Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Hosea, and more specifically, is found in the final two chapters of the book. In the thirteenth chapter, we encounter the condemnation and judgment of Ephraim’s idolatry, while in the fourteenth chapter, we encounter Israel’s future blessing. In order to truly and properly understand what is written in these chapters—ultimately, what is written in the entire book—it is imperative that you read the final verse of the fourteenth chapter. Within this particular verse is a powerful admonition and encouragement to those who would have heard the words of the prophet Hosea during that time, and all those who would read these words throughout history. “Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of the Lord are right, and the righteous will walk in them, but transgressors will stumble in them” (Hosea 14:9). WHOEVER IS WISE! WHOEVER IS DISCERNING! You read these words, and immediately you are confronted with the reality of whether or not you one who is wise, and whether you are one who is discerning. At the very end of the prophetic book of Hosea—after every prophetic word has been spoken and uttered—you will find both a call and invitation to wisdom and to discernment. In other words, though all Israel, and perhaps even all Judah would hear these words, only those who were wise would truly understand what was being spoken in their midst. Though all Israel and Judah heard the prophetic words of Hosea, only those who were discerning would know them. There is a clear distinction between those who were indeed wise before the Lord in the land, and those who were truly discerning before the Lord, and those who weren’t. I am powerfully convinced that within this final verse, we encounter a very real reality that faced Israel and Judah—the reality that even though there was a prophet in their midst, only the wise would understand, and only the discerning would know them. Even though the Lord raised up and sent His servants the prophets to the houses of Israel and Judah, only the wise and the discerning would understand and know what was being spoken to them.
If there were those who were indeed wise in the land, then it holds true that there were those who were unwise—those who would and could not understand what was being spoken and proclaimed in their midst. If there were those who were discerning in the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, then there were those who weren’t discerning—those who could not know what was being spoken to them. I am reminded of the words and instruction which Solomon wrote to his son when writing the Old Testament book of Proverbs. Oh, I am convinced that it takes a certain level of understanding, and a certain level of discernment to understand what the Lord is speaking in a generation, and to walk in faithful obedience to that which He has spoken, and that which He is speaking. Consider the words of Solomon in the first chapter of the book of Proverbs when describing the purpose of the book: “To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth—Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:2-7). After describing the general focus and purpose for the writings that were contained within the book, Solomon then goes on to speak directly to his son. Beginning with the eighth verse we start to see specific instruction given to his son. “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent” (Proverbs 1:8-10).
When you come to the twentieth verse of this same chapter, you will find the call and cry of wisdom, which is I believe a call and cry that is still heard in this generation—heard by those who have ears to hear. “Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will you scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek my diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster” (Proverbs 1:20-33).
This, my dear brother and sister is the voice, the call, the cry of wisdom, yet it sounds very much like the prophetic word of the Lord spoken to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. The words that are found in this chapter sound very much like the words which the Lord would speak to His people—words which would invite them to knowledge, invite them to understanding, invite them to discernment, invite them to wisdom, invite them to the fear of the Lord. The voice of wisdom which is found and heard in these verses is the same voice that is being heard in this generation by those who have discerning and understanding hearts. Oh, I am convinced that the only way for us to truly walk in faithful obedience and loyal commitment to the statutes, precepts and law of the Lord is to possess a wise, a discerning and an understanding heart. The Ethiopian eunuch who was on the road in the book of the Acts was reading the prophetic book of Isaiah, and specifically, the fifty-third chapter of the book. The Spirit instructed Philip to journey along that road, and it was while Philip was journeying along the road that he discovered this man reading, and approached the chariot in which he had been riding. The question Philip asked the eunuch was one of tremendous power, for it was incredibly simplistic in its nature. When Philip encountered the Ethiopian eunuch, he merely asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” Short! Simple! To the point. Philip heard the eunuch reading from the book of Isaiah, and asked him if he actually understood what he was reading. The Ethiopian eunuch responded by acknowledging that he could not understand what he was reading unless someone taught and explained it to him. Philip immediately seized the opportunity, and began to speak to Him of how Christ came to suffer and die upon the cross, and proceeded to preach the Gospel and good news of Jesus Christ. As they came to a body of water, the eunuch pointed out the body of water to Philip and asked if he could be baptized. As soon as Philip had finished baptizing this eunuch, the Spirit took and caught him up, and translated him elsewhere. It is that simple question which Philip asked the eunuch that I am convinced is so vital and crucial for our obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. “Do you understand what you are reading?”
I believe the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is asking men and women today this very important, this very pointed and powerful question concerning their understanding of what they are reading, for the discerning will understand, and the wise know. I’m sitting here this morning, and I believe with all my heart that the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord desires to reveal such a tremendous understanding of the Scriptures in these Last Days, and in this generation. Before I move any further, please understand that I am not speaking of new revelation, new doctrines, new truth, or anything else along those lines. I am convinced that there is a vast difference between someone who “experiences” new revelation, and someone who finally experiences a true and genuine understanding of the Scriptures. There are many who seek for new revelation when speaking of the divinely inspired Word of God, yet they lack a true understanding of what is written in the Scriptures. I am convinced that we as the people of God need to take the word of God in our hands, take it into the prayer closet, and ask the Holy Spirit to provide for us understanding of what has already been written. I believe that there are far too many men and women who are attempting to add new revelation, new doctrines, new truth, no visions to the word of God, and the Lord is sorely displeased with such practices. I am convinced that what is necessary in this generation in these Last Days is not new revelation, but a true and authentic understanding of what is written within the Scriptures. There is a tremendous need among the people of God in these Last Days to truly understand what is being written in the Scriptures—understanding which can only come as the Spirit who inspired the authors who wrote the book explains, expounds, and reveals the truth, the application, and the meaning of what is written.
