Monday, December 12, 2016

Absolutely awe-inspiring redemption

Last week, our focus was mostly on Gomer, her long-suffering husband, Hosea, and the parable that they lived out -- a living picture, if you will, of the love of God for His wayward children, the people of Israel.
We're lingering in the book of Hosea this week, because I thought it would be appropriate at this Christmas season to zero in on Christ Jesus' love for us, and His redeeming power and grace.

To fully understand our study of this wonderful and little-studied book, we need to refresh our memory of the background. We need to look at the timing, when it was written. And I saved this nugget that I found: the name "Hosea" actually means salvation! The book of Hosea is literally a message of salvation to a spiritually bankrupt nation.

At the time of Hosea's ministry to his people, Israel was a very prosperous nation in material ways. They had plenty of everything, maybe too much! Life was easy, and that can be dangerous for some folks! They also enjoyed political and military peace . . . hey, why do we need to do all that temple stuff? We're rocking along just fine.
They may have been peaceful and prosperous, but they were Morally. Bankrupt.  Big time. One of the first verses in the book says that they "look to other gods, and love flagons of wine." Well, the main god that they looked to was the Canaanite god, Baal. "Looking" to Baal meant sexual acts as worship, cutting the body (specifically banned by Yahweh), and even sacrificing family members to a fiery death, all to appease Baal and curry his favor. To say that Israel was guilty of spiritual sin was to put it mildly.

Even though the people had no real love for the true God, or for His worship, they were very interested in His prophets. These holy men were entertaining, at the very least, so they would pay attention to them. Knowing this about His people, God used Hosea, his wife Gomer, and their children, as a picture of His relationship with Israel. And we can find a beautiful picture of the redemption of Christ in these passages.

Let's dive in!
To truly understand the depth of Hosea's love, we need to go back to the Word. Gomer is first mentioned in chapter one.
When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, 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.” (Hosea 1:2)
The first months (or maybe years) of their marriage, may have been very happy ones. I'd like to think that Gomer tried to change her ways, her outlook, and her whole self, to bring happiness to this husband that chose her. The Bible does say that their first child was definitely Hosea's:
 So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. (Hosea 1:3)
But things seemed to go downhill after that.
When Gomer is mentioned in chapter two, she is called an adulteress.
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.’ (Hosea 2:5)
She committed adultery while she was with Hosea, living in their house together. There is a contrast between verse 3, and verses 6 and 9. In the case of the first child, the father was Hosea. In the other two, it simply says "she conceived," and the implication is that he was not the father of those children.

Then she left him for another man (or men). Gomer's actions are a picture of the spiritual condition of the children of Israel, these people to whom Hosea was presenting the love and salvation of God. The people lusted after the gods and the worship practices of the Canaanites, and ultimately they abandoned the God of their fathers.
Gomer's actions are also a picture of lost sinners today. Of all of us. Just like Gomer, when we are lost in our sins, we pursue our own pleasures and lusts, and we care nothing about the Father God who loves us.
but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. (James 1:14)
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time,gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1-3)
Yep. We are (or were) all Gomers. And just like Gomer, our lover or master, Satan, will put us up on the auction block, too. He'll wreck our lives and toss us away.
That's what her lover did. In chapter three we see her on the auction block.
It's a pretty graphic picture of what sin does, in every life that it touches. A sinful life may be pleasurable for a time, but it leads to misery and ruin, and then to death.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (Galatians 6:7)
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
But God isn't willing to leave this situation like this! And so He tells Hosea that no matter how she has treated him, and in spite of how she has hurt the children, and in spite of how she has lived and brought shame to herself and others, he is to go and show her again, how much she is loved.

That is absolutely awe-inspiring.
And here is something else inspiring -- does Hosea hesitate? Does he look at the ground and mumble about how he shouldn't have to do this? No! He goes after her because he loves her -- he goes immediately. He loved her before she fell into sin, and he loves her in spite of her sin. He has such great love for her, that he is willing to do whatever it takes to bring her back.

Does this sound familiar? This is such a fabulous picture of the awe-inspiring love God has for us sinners! No one had to tell Him to love us....He loved us before we were born, and when we were innocent kids. He kept on loving us when we chose sin instead of righteousness. And He still loves us today. Absolutely nothing can make Him stop pursuing us, and loving us, until He brings us into fellowship with Him! His love for us is unconditional, and it knows no boundaries -- nothing can stop it.

We can spurn his love, as Gomer did with Hosea. But God will continue to love us.
We may not make time for Him, but He continues to love us.
We may even ignore Him, but His heart still calls to us.
We may think we are too sinful and worthless, but He looks at us with love and keeps calling.

This is an awe-inspiring love. Why does He love us so? Why does He pursue us?
Because He wants us to accept His awe-inspiring redemption.
Thank Him today for His love. And join us next time, as we study that wonderful redemption.

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