Let's turn to the Book of Hosea and let's have a word of prayer.
Father, we thank You for all the opportunities You have set before us, in Macedonia, in Belize and right in our own backyard, right here with people that we meet at McDonald's, at the super market, at the gas station, over the fence in our neighborhood. We pray we would be faithful to be Your witnesses; joy filled, spirit filled witnesses that would lead many to Jesus Christ. We pray Lord like we pray for Macedonia and Belize; we pray for our own town that You would fill this place with the gospel, with the knowledge of Jesus Christ. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
Let me begin tonight by telling you a little story that is a true story happened in 1936. It seemed that one of the kings of England at the time, the only one at the time, King Edward the VIII, was going on a life radio broadcast that was going to be simulcast to the United States. It was all rigged up in advance. Now for 1936 that was pretty advanced technology. They had it all set up. Just a few minutes before the live broadcast of King Edward giving his message to England and to the United States, a wire that was the only connection between two continents was tripped on by a worker in the studio, WJC, back in New York City and severed the connection.
So the engineers frantic, oh no, we are suppose to go live in just a few seconds, what will we do? They scrambled and they scrambled. Finally, in those few remaining seconds, one smart apprentice grab one wire with one hand, one wire with the other hand and the King spoke his words through the body of that apprentice in the studio. Now it's not like an electrical wire like 220 -- but he was able by his body to be a connector so that the voice of the King could be broadcast through the body of that man. That's what a prophet is.
A prophet is a spokesperson who hears a message from God and then broadcast it to the nation; in this case, the nation of Israel, the Northern kingdom or look at it this way. A prophet in the Old Testament is like a radio in our modern era. A radio was both a receiver and a transmitter; receives the message and then transmits the message by a little speaker.
Now the prophets did that in a number of ways. Sometimes there was proclamation; they just spoke a clear message from God. At other times, there was prediction; they would make these sweeping prophecies, sometimes near and sometimes very far off. At other times, the prophets were by way of example; not so much proclamation, not so much prediction but demonstration and Hosea is like the ultimate example of this. Yes, he spoke, yes, he predicted the future but he uniquely would demonstrate before the people of Israel in his own life and marriage, how God would love the nation of Israel and here's the deal.
Hosea married a woman named Gomer. Now, I know that's a weird name, there is no two ways about it. Gomer for a check is a weird name and I just thought if your name, by any chance, happens to be Gomer tonight, I really apologize for what I just said. But you know what; Skip is a weird name for a guy, so there you go. Anyway, he was to marry Gomer, turned out to be a prostitute. So Gomer, the go-go girl, gets married to Hosea, the prophet and this girl goes out and leaves the marriage and has other flings with other men in the community. It was to be a demonstration of how God was loving an unfaithful group of people and would be committed to them to the very end.
So what we have here in this book is this. It's a heartfelt message from our heartsick prophet about a heartbroken God. In a nutshell, that is the Book of Hosea, a heartfelt message from a heartsick prophet because his own life was bearing the scars of a torn relationship and he was speaking on behalf of a heartbroken God for his people.
Now we call these books beginning with Hosea, the Minor Prophets and that's not because well they are just little minor prophets. They are not all that significant; they are the little guys. When we say Minor Prophets, we are not speaking in terms of significance but only size. They are just shorter books, that's all. It's about brevity not about significance. Well, what they said was very significant but they are minor because they were able to say a lot of stuff in a short period or a short few words, fewer pages. By the way, don't underestimate size; don't look at size as criteria because sometimes big things come in small packages.
I don't know if any of you like straight espresso. Did you ever have a straight espresso? Honestly, how many love straight espresso? Okay, I am one of those. An espresso cup of coffee has like a lot more bang for the buck in terms of compare to like a regular cup of coffee; you'd have to have a little espresso, it is like wow!! It's like it does the work of five cups of regular coffee or have you ever been to Starbucks and had those little mints? I mean they are tiny little mints, I remember my mom used to give me these mints growing up; they were big honking mints and you would put them in your mouth and they last a while but like a Starbucks mint is like ten of her mints. So I remember when I bought these Starbucks mints, I said, "Mom, from this day forward, you can throw out all of those other little mints you have here in the house; this is the Holy Grail of all mints. Just try one." And she was hooked after that.
So you can have in a little package something very powerful and that's what we'd find in these books, the Minor Prophets, very, very powerful messages. Okay, let's outline it, let's do it a couple of ways. You could take this book and look at all 14 chapters in two sweeps; Chapters 1 through 3 and Chapters 4 through 14. So the first three and the last 11, the first three are private personal chapters. The last 11 are public chapters. They are about his public ministry as he gives messages for the nation of Israel. You could also divide it this way.
