************ Sermon on Hosea 1:2 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 3, 2002
"An Adulterous People"
The wedding was amazing. I knew the marriage would not last. But I performed the ceremony anyway. After all, they were both children of the covenant and neither God nor man forbade me from doing the wedding. So what else could I do but make the best of it?
Everyone smiled a lot. We sang a lot. Honestly, it was a beautiful ceremony. There were tears in many eyes when I pronounced them husband and wife. One could almost forget the absence of understanding, trust, and commitment that should be present at every marriage.
You see, the groom was different from the bride – very different. He was so deep and thoughtful and she was so shallow and superficial and surface. He was principled and she was amoral. As amazing as it sounds, he loved her. He loved her more than any other groom has ever loved a bride.
In his love, he pursued her and tried to help her and she despised him for that help. More than once she threatened to leave him. She called his pursuit bothersome, invasive, painful, and unnecessary.
She not only despised his remarkable love, she publicly ridiculed it and defended her own superficial love as being real love. Yet, he pursued her anyway.
Many claimed to have seen her with another man – actually, with a number of other men. She laughed at anyone who questioned her about this.
What did he see in her, I wondered. I didn't see anything in her to warrant such love, such pursuit. No one who knew them both could think of a single reason he should want her. In fact, if anyone was marriage material, it was him – not her. He was the kind of guy every woman dreams of marrying.
That's why the wedding was so amazing. Despite her commitment to shallowness, he went after her. He knew what she was doing and what she was like, and yet he still allowed her to manipulate him and use him.
Who is this bride and groom I am talking about? It is Hosea, the son of Beeri, and the loose woman Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim. There are commentators who say their marriage never actually took place. The story, they say, is an allegory or parable, like the story Nathan told David about the rich man who took the poor man's only lamb. Or, they say, the story is a vision or dream, like the dream Peter had of the unclean animals on a great sheet. In contrast, the Bible leads us to believe that the prophet really did enter into an unhappy marriage with a worthless woman.
Why this marriage? The Word of God as preached was no longer making any impression upon Israel; no one listened to the prophets of God anymore. Therefore the spoken Word had to be reinforced or punctuated by deeds, by a Word acted out. The Israelites paid little or no attention when Hosea said, "This is what the Lord says." After all, words were cheap and there were other prophets (many of them false) claiming to speak the Word of the Lord. But a marriage between a prophet of the Lord and a wanton woman (especially one who later ran away from her husband) made everyone sit up and pay attention. Everyone buzzed with gossip; we can well imagine that the marriage quickly became one of the favorite topics of conversation.
That was exactly God's purpose. Once everyone was talking about the scandal and had a chance to express a holier-than-thou attitude about the wanton woman Hosea had chosen as his wife, Hosea could speak up and say, "You people are just like that unfaithful wife of mine!"
I The Agony of Hosea
A The marriage of Hosea and Gomer was a forced marriage, what in former times was called a "shotgun wedding." It was not forced in the sense that the bride was pregnant. It was forced in the sense that God ordered Hosea to marry Gomer. Hosea was given no choice in the matter.
"Go," says God, "take to yourself an adulterous wife ..." This tells us that Gomer was known as a woman of questionable morals even before Hosea asked for her hand in marriage. She was known for sleeping around, for being fast and easy.
If Hosea had been allowed to choose, he certainly would not have taken a woman like Gomer as his life's partner. But his was not to reason why; his, simply, was to obey the will of God Who commanded him to marry a woman of loose morals. This was a command from the Lord Himself, and there was nothing Hosea could do but obey. If it pleased God that Hosea should marry this woman, so be it, however painful it might be – and painful it certainly was.
Who can help but be moved by the agony of the marriage depicted for us in the prophecy of Hosea? Is there any marriage story in our time that can equal it? Some of you may have seen the movie Pretty Woman, starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. He plays a respectable rich man and she plays the prostitute he ends up marrying. All of his friends and family, of course, were appalled that he formed a relationship with such a woman. But this is only a movie and movies aren't real. Hosea's marriage, on the other hand, was not a movie script; it was real; it happened.
B There are two words that sum up Hosea's outlook and approach: faithfulness and love. He was this way in his marriage – no matter what Gomer did, Hosea remained faithful and loving to her. He was this way in his calling as prophet – for 60 years, through 7 kings in Israel, he faithfully served the Lord; for 60 years he fervently spoke of God's love for His unfaithful people.
God decreed that Hosea must marry a woman whose character was the complete opposite of his own – this is the big tragedy of Hosea's life. Gomer was simply unwilling or unable to be faithful and loving. She turned her love life into a soap opera. She threw herself into the arms of other men, causing her husband great pain. She certainly earned her reputation as an adulterous woman!
C By reading between the lines it appears that for a while everything appeared to be going well in the new home. Hosea and Gomer were blessed with the birth of a son. But the happiness, if any, did not last long. Gomer gave birth to two more children, but these were children of adultery. Hosea knew that he was not the birth-father, though he did love and accept them as if they were his own. How painful must have been the discovery that Gomer was unfaithful. People in that situation all tell me how devastating it is when someone breaks your trust, betrays your love, and tramples on your passion.
To make matters worse, Gomer ran away. Hosea went after his adulterous wife to bring her back home. Why? you may ask. Because the Lord commanded him not only to marry Gomer but also to love her (3:1).
If only Hosea were free of that woman! If only he could let her go! But that's just what he couldn't do, what he was not allowed to do. He had to marry her. He had to remain faithful to her. He had to love her – and he did with all the self-surrendering love of his tender heart.
