August 4, 2019
11:1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.
11:2 The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols.
11:3 Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them.
11:4 I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.
11:5 They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me.
11:6 The sword rages in their cities, it consumes their oracle-priests, and devours because of their schemes.
11:7 My people are bent on turning away from me. To the Most High they call, but he does not raise them up at all.
11:8 How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.
11:9 I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.
11:10 They shall go after the LORD, who roars like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west.
11:11 They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the LORD.
The book of Hosea is an interesting book. It is the first of the 12 books of the minor prophets which just means the books are short. In fact, in the Hebrew bible they are lumped together as one book called The Twelve.
The message in Hosea is a cycle of betrayal and idolatry, judgement, repentance, redemption, and restoration.
Hosea is the story of a prophet who is commanded by God to marry a prostitute. He marries Gomer. She leaves him for another and he goes and brings her back. The story is a picture of God’s relationship with the Israelites. Hosea is a prophet during the reign of Jeraboam who was king of the northern ten tribes of Israel. If Jeraboam had obeyed God, his family would have been established like King David but he set up a couple of golden calves and led the people into sin and they turned their backs on God.
So God gives Hosea a message for the people but instead of saying the message, Hosea is to LIVE out the message. God tells Hosea to marry an adulterous wife. There will be children and God tells Hosea what to name them.
There will be a son – Jezreel which means scattered, a daughter named Lo-ruhammah which means not loved, and another son named Lo-ammi which means not my people. These names might seem unimportant but we will come back to them.
Hosea married Gomer who was a prostitute before the wedding, and an adulterer after. Gomer represents the Israelites who have turned away from God and worshipped false gods. God speaks to Israel through Hosea about the coming consequences if they don’t repent.
How Do We Feel About The Story of Hosea and Gomer?
I come to this story carrying some sympathy for this young pastor, Hosea. Hosea hears God’s call and I wonder if he doesn’t imagine himself preaching some glorious sermon that will cause the people who hear him to turn back to God. Maybe he was a little nervous, maybe he was humbled to receive such a calling. Whatever he was feeling, I doubt he imagined what would come next. This man of God, through obedience, finds himself in a situation that sounds a lot like the headline in one of those magazines by the check-out counter at the grocery store.
I don’t know about you but I didn’t feel the same sympathy for Gomer when I first read this story. I might have felt sympathetic for the prostitute. I mean, it was difficult for a woman in those days. If you were poor and had no male family member to take care of you then you just did what you had to do to survive. But then Hosea loved and married her and she was unfaithful! My judgemental self probably responded in a similar manner to Hosea’s friends. I’m sure they had a lot of advice for him and in human terms it would have made perfect sense. Don’t do it Hosea! She is not good enough for you. Think of your career as a pastor! She will break your heart! Some people may have just been mean and gossipy but others may have spoken out of genuine concern for their friend. They would have seen this as a huge mistake. Here she was – living what seems a terrible lifestyle and Hosea as we say, “made an honest woman out of her”. Not only did he marry her, he LOVED her. So he not only changed her name from prostitute to wife. He changed it to beloved wife. And Gomer goes right back to her old ways. Hosea not only brings her back – again! -he pays a ransom to do so.
Why would Gomer go back to this life?
Maybe Gomer had named herself a prostitute by her life before Hosea.
You can change your address and call yourself something else but do you believe it in your heart? Maybe she still felt that the old name applied. Maybe that voice on repeat in her head told her that she was unworthy so many times that she came to believe it and no matter how much Hosea professed his love, she couldn’t shake the name or the shame she had given herself.
Is Jesus in Here Somewhere?
Let’s look at the new testament for some insight into this whole name business.
In Matthew 3, John the Baptist baptizes Jesus and God names and claims His son – “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Then just a few short verses later, we come to the temptation of Jesus. In Matthew 4 what does the devil say? If you are the son of God. Three times the accuser gives reason for doubt about the name that God has just given Jesus.
