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Nov 04, 2018

Ties That Surprise!

Passage: Hosea 1-14

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Mining the Prophets

Keywords: children, covenant, god's heart, hosea, marriage, pain, unfaithfulness, unending love

Summary:

Marriage is under attack among God's people in America like never before. That's not a new problem. It's an opportunity to experience the heart of God for each of us in some of the deepest ways possible. The book of Hosea is all about God and His people's intimate covenant relationship...and it's also all about marriage. Expect God to stretch you with this prophet!

Detail:

Ties That Surprise!

#3 in Mining the Prophets

Hosea 1-14

November 3, 2018

INTRO:  History Quiz!

  1. Who is this??? (He was President of the Confederate States during the Civil War—Jefferson Davis.)
  2. Who is this??? (Everybody knows Abraham Lincoln, right?)
  3. What was the capital of the Southern States’ Confederacy? (Montgomery, Alabama)
  4. What was the capital of the U.S. during that time? (Washington, D.C.)

Q:  Who was more righteous, the North or the South?  J  (Now I’m asking for another civil war!) 

War and its devastating effects have, throughout human history, often been the very horrible “tool of God” to bring judgment against evil.

How many of us would say that the Civil War was partially God’s judgment upon our nation for the horrific institution of slavery

Interestingly, while many contend that the War was about State’s Rights, Abraham Lincoln himself stated in his 2nd Inaugural Address in March of 1865 (just a month before his assassination) that slavery was “somehow the cause of the war.”  Listen to the amazing words of Lincoln, a man who many believe came to faith in Jesus Christ during his presidency in the midst the Civil War.  Looking back at the state of the Union and the impending Civil War at the time of his 1st Inaugural Address 4 years earlier, Lincoln said,

“One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest [slavery] was somehow the cause of the war….Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained [600,000 casualties]. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict [slavery] might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding.

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces [allusion to Gen. 3:19], but let us judge not, that we be not judged [Mt. 7:1].

The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully.

[Lincoln goes on to talk about “the scourge of war” being God’s just recompense for this horrible evil of slavery.] 

“Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." [Ps. 19:9]

Lincoln had a very different worldview from most American’s today.  He saw war as evidence that God was being true to His very nature.  It was His justice meted out in punishment for human injustice. How far we have come to now condemn God for the horrible wars and suffering we humankind inflict on one another rather than admit God is just in allowing war as punishment. 

            So what does all this have to do with the book of Hosea?  Several things.

  1. This book begins by acknowledging a divided kingdom, a nation in its own civil war—Israel and Judah. Hosea is a prophet speaking to the northern kingdom of Israel which had broken away from the southern kingdom of Judah just after the death of King Solomon.  Hosea 1:1 lists 4 kings of Judah at the time (the legitimate center of worship) and 1 king of Israel (Jeroboam II), the illegitimate breakoff nation and centers of worship.  
  2. Like most of the prophetic books of the O.T., this prophecy is directed against the people of God, in this case the nation of Israel for their terrible apostasy/ unfaithfulness against God. You see, when the kingdom split after Solomon’s death, Jeroboam (the 1st) became rebel king of the northern part.  And since Jerusalem was in the southern part (Judah), and God’s Word acknowledged only one place of formal worship at one Temple in Jerusalem, guess what Israel, the Northern Kingdom, decided to do to encourage northern/Israel residents to not worship in Jerusalem?  They set up TWO different cities of worship in the north, Bethel and Dan, with golden calf idols and encouraged worship there!     

            So “Hosea son of Beeri”, an unknown young man from a very no-name family, begins to hear from the Lord.  He’s apparently a real God-seeker with a determined bent to obey God, no matter what the cost.  What do I mean? 

Apparently the first message he hears from God was a message most of us would have completely discounted and rejected.  God is going to ask him to DO something that is going to tear his heart apart over the remaining years of his life.  He’s going to ask him to engage in marriage, THE most binding covenant any human being can make with someone.  And He’s going to ask him to do it with someone who NOBODY’S mama or papa are ever going to give thumbs up to—“a sexually promiscuous woman.” 

