We don't always preach for the same results:
Some messages are Expository…The worship center becomes a classroom, where the preacher becomes the professor, giving instruction from the Word of God. Like Spurgeon, or MacArthur.
Some are Evangelistic…The worship center becomes a courtroom, the audience become prisoners at the bench as the preacher pronounces the judgment of God and offers to you the advocate. Like Jonathon Edwards in "Sinners in the hand of an angry God."
Others are Corrective…Where the Word of God strikes out with bite of a serpent against sin and wrongdoing.
Hosea and Gomer, God’s Incomparable Love-Book of Hosea
Some are Devotional…Not a classroom for instruction, nor a courtroom to pronounce judgment, nor the stinging strike of a snake against sin…but simply a lover's lane, speaking to you who know the Lord Jesus Christ, just to persuade you to love Him a little bit more.
My Jesus I love Thee, I know Thou art mine,
For Thee all the folly of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus tis now.
Hosea, the son of Beeri, an 8th century B.C. Prophet, ministered for 60 years during the darkest period of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. It was at the time of the Prophets, Isaiah, Amos and Micah. Hosea is called by God to prophesy during Israel's last hours. What we see in this book are the last few swirls as the kingdom goes down the drain, and God's gracious effort to plug the leak.
Hosea is not an easy book to interpret. There is no logical or chronological timeline. It leaps from one subject to another, sometimes not easy to understand. But diamonds are not always picked up on the ground, and the richest veins of gold are found deep in the earth and require a lot of digging. Let's see what we can dig out of the book!
The Theme: "God's loyal love for His covenant people." Text: 1:1,2; 4:1; 5:4; 6:6; 11:7-9; 14:4-7.
Narrative form: I will just try to tell the story as I see it. Not much exposition, I will attempt to spiritualize, to sermonize. Allow me to bring this into the 21st century. I'm going to ask you to use your sanctified imagination.
Imagine what it would be like to be married to a person like the one in the book of Hosea. God is revealing to us a heart-rending, pathetic page in Israel's history. It is a story of the parsonage, of a preacher's broken home, his broken heart. Let's see if we can feel the anguish of this Prophet of God.
Here's the story: It takes place in the region and city of Samaria, 42 miles northeast of Jerusalem. Jeroboam II is the reigning monarch. It is a time of great prosperity. People were living large. It was also a time of sin and lawlessness.
It is here that we meet the Prophet Hosea, a man of God, a saintly father, a patriotic citizen and preacher of the Word of God. Now this is weird! God commands this saintly man of God to marry a prostitute [she represents Israel]. So we meet Gomer…ungodly, unclean, irreverent, apparently of the wicked society of Samaria. Marriage is always the promise of heaven or hell! For Hosea it was his hell. She had no sympathy for him! He was trying to save his people from national destruction. His ears were continually ringing with the sounds of a nation that was falling apart. The war-chariots of Assyria were at the very borders of his beloved land.
Apparently Gomer didn't care about these things. Like the Prodigal Son, this is the story of a woman who went from the paradise of a good home to the pigsty of a corrupt, sinful world. This is the story of the queen of home, becoming the pauper of the slave market.
But this is God talking about His chosen people, who had literally sold themselves as prostitutes to the highest bidder.
Now comes the sanctified imagination part! Please allow me to put this in the present day for you: I can imagine that’s she was upset because he didn't spend enough with her. Or because they were in God's ministry and she wanted more from Hosea than he could offer. She was young and pretty, she deserved more from life. She probably thought that she was made for enjoyment and pleasure, not sacrifice, hard work and poverty.
I can imagine that many times she said, "I have a right to live my own life." "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul." "It's my body, I'll do whatever I want with it." 1 Corinthians 6:20: "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own you are bought with a price [the precious blood of Christ]. Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are His."
As they grew further apart, it was ruining Hosea…No sleep at night, afraid to leave her alone in the daytime.
