A Threefold Address
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Hosea, that portion of the Word that we have been studying together. We reminded you in the beginning of our study of the book of Hosea that the first three chapters represented the call of the prophet to the ministry to which God had entrusted him. We suggested to you that the call was different from one ordinarily given, because it was a call to live a life related to a wife and children, that domestic life being the message that would be proclaimed as a living object lesson to everybody who was living in Hosea's day.

Then we discovered that with chapter 4 and continuing on through chapter 14, the second division of the book, we had what we might refer to as the prophet's complaint .

We suggested to you that the chapters might divide themselves in this fashion: In chapter 4, there is a general arraignment , where God levels His charges against the nation of Israel for the condition in which they were; in chapter 5, verse 1, through verse 3 of chapter 6—the first three verses of chapter 6 actually belonging to chapter 5—we have a a threefold address ; in chapter 6, verses 4-11, we have what we have termed a loving appeal , based upon the subject matter of the chapter; in chapter 7, we have a day of accounting ; in chapter 8, we have what we might refer to as a trumpet announcement , which portrays the idea of judgment.

I would like for you to look with me at what is recorded in chapter 5 through the first 3 verses of chapter 6. If we do that, you will recognize that it would be entitled a threefold address . The title comes from the first verse of chapter 5, where we read:

Hosea 5

1Hear ye this, O priests; and hearken, ye house of Israel; and give ye ear, O house of the king; for judgment is toward you, because ye have been a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor.

I would like for you to follow in your Bibles now as we read the entire chapter so that the subject matter might be fixed in your minds before we look at what is actually pictured. We read, beginning with verse 2:

Hosea 5

2And the revolters are profound to make slaughter, though I have been a rebuker of them all.
3I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from me: for now, O Ephraim, thou committest whoredom, and Israel is defiled.
4They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God: for the spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them, and they have not known the LORD.
5And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity: Judah also shall fall with them.
6They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the LORD; but they shall not find him; he hath withdrawn himself from them.
7They have dealt treacherously against the LORD: for they have begotten strange children: now shall a month devour them with their portions.
8Blow ye the cornet in Gibeah, and the trumpet in Ramah: cry aloud at Bethaven, after thee, O Benjamin.
9Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke: among the tribes of Israel have I made known that which shall surely be.
10The princes of Judah were like them that remove the bound: therefore I will pour out my wrath upon them like water.
11Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked after the commandment.
12Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness.
13When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb: yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound.
14For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall rescue him.

I would like to pause there, not because we are not going to continue reading, but to emphasize that between verses 14 and 15 is a long pause. We will understand what I mean by that when we come to it for our discussion. We resume our reading, then, with verse 15:

Hosea 5

15I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.

Hosea 6

1Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.
2After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.
3Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.

We stop our reading there, re-emphasizing what we said in the beginning of our discussion, that these first three verses of chapter 6 properly belong to chapter 5 as it is recorded here in our King James version.

We suggested to you when we began the study of the book of Hosea that we were interested in the study not primarily from an historical standpoint, though you cannot study the book without being familiar with the history, but we are interested in it from the standpoint of spiritual implication and application for us. Only as we thus glean God's direction for our living from the Word of God are we fulfilling the New Testament commentary on these Old Testament statements that all of these things were written for types and for illustrations, that we who live in the end of this age might profit from the mistakes of another age, might profit from the things which were learned by them.

I believe the only way that we are going to get the lesson is to get the picture fixed firmly in our minds. So I would like for you to notice with me today the picture that is in the chapter which we have read together. Perhaps you were able to absorb some of it as we read the passage of Scripture, but I would like to break it down very simply as though we were all children in understanding so that all the facts would be very clear in our minds.

