Weekend Away 4. Hosea 2:14-23. The True Marriage

Introduction: the promise of happiness

A while ago I went to a wedding of a good friend. It was a lovely day – very musical day – he is musical and he sang a song at the reception – “Happiness, is just around corner.”  

 

Perhaps a little idealistic we might say. But – what we all want isn’t it – to be happy. To be fulfilled, secure, content. We’ve mentioned through our talks that lots of things around us offer that to us. It’s how most adverts work – you get a picture of a happy, fulfilled, contented life in some form – or a bit of it. If you only you get the right perfume, car, holiday. Same can go with jobs or possessions or pleasures.

 

But probably the most common place we look for that happiness and fulfilment are relationships. Marriage perhaps – or children – family – friends. 

 

God is making a similar promise to us in Hosea – he’s promising us something that will give us what we want – something will satisfy, fulfil and bring true happiness. And our instinct is right – it is about relationships – he is offering us a relationship that will give what we’re searching for. 

 

As we come to finish Hosea, the question for all of us – is who will we believe? Which promise will we trust, who will we be faithful to?

 

We saw earlier that despite Israel’s adultery, God still loved her, and in his love he promised to marry her again.  

 

Now we might think – but why marry her again, surely she’s going to do the same thing? What’s going to be different time?  

 

The point of this last talk is that as God remarries Israel – he acts to make it different. God changes things so it’s a true marriage – everything a marriage should be. First of all,

 

1) God will make his new bride faithful in relationship, Hosea 2v16-20, 14v4

2v16 READ – the day of the new marriage.  Look at footnote – ‘my Baal’. As Israel committed adultery – as she gave her trust and worship to Baal – she was still worshipping her God, Yahweh, as well. But she sometimes got them mixed up – and called Yahweh Baal. 

 

It’s a terrible thought – calling your spouse by the wrong name. Imagine an unfaithful husband saying to his wife - Do you want to go out Saturday night, Alison? I mean Susan. 

 

But that terrible state is going to change, v16 she’ll no longer call me baal. Why? What makes the difference? 

 

V17 READ – or no longer will their names be remembered. So God is going to act - and take away the name of Baal from Israel’s lips. He’ll even wipe their memory – so that they won’t remember his name. And then as a devoted lover, Israel will only have eyes for, or a name for, one God – her true husband. 

 

In other words God is going to make his bride faithful to him. 

 

We see the same thing in v19-20 READ. 

 

There are the qualities in perfect marriage – full of faithfulness and love. Now God has always been like that – but he’s going to act to make his marriage like this – Israel is faithful too. 

 

One last reference, 14:4 – having invited them to repent, God then says, READ. 

 

This is the heart of Israel’s problem in the old marriage – she has the disease of waywardness, of turning away from God. Another verse in Hosea says, “A spirit of prostitution is in their hearts” – Israel is ill in her spirit. She is addicted to adultery. It’s a habit she can’t kick.

 

But in the new marriage God says, I will heal her - I will make her whole and healthy with faithfulness.

 

A while ago I read a book describing the current developments in biotechnology. Popular explanation of some of the amazing things that might become possible.  

 

How we might discover the cancer gene, the heart disease genes - and how we will have enormous power and ability to cure ourselves and put ourselves right. 

 

However the book had a real concern about all this as well – because in the history of humanity we have always abused that sort of power. Commercial exploitation, social inequality, ethical misdemeanours. 

 

Interesting conjunction – this enormous power to put ourselves right physically – yet at the same time a complete inability to do the right thing. We have if you like a spiritual gene – we have a spirit of prostitution. We treat other things as god and so do things wrong. And we are unable to eradicate or replace that gene.  

 

But God says, in this new marriage, I’m going to heal you. I’m going to do spiritual surgery on my new bride – I’m going to remove this addiction to adultery. I’m going to act in you so that you are faithful to me, and will only have my name on your lips.

 

God will make his new bride faithful in relationship.

 

2) God will give his new bride fabulous riches, Hosea 2v21-23, 14v5-8

Second difference is that in this new marriage, God will give his new bride fabulous riches.  

 

2v21-22 READ. 

 

The word ‘respond’ here means acting in response to a need. And Israel – as they face God’s judgement, are in great need. 

 

There is no rain, no food. They have been defeated by Assyria, people been killed and deported. The land, the nation, is dead. You could sum that up with the word Jezreel – that was the valley where Assyria defeated Israel – so is symbolic of this death.  

 

But God will respond to this need – first to the skies, sky will respond to the need of the earth for water by sending rain. Earth will respond to the need for grain and wine and oil, by producing crops.  

 

All this will respond to the need of Jezreel – because it will bring the nation back to life. God will plant Israel in the land – and she will grow – in crops, in wine, in oil, as a nation, she will grow and become all she was meant to be.

 

See similar thing back in chp 14v5-8 READ.

 

I don’t know if we’re a bit too urban to get this imagery.

 

V5 Israel will blossom like the lily – a beautiful nation.

 

V5 she will be like a cedar sending down roots. Idea is that she will be secure and strong.

 

V6 Splendour like an olive tree – she will be majestic, awesome as a nation.

 

V6 ‘fragrance like a cedar’ – Israel will be attractive and desirable.  

 

God is promising to make Israel – secure, strong, fruitful and prosperous, majestic and wonderful.  

 

Of course that what Israel wanted. She longed for good crops and wine and the rest of it – but she went to Baal and Assyria for them. 

 

But the truth is, all these riches belong to God – and as he makes her faithful to him – he then showers these riches on her. 

 

It’s like Indecent Proposal – last time – my adapted version. Demi Moore married to Robert Redford who is fabulously wealthy. The affair with Woody has been exposed – Redford has left her to Woody and she’s seen he has nothing to offer – and then he takes he back – she’s faithful to him – she can’t even remember Woody’s name – and so he showers her with riches. All she wanted before – all that Woody use to promise her – she is has from her true husband.

 

So too God will make his bride faithful – and then pour out all these fabulous riches on her – crops, oil, wine, people. He is going to lavish wedding gifts on her, and make her life so rich and abundant, she couldn’t even ask for more.  

 

Of course the most wonderful thing, at the heart of all this – is simply that this new bride will know God.

 

2v23 READ. These are lovers talking to each other – saying, you are mine, and I am yours. We belong to each other – we know each other – we are united in relationship together.

 

We said earlier – this return – this remarriage – happens through Jesus. He comes as a bridegroom to love us – to win us back – to die for us – and bring us into a relationship with God – which is the true marriage. Number 3, 

 

3) God makes us his new bride in Christ, Ephesians 5:25-27

Let’s look at Ephesians 5. Here Paul talks about marriage and how Christ is a model to follow – for instance v25 READ. V28 READ. 

