by 鍾卓權牧師 ( Rev. Bernie Chung )
以賽亞在南國猶大作先知的同時正是先知何西亞在北國以色列傳講天父對以色列子民的譴責，因為他們離棄正道，上帝在責備中卻仍然以慈聲呼喚他們歸向耶和華。那時以色列子民如同一個少年人離家出走， 遠離了父母的教導和呵護，被外界新鮮的事物所吸引，尋求自己的道路，沉溺於獨自自由的生活，其結果是迷失了方向，深陷罪惡之中。以最近討論的熱點電子煙為例，吸電子煙成為時尚，若是抵擋不了它的誘惑，也加入吸電子煙的流行行列，就會危害自己的健康甚至生命，對一些人而言， 肺部嚴重受到傷害，已達無可挽救的地步， 後悔為時已晚。
我們所居住的美國本以聖經的原則立國，可算是較為敬畏 神的國家，但這個社會卻越來越遠離上帝，並無知地以輕忽上帝的話語為傲，社會各階層均岀現不同層次的問題，此時才開始醒誤問這個社會是怎麼了？在教會裏有明白救恩並接受了耶穌為主，也有聖經知識的基礎，這些人本應以基督的心為心，卻在不自覺中渺視他人，身為肢體卻不明白各盡其職，建立基督的身體，那怎能在事奉中榮神益人呢？ 若能「存心謙卑、各人看別人比自己強」(腓立比書 2:3)，專一事奉，保守自潔，才能勝過那邪惡空中的掌權者。倘若我們的心不與上帝同在、與神疏遠，豈能蒙祂喜悅我們的事奉呢 ？
何西阿書 11:4 節說：「我用慈繩愛索牽引他們…」，「慈繩愛索」是指父母牽引孩子學走路的繩子。上帝這樣表達了祂是如此愛以色列猶如自己的孩子，但是祂愈以愛呼喚他們，他們愈堅持虛假的信心和信靠偶像，原本牽引孩子的慈繩愛索是為幫助他們不至跌倒、免得偏離正途而立。同樣，上帝愛我們的心是從沒有改變過。弟兄姊妹們，讓我們謙卑在上帝面前自我反省，由牧師開始在主前禱告領受衪的教導，並虛心接受他人善意的勸導，若這是父神的心意，豈可故步自封墨守成規呢？感謝主的「慈繩愛索」。
While Isaiah was a prophet in the Southern kingdom of Judah, Hosea preached God’s condemnation to the children of Israel in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The Israelites had gone astray from the right path, but God still called them to return to Him with mercy. At that time, the Israelites seemed to be like teenagers who had left their parents' homes and were enjoying their newfound freedom. They were farther and farther away from the teachings and care of their parents. They were attracted by the fresh and new scenes of the outside world—seeking the path on their own—finally losing their way and falling into the traps of sins. Let’s take the recent electronic cigarettes as an example. After smoking e-cigarettes became popular, many young people could not resist the temptations even though such habit has already harmed their health and resulting in death. Sadly, for some people it was already too late.
The United States in which we live was founded on the principles of the Bible. It was a country that feared God. However, this country is farther and farther away from God now. People openly despise and ignore the Words of God. Why are we still asking the question, “Why are there so many problems at different levels of our society today?” Within church communities, there are people who understand salvation and have accepted Jesus as their Savior. Their knowledge of the Bible seems quite abundant. However, they lack the heart of Christ and unity in the Lord when serving. How can they still bring glory to God and benefit others? “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 NIV). We must consecrate ourselves and serve God wholeheartedly. This is the only way to overcome the power of Satan—ruler of the kingdom of the air. If our hearts are not with God and alienated from Him, would God be pleased with our ministry?
“I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them” (Hosea 11:4). The cords and ties refer to the ropes that were used to pull the child when he/she is learning to walk. God thus expressed that He loves the Israelites so much that He treats them as His own children. Unfortunately, when God called the Israelites with love, they would reproach God all the more, relying on false faith and worshipping idols. By pulling the children's cords of love, God prevented them from falling and from straying away from the right path. God has always loved us without change. Brothers and Sisters, let’s humble ourselves before God in self-reflection. I will start with myself first by seeking God’s teaching through prayers. I will listen attentively to suggestions of others. How can someone stubbornly hold on to traditions and old ways, which impedes progress; especially when the needed changes are in lockstep with the mindset of our Father? Thank you Lord for leading us with cords of human kindness, with ties of love! Give us the wisdom to stay close to you and not strain our relationship.