Here at Living Hope Church we have been looking at the book of Hosea, and studying the incredible truth that our relationship with God is like a marriage. Every other analogy of how God relates to us: king to subjects, potter to clay, even father to child, falls short of describing what He is after in a relationship with us.
However, sometimes our relationship is more like a bad marriage than a good one, and so it was with Israel. But we have seen over and over again, that any deficiencies in our marriage with Him are always caused by us, yet He continues to pursue us, woo us, and shower us with His love. We saw earlier in the sermon series that God conveys this truth to us by commanding the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute and remain faithful to her even in her unfaithfulness to Him, and thus demonstrate God’s faithful love to us.
This truth is more completely revealed at the cross of Jesus Christ, where God comes to ultimately heal Israel’s bad marriage with Him, and to call us into one, and continually heal ours as well. Hosea has already painted for us an incredible picture of God’s faithfulness to us in our marriage, and he will add additional colors and brush strokes to that painting in this chapter. In it, we see God reminiscing of His beginning years of marriage with Israel. In this reminiscing, we see an incredible picture of heartbreak, true love, and the highest form of faithfulness. If you want to see what real, true love is and what it feels like…pay attention!
“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.”
We see God begin his reminiscing here. In verse one, He refers to Israel as a child, remembering the early days of their relationship. He remembers the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He remembers the days before they began to multiply exponentially. He remembers their time in Egypt, and how He rescued them from the hands of Pharaoh. He remembers the plagues, the locusts, the bloody waters, the frogs, the hail, and the Passover. He remembers throwing the Red Sea to two sides. He remembers leading them through the wilderness. Sure there were some difficulties, but there were also triumphs. Amidst their grumbling and periodic unfaithfulness, God continued to lead them by the cloud and fire, and continued to provide them food and water and shelter. “These were the glory days,” God thinks. Many people in marriages today may be able to relate.
2″The more they were called,
the more they went away;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals
and burning offerings to idols.”
Yet, he notes, “The more they were called, the more they went away.” Soon they began to turn away from Him, grumble, set up idols, and worship other gods. Imagine how awful a movie would be if a man does all these things to save a girl He dearly loves, and she just, walks away? “Thanks, but…no thanks.” Wouldn’t we feel so confused and just…baffled? Yet is it not the same thing with our Heavenly Husband- who literally went through hell to save us and marry us? Yet we so often respond the way Israel does.
3 “Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk;
I took them up by their arms,
but they did not know that I healed them.”
Yet, God says, “it was I who taught them to walk, and now…they are walking away from me.” This is similar to God saying, “I gave them that mouth…and now they are using it to curse me. I gave them that body, and they are using it for things that disgust me. I gave them that mind, and they are using it to think of things that break my heart.” But what He is saying here is even deeper than that!
He literally taught them to walk. He appeared in a cloud by day and fire by night and guided them to the Promised Land. He taught them by the way of His commandments and law, which the New Testament says this was a “guide until Christ came” (Galatians 3:24). He took them up by the arms to guide them, that they may not stray, and to hold them up, that they may not stumble and fall. He guided them through Moses, through Joshua, through David! Yet, they continually looked to these men themselves, or to golden calves, or to Baals, and did not know it was the Lord who healed them and guided them. He continues,
4 “I led them with cords of kindness,[a]
with the bands of love,
and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws,
and I bent down to them and fed them.”
Note here the way that God draws and leads, not with force, not with anger and through striking fear, but “with kindness (also translated humaneness), with the bands of love.” “His attractives were all loving and endearing, sweet and gentle, that He might overcome them with kindness. We see this clearly in Jesus, who said about Himself, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the father.” Think of Jesus, weeping with Martha and Mary over the death of their brother. Think of Jesus, touching the eyes of the blind man with His rough, gentle hands. Think of Jesus, responding to the woman trembling with fear after she touched His garment in a crowd, “Daughter.” Think of Jesus, not only healing the man with leprosy, but also touching him, something no one had done in years. Think of Jesus, willingly going to the cross, being spit on, despised, mocked, beaten, and staying, for you and me. If this is how He drew us to Himself, is it not also how He will continue to lead us?
He lifted Egypt out of the bondage of slavery, of the yoke and bit in their mouth directing every move they made. Jesus eases our yoke as well, freeing us from the bondage of slavery, and removing the burden of guilt and sin. Is this not what Jesus means when He says that His yoke is light, and His burden is easy? He too will ease the yoke on our jaws, and will continually bend down to us and feed us as we walk with Him in freedom.
