Sermon on Hosea 3:1-5
16th Sunday after Pentecost
A Lesson in Faithful Love
Text: Hosea 3:1-5
There are messages from the Lord. And then there are messages from the Lord. It was not uncommon for the Lord to use visible and striking symbols with his prophets to reinforce emphatically very important messages. The Israelites were spiritual dullards whose hearts were quickly hardening. They needed all the help they could get so that they could grasp just how sinful they were.
God told the prophet Jeremiah to buy a belt and bury it. When he dug it up and found the belt useless, the message was that because of their sin, Israel would soon be destroyed and become useless. Ezekiel was used as a sign as much as anyone else. He was told by the Lord to eat a scroll. He ate it and it tasted as sweet as honey—a symbol that Ezekiel was to fully digest the Word and message of the Lord. Later the Lord told Ezekiel to make a model of the city of Jerusalem. Ezekiel was to lie tied up next to the city model one day for every year of Israel’s sin. This was a visible prophecy that Jerusalem would be besieged. Later Ezekiel had an even more difficult message to deliver that was prophesied in a more challenging way. The Lord allowed Ezekiel’s dear wife to die, which was to be a symbol of how the Lord was going to allow the dear city of Jerusalem and the dear temple to be destroyed. Extreme sin by the Israelites called for extreme messages from the Lord. The Israelites needed to somehow grasp the gravity of their sin.
This morning we hear about the Lord using another visible and striking message. It’s another extreme message because of the Israelites’ extreme sin. Imagine being a prophet at this time in Israel’s history. It’s about 750 BC. The kingdom of Israel had been ripped in two, leaving the land of Israel in the north and the land of Judah in the south. Israel in the north was going off the deep end with their sinfulness. Judah in the south was not far behind. Difficult circumstances for proclaiming the Word of God!
But that was only the start of Hosea’s difficult mission and message. Just before the lesson today, God told this to Hosea in chapter one, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord.” It was to be another extreme message against the extreme sin of Israel. Hosea was told to marry an adulterous prostitute because their marriage was to be a symbol of Israel’s relationship with the Lord. God loved his people, but they had committed spiritual adultery. They spiritually cheated on the Lord, and Hosea’s new wife Gomer was to remind them of that. Talk about an extreme message!
That wasn’t the end of the difficult, yet clear, message through Hosea and Gomer. God told them what to name their children. Their first son was to be named Jezreel, named after a city where a sinful massacre took place. Imagine that! This would be like naming your child Twin Towers or D-Day. What a horrible name to bear! The other two children were named by the Lord too. The next child was a daughter who was to be named Lo-Ruhamah, which in English means Not Loved, because Israel would no longer be loved by the Lord. The third child was son who was to be named Lo-Ammi, which in English means Not My People, because they would not be God’s people any more.
Can you fathom walking in Hosea’s sandals! You are told by God to marry an unfaithful prostitute. You have to name your children Not Loved and Not My People. (Imagine the difficulties of bed time, “Good night Not My People. Good night Not Loved. I love you.” How confusing!)
But this was meant to be yet another extreme message to catch the attention of the Israelites who were committed extreme sins! The people had been unfaithful to the Lord. Their sinful and unbelieving hearts were leading them to hell where they would no longer be loved and no longer be the people of the Lord.
So what happened with this message? The people didn’t listen. They continued in their sinful ways. They continued to commit physical adultery with whomever they wanted. They continued to commit spiritual adultery by worshiping false gods. They continued to lie to each other and cheat each other in the marketplace. They continued to have priests that were dirty, rotten scoundrels. They were still unfaithful.
And what happened with Hosea and Gomer? Gomer continued her earthy, fleshy ways. Hosea showed love to his wife with a sketchy past, but she fell back into the same sinful lifestyle, the same old pet sins all over again.
That’s where we cut in this morning in chapter 3. The Lord comes to Hosea with yet another striking task that would deliver a striking message. Here’s what it says in Hosea 3:1, “The Lord said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” (Sacred raisin cakes were likely used as offerings to false gods.)
What a striking message! The Lord was going to teach both Hosea and the people of Israel A Lesson in Faithful Love. Even though Gomer had cheated and went back to her ways, Hosea was to take her back. He wasn’t supposed to just cohabitate or “make do” with Gomer. He was to love her. True, real, faithful love. This faithful love from Hosea was to be a sign and symbol of the Lord’s faithful love. Even though the Israelites still didn’t listen to him, he still loved his people with true, real and faithful love.
So Hosea listened. We’re told in verse two that he bought her back for a few pieces of silver and a couple bushels of barley. Gomer was worth so little that she cost but the price of a common slave. Yet Hosea brought her back home and told her in love, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.”