Chapters 1 through 3 is about a faithless wife named Gomer as I mentioned; a faithless wife, Chapters 1 through 3. Then Chapter 4 through 10, a fickle nation, saying they love God, turning to God, turning back away from God; they are not really consistently following Him. So a faithless wife, 1 through 3; 4 through 10, a fickle nation and then finally, a faithful God and that balances out the rest of the book from 11 through 14.
Let's go to Chapter 1, Verse 1, "The word of the Lord that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, the kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam, the son of Joash." Notice, the book is dated by the chronology of two different kingdoms; the kingdom of Judah with the kings listed and the kingdom, the Northern ten tribes, of Israel. Hosea is from the North speaking to the North. While he is preaching this message to the north, Micah and Isaiah are preaching their messages to the South.
Now do you know what I mean by North and South by now? The kingdom was split after Solomon in 930 B.C. so we have the kingdom of Israel, ten Northern tribes, two Southern tribes. He is speaking to those ten Northern tribes of Israel.
Verse 2, "When the Lord began to speak by Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry for the land has committed great harlotry, by departing from the Lord." So Hosea, I want you to do something really difficult.
Now there is debate among scholars as to, did Hosea in advance know she was a prostitute or did he marry her at the command of God to find out that she was unfaithful. And there is a lot of debate; I am not going to settle the debate. But in her turning away from the marriage, this would provide a very tangible, visual illustration of how God loves people. It's like, "Okay Hosea, this is going to be a play; you are going to act it out. And Hosea, you play the part of God; you play My part. And the woman Gomer, your wife, she is going to play the part of Israel, My unfaithful people. So Hosea, when she leaves you, when she turns her back on you and violates her marriage vows, the pain that you feel, that's the pain that I feel. That's exactly how I feel when My people are unfaithful to Me."
So Hosea, the prophet, uniquely not just being denunciatory or conciliatory but he feels what God feels. I can help but think what Paul said in Philippians, "That I might know him", that was his heart cry, "and the fellowship of his sufferings as well as the power of his resurrection." It's a whole different way to fellowship with God when you enter into the same kind of pain that God feels over people that turn their back on Him and Hosea, the prophet, felt that.
Verse 3, "So he went and he took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim," I almost said, Gomer Pyle, that's where my mind goes when I read these things inside into my work thinking sometimes. Television did that. "And she conceived, and bore him a son. Then the Lord said to him, Call his name Jezreel." Now Jezreel is a valley in Israel today, we call it by another name prophetically, the Valley of Armageddon, same valley. Jezreel is a Hebrew word that means God sows like a sower would plant seed and throw seed out in the field, God sows or God scatters is what Jezreel means. "Call his name Jezreel; for in a little while, I will avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu, and bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel."
Now something you probably have noticed. I bet you have. The name, Israel, sounds very similar to Jezreel. In fact, it spelled almost identical; in fact, in the Hebrew, it's even closer in spelling and pronunciation. There is just a little bit of difference in the change of a letter from Israel to Jezreel. So we have here a play on words in the original, a play on phonetics. God is saying, "I am going to scatter, I am going to Jezreel Israel and I will Jezreel them, I will scatter them to the wind of the great Assyrian Empire."
Notice the next verse, "It shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel, in the valley of Jezreel." Now what He means by that is the date 722 B.C. was coming down the pike when Sennacherib, Shalmaneser, the great Assyrian kings, would take over those ten Northern tribes, conquer them and make them captive and Hosea, the prophet, is speaking as to why that happened as well as experiencing that in his own life.
Verse 6, "And she conceived again, and bore a daughter. And God said to him, Call her name Loruhamah", which means no mercy or un-pitied or unloved; now it's not a great name for a kid, no mercy, Loruhamah. I think back to the Book of Ruth, remember, the two boys named Mahlon and Chilion. Sickly that's what Mahlon means; Chilion means cry baby or whining, pining. So there are names that people often ask me, "Hey, I am thinking about name of my kid some cool, wild Bible name. Some of them stay away from; some of them don't even entertain. This would be one of Loruhamah." No, it means no mercy, un-pitied, unloved. "For I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away. Yet..."
Yet, notice the word, "Yet, I will have mercy on the house of Judah, I will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, or battle, by horses or by horsemen." Notice God says this, "I am going to bring judgment on Israel, ten Northern tribes, but I am going to be merciful and pity and spare Judah." It is the word yet, so we have a glimmer of hope in a message of judgment.
And here's the glimmer, though I am going to take away Israel, I am going to spare the nation of Judah, that small little two-nation group down South around Jerusalem. I am going to spare them and indeed for 136 years while all of the Northern kingdom was taken away and being judged, during that period of time, down South they were spared. And why were they spared? God's mercy number 1; number 2, the faithfulness of a king. I will tell you the story and I bet as I tell you'd go, I remember that.