Verse 5 and 6 connects back with verse 2 and the judgment pronounced in previous chapters, and is almost, in a sense, God transitioning out of His reminiscing:
5 “They shall not return to the land of Egypt,
but Assyria shall be their king,
because they have refused to return to me.
6 The sword shall rage against their cities,
consume the bars of their gates,
and devour them because of their own counsels.”
Here we see tough love in action. God will often take us through trials and very difficult times to draw us back to Him. God is saying here that He will not actually return them to Egypt, but will allow them to be taken over by Assyria, which was perhaps a far worse fate. We have the writing of the king of Assyria writing in cuneiform that was written on the piece of a wall of the royal palace at Dur-Sharrukin (Khorsabad) (the palace of the King):
“In my first year of reign *** the people of Samaria *** to the number of 27,290 … I carried away. Fifty chariots for my royal equipment I selected. The city I rebuilt. I made it greater than it was before. People of the lands I had conquered I settled therein. My official (Tartan) I placed over them as governor.”
It happened. And it was terrible. The sword raged their cities, consumed the bars of their gates, and devoured them because of their counsels. They trusted themselves; they did not listen to God’s counsel. You see, when we don’t let treat and respect Jesus as Lord of our life, it never ends pretty. In our culture it is the common perception if we don’t take religion seriously, there will be freedom. That’s what the Israelites thought as well. Yet, if we don’t submit to Jesus’ rule (as described by himself light and easy) over us, something else will rule over us: sin, anxiety, addiction, constant need of approval, success, work, sexual sin, sports, etc. and we know these things reap havoc, destroy marriages, ruin lives, and often lead to depression and suicide. He continues,
7 “My people are bent on turning away from me,
and though they call out to the Most High,
he shall not raise them up at all.”
This phrase reminds me of what God says in Jeremiah 2, starting in verse 2: “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me, and you followed me through the desert to a land not sown.” God is saying here, “I remember how devoted you were to me.” I remember those days that you loved me, that you followed me, when you really enjoyed being married to me.” Can’t you see that God is not just some machine up there judging sin and giving commands? He remembers the amazing love relationship He used to have with His people, and He remembers the joy and heartwarming moments it gave Him. But at this point in history, Israel had walked away for years.
He continues in verse 5 of Jeremiah, “What fault did your fathers find in me that they strayed so far from me?” God is saying, “What fault did they find in me?” In other words, “what did I do wrong?” What did I do to cause you to leave me? I taught you to walk, I fed you, I saved you from slavery, and from countless enemies; What did I do to cause you to walk away from me? Doesn’t this sound like so many of our lives, where we are so connected with God, and He makes everything so wonderful, and then we…run away towards something else? Something else entices us or mesmerizes us, and we go after it; God is left saying, “What did I do?”
They are bent on turning away from Him, He says, “and though they call out to the Most High, he shall not raise them up at all.” Though they turn away, in times of trouble they may call out, “Yahweh! Jehovah! God!! Help us!” But in their hearts, there is no true turning. How many of us live this way? How many of us would rather just live with God at an arm’s distance, but call out when we need Him? This is not how the Holy One of Israel is to be treated. He responds, “He shall not raise them up,” using the third person “He” to imply that who they are actually calling out to cannot possibly be Him, for He is not a God to be called upon only in times of need. This is a problem with much of our view of God in America today; He looks more like Santa Claus than He does Yahweh, and if we continue to view Him as such as a whole, “He shall not raise us up at all.”
Israel constantly followed sinful temptations and went after other things. But what is really breaking God’s heart is not just the fact that they are choosing sin, but that they are choosing sin over Him. And every time you and I face temptation and willingly sin, we too, are choosing sin over Him. How does God feel when His bride responds this way? What goes on in His heart? We know He is holy and just, but that He is also loving and merciful. However, most assume He feels judgment, indignation, hatred, condemning thoughts, displeasure, disappointment, and thus wants to separate. But it is just the opposite. He says,
8 “How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?”
Adman and Zeboiim were both cities that were destroyed by God’s wrath alongside Sodom & Gomorrah. God says, “How can I possibly consider giving you up? How could I give up on you? You are my child, I have taught you to walk, I have seen you grow up, I…I…. love you!” We see here the tender heart of God conflicted within Himself about giving up His beloved bride to be crushed by His wrath. He knows they deserve it, but out of His passionate love for them, He is heart-wrenched at the thought of giving it.