Three Groups of People Addressed

The first thing that we suggested to you we would learn from this chapter is a threefold charge from which we actually get the title for our discussion and the title for this particular chapter. What do we mean by a threefold charge? We mean, if you will look at verse 1, that three groups of people were addressed:

Hosea 5

1Hear ye this, O priests; and hearken, ye house of Israel; and give ye ear, O house of the king; for judgment is toward you…

God addressed Himself to three different groups of people and announced that judgment was impending. His first address concerned the guilt of the priests when He said, “Oh priests; harken, listen to what I have to say to you. Listen to the reason why it is necessary for me to visit judgment.”

If I were going to ask you what you might tell me about the guilt of the priests in view of what we have read together, I wonder what kind of answer you could give me. There should be some good answers, because they are all contained in the passage that we have read. But let me point them out to you so that they might be firmly fixed in your mind.

Accusations Leveled At the Priests

The first accusation that He leveled at them we are going to describe by the word snare . It comes to us because of what is seen in the last part of the first verse, where he said: “Ye have been a snare on Mizpah.” That probably doesn't mean a thing in the world to you unless you are familiar with some of the background of the people and the period, so let me remind you that Mizpah was one of the important mountains of Israel on the east. It was the mountain where Jacob received such tremendous blessing from the Lord, and so it had a spiritual significance for the people of Israel. They loved to go there to meditate as Jacob meditated just as we like to go to certain places which have sacred significance to us.

The priests, instead of encouraging their spiritual growth by their visit to Mizpah, laid a snare upon Mizpah. And what do we mean by that? They built various idol temples on the mountain of Mizpah, and when the individuals went there to worship Jehovah, they were ensnared much as a hunter might ensnare the prey, and they were led off into idolatry.

The people in some sense did not always understand what was happening to them until it had happened, so God held the priests responsible. He leveled another accusation against them. We use the word net to describe it. It, too, is found in verse 1, because he said:

Hosea 5

1…ye have been a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor.

Tabor was another mountain of importance in the history of Israel; as Mizpah was on the east, Tabor was on the west exactly opposite. Readers of the New Testament are more familiar with it as the Mount of Transfiguration, but in the Old Testament it was the mountain upon which Balaam stood when he tried to curse the nation of Israel because of the money that Balak was giving him. You will recall that he was unable to do it because every time he opened his mouth as a means of pronouncing a curse, God turned his words into blessing. You can see why Mount Tabor would have a special place of blessing in the life of Israel.

But did the priests use it to encourage their spiritual growth? No, they used it upon which to spread a net into which they would step unconsciously; then they would be lifted from their feet and be dashed into idolatrous worship which they would not understand until after they had actually gotten into it.

There is a third charge which God leveled at the priests. As they spread their snares on Mizpah and their nets upon Tabor, they dug a pit at Chittim, covered it over with brush (figuratively speaking) so that the people might fall in it. So the third word we use to describe the accusation which God leveled at the priests is the word pit . You may wonder where that comes to us. If you will look at verse 2 of the chapter, you will discover where:

Hosea 5

2And the revolters are profound to make slaughter, though I have been a rebuker of them all.

You may say, “I don't see anything there that suggests what you just said. I don't see anything there that suggests they built a pit upon Mt. Achor or upon Mt Chittim—either of the terms being proper.” That's true, for this King James translation of this particular verse is an unhappy translation. If you have a marginal reference edition, that is called to your attention.

If you are familiar with any of the other translations, you know that correction has been made. I offer to you the Phillips translation because I like the way that it is expressed. Phillips renders the second verse: “The revolters dug a deep pit at Chittim but I, God, am the one who is the hunter and all of you shall be my prey.” If you examine what is recorded here in verse 2 in the light of other recorded material, you find that this is exactly what happened. Three sacred places where people would ordinarily go for spiritual help and blessing have been changed into idolatrous places by the action of the priests. God held them responsible. We have said before, and we would emphasize again, that Israel can be no stronger spiritually than her spiritual leadership.

