************ Sermon on Hosea 1:1 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 10, 2002
"Useless in God's Kingdom"
I Hosea: Who and When
A We know virtually nothing about Hosea as a person. The little that we do know can be summed up rather quickly. His name means "salvation-bearer." In other words, he bears the same name as Joshua, Jesus, and Josiah.
We know that Hosea was a citizen of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
Hosea introduces himself to us as "the son of Beeri" – but who Beeri was and what sort of man he was is unknown to us.
Finally, we learn a few things about Hosea's marriage in the first chapter. We read that at God's command Hosea married a woman named Gomer, the daughter of another unknown figure by the name of Diblaim. We are told that Gomer bore three children, probably by other men, yet Hosea remains faithful and loving to her.
B Like the prophet Amos, Hosea began his ministry in the days of King Jeroboam II, around 760 B.C. Those were good years for Israel. Never had the sun shone so brightly on the Promised Land as in the days of Jeroboam. Never did the people of Israel sit so contentedly in the shade of fig trees and vines as in those days. It was as though the golden age of Solomon had returned. The civil disputes of an earlier era had ended, and peace was restored within the land. Syria, Israel's traditional enemy, had been completely conquered by Jeroboam. The power of mighty Assyria had declined during Jeroboam's time so she no longer posed a threat to Israel's security.
It is safe to say that in a certain way Jeroboam II was the most successful king Israel ever had. It was a time of glittering prosperity, a great time to be alive. Business flourished, and people made a lot of money. Many were wealthy enough to maintain both a winter and summer home and could even afford the luxury of costly ivory to adorn their furniture and the walls of their homes (Amos 3:15).
Imagine that! The people who had once lived as nomads in tents now lived as rich men in palaces. They who once had been slaves in Egypt now were slave owners. Jewels adorned the fingers and hands that in times past would have been calloused from baking bricks and building the great Egyptian store cities.
Hosea's ministry might have begun with the glitter and glory of Jeroboam II but it ended quite differently. All along Hosea had warned of the judgment to come but those warnings were ignored. Most, if not all, of those who listened to Hosea considered him a narrow-minded bigot, a typical prophet with his pessimistic and negative views concerning the future. Nevertheless, Hosea turned out to be right. With his own eyes he lived to see the dark day when Samaria fell and the ten tribes were deported to Assyria in 722 B.C.
During the time of his ministry Hosea not only saw the foreign enemy getting closer and closer but, after the death of Jeroboam, he also witnessed tremendous political confusion within Israel: it was a time of blood and tears. In a period of twenty years, there were no fewer than six new kings. One "king" murdered the next and became king in his place. It was a time in which the dagger had the last word and assassination was the order of the day.
Those were also days of faction against faction. With the foreign enemy approaching, one group favored Egypt and another group favored Assyria, while no one favored the Lord.
To make matters even worse, during Hosea's ministry there was also a war with Judah, Israel's brother nation.
The chaos in political life was equaled – if not exceeded – by the degeneration in religious, social, and moral values. If Hosea would be asked to pick one word which describes Israel's sin, he would use the word "faithless." Israel was faithless to the Lord just as an adulterous wife is faithless to her husband. Israel was faithless when she worshiped the golden calves. Israel was faithless when she relied on Assyria, and then Egypt, and then Assyria again.
C Hosea's basic message is simple and easy enough to understand. First, we can say that Hosea talks of God's love. Hosea tells us that God loves Israel and cares for her and speaks tenderly to her in spite of her faithlessness; God is this way because Israel is His bride. We see this acted out in Hosea's sorry marriage – he loves Gomer and cares for her and speaks tenderly to her in spite of her unfaithfulness.
Love is not all sweetness and light. Love also shows itself in anger. So the second thing that Hosea tells Israel (and us) is that love that is scorned eventually arouses God's wrath. Israel's unfaithfulness, if it persists, can lead only to wrath, judgment, and punishment. Those who continue to spurn God's love can only expect to be consumed by the flames of judgment. Hosea says if we do not allow the flame of God's love to warm our hearts, it will eventually consume us instead. Only those who know how painful faithlessness can be and how angry a wounded lover can become will fully understand these words of the Lord to Hosea:
(Hosea 5:14) For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah. I will tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them.Hosea's way of expressing himself reminds us of Jesus. For in Jesus too the same mouth that spoke of love also spoke of unquenchable fire!
II A Strange Silence
A This past week when I looked at a time line of the Old Testament I noticed that something is missing from our text. In the first verse Hosea is silent about a whole series of kings of Israel during whose reigns he lived and prophesied. The names of those kings are: Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, and Hoshea. There are six of them, but Hosea doesn't say a word about them.
This is a thought-provoking omission. It is all the more puzzling because Hosea came not from Judah but from Israel. Thus he is silent about the names of his own kings and dates his book by making reference to "foreign" rulers! He names all those foreign rulers (the kings of Judah) in order: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah. Not one is missing! But when he turns to the rulers of his own country, six of the kings who ruled during his time are left out. The only one he mentions is Jeroboam II, son of Jehoash. At first glance this seems as strange as an American declaring he lives in the days that Elizabeth is Queen of England rather than the time when George W. Bush is President of America.
B Why this strange omission? We cannot explain this as a mistake, as an accidental oversight, for the Holy Spirit was guiding and directing and inspiring Hosea – and the Spirit of God makes no mistakes. Nor can we say that Hosea did not know the names; for who would know the names of foreign rulers without knowing the names of the rulers of his own country!? Nor can we say that Hosea only mentions the line of David, the line from which the Messiah will arise; if this were the case then Hosea would not mention Jeroboam II.
