************ Sermon on Hosea 2:14 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on April 28, 2002

Hosea 2:2-23
vs 14
"Never Waste Your Pain"

I Judgment
A Our text speaks of judgment. God announces He will lead His people into the desert or wilderness. Verse 13 tells us why:
(Hosea 2:13) I will punish her for the days she burned incense to the Baals; she decked herself with rings and jewelry, and went after her lovers, but me she forgot," declares the LORD.

B Those listening to Hosea must have been amazed by these words. After all, they were living in the glorious days when Jeroboam II was king of Israel. 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.

Now Hosea announces judgment, judgment in the desert or wilderness. This judgment will mean suffering, for the "desert" into which God will lead Israel is nothing less than the misery of exile. It hardly seems possible that this will happen, yet that is what Hosea says.

C Of course, "wilderness" must be understood not in a literal but in a figurative sense. When Israel went into exile, she did not go into an actual wilderness. What Hosea meant is that Israel would become impoverished, without homes and ivory and jewels and vineyards and orchards.

At one time Israel was an impoverished child living in the desert, and that's what she will become again. All the blessings and treasures which the LORD gave Israel (vs 8) He will take away. Israel will be just as poor as she was before. Says the LORD:
(Hosea 2:3) ... I will strip her naked and make her as bare as on the day she was born; I will make her like a desert, turn her into a parched land, and slay her with thirst.

(Hosea 2:9) ... 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.
This is what Israel deserves!

Here is a message that anyone who forgets and abandons God can expect pain and more pain. Hear, O Israel, the LORD your God is a jealous God. That is why He is going to lead you into the wilderness.

II God Allures Israel
A At the command of God Hosea adds something very strange. He talks not only of God leading Israel into the wilderness but also of luring her. "I am now going to allure her."

"Allure." It means to entice or seduce. This is the language of lovers: a woman, for instance, allures a man so he asks for her hand in marriage. This is the language of advertising: a customer, for instance, is allured into buying a car from Giant Chevrolet or furniture from Weatherby's because of the superior product, service, or price. This is the language of evangelism: the Gospel invitation, for instance, is alluring when it is presented in a warm and loving way.

B The use of "allure" here raises questions. What exactly does God have in mind: is it judgment or is it mercy? Does the journey into the wilderness mean destruction or construction? Does it mean annihilation or restoration? Does it mean curse or blessing? Is Israel to weep at being led into exile, or must she rejoice that God is alluring her into the wilderness? Were they supposed to cry or laugh? This sounds like a mixed message. We all know people who give mixed messages. I think of people who talk about prayer but never pray. People who say tithing is right but never tithe. People who want to belong to the church but never attend. People who say the Bible is God's Word but never read it. People who criticize others for things they do themselves. People who stay away from church for trivial reasons and yet can still sing, "Oh, How I Love Jesus." People who continue in sin all their lives but still expect to go to heaven. We almost expect people to be this way. But not God. So what is going on? How are we to understand what Hosea says?

To use "allure" here does not seem to fit the historical facts. God did not really lure Israel into exile; throw or cast would be better words to describe what actually happened. God had to do this to force Israel out of its rut. This reminds me of Lot. He didn't want to listen either and had to be driven out of his beautiful city of Sodom. But are we any different? Aren't we also dumped into the wilderness time and again because we refuse to listen to God? If Israel was thrown or cast into the wilderness why, then, does Hosea use the word "allure"?

To use "allure" here also seems to be in conflict with God's nature. The cunning hunter lures rabbits or foxes into traps. The devil lures people into sin and ruin and destruction. Surely God wouldn't lure His people into the desert!

C Our text can not make sense to everyone. But those who have fellowship with God know that the wilderness can mean a blessing, that a valley of thorns can become a mountain of salvation, and that life's adversity and loneliness can be turned to our advantage. I think of what the apostles Paul and James say:
(Rom 5:3-4) Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; (4) perseverance, character; and character, hope.

