read, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction! Pity is hidden from My eyes.” This new hope was given to Israel, because the promise that is made here, the destruction of the grave (which is another way of saying death) points to the work of Christ, who defeated death and gained victory over death, by His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.
By God’s grace, the Lord will ransom Israel, redeeming them from the power of death, which will be fulfilled in Christ. How do we know this? We know that this verse points to Christ’s victory over death in His death on the cross, because the apostle Paul quotes this verse to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 15:55 (from the Septuagint). But this victory over death is not only promised as a future benefit, but it is a promise that is realized by all who come to Christ in faith and in repentance. We learn this from Ephesians 2:1-10, where it says in verse 5 that though being dead in trespasses God made all true believers alive together with Him. By God’s grace, all true believers in Christ are saved.
Further, these saved people are actually considered “Israel.” This is not an Israel according to bloodline, but rather we are an Israel according to promise, an Israel by adoption, through faith alone in Jesus Christ. We know that the redemption mentioned in Hosea 13:14 applies to a spiritual Israel, by the circumcision of the heart by the Spirit of God, because of what we learn from Galatians 3:26-29 and Romans 2:28. This promised redemption will fulfill the promise to create a new Israel, consisting of both Jews and Gentiles. Those who were once “Not His People,” but are now His people, “who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy,” as it says in 1 Peter 2:10. God is going to ransom His Israel.
So we see that this is good news is for all men, for all sinners throughout the ages. We are by nature rebellious and prone to forget the Lord God – the God who has graciously revealed Himself to all mankind by His creation and by His special revelation, the Bible (especially, for all who are of His elect). Because all men are conceived and born in sin, all mankind deserves nothing less than His wrath and punishment. And yet, His wrath and punishment will not be experienced by every sinner. Why is that? Because God has demonstrated the riches of His grace and mercy toward His elect. There is no wrath for all who belong to Him, all who are in Christ by true faith, as we have learn from Hosea 13:14, and elsewhere in Scripture.
As we conclude this message, let us examine ourselves, for the purpose of awakening our own consciences to whether or not we have forgotten God. As people who profess faith in Christ, ask ourselves, “Have I forgotten the Lord, as I carry on my life week in and week out?” It is so easy to forget. There are many different ways to forget. Have you forgotten Him in worship? Have you forgotten Him in your daily lives? How about when things are going well – who gets the credit, the praise? Have you exalted yourself in your prosperity and in the blessings the Lord has given to you in this life? If you have forgotten Him, won’t you evidence the redemption from sin purchased for you by the blood of Christ, by coming to Jesus Christ? Come to Him by faith and with repentance for your sins, as a new creation in Him, having been made alive from being dead in your sins and trespasses, wherein you were in bondage? Won’t you serve Christ alone with a thankful heart for the blessings that have been obtained for you by Him, and the blessing we receive everyday as He cares for us in His everlasting love? Let all men everywhere acknowledge that He is our only real help in our time of need, turning away from serving idols, whether that idol, is a carved image, or an incorrect idea of who the Lord is, so that when we call upon the Most High, we are truly exalting the only true God, the Triune God, who has revealed Himself in His Word, the Bible.
Won’t you acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ, putting unwavering trust in Him alone, who suffered and died for your sins, who is the only Savior of the world, and who will care for you, as you walk after Him in true faith, embracing Him as your own, with a believing heart, and resting in His unwavering resolve to save you in His mercy, and provide for your every need, both of body and soul, just as He does for all, who are called Israel, His chosen people, by faith alone, according to promise, both Jew and Gentile?
Brethren in the Lord let us not forget all that the Lord has done for us through Christ Jesus. And as we live out our new life in Christ by faith, let us not forget His resolve in mercy in that we were called out of bondage, and made anew in Christ, how He has taught us from His Word by those whom He has sent to us as His ministers of the Word, how He has in His mercy drawn us with gentle cords, with bands of love, when ropes to control a wild horse (a rebellious sinner) could have been used. And then, let us not forget how He has cared for us stooping down and feeding us, strengthening us by His Word and His Spirit, nourishing us all the days of our lives, and comforting us in times of trouble.
