Kings & Prophets: Life Lessons from the Old Testament (Week 1)

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“Hosea: An Unconventional Love Story of Biblical Proportions!”

Hosea 1:1-3:5

by Pastor Jerry Ingalls
August 6, 2017


Faithfulness!

When you think of that word, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

Yes, good answer: JESUS! Jesus is always the right answer in church. But this is what I had in mind.

The Covenant of Christian Marriage!

So, now you are thinking to yourself, what does the covenant of Christian marriage have to do with our study of the Old Testament’s Kings and Prophets?

As we kick off our new sermon series on “Kings & Prophets” today, I wanted to draw upon one of the most biblically accurate images of God’s love for His people, which also happens to be one of the most relevant touchstones of our contemporary culture.

Is it surprising to you that marriage has become so confusing in our culture? Let me tell you that is shouldn’t surprise you that the enemy wants to make what has always been so clear, unclear. If we are confused on the most basic building block of human society, then we will be confused on the most basic teaching about God.

The Bible teaches us that the covenant of marriage represents God’s relationship with His people and God’s yes means yes!

“God is faithful… even when we are not!” The Bible teaches that God is faithful to the covenant even when His people are not. Why? Because God cannot disown Himself! God does not stop being God just because God’s people get confused. Faithfulness is simply who God is. This is the overarching truth you will learn from our study of the Old Testament: GOD IS FAITHUL! God keeps His promises! God’s yes means yes every time! God is a covenant God!

But, how does this truth about God apply to us in our lives today?

Hosea has been called the “Prophet of Love” and I call his story, “An Unconventional Love Story of Biblical Proportions.”  Here is the big take-home life lesson for today: “God is faithful, even when His people are not! If we, God’s people, want the world to see God’s faithfulness, then we need a more radical ‘YES!’”

This morning, I am introducing this new sermon series and I want to give you an overview of the Old Testament. But not to do an academic one. I want you to feel this sermon in your gut, not just have your ears tickled and your brains itched with more knowledge of names, dates, epochs, and histories. Preaching is not about adding to your knowledge, but adding to your godliness. What better way to do that then to tell a story.

To give you the setting of this story, let me do a quick overview of what was happening during the period of Israel’s history known as the Kings & Prophets. Here are the major strokes of this time:

  1. God is faithful to establish a covenant relationship with His people. He makes a promise to be their God and they promise to be their people. They serve Him at first. Listen to Psalm 19:7-14 to hear the heart of God’s covenant relationship with His people and their response to His covenant.
  2. But the leaders and people of Israel do not remain faithful to God, but are influenced by the culture around them. They don’t keep their promises to God to live as His chosen people.
  3. God calls the people back to Him through the prophets (Judgment upon Israel is promised & imminent).
  4. The people sometimes cry out in repentance. But sometimes they don’t and their rebellion brings judgment. [Good kings vs. Bad kings!]
  5. But God’s people are preserved, not because of their faithfulness, but because of God’s faithfulness!

God has a sovereign plan and God works to complete His plan through His covenanted people. His plan is about His glory and the fulfillment of His promises to all the nations through the nation of Israel: The promised coming of the Messiah through the line of David of the tribe of Judah, who is the son of Israel, who is the grandson of Abraham to whom God made a promise He keeps to this day through us, His Church. Surprisingly, the Bible calls His covenant people “the bride of Christ” (Revelation 21:2). God is a covenant God!

Now that we see this overview, let’s dive into the specific story of Hosea and Gomer to see how we are called to live today’s big take home life lesson: “God is faithful, even when His people are not! If we, God’s people, want the world to see God’s faithfulness, then we need a more radical ‘yes!’”

Please turn with me to the first of the Old Testament minor prophet books, the book of Hosea. Let’s listen to the amazing story of Hosea and Gomer, two very real people in a very real history whose lives came to represent so much more than who they were. In their faithfulness and unfaithfulness, their marriage relationship represents God’s covenant of relationship with Israel.

Hosea and Gomer’s unconventional love story is a prophetic sign for all time. It is a scandalous love story about God’s covenant faithfulness and unstoppable love! This is a short story that boggles our minds, captures our hearts, and kicks us in the gut. This is a love story about a God who is faithful even when His people are NOT! This is a story that many good religious people reject as a real story and say it’s just a parable. Why? Because it mocks our self-righteous piety! God’s amazing grace always mocks our self-righteous efforts!

This transforming story points to the scandal of the Cross, 700 years before the Cross.

