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I have really appreciated The Gospel According to the Old Testament series. Since I’m preparing to teach on Hosea, it was time to read the volume on Hosea: Love Divine and Unfailing by Michael Barrett.

Based on the previous volumes I had high expectations. Perhaps too high. Perhaps unfairly. But this volume didn’t meet my expectations.

This is a good an helpful book. It was expecting, or hoping for, a great book.

Why I was disappointed may be explained by his comments in the conclusion:

If you picked up this book expecting an expositional commentary, you have been disappointed. … My concern was to put in focus the big picture that will ultimately help us understand the details and grasp the significance of Hosea’s message.

I was hoping for a volume that tracked with the flow of Hosea, particularly since I’m teaching it in that way. I did not expect a commentary since this is not a commentary series. But I wanted it to work through the book. Barrett handled it from a more thematic approach. He said many helpful things, but it was not as “user friendly” for the teacher.

In the first part he focuses on “just the facts” of Hosea. This begins with Hosea as a Messianic Man. Hosea is a shortened form of Joshua (or vice versa) and means “salvation.” Joshua is the Hebrew name translated into Greek as Jesus. Hosea was anointed as a prophet which is a “messianic occupation.” Barrett spends some time explaining the role of the prophet in the life of Israel. He also puts him in his time and place: the northern kingdom during the reign of Jeroboam II.

The second chapter expands on the historical context of Hosea. It was a time of declining power and prosperity. Assyria was gaining strength and was a looming threat that is addressed in the book.

In the third chapter, His Creed, the focus is on Deuteronomy’s influence on what we read. The prophets viewed their circumstances through the covenant and declared the appropriate blessings and curses according to the covenant. Hosea makes no sense if you aren’t familiar with Deuteronomy. Barrett spends some time explaining how the Mosaic covenant points to, anticipates and explains the ministry of Christ.

The second part of the book focuses on his life, particularly his marriage. His marriage to a wayward wife named Gomer was a living sermon intended to reflect God’s marriage to Israel. It is viewed as an analogy. There are points of correspondence, but not complete identity. Barrett points in particular to the exclusivity of relationship. This means that apostasy, or syncretism, is like adultery: Gomer’s adultery in particular.

Christianity parallels the ANE process of marriage. The Father gave a people to the Son to be His Bride. The Son has paid the bride price with His blood. The Spirit establishes the covenant union between the Son and the Church (invisible).

Then Barrett goes into Hosea’s marriage. Hosea was not the only prophets who undertook prophetic or symbolic actions. Some of them were strange, like Isaiah walking around naked and barefoot (Is. 20) to symbolize the coming exile. You have Ezekiel laying on his side all day, cooking over dung, to symbolize the siege upon Jerusalem. In this case Hosea’s whole life became symbolic or prophetic. His marriage and kids pointed Israel (and Judah) to deeper realities.

Sin and rebellion will be met with covenant curses. The northern kingdom hRedemptionad strayed, stepped out on their covenant lord, with other gods and nations. The consequences were coming. But God’s purpose was not to ultimate destroy His people but to bring them back. The third section, The Sermon, lays this all out.

Too often people think of the Mosaic Covenant as grace-less. They are wrong and Barrett explores that gracious element for us. He helps us to understand the role of law in the covenant, not for gaining life but how God’s redeemed people are to live to bring Him glory. He then moves into the (re)new(ed) covenant and some of the ways it is “new and improved” rather than completely new. He also brings in the horrible price to be paid for their rebellion. But rebellion, and misery, is not the final word.

Therefore, as disgusting as Gomer may appear, every Christian must admit the Gomer that is his or her own heart.

Barrett ends with the way home. He talks about the gospel more exhaustively in this chapter. He speaks of repentance. Hosea’s message was not given to take away all their hope but to call Ephraim back from the abyss.

Barrett consistently points out the gospel connections and message to be found in Hosea. There are some exegetical questions that are not discussed sufficiently, particularly the use of “Adam” (8:1). He does have a helpful appendix discussing Matthew’s use of “out of Egypt I called my son”.

While not a book that met my admittedly high expectations, it was a good and helpful book to read as I prepare to teach Hosea. If you are planning on preaching through it, or teaching on it, I would recommend reading this book.

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I’m reading a book on sermons by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on John 4 in preparation for my sermons on that chapter coming up. The book is only 750ish pages. I have plenty of work ahead of me. But some of the sermons are well worth it, like one entitled Spiritual Dullness and Evasive Tactics preached in October, 1966. Think about that for a moment, 1966. Amazing to me how much of what he says fits our contemporary situation.

He begins with noting the essence of Christianity: “we have within us a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” The Christian life is a spiritual life under the power and direction of the Spirit. This great salvation “is to enable us to live in the world and to look forward to the glory that is to come.” This positive beginning shifts as the Dr. begins to lay the smack down. He gets quickly to exposing the sins of his time in England that mirror those of ours here in America.

“We face national prejudices, class prejudices, race prejudices, and so on. There is almost no end to them. What harm they have done in the life of the individual Christian, and what harm they have done in the life of the church throughout the centuries- the things we cling to so tenaciously simply because we have been born like that!”

He was addressing the Jewish-Samaritan prejudice. Later in the sermon he brings us to the problems of Apartheid and the Civil Rights struggle in the U.S. The people in England were denouncing the white South Africans and Americans. He admits, obviously, the sinfulness of racism, but takes this as evasiveness. The woman at the well used this prejudice to evade Jesus, and the Dr.’s contemporaries were using those prejudices in other nations to evade the truth about themselves.