The Guilt of the Princes

Keep in mind, at the moment all we are attempting to do is to get the picture fixed firmly in your minds before we draw any parallels or make any observations from our standpoint. So, let's pass on to the second charge, that which we call the guilt of the princes ; that is, the guilt of the ruling house. Look again at verse 1:

Hosea 5

1Hear ye this, O priests; and hearken, ye house of Israel; and give ye ear, O house of the king; for judgment is toward you, because ye have been a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor.

Notice the phrase, “O house of the king…” The house of the king, being responsible for the government of the land, could have prevented the idolatrous things into which Israel had slipped if they had been honest in the administration of judgment, but they were not. If you will look down at verse 10, you will see the accusation that was leveled at the house of the king, for there we read:

Hosea 5

10The princes of Judah were like them that remove the bound: therefore I will pour out my wrath upon them like water.

The word bound could better be translated boundary , and the word boundary refers to landmarks. If you are familiar with Old Testament history, you know that every tribe was given a certain portion in the land of Canaan. Each tribe had the responsibility of putting up landmarks not only for his tribe, but for the individual families of his tribe, so that these landmarks would be a lasting memorial that people would observe forever.

But some of the kings who were not interested in what God wanted, who were interested in what they wanted, began what we would call in our day the socialization of the land , and they began to remove the landmarks so that nobody would have any real certainty about anything that he owned. Because this would be something that would bring about the eventual destruction of the nation, God frowned upon it and He said, “The kings did this. They should not have done it.”

A Violation of Prescribed Worship

There is another thing that God said the kings were responsible for, and we have used the word commandment to indicate it. You find it described in verse 11:

Hosea 5

11Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked after the commandment.

At the moment, we are interested only in the statement the commandment . This word commandment does not refer to what we might call the Ten Commandment s , nor does it refer to what we might call certain stipulations that were placed in the Word of God concerning the activities of the nation of Israel. This particular commandment referred to a specific thing which the king of Israel did.

Keep in mind, by this time the nation was divided into the Kingdom of Judah (two tribes) and the Kingdom of Israel (ten tribes). In the Kingdom of Judah was the city of Jerusalem, the sacred place for all Israel. The king of Israel, Jehosophat, was not interested in everybody making the long trip to Jerusalem, so he set up a golden calf in Samaria, in the tribe of Ephraim, and he commanded everybody in all of the ten tribes to forget about going down to Jerusalem and instead come to the shrine in Samaria where all of Israel was to worship.

This was in direct violation, of course, to what God had plainly described in the Word, for it divided the people in their worship and took away from the worship of Jehovah. So the king's house, the ruling house, was guilty of leading the people astray by issuing this commandment concerning the matter of worship.

The Pride of Israel

We said there was a threefold charge, didn't we? We noticed the charge that was made against the priests and the charge that was made against the princes. Now we want to notice the charge that is leveled at the people themselves. If you will glance at verse 1 again, you will see it:

Hosea 5

1Hear ye this, O priests; and hearken, ye house of Israel; and give ye ear, O house of the king; for judgment is toward you, because ye have been a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor.

Notice, “O house of Israel.” Yes, the priests are responsible for being lax in their spiritual leadership. The royal house is responsible for not being true to the oath that it took to protect the covenants of God, but the people are responsible as well. Perhaps you are saying today, “I don't see why you say the people are responsible. Why are they to blame?” I would like to suggest to you one reason they are to blame, regardless of the conditions made by the priests or the princes. Notice verse 5, please:

Hosea 5

5And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity: Judah also shall fall with them.

Keep in mind when he uses the words Israel , Ephraim , and Judah , he is not talking about three groups of people. He is talking about two: Israel, Ephraim, the chief tribe, and Judah–the two tribes of the southern kingdom. What is He saying? He said, “If anybody wants to know why I have to visit judgment upon Israel, all you need to do is examine the testimony of her pride, for her pride doth testify to her face.”

