************ Sermon on Hosea 2:2 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 14, 2002
"Rebuke Your Mother?!"
Every boy and girl knows the fifth commandment: "Honor your father and your mother!" This time-honored commandment seems to be ignored by the words of our text. Hosea says, "Rebuke your mother, rebuke her ..."
Hosea is asking for trouble here, for his words will lead to disobedience. He is telling his children to tell off their mother. He is telling his children to rebuke and denounce her.
How can Hosea, the prophet of God, open the door to such rebellion against parental authority? How can Hosea encourage children to show such disrespect to their parents?
Let me remind you, for a moment, of the mother of Hosea's children. Her name was Gomer. She was a "loose woman" when Hosea married her and even after her marriage to Hosea she continued to "sleep around." In fact, Hosea had to admit that he was not the biological father of their three children.
Hosea told his children not to remain silent about their mother's behavior. He told them to criticize their mother and to condemn her conduct. "Rebuke you mother, rebuke her."
I Rebuking the Church
A Of course there is more at stake in this passage than just the behavior of Gomer, wife of Hosea. This passage is in the Bible to teach us something. We know we are not to take this passage literally; the Lord God never encourages children to rebel against their parents. The mother of whom Hosea speaks is not first of all his wife; rather, she is Israel as a nation. She is the Old Testament church. So the mother we are discussing today is the church.
Let me remind you, for a moment, of the mother known as Israel. Just like Gomer, she was a "loose woman." Just like Gomer, she was unfaithful and "slept around." Israel was guilty of adultery in departing from the LORD. She chased after and worshiped other gods: Baal, Ashteroth, Mammon, to name only a few.
Hosea told his people not to remain silent about their mother's behavior. He told them to criticize their mother and to condemn her conduct. "Rebuke you mother, rebuke her."
B Arguments and quarrels in the home are deplorable. Children become upset when they see their parents fighting. Visitors are embarrassed when they witness a family quarrel. But fighting within the church is just as bad! We would like the church to be a place of peace and love and blessing, a stronghold where the tensions and power-plays and troubles of the world have no place. That's what we all would like, and so would Hosea. Yet, often the church is torn apart by tensions, struggles, and controversies.
Thank God, I say, that we in Trinity experience peace and harmony; that we are one in heart and mind. Thank God, I say, that we are known for our love and concern for each other. For instance, I am proud and delighted with how this congregation – through her deacons – has reached out to the family of Rev. Jae Dong Lee. Mention a need and I notice that people here almost stand in line to give help. This kind of stuff makes it a delight for me to be your pastor.
C Hosea wants the church and people of God to experience the kind of harmony and love and peace that we are experiencing in Trinity. Yet, at the same time, he tells us not to enjoy a false rest, a dishonest peace, in which anything goes and everything is tolerated. For when that happens we can't have harmony at all costs, peace at any price.
Topic: PeaceThe church, like the world, cannot afford such a peace.
I'm reminded of what happened just prior to World War II. Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, had a policy of appeasement in regards to Nazi Germany. Whatever Hitler wanted he gave in return for a guarantee of peace. As he got off the airplane he waved in the air the peace treaty signed by Hitler. He spoke bravely of "peace with honour" and "peace in our time." Just two weeks later Hitler's armies invaded Czechoslovakia.
Hosea tells us that there are times when the children of the church must come out of their corner and make their criticisms heard. They must, because silence is dangerous. Even in the church there cannot be peace at any price, harmony at any cost. The people of the church must raise their voices in protest against any wrong that is going on. That – and nothing else – is what Hosea means when he says, "Rebuke your mother, rebuke her."
A In criticizing what is wrong within the church we must make sure that complaints and objections are leveled against the guilty and not the innocent. It does no good to rebuke or denounce the wrong parties.
First of all, we can't blame God. That's what the Israelites did when things were going wrong. They blamed their Father in heaven. Things were miserable in Israel, they said, because God had abandoned them, because God withdrew His blessing from them, because God had forsaken the land.
Isn't that how things usually go? If for some reason anything goes wrong in our lives, if we start going downhill, if we are tormented by thorns and thistles, if one misfortune follows another, then we are tempted to lay the blame at God's door. "Why is God doing this? Why is He allowing this?" we ask. Like Israel we criticize our Father.
Hosea says to us this evening, "Rebuke your mother; rebuke her, not your Father!"
It is also real easy to blame one's leaders. There were those in Israel who laid the blame for all that was wrong at the door of the elders, the priests, the prophets, and the kings. Because they did not guard and protect the flock, because they did not do their job, error and falsehood and idolatry and adultery became the norm.
This too we find today. For instance, we blame the country's problems on the President, Congress, the Supreme Court: the budget deficit, the trade deficit, illegal immigration, declining morality, economic recession. Or, we blame the church's problems on the seminary, the consistory, the pastor. Or, we blame the school's problems on the administrator. We play the blame game.
Hosea says to us this evening, "Rebuke your mother; rebuke her, not others."
B What does it mean, really mean, to rebuke your mother?
Let's first of all acknowledge that many complaints and criticisms are directed against the church today. Many are quite bold and quite harsh in this. They can speak of the church as being too narrow-minded and judgmental, or of being too broad-minded and gentle; of being stuffy and traditional, or of being loose and informal; of being hypocritical, or of being self-righteous; of being a place without love and acceptance, or of being a place that loves and accepts anyone and anything.
