************ Sermon on Hosea 2:8 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 21, 2002
"Where All The Silver Comes From"
I God is the Owner
Oil billionaire Marvin Davis of Denver is one of the world's richest men. In 1993 he and his wife, Barbara, were driving through the South of France. Their chauffeured limo was cut off by four hooded gunmen. The thugs yanked a $40,000 necklace from around Barbara Davis's throat. They forced the oil magnate to open the car trunk and surrender jewels valued at $10 million, as well as $50,000 in cash – said to be "tipping money."
I doubt if any of us can imagine owning let alone carrying around this amount of jewels and cash. Yet, according to Forbes Magazine, Marvin Davis is one of the poorest of the rich men of this world. Here is the list of the 10 richest people in the world in 2002:
Title: Forbes List of Ten Richest People in 2002
1. Bill Gates/ USA $52.8 Microsoft
2. Warren Buffett/ USA $35.0 Investments
3. Theo & Karl Albrecht/ Germany $26.8 Retail
4. Paul Allen/USA $25.2 Microsoft
5. Larry Ellison/USA $23.5 Oracle
6. Jim Walton/USA $20.8 Wal-Mart
7. John Walton/USA $20.7 Wal-Mart
8. S. Robson Walton/USA $20.5 Wal-Mart
9. Alice L. Walton/USA $20.5 Wal-Mart
10. Helen R. Walton/USA $20.4 Wal-Mart
B Actually, Forbes Magazine consistently overlooks Someone – God. What an oversight! God's holdings make Bill Gates look like a pauper. God's possessions include the assets of the Fortune 500 companies and the riches of the world's 50 wealthiest people. More than that, God's holdings extend as far as the universe. There is no one and no thing that does not belong to Him. God owns not only tiny ants and giant rhinoceroses, but also babies still in their mothers' wombs and people who occupy palaces and White Houses. God's possessions include the silver and gold I showed to the children (and all the treasures the children showed me). God's possessions include the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains, New York and Chicago, and the Sears Tower. God's possessions include you and me, our life, our strength, our time, our talents. And if there is another universe or two where more people and more things exist, God owns them too.
The Bible tells us that all this belongs to God because He is the Maker, the Creator (Gen 1:1). And, according to the Bible, God has not give up control of even one little smidgen or smithereens of all these possessions. Listen to what the Bible says:
(Ps 24:1-2) The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; (2) for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.
(Ps 50:9-11) I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, (10) for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. (11) I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.
(1Chr 29:11-12) Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. (12) Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.
(Job 41:11) Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.
C The LORD wants His people to never forget this truth: that the earth and everything in it is His. Yet, in our text for this evening we hear a complaint from God against His people:
(Hosea 2:8) She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold ...It seems that God's people, Israel, forgot the truth we have been speaking of. Israel didn't realize it was God "who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold."
On Israel's part this was sinful ignorance. No nation was in a better position than Israel to know that God is not only the Creator of heaven and earth but also the One Who upholds and governs all things and provides for all His creatures by His providence. After all, Israel had confessed this from generation to generation. And, hers were the Sacred Writings, the Scriptures. And, in countless temple services she had sung that the earth and all its fullness belongs to the Lord. Yet Israel no longer knew anything of this.
We can say more than this about Israel's sinful ignorance. In a certain sense it is true of all creatures that they receive good things from God the LORD, that He fills their mouths with food, and their hearts with joy. But Israel had a special advantage above all others, for God had entered into a covenant with her. Because of this covenant, Israel was the object of God's special attention and care. The LORD looked after His people just as a mother looks after her young.
And the LORD had indeed taken good care of Israel. He had spoiled Israel, so to speak. She had become a wife living in luxury. Tenderly He gave her things she didn't even think of asking for, until she had much more than she needed. He saw to it that the desires of her heart were satisfied.
Israel had been treated so royally by the LORD that the prophet sums up not the everyday gifts received by Israel but the luxuries. It was not just bread and water, wool and flax, food and clothing that she received from the LORD; Hosea tells us that the LORD gave her grain and new wine and oil, and He lavished silver and gold on her.
Israel was indulged and spoiled by her husband the LORD. But she forgot completely Who gave her these wonderful gifts. Not only that, but she also went so far as to think and even say that her wealth and blessings came from the Baals, the gods of Canaan, the forces of nature! She forgot the one only true God Who provided for her needs and thanked the false no gods that can not see or hear or even lift a finger.
D What about us? Let's start off by acknowledging that we have been richly blessed by the LORD. Even as He lavished riches upon Israel, so has He lavished riches and luxuries and wealth upon us. At least seventy percent of the world does without the things we take for granted: things like indoor plumbing, doctors and hospitals, schools, cars and trucks, books, clean water, fresh food, Bibles, lawn-mowers, bank accounts, choice of clothing, shoes, box spring and mattress, refrigerators, stereos, fire department, ambulances, vacations and weekend get-aways, and the list goes on and on.
What about us? Do we know where all this silver and the gold comes from? Do we know where the jobs and the businesses, the money and the investments come from? We claim that we do! It has been impressed upon us in Church School and Catechism, in Bible Study and the Christian School that harvest and sunshine and rain, corn and wine and oil, silver and gold and money do not come to us by chance but from our Father's hands. This is one of our church's doctrines. Of course we know where all the silver comes from! At least we know it in our minds!
But do we also know it in our hearts? Do we live it in our lives? Or, as with Israel, does the Lord have a complaint about us:
(Hosea 2:8) She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold ...