King Hezekiah was worried because the Assyrians had taken the Northern kingdom. He was worried, they are going to come down south and wipe Judah out. So he gets a letter that was sent to him by the Assyrians, he freaks out over it. He tears his clothes. He gets Isaiah, the prophet, brought in and he spreads out the letter before the Lord and Isaiah, Chapter 37, "O God, please help us, spare us," he cries out. God hears his prayer. Isaiah, the prophet, walks into the king's base and he says, "King, God says, don't sweat it. I am going to take care of these Assyrians." Now the king shaken in his boots because already the Assyrians have conquered virtually every city in Judah except Jerusalem, but something happens.
While the troops are stationed outside the city walls, Sennacherib and his gang, he hears about war on another front, in another city up North, the city of Lachish. He decides to pull his troops out of Jerusalem, take care of Lachish and he says basically, "I'd be back." He doesn't come back; well he tries to come back, and they surround the city. Bible says, "In one night, the Angel of the Lord destroyed 185,000 Assyrians in the camp." So they were spared 136 years of God's mercy until 586 B.C., remember, when the Babylonians came in.
Verse 8, "Now when she had weaned the little child named Loruhamah", it's about two to three years after birth, "she conceived and bore a son. God said, Call his name Loammi;" which means not mine, not my people. Hey, this is my son, Not-Mine. "For you are not My people and I will not be Your God". Now did you notice something in both these names? There is a little word, a prefix, ‘Lo'; Lo-ruhamah, Lo-ammi. Because in Hebrew if you want to change the meaning of a word, you can often put a prefix like ‘Lo' in front of it and it negates it. So if I want to say mine, my people, I say "Ammi". If I want to say not mine, "Loammi" and I can take that and change the whole meaning of it. So Loammi, for you are not my people.
Verse 10, "Yet...", again here is a glimmer of hope, "Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea which cannot be measured or numbered and it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, You are not my people, there it shall be said to them, You are sons of the living God." So, isn't this interesting, you have a prophet saying on one hand, "I am done with you, you are not my people." And then right after he goes, "It's going to be said you are not my people but in the place where it's said that I am going to make you my people." So we have this wonderful nature of God who must judge because of sin hates to do it and promises mercy and restoration for the covenant people.
There is an old saying, "Big doors hang on small hinges" or turn I should say, "Big doors turn on small hinges". So to here with this situation, the door of hope is swinging on the hinges of a promise. God made covenant after covenant with the Jews and there is always that door of hope that swings on the promise that God has made to restore them.
We have that same kind of the thing in the New Testament. He says in Ephesians, Chapter 4. Ephesians, Chapter 2, "You are dead in trespasses and sins in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, you once conducted yourselves in the lust of the flesh", here it is, "But God who is rich in mercy with a great love with which He loved us". And then it describes our salvation. This is what it used to be like, but God and then salvation.
So God like the hero, everybody is holding on the edge of their seat, going "Oh! There is no hope", suddenly the hero rides in, but God and that is every one of our testimonies tonight. I bet your testimony is something this, "You know before I was saved, I used to be a scoundrel. I did this and I did that and I thought this way and that way and ram with those people, on those people, but God did this and now I have hope." The door of hope that swings on the promise of God.
Chapter 2, Verse1, "Say to your brethren..." Now watch this, "Say to your brethren, my people, Ammi..." not Loammi, Ammi, my people, "and to your sisters, Ruhamah." Mercy is shown; not no mercy, Lo-ruahmah, say, Ammi, Ruahmah. My people, mercy is shown. Again, notice that all the prophet has done by the Spirit of God is dropped the prefix ‘Lo' to make it positive.
Now I will make it a point out of this; here is why. You know how many people, when they think of God, they think, "Yeah, He is the dude who wants to take all the fun out of life." Right? He is the guy that lauds, thou shall not, thou shall not, thou shall not, who wants to follow God when all He wants to do is make everything negative?" It's not the God I know. Your sin and my sin has put the negative in our life. Jesus Christ comes along and drops the Lo, drops the negative and gives life. "I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly." That's the gospel. He doesn't take something from us; He gives something that's not there. That's the message of Hosea and that's the message of the gospel.
Somebody once said, "Medical science can add years to your life". A Christian heard that and said "But only Jesus can add life to your years." That's the promise of the gospel. So throughout Chapter 2, we have this switch. The switch between God saying, "There is going to be temporary abandonment. I am going to temporarily abandon you, but there is going to be an eternal, eventual, everlasting restoration. I will abandon you in judgment, I'll bring you back in restoration."
Verse 13, "God says, I will punish her." Verse 14, "I will allure her." Verse 19, look at the change, "I will betroth you to me for ever". Yes, I will betroth or engage you. It's the language of intimate relationship. "I will betroth you to me in righteousness, and justice, in loving kindness and mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness and you shall know the Lord."