Ephraim considered herself the leader of all of Israel, because she was chosen, she felt, to take the place of a disobedient tribe. Though that was true, it went to her head and she never did fully recover from the sin of pride. That's the reason we read in verse 5 that “Ephraim shall fall and Judah also shall fall because there is nothing else left for them to do when pride is the center of the life.”

The Sin of Promiscuity

We use another word to describe why God had to judge the people, according to the text, the word promiscuity . It is not a word that we use often, but it is described in verse 7:

Hosea 5

7They have dealt treacherously against the LORD: for they have begotten strange children: now shall a month devour them with their portions.

Notice the phrase, “they have begotten strange children.” Much is said in the Old Testament concerning adultery. Sometimes it refers to spiritual adultery when the people substitute the idols for God. Sometimes it refers to foreign marriages when the children of Israel intermarried with Gentiles. In this particular instance, this was the case. Instead of marrying among their own people as God had instructed them to do, they were intermarrying with foreign nations, and they were rearing a generation that knew not God and that cursed their father and their mother, and God was going to have to judge them for it. For if they had not been promiscuous in this sense, this never would have occurred.

Premeditated Idolatry

There is another word that we are going to use to describe the reason God had to judge them. We coined the word for this discussion, the word premeditation in verse 11:

Hosea 5

11Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked after the commandment.

Notice the phrase, “he willingly walked after the commandment.” You may ask, “Wasn't that the commandment that the king made concerning not going to Jerusalem any more and staying there in Ephraim for the worship of the golden calf?” Yes, it was. That was the commandment that the king made and that he insisted be enforced. You may be saying at the moment, “Well, if this is true why, then, are the people held responsible for it? If the king said it had to be, why are they to blame?”

That is the reason that I ask you again to look at verse 11 and notice the words, “because he willingly walked after the commandment.” The king made the commandment, that's true, and the king will be held responsible for it, but the people did not have to respond, and yet they did. They willingly walked after the commandment.

The idea of premeditation is not indicated so much in our King James translation as it is indicated in other translations, some of which are rendered a mind set on following false gods , a spirit that caused them to be content to walk after idol images.

They were a people who had gone after vanity with a will. These translations all suggest to you that these individuals were not forced to do what they did, but what was in the land found a ready response in their hearts, and this is so often the case with nations. We are prone to blame leaders when leaders could not do nearly so much as they do if they did not find a ready heart in the populace which they governed.

A Treacherous Condition

We have some other things to say about the chapter in order that the picture might be plainly set for these things that God charged them with. These things by which God declared their guilt were not mere abstract things that were written on paper and nothing else. They have resulted in what I have been pleased to call, for want of a better way of describing it, a treacherous condition . Yes, these people who lived in the atmosphere which we have already pictured were found in a very treacherous condition.

I use the word treacherous because everything about it was uncertain, not only the judgment that was about to fall, but the very life they lived had no really sure and certain foundation. The condition which I talk about might be described, first, by the word delusion . Look at verse 3:

Hosea 5

3I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from me: for now, O Ephraim, thou committest whoredom, and Israel is defiled.

Why did God say, “I know Ephraim.”? Interpret the phrase in the light of the context, and you will understand that these people were deluded into thinking that somehow God did not know what was going on, that somehow they could do what they were doing and God did not know it, that somehow, some way, God had fallen asleep at the switch.

This passage of Scripture does not only state that God knows Ephraim, but in the original text it is even more emphatic, for if you wanted to read it very literally you could read it: “I have known and I will always know what Ephraim is doing.” There is no way to escape the knowledge of God of the doings of men. Their delusion was indicated in verse 6:

Hosea 5

6They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the LORD; but they shall not find him; he hath withdrawn himself from them.

This is a reference to the fact that on the annual pilgrimages, they took with them their sheep and their cattle with the idea of sacrificing to God with the thought that God would hear them. “We will see Him, and we will have full fellowship with Him.” Somebody might have whispered in their ear, “Well, what about Mizpah, where you went to worship the idols? What about Tabor? What about Chittim?” “Well, that doesn't matter. God doesn't mind. God will be glad to see us.”