Beloved in the Lord, by faith exalt our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, giving Him all the glory when He has prospered us in our labors, exalting Him alone as we call out to the Most High–to whom belong all glory, honor, and power, forever! AMEN!
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6, ESV)
Does Paul intend to say by this verse that a Christian—a true believer—is never disturbed? Never anxious? Never struggling with the providential circumstances of life? Is it always like this for the Christian: that I must be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease?
As I was preparing for a bible study on Romans eight recently I came across a discussion on this issue in William Hendriksen’s commentary.
For many Christians, a verse like this (verse 6) can bring about moments of real crisis. If you have been in the pastoral ministry very long at all, if you have been around Christians for any length of time, you will have encountered someone going through crushing trials. You will talk with men and women who have anguish because they are in anguish. They will express great guilt and even resentment that they are going through massive pains and sorrows, and they’re worried that their lack of a mind of “life and peace” must mean their minds are not set on the Spirit.
In fact, the context in which this verse appears seems to reinforce the idea that a lack of peace must be an indicator of a state of unbelief. Verses 5-8 give us a sustained contrast between an unbeliever and a believer. The mindset of the flesh and the mindset of the Spirit. The mindset of flesh is sold out to and dominated by what the sinful nature desires (v. 5), this mindset leads to death, is hostile to God, does not submit to God’s law, does not please God—nor can it.
While the mind set on the Spirit is the exact opposite. And its fruit is life and peace.
So you can appreciate why the anxious Christian who does not have this sense of “life and peace,” who is struggling resentfully with their suffering, who is crying out, ‘O, Wretched man that I am!’ might be stricken with doubt as to whether they are in fact a child of God at all.
Is that conclusion necessarily correct? Hendrickson say, “The answer must be, ‘Not at all.’” He goes on to affirm that while the basic disposition of the Spirit-indwelt child of God is life and peace, that doesn’t mean a believer won’t have deep sorrow over indwelling sin and ardently desire to be free from it.
Having said that, “The idea that the believer is a person who is always staying on an even keel should be given up. A believer’s life is not that simple. It is tremendously complex.” Hendriksen goes on to remind us of the apostle Peter who made the great confession (Matthew 16:16–17), but also expressed the great denial (Matthew 26:69-75).
And what about, Hendriksen asks, the writer of Psalm 77? A believer (!) pouring out some of the most honestly expressed and outraged emotions on providential pain ever penned.
The thought of God brought me no peace,
But rather made my fears increase;
With sleepless eyes and speechless pain
My fainting spirit grieved in vain;
The blessedness of long ago
Made deeper still my present woe.
Recalling days when faith was bright,
When songs of gladness filled my night,
I pondered o’er my grievous woes
And searching questioning arose;
Will God cast off, and nevermore
His favor to my soul restore?
I asked in fear and bitterness:
Will God forsake me in distress?
Shall I His promise faithless find?
Has God forgotten to be kind?
Has He in anger hopelessly
Removed His love and grace from me?
These doubts and fears that troubled me
Were born of my infirmity;
Though I am weak, God is most high,
And on His goodness I rely;
Of all His wonders, I will tell,
And on His deeds my thoughts shall dwell.
(Psalter Hymnal, #145)
Note how with “the mind set on the Spirit” the psalmist is led through the valley of death, eventually emerging into a sense of life and peace. “However, according to the plain language of Scripture, and the testimony of ever so many Christians, even the believer may experience a tremendous struggle between ‘the old man’ and ‘the new man,’ between doubt and trust, unrest and peace” (see also Psalm 73, Galatians 5:17; Ephesians 4:22ff.; 6:10ff.; Hebrews 12:4).
Anguished saint, fix your heart on the goodness of God in Christ, for His Spirit will lead you to life and peace. In this life and the life to come.
MARANATHA! O Lord, Come! Glory! Warfare over. Sin gone. Tears wiped from your eyes. Eternal joy and bliss. Soon you will be up to your eyeballs in Milk and Honey!
Rev. Jim Sawtelle