************ Sermon on Hosea 3:5 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 24, 2002
"Trembling at God's Goodness?!"
Topic: GoodnessWe would say that God was good, so very good, to Spurgeon and his family. He poured out His blessings upon them in their time of need.
Subtopic: Of God
Title: I Know What God Will Do
Charles Spurgeon loved to tell about his grandfather, a minister, who was very poor. The one cow he owned had died, and his 10 children were without milk. His wife asked, "What will we do now?" "I cannot tell," he said, "but I know what God will do. We must have milk for the children and He will provide for us."
The next morning a man brought Spurgeon's grandfather a gift of 20 pounds from the ministers' relief fund, even though help had not been requested. A few days before, the relief committee had divided the funds for distribution and an amount of 5 pounds was left over. One of the members said, "There is poor Mr. Spurgeon down in Essex. Suppose we send it to him." "We'd better make it 10," said the chairman, "and I'll give an extra five." That made it fifteen. Another man added five more pounds. Those men knew nothing about Spurgeon's cow, but God knew.
Hosea tells us this morning, as we approach Thanksgiving Day and Advent, that we should tremble at the goodness of God.
I An Amazing Thing to Say
A In our passage, Hosea foresees a time when Israel will repent and convert. At that time Israel will come "trembling to the LORD and to his blessings." Israel will come in fear to the LORD and all His goodness.
What an amazing thing to say! Usually, we tremble at God's greatness or God's holiness or God's anger. Trembling is understandable and proper before such aspects or attributes of God. But why would anyone tremble before God's goodness? That seems strange, to say the least. Yet, that's exactly what the converted do – or, should do. This is one of the characteristics of God's converted people – they tremble at His goodness. Someone who has never trembled at God's goodness knows little about conversion. You see – and this is the point of my message this morning – those who are converted tremble when they think of God's goodness.
B As for the unconverted, the heathen, the godless, the wicked – they may fear God's mighty majesty or cringe at the thought of punishment from His hand but they certainly wouldn't tremble at the goodness of the Lord. Think of Cain. He was filled with fear after God confronted him with the murder of his brother, Abel (Gen 4). Or, think of King Saul. He was in fear and trembling when he was told God had rejected him as king over Israel (1 Sam 15). But we can't say that either Cain or Saul trembled at God's goodness.
C Then there are those who accept goodness from God as something normal, something to be expected, something to be taken for granted. Think of Israel. Time after time took God's goodness for granted; never once did she fear God's goodness. Many within the church are exactly the same: they expect God's blessings, they receive God's blessings, but they never once tremble about those blessings.
II The Goodness of God
A The LORD had been especially good to Israel. The tender love of God for His people was illustrated in what Hosea had to do. Remember God's strange command to Hosea? God said, "Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife ..." So Hosea married a woman called Gomer; she was a woman of questionable morals; she was known for sleeping around, for being fast and easy. And, after the marriage ceremony Gomer did not change – she continued to sleep around and even had children by other men. But Hosea stuck with his unfaithful wife.
The marriage of Hosea and Gomer is an illustration, a vivid picture, of the relationship between God and His people. The LORD chose Israel as His bride. He loved her just like a groom loves His bride and demonstrated that love in all sorts of ways. Yet Israel did exactly what Gomer did – she committed adultery, spiritual adultery: she chased after the Baals and sought assistance from foreign kings instead of the LORD. But, in spite of His hurt and pain, the LORD stuck with His unfaithful bride. He was so good to His people.
B In our passage the tender love of God for His people is again illustrated in what Hosea had to do with His unfaithful wife. Again, the point is that God is so good to His people.
It is bad enough that Gomer slept around on Hosea; but now, to make matters worse, she has left him and has shacked up with another man. Hosea is ordered by the LORD to bring her back. Not only that, but he was also to "love" her. Hosea writes:
(Hosea 3:1) The LORD said to me, "Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her ..."Can you imagine how hard this must have been?!
His love for her, however, was not to be given resentfully, out of a sense of duty, or because of a divine command. When the LORD gave this order, He planted in Hosea's heart an indestructible love for the ungrateful, unfaithful, sinful Gomer. This love had to come from God because sinful man simply doesn't have it within him to forgive such a sin and to love such a sinner. This love was so deeply rooted that we are moved and touched as we watch Hosea run after his wife. There is one thing he desires and one thing that fills his soul: to get back the wife that ran away from him.
As an aside, we see here God's will for marriage. Few things are as devastating as the discovery that one's spouse has committed adultery or is an abuser or admits to being a homosexual. The sinned against partner is filled with anger, shock, and betrayal. Yet, even in such a situation the Lord's will is not divorce but healing and forgiveness and reconciliation; the Lord's will is that the marriage relationship continue. This is not to say that Christians should ever submit to abuse; but they can't opt for divorce either.
When our family relationships are threatened because of sin – whether it is the relationship between husband and wife or between parents and children or between brothers and sisters – we need the love that God planted in Hosea's heart. You see, only this love allows us to keep on loving a person who has hurt us as deeply as Gomer wounded Hosea; only this love allows us to forgive horrible sins committed against us. How do we get this love? This love is ours only if we believe in Jesus. It is the love of Christ Himself which He showed on the cross and which He plants in our hearts through the operation of the Holy Spirit.
C Now, it was no simple matter to get Gomer back. Hosea couldn't just walk up to her and say "Come back with me." Gomer, you need to realize, was bought by another. We are only guessing, but it seems she had become a prostitute. Her services have been bought and paid for. Therefore Hosea couldn't just take her back; he had to buy her back!