When He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Jesus quoted the Word on three separate occasions, in order to combat the temptations which were hurled against Him. Jesus could use the Word, and could use Scripture when battling the temptation which Satan was bringing against Him, for He understood the meaning of what was written. Jesus was only able to use the Scripture when Satan came to him to tempt him, for He understood the meaning, the truth, the implications, and the application of Scripture. Oh, likewise, we can only use the Word of God and Scripture if we truly and genuinely understand it, and it is for this reason we must diligently and earnestly seek the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord for understanding of what is written in the Scripture. True and authentic obedience to the Scripture can only come if we have a genuine understanding of what is written—understanding which can only come as the Spirit reveals and opens up the truth that is contained within the Scripture. The prophet Hosea called on all those who were wise to understand those things which were spoken, and he called on those who were discerning to know what was spoken. Oh that we would possess within us a wise and a discerning heart in order that we might walk in faithfulness and obedience to Jesus our Christ and Lord. A WISE AND DISCERNING HEART! Is there any greater treasure which we can possess within us, for it is from this wise and discerning heart that we can truly know the Lord, and it is from this wise and discerning heart that the fear of the Lord is fostered and found. I believe with all my heart that the cry of our heart in this generation should be similar to the cry which proceeded from Solomon when the Lord appeared to him and told him to ask what He should give him.
Listen to Solomon’s response, and you will better understand and comprehend what is so vital in this generation, and in these Last Days: “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern your great people.” Solomon could have asked the Lord for anything, and the Lord may have very well given it to him, yet he recognized his utter need for wisdom, understanding and discernment—especially in ruling and governing the people of Israel. Solomon asked for an understanding mind in order that he might discern between good and evil, and I believe wholeheartedly that this should be the same cry within us. In this generation—in a generation when good is being labeled as evil, and evil is being labeled as good—there is, and there has never been a greater need for men and women to have an understanding mind in order to discern between good and evil. This culture and society is saturated and permeated with evil—much of which is actually being labeled as good—and there is a need for men and women to possess within themselves an understanding mind, and an understanding heart in order to discern what is truly good according to Scripture, and what is evil according to Scripture. A WISE AND DISCERNING HEART! Oh that we would cry out from the depths of our heart for such a heart to be found within us—a heart that is filled with the knowledge of that which is right and what is wrong according to the holy Scripture. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20). Oh, we are most certainly living in a day and age when good is being called evil, and evil is being called good. We are most certainly living in a generation where darkness is being labeled as light, and light is being labeled as darkness. We are living in a culture and society where bitter is being mistaken for sweet, and sweet is being mistaken for bitter.
Do you want to know and understand the culture and society in which we are living? You need look no further than the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the first chapter of the epistle which he wrote to the church in Rome. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. S0 they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 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. 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. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:18-32).
There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if the apostle Paul knew and understood the Roman culture and society, and the tremendous filth and evil that was present within it, and he penned these words with a full view and understanding of what was present within Rome. With that being said, however, we dare not and must not point the fingers at Roman culture and society, for our culture and society is just as corrupt as was Rome. We in this nation have by our unrighteousness suppressed the truth. Though we knew God in this nation, we did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him. Instead we have become futile in our thinking, and our foolish hearts have been darkened. We have claimed to be wise, yet we have become fools. We have exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal men, birds, animals and creeping things. We have exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator. Our women have exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature, and our men likewise have given up their natural relations with woman and are consumed with passion for each other. Men are committing shameless acts with men, women are committing shameless acts with women, and they are receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. We in this nation have not seen fit to acknowledge God, and so God has given us up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. We in this nation are filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. We are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. We are gossips [yes, even in the house of God], slanderers [yes, also still in the house of the Lord], haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though we have known God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, we not only do them, but give approval to those who practice them.
Oh that we would possess within us a wise and discerning heart. Oh that we would possess within us a heart that is wise and therefore understands, and a heart that is discerning and therefore knows. What is the cure? What is the remedy for all this evil? What is the remedy for all this corruption? What is the remedy for all this idolatry and immorality? The answer is found in the first three verses of the fourteenth chapter: “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him, Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously, that we may present the fruit of our lips. Assyria will not save us, we will not ride on horses; nor will we say again, Our God, to the work of our hands; for in you the orphan finds mercy” (Hosea 14:1-3). Hear and listen to the call of the Spirit in this generation to return to the Lord our God, for we have stumbled in our iniquity. Hear the call of the Spirit to take words with us and return to the Lord. Hear the call of the Spirit to come before the Lord and say, “Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously, that we may present the fruit of our lips.” TAKE AWAY ALL INIQUITY! RECEIVE US GRACIOUSLY! Oh that we would desperately cry out with these words in this late hour, and in this generation. It is time that we abandon the calves we have made in this generation—calves of idolatry and immorality, which we have worshipped instead of the Creator. Oh, this nation is one that has set up calves, high places, and altars throughout the land, and countless men and women are not only sacrificing to them, but are also kissing them [showing endearment, affection, and homage to them]. Oh that the Spirit of the Lord would raise up men and women in this generation who would cry out against the idolatry that is present within the land. Oh that the Spirit of the Lord would raise up men and women who would cry out for wise and discerning hearts—hearts that know and understand the Scriptures. Oh that there would be men and women who would study to show themselves approved, workers and workmen who need not be ashamed, and who rightly divide the truth. Let there be a people in the earth today who have at the foundation of their wise and discerning hearts the words which the apostle Paul wrote to his beloved son in the faith: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).