“You see, in denouncing somebody else, you are shielding yourself. While you are denouncing these people or friends in America or somewhere else over this racial problem, you are full of self-righteous indignation. That is very clever, but you are just evading the problem of your own life, the running sore of your soul.”

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All of our heroes are flawed. Some more than others. David committed murder to cover up his adultery. Solomon was led astray by his many wives and their gods.

Sometimes we don’t give extra-biblical guys as much slack, aka grace, as God does. I noted this in my recent post on Theological Phariseeism. Sometimes we refuse to be honest about their flaws, as if it would undermine the good they do.

My friend, Chris Probst, did his Ph.D. dissertation in London on the subject of Luther and the Jews, and how that impacted Nazi Germany. It is more nuanced that you might expect. He’s a smart guy that Probst. Not to mention the fact that his dad is German and mom is Jewish.

He got to sit down with Steve Brown on Steve Brown Etc. to talk about the book and the reality that all our heroes (except Jesus) are flawed.

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"I'm so confused!"

We have addressed the pastor’s need to talk about sex, and the better ways for him to talk about sex. The third part is about developing a redeemed sexuality to communicate to our people. Or how not to.

Why do we need to talk about redeemed sexuality? This is because our people have often been instructed, explicitly or implicitly, in a very fallen sexuality, or Romans 1 kind of sexuality. I looked at this in Part 1, but here it is again.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

We really have to reckon with this text. Because of Adam’s sin, God gave humanity over to sin. Sin has affected, among other things, our minds, our passions and our sexuality. We are broken. This means we do not work right.

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In the first part I examined the fact that all pastors will have to talk about sex from the pulpit because the Bible talks about sex- often. But how often a pastor needs to talk about it will differ according to the needs of the congregation. John MacArthur probably doesn’t have to talk about sex often. I’m not sure I’d want him to talk to me about sex, that would be like talking about sex with my father-in-law. Just doesn’t seem right. Mark Driscoll, who pastors a church filled with young converts, will have greater need to address the subject.

How should a pastor speak about sex? That is the topic I want to pick up now. Just because you should talk about it doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind.

When I was taking classes for my counseling degree we had a course on sex. I know you won’t believe me, but sex comes up often in counseling situations. One day we spent time on an exercise. We split up into small groups of both men and women. We had to practice saying “penis” and “vagina”. It was incredibly funny for me because one of my classmates was really struggling to say them in mixed company. That was so far out of her comfort zone. But when you try to do this, it can be weird for anyone.

We were trained to use the proper terms for things, not slang. We called oral sex just that- not a Lewinski or any number of other terms.

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In my review of Out of a Far Country, I mentioned the chapter on Holy Sexuality as being the most clearly articulated statement in the book about how we ought to live.  There are many good statements there. But I also want to set a larger framework for understanding holy sexuality.

As a result of Adam’s sin, we are all born as sinners and under the curse (Romans 5).  There are numerous implications to this reality. One of the basic ones that most everyone overlooks is that everyone’s sexuality has been affected. We are broken sexually. That brokenness differs in degree, but all of us are broken. This means that we do not use our sexuality in a way that reflects God’s glory and fulfills His purpose for our sexuality. Sexual orientation is a more serious manifestation of brokenness, but even those who don’t struggle in this way are broken.

One of the more helpful aspects of Reformed Theology that is often overlooked, is that all our actual transgressions flow out of the corruption imputed to us in Adam. We are sinners, and so we sin. Out of our sexual brokenness we begin to sin sexually. Additionally, we are sinned against sexually. Both of these include the breaking of boundaries. Once you do something (or have it done to you), you cannot undo it. It is nearly impossible to walk back through that door as if nothing happened. You often get lost there because your nerve endings may experience pleasure- even in the midst of abuse.

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I finally put my thoughts and impressions of the PCA General Assembly, comparing it with the ARP Synods I have attended.  I’ve been scanning reports from other denominational meetings.  While I may not be thoroughly pleased with the denominations I’ve worked with (why should I?) there are some that I would have a most difficult time.

The PC (USA) General Assembly has just gotten started.  And it was an interesting beginning to say the least.

The sermon and infant baptism focused on the future of the denomination – but not before the assemblage faced east, west, north and south while praying for the Holy Spirit to come and watching people in animal costumes march up the aisles and wander through the worship space.

Elder Fern Cloud of Dakota Presbytery led the call to worship at the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly’s opening worship ceremony Sunday morning, which included interpretative dancing and four processions of flowing banners led by animals such as buffalo and eagle.

Reminiscent of the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Vancouver, people dressed as skunks, rabbits and wolves paid homage to the area’s Native American heritage to the sound of a rhythmic drum beat and flute.

One hot issue for them (yet again) is the G.6, or The Fidelity and Chastity Standard for elected office in the denomination.  The female ruling elder who was elected moderator had this to say about the rule that required officers to either be faithfully married (heterosexual) or celibate if single:

“I have been a strong advocate of removing G-6.01016b (the fidelity and chastity standard for elected officers) from the Book of Order. I think it is a stain on the Gospel. I think it does not carry out the inclusivity that we need. And as a lawyer I think it’s pragmatically stupid because it means that we lose many faithful and committed people just because of their sexual orientation.”

A stain on the gospel?  Didn’t Jesus have something to say about adultery and porneia?  They stain the gospel, not fidelity and chastity.  This may finally be the year that the PC (USA), which has half the members it did when I was born, goes down the same road that the Episcopal Church (US) did.  They’ve been trying for years- it is important to be cutting edge you know.  With the floodgates open, the moral conservatives have largely departed.

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