************ Sermon on Hosea 1:4-9 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 24, 2002
"Three Horrible Names"
Topic: Christ's Name
What's in a Name? According to a newspaper item, James Williams of Beaumont, TX, promised his wife Cosandra that she could choose the name for their baby girl. "Just before we got married, Cosandra told me that she wanted our child's first name to contain parts of every family name ever used," said Williams. "I didn't think it was too great an idea, but I agreed to compromise. We decided I would name the boys and she would name the girls."
Early in September 1987 Cosandra had a baby girl. The baby is called Jameshauwnell, short for an unpronounceable, 1,019-letter conglomeration of letters (as in The Calgary Herald, Sept. 19, 1987).
In the Bible, by contrast, names that are picked are names full of meaning. In the Bible names are picked that give a message, that make a statement. In the case of Mary and Joseph, for instance, the angel said the name of the child was to be Jesus, meaning that Jehovah saves His people.
In the Scripture reading in front of us this evening we see that Hosea is blessed with three children. It is God Himself who tells Hosea what to name them. There can be no doubt that God orders three awful names, three names full of meaning, three names that give a message, three names that make a statement. The names are Jezreel, Lo-Ruhamah, and Lo-Ammi. Boys and girls, you would not like it if your parents gave you one of these names when you were born!
A The name of the first child is Jezreel. Jezreel is the name both of a valley and a city. The valley was the site of Gideon's famous victory over the Midianites (Judg 6 & 7). The city was a place of violence, murder, and bloodshed; it was there that Queen Jezebel plotted the murder of Naboth; it was there that Jehu made the blood of Ahab's family run through the streets (2 K 9 & 10).
Jezreel – this son of Hosea and Gomer represents the nation of Israel. Therefore Jezreel isn't first of all a child's name; rather, it is first of all the new name God has given to His people.
This change in name is a fairly small one, for the two names Israel and Jezreel have similar sounds. In the Bible we read about other small changes in names: Sarai became Sarah, and Abram became Abraham. This time, however, the change in name is not for the better but for the worse. The name of God's people has already been changed once before – from Jacob to Israel; that was a promotion. But now comes a demotion!
B Israel will become Jezreel! What does this mean? The Lord tells us when He says, "In that day I will break Israel's bow in the Valley of Jezreel." Israel's bow, her most important weapon, will be broken. In other words, Israel's army will be smashed, her cities will be taken, and her glory will fade. Israel will become Jezreel! How quickly things change! How the mighty have fallen!
C Israel will become Jezreel! Why? What is the reason for this judgment? The Lord Himself answers this question when He says,
(Hosea 1:4) "Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. As I already mentioned, it was at Jezreel that Jehu made the blood of Ahab's family run through the streets. Jehu commanded Jezebel to be thrown to her death out of her upper apartment window. He had the heads of Ahab's 70 sons chopped off. He killed Ahab's servants, chief men, close friends, and priests, leaving him no survivor. He butchered 42 members of Ahab's family-in-law. He also ordered the execution of every minister and priest of Baal (2 K 9 & 10). According to Hosea all this blood still cries out to be avenged.
Two things should puzzle us as we think about why this blood had to be avenged. First, it appears here that the children are made to pay for the sins of their fathers. Jehu, you must realize, had died long before Hosea wrote these words. Is it fair that the descendants of Jehu are being forced to pay for the wrong done by their forefather, King Jehu, so many years before?
What we have to remember is that Jehu's descendants were not innocent young princes unacquainted with evil – not at all. Scripture makes clear that in this instance the sons continue in the sins of their fathers. Here is a clear instance of the sins of the fathers being visited upon the third and fourth generation. But isn't that usually the case? Don't we almost always see our own sins magnified in our children? Like father, like son! Like mother, like daughter! So in punishing them for Jehu's sins what God is actually doing is punishing them for their own sins.
