youth thinking June 28 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Hosea 4:1- 5:7; Jonah

Judgment or Mercy?

People can be difficult sometimes.When should we exercise judgment and when should we exercise mercy? In these chapters of Hosea and Jonah, God gives us some clues to the answer.

In the book of Hosea, the prophet’s marriage to a prostitute named Gomer is meant to picture the relationship of God to Israel. The message of Hosea is particularly given to the northern ten tribes of Israel, which are represented by the most powerful tribe, Ephraim. Both northern and southern tribes of Israel are guilty of the sins of idolatry, injustice, and wickedness, but the northern tribes are guilty of greater wrongs. Furthermore, Israel is arrogant in her wickedness.

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 acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. 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 [by severe drought],” (Hosea 4:1-3, NIV).

These verses are a good guide which help us determine on whom we should exercise judgment. The people of Israel, the religious leaders, and the priests are guilty of sins and are beyond the point of repenting. The LORD sends prophets to warn them, but they pay no heed. For this, God judges them with battle losses, drought and famine to try to get their attention. Nothing works.

The priests are supposed to instruct the people in the law of the LORD, so they might obey it. Hosea tells them of God’s reaction,

My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children” (Hosea 4:6, NIV).

God is so offended that He is even planning to destroy the mothers of the priests so their priestly line will cease (v.5).

How does this prophecy relate to us? As Christian parents we have a responsibility to set a good example and to instruct our children in the ways of the LORD. Church youth leaders have similar responsibilities; they are not merely there to entertain them. Christian adult ministry leaders and pastors must also lead by example and teach people the love and mercy of God. They need to teach them the faithfulness which He requires, His holiness, and His judgment. Many Christian marriages are falling apart because they do not know what God requires and what godly marriages look like. Immorality, wickedness, and greed abound in America and many parts of the world. The ways of the LORD are found in the Bible, God’s Holy Word. We must teach it, preach it, and live it, or we will be just as guilty as those priests in Israel. Our negligence will lead to our destruction.

Besides the sinful examples of the priests, Israel has a spirit of prostitution. She has established worship centers on high places for Baal worship. In the temples of Baal there are male and female prostitutes. By their behavior the Israelites are actually leading their children to become male and female prostitutes (Hosea 4:12-14).

Is there a spirit of prostitution in our hearts? Many go to church on Sunday to worship, but what about Monday through Saturday? Do we worship at the altars of sex by what we view on Television, the internet or in magazines? Our children may very well see our immoral behavior and copy it, and then also have a spirit of prostitution. God will be angry. If we have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we are His children, and He wants us to act like it. He offers us spiritual life and wants to bless us; He does not want to judge us (more...).

God would love to have Israel back in a right relationship with Him, but she will have none of it. God says, “The Israelites are stubborn, like a stubborn heifer. How then can the LORD pasture them like lambs in a meadow?’” (Hosea 4:16, NIV). Can the LORD pasture us like lambs or are we, too, like stubborn young cows? If we turn from our sins, God is always merciful and gracious (1John 1:9). If we do not turn to Him, however, He may have to punish us.

At the same time of the prophesies from Hosea, the prophet Jonah is sent to the city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. “The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me’” (Jonah 1:1-3, NIV). But Jonah runs away from the LORD and heads for Tarshish on a boat.

What is so bad about Jonah preaching against the destruction of Nineveh that Jonah runs away? After all, Assyria is Israel’s enemy. Why is he not excited to go and preach against Nineveh?

Jonah knows God is merciful and actually might extend His mercy to Israel’s enemies, if they repent. Many think the book of Jonah is all about Jonah and the great fish, when actually the message of Jonah is about God’s mercy and compassion.

Jonah now travels the opposite direction from Nineveh; he is a passenger in a boat headed for Tarshish and falls asleep in the bottom of it, but Jonah can’t hide from God. The LORD hurls an angry storm at the ship, wherein Jonah lays. In fear of the ship breaking apart and being swept away, the crew awakens Jonah and tells him to call upon his God. Jonah is stubborn. He does not confess his sins to the LORD and pray for mercy. He does, however, tell the crew that he is the cause of God’s anger. He instructs them to throw him overboard and the sea and the storm will stop its raging. At first they will not do it, but with no lessening of the tempest, they feel they have no other recourse. After Jonah is thrown overboard, immediately there is a great calm. In awesome fear, the crew worships the true God of heaven. The LORD is merciful and gracious. Jonah seeks to flee from God, but God uses Jonah’s judgment to bring salvation to the crew.

What happens to Jonah? God is merciful to the rebellious prophet.

The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God. “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple” (Jonah 2:5-7, NIV)

Jonah is almost dead as he slowly sinks to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea when the giant fish swallows him. He rests unconscious in the fish three days and nights until he wakes up and comes to his senses (Matthew 12:40). God shows compassion to His prophet— He rescues and forgives him when he repents, and then gives Jonah another chance to do His will.

What about us? Have we failed God? The good news is that if we genuinely turn to God from our sins, He will forgive us and may even give us another chance to do His will.

When the Ninevites hear God’s message of judgment, they are convicted and repent. As Jonah fears, the LORD is merciful and compassionate to the Ninevites. What is Jonah’s response? He pouts. He still needs to align himself with God’s way of thinking. The LORD tells Jonah, “Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:11, NIV).

What about us? Do we love our enemies? Do we realize that we, too, were once enemies of God? (Colossians 1:21) We should be compassionate (merciful) to those who do not know God and are, like the Ninevites (Jonah 4:11), lost in their sins.

Lessons to Live By

  • Like those who are man and wife, God requires that we be faithful to Him.
  • The ways of the LORD are found in the Bible, God’s Holy Word. We must teach it, preach it, and live it. Negligence may lead to our destruction.
  • God may remove our position as teacher, preacher, or leader if we set bad examples and do not properly instruct the next generation.
  • Those who refuse to turn to God from their sins will be judged. Those who repent will be shown mercy (more...)
  • We can’t hide from God.
  • Often after punishment, the LORD gives the repentant believer another chance to do His will.
  • Let's remember the mercy and grace shown to us and then show compassion to everyone, even our enemies.

Focus Verse

Proverbs 28:13, NIV “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

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A Look Ahead: When our life, family, or nation is out of control, how can we Bring Order out of Chaos? Find out in our Next Lesson

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