Beloved, this is delusion to think as Israel did that God ignored the righteous requirements of His law. This is a treacherous state in which to find oneself, a treacherous foundation upon which to rest.

Dominated By Sin

There is another word that describes their condition. I have used the word domination to describe what is presented in verse 4:

Hosea 5

4They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God: for the spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them, and they have not known the LORD.

“They will not frame their doings.” You say, “What has that got to do with domination? What has that got to do with people being absolutely incapable of doing what they want to do?” I think it will be clear to you if you look at another translation with me of this same verse. This translation by Phillips suggests it is their deeds which block their path back to God. Their spirit is steeped in unfaithfulness.

I have often said that sin is its own worst punishment. I have often said that sin binds men, and it's true. Sometimes we use the word addiction only in relation to drugs and alcohol, and certainly we are concerned about those addictions, but Beloved, we would remind you that sin is addictive within itself. Particularly the individual who professes to know the Lord and yet walks out of fellowship with Him finds himself so bound down in the deeds which he is doing that those very deeds stand in the way of coming back to God. Israel was in that state. She had lived so carelessly and had become so involved that she was completely dominated by the life that she lived and she could do absolutely nothing about it.

Lacking In Spiritual Perception

There is one other word that I want to use to describe this treacherous condition of Israel, and it is the word dullness . It, too, is brought to our attention by what we find in verse 4:

Hosea 5

4They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God: for the spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them, and they have not known the LORD.

I use the word dullness here for the sake of alliteration, but I use it also with the idea of the lack of spiritual perception. It is possible when men live in sin without regard to what God would have them do that a spirit of dullness grips them and their spiritual perception is ruined and they have no way of really knowing what God would have them do. What would seem ordinary, simple, spiritual truth, easy to be absorbed, cannot be absorbed by them; they are in such sad condition.

Inevitable Consequences

A word about the inevitable consequences: Certainly if the things occurred which occurred as we described them on the part of the princes and on the part of the priests and on the part of the people, if the results were as we suggested to you, then it would only be natural for us to assume that there would be some consequences which would be inevitable—no way in the world to escape them.

The first one to which we call your attention is what we have described as interrupted communion . You cannot do what Israel did in the manner in which Israel did it without communion and fellowship being interrupted. If you will notice verse 6:

Hosea 5

6They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the LORD; but they shall not find him; he hath withdrawn himself from them.

We are not talking about the loss of salvation now. We are talking about the loss of fellowship. When individuals do as Israel did and walk according to their own dictates instead of the direct will of God, fellowship is interrupted. Sometimes that fellowship is periodic as far as its interruption is concerned, because anytime that individual wished to meet God's conditions, God is ready to meet their conditions as well. But sometimes the interruption becomes permanent, and in relation to the nation of Israel that is true. If you will look at verse 14, you will read:

Hosea 5

14For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall rescue him.

Israel reached the place finally where God found it necessary to remove His blessing, not to be restored as far as any present period of time is concerned.

Impending Judgment

There was another inevitable consequence, and that was these people lived under the threat of impending judgment. You know, sometimes we get the idea that judgment day is way off yonder in eternity; we don't know how far away. People look at it so lightly that they are apt to say, “I will take my chances. I will get everything straightened out before Judgment Day.” But Israel lived under the threat of impending judgment. If you will glance down at verse 7, God spoke of it as being only a month away. This was a figurative expression, not literal, because judgment did not come within a month. It is the same idea that James had when he said, “The judge standeth at the door” (James 5:9). Things have gone so far that they cannot go much father. People live under the threat of impending judgment.

Verse 8 very forcefully describes the suggestion, for there we read:

Hosea 5

8Blow ye the cornet in Gibeah, and the trumpet in Ramah: cry aloud at Bethaven, after thee, O Benjamin.