And then a baby boy, Jezreel, [God's judgment] was born into that hapless household. I imagine that Hosea must have thought that little boy would take her hand in one and his in the other and pull them together…but no, to Gomer this was just another barrier, a husband, a home, now a baby to tie her down! How was she ever going to have any enjoyment from life?
Day by day she left the baby to do her own thing. Then another baby is born, Lo-Ruhamah, [unloved]. Then another, Lo-Ammi, [not my child].
Oh, there must have been nights when she cried out her repentance on Hosea's shoulder, but it was just as a morning cloud that appears for a while then vanishes.
Then one night Hosea came home to find the children alone. A note on the kitchen table read, "I've left you, Hosea. I don't love you, don't try to find me. I won't be back. I am determined to live my own life." What a blow for any husband or wife. There is no deeper wound than this one, no greater cause of depression, this is exceeded only by the death of a parent.
That night as Hosea mothers his dear children, he teaches them a new prayer, "Oh Lord watch after mommy, and bring her home safely to us again." And as he tucks them in to sleep, there is no sleep for Hosea. I'm certain he spends many sleepless nights with no moon or stars in his sky, and many days without a sun in his heaven. Our godly Prophet is suffering from a broken heart.
Seems the only time we learn is when we are in pain. Just beneath the surface of every believer's life, especially the more mature, is an ache that will not go away. It can be ignored, disguised, mislabeled, or submerged in a torrent of activity, but it will not go away, and for good reason, we were designed to enjoy a better world than this, and until we actually enter into God's promise, we continue to groan for what we do not have. Romans 8:18: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
The Valley of Despair-John Sparks
When your weeping fills the cold night air,
And all you can do is sit and stare,
And God can't be found anywhere,
Is this the valley of despair?
When words are painful in your prayer,
And others words sound like a dare,
And the Devil's made your house his lair,
Is this the valley of despair?
When you sit and pout in an awful chair,
And you don't even seem to care,
And God's Word really lays you bare,
Is this the valley of despair?
Is there any way out of this dark despair?
Is there anyone here who can declare,
That God is here, not over there in someone else's deep despair?
I've been through this valley of dark despair!
So I know that God's Spirit is dwelling there.
And if we could find strength to just forbear,
We'd gain God's power through praise and prayer.
And the blessing to others beyond compare,
Is the ministry of those who have journeyed there.
And the light of God we have to share,
e found in the darkness of deep despair.
So, Hosea's tears became microscopes through which he looks deeper into the heart of God's infinite love than any of the Prophets of his day. Through his broken heart, his great grief, his tremendous pain, and his aching soul, he learns three things about God:
1] He learned something about the nature and meaning of sin: As he broods over the betrayal, the unfaithfulness of Gomer, her leaving his heart and his home. As he walks the streets of Samaria, nursing an aching soul, God is teaching him, "That's just exactly how God feels when His people go whoring after other gods, when they go off living in sin." [Other gods: anything you put before God, houses, lands, job, career, pleasure, other people, stuff…some may be good].
He learned that sin is more than an outward act, it is inward, an act of the will, an attitude. Her leaving was just an outward expression of an inward condition. It began when she said, "I have my rights, I'm not getting any younger, I'm wasting time, I have a right to my own enjoyment, I have a right to live my own life."
In marriage the two become one flesh! My rights are hers, and hers mine. Our personal rights are laid upon the altar of marriage and we are completely wrapped up in each other. No room for selfishness in a marriage.
Gomer's infidelity began long before she left, because it begins in the mind…"Sow a thought, reap an action, sow an action, reap a habit, sow a habit, reap a character, sow a character, reap a destiny."
Her leaving was just a symptom of a deeper condition before God. What does it mean to sin against God? Murder, adultery, stealing, and lying? These are only symptoms of whom the real person is inside. Why did the Prodigal Son leave home? He had a deep spiritual problem. Basically he did what he wanted to do! His leaving his father's house was just a symptom of a deeper problem. Why did the elder brother get so upset when the Prodigal came home? He had a deep spiritual problem. They both did exactly what they wanted to do. They acted upon their inward condition.
