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Monday, November 3, 2014

He Knows! Hosea 2.2-23

He Knows!
Hosea 2.2-8, 14-23 (1 Peter 2.4-10)
The Audio File is Here: tinysa.com/sermon/111814103612

[If you find this piece helpful, please let me know. I would like to hear your story and how this has helped. Mike]

Lord God, who has been broken over our whoring hearts that have often departed from you (Ezekiel 6.9), may we be brought to grasp more fully your own brokenheartedness this day that we may more willingly seek you and know you. Amen.

I’ve seen it with my own eyes; heard it with my own ears; and truth be known, sadly, I’ve done it myself more times than can be told. I’m referring to that sanctimonious smugness that assesses other’s based almost entirely on exteriors and peripherals. A person’s marriage comes crashing down in smoldering, charred embers around their feet, and then they see that “Look” in the eyes of their Christian friends, or that “harrumph” that escapes from their lips. A single parent or a couple has an unruly kid, an errant teenager or an adult child that has taken up a lifestyle that is an outright opposite to the Christian morality they were raised with, and the parent’s feel the pressingly heavy weight of being looked down on by their church family. Speaking in broad generalities, it’s a problem within the Church. It’s a problem that lies coiled up in our hearts and raises its serpentine, self-satisfied head to accusingly stare at “those poor souls who just haven’t got it together like I do!” So what would happen, though, if we turned our critical gaze, our sanctimonious smugness, toward God? Let’s do that by looking at God’s marriage and God’s parenting.

Marriage: The good God has a bad marriage! That’s the point of chapter 1 through chapter 3 of Hosea. Take notice that in this marriage-made-in-heaven there are:
(1) conflicts and clashes: God’s marriage to Israel has disintegrated to the point that he says “not my wife…not her husband” (v.2); because of Israel’s misuse and abuse of the riches he has poured out on her, God takes back what he gave her so as not to subsidize her self-destruction: “I will hedge up her way with thorns…build a wall against her” (v.6), “I will take back my grain…my wine, …I will take away my wool and flax…I will uncover her lewdness….put an end to her mirth…lay waste her vines and her fig trees” (v.9-12). It’s not pretty in God’s home life. You can image the metaphorical dishes flying; the temperature fluctuating between horribly hot and then icy cold!

(2) Selfishness and self-absorption. Israel has spurned the love of her husband and has traipsed off to seek affection elsewhere “She shall pursue her lovers…she shall seek them” (v.7); with the Rolling stones she “can’t get no satisfaction” like she wants and so gives herself away to others “And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the LORD” (v.13). Nope, it’s not been pretty in God’s relationship with his wife. There’s obviously a problem with communication and trust.

(3) Relational Dysfunction and malfunction:  The relationship is so bad that God commissions the prophet to take up a marriage that mirrors his own “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD” (1.2), and “And the LORD said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel,” (3.1); God’s wife is a “user” – she has no loyalties beyond herself – “She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them. Then she shall say, 'I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now’” (2.7). This marriage relationship has become mangled, muddled, mauled and utterly impaired.

Dear friends, this is all very painful to rehearse, but there it is. God has a vexed marriage. If you were to listen to his wife, I’m sure you’d get an earful of how insensitive he is, how unbearably domineering, how cold hearted he can be at times! And being a fly on the wall and watching this marital-meltdown through the lens of sanctimonious smugness, you and I might likely shake our heads in disgust and write God off as a bad husband, and be tempted to say, “Who is he to tell us what our marriage is to look like! The hypocrisy of it all!!”