 

Then he goes on to say v31 READ. Now that is a quote from Genesis 2 – and in Genesis 2 it describing Adam and Eve and their human marriage. 

 

Then Paul says v32 READ.

 

Paul is saying that this quote from Genesis 2 – that describes human marriage – what it’s really talking about is the divine marriage between Christ and his church.  

 

Now you may be familiar with this – I don’t know – but the Bible says human marriage is actually a picture of the true marriage – ultimate marriage. That is the relationship between Christ and his church. 

 

Here is the fulfilment of Hosea – God promises to come to marry his people again – God promises to act to make his bride faithful and to pour out his riches on her. That happens through Jesus. 

 

That happens in part now. 

 

V25-27 READ. We have been made faithful by Christ’s death. Not faithful in how we behave we still do things wrong, but he has taken away all our wrong and our sin in his death. So we are now holy, perfect – faithful. God can look at us and see us as a faithful, perfect bride. And he’s changing us to be more faithful – by his Spirit. He’s doing that spiritual surgery in us – taking out that spiritual gene of adultery – so we are faithful to him. 

 

And we see that Christ gives us fabulous riches too - v29 READ. Hosea said God would care for his bride – now we see Christ feeds and cares for us as his own body. And he does that as he feeds us spiritually and helps us to grow in knowledge of him and being like him. 

 

Yet of course, we are well aware, our marriage with Christ is far from perfect. In many ways we are still waiting for Hosea to be fulfilled – we’re still waiting for the wedding day God promises. And the Bible says it’s coming. 

 

4) God makes us fully his bride in the new creation, Revelation 21&22

21v1,2 READ. Christ will return and God will bring about a new creation, a whole new world. But it’s described as a wedding. God’s people are the bride. Christ is the groom. And they are going to married – it’s like now we’re just engaged. Here is the wedding day when we are united. And Hosea is completely fulfilled. So,

 

God’s bride is now completely faithful – 21v9-10 READ. The imagery changes a little – the bride is the city, which is the people of God. But v11 READ.  

 

This is a transformed bride – now perfectly pure, shining with God’s glory – reflecting his character and faithfulness. Later in 22v3 we read that the people of God serve him in the city – don’t serve anyone else, because they’ve been made perfectly faithful to him.

 

And so God gives his bride fabulous riches. First of all every that spoils has been banished from this city. 21v4 READ.

 

We can also see it positively – this city is everything a city could possibly be. V12 says it has a great high wall showing its security. It is made of every kind of precious stone – just look at v18, or v21 READ.  

 

The language is being stretched to try and describe just how majestic, how desirable, how fabulous this city is. 

 

You know this language of precious stones is also used of the prostitute in Revelation, the anti-God world – who seem to have all the riches of the world. But now we see – what the world wanted, and tried to get – actually comes from God. He is the source of all riches. And now he showers them on his bride.

 

Most of all – the heart of all this – is that we will know God. 21v3 READ. 22v4 READ. It’s the wedding day – the bride is finally with her husband, and they are united in intimate, profound, union with each other. It’s the perfect relationship – it’s what we always wanted. 

 

A while ago I read about a TV programme in the States called, who wants to marry a millionaire? A millionaire selected his bride from about 50 contestants – then they were married on TV.  

 

However, before all that happened – there was a prenuptial contract signed – stating that if the marriage broke up the bride wouldn’t be able to claim any of his money. 

 

That sums up the low point we can reach in our relationships – not really trusting each other.  Not really giving ourselves to each other – not really loving each other.  

 

Human marriage, at its best, points to this divine marriage. At its worst – makes us long for this divine marriage – because we are fed up with the disappointment, loneliness, the hurt and the pain of life here. We long for a perfect relationship – which gives us all we really want.  

 

On this wedding day, there will be no prenuptial contract – because this marriage will never end.  There will be no going off with other partners – because this marriage will be utterly faithful.  There will be no holding back – of possessions, or love – because Christ will give us all his riches – all of himself.

 

There will nothing left to do – but to enjoy the relationship. To enter an eternal honeymoon of perfect relationship. 

 

Application

 

I said at the start we all want happiness, fulfilment, meaning and security. 

 

And lots of things around us offer us something of that. Jobs, fashion, beauty, possessions, homes, pleasures and entertainment. 

 

They aren’t wrong things – just won’t give us all you want. Because they are not god. Not enough.

 

Our instinct is often that we will get it in relationships - friends, family, a partner. Because the heart of what we want is to love and be loved isn’t it. To know and be known. To be valued and enjoyed. And to have some to love and enjoy and know. 

 

 

 

 

But again while relationships are good - they only give us a taste of that fulfilment we want. And sometimes much less as we hurt and disappoint each other. 

 

But God – being married and united to God. Being loved by him – to death. Being made rich by him. Knowing him. Being known by him. See his face. That is it. That is what we want. That is what we were made for. That is what life is about. As we see that – as we believe that - we give ourselves to him – to knowing him and growing in him and serving him – and being faithful to him now. 

 

 

 

Sometimes people get married – and then for various reasons - down the track they renew their marriage vows. They remind themselves, and then recommit and reinforce their vows. 

 

In a few minutes we’re going to have the Lord’s supper. And this is a bit like renewing our marriage vows with Jesus. 

 

As we eat and drink it’s as though Jesus says to us:

 

All that I am I give to you – all that I have I share with you. 

 

He has given himself for us – that’s how much he loves us. And he shares with us all of his riches – his forgiveness, his righteousness, most of all he shares himself. 

 

And as we eat and drink it’s as though we say to him:

 

I receive your love – I receive you. And I give myself to you. All that I am is yours. Forsaking all others – all other gods, all other idols that promise so much - I’ll be faithful to you as long as I live. 

 

Let’s use communion to renew our vows with Jesus. 

The True Marriage

 

SBD Weekend July 2018

Hosea 2:14-23

 

Introduction: the promise of happiness

A while ago I went to a wedding of a good friend. It was a lovely day – very musical day – he is musical and he sang a song at the reception – “Happiness, is just around corner.”  

 

Perhaps a little idealistic we might say. But – what we all want isn’t it – to be happy. To be fulfilled, secure, content. We’ve mentioned through our talks that lots of things around us offer that to us. It’s how most adverts work – you get a picture of a happy, fulfilled, contented life in some form – or a bit of it. If you only you get the right perfume, car, holiday. Same can go with jobs or possessions or pleasures.

 

But probably the most common place we look for that happiness and fulfilment are relationships. Marriage perhaps – or children – family – friends. 

 

God is making a similar promise to us in Hosea – he’s promising us something that will give us what we want – something will satisfy, fulfil and bring true happiness. And our instinct is right – it is about relationships – he is offering us a relationship that will give what we’re searching for. 

