I want us to see that God loves you with the most amazing, extraordinary, mad, counter intuitive, beyond belief, out of this world sort of love.
Let me tell you about another film – The Elephant man. It’s about a man called John Merrick. He was terribly deformed – had an enormous skull and facial disfigurement – hence called the elephant man. He was in a Victorian freak show – people paid money to see how horrible he was.
The film is about how a doctor, Frederick Treves, befriends him, tries to help him. But at the same time when people see him they often find him horrible. At one point in the film he loses his covering over his face, and he gets chased by a crowd and cornered and he cries out,
"I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I ... am ... a ... man!"
- We need love
He exemplifies two things. First – how we need to be loved. He receives very little love – he says he was such a disappointment to his mother. He’s constantly laughed at or abused. And consequently he barely functions as a human – he’s so scared and withdrawn – because he’s never been loved. When Treves and his wife are kind to him - we discover he’s actually a lovely person. Through knowing them he starts to come out of himself - and grow and flourish.
He shows us how we need to be loved. We were made for loving relationships. And so to be secure in ourselves, to be happy with ourselves, to be fully ourselves – we need to be loved from outside ourselves. We need love.
- We love what we find lovely
Secondly he highlights the rule that we love what we find lovely. He obviously gives us a negative example - he is far from lovely so he gets no love. But that’s the rule we work to – we love what is lovely. Often we love those who are physically lovely – a quick look at magazine covers shows how much we value appearance and beauty today. But it’s not just appearance, we love those who are interesting, or funny, successful, intelligent. We love what we find lovely.
That leads to a difficult place. We need love – but the way it works is – we love what we find lovely. So what if you’re not lovely? What if parts of your character are deformed and ugly? What happens then?
Like I said, I want us to see that God loves you with the most amazing, extraordinary, mad, counter intuitive, beyond belief, out of this world sort of love.
1) God loves the adulterous, Hosea 3v1-5, 11v8-11
We saw yesterday that Israel aren’t lovely in God’s sight. 11v1-2 READ. God had saved Israel from Egypt, made her his bride – but she sold her faith and trust to Baal.
And consequently – God will punish them – 11v5-7 READ.
It sounds like God is like us – he loves what he finds lovely. And Israel are horrible – monstrous in their love of other gods – and so he’s going to reject them.
Then out of nowhere we get v8.
God says, I’m definitely going to reject you, end of v7 READ. 11:8 READ.
He’s in the middle of rejecting them, when it’s as though his heart breaks, and his voice cracks – “that’s it, it’s over, and don’t bother coming back – oh, Israel, oh my people - how can I do that? How can I reject you?”
He says v8 - my heart is changed with me – literally it’s more, my heart is in turmoil – I’m in a complete state – because, end of v8, my compassion is aroused. I’m in the middle of rejecting you, but as I do that - my love is welling up in me – and so my heart is breaking at the thought of it.
And so he says, v9 READ. My love is too great – I can’t do it – I can’t reject you as my people.
He is like a parent – who says to a rebellious teenager, that’s it, I’m throwing you out – oh come here – you’re not going anywhere. He’s like a wife – who says to her promiscuous husband – it’s over, I’m divorcing you, get out – the next moment, breaks into tears and says ‘I want you to stay’.
It is an amazing revelation of God’s heart. To see - the thought of rejecting us, breaks God’s heart – because he loves us so.
- Once again acted out by Hosea and Gomer: Hosea 3v1-2
Hosea himself has to embody and act out this truth about God’s love. We saw how Hosea had to marry an adulterous women – to illustrate how Israel have treated God. But in chp 3:1-2 READ.
It seems Hosea’s wife is owned by someone else – she has gone off with her lover, even become someone’s slave. Hosea has been betrayed, spurned, hurt.
But now God says to him – love her again. I want you to love that adulterous, unfaithful wife who has hurt you so terribly.
It doesn’t take much to imagine what Hosea must have felt. But God, she’s really hurt me. She has abused my love. She’s made my marriage like a sick joke. God sometimes I hate her, for what she’s done to me. To love the adulterer – that is crazy. That is almost inhuman.
Of course that is just what everyone else would think as well - Hosea’s friends, his family – “Hosea – what are you playing at – letting her back into your life. We told you not to start with her – but you wouldn’t listen – but to have her back, after all she’s done to you. You’re mad to have anything to do with her.