That’s how the NIV translates it…which is a pretty nice way of saying something that is pretty strong in the original Hebrewa woman of harlotry (pl. in Hb., indicating a.) intensity or b.) repetition [“a harlots harlot”?]).  Since temple prostitution was practiced in Ba’al worship going on in Israel in the day, many young women began their sexually activity in life by “fertility rites” that involved sex with the priests of the day. 

NOTE:  It is utterly amazing how sexual promiscuity/immorality in a culture aligns with worship of that culture’s false gods!  Ba’al worship in those days involved both sexual activity as virtually a worship event and sacrifice of resulting children to Ba’al.  So in the name of fertility and sexual freedom, the products of that fertility/freedom were sacrificed back to Ba’al. 

APP:   Does any of that sound familiar today???  What’s the “Ba’al-ism” of our day? 

What do our public schools tell young people about sex?  Engage in it “whenever you feel ready”…in whatever form you want (vaginal, anal or oral)…with whomever you want (male, female, bi-sexual, pan-sexual, etc.)…whenever you want…as frequently as you want…but just don’t get pregnant!!!  If you do…if your body actually responds like it’s created to…what should you do with that “unwanted pregnancy”??? Offer it up to the gods of “the right to choose” or “women’s rights”, i.e. abortion.  Sadly the very gift God gave women to be creators and nurturer’s of life has been devalued into a culture of death.  See how utterly timely the prophets are?

Look at God’s command to Hosea in vs. 2:  “The Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” 

3 commands:  go and find a promiscuous woman, marry her and then have children (pl) with her

            Parents, what would you say if your son came to you one day and said, “Hey Mom and Dad, God has been speaking to me about who I’m supposed to marry.” 

Really?  Whose that, Jr.?” 

“Well, He hasn’t told me their name but He did give me something by which to narrow the field.”

“Oh, what’s that?”

“He told me to find a really loose, sexually active, promiscuous woman.” 

Your response would be…???!!!

            This is one of the really HARD things about being a prophet in the O.T.  Not only did most people hate your message your entire life and want to kill you for it; God whom you were asked to represent would often ask you to do some pretty shocking and difficult things

  • Ezekiel was told to cook his food over human excrement and to not morn the death of his much-loved wife.
  • Isaiah was told to go naked or nearly naked (underwear?) throughout Jerusalem for about 3 years to give a shocking visual of God’s impending judgment.
  • Hosea was told to marry an unfaithful woman, a woman who was effectively a sex-addict.

            Let’s put ourselves in Hosea’s sandals for a moment.  Imagine you are a godly young person in your late teens.  God tells you He is going to use you to bring a message to your nation…a call to spiritual revival.  But He’s going to use your marriage to be a sort of living play…visual illustration…of your nation’s relationship with God. 

            Then, for starters, God tells you to find a sexually active and promiscuous beauty and marry her.  That probably wasn’t any harder then than it is now in our culture.  Lots of women are as much sexual addicts as men are now.  Sadly, many are that way because of the sexual abuse they have suffered at the hands of selfish, evil men. 

But back to Hosea.  He’s got God’s heart about your nation and about marriage.  So what do you imagine Hosea thought his influence would be upon this woman once he married her? 

            Sure!  You’re faithful love is going to transform her, right?  Your love of her for all she is, not just her body, is going to show her what real love is…and she’s going to want real love more than just being used by other men.  She just hasn’t been loved with godly sacrificial love yet.  That’s the problem!  She’s going to be changed by her marriage to you!

