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Misery

In Israel’s history of kings, some led them toward God and some led them away. In Hosea’s time, it was bad. God’s holy people were given to prostitution, adultery and other evil deeds.

How did it get that way? How did we get the way we are? How did we get to the point that we have a transgender bathroom issue? When good people do nothing, without the restraint, evil will flourish. And when it does, it will make life miserable for the good people who did nothing.

North Carolina’s government is trying to do something. They took a stand and evil thinking is making their life miserable. Concerts are canceling. Corporations, reportedly, are threatening to pull out of the state. They are paying an unpleasant price.

Why can’t the good people in our country be as organized for good as those who are organized for evil? Why can’t we make their life miserable? What if the groups that canceled concerts in North Carolina felt the sting of small crowds in other states? Target has come out in support of it. What if Target felt the sting of almost empty parking lots? (I intend to let them know – politely – that we will not be shopping there.)

In Hosea’s day, good people had done so little restraining for so long that evil had made life miserable. I like his line: “In their misery, they will earnestly seek me.” In these miserable times, let us seek him for what we might do.

 

 

The Last Leaf

This O Henry short story portrays a disheveled old painter who lives alone. He admires two younger sisters who live above him on the third floor. He longs to be appreciated by both the sisters and the local gallery. So far he has had little success.

One of the sisters becomes deathly ill. Her will to live is gone. From her bed she can see a tree next to the brick building across the street. It’s early winter; most of the leaves have already fallen. One day she decides she will live as long as the leaves last. For days, the sisters and the old man keep a close eye on the tree.

The day comes when there is just one leaf left. A winter blast is moving in. And with the wind whipping at the leaf, there is not much hope that it will survive the night.

By morning, the attention turns to the curtains. Reluctantly . . . they are opened. But somehow, the last leaf is still there. And just like that, the will to live is back.

Outside, a crowd gathers around the tree – wondering what possible explanation there could be for this old man to have been out in such a storm.

One final look at the leaf . . . as the twig separates from the brick wall.

(The Giver gives gifts and talent . . . ours to develop; His to determine their purpose.)

 

Trouble’s Intent

I found this passage in Hosea that I think speaks to our day. In spite of all the good that we are still experiencing in our country, still overall, I believe there is something lacking. I believe these words are as descriptive as I have seen in a while.

To the wayward nation of Israel, God, through the prophet Hosea said this:

“I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way.

She will chase after her lovers but not catch them.

She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold – which they misused.

Therefore I will take away.”

Pockets of bounty still exist — as it did in the day these words were first uttered. Still, the words fit. We are walled in so that we cannot find our way. Our bounty has distracted us. We have forgotten God and efforts abound to remove him from our memory.

God says later, “I will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope”. Achor means trouble. Without a doubt there is trouble. The hope in it though – God’s hope – is that we will remember and say, “I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.”

How hard will it have to get before we reach that point?

After Samson told Delilah the secret to his strength, she conspired against him and had his hair cut off during his sleep. When he woke up, he went out as before to free himself from the Philistines who had bound him. The Bible says, “But he did not know that the Lord had left him.” His strength was gone.

In our sleep, our own government has conspired to take away our strength. For the last 50 years or so, it has clipped away the morality which God, through his church, has established in our great nation. Samson’s strength was lost with each clip; one and then another until it was all gone. Likewise with us; take prayer out of schools (one clip), legalize abortion (another clip), push for the acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle (another clip); and before you know it, we’re waking up and realizing our strength is gone.

Samson’s strength came back. It didn’t happen immediately when he realized the mistake he had made. He didn’t get to say “Sorry God” and then be as he was before. His strength returned at the incredibly slow rate of hair growth. Over time, the damage done, clip by clip, was reversed as his hair grew back.

Likewise our strength will not return, just because we wake up and say “Sorry God”. It will return as, clip by clip, we restore the morals that our government has cut.

Nobody to Blame but Us

Water, without any help, will flow. There are a couple of places in my yard where water flow has been a challenge to control. This is the beginning of our fourth growing season; and though I have not completely won, I have gained.

I hate to think of what my yard would look like if I had not done all I have to improve it. Without a doubt there would be deep ruts where the flow would have carried away the good soil and new grass. It has taken, and will continue to take, consistent attention to keep the water under control. It will never be stopped – water will flow; but it can be directed and controlled.

So it is with evil. Evil will never be stopped. Evil, without any help, will flow. And if consistent attention is not given to the control of it, it will cut and carry away the good that so many before us have worked to establish.

There was a time when good people restrained evil. Abortion was restrained until Wade’s stand gave way. What started as a little rut is now a deep and ugly, seemingly permanent, cavernous ditch. The homosexual world was at one time restrained. Not any more. Both are wide open, in your face, acceptable; and to view it otherwise is considered archaic.

Nobody but me can be blamed for my yard. Nobody but us are to blame for our nation.

 

“And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer.”

This is the one instance in Judges, where, the people have forgotten God . . . again; and “the Philistines have shattered and crushed them for eighteen years.” This time though, when they called for help, God said no.  “Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble.”

So he lets them simmer for eighteen years; until he reaches this point of not being able to bear their misery any longer. It’s interesting who he picks this time to help them. It says, “Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior.” But, of all Gilead’s sons, Jephthah was the son of a prostitute.

Interesting to me that God picked the best man for the job. He was a mighty warrior. Israel needed a warrior to fight against the people who were oppressing them. Jephthah’s whole life had prepared him for this time.

We are at a time in our own country, when for far too long, wrong has oppressed what is right. Consider the most recent example. The idea of abortion becoming illegal is “out of touch” with most people. And one step further, if it becomes illegal – meaning it is against the law – only one person is saying the woman should be punished. People have forgotten what right even looks like.

God Sent an Evil Spirit

Judges 9:23 says, “God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem.” Gideon’s 70 sons from his many wives had become rulers. Abimelech, a son from a concubine, asked the citizens if they would prefer one ruler instead of 70. They agreed. Abimelech then killed the 70 innocent brothers.

Both the act of the killing, and the citizen’s willingness to go along with it, displeased God. So he sent this evil spirit between them so that they turned against each other. They ended up wiping each other out. The city and its people were destroyed by Abimelech, and Abimelech, in the process, got his head split open.

I wondered about us. Has God sent an evil spirit between our government and its citizens? Is he displeased that our government has authorized the killing of the innocent? That our citizens, by a lack of resistance, show a willingness to go along with it? Innocent babies are aborted. Innocent Christians are beheaded and burned alive.

The citizens could have stood and said, “No!” to Abimelech. But they had slipped far enough from God – far enough in their moral values – that when Abimelech came along, they were not sharp enough to catch the fault; and they went along.

Have our citizens slipped? Are we no longer moved to the point of standing and saying, “No!”? Has our salt lost its savor? Going along does not have a good ending.

 

 

 

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