 

As we come to finish Hosea, the question for all of us – is who will we believe? Which promise will we trust, who will we be faithful to?

 

We saw earlier that despite Israel’s adultery, God still loved her, and in his love he promised to marry her again.  

 

Now we might think – but why marry her again, surely she’s going to do the same thing? What’s going to be different time?  

 

The point of this last talk is that as God remarries Israel – he acts to make it different. God changes things so it’s a true marriage – everything a marriage should be. First of all,

 

1) God will make his new bride faithful in relationship, Hosea 2v16-20, 14v4

2v16 READ – the day of the new marriage.  Look at footnote – ‘my Baal’. As Israel committed adultery – as she gave her trust and worship to Baal – she was still worshipping her God, Yahweh, as well. But she sometimes got them mixed up – and called Yahweh Baal. 

 

It’s a terrible thought – calling your spouse by the wrong name. Imagine an unfaithful husband saying to his wife - Do you want to go out Saturday night, Alison? I mean Susan. 

 

But that terrible state is going to change, v16 she’ll no longer call me baal. Why? What makes the difference? 

 

V17 READ – or no longer will their names be remembered. So God is going to act - and take away the name of Baal from Israel’s lips. He’ll even wipe their memory – so that they won’t remember his name. And then as a devoted lover, Israel will only have eyes for, or a name for, one God – her true husband. 

 

In other words God is going to make his bride faithful to him. 

 

We see the same thing in v19-20 READ. 

 

There are the qualities in perfect marriage – full of faithfulness and love. Now God has always been like that – but he’s going to act to make his marriage like this – Israel is faithful too. 

 

One last reference, 14:4 – having invited them to repent, God then says, READ. 

 

This is the heart of Israel’s problem in the old marriage – she has the disease of waywardness, of turning away from God. Another verse in Hosea says, “A spirit of prostitution is in their hearts” – Israel is ill in her spirit. She is addicted to adultery. It’s a habit she can’t kick.

 

But in the new marriage God says, I will heal her - I will make her whole and healthy with faithfulness.

 

A while ago I read a book describing the current developments in biotechnology. Popular explanation of some of the amazing things that might become possible.  

 

How we might discover the cancer gene, the heart disease genes - and how we will have enormous power and ability to cure ourselves and put ourselves right. 

 

However the book had a real concern about all this as well – because in the history of humanity we have always abused that sort of power. Commercial exploitation, social inequality, ethical misdemeanours. 

 

Interesting conjunction – this enormous power to put ourselves right physically – yet at the same time a complete inability to do the right thing. We have if you like a spiritual gene – we have a spirit of prostitution. We treat other things as god and so do things wrong. And we are unable to eradicate or replace that gene.  

 

But God says, in this new marriage, I’m going to heal you. I’m going to do spiritual surgery on my new bride – I’m going to remove this addiction to adultery. I’m going to act in you so that you are faithful to me, and will only have my name on your lips.

 

God will make his new bride faithful in relationship.

 

2) God will give his new bride fabulous riches, Hosea 2v21-23, 14v5-8

Second difference is that in this new marriage, God will give his new bride fabulous riches.  

 

2v21-22 READ. 

 

The word ‘respond’ here means acting in response to a need. And Israel – as they face God’s judgement, are in great need. 

 

There is no rain, no food. They have been defeated by Assyria, people been killed and deported. The land, the nation, is dead. You could sum that up with the word Jezreel – that was the valley where Assyria defeated Israel – so is symbolic of this death.  

 

But God will respond to this need – first to the skies, sky will respond to the need of the earth for water by sending rain. Earth will respond to the need for grain and wine and oil, by producing crops.  

 

All this will respond to the need of Jezreel – because it will bring the nation back to life. God will plant Israel in the land – and she will grow – in crops, in wine, in oil, as a nation, she will grow and become all she was meant to be.

 

See similar thing back in chp 14v5-8 READ.

 

I don’t know if we’re a bit too urban to get this imagery.

 

V5 Israel will blossom like the lily – a beautiful nation.

 

V5 she will be like a cedar sending down roots. Idea is that she will be secure and strong.

 

V6 Splendour like an olive tree – she will be majestic, awesome as a nation.

 

V6 ‘fragrance like a cedar’ – Israel will be attractive and desirable.  

 

God is promising to make Israel – secure, strong, fruitful and prosperous, majestic and wonderful.  

 

Of course that what Israel wanted. She longed for good crops and wine and the rest of it – but she went to Baal and Assyria for them. 

 

But the truth is, all these riches belong to God – and as he makes her faithful to him – he then showers these riches on her. 

 

It’s like Indecent Proposal – last time – my adapted version. Demi Moore married to Robert Redford who is fabulously wealthy. The affair with Woody has been exposed – Redford has left her to Woody and she’s seen he has nothing to offer – and then he takes he back – she’s faithful to him – she can’t even remember Woody’s name – and so he showers her with riches. All she wanted before – all that Woody use to promise her – she is has from her true husband.

 

So too God will make his bride faithful – and then pour out all these fabulous riches on her – crops, oil, wine, people. He is going to lavish wedding gifts on her, and make her life so rich and abundant, she couldn’t even ask for more.  

 

Of course the most wonderful thing, at the heart of all this – is simply that this new bride will know God.

 

2v23 READ. These are lovers talking to each other – saying, you are mine, and I am yours. We belong to each other – we know each other – we are united in relationship together.

 

We said earlier – this return – this remarriage – happens through Jesus. He comes as a bridegroom to love us – to win us back – to die for us – and bring us into a relationship with God – which is the true marriage. Number 3, 

 

3) God makes us his new bride in Christ, Ephesians 5:25-27

Let’s look at Ephesians 5. Here Paul talks about marriage and how Christ is a model to follow – for instance v25 READ. V28 READ. 

 

Then he goes on to say v31 READ. Now that is a quote from Genesis 2 – and in Genesis 2 it describing Adam and Eve and their human marriage. 

 

Then Paul says v32 READ.

 

Paul is saying that this quote from Genesis 2 – that describes human marriage – what it’s really talking about is the divine marriage between Christ and his church.  

 

Now you may be familiar with this – I don’t know – but the Bible says human marriage is actually a picture of the true marriage – ultimate marriage. That is the relationship between Christ and his church. 

 

Here is the fulfilment of Hosea – God promises to come to marry his people again – God promises to act to make his bride faithful and to pour out his riches on her. That happens through Jesus. 

 

That happens in part now. 

 

V25-27 READ. We have been made faithful by Christ’s death. Not faithful in how we behave we still do things wrong, but he has taken away all our wrong and our sin in his death. So we are now holy, perfect – faithful. God can look at us and see us as a faithful, perfect bride. And he’s changing us to be more faithful – by his Spirit. He’s doing that spiritual surgery in us – taking out that spiritual gene of adultery – so we are faithful to him. 