The second thing that should puzzled us is this: we know from Scripture that Jehu undertook the blood-bath at the command of the Lord Himself. Through a servant of Elisha, he was told: "This is what the Lord says!" These words could not be ignored. God had commanded him to strike down the household of Ahab (2 K 9:7-8). Furthermore, the blood shed by Jehu was far from innocent. Jezebel, for instance, engaged in idolatry and witchcraft (2 K 9:22) – according to the law of Moses both of these offenses were to be punished by death in Israel. So why does the blood have to be avenged if Jehu only did what God commanded him to do?
We are being told here something about service in the Kingdom of God. Quite often we do the right thing but for the wrong reason. For instance, I may be very zealous for the Lord but what if I am that way just so people will think me a wonderful Christian; what if my zeal for the Lord is only a cover-up to receive glory and praise for myself? That turns my zeal into sin, for whatever is not done out of faith is sin! Or if I go to church – and even go to church twice each Sunday – for some reason other than a desire to worship God, my church attendance is sin! If I give some money to a poor family because I know I will be praised for it, then my act of charity, no matter how large the gift, is a sin. Even if I were to give all my goods to the poor, it would still mean nothing if there was no love in my heart.
In the Kingdom of God it's not a question of what we do but how and why we do it. This was Jehu's problem. He did just what God had commanded him to do, but not out of a desire to obey God. If the Lord had not commanded him to kill the family of Ahab, he would have done so anyway, for it suited his own purposes to slaughter all rivals to the throne. As Jehu saw it, God's command coincided perfectly with his own interests and desires, so he obeyed the Lord. But at other times, it also suited Jehu not to obey the Lord. Says the Bible,
(2 K 10:31) Yet Jehu was not careful to keep the law of the LORD, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit. When it comes right down to it, Jehu was looking out for himself. He was not interested in serving the Lord.
Appearances are so deceptive, aren't they?! In the eyes of men it looks like Jehu is a good and faithful servant of the Lord. In the eyes of men it looks like Jehu was obeying the voice of the Lord. But the reality is quite different.
Appearances often are deceptive with us too. But the Lord sees what is going on in our hearts. He knows when our obedience and service is only outward and formal. He knows when we are only going through the motions. He knows when we don't really mean our praise and worship, our prayers, our giving, our acts of love and kindness.
There is guilt, then, on the part of both the rulers and the people. The people chase after idols and commit spiritual adultery against the Lord. The leaders are interested only in their own welfare. The house of Israel has abandoned the Lord. So the Lord comes with a message, "Call him Jezreel."
A Gomer's second baby was a girl. Normally, wouldn't this be a reason for great rejoicing? The first baby was a son, and now a daughter. A millionaire's family, we say. What more could any father and mother ask for?
But the birth of a daughter did not bring joy into the home of Hosea and Gomer. How could they be excited about this birth and pregnancy? After all, both knew that Hosea was not the birth-father. On God's command, Hosea named this baby Lo-Ruhamah, which means she will not find mercy. This name does not mean that Hosea disowns the baby. With a love that moves and stirs us, he adopted her as his own child.
"Call her Lo-Ruhamah." Like her brother, this child represents the nation of Israel. Her name signifies that God will no longer show pity or mercy to Israel. Says the Lord,
(Hosea 1:6) ... I will no longer show love to the house of Israel, that I should at all forgive them.The time of mercy and grace has ended and the people will definitely be carried off into exile. Every time the people see the child and hear her name they are reminded of the coming judgment.
B "Call her Lo-Ruhamah." How can God be this way? Isn't He a God of love and grace and mercy? The love of Hosea for a faithless wife and his pity on an illegitimate child is supposed to represent the faithfulness of God toward His people, yet the Lord declares that He will not have pity on His people! Are we to believe, then, that the Lord is less merciful than the prophet? No, of course not! For many generations the Lord has repeatedly done just what Hosea did for his wife and daughter. Again and again the Lord has taken His faithless people into His arms. Again and again the Lord has forgiven and forgotten. Again and again the Lord has been merciful and gracious.
