“I 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 5:15.
No one can accuse the Lord of not warning his people clearly of the consequences of backsliding and heeding the errors of those who reject the truth of God.
In verse 11 of this chapter 5 of Hosea, the prophet says: “Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked after the commandment.” The ‘commandment’ referred to here is that of which the reprobate king, Jeroboam who ruled the ten northern tribes, called the kingdom of Israel, following the division which took place after the death of Solomon, introduced. He is frequently referred to as “Jeroboam, who did sin, and who made Israel to sin,” 1 Kings 14:16. What a dreadful epitaph to have inscribed by the Lord upon your gravestone!
The sin that he introduced was the worship of the golden calves. The commandment Jeroboam issued is recorded in 1 Kings 12:28-30. “Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.”
He instituted that which was contrary to God’s Word and promoted a great departure from the Lord in his kingdom. That departure, that apostasy, cost Israel dearly as our text states.
I. HOW SLOW MEN ARE TO REALISE THAT TO DEPART FROM THE WORD OF GOD RESULTS IN HIS WITHDRAWING OF HIS MERCY!
Man has ever believed that he can sin and never suffer any consequences.
“How long shall they utter and speak hard things? and all the workers of iniquity boast themselves? They break in pieces thy people, O LORD, and afflict thine heritage. They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless. Yet they say, The LORD shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it,” Psalm 94:4-7.
That spirit is found today in the camp of Irish Republicanism. Sinn Fein blithely engage in their political pursuits, urging upon others conformity to their wicked ambitions, all the time nonchalant and indifferent to the murder campaign they adopted as the means to obtain political power in Northern Ireland.
‘Blithe and indifferent’ they may be but in no way does that describe the Lord’s attitude to their years of terrorism and slaughter! Here is the final destination of those who have engaged in murder, irrespective of their religious affiliation.“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death,”Revelation 21:8.
Whatever political gains Sinn Fein/IRA may feel they have gained, they will see them in a new light in that day of God’s wrath. The shameful gloating of Adams, McDonald, O’Neill and many others who have already gone to their eternal reward, will end forever and will be replaced by “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:28) in that dawn when “the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” Revelation 6:17.
It is but a kindness to these poor deluded souls that they are told this and no mere ‘political point scoring.’
II. CHRISTIANS TOO CAN BE CAUGHT UP IN THIS DECEPTION
It is not just the ungodly man that closes his eyes to the truth that “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment,” Hebrews 9:27. Christians too put out of their mind the oft-mentioned truth that “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad,” 2 Corinthians 5:10. Remember, Paul is writing to Christians and the use of the word ‘we’ in this verse includes himself! Paul said in another place: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting,” Galatians 6:7-8.
The Christian is greatly deceived when they believe that they can ‘mock’ (the word carries the meaning of ‘sneering, turning up the nose’ and appears only here in the New Testament) the Lord and pursue their own way, seeking to advance themselves by ignoring the commandments of the Lord.
That too may be seen in many spheres of life in Ulster, and further afield of course. There are Christians in Ulster who considered it advantageous to turn their backs upon God’s Word and associate themselves with the enemies of God without any thought that ill will follow such a course.
Such was the thinking of a good Judaean king, one Jehoshaphat. We read of his folly in 2 Chronicles 18:3. “And Ahab king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat king of Judah, Wilt thou go with me to Ramothgilead? And he answered him, I am as thou art, and my people as thy people; and we will be with thee in the war.”
He allied himself with one of whom it was said: “And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him,” 1 Kings 16:30. His wickedness would have been well known to all Israelites for he was rebuked by none other than Elijah and a great drought and famine was the result. “Elias (Elijah) was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months,” James 5:17.
Jehoshaphat’s alliance with Ahab brought God’s ‘wrath’ upon the good man. When he came back from the military debacle that followed his alliance with Ahab, for failure and catastrophe are always the fruit of allying yourself with God’s enemies, he was met with a stern word from the Lord. “And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD,” 2 Chronicles 19:2.
You can imagine how popular Hanani the seer was after that pronouncement. But he did right and time showed that to be so.