Hosea's words are an invitation to self-criticism. When most people criticize the church, they usually don't realize they are engaging in self-criticism. All their complaints and criticisms are directed against "her" or "it" or "them" – as if they themselves are not involved. There is one thing we must never forget: you and I are the church! The church is not a vague and undetermined something far away from us. She is you and me.
The church is you and me. This means that criticism of the church is always self-criticism. If the church needs to be rebuked, then, we must start off with rebuking and criticizing ourselves. If we believe that the church must change her conduct, we must begin by changing our own conduct. The reformation of the church must begin with the reformation of our hearts. But the reverse is also true: the deformation of the church also begins with us – with our own spiritual sickness.
Do you find yourself attacking the church for her problems and weaknesses?, do you find yourself constantly complaining about her and criticizing her? Let me tell you, if you want to change the church you have to begin by changing yourself – because you are the church. For instance, if you think the church is unloving, it won't change until you yourself begin to show love. If you think the church is hypocritical, it won't change until you get rid of your own hypocrisies. If you think the church is narrow-minded, it won't change until you yourself get rid of your own judgmental attitude.
Strange, isn't it? To find what is wrong with the church all that we have to do is look at ourselves. You see, the wrong we find in the church is usually a reflection of our own attitude and sins.
I'm reminded of the book, "The Scarlet Letter." In the book a young minister committed adultery with a young widow. Afterward he found himself consumed by his lust for her and tormented by his guilt. In his sermons he began to condemn his people for the sins of the flesh. But the reader knew what he was really condemning was his own sins.
I'm reminded too of a young "Christian" mother in a church who was forever condemning the young people and adult singles for their sexual activity. But all along she was having an affair and being unfaithful to her own husband. I realized afterwards that it was her own sins she was condemning.
C Self-criticism – that's what Hosea calls us to do. He wants us to take a long and honest look at ourselves. But that is never easy to do, is it? It is never easy to examine our own faults and shortcomings. It is never easy to admit to ourselves, let alone to others, what our faults may be. A "Charlie Brown" cartoon illustrates this:
Topic: CriticismSome people think it is their God-ordained responsibility to dish out criticism. They see it as their knack. Some even consider it their spiritual gift. But these people are often blind to their own weaknesses.
Linus had his security blanket in place and his thumb resting safely in his mouth, but he was troubled. Turning to Lucy, who was sitting next to him, he asked, "Why are you always so anxious to criticize me?"
Her response was typical: "I just think I have a knack for seeing other people's faults."
Exasperated, Linus threw his hands up and asked, "What about your own faults?"
Without hesitation, Lucy explained, "I have a knack for overlooking them."
To these people Hosea would say, "No way. All criticism must start with self-criticism." I think here of what Jesus said to the Scribes and Pharisees one day:
(Mt 7:3-5) "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? (4) How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? (5) You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.Again, the point is that all criticism, all rebuke, all denunciation, must start off with self-examination. In fact, if you are not willing to look at yourself, you have no business looking at anyone else, let alone the church of Jesus Christ.
A "Rebuke your mother, rebuke her," says Hosea. "Examine yourself. Engage in self-criticism." What the prophet has in mind is a thoroughgoing reformation. His intent is renewal. His purpose is conversion. His aim is repentance.
The complaints about the mother and the accusations of the children is supposed to bring about change. Says Hosea,
(Hosea 2:2) "Rebuke your mother, rebuke her, for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband. Let her remove the adulterous look from her face and the unfaithfulness from between her breasts.
The people of Israel certainly had need for a great reformation. Like Gomer, they were unfaithful and adulterous. But once they examined themselves Hosea hoped they would repent and change and live as new people. This is what happened to King David when he was confronted with and admitted to his sin of adultery with Bathsheba – he repented and changed and began to live again as a servant of the LORD. This is also what happened with John Newton.
Subtopic: Examples of
Most of us probably realize that John Newton was the author of the hymn "Amazing Grace."
Before his conversion to Christ he was the captain of a ship that brought slaves from West Africa to Britain and America. What's not as well known is that Newton continued in the slave trade for some time after becoming a believer -- the main difference being that he treated his human cargo more compassionately. Only later did God open his eyes to the horrors of his trade, and Newton became a pastor and zealous spokesman for the outlawing of slavery in the British empire.
B "Rebuke your mother, rebuke her," says Hosea. The reformation, renewal, conversion, and repentance that Hosea has in mind can never be accomplished on our own. None of us, on our own, can bring about the renewal that is needed and that the Lord demands. Relying on our own strength we can only continue in our sin and disobedience the way Israel did.
Topic: ConversionAs Prison Fellowship demonstrates, the only effective way to bring about renewal, lasting renewal, has to do with the Lord Jesus.
Subtopic: Examples of
Efforts to rehabilitate prisoners in a prison have been largely unsuccessful. Prison Fellowship reports that jailhouse religion is effective; it does change lives. There's been an independent ten year study of 180 federal inmates who had participated in Prison Fellowship Seminars, and when they got out they were less likely to commit other crimes and less likely to return to prison. And by an impressive percentage.
We can and should learn here from Israel. She engaged in criticism, but it did not lead to renewal. It did not because she had no relationship with the Lord. For, as Hosea puts it, "she is not my wife, and I am not her husband."
It is only by having a close and living relationship with the Lord, congregation, that our self-criticism can lead us to be the kind of people the Lord wants us to be.
I challenge you, then, to engage in criticism – self-criticism. Become dissatisfied with your life and by the Lord's strength be renewed.
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