D As an aside, we are being given a message here of God's will for marriage. God's will is that marriage be permanent. God's will is that marriage survive even adultery. This is the way God has intended marriage since the beginning. Of course this runs counter to what even some Christians say. The current attitude, both inside and outside of the church, is that the marriage relationship is automatically broken if either partner is unfaithful or unloving. But Hosea shows us this doesn't have to be the case. And Hosea reminds us this certainly is not the Lord's will.
No matter what Gomer did, regardless of the number of lovers she took on, Hosea loved her and was faithful to her. Hosea stuck with his wife in spite of the pain and agony she caused him.
II The Agony of God
A The unhappy marriage of Hosea and Gomer is an illustration, a vivid picture, of the relationship between God and His people. The LORD chose Israel as His bride. He loved her just like a groom loves His bride. He demonstrated that love in all sorts of ways: freedom, victory, land, peace, prosperity, temple, worship, grace, and salvation. The LORD pampered and spoiled His bride with His generosity.
And what did Israel do? How did she respond to God's love? Listen to the LORD's complaint: "the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD."
Israel did exactly what Gomer did. Israel did exactly what Gomer did, even though she was quick to gossip, and judge, and condemn Gomer's unfaithfulness. But isn't that how it usually goes? All of us – me too – have a sharp eye for the sins of others, but we don't seem to notice our own. Or, as Jesus puts its,
(Lk 6:41) Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?I remember the time in a previous church that I preached a sermon on gossip. After the service the biggest gossip in that church came up to me and said, "Too bad so-and-so wasn't here to hear the sermon." I was speechless; and I had to marvel that she couldn't see her own sin while recognizing it in another.
Israel was completely blind to her own sin. Yet, sin she did. She chased after the Baals and sought assistance from foreign kings instead of the LORD – using the language of Hosea we would have to call this adultery – spiritual adultery. Yet, at the same time she continued her worship of the LORD. Imagine that: chasing after the Baals and worshiping the LORD at the same time. Israel didn't just commit adultery; we would have to accuse her of bigamy, of trying to have two husbands at the same time.
Israel was so blind to her own sin that she dared to point with pride to her worship of the LORD. What a show she put on for the LORD: religious feasts, assemblies, burnt offerings, grain offerings, songs, the music of harps. Though the Northern Kingdom of Israel worshiped at the golden calves of Bethel and Gilgal instead of at the Temple in Jerusalem, she was very careful to imitate what God had established in Jerusalem: she observed the same festivals, she offered sacrifices at the same times, she even kept the same hours of prayer (cf 1 Kings 12:32). She thought such imitation would please the Lord.
The Lord is a jealous God, a jealous husband, and He despised the worship of Israel. It is Him or nothing. It is Him and no one else. But Israel tried to put God in a harem with her other lovers.
B I spoke earlier of Hosea and the pain the marriage to Gomer caused him. Instead of looking to Hosea and his pain we are to look at God's pain. You see, Hosea's pain is but a portrait of God's pain. By forcing Hosea to marry and stay married to Gomer, the Lord was making Hosea feel something of the pain He himself suffered because of His unfaithful people. Our passage, when it comes right down to it, is about God's wounded love.
The real pain in our passage, then, was not in Hosea's heart but in God's. God had to watch His people, the bride He had chosen for Himself, become unfaithful and desert Him to chase after the Baals. Just like adultery hurts us and Hosea, so it also hurts the LORD.
C As we said with Hosea, so we say with God: if only He could free Himself from His unfaithful bride! If only He could hate her and divorce her! But that's just what God cannot and could not do. After all, He is the LORD, Yahweh, the covenanting God Who defines faithfulness and love. Freely He had chosen Israel as His bride, and now He had to love her and be faithful to her or He would deny Himself. In Hosea's love and faithfulness, then, we are to see a picture of God's love and faithfulness. More specifically, in Hosea's love and faithfulness, we see a picture of God's great love towards us in Jesus Christ. We celebrated that love this morning in the Lord's Supper.
D We can say the same thing about the church that we said about Israel. The LORD has chosen the church as His bride. He loves her just like a groom loves His bride. He demonstrates His love in all sorts of ways: freedom, victory, peace, worship, grace, salvation, forgiveness, redemption, eternal life,.
How do we respond to God's love? Are we any better than the Israel of Hosea's time? Like Israel, it is easy to condemn those who openly live in sin; but do we realize that our relationship with God is just as flawed? Who among us, for instance, would ever dare to claim that we have always and at all times put the Lord first in our lives?
In a good marriage, the husband and wife are supposed to live with each other and not just sleep beside each other. Theirs is supposed to be a living, loving relationship in every sense of the term. But there are thousands who don't live that way with God. They live beside Him instead of with Him; their relationship with the Lord is not a life-long exclusive partnership of love and fidelity. They are busy looking in all directions, instead of looking to God alone.
On this Lord's Supper Sunday the message of Hosea is that we, as the bride of Christ, as a people lavishly loved by the Lord, need to respond to God's love and God's grace by serving Him and serving Him alone. We aren't to serve and worship the treasures of this earth. We aren't to live for pleasure. We aren't to live for self. We aren't to climb into bed with two different lovers. We, who are the bride of Christ, are to be faithful and loving to Him and to Him alone.
The Lord speaks to us this evening about His faithfulness and love. "I have chosen you," He says, "as my bride. I have loved you even when you were not true. I have chased after you even though you have run away."
But that is not all that He says. He also says, "When I chose you to be my bride I expected you, like me, to be faithful and true."
But are we? That's the question He asks. That's the question we all need to answer.
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