Once again though, Hosea does it – and he does it to embody God’s message to Israel. 3v1b READ. Hosea is to reply to his friends – you’re right - it is unbelievable, it is mad, crazy – to love the adulterous. But I’m doing it because that is how God feels about you – that is the sort of love in God’s heart – he loves you, with this mad, almost in-human love.
In fact God says the reason he does love Israel is because of exactly that – because he isn’t human – back in chapter 11 - 11:9 READ.
God being holy – means fundamentally that he is separate from us – in a different league from us. He is God, not man. That is true in many different ways – in his power, his purity - but in particular here – he is different from us in his love. Because he loves the adulterous.
That’s not to say that humans can’t love someone unfaithful to us – but we rarely do it. Our love easily runs out, easily changes in the face of persistent, gross unfaithfulness.
But God isn’t human – he loves with a crazy, in-human love – he loves the adulterous.
2) God loves faithfully, Hosea 11v11
Secondly, we can add a little bit to this – God loves faithfully.
In 11v11 we read that God’s love will lead him to settle his children in their homes – back in the land.
That is what God had promised to Abraham, I will be your God, and your descendants will be my people. I will give you the land of Canaan.
Now hundreds of years later – when Israel have been unfaithful to him and deserve his punishment – God says, I will give you the land - I will be faithful to you and will be faithful my promise.
Now, it’s not that this faithfulness is separate from his love. It’s not as though God is saying, “I really want to reject them but I did promise, so I suppose I’ll have to keep my word.”
He chose to enter into relationship with Abraham and his descendants – in love. The promise was made in love. So when we say God is faithful to his promise, we are saying God is faithful in loving his partner, and giving her what he promised. He doesn’t stop loving – he is loves faithfully.
I read an interesting statistic a while ago - 50% of wives wouldn’t marry their husband again, if they had a second chance. You can just hear it, “If I had known it was going to be like this – if I had know you were going to be like this – I’d have never got into this. I don’t want to try and love you anymore, I don’t love you anymore”.
That must have been said or thought so many times. Marriage reveals what we are really like. And faced with what we are really like, our love runs out. As we discover each other’s unloveliness, we so easily stop loving.
But God is the Holy One, he is God and not man. He knows exactly what we are like, he sees all we do wrong – but he doesn’t stop loving. He doesn’t give up. He loves – faithfully.
However – all this does raise a big question – what did God mean when he says – he can’t give up Israel? Because a few years after this Assyria do invade, and Israel is destroyed. His judgement does come. So – what is God promising not to do here?
I think the places mentioned in v8 can help us. How can I make you like Admah or Zeboiim? They were the sister cities of Sodom and Gomorrah - and like them were destroyed completely. They were a byword for complete destruction.
So God is saying – I won’t make you like them, I won’t destroy you completely.
He will give them a taste of his punishment in the exile, but in his love he won’t give them all of it – he won’t pour out this ‘complete destruction’.
Or to put it another way – there will be a future for Israel. That is what v10, 11 describe READ – after exile – after the taste of punishment – God will bring his people back to himself.
3) God loves us in Christ, Hosea 2v14
Another place this is described in Hosea is chapter 2 – let me read 2v14 READ.
Literally he says, “I’m going to seduce her” and ‘I will gently romance her’.
And he goes on to describe how he will love her and marry her again. So God is depicting himself as a bridegroom, coming to win Israel back. There is going to be judgement – but beyond that – he will come love her again, and seduce her, and win her back.
- John 3v29 – Christ is the bridegroom come to win his bride
Well, the exile happens, Israel come back to the land, the years go by, and then we hear John the Baptist saying “the friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.” Complete because Jesus the bridegroom - he has now come. Come to an adulterous people – to love them and so win his bride.
And so we read,
- Romans 5v8 – God loves us while we were adulterous sinners
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners – adulterous - Christ died for us.”
- 1John 4v10 - God loved us when we didn’t love him
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” We didn’t love God, we weren’t faithful to him. But in Christ, God loved us, and dealt with our sin.
- Ephesians 5v25 - Christ loved us to make us his bride
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy … to present her to himself as a radiant church.” Christ loved us – to make us holy so we could be his bride.
