************ Sermon on Hosea 2:16-23 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 17, 2002
"A Glorious Future"
Hosea ends chapter 2 with the sights and sounds of a glorious future. The prophet is given and passes on to us a picture of the new earth. The prophet is permitted a lovely, three-fold glimpse of the future: he sees peace, he sees a wedding, and he sees harmonious prayer.
A The prophet is first of all given a glimpse of peace. He sees peace in creation:
(Hosea 2:18) In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety.Hosea sees that the Lord, acting on behalf of His people, will make a covenant with the wild beasts of the field. Somehow, in someway, the Lord's covenant will make the wild animals give up their violent ways "so that all may lie down in safety."
The lion will no longer tear limb from limb, the venomous snake will no longer inject or spit its poison, the worm will no longer gnaw away at the root of crops, the locust will no longer devour the harvest. I have always loved the way the prophet Isaiah pictures this:
(Is 11:6-9) The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. (7) The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. (8) The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. (9) They will neither harm nor destroy ...
We can go further and say there will be no crop failure. There will be no drought or frost, no flood or hail, and no wind or fire to destroy what has been planted. Rich Voortman was telling me about life as a farmer in the mid-west: one year they were dried out and another year they were drowned out and still another year they were burned out. But none of that is possible in the new earth; all the earth will be a lush, tropical, paradise of vegetation and growth. Again, I think of what Isaiah says:
(Is 35:1-2,6-7) The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, (2) it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God ... (6) ... Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. (7) The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
There will be nothing to spoil creation, nothing to silence nature's song to God. There will be no one and no thing to cause suffering or decay. There will be peace, glorious peace.
B This peace is also extended to the world of men. As is the case with the birds and beasts and creeping things, man too will give up his violent ways. The Lord says,
(Hosea 2:18) Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety.
It is hard for us to imagine such a time when all can lie down in safety. Violence is a daily occurrence in our society. Flip on the ten o'clock news. We hear of drive-by shootings. We hear of rape. We hear of theft that turns into murder. We hear of a disgruntled worker who gets even with his boss and fellow employees by turning a semi-automatic gun on them. We hear of a girl taken out of her own bedroom and killed by a man who has a history of molesting and assaulting children. We hear of snipers gunning down people going about the daily business of life. Violence has reached such epidemic proportions in our society that the life expectancy of a young man in war-racked Lebanon or Bosnia is now higher than the life expectancy of a young man in one of our inner cities.
By the grace of God, Hosea is given a glimpse of a time when the violence, bloodshed, and warfare has come to an end. Again, I think of how Isaiah pictures this:
(Is 2:4) They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
For the future, then, Hosea sees peace, true peace: peace among men, peace among beasts, peace in all of creation.
A We all want peace on earth and among men. But for God's children far more important than the promise of peace is the promise of a wedding. The Lord says, "I will betroth you to me forever" (vs 19). This is the second thing Hosea sees for the future.
It is this marriage relationship that makes the future so glorious. The peace and tranquility Hosea already spoke of is not what the new heaven and earth is all about. Nor is the new heaven and earth first and foremost a place with gates of pearl and streets of gold. Rather, it is a place where God's children live in communion with God as a bride lives with her husband!
In this life and on this earth there always will be gold diggers – men and women who marry for money, for gold, for silver, for gain. Anna Nicole Smith, for instance – in her early 20s she married a man in his 80s; it was no accident that he was a multi-millionaire. In a true love relationship the silver and gold do not matter; what counts is the relationship with the other person. What does a wife who truly loves her husband care about his silver and gold if she does not possess him?
The glory and joy of the future life does not lie in the gold and silver, the peace and tranquility, the prosperity and glitter; rather, it lies in the relationship between God and His people. The center-piece of the future is life with God. As the Apostle John puts it:
(Rev 21:1,3) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea ... (3) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
The most beautiful thing of all, Hosea tells us, is that there will never be an end to this intimate communion. Here on this earth and in this life marriage is supposed to be for life; but, it is not permanent – it ends with the death of either of the partners. The marriage Hosea is given the privilege of seeing is forever and ever. This marriage is eternal: "I will betroth you to me forever."
A marriage means, of course, a marriage feast. In the Ancient World, like today, a marriage is a time of joy and rejoicing, of gladness and happiness. Friends and family are not sad but glad when the bride and bridegroom are joined together. Likewise, there will be much joy and rejoicing when the heavenly bridegroom comes for His bride and joins her to Himself. Again, I think of what the Apostle John writes:
(Rev 19:7,9) Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. ... (9) ... Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!
B "I will betroth you to myself forever." Don't forget who God says this to. He says this to an Israel, a people, that has forsaken Him. He says this to a people He has condemned as an "adulterous wife" with "children of unfaithfulness." Israel, if you remember, has committed spiritual adultery by leaving God and chasing Baal. Israel has not been true and faithful to God. Such a wife deserves to be stoned, to be put to death.