            So you start looking for this new, hot, beauty that God has told you to find.  Sure enough, this one young woman catches your eye and gets your heart racing.  You share a few glasses of wine, go meet the parents and ask her daddy, Diblaim, if you can marry her.  By the way, her name is… GOMER!!!  (I know, it doesn’t sound particularly sexy in English but, trust me, it must have in Hebrew.  J)

            You get married.  You start loving her the best you know how—unconditionally…just like God has loved you. 

She conceives your first child.  And you’re thinking, “This being a prophet thing isn’t as bad as I’ve heard some people make it out to be.” 

            Then God tells you to name your firstborn, a son, Jezreel.  "Jezreel" means "God scatters," "God sows," or "God makes fruitful." Therefore, this term can refer to (1) judgment (cf. vv. 4-5) or (2) prosperity (cf. 2:22-23).  NOTE:  It’s used both ways in the first two chapters of Hosea.

In context, #1 is the obvious meaning here. Jezreel also refers to both a city and a valley in Galilee (Valley of Armageddon). This northern city (Omri's second capital) was the site of the slaughter of Ahab's house (the one whose wife, Jezebel, popularized fertility worship in Israel) by Jehu (cf. II Kgs. 9:7-10:28), and it became a symbol or idiom for judgment.

So far, so good.  While you might not love naming your kid something like “Sodom” or “Judgment”, God could have assigned a lot worse names.  In fact, it sounds sort of tough, doesn’t it?  At least the kid won’t get teased on the playground! J

But the storm clouds are darkening.  Jezreel had been a place of massacre.  If you go back to I Kings 16ff and 2 Kings 9ff, you get the story of Jehu obeying God’s command to kill the household of wicked king Ahab.  But then he keeps going and eliminates ALL competition to the throne by killing every descendent of David that he can find.  It was a “valley of massacre.” 

ILL:  During my teenage years when the Vietnam War was raging, there was a village in S. Vietnam that was massacred by U.S. soldiers.  Between 350 and 500 unarmed civilians…men, women and children…were massacred at the hands of C Company of the 23rd Infantry Div. of the U.S. Army.  While this group of soldiers may have been doing their duty in seeking out Vietcong soldiers, they stepped way over the bounds of legitimate warfare in attacking the village of what became known as My Lai…and the “My Lai Massacre” of 1968…and Lt. William Calley, Jr. was tried as the commanding officer in 1969. 

            So how would you feel if God told you to get married that year in the U.S., your wife got pregnant and the He told you to name your child My Lai?  Suffice it to say that there was a lot of emotion, evil and judgment bound up with the name Jezreel. And God told Hosea that this child’s name was because He, God, was going to massacre Israel in the Valley of Jezreel in the near future.

            Enter child #2.  Vs. 6—“Gomer conceived again and gave birth to a daughter.”  Vs. 3 was clear that their first child was clearly Hosea’s son.  Not so here.  In addition, the name God commands him to give her (Lo-Ruhamah which means “not loved”) is a pretty strong indication that this was not Hosea’s child.  Had this daughter been the result of Gomer’s sexual faithfulness to Hosea, I honestly doubt that God would have commanded that she be named this.  It was only because Gomer’s failure at faithfulness mirrored Israel’s failure to be faithful with God, that this tragic unfolding family story could be used to visually and actually illustrate the spiritual disaster unfolding in Israel.

How do you suppose Hosea felt about naming his daughter this (“not loved)?  Even if she was not biologically his offspring, is this the kind of name a father wants to hang around the neck of his daughter for her infancy, her youth and her adulthood… “not loved”???  NEVER!  When God asked him to do something like this, it must have broken his heart!  Walking with God will sometimes mean you live with the breaking heart of God. 

            We’re not told that Hosea treated Lo-Ruhamah as an unloved child.  I’m hoping that the name was as far as this had to go with her.  I’m trusting that his anger against the unfaithfulness of his wife was not taken out on this little girl.  And I’m imagining that around the house Hosea dropped the “Lo” (meaning “not”) and shortened her name to just “Ruhamah” meaning “loved.” 