Before I start reading from Hosea 1, let me quickly explain the power of a story. You learn from a good story by empathizing with the characters. You put yourself in their shoes. You walk away from a story learning based upon whose shoes you walked in. I invite you to try on both sets of shoes: Hosea and Gomer.

Listen now to Hosea 1:1—3:5

Did you see today’s big take home life lesson in the story? “God is faithful, even when His people are not! If we, God’s people, want the world to see God’s faithfulness, then we need a more radical ‘YES!’”

Why is this such a big truth even though it sounds simple and straightforward? Because we have been disappointed so many times by our own and other people’s lack of faithfulness. And that is never more disappointing then when we experience in our marriages, our families, and in our churches. Our yes has not always meant yes. We have not always kept our promises. And because of that very real human experience with ourselves and others, we find it hard to trust that God is always faithful. Our life experiences become an emotional, if not relational, stumbling block to the deepest truth about God from the Old Testament: God is faithful to His covenant promises! God’s yes is a radical YES!

Most church-going people empathize with Hosea before they empathize with Gomer. I get that and that is why our big take home life lesson is built around empathy with the good boy of the love story, BUT first, before you can identify with Hosea, I invite you to be Gomer, the bad girl of this love story.

In order to be like Hosea, each of us must first identify with Gomer to know our place, our true place, in God’s story of redemption. We are the ones who are bought back on the slave market of our own sin! Because we are the ones given over to selling ourselves for temporary pleasures, worldly successes, and temporary feelings of a fleeting sense of well-being. Permissiveness and perversion are rampant in our world and all who swim in this muddy water have been stained.

I am Gomer. You are Gomer. Until we realize this, we are still far from God and not yet redeemed. To know your own need for redemption is the first step into covenant with God. To acknowledge that I am a sinner and in need of forgiveness. That my sins must be paid for; that I must be bought back. This story is life for you and me; it is our only hope! God’s covenant is our only hope for life! Life begins by empathizing with Gomer.

Ultimately, God does not want Gomer’s punishment or yours; He wants to redeem you. To redeem means to take that which was emptied and discarded and to buy it back for future usefulness. But how does God redeem people: we learned a couple weeks ago from the love story of Ruth and Boaz that God redeems people through people’s practical acts of loving kindness to another person. This is true in today’s story too.

“God is faithful, even when His people are not! If we, God’s people, want the world to see God’s faithfulness, then we need a more radical ‘YES!’”

God not only wants us to empathize with Gomer to see our own need for redemption; to be bought back and brought into covenant relationship. God calls each of us to then walk in the usefulness of our redemption. This is when we walk in Hosea’s shoes. God wants you to see that His faithfulness is made visible to a world that doesn’t believe in Him through a more radical ‘YES’ to His covenant. God wants you to feel in your gut how counter-cultural and how hard it was for Hosea to say ‘YES’ to God and to keep his yes as yes. God wants your yes to mean yes and He wants you to say YES right now before you even know what He will ask of you. He wants you to say yes to the truth that He is faithful and that no matter what He calls you to do, it is for His plan to be fulfilled in your life and through your life, no matter what the suffering may be and what the cost may be. He wants your yes to faith in Jesus, to be a yes to faithfulness to God, no strings attached!

God deeply desired for Gomer to leave her life of permissiveness and perversion, and return to the One who first loved her and can indeed provide what is best for her. God wanted Gomer’s repentance so He sent her a flesh and blood person, Hosea, to show His faithfulness and love through one man’s radical YES to covenant marriage. Gomer was redeemed through the practical act of loving kindness of Hosea. Hosea was only able to do that because his yes meant yes, he gave God a more radical yes!

This is true for not only Gomer; it is true for all of us: All of Israel and all the Church; all His Chosen Children. We are the bride of Christ, redeemed through the blood of Jesus Christ. And just like Hosea was willing to pay a slave’s ransom to get his Gomer back (Hosea 3:2), God was willing to pay a slave’s ransom to get us back through His Son Jesus Christ dying on the Cross to pay our slaves’ ransom (Romans 3:21-26).

God’s covenant faithfulness to Israel foreshadows “Christ’s love for the Church.” And this is most clearly seen during the times of the Kings and Prophets in Hosea’s call to love Gomer; the simple act of a husband’s faithfulness that was only possible because of his radical YES to God. It is our more radical YES to God’s covenant that allows our yes to mean yes in our everyday relationships with unfaithful people.

I conclude with this teaching about Jesus from Ephesians 5:25-27: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, [26] that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, [27] so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

The world sees God’s faithfulness to people when we, His people, keep our promises! #forHenry

 Will you give God a more radical YES today in response to Christ’s radical love for you?



 

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