 

And we see that Christ gives us fabulous riches too - v29 READ. Hosea said God would care for his bride – now we see Christ feeds and cares for us as his own body. And he does that as he feeds us spiritually and helps us to grow in knowledge of him and being like him. 

 

Yet of course, we are well aware, our marriage with Christ is far from perfect. In many ways we are still waiting for Hosea to be fulfilled – we’re still waiting for the wedding day God promises. And the Bible says it’s coming. 

 

4) God makes us fully his bride in the new creation, Revelation 21&22

21v1,2 READ. Christ will return and God will bring about a new creation, a whole new world. But it’s described as a wedding. God’s people are the bride. Christ is the groom. And they are going to married – it’s like now we’re just engaged. Here is the wedding day when we are united. And Hosea is completely fulfilled. So,

 

God’s bride is now completely faithful – 21v9-10 READ. The imagery changes a little – the bride is the city, which is the people of God. But v11 READ.  

 

This is a transformed bride – now perfectly pure, shining with God’s glory – reflecting his character and faithfulness. Later in 22v3 we read that the people of God serve him in the city – don’t serve anyone else, because they’ve been made perfectly faithful to him.

 

And so God gives his bride fabulous riches. First of all every that spoils has been banished from this city. 21v4 READ.

 

We can also see it positively – this city is everything a city could possibly be. V12 says it has a great high wall showing its security. It is made of every kind of precious stone – just look at v18, or v21 READ.  

 

The language is being stretched to try and describe just how majestic, how desirable, how fabulous this city is. 

 

You know this language of precious stones is also used of the prostitute in Revelation, the anti-God world – who seem to have all the riches of the world. But now we see – what the world wanted, and tried to get – actually comes from God. He is the source of all riches. And now he showers them on his bride.

 

Most of all – the heart of all this – is that we will know God. 21v3 READ. 22v4 READ. It’s the wedding day – the bride is finally with her husband, and they are united in intimate, profound, union with each other. It’s the perfect relationship – it’s what we always wanted. 

 

A while ago I read about a TV programme in the States called, who wants to marry a millionaire? A millionaire selected his bride from about 50 contestants – then they were married on TV.  

 

However, before all that happened – there was a prenuptial contract signed – stating that if the marriage broke up the bride wouldn’t be able to claim any of his money. 

 

That sums up the low point we can reach in our relationships – not really trusting each other.  Not really giving ourselves to each other – not really loving each other.  

 

Human marriage, at its best, points to this divine marriage. At its worst – makes us long for this divine marriage – because we are fed up with the disappointment, loneliness, the hurt and the pain of life here. We long for a perfect relationship – which gives us all we really want.  

 

On this wedding day, there will be no prenuptial contract – because this marriage will never end.  There will be no going off with other partners – because this marriage will be utterly faithful.  There will be no holding back – of possessions, or love – because Christ will give us all his riches – all of himself.

 

There will nothing left to do – but to enjoy the relationship. To enter an eternal honeymoon of perfect relationship. 

 

Application

 

I said at the start we all want happiness, fulfilment, meaning and security. 

 

And lots of things around us offer us something of that. Jobs, fashion, beauty, possessions, homes, pleasures and entertainment. 

 

They aren’t wrong things – just won’t give us all you want. Because they are not god. Not enough.

 

Our instinct is often that we will get it in relationships - friends, family, a partner. Because the heart of what we want is to love and be loved isn’t it. To know and be known. To be valued and enjoyed. And to have some to love and enjoy and know. 

 

 

 

 

But again while relationships are good - they only give us a taste of that fulfilment we want. And sometimes much less as we hurt and disappoint each other. 

 

But God – being married and united to God. Being loved by him – to death. Being made rich by him. Knowing him. Being known by him. See his face. That is it. That is what we want. That is what we were made for. That is what life is about. As we see that – as we believe that - we give ourselves to him – to knowing him and growing in him and serving him – and being faithful to him now. 

 

 

 

Sometimes people get married – and then for various reasons - down the track they renew their marriage vows. They remind themselves, and then recommit and reinforce their vows. 

 

In a few minutes we’re going to have the Lord’s supper. And this is a bit like renewing our marriage vows with Jesus. 

 

As we eat and drink it’s as though Jesus says to us:

 

All that I am I give to you – all that I have I share with you. 

 

He has given himself for us – that’s how much he loves us. And he shares with us all of his riches – his forgiveness, his righteousness, most of all he shares himself. 

 

And as we eat and drink it’s as though we say to him:

 

I receive your love – I receive you. And I give myself to you. All that I am is yours. Forsaking all others – all other gods, all other idols that promise so much - I’ll be faithful to you as long as I live. 

 

Let’s use communion to renew our vows with Jesus. 

 

Weekend Away 3. Hosea 11:8-11. The Lover

Introduction

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.

 

 

Questions

 

Group discussion

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

 

Weekend Away 2. Hosea 2:2-13. The separation

Introduction: how does God respond to our spiritual adultery?

Years ago I met up with a bloke called Steve to talk about Christianity. One of the things he objected to was the idea that God would punish people for what they have done wrong.  

 

He put it like this – “when I was a kid I did things wrong, and my dad told me off. But now, if I meet up with dad, we go out for a beer and he says, do you remember the time you did this and that wrong – we’d look back and laugh.”

 

“Surely”, he said, “That’s how it will be with God when we meet him? Sure we’ve get things wrong now – but one day we’ll sit down and look back and laugh at how silly we were.”

 

Well he’s right that we’ve done things wrong – Hosea says we have committed spiritual adultery. By selling our trust to other gods.

 

Our question now is - how will God respond to that? How should he respond to spiritual adultery?  

 

I’ve got three answers that Hosea gives us – going to spend all our time on the first two, mention the last one at the end.  First of all Hosea tells us, 

 

1) Spiritual adultery leads to a reversal of riches, 2v5-13

By riches I mean all of the good things in life that Israel enjoyed - her food and wine, her families and children, her land and security. Those riches – are going to be taken away – and reversed into famine and barrenness and poverty and oppression.  

 

This comes throughout the book – listen to some verses, to get a sense of it. 

 

  • Food & family – 8v7; 9v2

8:7 “the stalk has no head; it will produce no flour. Were it to yield grain, foreigners would swallow it up.” 

 

9:2 “Threshing floors and winepresses will not feed the people; the new wine will fail them.” 

 

9:11,12 “Ephraim’s glory will fly away like a bird – no birth, no pregnancy, no conception. Even if they rear children, I will bereave them of everyone.”   

 

  • Protection & security, 10v5,6; 8v13,14; 9v3

And it’s not just food and family – the riches of protection and security as a nation, will be reversed into defeat and exile. 