            The message here is for Israel…and Gomer…that their persistent, unbending, year-after-year unfaithfulness and promiscuity had made temporarily made them unloved.  The name was to be hung around their necks for a period of time because of their own actions.    

APP:  I’ve observed the same thing in too many marriages.  One or both spouses will cause the other spouse such great and seemingly unending pain that all love withers, dries up and blows away…and no amount of pleading will bring it back. 

            The naming of this little girl “Not-Loved” was, according to vs. 6, because God would “no longer show love to Israel” nor forgive any further their unrepentant spiritual unfaithfulness.  Vs. 7 went so far as to differentiate between how God would work with Israel and Judah“Yet I will show love to Judah; and I will save them—not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but I, the Lord their God, will save them.” 

            This is precisely what happened in history.  By 722 B.C., the Assyrians had defeated virtually all of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and carried them off into captivity.  Judah would have longer.  2 Kings 18-19 tells of the supernatural fulfillment of God’s promise of vs. 7 when, about 20 years later, while King Sennacherib was besieging Jerusalem, God struck 185,000 Assyrian troops dead, causing Sennacherib to withdraw for the time being.  It truly was, just as Hosea had predicted, not “by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen” but by the Lord’s divine intervention. 

As Eric reminded us last week, this unfolding drama between God and Israel was something that had been playing out for hundreds of years.  This wasn’t an isolated incident nationally.  It was a continuation of year after year of spiritual idolatry and rejection of the God who had saved them for generations. Even in this rather severe judgment, as we will see in a moment, that “unloved” state was not permanent but temporary. 

            The third and final child we’re introduced to that Gomer gave birth to was also probably a child by another man, the result of her continuing infidelity

Vs. 8“After she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, Gomer had another son.  Then the Lord said, “Call him Lo-Ammi (which means “not my people”), for you are not my people, and I am not your God,” [or literally “not your I AM.”]  

            God is simply confronting Israel with realitywhat is… as opposed to the charade they were engaged in of utter self-deception claiming that they were still the people of God when, in fact, nothing of their worship, their heart or their religious life had anything to do with the God they claimed to worship. 

ILL:  It would be as if a friend or relative of yours who grew up in a solid, church-going, Christ-centered home in later years decided to stop participating in church, stop praying to God, stopped studying God’s Word, stopped worshipping Jesus and instead started attending the Buddhist Temple in the S. Perry District of Spokane, burning incense, praying to Buddah… YET kept saying, “But I’m a Christian.”  To tell them they are not a Christian isn’t hateful and mean; it’s simply truthful and an attempt to bring them back to reality. 

            That is what God is doing here.  Worshiping golden calves at places God has forbidden to be places of worship, engaging in sexual immorality in these pagan centers of worship, offering children of that immorality as human sacrifices to a false god called “Ba’al” while still saying, “I belong to YHWH” was simply self-deception.  God was not about to play along!

Yet even in judgment, God’s mercy shines through.   Immediately God directs Hosea to prophecy about a different long-term future to be experienced at some unspecified time yet to come.  Vss. 10-11:  10 “Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ 11 The people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together; they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.”

The Holy Spirit prompts Paul to pick up this very verse in his discussion of Jews and Gentiles both becoming part of the people of God in Romans 9:26.  So clearly not only does this refer to a future day when the Jews themselves shall return to God  “under one leader,” namely Christ; it also refers to the drawing in of Gentiles world-wide, a people who were not ever God’s chosen people until the coming of Christ and the Gospel we now have for every human being. 

APPBefore we move on, I want you to stop and grasp the application of this chapter to where you are. 

Does God ever ask his children to enter into what turn out to be really tough and even disappointing relationships…or marriages…or ministries…or friendships? We tell God in our younger years and spiritually passionate years, “I’ll do whatever you ask me to in life.  Give me the heart of Jesus for people—for lost people… and for His church.” 