Doesn’t it often happen that way? As soon as we have a spiritual experience – a God moment, feel convicted by a sermon, do something selfless for someone else – immediately following one of those experiences it seems like something happens and other things try to tell us that we belong to them. Our spouse does something irritating and our anger says it owns us. Bills come in the mail and the washing machine breaks and the car starts making a funny noise and our money (or lack of it) and our stuff claims us. We buy a burger for the guy near the overpass carrying a sign that says “will work for food” and as we drive away we watch in the rear view mirror as he throws the burger in the trash and our heart for the needy grows cold. We are owned by an unforgiving and critical spirit. In an instant we went from better to bitter.
The accuser, the father of lies, uses the very things that bring us closer to God against us.
But only God can truly name us because only God can see who we were created to be IN HIM. God has the final say!
God has named us sons and daughters, so loved that He put on flesh, walked among us healing and teaching, suffered and hung on a cross, died and three days later defeated death…everything else that the world names us is a lie of temptation that only becomes true when we listen to it.
Maybe that is what happened to Gomer. Maybe she couldn’t accept the grace of forgiveness from Hosea because first she would have to admit once and for all how broken and in need of forgiveness she was and after all, isn’t that precisely why grace is so hard? And sometimes, harder than admitting how broken she is or …we are, is having hope that we could actually be something other than what the world names us. Hope. Grace. The very things we need the most can be the hardest for us to accept. Maybe it is not true for you, but for me it is always easier to extend grace, to forgive someone else, than it is for me to accept it myself. I think we all sometimes deep down, want so badly to feel safe, to belong, that we run in the opposite direction from hope and grace because our doubt gets in the way and the accuser says we are not worthy and we forget that the good news of the gospel is exactly the answer to that lie.
Remember the names of the children?
Hosea 1:10-12 “Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ The people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together; they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel. (which not only means scattered but also means God plants!)
Hosea 2:23 I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”
God doesn’t wait for his people to “come around”. He meets us right there in the midst of our sin and that is where grace happens.
Where Are We?
No longer scattered, no longer unloved, people of God.
The story of Hosea is a picture of sin and brokenness and separation from God but it is also a picture of Jesus, a ransom for sin, for being made whole, and of us being given a new name.
For while we were yet sinners (our old name), Christ died for us. (Redeemed – our new name!)
Galatians 3:26-28 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (emphasis mine)
The accuser can’t name you. The world can’t name you.
There is a story about Martin Luther, the Catholic priest who was responsible for the beginning of the reformation (the beginning of the protestant church). In his time, you could purchase what were called “indulgences” from the church. In other words, if you had sinned, you could sort of buy your way into heaven. Martin Luther said, no we are justified not by anything we do in ourselves, but by faith in Jesus Christ through grace. One story says that when he felt temptation he would shout these words. “I am baptized!” It was sort of a way of saying “Evil – you think you can tell me who I am? You should meet my dad!”
Last week, in his sermon on prayer, Mark said that the name of God should always be set apart as holy. As he spoke, I was thinking about one of the names of God. I AM.
When we begin a sentence about ourselves, We start out by saying I am (whatever – angry, hungry, a Methodist,) and in a way, we have started our sentence with the name of God. Maybe that is meant to be a reminder of who (and WHOSE) we are.
God is holy and we are grafted onto the family tree as sons and daughters and so through Jesus Christ, we too are holy, precious and redeemed children of the living God. That is what the power of the transforming love of God is like. That is what God is like. That is what love is like. We are loved. We belong. THAT precious people is our name. Amen.
Let Us Pray
Father, we thank you for your creation, for breath, and for Your Son, Jesus, the Christ. We see ourselves and each other as the world names us. We thank You because You see us as beautiful, beloved.
Ephesians 2:10 says that we are your handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which you have already prepared in advance for us to do.
Help us to remember the God moments where we feel close to you so that when we find ourselves wandering in the dark valley we can shout “I am baptized” and know we are just passing through on our way home to you.