Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
I find myself shocked on a daily basis by just how dirty the business world is these days. Not just any business though, the education business in particular (which is where my experience primarily are) – but this really crosses all lines. Everyone seems to be greedy for money, even at the expense of others, children included. When children are sacrificed for gain, even God is shocked. He says in regard to the child sacrifices of long ago, “They have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as offerings to Baal- something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind” (Jeremiah 19:5). Something has to be pretty messed up to be so bad that God didn’t even think about it. I won’t go into too many details (as this is a Bible study and not my gripe board), but I am an American living in Korea, and I have come to realize that both countries suffer from some pretty big sin issues.
Anyway, after again being shocked (this time by a very greedy “Christian”) I prayed to God asking about why our world is so dirty and greedy. I opened up my Bible to my daily reading and God gave me his answer right away in Hosea 4:1-2,
Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites,
Because the Lord has a charge to bring
Against you who live in the land:
“There is no faithfulness, no love,
No acknowledgement of God in the land.
There is only cursing, lying and murder,
Stealing and adultery;
They break all bounds,
And bloodshed follows bloodshed.
This is exactly how I feel things are going right now. Apparently, this is not a new concept. David wrote about it in Psalm 53:2-3,
God looks down from heaven
On the sons of men
To see if there are any who understand,
Any who seek God.
Everyone has turned away,
They have together become corrupt;
There is no one who does good, not even one.
I used to think that David was exaggerating a bit, but I don’t think he’s as far off as it seems as he exclaims that everyone has turned away.
So after reading those first two verses of Hosea chapter four, I at least didn’t feel alone in my distress (as I guess most people just take “business as usual” as being ok). The next verse then gives us a very familiar result of our modern-day business practices,
Because of this the land mourns,
And all who live in it waste away;
The beasts of the field and the birds of the air
And the fish of the sea are dying (Hosea 4:3).
It says that the resources are drying up, the economy is going to crap, and the environment is not doing well either- welcome to the 21st century! Our economy is still in recession, our recourses are drying up, and nature is always taking a hit from us. Verse 4 though shut my mouth. It reads,
But let no man bring a charge,
Let no man accuse another,
For your people are like those
Who bring charges against a priest (Hosea 4:4).
This verse isn’t wrong either; nobody is innocent in what is happening as we are all looking out for our own personal gain. I too am trying to scratch out what seems best (and usually easiest) for me, and putting my trust in myself as opposed to God.
Today the Bible is telling us that we need to change. Clever business tricks and varied laws and programs aren’t really changing the economic crises much. Those of you who follow politics can blame Obama or the democrats or the republicans but the truth is that they are only representatives of the people. If their making bad choices, it’s because we did it first, and if the world is all screwed all screwed up, it’s because we let it get that way.
So, what do we do? First off, we need to change our focus. Hosea 4:10-13 says,
They will eat but not have enough;
They will engage in prostitution but not increase,
Because they have deserted the Lord
To give themselves to prostitution,
To old wine and new,
Which take away the understanding of my people.
They consult a wooden idol
And are answered by a stick of wood.
A spirit of prostitution leads them astray;
They are unfaithful to their God.
They sacrifice on the mountaintops
And burn offerings on the hills,
Under oak, poplar and terebinth,
Where the shade is pleasant.
Therefore your daughters turn to prostitution
And your daughters-in-law to adultery.
Many of us are deep in debt and our struggle to get control of our lives is beginning to take over. So as we give up our morals and ethics to try to overcome our problems, we lose sight of the really important things, and nothing seems to improve anyway. So we sit in our despair and start trying to be happy. We try to find happiness by chasing bottles, butts, and things that numb our brain so that for a brief moment we can forget our troubles. Should we then be surprised that while we veg out in front of the TV, at the bar, or wherever we go to have fun that the new generation is addicted to porn, shooting up schools, and even trading in people? Of course not. And maybe you haven’t noticed, but none of this stuff is helping the economy to turn around.
It is actually interesting that the two most prominent sins God points out for Israel (which by this point in the story is considered a pagan nation) are two of the most common problems in both Korea and America (supposedly Christian countries). Hosea 9:1-2 states,
Do not rejoice, O Israel;
Do not be jubilant like the other nations.
For you have been unfaithful to your God;
You love the wages of a prostitute
At every threshing floor.
Threshing floors and winepresses will not feed the people;
The new wine will fail them.
Most Americans and Koreans drink, and it has actually ingrained into both cultures. On top of that, sexual sin is running rampant and is becoming more prevalent even with younger people. I’m not saying that alcohol or sex are even 100% bad. In fact, 1 Timothy 5:23 says, “Stop drinking only water, and use al little wine because of your stomach and frequent illnesses” and Proverbs 5:18-19 says,
May your fountain be blessed,
And may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
A loving doe, a graceful deer-
May her breasts satisfy you always,
May you ever be captivated by her love.
Since God doesn’t condemn drinking or making love (with your spouse) then neither can I condemn them. “But it’s when you do these things too much, that you’ve become an addict and must get back in touch” (“It’s Easy Mmmkay,” The South Park Movie).
So let’s change our focus. Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). For those who are without Jesus will die after dragging through this miserable existence (I say this not as an assumption on your situation, as compared to the awesomeness with heaven our cursed world is nothing) and after death face hell, forever.
Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith (Hebrews 4:1-2).
Don’t miss this chance, those of you who have not yet, come to Jesus now. Ask him to come into your life, save you from eternal death, and give you the Holy Spirit to guide you.
Let us not chase after our problems, but have faith that your God is bigger than all of them and is always at work in our lives. Also, let us not become products of our environment, but through the Spirit, make changes in our lives. Paul writes in Galatians 5:16, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” The Bible tells us what to watch out for and what to look forward to with Christ in our lives,
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:19-24).
Sounds hard to make big life changes, right? You’re not alone; all of us who have given our lives to God have struggled and continue to struggle with our desires. But what we do, we do not do in our own power, but in his love. Paul too knows what it is like, he writes,
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, who he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone (Titus 3:3-8).
See what he says there at the end? It is profitable for everyone when we stop fighting against God and start trusting in his son.
In Ezekiel, God pleads with Israel and now us,
“Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways,” declares the Sovereign Lord. “Repent! Turn away from your offensives; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone,” declares the Sovereign Lord. “Repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18:30-32)
By turning from our sinful ways (repenting) and following how the Lord’s Spirit leads us, we will not only save ourselves, but better effect change on our nation, and maybe even turn this global depression around. For God says,
All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:
You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock- the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.
You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.
The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven.
The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you (Deuteronomy 28:2-8).
So do not be a product of your environment, but rather defy it, follow the Lord and affect change! Let’s fix our state of affairs, starting with each one of us.
Thank you for your endless mercy
As I have tried to do things without you,
And have tried to do things my way.
Forgive me for not trusting you.
You are the creator of the universe,
I am just a man.
Let’s do things your way.
In Jesus name I pray,