Category Archives: Old Testament

Embracing God’s Gift Rather Than Twisting Our Blessings

These words from Hosea have resonated with me for nearly 20 years (Hosea 11:1-11),

“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and out of Egypt I called my son.
But the more they were called,
    the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
    and they burned incense to images.
It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
    taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
    it was I who healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
    with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
    a little child to the cheek,
    and I bent down to feed them.

“Will they not return to Egypt
    and will not Assyria rule over them
    because they refuse to repent?
A sword will flash in their cities;
    it will devour their false prophets
    and put an end to their plans.
My people are determined to turn from me.
    Even though they call me God Most High,
    I will by no means exalt them.

“How can I give you up, Ephraim?
    How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?
    How can I make you like Zeboyim?
My heart is changed within me;
    all my compassion is aroused.
I will not carry out my fierce anger,
    nor will I devastate Ephraim again.
For I am God, and not a man—
    the Holy One among you.
    I will not come against their cities.
10 They will follow the Lord;
    he will roar like a lion.
When he roars,
    his children will come trembling from the west.
11 They will come from Egypt,
    trembling like sparrows,
    from Assyria, fluttering like doves.
I will settle them in their homes,”
    declares the Lord.

First, we notice that it is God who figuratively taught Israel to walk. This is an act of grace. The creator of the universe endows his created ones…his children…with abilities and blessings. God freely gives these things.  That makes these gifts and blessings an act of grace.

There are several words in the Greek New Testament that are translated “gift”. Two of them are connected with grace. Charis, the word for grace, can be translated gift in a few instances and the word most often used for grace is a variation of the word grace – charisma. The word we typically use to talk about someone’s charm didn’t mean that initially. It didn’t even mean that someone had a gift. Charisma was the gift itself and it was a gift freely or graciously given. Again, this points us back to the connection point between our gifts and God’s grace in giving them. The gifts we have, even the abilities we have are given by God and come with great responsibility – to use them in a way that honors the giver.

Now we have choices to make with the blessings and abilities we have. Do we use them for God and what God desires or do we twist them and use our abilities and blessings for selfish, even godless purposes? We see Israel doing the second in these verses where they take there figurative ability to walk and figuratively run from God to chase after the idols.

Embedded in these verses is the stone-cold truth that any blessing God gives us can be manipulated for evil rather than embraced and used for the God good intends. There is a human tendency to twist any gift God gives us. We are masters of self-interest. Ingrained in our flesh is to take any good thing and twist it up into something that no longer resembles the initial beauty it had when God presented us the gift. Any ability God gives us can be twisted, taking pure and holy blessings and abilities and turning them into weapons for spiritual warfare against other people. God give us the ability to speak and with our mouth we can use that grace-filled and profound gift and hurt others and curse God with it.

Even worse, we can see the people God puts before us as an inconvenience or an obstacle rather than a person with true dignity and value. When Peter and John saw the man begging at the temple gate they didn’t trip over him because the saw him…I mean really saw him. They looked right at him and brought him wholeness because this man had value too. What did they do? They took their God-given, Holy Spirit empowered ability to heal and used it for blessing.

What helps us get in tune with our gifts and helps us use them in a godly way? The Holy Spirit helps us with this. The gifts of the Holy Spirit in the early church were called “charisma”. As Christians it is the Holy Spirit who gives us the spiritual gifts we have as the adopted children of God. It is the Spirit who helps learn to walk and even run in a spiritual sense. The Spirit helps us in our weakness. This too is a gift…a charisma. It is all grace and should be used accordingly.

So the next time you are tempted to use your body, your ability, and your resources for sin…all things given gracefully by God…think about it again and make sure you are using them in a manner fitting of the one who gave you those things!

Psalm 51:5 Does God Create “In Utero Sinners”?

“Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.” – NRSV “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” – NIV “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” – NASB, ESV, RSV What is going on here? The firstContinue Reading

Pharaoh’s First Words

“Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’” Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know theContinue Reading

God’s Plan Often Involves Using Us to Participate in the Solution: Our Excuses and God’s Reply

I have been studying through Exodus over the last week or so and I have been struck by how God interacts with the world to bring about His sovereign will. The first thing you notice in Exodus is that God is very interested in the happenings on this world. God hears the cry of theContinue Reading

Moses: A Man of Three Worlds & What that Teaches us about How God Equips Leaders

Moses is one of the most intriguing people in the Bible. Your footnote in Exodus 2:10 most likely associates his name with “drawing out” just as Moses was drawn out of the Nile river. That isn’t the whole story of his name. His name isn’t Hebrew. It is Egyptian and it means “to beget” andContinue Reading

Building a Theological & Ministry Library Part 4 – Bible Background

Learning the background of the world around Bible times is critical to good Bible study. There are a number of excellent books to choose from to get you closer to their world. The better you understand their world the better you hear the words from scripture. So here are a few books to consider inContinue Reading

Supernatural by Michael Heiser

Michael Heiser begins his book “Supernatural” with the question, “Do you really believe what the Bible says?” This is a very important question for us to answer. Most of us would answer quickly in the affirmative. However, in all humility we also understand the Bible says many things that we are not really very awareContinue Reading

The Resurrection of Abraham, Sarah and Isaac

God telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac is a tough story. It brings up a lot of questions about God and a lot of questions about Abraham. We don’t get all of the answers but one of the answers we do get is found in Hebrews 11:17-19 in regard to what was going through Abraham’s mindContinue Reading

Noah: The First Second Adam?

In Romans 5:12-21 Paul talks about Jesus being the second Adam calling Adam “the pattern of the one to come.” Adam brought death and condemnation. Jesus brought grace and justification. In Adam, death reigned. In Christ, life reigns. Jesus truly is the second Adam…the one who came and this time “got it right” through hisContinue Reading

The Flood: Forming and Deforming, Creating and Un-creating

There are is a word and a phrase tucked away into the flood story in Genesis 6 that escaped my attention until this morning. Here it is, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart wasContinue Reading

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