Here is a little fun fact. These two verses, Verses 19 and 20, are recited by orthodox Jews as they are putting on their phylacteries. You know what the phylacteries are? Remember, Jesus talked about that in the New Testament. Phylacteries are little boxes with scriptures in them and they wear them on their head and on their hand and as they are strapping to the middle finger of the left hand the phylactery, they recite these verses of God's faithful love, for His nation.
Now again, I want to underscore what is the overarching theme so far because it's couched in the terms of relationship. God is all about having a relationship with you. I am going to describe it in two ways; as a father and a child, because that will come through the rest of the book, a father and his child. But also as a husband to a wife intimate relationship; faithfulness, growth, promise and also, as a servant to a master or a slave to a master doing whatever God tells us to do. That's the relationship God wants.
When I was dating my wife, she used to be in an organization called Youth With A Mission. We were at dinner one night and I was even wondering, "Is this relationship going to go anywhere?" So she told me a little story about wanting to draw close to the Lord. She was a single girl living in Hawaii with Youth With A Mission and rest of the mission team was out, she was left alone to mind the house that night. So she decided, "I am going to cook a meal for Jesus tonight." She cooked a beautiful meal, put on her nicest dress, put candle light on the table, dimmed all the lights, had an extra plate for Jesus; sort of like Jewish Passover. You leave one chair for Elijah. This was special table setting. It was a meal she was cooking all of her heart to dine with Jesus. Now she is telling me this and I was like, "Wow! I like this girl. Number 1, she can cook." No, Number 1, she loves Jesus with all of her heart. Number two, she can cook.
The beautiful desire for a relationship with God, that's the heart of God. So I was a little shocked when she -- I got her to come back to the United States, she was living in Hawaii, I said, "You know, you have to come back to the mainland and come out here to California, we can date and get to know each other better." So she said she would and she came and we were dating a period of time and one night I looked at her and I said, "Lenya", I went right up there and I was bold, I said, "I love you." I was expecting to hear, I love you too, because I just know the kind of girl she was and that love for relationship and I said, "I love you" and she said "Oh!" and then she said. "Thanks." I went -- I felt so deflated.
Next afternoon I am at work in the hospital, I get a phone call, some girl name Lenya and I picked it up and she said, "Skip, this is Lenya. I love you too, but I couldn't tell you last night until I wanted to ask God first if I had permission to commit my heart to you and He said it was okay". So then I thought, "I really like this girl now." But the Lord, Your God, loves it when you pursue the relationship that He's been trying to pursue with you for a long time, wanting intimacy. And here is Hosea demonstrating with his own life and marriage, even to an unfaithful woman, like the unfaithful nation of Israel, his love.
Chapter 3, very short, as you can see five verses. One commentator called Chapter 3 the greatest chapter in the Bible because it portrays the greatest story in the Bible. You know what the greatest story in the Bible is? Redemption, how God stepped into humanity to pay a price to buy back, that's what redeem means. In Greek, exagorazo; to buy back from the market place. To buy you back from the market place of the sin you are entrapped in and bring you to Himself. Chapter 3 illustrates redemption.
Now, so far Hosea's marriage hasn't been great. Let me tell you the four stages so far of his marriage. Number 1, betrothal that means engagement; Number 2, marriage itself; Number 3, adultery: Number 4, estrangement; Number five now, the best part, restoration. Again, this is all illustrative of what God would do.
Verse 1, "The Lord said to me, Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel who look to other gods, and love the raisin cakes of the pagans". These were used in sacrificial feasts by the Kananites. "So I bought her for myself." I bought her; he went and found his own wife out in the slave market and exagorazo, bought her back from the market place. He paid the price and bought her for 15 shekels of silver and one-and-a-half homers of barley. That's the typical going rate for a female slave at that time period.
What a life this prophet had? He marries a wife, has some kids, she leaves him, goes out and chases other men. His heart is broken and God says, "Go get her, take her back, forgive her, love her". Boy! What? Come on Lord! In real life? Now this might seem like, I don't know, that's a little too tough to swallow. I don't know if I buy into this whole scheme. I sort of thought that until I met a modern day Hosea, except the roles were switched. It was a girl who bought her husband back. Let me explain.
They were married for a period of time, he turned to her one day and said, "I don't love you anymore" and started leaving the house at night and leaving the house more frequently and seeing another younger woman. Got that younger woman pregnant and then said to his wife, "I am divorcing you." He didn't divorce but he left the house. Months went by, he filed for divorce. All in the meantime, she is saying, "Vincent, I will take you back. This is horrible. You are breaking our marriage apart but I love you, I will wait for you, I will receive you back, I will forgive you. In fact, if you would like, we can adopt this little baby and I will raise this baby as my own". Husband said, "No deal." She waited probably for two years and I remember seeing her at work because I work everyday with this young lady.