But a miracle happens! To His faithless bride God says, "I will betroth you to me forever." Israel will be treated as a holy, unspotted bride without blemish or flaw. God will take His people to Himself as if she has never sinned nor been a sinner. The sin of Israel's adultery will be forgiven.
C "I will betroth you to me forever." On what basis can God say this to His adulterous wife? Hosea tells us:
(Hosea 2:19-20) I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. (20) I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD.
Righteousness and justice, love and compassion, faithfulness – it is because of these that God can unite His people with Himself. In other words, it is by grace, it is out of grace, it is through grace. The people don't get what they deserve. Grace means they get the opposite of what they deserve. They deserve hell and hell's fire but instead they are betrothed to God forever.
"I will betroth you to me forever." For the future, then, Hosea sees a wedding. He sees the Lord Jesus, the heavenly bridegroom, joining Himself to His bride, the church, forever and ever.
A The third thing the prophet sees in his glorious vision of the new earth is prayer:
(Hosea 2:21-22) "In that day I will respond," declares the LORD-- "I will respond to the skies, and they will respond to the earth; (22) and the earth will respond to the grain, the new wine and oil, and they will respond to Jezreel.""I will respond," says the LORD. This means that prayers are raised in the glorious future.
Many might be surprised by this. When we think of the glorious future that awaits the people of God we usually think of peace, of joy, of the wedding supper, of golden streets. When we think of the new earth we usually don't think of prayer. Yet, that's what the prophet directs our attention towards.
In a poetic picture, the prophet shows us a chain of prayers, a chain with many links. Jezreel (or Israel) wants grain and wine and oil – that's the first prayer. But the wheat and grapes and olives need nutrients and moisture from the earth – that's the second prayer. Yet the earth can bring forth nothing without rain from heaven – that's the third prayer. Now, the heavens can pour rain on the earth only if God opens the floodgates – that's the fourth prayer.
All of these prayers are heard. God hears the heavens, the heavens hear the earth, the earth hears the wheat and grapes and olives, and the wheat and grapes and olives hear Israel.
Just like now, the prayers start with God's people and end with God. That's the way God provides for the needs of His children today. That's also the way He will supply the needs of His people in the glorious future.
Of course, the prophet could have said that God always hears and will always hear the prayers of His people. That's the easier and ordinary way of saying this. So why the poetry? Why a picture of man and grain and earth and heaven all praying?
B The prophet wants to teach us that the new earth, which we eagerly await, will be a world of prayer. Right now, the whole creation groans to its Creator. It groans under the burden of sin. It groans because of its bondage to decay. It groans as it waits for the glorious freedom of the children of God (Rom 8:18-25). You can hear that groaning in the sounds of fields scorched by the sun or drowned by floods, in the moaning of cattle, in the howling of the wind, in the rustle of the woods. These sounds represent the Creation's cry for Christ's return.
When the curse of sin is finally removed, everything in the new creation will be caught up in prayer and supplication. The heavens pray, and the earth too. The wheat prays, and the grapes, and the olives too. In fact, all of the new creation will engage in prayer. No one will curse, no one will sigh, no one will complain or whine or groan; instead, all will pray; instead, all will bow before the great Creator of all things. All the creatures of our God and King, all of Creation, and all of God's children will be engaged in prayer.
C Not only that, but the prophet also wants to teach us that there will be an amazing and beautiful harmony in those prayers. All the creatures of our God and King, all of Creation, and all of God's children will offer harmonious, integrated prayer. Every voice will be in agreement. Every creature will pray the same prayer.
We lack such harmony and agreement in prayers offered today. In fact, our prayers often conflict with each other. One prays for rain and the other prays for sunshine. Two people apply for the same job, and both ask for that job in prayer. One prays for unity in the church and the other prays for a pure remnant that will leave the church. One congregation prays that a pastor will come and the other congregation prays that the pastor will stay. When war breaks out, both sides pray for the blessing of the Almighty. If the Lord "answers" the prayer of the one He ends up disappointing the other. A "blessing" for me usually ends up meaning a "curse" for someone else.
Amazing, isn't it!? The time of prayer is often our holiest moment. Yet, in that time we are often so self-centered. In that time we so often shove ourselves forward and push others away from God's throne. So our prayers collide, they lack harmony, there is little agreement. No wonder our prayers so often go "unanswered"!
Hosea assures us that there will come a day when all prayers will be part of a chain; they will all be linked; they will all fit together. My blessing will no longer mean someone else's curse. The prayers in the new earth will be joined in one melodious whole. Together we all will pray in harmony.
For the present this tells me I have to be very, very careful about what I ask for in prayer. Am I perhaps praying selfishly? Am I shoving myself forward and pushing someone else away from God's throne? Am I prepared to pray for my enemies? Am I willing to strive for harmonious prayer now?
What a future, what a glorious future: peace, a wedding, harmonious prayer.
Let me tell you – this is what awaits you if you are one of God's children, if you believe in Jesus.
In the meantime, we can only pray, "Maranatha!" "Come, Lord Jesus." "Come quickly!"
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