  • So God puts us in a marriage that turns out to be with someone who “said they were a Christian” but as the years go by there is really no evidence of a transformed life and character in Christ.

I’ve known men and women alike who married someone they “thought” was a Christian…and the rest of their life this person shows nothing of the life or heart of Jesus.  I’ve known godly women who were forced by their supposed “Chr. husband” to get an abortion…something that haunted those women for the rest of their lives.  Yet they chose to live with those men…kept loving them and praying for them in Christ for decades…raised their other kids as best they could influencing them for Jesus…and died with their husbands as godless as ever…but experienced more of God’s broken heart over their lost husbands than those of us married to godly spouse will ever be asked to endure.  

  • Or maybe God puts us around Christian brothers and sisters…even in churches… that may behave much more worldly, less spiritual, and have far less of the love and life of Jesus than we dreamt God’s people would…and then He asks us to share his heartbreak and emptiness and disappointment over His Bride, the church, that is so often lukewarm or un-revived or dispassionate about Him. And He asks us to hang in there year after year after year!
  • Or God puts us in friendships or families with people who continue to reject Christ, continue to rail against God, continue to get angry with us for any divine truth or even divine grace we may show them because they hate God…and our hearts break, we get frustrated with them, impatient at their stubbornness. All the while God is building in us the sorrow and suffering of Christ for a lost world. 

I’m sure Hosea was convinced that he could change Gomer if he just gave her a new start…just loved her enoughtook care of her children, etc. 

But the reality was, she didn’t.  The reality was, she went right back to her sexual addictions.  In fact, this is where chapter 2 comes in and paints a very sad picture of just how screwed up and confused Gomer was…as a picture of just how screwed up and confused God’s people were (and often continue to be even in the church). 

Let’s read that chapter and I’ll just make some clarifying comments as we do.

“Say of your brothers, ‘My people,’ and of your sisters, ‘My loved one.’  [This is a reversal of the names given Lo-Ammi and Lo-Ruhamah.  It’s as if Hosea is calling his children into different realities than their names and into joining his rebuke of their mother.] 

NOTE:  What follows seems to go back and forth between how Hosea feels about his wife, Gomer, and how God feels about his spiritually adulterous children.

“Rebuke your mother, rebuke her,
    for she is not my wife,
    and I am not her husband.  [This may have been Hosea’s divorce decree…as a way of God saying He is “divorcing” Israel.]
Let her remove the adulterous look from her face
    and the unfaithfulness from between her breasts. 

[Do you feel the pain of a man whose wife is blatantly unfaithful and contemptuous of her husband while flirting with other men?]
Otherwise I will strip her naked
    and make her as bare as on the day she was born;
I will make her like a desert,
    turn her into a parched land,
    and slay her with thirst. 

[I think this is more of God speaking to Israel than Hosea to Gomer.  She could have been stoned for this kind of unfaithfulness… though it is unlikely in a “religious culture” like Israel had then where sexual immorality was rampant and spiritual fidelity almost non-existent.]
I will not show my love to her children,
    because they are the children of adultery.
Their mother has been unfaithful
    and has conceived them in disgrace.
She said, ‘I will go after my lovers,
    who give me my food and my water,
    my wool and my linen, my olive oil and my drink.’

[She is making money and a living off of prostitution.]
Therefore I will block her path with thorn bushes;
    I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way.
She will chase after her lovers but not catch them;
    she will look for them but not find them.

[God is going to let His Israelites live in full immersion of the pagan gods they worship and find how empty it is.]
Then she will say,
    ‘I will go back to my husband as at first,
    for then I was better off than now.’
She has not acknowledged that I was the one
    who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil,
who lavished on her the silver and gold—
    which they used for Baal.

[Clearly this is God reminding them that all these blessings of food and wealth and prosperity were given by Him but used by them SO immorally and wrongly.]