When Hosea was preaching, he uttered these words which suggest the immediate impending attack of the enemy—so near that Benjamin had better take to his heels and run, because this judgment was impending judgment.

Invisible Destruction

There is something else that is a consequence which many people do not recognize, and that is what I have been pleased to call invisible destruction . Most of us, you know, are bothered only by what we see. When the house falls down, we say “This is a terrible thing.”, but if someone were to X-ray the house and show us all of the timbers hollowed out by termites where only a shell was left, we wouldn't be too concerned. We would say, “Oh, well, maybe there is something wrong with the X-ray.”

There are some of us who question everything; we won't believe a thing until calamity comes. Israel was living in this state of invisible destruction. If you will look at verse 12, God said:

Hosea 5

12Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness.

A moth does his work without your knowing anything about it. One of the biggest surprises, I think, that I have received was one winter when I reached in the closet to get my overcoat on one of those cold days, and put it on and fixed everything straight—I like to leave the house at least straight—and my wife said, “What in the world happened to your coat?” I said, “Nothing. Isn't it nice, as old as it is?” She said, “What happened to your sleeve?” I looked at my sleeve and said, “Not a thing. What are you talking about?” She pointed to the shoulder and there was a great big hole, and I didn't even notice it. The moth had been at work. We had even had the house treated and didn't even know we had anything like that in it.

That is what I am talking about. Israel was in this state. While she was singing her hymns, so to speak, and enjoying her prosperity, God was dealing with her as a moth dealt with that coat. God said, you will notice, that He would be rottenness to Israel. A better word would be dry rot . An illustration more familiar to most of us in this particular hour is the work of the termite. The shell is there. Everything looks fine on the outside, and you put on too much weight and then destruction comes. We have taken a long time to paint the picture for you. This is it, and I dare say that when you read the chapter, you did not realize the serious condition in which Israel was at that particular time.

I suggest to you that the picture which we have painted is also a parable. When I use the word parable , I am not suggesting that it is not a real historical event. I am suggesting to you it was meant to teach us some principles which we would do well to heed as nations and as individuals.

The Progressive Results of Disobedience

The first principle that I would like for you to recognize is related to the progressive results of disobedience. When a child of God disobeys Him, there would be one act of disobedience and that in itself would be serious enough, but it sets a lot of things in motion, one thing leading to another until the individual finds himself in a very hopeless state.

It begins with pride. “A haughty spirit goeth before a fall,” says the Word of God (Proverbs 16:18). Pride is the first of seven sins listed in the Bible as an abomination to God. And when I speak about pride, I am not speaking about pride in your hairdo or pride in your wheels. I am speaking about the pride that enables you to feel that you—although nobody else has succeeded in doing it—can do what you want to do, regardless of what God wants, and get away with it. That pride somehow has convinced you that you have some special favor or you have some special standing with God. The pride caused the nation to think that because she is rich and prosperous and blessed of God, nothing will ever happen to her.

Pride in itself is bad enough, but it leads to presumption. That presumption will cause the individual to presume that all he has to do is perform the outward manifestations of religion, as is described in verse 6, by going with the flocks and the herds, regardless of the condition of the heart.

There are some individuals who are proud of the fact that they are faithful churchgoers. I would not say anything to discourage you from assembling yourselves together, for God commands it in His Word. But, Beloved, far more important than being sure that you are in church every Sunday is being sure that your heart is right with God. Many, many people presume that they can do as they wish during the week, so to speak, and be sure that they have discharged their religious obligations on Sunday, and everything else is going to work out all right. That individual, as John says in his first epistle, “declares that he is in fellowship and walking in darkness” (I John 1:6). That individual presumes that somehow God will not know what he is doing—just like God didn't know what Israel was doing—that somehow everything he does is hidden from the Lord. One of the things that we need to keep in mind always is that nothing is hidden from Him. “All things are naked before whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13).

