Here are some items from today’s church activities:
A. The main text was John 21, which contains the story of Doubting Thomas. The youth pastor said that, when we doubt God, that is a good time to come to church, for God and God’s Spirit are at work there. Doubting Thomas found Jesus when he gathered with the other disciples, who were in hiding.
B. The pastor said that Thomas had faith, for Thomas in John 11:16 is willing to go with Jesus to Jerusalem and to die there with him. The pastor presented Thomas’s “doubt” in John 21 as a reluctance to forgive. Jesus had just commissioned his disciples to go out and spread forgiveness. The pastor speculated that Thomas did not want to forgive those who crucified Jesus and were forcing the disciples into hiding. We, similarly, are reluctant to forgive, but God can fill us with his forgiveness and thereby motivate us to spread forgiveness to others. According to the pastor, when the risen Jesus appeared to Thomas and blessed those who do not see but believe, Jesus was not rebuking Thomas but rather was pronouncing a blessing on those who will believe thereafter. They are the beneficiaries of Jesus’s work.
C. The Sunday school class focused on Hosea 1 and the interpretation of Hosea 1:10 (2:1) in II Peter 2:10. Due to Northern Israel’s idolatry, God plans to strip her of her identity as God’s people, to withdraw mercy, and to sow judgment. The names of Hosea’s children—-Lo-Ammi (“not my people”), Lo-Ruchama (“no mercy”), and Jezreel (which relates to sowing)—-reflect this. God promises eventually to reverse this judgment: Israel and Judah once more will become God’s people, they will receive mercy, and they will be sown in their land. Jezreel was known as a place of judgment, for that was where Jehu slaughtered Ahab’s line, the priests of Baal, and Jezebel (II Kings 8-10); the pastor drew a parallel with “Ground Zero” and “Columbine,” names that have come to be associated with tragedy. God promises that “Jezreel” will come to be associated with God’s restoration of Israel. In II Peter 2:10, God takes Gentiles, who lack an identity as God’s people and as recipients of God’s mercy, and makes them God’s people through Christ.
D. Hosea 1:10 (2:1) states: “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God” (KJV). What is the place where the Israelites were told that they are not God’s people, and where they will be called sons of the living God? The pastor referred to two possible solutions. One solution is that the “place” is the land of Israel; Hosea 2:25 seems to depict God affirming that the Israelites are his people after God sows them into their land. Another solution is that the “place” is the wilderness, for Hosea 2:14 presents God luring the Israelites into the wilderness and speaking tenderly to them before restoring them to their land; the pastor said that it was in the Sinai wilderness that God proclaimed the Israelites (and the mixed multitude with them) to be his people, and the LORD to be their God. It seems, though, that Israel is affirmed as God’s people in a variety of contexts, not just at Sinai (see this helpful list). Looking at commentaries, I saw still other solutions. One view is that God is saying that, instead of the Israelites not being God’s people, they will be God’s people; checking HALOT and BDB, however, I see no explicit indication that “maqom” means “instead,” for it predominantly refers to a physical place. Another solution, advanced in a targum, is that the place is Israel’s place of exile: the place of Israel’s punishment and scattering as a people will become the place where God will affirm her once more as God’s people. Yet another solution is that the “place” is wherever the Jews and Gentiles are seen as “not God’s people”: Jews and Gentiles who receive Christ become God’s people, wherever they may be. I think the most sensible solution is that Israel is affirmed as God’s people in the land of Israel, but that is a culmination of a process of God reaching out to Israel in love (i.e., in exile, in the wilderness).
E. The pastor said that Northern Israel never was historically returned to her land, for she disappeared from history after the Assyrians conquered her and took her into exile. Judah, by contrast, did return to her land. I was going to ask how the pastor envisions the promised restoration of Northern Israel taking place. I did not get to ask my question, but the pastor still addressed it, in some form. He seemed to say that it will be fulfilled in Christ. Perhaps he means that the Northern Israelites will be resurrected and then will be returned to their land.