(James 1:2-4) Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, (3) because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. (4) Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Why can Paul and James talk this way? They talk this way and Christian everywhere join them because they "know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Rom 8:28). To put it bluntly, the desert, a wilderness experience, is good for our souls. Those who understand this no longer complain but thank God for His infinitely mysterious ways.
Topic: Suffering
Subtopic: For Christ's Sake
Index: 3474-3475
Date: 4/1986.25
Title: Bristlecone Pine

Some time ago a fascinating article appeared in the Reader's Digest telling about a most unusual tree called the "Bristlecone Pine." Growing in the western mountain regions, sometimes as high as two or more miles above sea level, these evergreens may live for thousands of years. The older specimens often have only one thin layer of bark on their trunks. Considering the habitat of these trees, such as rocky areas where the soil is poor and precipitation is slight, it seems almost incredible that they should live so long or even survive at all. The environmental "adversities," however, actually contribute to their longevity. Cells that are produced as a result of these perverse conditions are densely arranged, and many resin canals are formed within the plant. Wood that is so structured continues to live for an extremely long period of time. The author Darwin Lambert says in his article, "Bristlecone Pines in richer conditions grow faster, but die earlier and soon decay." The harshness of their surroundings, then, is a vital factor in making them strong and sturdy.
How similar this is to the experience of the Christian who graciously accepts the hardships God allows to come into his or her life.

Are you in a difficult place today because the winds of trial are sweeping over your life? Instead of complaining, thank God for the assurance that "after you have suffered a little while," He will "himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast" (1 Pet 5:10). Rejoice in the added power and grace that comes through adversity!

D There is no doubt that Israel was driven into the wilderness of exile, but God lets His prophet use the word allure here to indicate the love of His divine heart. Israel may have forgotten the LORD, but the LORD has not forgotten her! The LORD was eager to have His people come back to Him. That's why He drove her into the desert.

Once before the LORD had lured Israel into the wilderness. That time she was Egypt's slave. Then, God liberated her and brought her into the wilderness, and she went willingly. The desert with its endless sand and loneliness and heat became a place of feasting and joy for Israel. There Israel was formed into the bride of God. There she enjoyed God's embrace. There God spoke to her heart.

Now Israel has run away from God and has again become a slave. This time she is a slave not of Egypt but of Baal. She needs to go to the desert again in order to be set free. She needs to go to the wilderness so that new bonds can be forged between her and the LORD. In this way the judgment will become a blessing. In this way we can speak of the LORD alluring His people.

III Wilderness
A When it comes right down to it, the wilderness isn't really such a bad place after all. In some ways it is better than being in a banquet hall, and it's certainly better than having full barns and saying to yourself: "Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry" (Lk 12:19).

What is your wilderness? It may be a lonely sickbed, where people seem to forget about you. It may be the pain of cancer. It may be the sorrow of a broken-hearted widow or widower whose spouse has passed away. It may be the frustration of parents with rebellious or wayward children. It may be financial hardship, when unemployment and other setbacks make your situation look as somber and fruitless as a desert. It may be harsh or unfair criticism that people level against you. There are so many wildernesses in the world and so many lonely people living in them. Yet no such wilderness is a complete evil.

B It is not always easy for us to see how a wilderness can prove to be a blessing. There's certainly nothing charming or enticing about living in a desert, for a desert means heat, drought, thirst, and sand! Milk and honey look better to us! Yet, throughout the ages the wilderness has been God's great force, where He prepares instruments for His service.

I think of Moses. It wasn't until after he had spent 40 years in the wilderness of Midian that he was ready to lead Israel out of Egypt. It wasn't until he was tested and tried in the wilderness that David became king. It was in Gilead's wilderness that Elijah became the spiritual leader of Israel. It was in the wilderness of Judah that John the Baptist became a herald of Christ's coming. It wasn't until after He had been tested and tempted in the wilderness for 40 days that Jesus began to preach. After his conversion the Apostle Paul spent some time in the wilderness around Damascus before beginning his ministry (Gal 1:17). And it was only in the wilderness of the exile that Israel found her God again.

Many have found God in the wilderness of their lives. Yes, it is not an easy place in which to live. But the God Who sent Israel manna every day and made water flow from a rock is more than able to bring us through any wilderness experience. So we learn again that God is faithful and true. We learn again that on Him we can and should depend.

I came across a poem this past week that speaks to what Hosea says. It's title: "Never Waste Your Pain."
Topic: Pain
Index: 2667
Date: 6/1993.12
Title: Never Waste Your Pain

Dear Lord...
Please grant that I shall
Never waste my pain; for...
To fail without learning,
To fall without getting up,
To sin without overcoming,
To be hurt without forgiving,
To be discontent without improving,
To be crushed without becoming more caring,
To suffer without growing more sensitive,
Makes of suffering a senseless, futile exercise,
A tragic loss,
And of pain,
The greatest waste of all.

-- Dick Innes

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