Yes, the promiscuity of Israel should be a warning to us. When Israel as a nation forgot the principles which made her great and became one of a world of nations, the judgment of God fell. When a Christian breaks down his walls of separation and does what he knows he should not do—in the plain teaching of the Word of God—regardless of the reason he does it, then he can expect the judgment of God to fall upon him.

Spiritual Deterioration

The word deterioration I have used to suggest to you one of the saddest things that I think I have ever seen in the lives of Christians, and I see it often—more often at least than I want to see it. You know, one of the things that brings great joy is Christian growth. One of the things that thrills my heart is to observe people who come here to Abilene Bible Church and by their own admission know very little of the Word of God, and they sit under the ministry of the Word, and they apply it to their hearts, and you see them grow, you see them blossom, you see a difference in them.

Oh no, they don't get up and make a testimony about it. They don't get up and make an announcement about it, but you see it. You see the growth. And if you tend to be discouraged and become weary and think it would be nice to sit down and rest, you find encouragement in the growth that you see before your eyes. We have seen much of that through the years and it has encouraged our hearts.

But a thing that grieves our hearts tremendously is to see an individual, when we know that they have taken their first step, to break their fellowship with God. Oh, what we want to do is run to them and say, “Please don't do that. Why don't you right now recognize what you have done and confess your sin and be restored to fellowship?” That's what we want to do. And you say, “Why don't you do it?” Well, we learned a long, long time ago that we can't do what the Holy Spirit can do, and all we do is make the gap wider and wedge the door the tighter; but it grieves us. We want to say, “Oh, what you have done right now is small in comparison to what is going to happen if you continue to walk out of fellowship.” But we see this deterioration of which we speak grow deeper and deeper and deeper, and an individual who was once a thrilling illustration of God's mighty power, we find eventually a weakling in spiritual things, dried up and practically worthless.

The Certainty of Judgment

That in itself would be bad enough, but the parable goes on to mention one other thing. I have used the word destruction to aid your memory. I am talking about judgment. God is so merciful; God is so kind. How long was it that He dealt with Israel before He like a lion tore them and went away? How long was it? Oh, something over three thousand years. He was so patient. He was so merciful. He was so kind. He put up with so much, but the day came when the young lion had to come out and claw the nation and destroy it for all practical purposes of speaking. Strange to think of the Shepherd turning into a Lion, but He does.

I ask you this question to provoke your thinking. How much longer do you think God is going to deal with us, as a nation, in mercy? How much longer do you think He is going to deal with us? I am fearful. It seems to me that I can feel the breath of the lion on the neck of our nation. Let's come down to where we are right now. Let me ask you a question, a very personal question. I hope that you will bring your mind and your thoughts back to what I am saying right now, for this is very serious: How much longer is God going to deal with you as an individual? At the moment, I am not talking to the unsaved. At the moment, I am not talking to people who have never trusted Christ as Savior. At the moment, I am talking to individuals who know they are born again, but who are out of fellowship and have continued so for quite some time.

Every once in a while you are reminded that fellowship ought to be restored, but the works that you are doing, the deeds that you are doing, have gotten in the way and you haven't been able to come back to God. Well, Friend, destruction is inevitable.

I am not talking about the loss of your salvation, and I am not talking about Hell, but I am talking about the fact that God reaches a place where He says to an individual, “I have put up with this as long as I am going to put up with it. You either take care of it, or I am going to.” “He who judges himself shall not be judged, but when he is judged he is chastened of the Lord, because he cannot be condemned with the world” (I Corinthians 11:31-32).

Conclusion

Is God saying to some of you, “You had better straighten it out because if you don't, I am going to?” I have no way of knowing. I hope your ear is in tune to His voice. I hope you know, and I beg of you— because I have lived long enough to see the result of people disobeying God's voice—I beg of you, if you have continued walking in darkness while you should be walking in the light, that you acknowledge it to the Lord now. Accept the forgiveness which He so freely offers, and walk in the light which is restored, for judgment awaits you.


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