“My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
9 I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.”
God says that His heart recoils within Him. In the Hebrew language, the word used here “haphak,” is used to indicate the act of turning over, or overthrowing. God’s heart is turning from the burning anger He has to the remembrance of His love relationship with Israel, but He is also stating that He is feeling so much heartache and pain that this love He also feels is like His heart literally “turning about.” His compassion grows warm and tender- toward those who are cold and rigid toward Him- how amazing is the love of God?
“I will not execute my burning anger,” he says. “I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst.” God’s love moves Him to decide against executing His righteous, deserved, burning anger against His people. He states, “I am God and not a man,” implying that He is faithful, He keeps covenant, man would give up, man would give in, but He will not, He will stay committed.
But why does He say that He will not again destroy Ephraim? Because the next person He will destroy will be His only Son, by giving Him up to be brutally slaughtered and take the wrath Ephraim deserves. You see God can’t just pretend He doesn’t have burning anger, He must let it out. The same is true for us, suppressed anger and feelings brings disaster. Who then will He let it out on? His Son. His Son will come as a lamb. Recall the story earlier from Hosea with me for a second; flip to Hosea 3:1.
“Then the Lord said to me, go again Hosea.” What? “Go find her. Love this woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress.” In other words, go show love to your wife who is right now committing adultery. Go find her, Hosea. Look what is after the comma, “EVEN as the Lord loves the children of Israel.” This verse also prophetically speaks of God’s love for the whole world. “Go find her again.” Can you imagine how heart wrenching that process was? Going to look for your wife who was a prostitute who is now back into prostitution? Where does Hosea go looking for her? How messy and painful must that pursuit must’ve been. What kind of streets and neighborhoods did He have to walk in, what kind of people did He have to talk to?
Recall what we read in verse 2, “So I bought her. I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver.” But she was his wife; she was already His! What was this scene like? I can just imagine Hosea finding her on a pedestal, chained and shackled, naked, being sold to the highest bidder. Hosea sees His wife, the mother of their children, and lets the men in charge know that’s His wife. “Sir, I don’t know who you think you are, or who you think she is- this is her price.” I can see Hosea replying, “but I… what’s the price?” and he pays… for what is already His.
The Bible says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” Mankind is the unique possession of the creator God. Yet 2,000 years ago, He paid a dear price, He paid for what He already possessed, and He sent His own Son, who split His blood, to purchase back what He already owned! “How much?”
Hosea just bought Gomer even though she was already His. What a picture of the gospel- Salvation completed the work in spite of her sins, in spite of her doings, in spite of her rebellion. Let me tell you, church, our Hosea has come! Salvation has come! He found you, and He found me, and He had to walk to the most despicable places, and He had to communicate and live with broken, sinful humanity, and be killed by them! Don’t you see? As Hosea searched for his wife, Jesus came searching for the salvation of humanity. When He found us, we weren’t neat and nice and put together. We were in chains, and we were naked, and we were sinful. Yet our God’s heart recoiled and turned over within Him, and he said, “How much?” “The blood of Your Son. For then, and only then, will they, humanity, escape the wrath of justice that is rightfully on their heads.” And then God said, “Very well. I will send my Son.”
Yet even in this many people of Israel turned away. They killed Him! But God’s promises remain true- He will win His people Israel- and there are many verses in the Bible that prophesy that He will one day restore Israel to her former glory. He says,
10 “They shall go after the LORD;
he will roar like a lion;
when he roars,
his children shall come trembling from the west;
11 they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt,
and like doves from the land of Assyria,
and I will return them to their homes, declares the LORD.”
Many commentators have said, and I agree with them, that these verses refer to Jesus’ return and reign. “They shall go after the Lord; He will roar like a lion;” When He came to save humanity, He came as a humble, meek, lamb to be led to the slaughter. Not so when He returns. He will return like a lion, and He will stamp His majestic foot on the Mount of Olives, and He will roar. The shear majesty and power and terror of that roar will make men tremble.
Some of us will bow because of the grace given us to trust and love Him, but others will bow because their kneecaps will be shattered by the power of that roar, and all the combined armies of the world will have as much of a chance of standing during that roar as an ant would have trying to stand with a giant rock of granite being dropped on it. And when He roars, His children will come trembling from the west; trembling like birds from Egypt, like the doves from the land of Assyria, to see their great God and Savior for the first time, face to face. I do not know how or in what measure, but God prophesies that Israel will be a part of the children coming to Him, alongside people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Boy, I can’t wait to hear that roar.
Where are you at in your relationship with God? Let us seek the Lord.