Now here she has a husband and she has the biblical right to divorce her spouse because of the one and only clause for that and that is adultery and he is unrepentant of it and he says, "I don't want anything to do it" and he is the one who divorced her and he was an unbeliever. She had every right to start a life over again. She goes "God is going to restore us. I just know it." Well that sounded good for the first week or two but then into the sixth and seventh month and into the first and second year, people were saying, "It's a pipe dream; never going to happen".
A year after that, I had the privilege of performing the wedding ceremony for those two husband and wife divorced for she had forgiven him and in the process, because of her abiding love won him to Christ. I stood with him in Newport Beach, California and I was able to watch them with tears in their eyes, broken before God, come back together. I know that's not the story of every person but that was their story and it's very reminiscent of this story. I saw in front of me a couple who exemplified God's restoring love. It is possible.
"I said to her," here is Hosea talking to his woman now, to Gomer, "Gomer, you shall stay with me many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so to I will be towards you". In other words, "Okay, I am bringing the back, but you stay committed to me as I will stay committed to you." "For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king, or prince". Now watch this, "The children of Israel will abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod," that's what the high priest would wear if you remember, or teraphim. These were a little household false god's teraphim. You get what He is saying?
God is saying, "I am going to grant you no access. You might seek the Lord to the high priest, no access. I am not going to tell you anything because you are going to have days and days and days, a long period of time without any priest to it. Same with all of these false gods and goddesses; I will deprive you of any kind of contact whatsoever." "Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God and David their king; they shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days." Now to me this is one of the great prophetic pronouncements in scripture.
Now I want you to know why. Notice the phrase "many days". It's ambiguous, isn't it? What does many days mean; 20 days, 120 days, years? It's strange if you're a prophecy student because God is very exact, isn't he? There are a few times in the Bible, three times, where God says that He is going to bring His people back into the land and two of those times He is very, very exact. He tells Abraham, "Your people are going to be in a foreign land for 430 years" and under Moses, the children of Israel populated and they were there for 430 years till Moses brought them out.
Through the Prophet Jeremiah, God said, "Judah will be taken captive into Babylon for 70 years." Then he was reading that prophecy and thought, "We are about up; time to go home." So God is very exact. God isn't exact here; God just simply says, "For many days they will be without king."
Now when was the last time Israel had a king? Anybody know when the last king of Judah was? Last king of Judah was Zedekiah. It's about 2,500 years ago. Now Israel is back in their land today but for 2,500 years they have been without king and without prince. Yet Jesus came as the King of the Jews. He came into his own but his own received him not; they rejected him. So for the last 2,500 years, many days they have been without king or without prince. What has God been doing those many days?
You know what God was doing during those many days? He is calling out another people to Himself, the gentile peoples, until he's done called the fullness of the gentiles in the Book of Romans. Then again he will turn to the Jewish people that's Daniel's 70 weeks prophecy. God has been building up his own people by calling many people from among the gentiles and notice this, "They will also be without sacrifice", Verse 4. Since 70 A.D. that's the last time the temple was destroyed, they have had no sacrifice, not priesthood or ephod, since 70 A.D. Here is where I want to get to. In Jerusalem right now, there is a kingless throne; the throne of David has not been occupied for 2,500 years. In Jerusalem today, there is a kingless throne. In heaven right now, there is a throneless king. When the kingless throne and the throneless king come together, that will be glory for the world and in particular, the nation of Israel. The many days will be completed.
So the first section, God wants a relationship with you. Love not the world, seek the Lord. Let's go to the second section; Chapters 4 through 11 and we will be able to breeze through these pretty quickly. Now, this second section if the first section was personal, private, the second section is public. In this section, I am only going to show you some select verses.
Hosea, the prophet, is like God's lawyer. He is the lawyer for the prosecution and he levels charge after charge in a case against the nation of Israel. So sometimes prophets act like holy lawyers. I know some of you have thought you would never see those two words next to each other, holy and lawyers, but they do exist. I will have you know, I know some pretty fine Christian lawyers. It's not an oxymoron to have a holy lawyer. It's rare but it's not impossible.
Charge number 1; Chapter 4, Verse 1. Charge number 1 is spiritual apathy. They stopped hungering after God. They stopped growing. Verse 1, "Hear the word of the Lord, you children of Israel, for the Lord brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land. There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in Israel." Look at Verse 6, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge", same word as in Verse 1. "Because you have rejected knowledge", in other words, knowing God through his revelation, "I will also reject you from being priest for me. Because you have forgotten the law of your god, I will also forget your children."
Let me just say, beware of any anti-intellectual sentiment. It seems to be this little trend that runs through the modern church today. It's a whole new generation right now. It is saying, well you can't know anything for certain, hence the emerging church. So let's just have a conversation about everything. One thing we don't want to do is say I know the truth and be dogmatic; let's just be whimsically subjective and open to everything. It's almost put on a pedestal and truth is de-emphasized and feeling is way overemphasized. My people perish for lack of knowledge. God wanted to give them truth from the law.