 

So for instance 10:5,6 READ.  

 

Sometimes Hosea describes this metaphorically as going to Egypt – because for Israel Egypt was the supreme place of captivity. 

 

So for instance 8:13,14 READ.  Or 9:3 READ.

 

You get the picture. God is angry and he is going to punish Israel. The riches of prosperity and protection are going to be reversed into poverty and captivity. 

 

Now the idea of punishment isn’t popular today. I’m going to say some more a bit later about how we might think about this. For now I want us to see this isn’t an arbitrary punishment – there is a logic to it. Personally I’ve found it helpful to see this logic, it helps me understand what’s going on – what God is doing.

 

  • The logic of judgement – revealing the true God, 2v8-13

2v8-9 READ. Israel doesn’t acknowledge all these good things come from God, therefore he will take it away. 

 

More than that, 2v12-13 READ.  

 

We sad earlier on that Israel worshipped Baal thinking he paid her – that’s what was so appealing – he gave her the vines and fig trees – prosperity. So she thought. 

 

Actually they came from God. But Israel wouldn’t acknowledge that – so what was happening was - as God sent rain and made the grain ripen and the crops grow – Israel kept thanking Baal – kept saying, isn’t it good we worship Baal – look how he blesses us.  

 

Do you see what a terrible position this puts God in –– the more he provides for them, the more they thank Baal. It’s like he’s feeding their habit – he blesses them and they think worshipping Baal is working. 

 

So God says, they won’t acknowledge I give these things to her – so v9 - therefore – I will take it away. They say this prosperity comes from her lover - so I’m going to show them who it comes from – by taking it away and reversing these riches into poverty and captivity.

 

Earlier I mentioned the film Indecent Proposal, Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson – as a poor married couple – Demi sells herself to Robert Redford, a billionaire, for one million dollars.  

 

Let me rewrite that plot line – so that it actually gives a more accurate picture of Israel. Imagine if actually Demi was married to Robert Redford and his millions. He buys her a mansion and gives her everything she wants.  

 

But then Woody, who hasn’t got a penny, turns up, and says – come to bed with me and I’ll lavish my riches on you.  

 

And Demi falls for it - she goes off and sleeps with him. Then she comes back to the mansion, and sips some champagne, enjoys the caviar, gets into her luxurious bed – and she thinks to herself – my – that bloke Woody is certainly looking after me.  

 

After a while Redford catches on and confronts her – you’re sleeping around. But Demi pleads – I have to because he provides for me, he looks after me. No he doesn’t – I do – this is all from me. But Demi is in denial - says no, Woody gives me my allowance, my food, my home.  

 

What will Robert Redford do? The more he gives to her, the more she thinks Woody has come up trumps.  

 

Well in the end he’ll say, alright, I’ll take away what I give you. No allowance, no mansion, no champagne. If you want what Woody gives you – you can have it – you’ll discover too late he hasn’t got anything – it was all from me. 

 

Sounds ridiculous – I don’t suppose it would make a very good film. But that is the situation with Israel – she keeps going to Baal and Assyria – thanking them for everything that God has given her.  

 

So in the end God says, alright – I’ll take away what I give you – if want what Baal and Assyria give you – you can have it - but you will discover too late – they haven’t got anything give. And you will end up in poverty and captivity.  And you will realise – it all came from me. 

 

That’s the logic, the reasoning that lies behind judgement. 

 

2) Spiritual adultery leads to a reversal of relationship, 1v4-9

However, there is a more going on than just reversal of riches. Even worse – is that spiritual adultery leads to a reversal of relationship.  

 

Let’s turn back to chapter 1 – where Hosea has three children – and each time God tells him to give the child a particular name – which symbolises what is going to happen to his people.  

 

Lets start with the second child, v6 READ. Lo Ruhamah means not loved. Out of all the nations God had set his love on Israel – but now – they are not loved.

 

Third name is even worse. V8,9a READ – and Lo-Ammi means ‘not mine’.

 

Can you imagine the church notices that week – congratulations to Hosea and Gomer on the arrival of their third child – he weighed in at 7lb3oz, and Hosea – what do you want to call him. “Not mine”. Great - he’ll make a lovely brother for ‘Not loved’.  

 

You can imagine people saying, “Why have you called your baby such a terrible name?” Hosea would reply “I’ve called it not mine, because that is what God calls you”. v9 – READ. Or literally – you are not my people and I am not I am to you. 

 

If you know the OT – those words send a chill down your spine. When God was brought Israel out of Egypt, Moses asked his name. God said, I am who I am – which in Hebrew sounds like Yahweh.  

 

That was his personal name that he shared with Israel. It’s as though he said, I am God Almighty, but you can call me, I am, Yahweh, because I am your God and you are my people. 

 

But now God reverses that statement - you are not my people, and I am, not I am to you. 

 

Some years ago I knew a couple where the wife called her husband - bear. We all called him David. But she called him bear. That was her name for him. Imagine she is unfaithful – he is terribly hurt – says it’s over – we’re splitting up – she says – oh bear – no – don’t call me that. I’m not your bear. 

 

That is what God is saying – to Israel he was ‘I am’. Now he says - I’m not I am to you anymore. The relationship is over.

 

What that means in practice is not simply that they’re not talking to each other – but they are now against each other – they are now enemies. 

 

Let’s see some examples.

 

5:11,12 READ.  Literally I am like pus, or decay. 

 

5:14 READ.  Literally he says, “It is I like a lion”, “I, yes I, will tear them to pieces”. God used to be their provider and protector – but now he has become their predator, who will tear them apart.  

 

The point is – the relationship has been reversed – they have moved from God’s people, to God’s enemies, from having God as their provider and protector – to God being the one who will destroy them.  

 

This is no abstract idea – this happened – in 722BC Assyria defeated, destroyed and deported Israel – God came as a lion - and it was awful.  

 

Spiritual adultery leads to a reversal of riches and a reversal of relationship. 

 

  • If we persist in spiritual adultery and we face a reversal of riches and relationship, Revelation 18:1-22

Now what does this mean today? To put it simply – what we see here with Israel is a picture of God’s future judgement. It’s a warning – if anyone persists in spiritual adultery – if they reject God and make something else their god – then one day they will face a reversal of riches and relationship with God.

 

There are some ways in which this happens in this life – so someone who isn’t a Christian – doesn’t have a relationship with God now. But as I say – this is really a picture of future judgement on those who reject God and Jesus – and ultimately this happens at the end of life. 

 

So let’s turn to Revelation - where we hear the same sort of language. 

 

Rev 18:1-3 READ.

 

Babylon stands for rejecting God and treating other things as god. And the world has committed adultery with her – gone to her to get rich.

 

But God will judge her – and those who belong to her - listen to how it is described

 

Babylon is destroyed and - 18v11. 