Why this strange omission? We cannot say that Hosea was too ashamed of these kings to mention them. The names of those who dishonor their families are rarely mentioned in the home, especially when visitors are present. Yet these lost sons and daughters are not forgotten. Not a day passes – or should pass – when their names are not mentioned before the throne of grace in prayer. It is true that the six unmentioned kings represent a dark chapter in Israel's history. Almost all of them were depraved murderers who climbed onto the throne over the dead bodies of their predecessors! Yet, if Hosea is silent about them like they were lost sons and daughters why does he mention godless kings like Jeroboam II and Ahaz?
C The ultimate reason for Hosea's silence was that the six kings were not worth mentioning. As far as God's Kingdom is concerned, the six kings were useless.
The six kings were useless in God's Kingdom. As we consider this, we must remember that even unbelievers can be useful in God's Kingdom. The Lord can and does use the enemies of the church to advance His cause – like Cyrus, King of Persia:
(Is 44:28) He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, "Let it be rebuilt," and of the temple, "Let its foundations be laid."
It can be said of all the kings mentioned by Hosea in our text that they "served" God and His Kingdom in some way or another. This also applies to King Jeroboam II. Jeroboam did not fear God, but he did carry out the task assigned to him. He was appointed by God to free Israel from the domination of Damascus. In accordance with his mission,
(2Ki 14:25) He was the one who restored the boundaries of Israel from Lebo Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, in accordance with the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, spoken through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher.
Even godless Ahaz, who is mentioned in our text, served God's purposes. The beautiful prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 is the result of his unbelieving attitude:
(Is 7:14) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Though Ahaz himself did not walk in the light, he was used of the Lord to cast a light on the paths of all who live in the fear of the Lord.
D The Lord uses believers and unbelievers in His Kingdom. But the Lord does not and will not use people like Shallum, Menahem, Pekah, Pekahiah, Zechariah, and Hoshea. Such people are completely useless to Him. So their names are not mentioned by God's prophet.
Why? Why are they so worthless in God's Kingdom? Every other king – Cyrus, Jeroboam II, Ahaz – lived for some higher purpose than themselves, even if that purpose was wrong. But the six, they lived only for themselves and their own glory and their own pleasure. They never learned to devote themselves to some higher cause, let alone to the service and glory of God. So Hosea ignores them with silence – as if they had never existed! These kings of Israel were prominent members of the covenant community. Yet, they are nameless in God's eyes.
Topic: FaithIn other words, she was useless, completely useless in the Kingdom of God.
Title: The Plague of Mediocrity
Miss Jones, an elderly spinster, lived in a small midwestern community. She had the notoriety of being the oldest resident of the town. One day she died and the editor of the local newspaper wanted to print a little caption commemorating Miss Jones' death. However, the more he thought about it, the more he became aware that while Miss Jones had never done anything terribly wrong (she had never spent a night in jail, or had ever been drunk), yet she had never actually done anything of note. While musing over this, the editor went down to have his morning coffee and met the mortician. He poured out his soul to him. The mortician stated that he had been having the same problem. He wanted to put something on Miss Jones's tombstone besides: Miss Nancy Jones, born such-and-such a date and died such-and-such a date, but he couldn't think of anything of significance that she had ever done. This is what they finally put on her tombstone:
Here lies the bones of Nancy Jones,
For her life held no terrors.
She lived an old maid. She died an old maid.
No hits, no runs, no errors.
I like to compare the six kings to a tool box (PUT TOOL BOX ON PULPIT). What do you think I do with these tools? Do you think I use my hammer (HOLD UP HAMMER) to paint a picture? Of course not. Do you think I use my wrench (HOLD UP WRENCH) to write a sermon? Of course not. Do you think I use a screw driver (HOLD UP SCREW DRIVER) to bake bread? Of course not.
The point is, I have to use my tools to do what they were made to do. My hammer (HOLD UP HAMMER) was not made to paint pictures but to hammer nails. My wrench (HOLD UP WRENCH) was not made to write sermons but to loosen bolts and nuts. My screw driver (HOLD UP SCREW DRIVER) was not made to bake bread but to tighten screws on door knobs.
The six kings used the tools that God gave them for the wrong purpose. God made them kings and gave them power and wealth but they used this for themselves instead of for God. It is like they took a hammer (HOLD UP HAMMER) and tried to paint a picture, or took a screw driver (HOLD UP SCREW DRIVER) and tried to bake bread. God became angry with those kings.
E I'm afraid that this pitiful sight is still with us in our time. Today too they are those who call themselves children of God who are nameless and useless in God's eyes. They are nameless and useless because they have never learned to devote their lives to the service of God. They are nameless and useless because they, for various reasons, have refused to use in the church and kingdom the tools that God has given them.
What are these tools? They aren't hammers and wrenches (HOLD THEM UP). They are money, voices that can sing, art, time, the ability to teach or to encourage and praise – to name only a few.
Now, you need to know that God wants us to use those tools and to use them for His glory. God wants us to put Him first in our life. And if we don't, He becomes as angry with us as He does with those six kings.
The question we all need to ask ourselves is this: have we lived for ourselves or have we lived for the Lord?
Topic: ChristUnfortunately, not all Christians are like this. So many within the church do nothing for the Lord because they are concerned exclusively with themselves and their own interests.
John Henry Jowett told about a small village where an elderly woman died. She died penniless, uneducated, unsophisticated, but during her lifetime her selfless service had made a tremendous impact for Christ. On her tombstone they chiseled the words, "She did what she couldn't."
That can be the inscription for every Christian who will allow Christ to live through them: HE can do through us what we can never do ourselves.
Let me ask you: is your life fruitful?; or, like the six kings, are you worthless in God's sight?
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