You know what Jesus said to his disciples? Learn of me, not just get around me and feel. Learn about me. Peter picked up on that in 2 Peter 3:18, "Grow in the grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." So you and I need Bible truth, Bible knowledge, you need Bible doctrine. Don't you ever say, "I am not into doctrine." That's not a good admission. That's like saying, "I don't care about knowing anything about God." That's what doctrine means, it means good Bible solid truth. We need that, but it's just the beginning. Once we have it, we have to transform knowledge about God, intellectual knowledge, interpersonal knowledge of God, hence the relationship.
J.I. Packer, one of my favorite authors wrote a book called ‘Knowing God' years ago. Here is a little quip from it. Whenever we embark on any line of study of God's holy book, we need to ask ourselves questions. What is my ultimate aim and object in occupying my mind with these things? What do I intend to do with this knowledge about God once I have gotten it? If we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it's bound to go bad on us. It will make us proud and conceded. The very greatness of the subject matter will intoxicate us. So heads up all you theological brains and Bible nerds and School of Ministry Students and Shepherd School of Students. Make sure that you take all of that knowledge and it becomes very personal.
Second charge against the nation was uncertainty. This is what I mean. You decided, "Let's not trust God. That's so passe. Let's form political alliances with other nations who can make us strong." Chapter 5, verse 13, "When Ephraim saw his sickness and Judah saw his wound, then Ephraim went to Assyria and sent to King Jareb; yet he cannot cure you, nor heal you of your wound." Skip over to Chapter 7, Verse 8, "Ephraim has mixed himself among the peoples; Ephraim is a cake unturned."
Now this is what they did. They went up North to a guy named Teglath Phalasar. I know it sounds like a skin ailment; Teglath Phalasar. He happened to be an Assyrian king and they tried to buy him off for protection. He became the very dude that invaded and took them captive in 722 B.C. Now God says, you're a cake unturned. You are half-baked. You have got half-baked schemes. You know what cake unturned would be baked on one side and gooey and cold on the other side, inedible.
Imagine if I made you pancakes and one is nice grilled brown or just sloppy gooey muck on top. Go for it. Really trust me, this is good. No, thank you. It's the Old Testament equivalent of what Jesus said to the Church of Laodicea, "You are neither cold nor hot but you are lukewarm. So I will spew you out of my mouth." I love ice tea, I love hot tea. I hate it when it's lukewarm. I love hot coffee. Somebody two weeks ago said, "You ought to try ice coffee". I said, "Yuk". Then I tried it with the right little mix of all little things, it's like, "That's quite good." But lukewarm coffee, it's been sitting there for four hours. Yuk! That's the idea of a cake that is unturned.
Verse 9, "Aliens have devoured his strength," in Chapter 7, Verse 9, "but he doesn't know it. Yes gray hairs are here and there on him, yet he does not know." People telling me that a lot lately. They are not so subtle about it. You sound like you have gray hair and then it's like "Dude, you are getting gray like everywhere." Yeah, thanks. It's that I know it, they didn't know it. You know they were getting basically aged into craped and they were still holding onto the lie that they weren't as old as they were. Their condition had waned.
Third charge is idolatry. Back in chapter 4, Verse 17, "Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone." That's the Northern kingdom, 36 times in the book, Israel is called Ephraim. Chapter 5, Verse 1, "Hear this, O priests; take heed, O House of Israel; give ear, O house of the king; for yours is the judgment, because you have been a snare to Mizpah and spread a net on Tabor." Two different mountains, one on either side of the Jordan River. On both mountains, idols were put up, statues were put up, false worship was conducted. So idolatry was the charge.
Now Chapters 8 through10 predict God's judgment in a whole lot of different ways. Here are just a few verses. Verse 3, "Israel has rejected the good; the enemy will pursue him." Verse 7 of Chapter 8, "They sow the wind and they reap the whirlwind." Hey, you have been worshiping at pagan altars. That's what you have been sowing. You have been saying, "Oh man! I am into not worshiping God; I am into all these other, these statues and these cool alternative styles of worship." God says, "Really? You like that stuff? Okay good, because I am going to put you in the land where they develop that stuff. They like invented idolatry that would be Babylon. You like it that much then you will reap the whirlwind. You love idolatry, I will put you in the land of idols." That's what it means, except here it's Assyria, later on, it would be Babylon.
"They stalk..." same verse, verse 7, "The stalk has no bud, it shall never produce meal; if it should produce, aliens would swallow it up." Again, the captivity is predicted. Chapter 9, Verse 7, "The days of punishment have come; the days of recompense have come. Israel knows." Verse 17, "My God will cast them away, because they did not obey Him; and they shall be wanderers among the nations."