“Now Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David. And Jehoram his son reigned in his stead. And he had brethren the sons of Jehoshaphat, Azariah, and Jehiel, and Zechariah, and Azariah, and Michael, and Shephatiah: all these were the sons of Jehoshaphat king of Israel. And their father gave them great gifts of silver, and of gold, and of precious things, with fenced cities in Judah: but the kingdom gave he to Jehoram; because he was the firstborn. Now when Jehoram was risen up to the kingdom of his father, he strengthened himself, and slew all his brethren with the sword, and divers also of the princes of Israel. Jehoram was thirty and two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, like as did the house of Ahab: for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife: and he wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD,” 2 Chronicles 21:1-6.
That was the sad harvest that resulted from Jehoshaphat’s foolish venture in joining with Ahab.
A similar harvest is presently being gathered in here in Ulster as a result of the sad departure from the paths formerly taken by the DUP and its then leader, Dr Paisley, back in 2007 when the party joined in league with Sinn Fein IRA.
I have no doubt that wrath from the Lord followed that decision. Subsequent events surely support that view.
Today, we are in a subservient position to Sinn Fein and the DUP members, being as polite as truth permits me, are running around like headless chickens! Just what the next month or two holds for that party as we face an election forced upon us by the fools in Westminster, one cannot tell.
Yes, there is a price to be paid for sin and we all should bear that in mind, and I include myself in that call.
The Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, sadly, has within it elements who insist on supporting the DUP, despite its increased departure from God’s Word from the days when it joined in power-sharing with Sinn Fein/IRA, the party of murder!
The DUP, in its role as a partner in the power-sharing executive in Stormont, became guilty of administering funds to sodomites in order that they might promote their wickedness.
There have been those who opposed the link between the DUP and the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster though they have been largely stymied by elements within the church who defend the actions of the DUP.
That opposition was seen in the attempt in 2007 to stop me speaking against Dr Paisley remaining as Moderator while he held the office of First Minister in the power-sharing executive. I was only allowed to speak after a vote on a proposal not to hear me was lost by one vote. Later in 2007, when again there was an attempt to stop the matter being discussed, the opposition was swept away by those who had been awakened to the sinfulness of any links with the DUP’s involvement with Sinn Fein/IRA at Stormont. That night Dr Paisley indicated that he would relinquish the position of Moderator. This he did at the beginning of 2008.
But support for the DUP’s indefensible links to Sinn Fein/IRA continues still. The result of that has been a sad silence within most pulpits in response to the increasingly unbiblical positions adopted by the DUP. Some former defenders of the party voiced their disapproval of the party’s actions in nominating a lesbian as a candidate in the local elections of 2019. However, there has never been an open acknowledgement that the course initiated by Dr Paisley was utterly wrong.
Does this silence, this deference to old allegiances, grieve the Lord. I believe it does. It is a putting of loyalty to man before loyalty to the Lord. What does He Who declared: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me,” Matthew 10:37-38, make of such silence?
Have we now forgotten that truth which stayed up the Free Presbyterian Church in days of reproach, brought on by our protests against the ecumenical apostasy of the main Protestant churches? That lovely verse: “Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed,” 1 Samuel 2:30.
In our early years we found that to be most wonderfully true. But in these days of declining numbers, do we still find it so and if not WHY NOT?
There is only one answer to that question. We have ceased to honour the Lord as once we did. His interests and glory are not the priority they once were.
III. IS THERE A WAY BACK FROM THE PATHS OF FAILURE?
Yes, there most certainly is!
There’s a way back to God
from the dark paths of sin;
there’s a door that is open
and you may go in;
at Calvary’s cross is where you begin,
when you come as a sinner to Jesus.
The Free Presbyterian Church needs to experience that which it was the instrument in bringing many backslidden Christians to, in the late 60s and early 70s. Hundreds of true believers left the ecumenical churches as God’s Spirit attended the witness of the our church, chiefly, the preaching of Ian Paisley, in those blessed halcyon days! The medicine we were the instrument in dispensing amongst God’s people some 50 plus years ago, we need a very large dose of ourselves today.
A favourite passage amongst us back then is found in Joel. I can still recall Dr Paisley preaching on it in 1964.
“Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the LORD will do great things. Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength. Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil. And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you. And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed. And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed. And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit,” Joel 2:21-29.
The “locust, the cankerworm, the caterpiller, and the palmerworm” have been at work amongst us and have eaten up the progress of early years. But the Lord can do that which no man can do, He can restore the power, the standing we had in former times but which have been lost because of backsliding!
May we seize upon these words even as we saw thousands in former years seize upon them and reap the joyful fruit of recovery and revival.
Rev Ivan Foster. (Rtd)
1st November 2022