It is true that natural man is capable of anything and he will do whatever he wants to do…But God's people? One of the biggest shocks for young pastors right out of Seminary. We had high hopes. We actually thought that people would respond to our preaching of the Word of God. We believed that people would do what God says! It doesn't take very long to find out that people, by and large, will do whatever they want to do! Be faithful to the House of the Lord; give 10% of your income; love one another; follow your leaders in church…1 Thessalonians 5:12: "Honor those who are your leaders in the Lord's work…Think highly of them and give them your whole-hearted love because of their work." Hebrews 13:17: "Obey your spiritual leaders and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they know they are accountable to God."
Back to Hosea: Did Hosea grieve over a sink-full of dirty dishes? Or a hamper full of dirty clothes? Neglected children who desperately needed a mother? Or a neglected home that needed a woman's touch? No! Hosea wanted a wife, not a baby-sitter, or a housekeeper. He longed for a companion with whom to share life, not a maid! In the same way, God wants your companionship, not just your time, your talent, your service, your sacrifice, or your money, God wants you! Hosea 6:6: "Real love have I desired and not your sacrifice." But He can't have you and your sin!
Sin is a great separator, and it's a terrible thing when it invades the Christian life. And just so we don't get too smug about Gomer's sin, we are all guilty, it takes constant watchfulness. Nature demonstrates the awfulness of sin, Romans 8:22: "All creation groans together in pain." Man declares it, Romans 7:18: "In me, that is in my flesh dwells no good thing." God describes it, Romans 3:23: "For all have sinned…Oh wretched man that I am…"
Sin is an awful thing! God loves you but He hates your sin! Sin separates, as believers we are required to come to God with clean hands. Isaiah 59:2: "Your sins have cut you off from God. Because of your sin, He has turned away and will not listen anymore." God wants your companionship but He can't have it with your sin.
Hosea learned something about the nature and meaning of sin.
2] He learned something about God's grief over man's sin: Look at Hosea's attitude toward Gomer. He had a broken heart. It broke his heart to see Gomer's love for the unclean, and ungodly. There was not a day or night that he did not shed bitter tears over his beloved. Through his grief God spoke to him…Listen to Jeremiah the weeping Prophet, as he looked at the condition of the people: "Is it nothing to you, all who pass by, behold see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow." Here is the picture of the Living God, His face is everlastingly wet with tears over your sins and mine, over the sins of the ministry, over the sins of a great nation that is rapidly falling to pieces because of sin. Psalm 9:7: "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." Proverbs 14:34: "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a rep[roach to any people."
Jesus looking out over the city of Jerusalem wept, "Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wing, but you were not willing" [Matthew 23:37]. He is looking at NYC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Chicago…He is looking at America, saying, "How can I give you up?" "How often I would have gathered you…but you were not willing."
Our sin literally breaks the heart of God. Not just our national sin, but yours and mine. Ephesians 4:30: "Do not bring sorrow to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live."
Sin always means grief and pain, to us, grudges, bitterness, wounded spirits which causes an inability to worship with our whole heart. Sin causes pain to those closest to us, wife, husband, mom, dad, children, friends, our pastor. I've seen sin tear up too many homes. Listen, adultery is not funny, drunkenness is no laughing matter [my dad]. Drugs are devastating, add to those sins, anger, bitterness, abuse, neglect of God's Word and God's house, lack of prayer, and we cause grief to God.
Hosea learned something about God's grief over man's sin.
3] He learned something about the mercy of God: [Mercy is God’s love in action]. Hosea never stopped loving Gomer and God never stopped loving Israel, and He will never stop loving His children. God loves you with an everlasting love. He loves so much you can trust Him with your life.
Gomer had wronged him in the worst way, dragged his good name through the mud. God's Prophet must have been the pity of his friends, the disgust of his enemies, and the laughing-stock of the town. But he still loved her. She may have betrayed him, but he still loves her.