Chapter 10, Verse 15, "Thus it shall be done to you to you, O Bethel," Bethel means house of God, the center of the nation. "Because of your great wickedness, at dawn the king of Israel shall be cut off utterly." Now the king of Israel at that time was a guy named Hoshaiah. Hoshaiah sounds a lot like Hosea. Hosea was the prophet; Hoshai'ah was the king, bad dude, wicked guy and history shows that this happened. One of the most famous battles, the battle at the Arbel, when Shalmaneser, assemble all of his troops at a mountain peak near the Sea of Galilee called the Arbel and from there, he could look down on the whole Sea of Galilee. From there he staged his battle and from there, King Hoshaiah and the troops of Israel fell. So this is the law of the harvest. Whatever a man sows that shall he also reap.
Have you ever thought of a harvest? Think of the law of the harvest. It's not you sow a little bit and you get a little bit back; you can sow a handful of seed and get acres of product. Typically what happens in a harvest is you reap way, way more than you have sown. So if you sow a little bit of wickedness, you will get a lot of corruption that can take over your life. It can lead from one sin to another sin. You sow a little bit of righteousness, you can grow to a fruitful field of blessing.
Now the best part is the last part; Chapters 11 through14. It's all about how faithful God is. Judgment is left behind, God's faithfulness is highlighted here. Now the first few chapters, the relationship between God and His people was, what example, husband and wife. Now, it's father and child. Father and child is highlighted. So it's a mixed metaphor, change of metaphor here. Now this is how it works.
Chapter 11 is the illustration of a runaway child. Remember as a kid running away from home? How many ran away from home as a little kid? So I am getting out of here. I did, I ran away from home. I made it one block and came home. Chapter 11 is the runaway child. Chapter 12 and 13, the rebellious teenager. Chapter 14, the restored adult, and that's the rest of the Book of Hosea.
Verse 1, Chapter 11, "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son. As they called them, so they went from them; they sacrificed to the Baals and burned incense to carved images." You ran away from Me; you ran after other Gods. "I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I drew them with gentle cores, with bands of love. I was to them, as those who take the yoke from their neck, I stooped and I fed them." Notice the gentle father like compassion, not kicking His children or dragging His child but picking up His child and encouraging them to go on. "I stooped and I fed them."
Verse 7, "My people are bent on backsliding from Me, though they called to the most High, none at all exalt Him." Wow! The more God lovingly pursued them, the more they ran in the opposite direction and chased idols. You might say, "I don't get that, I don't get that." I had a dog like that once. His name was Toby. He was a springer spaniel, beautiful dog, dumb. Not all of them, mine was dumb. Maybe because it was mine, it was dumb, I don't know.
I was training Toby and I remember saying, "Toby, come." As soon as I would say, come, he would turn in the opposite direction and he'd run that way saying, "No, that means go." Maybe I should have said, go, and he would have come to me but I said, come, he would leave. This was detrimental especially the day I was training him in my front yard and I said, come, because I saw a car coming down the street. I said, "Toby, come" and I thought, "Oh! That was dumb", because he ran right toward the car in the opposite direction and actually hit the car with his body. The car didn't hit him. He ran into the car. He was okay, the car was fine, my dog was fine, ran in the opposite direction. The more God was pursuing His people, the more they orbed.
Why would anybody run from God? God says, "Would you come to Me so that I can bless you, so that I can have a relationship with you, so that I can forgive you, so that I can establish a covenant?" "No." "Really? What's up with that?" "No." That's a runaway child.
Chapter 12 and 13, a rebellious teenager. I was one, I can relate to this. Verse 1 of Chapter 12, "Ephraim feeds on the wind, he pursues the east wind. He daily increases lies and desolation; also they make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried to Egypt." This should be olive oil, not for your car. Verse 3, "He took his brother by the heel in the womb" notice, "He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and in his strength he struggled with God. Yes, he struggled with the angel and prevailed. He wept and sought favor from Him. He found Him in Bethel, and there He spoke to us;" that is God spoke to us.
Okay, gives him a history lesson, pulls out two incidents from Jacob's life, birth and bethel. At birth, remember Rebecca, his mom, having stomach crams one day and she was in pain and she cried out and God said, "Two nations are in your womb." That would explain. That would be painful; I thought I was having kids, now you're telling me, two nations are in my womb. Okay, well that's a lot of kids. Of course, God meant two nations will come from these two kids. "Two nations are in your womb, two peoples will be separated. The older will serve the younger." So the first one came out, Esau means hairy, he was all hairy and red. So they called him Hairy. After Hairy, a little boy grabbing the heel of his brother, they called him Heel Catcher, Jacob, one who grabs the heel. So at birth, he was already tripping up his brother. Later on he was at bethel and he wrestled with God till the breaking of the day.