(Hosea 3:2) So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley.This is not that big of a price. One shekel is about the weight of one of our .50¢ pieces; and, barley is the cheapest of grains. Hosea carefully itemizes the bill as though it were a large amount; this suggests that Hosea was a poor man and had trouble getting even this small sum of money together. For Hosea, in other words, Gomer's price was a costly amount.
Hosea had to buy Gomer back because she had become a slave! That's how blind sin makes us. Gomer thought her new life would be all fun and games and freedom, but it turned out to be the exact opposite.
Topic: SinGomer found out, to her dismay, that the sin that looked so attractive was also very dangerous. Gomer found out that the man who had bought her was a tyrant. He mistreated her and humiliated her and abused her.
Subtopic: Attractions Of
In the Australian bush country grows a little plant called the "sundew." It has a slender stem and tiny round leaves fringed with hairs that glisten with bright drops of liquid as delicate as fine dew. Woe to the insect, however, that dares to dance around it in the sunny air. For while its attractive clusters of red, white, and pink blossoms are harmless, the leaves are deadly. The shiny moisture on each leaf is sticky, and will hold any bug prisoner that touches it. The struggle to get free is often futile, for the movement of the insect causes the leaves to close. This innocent-looking plant actually feeds upon its victims if they do not quickly wriggle out of the entanglement.
So Hosea got Gomer back as his wife by paying a price for her. Hosea's love for Gomer was not only generous but also jealous; it was a love that not only opened the door for her return as a wife but also closed the door on her sin. He said to her:
(Hosea 3:3) "You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you (or "wait for you"). Gomer must live in Hosea's house shut away from other men, from any opportunity to sin. Hosea keeps his wife apart from every man – and waits. He waits "many days" for her to realize how good and faithful and loving he is. He waits "many days" for her to respond to his love. He waits patiently.
D Gomer's condition, of course, was a pitiful reflection of Israel's condition as a nation. Like Gomer, Israel left her husband, the LORD, for lovers, the Baals. Life seemed so good under the Baals because Israel thought the sweet raisin cakes, the grain, the new wine and oil, the silver and the gold were the gifts of the Baals (Hos 2:5,8). Israel believed she could find freedom in serving Baal, but instead she became a slave to sin. Israel found out the truth of Paul's claim that when we sin, we become slaves to sin (Rom 7:14).
Furthermore, like Gomer, Israel had to be shut off from her sin so she could return to the LORD.
(Hosea 3:4 For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or idol. King and prince represents government. Sacrifice and stone stands for Israel's places of worship. Ephod and idol symbolize divine revelation. All of this Israel will have to live without. This can only refer to the Babylonish captivity, to deportation and exile.
E Hosea's love for Gomer, of course, was but a reflection of God's love for Israel. In fact, this is what verse 1 says: "Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites." Again, the point is that God is so good to His people. Like Hosea, God had to take the steps to get His people back. Like Hosea, God had to pay a price. As with Hosea, the price was costly. We all know the price God ultimately paid – His one and only Son, the Son He loved, and His death upon the cross. Like Hosea, God had to shut His people off from their sin. Like Hosea, God had to wait – patiently – for Israel to realize how good and faithful and loving He is. He waits "many days" during the dark years of exile for Israel to respond to His love.
God waiting for man – what a beautiful thought. The New Testament pictures this in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. When the son was still far away, his father saw him. This means the father was waiting for him, looking for him. Each day he climbed up on the roof of his house or each day he stood on the edge of the road to see if his son was coming. Each morning he asked himself, "Will he come home today?"
God waits for you and me just like He waited for Israel, just like Hosea waited for Gomer. He waits for you and me to realize how good and faithful and loving He is. He waits for you and me to respond to His love. The question isn't whether heaven is waiting. The question is whether the sinner will show up.
In all of this God is good, so very good, to His undeserving people.
A Just as Hosea waits patiently for his wife to respond to his love, so the LORD waits for Israel. We are not told if Hosea's wait is successful. But we are told that the LORD will not be disappointed with His wait. Israel's isolation in exile will bring about a growing desire for communion with God. Says Hosea,
(Hosea 3:5) Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days.
We see here three aspects to Israel's repentance or conversion. First, she will seek the Lord. Even as a deer pants for streams of water so Israel will pant for the Lord.
Second, the people of Israel shall seek David their king. The kingdom of the ten tribes, which had turned away from David's royal house, will again come under the Lord's anointed. In the fullness of time, of course, that king is Jesus Christ, the Son of David.
The third and final aspect of their conversion has to do with the trembling I mentioned earlier. Israel will recognize God's goodness for what it is. She will marvel at God's love and patience. No longer will Israel play games with that love. Instead, she will tremble at the goodness of God.
B Anyone who has repented and turned to God trembles when he thinks of His goodness. He doesn't know where to hide. He is deeply ashamed that the Lord is so good to him.
Let there be no doubt about it, congregation: God is good to us. That "goodness" is reflected in the ordinary things of life: in every piece of bread, in every glass of water, in every ray of sunshine. That goodness is visible in the children He has blessed us with, in health and strength, in the fact that we may attend worship every Sunday. That goodness is shown in books and schools and passing grades and athletic ability. That goodness is present in our day-to-day lives in a thousand different ways. That goodness is also and especially reflected in forgiveness, salvation, and the Lord's patience with us and our failings.
Have we learned to tremble at all this goodness of God?
The child of God should be amazed that God's goodness continues day after day. He knows his sin and unworthiness. He knows he is deserving of nothing. So he should wonder, "Why me and my house? Why is the Lord so good to me." Therefore he should stand trembling before the goodness of the Lord.
We all need to reach the point in our conversion where we no longer grab greedily at God's blessings, where we no longer take His goodness for granted, where we no longer whine and complain and ask for more and more. Instead, we need to stand trembling before the goodness of the Lord.
Can it be said of you and of me, "They come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings"?
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