Monday, December 5, 2016

Gomer - redeeming love


Have you ever read the book of Hosea?
No, I mean really read it. Studied it.
It's not exactly a book of the Bible that we hear preached about very often. Some people don't like getting into the "minor" prophets, or trying to understand their sermons to the nation of Israel. Some have tried to read it, and the sordid details of the first couple of chapters have turned them off.

I'm here to tell you that there are nuggets of gold for us in the book of Hosea! I hope that you will read it, in its entirety, so that you are familiar with it as we study. The first three chapters are going to be our focus chapters, while chapters 4-14 are Hosea's preaching of the mercy, grace, and judgment of God on the nation. We may even camp here for more than a week!
I believe this week we will see that we need to love God warmly, fully, completely; we are not to only serve Him as Lord and Master.
Let's dive in . . .
The word of the Lord that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel: 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.”  So he married Gomer, daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel.  In that day I will break Israel’s bow in the Valley of Jezreel. Gomer conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call her Lo-Ruhamah (which means “not loved”), for I will no longer show love to Israel, that I should at all forgive them.  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.” 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.
 “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.’  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." (Hosea 1)

The scholars tell us that Hosea was prophesying in the thirty years or so that led up to Assyria's destruction of Israel in 722 BC. I'm going to take their word for it, because when I start comparing timelines and adding and subtracting, my brain starts to hurt. They also tell us that the entire book seems to be addressed to the northern kingdom of Israel -- not the southern kingdom, Judah.
That means that Hosea was preaching at the same time as another of our prophets in the Bible, Amos. The two of them were addressing the same northern kingdom, eaten up with corruption and idolatry, during the last decades of its existence.

But here is where Hosea is completely unique: he became a parable, all by himself.
Well, he and his wife, anyway. God's instructions called for him to live out, to show in real life, the tragedy of Israel's unfaithfulness to God. We find verses 2-3 shocking, just as we would have found the horrific idolatry of Israel shocking.
 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.”  So he married Gomer, daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. (v 2-3)
Now, here is a tough concept for some people: There are some Christians who would never dream of marrying a pimp or a prostitute, but they will fall in love with a well-behaved unbeliever. But wait -- everyone who forsakes God is immoral. There are no religious singles in the matchmaking world, where God is concerned. Everyone is either faithful to God, or is promiscuous. See, I told you this was a tough one. But here is the key: God made us (not just Israel) just for Himself. If we pay more attention to, or revere as our authority, or get our kicks from somewhere else, we are being promiscuous against God.
That was the condition of the kingdom of Israel. That is why Hosea and Amos were sent to prophesy. And that is why God instructed Hosea in the way that He did.
So, here is Hosea, ready and willing to be on fire for God, to deliver His words to the people.
And here is God, telling him, "First, I'm going to make you know what it's like to be married to an unfaithful wife." Just like unfaithful Israel.
Hosea obeys and has a son. And the parable is acted out, before the people. Gomer is going to bear three children, and each one if going to symbolize the judgment of God (the consequence of idolatry). First comes Jezreel, whose name reminds the people of the fury of Jehu, a previous king of Israel. Even though Jehu was carrying out the purposes of God when he slew some people, he was reckless and high-handed; in other words, he did God's work, but not in God's way. So in verse 5, God says He will break the bow of Israel, and He is referring to Israel's arrogant attitude and treachery.
Next comes a daughter, and the Lord names her "Not pitied," because He will have no more pity on the house of Israel. The next child is a son, and the Lord says he will be called "Not my people," because "you are not my people, and I am not your God." Wow. That is wrath.

Hosea may not have known if these children were his, but like Jezreel, their names show what "harlotry" or forsaking God, results in: God's pity will come to an end, and He will cast off Israel. There is a point of no return in the faithlessness of a wife, and in the faithlessness of a people.

But that's not going to be the end of the story:
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.’  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." (v 10-14)
Judgement may be on its way (the Assyrians did deport the people of Israel), but God would redeem His people to Himself. He may replace pity with wrath for a season. He may "disinherit" some generations of the people. But He is not going to give up on them forever.
That is the promise: some day the judgment will be reversed.
As my grandma used to say, "Hope springs eternal."

Join us next time!

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