The message to the Israelites was loud and clear. The Israelites would be punished for their sins. Their land would be destroyed and they would be taken off into captivity. Yet God would still love them and bring them back. The intention was that this whole event would lead them to repent of their sin and realize the faithful love of the Lord. That’s what verse five is talking about, “Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the Lord and to his blessings in the last days.”
This was the ultimate visible and striking message from the Lord. It was the ultimate Lesson in Faithful Love. Certainly every one that is married or has been married appreciates the concept of having a spouse that is faithful. How terrible it is when one spouse is not faithful in every way to the other. How much hurt and pain it can cause! Using that parallel, imagine just how upset God must have been with the people of Israel. Time after time they rebelled against him. They worshiped that golden calf in the desert during the time of Moses. Then they worshiped Baal and Asherah. They offered raisin cakes to Caananite gods. At times some even sacrificed their children to the false god Molech. They struggled with sexual sins over and over again. They were constantly greedy, hoarding money and possessions for themselves instead of giving back to the Lord. Their leaders were corrupt. Sin after sin after sin. Spiritual adultery after adultery after adultery. God would have had every right to spiritually divorce himself from those people, dooming and damning them to an eternity in hell. Yet he didn’t. The Lord instead showed them true, real, and faithful love. Can you believe that? Can you believe the faithful love of the Lord for his people?
Can you believe the faithful love of the Lord for us? Are we any different than Israel? Maybe we don’t worship golden calves or Baal or Asherah or Molech. But we Americans surely worship the almighty dollar. We do everything we can for money. We work until we’re sick. We work so much we ignore other things more important. We lie and cheat on our taxes. We find shortcuts and loopholes. We use little plastic cards to buy things we can’t (and shouldn’t) afford.
Don’t we also worship our children? We’ll do anything for our children. We’ll put them in any program or league or extracurricular if it advances them. We’ll travel to any sports game, even on Sundays. We’ll spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on them, spoiling them with toys and games and clothes that they’ll only get sick of in a few months, if not a few days. Yet we at times find it so hard to sit down for a family devotion or to say a prayer together. We might rather take them to the beach than take them to Bible study.
And surely no one can say that any culture in all of history has succumbed to the temptations of sex than America. It’s everywhere. Every blockbuster movie, every top 10 musical hit, every best selling book or magazine, every commercial, every web page, and every junk E-mail—they’re all filled with temptation.
We must be honest with ourselves. Don’t hold anything back. Don’t sugar coat things you’ve done. We all are no different than unfaithful Gomer or unfaithful Israel. Sin after sin after sin. Spiritual adultery after adultery after adultery. God would have every right to spiritually divorce himself from us, dooming and damning us to an eternity in hell.
This extreme message about extreme sin wasn’t just for the Israelites. No! God’s eternal Word spans 2,700 years, reaching forward to us in the 21st century, giving us a striking message about the seriousness of our sin.
Yet at the same, time the striking message and Lesson in Faithful Love shown by Hosea to Gomer, which parallels God and Israel, also applies to us as well. We are totally helpless, hopeless, and lost in our sins. But that is exactly whom Jesus came for, the lost.
In the gospel today we heard the Pharisees scoffing at Jesus that he was hanging out with such “sinners.” So Jesus told them the parable about the lost sheep, indicating that he would go to any length to save one of his lost sheep. Indeed, Jesus did. Jesus didn’t just come to seek the lost. Jesus came to save the lost.
Again, we can relate to the pain and anger that is involved if one spouse is unfaithful to the other. Yet Jesus has shown us, his unfaithful bride, true, real, and faithful love. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 5 when he talks about husbands and wives, “Christ the loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Christ’s love for the lost was so great that he didn’t just say he loves us, he didn’t just take us back and give us another chance (maybe like Hosea and Gomer), he actually showed love for us by dying for us.
Jesus’ love to the lost is so faithful that he was even willing to take our sins upon himself. He was willing to suffer what sinners deserve. He was willing to take guilt when he had none. He was willing to face death and hell though he ought never die.
This true story about Hosea and Gomer took place around 2,700 years ago. It was an extreme message meant to wake up those Israelites from their extreme sin. At the same time, it was an extreme message that highlighted the extreme faithful love of the Lord.
Nearly three millennia later, the message hasn’t changed. Even better, God’s love hasn’t changed. No matter what you have done, no matter how bad your sins, no matter how many your sins, God’s love is faithful! Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. That means that Jesus came to seek and to save you! So continue to fulfill the prophecy in Hosea. “Come trembling to the Lord and to his blessings in [these] last days.” Fall before the Lord in thanks and praise. Give him your all. Give him your best. Be faithful in your love for him, for his love has been and will always be perfectly faithful to you!
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