 

18v14. 

 

8v21-22. READ.

 

In this life people who aren’t Christians can have many good things – that varies of course but to some degree they can enjoy the riches of food, family, relationships, education, homes, peace.  

 

But Revelation says one day there will be a judgement – and it means the reversal of riches – health and life reversed into death and mourning. Food into famine. Gold and precious stones, music and craft reversed into ruin and destruction. 

 

More than that – they will have no relationship with God. Elsewhere in the Bible we read, “God will punish those who do not know God. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord”. Being shut out from God, will be hell.

 

That is what adultery leads to – the reversal of all we made for – the riches of life – relationship with God. 

 

Embarrassed by the idea of judgement? 

Now as I said earlier this talk of punishment is far from popular today. We’re easily embarrassed about it – want to avoid it and not think about it. I certainly find that. 

 

So I thought I’d make a few comments on that – in the box. 

 

a) Judgement is integral to the whole Bible

By that I mean – if you take the idea that God punishes or judges out of the Bible the whole thing falls apart and makes no sense. What is the problem in the Bible if not our sin and God’s reaction to it? Why did Jesus die – if not to take our punishment in our place? What does forgiveness mean – if not – not being punished? 

 

To put it another way – the things I find it easier to believe and rejoice in – Jesus’ death, forgiveness, God’s love – they only make sense if God judges. And Jesus dies to rescue me from that, and forgiveness is freedom from that.

 

So it helps me to see that - if we take judgement out of Christianity – we haven’t got anything left.

 

b) Judgement vindicates God as God

Remember the logic we looked at earlier - God gives gifts and Israel thank Baal. And so what is he to do? More he gives, the more they thank Baal. Same today – people think their health, family, food and money and holidays – comes from themselves or their job, their abilities whatever. They are actually come from God – but they say, well done me, or thank their job or spouse or whatever.

 

And so God will judge – take away those riches – and when he does people will see who God really is. He will be vindicated – seen to be who he is – the provider of all. So judgement is about bringing reality and truth to someone. 

 

As someone is judged they will recognise - there is a God who made me, who I owe everything to, who I should worship and love. I see that now. 

 

c) Judgement is just and so is good and right.

God being angry and punishing isn’t like us being angry. When we get angry we get things out of perspective, we’re defensive, want to prove ourselves right, then can be vindictive, overreact. 

 

But God being angry and judging is an expression of his justice – of doing things rightly. 

 

And justice is something we want – we want things to get what they deserve. We want things to be right and just. Well that is God’s judgement. There is something terrible about it – but it is good and right. 

 

I think Hosea shows us this through the imagery of adultery. If we think of adultery – and brings feelings of hurt and pain and anger. That is right. We’re right to be angry at the adulterer – they should pay for how they abused someone’s love. 

 

Well if we rightly feel angry – how much more is God – the one who made us, gave us everything – right to be angry. Not out of control anger. Not vindictive anger. But just anger – that is right for how he has been treated. 

 

I started by mentioning my friend Steve - his idea that, like with his Dad, one day we’d laugh with God about what we’ve done wrong. Well that just doesn’t take what we’ve done seriously. Doesn’t take God seriously. 

 

Can you imagine a betrayed husband or wife sitting down and laughing with their errant partner and saying – do you remember how you use to sleep around – what a laugh.

 

Well that is just sick isn’t it? We don’t laugh at adultery. And God won’t laugh at spiritual adultery – he is right to be angry – right to punish.

 

3) The reversal leads to a reversal, 1v10-2v1

Let me read one more verse to finish. Having named Hosea’s three children, God then says this, 1v10-2v1 READ. 

 

God is saying there will be a reversal of the reversal. Those who were not God’s people, will become God’s people. Those who were not loved – will be loved.  

 

This judgement is real – but there is hope. There is a way back to knowing God again – being loved by him again. 

 

In a way I hope we’re thinking – how is that possible? We’ve had a story of marriage – then terrible adultery – right separation and it’s over. How do you recover from that? 

 

That is what we’ll look at tomorrow. Going to discover the most amazing love in the world. Which means we can become God’s people again. A reversal of the reversal.

 

I know this has been a bit dark and negative this morning. I hope it’s been helpful – we need to think about these things. But it has been dark – let me assure you the sun will shine tomorrow – we look at the lover and the true marriage. Good news is coming – wonderful news. But to hear it – and to see how good it is – to really get it - we need to hear this first. 

 

Pray

 

 

Questions and discussion together

 

Group questions

  • Am I embarrassed about God’s judgement? 
  • How does Hosea help me with that?
  • What is good about God’s judgement? 

 

Hymn – Rock of Ages – asked for us to sing this because it reflects what we deserve on our own – only hope is Jesus. 

 

 

Weekend Away 1. Hosea 1v2. The adultery

Introduction: taking the lid off adultery

A newspaper article a few years ago had the headline, 

 

Adultery is good for your marriage – if you don’t get caught, says infidelity website boss

 

That boss was Noel Biderman the founder of Ashley Madison – a website that will help you have an affair – he goes on in the article to claim that having an affair can actually help save your marriage. 

 

It’s a surprisingly common theme - relational experts, psychologists, maybe we see it most in Hollywood films – they suggest an affair can bring you good. Reviving your marriage, leading you to true love, enabling you to be the real you. It will be good for you in some way.

 

And yet, I think of a couple I knew at a previous church some years ago – the husband had an affair. I think the wife would say it’s the worst thing that has ever happened to her - destroyed her and her family. And her husband thought – it’s the worst thing I’ve ever done - I would give anything to turn the clock back and not have done it.

 

If you get behind the website to real people – if you lift the lid on the film and move to real lives - it’s a very different story. A story of the pain of broken trust and the hurt of betrayal and anger at unfaithfulness. 

 

Adultery might pretend to be acceptable – take the lid off and you find it is truly awful. 

 

Take other things - like working hard in your job. Being kind to friends. Enjoying a new home. Things which look normal and completely acceptable parts of life. 

 

What if we took the lid of those? What would we find underneath? 

 

That is what Hosea does – he takes the lid off things we can think are normal - and opens our eyes to what is really going on. He shows us the true nature of our behaviour and the true nature of our God. That’s where we’re going to start in this session.  

 

Layout of Hosea

Chapters 1-3: whole message portrayed in Hosea’s life (chapter 1&3), and a poem (chapter 2)

 

Chapters 4-14: the same message given detail and explanation.

 

Before we get into it let me say something about the layout of Hosea. In chapters 1-3 we get the whole message of Hosea stated – first of all acted out in Hosea’s own life, and then in chapter 2 in a poem. And that really tells us the whole story. Then rest of the book, chps 4-14, fills out that same message with some specifics – with detail and examples. 