In other words, this love of God described in Hosea – that love for the adulterous - we see that fulfilled in Christ. We see this love of God - as Christ comes as a bridegroom to make us his bride by dying for us.
I don’t mean Christ’s death is nothing more than an expression of God’s love. His death deals with our sin. His death deals with that ‘complete destruction’ that we all deserve. And so means we can return to God.
But while Christ’s death achieves all that what Hosea really highlights is God’s love. This all happens because God loves the adulterous.
And Christ’s death is the proof of that. Christ’s death is proof - that God’s heart does breaks over us, his voice does crack.
Christ’s death is the demonstration – the thought of giving us up puts God in a complete state – because he loves us so.
Christ’s death is the rock solid guarantee, undeniable evidence, immovable certainty – that God loves us.
As I said at the start – we need to be loved. To be secure in ourselves, to be happy with ourselves, to be fully ourselves – we need to be loved from outside ourselves. We need love.
And yet we easily think – only the lovely get loved – but we’re not lovely.
Might think that because of how others have treated us. Parents, siblings, teachers, friends, boss, colleagues.
Might think we’re unlovely because of what we’ve done. Haven’t done. Feel guilty about that.
Might feel we’re unlovely because we’re just little us. Not significant or important.
Hosea says - God loves you. He’s God and not man, he’s not like those who haven’t loved us, or mistreated us. He loves faithfully. He doesn’t love those who deserve it – he loves the adulterous – the unlovely. He loves little you.
The film “A Beautiful Mind” – is about a mathematician – John Nash – played by Russel Crowe. He’s a pretty quirky bloke – definitely on the spectrum. He really isn’t bothered about relationships – he’s doesn’t care what people think about him. Someone asks him once, you don’t care about people do you, he smiles and says ‘no’. He cared about numbers and theories and maths.
The film goes on – he makes some great maths discoveries, he gets married – then you discover he’s schizophrenic – much of what you’ve watched has been him hallucinating. The film is really about his battle with mental illness. The enormous pressure and strain his wife is put under, the pain and grief she goes through. All she has to deal with and absorb. But she stays with him and keeps loving him.
Towards the end of his life he received a Nobel Prize – and in the film he makes a speech – everyone is there in black tie – his wife. He says this,
“I’ve always believed in numbers. In the equations and logics that lead to reason. But after a lifetime of such pursuits I ask what truly is logic? Who decides reason? My quest has taken me to the physical, metaphysical, the delusional and back. I have made the most important discovery of my career. The most important discovery of my life. It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logic or reasons can be found.
Then he looks at his wife and says, “I’m only here tonight because of you. You are the reason I am. You are all my reasons.”
Now – it’s a bit Hollywood I know. But he has discovered love – is what really matters. And that is something beyond logic and reason. There is no reason for his wife to love him – not after what he put her through – but she does. Beyond reason.
And yet it is every reason – it’s what he needs, it’s what has held him together, given him a life. Love – you are all my reasons.
Jesus’ love is like that.
Love beyond reason. Love for the adulterous – there’s not reason for that - it’s crazy, mad, unbelievable love.
And yet Jesus’ love is all our reasons. I mean his love is the love we need for life. The reason for life. Knowing he loves us with this kind of love - gives us security and stability. His love allows us to be fully ourselves. His love allows us to be truly us because we’re secure, we’re free – we’re loved. A love that is all our reasons.
So, as I finish I’ve just got one question for each of us – if we had time I’d ask you individually – look you in the eye – and ask, do you know God loves you?
I don’t mean, have we heard God loves us. Or do we know abstractly that it is true God loves us. I don’t mean have we told other people God loves them. Or talked about how amazing God’s love is. I mean, do we know, for ourselves, deeply and personally, so that it’s a foundation for our lives, that God loves us?
Because he does you know.
Look at Christ and you see God loves you with the most amazing, extraordinary, mad, counter intuitive, beyond belief, out of this world sort of love.
Do I know and feel God loves me?
“Love beyond reason” – why would God love me? How can I be sure that God loves me?
“Love that are all my reasons” – how does God’s love give you a foundation for life? Can you give examples of how God’s love makes a difference to you day to day?
Time by ourselves