But this cannot go on forever. God's love demands a response; it cannot remain a one-sided relationship. Love is patient. Love is kind. But love can certainly become angry if it is repeatedly scorned:
(Hosea 1:6) "Call her Lo-Ruhamah, for I will no longer show love to the house of Israel, that I should at all forgive them.
C What is the worst thing that can ever happen to you? Some say the worst thing that can happen is the loss of health, or of possessions, or of money, or the death of one's spouse or a child. But these are all outward things – like the name Jezreel represents the breaking of Israel's bow. When you think about it, you have to admit that the worst thing that can ever happen to the people of God is for the Lord to refuse to show them grace and mercy any more. Let Him take away everything else as long as He doesn't withdraw His love from me.
The wisest among God's people know that God's mercy is Israel's most valuable possession. Knowing this, prophets, psalmists, priests, and historians all sing the praises of God's mercy. Says David,
(Ps 103:13) As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; But now, now God announces that He will stop showing mercy, that He will stop forgiving sin, that He will stop being gracious. "Call her Lo-Ruhamah, for I will no longer show love to the house of Israel."
D When Hosea writes this the people are still living in grace. God's mercy still surrounds them. Lo-Ruhamah is not yet an accomplished fact. But the name is certainly a warning, a signal to all, that something is very, very wrong. It is a warning to Israel's sons and daughters to repent, to confess, to change. It is a warning that if things don't change – and soon – God's mercy will no longer be shown.
A Gomer's third child is another boy. At the command of God Hosea gives him the name Lo-Ammi. The people all know that Lo-Ammi means not my people. They all think that Hosea gives the baby this name because he is not the father. They all think this is Hosea's way of saying, "He isn't mine. He is not my child. He is not my people."
B This child, like the previous two, represents the people of God. His name, like that of Jezreel and Lo-Ruhamah, is a message to the people of Israel. This time the message from God is "you are not my people, and I am not your God" (vs 9b). Israel has always been known as God people, but no longer.
Why? Why this name? Why this judgment? To put it simply, the people do not repent. Instead, they laugh at the prophet and those strange names he gives to his children. Their conduct clearly shows they do not belong to God so God announces this simple fact: "you are not my people."
The same thing happens in the church. When people are removed from the church by discipline, they or their families sometime wonder why they are being cut off. They aren't. All that the church does is recognize they have cut themselves off. Those church members who refuse to repent, to confess, to change are saying to God, "You are not my God and we are not your people."
C We cannot say that the Lord acts in the heat of passion and fails to be patient with His people. Hosea tells us that Lo-Ammi is born only after Gomer has weaned Lo-Ruhamah. In the Ancient World weaning usually did not take place until the third year. This tells us that the Lord waits, He waits a long time, before finally executing His judgment. He is so patient, so long-suffering. We find that message elsewhere in the Bible too:
(2Pt 3:9) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
(1Tim 2:4) ... [God our Savior] wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
We are to see progression in the names of Hosea's three children. The name Jezreel means that God will break Israel's bow and strip her of her glory. But love has not yet vanished.
However, His people do not want to listen. So Lo-Ruhamah is born. God withdraws His mercy, and things become worse. Yet all is not yet lost. The bow has indeed been broken. God no longer shows mercy. All the same, there is still something left – the covenant bond. Israel is still God's child.
But now comes the finale. Israel still does not repent. So Lo-Ammi is born. This is the harshest punishment. Lo-Ammi means rejection. It means a final dissolution of the relationship. Everything is over between Israel and God. The marriage is ending in divorce: "You are not my people, and I am not your God."
Jezreel, Lo-Ruhamah, Lo-Ammi. That's the message of God to Israel. Is that also the message of God to us? It is if we do not repent of our sin. It is if we, like Israel, harden our hearts against the Lord.
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