Parenting: And God’s track record runs off the rails here too! Let me back up a second or two and make a point then push ahead. In Exodus 4.22-23, God asserts that Israel is his child, “Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, "Let my son go that he may serve me." If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.'" And the same in Deuteronomy 14.1-2, “You are the sons of the LORD your God. You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead.  For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” And again in Hosea 11.1, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” But when you look in Hosea you quickly recognize that his children are like those born from an adulterous relationships, “Upon her children also I will have no mercy, because they are children of whoredom…she who conceived them has acted shamefully” (2.4-5), to the point he names many of them “lo-ruhama – no mercy” (1.6) and “lo-ammi – not my people” (1.9). In fact, all of the Old Testament (and many places in the New) makes very clear that God has a load of bad-to-the-bone-boys and debased-to-the-depths-daughters! God’s children are often rebellious, often drunk, often doped-up, often conniving, often thieving, often cut-throat, often phony, often fickle, and often thoroughly flubbed up! Again, my friends, this is all very painful to rehearse, but there it is. God has troubled children. If you were to listen to his kids, I’m sure you’d get an earful of how callous he is, how intolerably heavy-handed, how unfair and rule-oriented he can be at times! And being a fly on the wall and watching this parental-breakdown through the lens of sanctimonious smugness, you and I might likely shake our heads in disgust and write God off as a poor father whose parenting skills are abysmal and awful, and be tempted to say, “Who is he to tell us how to parent our children! The hypocrisy of it all!!”

This has been very hard to put together this way, but I think you get the idea. Three things to end with. Each one, in its own way, as some good news until the 3rd one climaxes with THE Good News.

1st – [This point is not the main reason of the sermon, that comes next. But it is worth saying] By some people’s standards inside the Church, with all of their harrumphing and high-mindedness; with all of their demeaning certainties and disparaging snobbery toward people whose marriages are shattering, and toward those parents whose children are troublesome with a capital “T” – if their sanctimoniously smug standard was applied to God, even he himself wouldn’t pass their criteria! Of course I’m not promoting poor marriages and bad parenting – everyone of us who are married or have children could use some tightening up of the parental and marital screws a little more and would benefit by applying ourselves to what God says about both. But I am pointing out the sadly and painfully obvious to encourage us, one and all, to make sure we’re not riding on our high horses and to remind us that we could all stand to show a lot more grace and a lot more compassion in hot and heartrending circumstances.

2nd – But the real point, the main idea of this sermon that I’m hoping to clearly get across: this is for those of you who are hurting deeply. Oh my battered, beleaguered friend, if your marriage is on the rocks, or if it is already shattered and collapsed in a shambles on the shore – God knows what it’s like! Go to him, pour out your tears and sobs and “whys?” and “how comes?” to him. He knows; O my heartbroken friends, he knows! // And you, my bleeding and brokenhearted friends who may be tearing your hair out over your kids’ actions and choices, flummoxed and feeling like an utter failure; or if your children have grown up and taken paths and roads you know are harmful and wrong; or if your children have cast off your Christianity, slandered you as a parent, and embraced lifestyle choices that are in direct opposition to the good way you raised them – God knows what it’s like! Go to him with your serious sadnesses, go to him with your inconsolable miseries, with all of your “I don’t understands!” and all of your “Where did we go wrongs?” He knows; oh my lovesick friends, he knows!

3rd – Let’s end with some good news in Hosea. For we who are God’s rascally, rambunctious, rowdy wife: Chapter 2.14-3.5 announces God’s undying love, his unrelenting affection, his unstoppable remedy. His marriage will be rescued (2.16-20 and 3.1-5) and the day is coming when the bride he died for he will finally present “to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,” and he will make her “holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5.27). … And also for us, God’s hard-to-love, and ornery children: we will be reclaimed and restored in the end, and it has already begun! Hosea 2.23; and 1 Peter 2.4-10 – “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”


Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who sets the solitary in families: We commend to your continual care the homes in which we, your people dwell. We implore you to put far from our homes every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, and godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy matrimony, have been made one flesh. Heal the broken hearts of those whose marriages are embittered, embattled or imploded. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectioned one to another; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (Adapted from the Book of Common Prayer).

{If you desire to use this in your Bible study or a sermon, feel free. But do, please, give credit where credit is due. Mike}

1 comment:

Natalie S said...

This was a wonderful post. Very thought-provoking! Thank you.

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