“Therefore I will take away my grain when it ripens,
    and my new wine when it is ready.
I will take back my wool and my linen,
    intended to cover her naked body.
10 So now I will expose her lewdness
    before the eyes of her lovers;
    no one will take her out of my hands.
11 I will stop all her celebrations:
    her yearly festivals, her New Moons,
    her Sabbath days—all her appointed festivals. 

[God is going to end even their empty and false religiosity.]
12 I will ruin her vines and her fig trees,
    which she said were her pay from her lovers;
I will make them a thicket,
    and wild animals will devour them.
13 I will punish her for the days
    she burned incense to the Baals;
she decked herself with rings and jewelry,
    and went after her lovers,
    but me she forgot,” declares the Lord.

[Yet here the tone and the prophecy completely changes!]

14 “Therefore I am now going to allure her;
    I will lead her into the wilderness
    and speak tenderly to her.
15 There I will give her back her vineyards,
    and will make the Valley of Achor [“trouble”] a door of hope.
There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
    as in the day she came up out of Egypt.

16 “In that day,” declares the Lord,
    “you will call me ‘my husband’;
    you will no longer call me ‘my master.’
17 I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips;
    no longer will their names be invoked.
18 In that day I will make a covenant for them
    with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
    and the creatures that move along the ground.
Bow and sword and battle
    I will abolish from the land,
    so that all may lie down in safety.
19 I will betroth you to me forever;
    I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
    in love and compassion.
20 I will betroth you in faithfulness,
    and you will acknowledge the Lord.

21 “In that day I will respond,”
    declares the Lord
“I will respond to the skies,
    and they will respond to the earth;
22 and the earth will respond to the grain,
    the new wine and the olive oil,
    and they will respond to Jezreel.
23 I will plant her for myself in the land;
    I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ [Lo Ruhamah]
I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ [Lo-Ammi] ‘You are my people’;
    and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”

This all is a description that goes far beyond what has ever happened to Israel and the Jews since the day this prophecy was written.  It is actually a prophecy that will not be fulfilled fully until the new heave and new earth come about as prophesied in Revelation 20-21 as well as Isaiah 55-66.  Go read those this afternoon and marvel at how God is going to yet fulfill this amazing prophecy.  What amazing love God has for rebels like us!

 

Let’s finish up with the last 5 verses…the entire chapter 3!

The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”

So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.”

For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the Lord and to his blessings in the last days.

APP

1.)  Even infidelity doesn’t have to destroy a marriage.  If you really want the character of Christ in your life, by all means, don’t give up on your marriage vows.

2.)  Vs. 2--Restorative love will cost you, the offended, over and over and over!  But this is the heart of God for US!

3.)  Vs. 3The road to new character will wean us of our addictions.   Here with Hosea & Gomer:  intimate sexual relations.  People…even married people…need to learn to live without sex at times so we can break certain unhealthy patterns and develop other ways of loving well.  (This is why no sex before marriage is a really healthy thing!  This is also why, once you enter into marriage, sex is not to be used as a weapon or withheld.  Before = don’t; After = don’t stop!)  c.f. 1 Cor. 7:5—By mutual decision; for drawing nearer to God/prayer; resuming of sexual relations is important.  (This is a form of “fasting”.)

4.) Vs. 4--Sometimes God takes away a lot of good things so that we will have room for the best—Him!  We may need to learn and experience that His love for us does not depend upon things we are addicted to--our service/worship/work for Him.

5.) The process of restoration and of truly changing our character, heart and actions will often involve…

God taking us into “desert places” where He takes away things we love to bring us back to the God we need to love to find life. 

WHY?  To break the patterns of our addictions (whatever they are). God takes us into experiences that seem totally barren of the things we crave:

  • freedom abused>>prison;
  • sexual immorality>>emotional emptiness, unchosen singleness;
  • addicted to relationships>>loss of friends and having only God to be our friend;
  • drug or alcohol addictions>>working the 12 steps over and over, feeling the pain and growing in real character.

But…we belong to God FOREVER!