 

Because of that in each talk we’re going to take a part of Hosea’s message we find in chap 1-3 – a theme or topic - then explore how it is filled out in the rest of book. That means we’re going to dot around quite a lot – probably easier to just listen as I read various verses out. Sometimes I’ll say – let’s turn to this bit – because it’s worth seeing it. 

 

The starting point of Hosea’s message – and the topic we’re going to explore in this talk is adultery. 1v2. READ.  

 

It’s a terrible thing to say isn’t it - Hosea I want you to marry an adulterer. I want your wife to be someone who will sleep around and be unfaithful to you. 

 

Can you image what Hosea would have felt when we heard that? But, God, I want a wife to love me and stay with me? Why do I have to do that, why put me though that? 

 

Because v2 – READ. Hosea I want you to do it, because I want your marriage to act out my relationship with my people. My people have been adulterous – they have been unfaithful to me.  

 

And I want you to bring that truth to them in the most vivid way. I want people to come and ask you, “Hosea why have you married her – why have you married a harlot, like that?” You will reply – because that is what you’ve been like with God. In your relationship with God you have committed adultery. 

 

Well, it’s a pretty full on way to start a book and to start our weekend. It feels like we’ve walked in on a couple having an argument. And you think - whoa - what’s happening here? What is this adultery – who is Israel’s lover – what’s been going on? That’s what we’re going to explore. 

 

Adultery language

Just before we get into that let me make a couple of comments about this adultery language because it raises some issues. 

 

  • If we’ve experience something of the pain of adultery

First of all – some of us may have experienced something of adultery – first or second hand. We might find talking in these terms hard – because it brings up strong feelings and hurts – and that could stop us hearing what God is saying.

 

Now if we’ve experienced something of the pain of adultery then that is an awful thing – and I’m not minimising that. However, it could be - in God’s grace he uses your experience for good. In his grace he could use that pain you rightly feel – to lead you to see something of the pain he feels at his people’s adultery. I know it’s a high price to pay – it was for Hosea – I know we’d prefer it to be otherwise, but you may be able to know God’s heart in a strangely special way.  

 

  • Remember adultery is only a picture – the real issue is spiritual unfaithfulness

Second comment – it would be easy to mishear what Hosea is saying and think that adultery is the big sin – and that’s what this is all about. But it’s not – physical adultery or human adultery is being used as a metaphor to talk about our relationship with God and how we behave towards him. So what he’s really talking about is what we could call spiritual adultery – being unfaithful to God. That is something true of all of us – so let’s not be distracted by physical adultery – that’s only the picture – the reality is how we’ve been unfaithful to God. 

    

  • Gomer gets no back story, nor particular condemnation

Last comment – I’m aware we are given no back story to Gomer, Hosea’s wife. We don’t know why or how she became adulterous – or a prostitute. Typically with prostitution there would be a story of abuse, of financial desperation, or sex trafficking. I just want to acknowledge we don’t get any personal narrative for her, she is simply presented as a symbol of the nation. 

 

Now we might object to a woman, a fallen woman, being chosen to symbolise Israel. Why can’t it be a man? Is this sexist? Well I think it could have been a man. But throughout the Bible God is presented as bridegroom and God’s people as his bride so the roles are consistent with that. And I’d also comment that Gomer isn’t actually condemned for being adulterous. It’s just stated she’s adulterous – but there is no judgement given on her. It’s the nation – men and women – who are condemned. If we think this feels sexist or misogynistic - I hope that helps.

 

1) Spiritual adultery, 1v2

Having said that, let’s get back to what God is saying. Through Hosea marrying Gomer God is saying to his people – you’ve been spiritually adulterous. Now what does that mean? How has that happened? 

 

Well it’s got two sides – first of all - on your sheet - it means spurning your true husband – God. 

 

  • Israel spurned her true husband, God. Exodus 20v1-3, Hosea 1v2

You can only commit adultery of course - if you are already married to someone.

 

And that was true for Israel and God. Hundreds of years before this God rescued Israel from Egypt, brought them to Mt. Sinai and entered a relationship with them – he basically married them. 

 

God said to them - “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, you shall have no other gods besides me”. In other words – I’ve rescued you – so you now belong to me – in an exclusive relationship as my bride and I’m your husband.

 

But Hosea 1v2, Israel has departed from the Lord. She has spurned, she has left her husband, gone outside that exclusive relationship.

 

How has she done that? Well secondly on the sheet – 

 

  • By selling herself to other gods/idols

The second half of this book, chapters 4-14, describes how Israel has worshipped idols. So she’s been unfaithful to her God – by treating other things as god. 

 

In fact Israel had two other lovers. 

 

First of all there was Baal. Baal was one of the Canaanite gods – the god of nature, or fertility. Let me read some examples:   

 

  • Baal: 4v12-14; 13v1-2

4:12-14 READ. Wooden idols and sacrifices on the mountaintops is talking about worshipping Baal. 

 

Or 13:1,2 READ.  

 

They were meant to worship God - Yahweh – but they had a god on the side – Baal. 

 

  • Assyria & Egypt: 7v11; 12v1

However, it wasn’t just Baal in the area of nature and fertility. Israel had also been unfaithful in the world of politics. She’d got into bed with Assyria and Egypt. 

 

Assyria was the superpower in the area, and Israel was scared of being invaded. So to protect herself Israel formed an alliance with Egypt – so Egypt would protect her. At the same time she paid tributes to Assyria so she wouldn’t invade.  

 

For instance; 7:11 READ.  12:1 READ.  

 

  • This adultery is actually prostitution, 8v9; 9v1; 2v5

However there is more going on here than just adultery. Let me read 8:9 READ.

 

Now selling yourself to a lover – isn’t just adultery – that’s prostitution. 

 

Even more explicit is 9:1 READ.  

 

The threshing floor is where they sorted the harvest. And Israel thought she got paid there in some way. 

 

Have a look at chapter 2:5 – this makes it clearer. READ. 

 

I said Baal was a fertility God – he was an early version of the health and wealth gospel. Come to Baal and he’ll make you rich and prosperous – large family, good crops, glowing health. That’s what he promised. And so that’s why Israel worshipped him – she wanted prosperity – so went to Baal. 

 

But God says that makes you like a prostitute. You’re selling your worship to Baal – because you think he pays you in grain and wine and oil. 

 

Similarly give Egypt some gifts – sell yourself to her – and she’ll pay you in protection and security. 

 

That is what made these lovers so attractive. It wasn’t that Baal was a really impressive god, or that Egypt was a great nation – and they couldn’t resist falling for them. They were attractive because they offered something – they offered to pay you. And Israel found what they offered irresistible.  