Here is what the point of the prophet is. This nation has a history from birth. Just like Jacob, this nation of Israel has a history from birth of being rebellious against God's laws, God's prophets, God's ways. They have set a president. There is a historical president that has been set. Chapter 14 is the restored adult. Verse 1, "O Israel, return to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity."
Now before we close out this book, please notice something about Hosea. Notice that whenever Hosea is dealing with the problem of his loved people, Israel, he calls sin, sin; he calls iniquity, iniquity. Those aren't fun words. Those are not like words designed to make somebody feel really good about themselves, but it happens to be the truth. You guys have eaten your lunch and it's your own fault. Your own iniquity has done this to you. You have stumbled because of your own iniquity. He calls it sin, iniquity. He uses the term backsliding in this book. That's important.
In 1 John, we read, "If we say, we have no sin," you are a liar? The first step to being healed is to admit, I have a disease. You go to a doctor, "Well we have examined you. You have this disease." "No, I don't." "Like I said, you have got this disease and we can treat you." "I don't have it." You can deny it all you want but that's kind of dumb. Go, get treat it but you have to admit it. Second thing is to confess it. Verse 2, "Take words with you, and return to the Lord." Be specific when you confess your sins. "Say to him, take away all iniquity, receive us graciously; for we will offer sacrifices of our lips."
There is a great story about a Prussian king named Frederick the Great. He was touring a prison in Berlin one day and as Frederick was walking through with his entourage, there was cell block after cell block, prisoner after prisoner and every prisoner said, "Let me out. I am innocent. I have been convicted wrongly of crimes I didn't commit." They all said they were innocent. Now, this was very interesting to Frederick the Great and he finally came to one guy who said nothing at all. Frederick the Great said, "I suppose you are going to tell me you are innocent too." He said, "No sir, I am not innocent. I am guilty and I deserve the punishment that has been leveled against me." This took Frederick the Great by surprise. He called the guard and he said, "Release this rascal before he infects all of these other innocent people." See he knows here is a guy that's willing to confess his sin, he gets free. All these other guys, they stay in.
Bible says in the Book of Proverbs "He who covers his sin will not prosper. Whoever confesses and forsakes them will find mercy." Verse 4, God promises, "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely," means without cause that's grace right there. They don't deserve it but I am going to love them anyway. "For my anger has turned away from him. I will be like the dew to Israel." That refreshing morning water.
"He shall grow like the lily and lengthen his roots like Lebanon." God will restore strength and stability to the nation. "His branches will spread, his beauty shall be like an olive tree, and his fragrance like Lebanon." I didn't know what that meant till about a year-and-a-half ago when I traveled to Lebanon. Up in the high country, the cedar is beautiful; fragrance of Lebanon, a delight. "Those who dwell under His shadow shall return, they shall be revived like grain, and grow like the wine. Their scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon. Ephraim will say, what have I to do anymore with idols. I have heard and observed him, I am like a green Cyprus tree, your fruit is found", God says, "Your fruit is found in Me."
So Hosea, through his own personal pain, levels a very heavy message on Israel, but the result would be repentance, thus restoration. So there is an upside to this. Don't think of Hosea as the finger pointing prophet as much as, I am going to point the finger but as soon as I see our heart change, arms go out, God will embrace you, come back, bring words with you, confess, repent, forgiveness. That's the message of this book. It's no different in the New Testament.
Paul wrote a very scaving letter to the Corinthians. He said in his second letter, "I am happy, not because you are made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance; for you became sorrowful, as God intended." I am sad to say repentance as a message is absent from most churches today. Even most Evangelical churches shun away from using sin, iniquity, backsliding, the need for repentance. But they do not understand how good it is to say it like it is because the upside of that is wonderful.
The Bible says, "Blessed are those who mourn. They shall be comforted." When a person is sorry for his sin, there is God ready to forgive. So here is a heartfelt message through this Prophet Hosea, a heartsick prophet, about a heartbroken God. The patching of his life, the result, people came to know God. Let's pray.
Lord, the word that overshadows tonight's message is not retribution but restoration and sandwiched in between those two very real events that happened in their history is the word repentance. When a heart, when a life chooses to turn around and go in different direction and announce that to their God and to be very specific and confess and say, I need forgiveness, I need a word of hope. I need help, You are there to forgive. Like the thief on the cross, his whole life lived apart from God and in his dying moments, believed in Christ. Jesus said, "Today you will be with me in paradise."
Lord, You desire I believe to grant everlasting life to maybe a few more than I or maybe there are those who were religious growing up, made some decision at a young age but today, they are not walking with Christ. There is no daily reality. There is no lifestyle of repentance. Lord, I pray that You would reach out in Your great mercy, Your great grace, Your unfathomable love and bring those people back to You and You would heal their backsliding and You grant them forgiveness, give them everlasting life and plant them and it is like you promised you would let the roots go deep in and give them stability.