Imagine a friend coming to him saying, "I saw her last night, she is at the house of prostitution, you will have to divorce her now, you must turn from her forever." But he couldn't, God would not let him put her away. He tries to blot out her memory and tear her image from his heart, but he couldn't. Although the foul breath of passion had blown her like a filthy rag out of his arms and into the arms of others…a part of his hell is, he still loves her. Is this beginning to sound familiar? Romans 5:8: "God demonstrates His love to us…" John 3:16: "For God so loved…"
His friend speaks to him again, "The man who lured Gomer away from you is selling her into slavery." That's the history of sin! Sin always promises freedom, but always brings slavery. Ask the alcoholic; ask the drug addict; ask the one hooked on pornography. The lights at the front door are bright and cheerful, they flash, "Come on in, this is fun! This will make you feel good! Live it up! A little bit can't hurt you. You only go around once in life, grab all the gusto you can!" But the tunnel at the end is dark and bleak, and you will find there, broken homes, shattered lives, anxiety, depression, guilt, rejection and grief and pain.
The Devil told Adam and Eve, "You shall be as gods." Now we see them living with hard labor, sweat, tears, pain and death. How do you like your freedom, Adam?
Ask David after his sin with Bathsheba. The Prophet Nathan caught him in his sin…”You shall reap 4-fold: Listen to him grieving the death of his son, "Oh Absalom, Absalom, my son Absalom, would God that I had died for you." Want to look over another balcony, David?
Ask Samson, after Delilah, eyes put out, grinding like a dumb animal at a mill, How do you like your freedom?
Ask Gomer…chained to a slave post, disgraced and humiliated, being sold to the highest bidder, how do you like you freedom Gomer? Do you still insist on your rights?
"Now Hosea has no choice, he will have to put her away." Listen to Hosea, "Oh, Gomer, I love you with an everlasting love, how Can I give you up?" Oh how we need to listen to that! What part of "Till death do us part" do people not understand? Commitment means just that!
That night Hosea leaves the children [they cling to him], he did not go to the house of purity but to the haunts of shame, and there for 15 pieces of silver [half the price of a slave], and about 10 bushels of grain, he bought back that piece of human wreckage called Gomer and brought her home.
"If that isn't love, the oceans are dry,
There are no stars in the sky, and the sparrow can't fly.
If that isn't love then heaven's a myth,
There's no feeling like this if that isn't love.
But isn't that just exactly what God did for you and me? When He came to get me, He did not come to the house of purity, but to the haunts of shame. And it took more than a few coins and a little grain, it took the blood of His own precious Son!
I read of a man dying in a train wreck in L.A. several years ago…He wrote, "I heart my wife and kids," with his own blood. That's the kind of sacrificial love we are to have for our each other as husbands, and wives and for our children. Because that's the kind of love God has for us. Jesus wrote. "I love you" in His own precious blood.
Twas battered and scarred and the auctioneer thought it scarcely worth his while, to spend much time on the old violin, but he held it up with a smile. "What am I bidden good folk," he cried, "who'll start the bidding for me?" "A dollar, a dollar, now who'll make it two? Two dollars and who'll make it three?. Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going and gone…" but no, from the far back in the room an old gray-haired man stepped forward and picked up the bow, and wiping the dust from the old violin, and tightening up the stings, he played a melody pure and sweet, as sweet as an angel sings. The music stopped the auctioneer, with a voice that was quiet and low said, "what am I bid for the old violin," as he held it up with the bow. "A thousand dollars and who'll make it two, two thousand, who'll make it three, three thousand once, three thousand twice, going and gone said he." The people cheered but some of them cried, "we don't understand what changed it's worth," the man replied," the touch of the master's hand." And many a man with life out of tune and battered and scarred with sin, is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd much like the old violin. A mess of pottage, a glass of wine, a game and he travels on…He's going once, he's going twice, he's going and almost gone, but the Master comes and the foolish crowd can never quite understand, the worth of a soul or the change that is wrought by the touch of the Master's hand.
Have you had your touch from Jesus?
He touched me, oh, He touched me,
And oh the joy that floods my soul,
something happened and now I know,
He touched me and made me whole