 

I don’t know if you’ve seen the film “Indecent Proposal”. Pretty old – early 90s. It stars Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson. They are a young couple, rich in love but short of cash when recession hits. So they head for Las Vegas to gamble their last $5000.  

 

There they meet Robert Redford – he’s enormously wealthy, throwing around his millions, but looking for love. And so he makes a proposal – one million dollars, for one night with Demi Moore.  

 

Now they refuse of course. But as money gets shorter and shorter, they begin to think – it’s only one night. It won’t affect our marriage. It’s only my body, she says, he’ll never have my soul. And one million dollars – just think what we could do with that. And in the end they agree – and she leaves to spend the night with him.  

 

As soon as she goes Woody knows it was a mistake, he runs after her but it’s too late, the helicopter has just taken off. She returns the next morning, but it’s not the same. They carry on together for a while but in the end his jealousy explodes – they argue – they split up.

 

It was an indecent proposal – obviously wrong – but in the end it was just too attractive – because of what he offered to pay.

 

Israel find Egypt and Baal just too tempting because of what they offer to pay. The promise of prosperity from Baal, and protection from Egypt - just too attractive to resist. 

 

Just to complete the picture – how did Israel sell herself to these lovers? Demi Moore gave her body – what did Israel give to Baal, or Egypt?  

 

What they actually did was to bow down in front of an idol, or to sign a treaty – but the point is they did that believing Baal or Egypt would give them what they wanted. In other words they put their trust in Baal – to provide for them. They put their confidence in Egypt – to protect them. That’s how they made love to them – that was the unfaithfulness – they sold them their faith. 

 

The faith that belonged to God. 

 

He had promised to provide for them and to protect them. 

 

But instead of trusting him Israel thought, food, crops, international politics. They aren’t really God’s thing. You need a specialist god to help you with that. Look what Baal offers – look what Egypt could do for us. 

 

So they sold their faith – they gave what belonged to their God to another – for what they thought they would be paid.

 

In that film ‘Indecent Proposal’, Demi Moore and Woody – they convince themselves this one night won’t really matter. It will be harmless. But then as soon as they’ve done it – it’s like their eyes have been opened – see the true nature of what they have done – see it wasn’t harmless or normal – but that it was prostitution. It was giving what belongs to your husband – to another – and it is horrific. It is painful, damaging betrayal.  

 

Israel thought what she did – didn’t really matter. Worshipping Baal, going to Egypt – it was harmless. It was easy for them to think that – because all they were doing was copying the people around them, just did what everyone else was doing. It looked normal. 

 

And so the start of Hosea’s message is to take the lid of their actions – to take the lid of their hearts – and open their eyes to what they are really doing. Show them that what looked so normal – was actually horrible unfaithfulness. They are spurning their true husband. Prostituting themselves – to another god. 

 

Let’s finish by thinking about us today. 

 

We could talk about all people today. The Bible talks about everyone being made for an exclusive relationship with God – where they worship him alone. And yet everyone treats other things as God. So you could say everyone is spiritually adulterous – unfaithful to the God who made them. 

 

But this language of adultery is used particularly of Christians. 

 

Christians can be adulterous, James 4v4-5

Because as Christians – we’ve come back into relationship with God through Jesus. And the Bible describes that as a marriage relationship. We’ll think about this more tomorrow – but that means as Christians, we can be adulterous.

 

So for instance James 4:4,5 READ. 

 

By ‘the world’ he means all of life with God excluded. Could be money, career, possessions, relationships, popularity, pleasures. Things that aren’t wrong in themselves. But, if we exclude God, they are ‘the world’. 

 

When he says friendship with the world he’s talking about putting our faith in those things for what they will pay. 

 

The promotion – promises success. The relationship – promises fulfilment. Money promises security. The new home or possessions promises happiness. 

 

We should trust God for those things. Yes we can enjoy things in the world that he gives us, he can use those gifts as the way he gives us pleasures and fulfilments. But ultimately he is the one who gives security and meaning and fulfilment. 

 

James is talking about putting our trust in the world – things without God - putting our faith in them – instead of God. Because of what they seem to offer – what they will pay us. 

 

It’s easy to do. It looks normal. Everyone around us does it. To get your meaning from your job. To seek identity in your relationships. To look for fulfilment in your comforts and holidays. Everyone does that – so it looks normal. But like with Israel God is taking the lid of our lives and showing what is really going on. 

 

Trust those things in the world – instead of God – make them your god – and you are being unfaithful, adulterous to God.

 

That’s the big picture – but to give a bit more detail – we need to see the true nature of sin, and the true nature of God. 

 

  • True nature of sin

I think it’s easy to think that sin – doing something wrong – is a matter of breaking the rules. Or disobeying God’s law. But if you keep the rules – if you do things right – then you haven’t sinned. That misses the true nature of sin. 

 

God is saying sin is profoundly personal. It’s about unfaithfulness to him. 

 

Let’s say you do break a rule - you tell a lie – exaggerate the truth. You do it to look good. That isn’t just breaking a rule. That is worshipping the god of popularity. You’re giving that your trust to that god thinking it will pay you with stronger friends and a better reputation. And that will fulfil you. Rather than trusting God for fulfilment and the friendships he gives me. So it’s much more than breaking a rule – the heart of it is unfaithfulness to our God. 

 

And even if you keep the rules you can still sin. Say you work hard at your job – doesn’t look like you’re doing anything wrong – not breaking any rules. Only you do it because you find your security and significance in your career. That is where you identity lies. So you give your faith to your job to provide you with meaning. The faith that should be in God. 

 

Hosea is showing us the heart of sin is about faithfulness or unfaithfulness to God. 

 

  • True nature of God

Secondly we should see the true nature of God. It’s easy to think that God isn’t really affected by our sin. I do something wrong – God is so big, awesome – it’s easy to think he’s immune to what I do.

 

But God is showing us here how our sin affects him. We tell a lie to be more popular – that is worshipping another god - and that breaks his heart. He is showing here, our unfaithfulness makes him a wounded lover. He is great and awesome. But he’s also personal – and loves – and so is wounded by us. 

 

That is what Hosea is brought to experience in his own marriage. As his wife betrays him, he is brought to feel how God feels for his people – the wounded, broken heart, of a spurned husband. 

 

That is how God feels about what we do wrong. We’re in relationship with him, so sin is personal, it wounds him and breaks his heart. 

 

Now we’re going to go on from this to see how God reacts to this – see what answers there are – so this is just the start. But we need to start by seeing true nature of sin and God. 

 

Groups

What are the most common ‘rival lovers’ to God that are around today? What do they offer to pay for our worship? Which lovers do we find most tempting?

 

How does Hosea change how you think and feel about sin? 

 

How does Hosea change your view of God and what he thinks of what we do wrong? 

 

How is that a helpful way of thinking and feeling?

 

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