When you think about it, it is easy, really easy, to think that prosperity and wealth is anything but a gift from the Lord. A dairyman, for instance, can point to his management skills. A farmer can point to his strong, calloused hands, and to the long hours spent in the field. A businessman can point to his financial know-how, his long hours, his public relations. A student can point to her long hours, her endless treks to the library, her Word Processor. An athlete can point to physical fitness, sweat, hard work, and countless hours of training. A factory worker can point to his skill. A nurse can point to her education and ability to get along with patients and supervisors.
It is true, of course, that we need all of this. The Apostle Paul tells us, for instance, that those who don't work, don't eat (2 Thess 3:10). So hard work and education are necessary. Yet, prosperity and wealth, food and shelter, good grades and a winning volley-ball or soccer season come not by our own efforts but only because the LORD chooses to bless our labors. In fact, without the LORD's blessing all that we do, all that we have, all that we are comes to nothing.
A Listen again to the words of this evening's text. It not only tells us that Israel was blessed richly by the LORD with grain, wine, oil, silver, and gold. It not only tells us that Israel forgot where all these blessings came from. But it also tells us how Israel wrongly used those blessings given her by the LORD:
(Hosea 2:8) She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold-- which they used for Baal.Did you catch that last line? Israel used the LORD's blessings to worship Baal. The precious gifts which her husband had given her in His tender love, the gold and silver and wine and oil, were now given to Baal.
God knows this. He watches as Israel is dancing in the woods and committing adultery with Baal. He watches with a torn and broken heart as the gifts of His love are given to another lover, someone Israel prostitutes herself to. What a terrible misuse of the LORD's blessings! What a disgraceful use of what God has given.
The LORD gave Israel everything. What is she supposed to do with all that wealth? The LORD doesn't want her to show off! Nor does the LORD want her to waste and destroy His good gifts. Of course, He never wants her to devote the riches to idols. The LORD blessed His people so that they could serve Him and look after the needy. But that's not how Israel used the silver and the gold, the grain and the wine and the oil.
B Before we condemn Israel too loudly we had best look at ourselves. What happens to all the silver and gold God has blessed us with? How do we use all the blessings God has given to us?
As with Israel, the LORD has not blessed us so that we could show off in front of the neighbors. Like Israel, we are not to waste and destroy God's good gifts. And, we are never to devote our riches to serve the idols of pleasure, things, toys, games. To put it bluntly, our money is never ours to do with as we please. For if that is our attitude, then we are showing we have not understood where all that grain and wine and oil and silver and gold comes from.
Well, what happens to all that silver and gold? Do you use it to serve the LORD and look after the needy? Let me tell you, if you don't use it this way, then the LORD has as much reason to complain about you as He did to complain about Israel. Don't forget, He is the owner. He "calls the shots." All the money and wealth is His, not ours. And, He want us to use His money, to manage His money, in His service.
You and I are being called this evening to faithful stewardship. We are being told to rightly manage the Master's money and wealth and blessings. But do we? That's the question. Two stories to illustrate proper stewardship:
Topic: StewardshipI think also of a story told by one of our missionaries in Africa:
At a church meeting a very wealthy man rose to tell the rest of those present about his Christian faith. "I'm a millionaire," he said, "and I attribute it all to the rich blessings of God in my life. I remember the turning point in my faith. I had just earned my first dollar and I went to a church meeting that night. The speaker was a missionary who told about his work. I knew that I only had a dollar bill and had to either give it all to God's work or nothing at all. So at that moment I decided to give my whole dollar to God. I believe that God blessed that decision, and that is why I am a rich man today."
He finished and there was an awed silence at his testimony as he moved toward his seat. As he sat down a little old lady sitting in the same pew leaned over and said to him: "I dare you to do it again."
There was a knock on the door of his hut. Answering, the missionary found one of the native boys holding a large fish in his hands. The boy said, "You taught us what tithing is, so here -- I've brought you my tithe." As the missionary gratefully took the fish, he asked the young lad, "If this is your tithe, where are the other nine fish?" At this, the young boy beamed and said, "Oh, they're still in the river. I'm going back to catch them now."
Again I ask, what happens to all that silver and gold? Do you use it to serve the LORD and look after the needy? Or does the LORD complain about you like He complained about Israel?
A There is much sadness in the LORD's complaint but there is beauty too. You see, we need to realize that the LORD does not complain simply to hurt His unfaithful wife or to shame her in front of the neighbors. He has a definite and a beautiful purpose in mind. His goal is to get His unfaithful wife back!
Isn't this amazing, and wonderful? God wants His unfaithful, runaway wife back and almost begs for her love.
If the complaint doesn't work, then God in His love will find another way to get Israel back. He says,
(Hosea 2:9) Therefore I will take away my grain when it ripens, and my new wine when it is ready. I will take back my wool and my linen, intended to cover her nakedness.Then Israel, driven by need, will turn back to the LORD and away from the Baals. In her misery she will say, "I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now" (Hosea 2:7).
That's hardly a noble motive. It would be a shame if Israel went back to God because of need alone. There is something impure and self-centered in the thought that she is better off with God than with Baal. Whatever the reason for the repentance – whether impure or not – God is so loving and merciful that He is willing to take His people back.
B God also wants us back. Whether we are driven to Him by need or by the thought of His generosity is not important – just so long as we do go back to Him. The most important thing for us is to know that the silver and the gold is His and we are too. He owns us and everything else. I am not my own. My possessions are not my own. They all belong to Him and must be used in His service.
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