************ Sermon on Hosea 5:1 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 13, 2003
"Children of the King"
I A Prophet's Courage
A Prophets are out of place at the king's court. They are not good at flattery and politics, for they love the truth. They do not wear fashionable clothes and do not have velvet tongues. They know that the law applies to high and low alike, and that there is no place for a "double standard." They not only get tough with the sins of the "ordinary man in the pew," but they also confront the shortcomings of the rich and powerful. They insist that kings as well as their subjects must obey the commands of the King of kings. They are no respecters of persons. They are God's messengers. They defend God's name and honor.
Think of Elijah. He did not hesitate to condemn the idol-worship of King Ahab. Think of John the Baptist. He boldly admonished King Herod about his adultery. And the Apostle Paul did not shrink for even a moment from speaking to the world's most powerful figures about righteousness and judgment. Think too of a more modern prophet like a salesman I read about this past week:
Subtopic: Examples of
At a national sales convention a heralded speaker delivered a motivational talk. His speech was punctuated with many words using the Lord's name in vain. Finally, a Christian salesman in the audience could stand it no longer. He rose from his seat and stood on his chair and shouted, "Please leave God out of it." With that he sat down. The speaker cleaned up the remainder of his speech.
Following the address a larger number of people lined up to shake the Christian's hand than the speaker's. The guideline of courage was demonstrated and subsequently rewarded.
- The Deacon, September 1996, "Being Moral in an Immoral World," p. 9
B Hosea is a prophet. So he cannot remain silent when there is something wrong, something immoral, something ungodly. In our text we hear Hosea talking to the people: "Pay attention, you Israelites!" But he also told the priests to pay attention: "Hear this, you priests!" Even more important, he focused the spotlight of God's Word on the palace of the king: "Listen, O royal house!"
This required courage on Hosea's part. Imagine him daring to confront the sin of priest and people and king!
C Unfortunately, the church of the Lord – which is called to be prophetic – has not always shown this kind of courage. Too many times the church has hesitated to confront the sins of the rich, the powerful, and the intellectual. And, sharp words spoken to the ordinary man or woman or child in the pew are usually coated with honey – if, indeed, they are spoken at all. Too often the church has hesitated to confront evil for what it is. Too often the church has become part of the problem instead of part of the solution.
For instance, in Hitler's Germany the church remained largely silent while the Nazis tried to exterminate Jews, gypsies, and the disabled. In recent years it has become apparent that the church has tried to cover up and hush up the sin of sexual abuse. And today the church too often condemns only those sins which are politically correct to condemn: sins like abuse, damage to the environment, apartheid, toxic waste, and so on. And, the church is pressured today to remain silent about sins like abortion, radical feminism, adultery, and homosexuality.
But Hosea is not timid. He dares to raise the standard. He dares to step on toes. He dares to spit even kings in the eye: "Listen, O royal house! This judgment is against you ..."
As a preacher I am to be like Hosea. The Lord calls me – at times – to stand on toes, to spit in the eye, to say things which can be highly unpopular. The temptation always exists to soften one's words, to compromise, to lighten up. I hope and pray that I do not fail in what the Lord calls me to do. I hope and pray that the Lord will always give me the strength and courage of a Hosea, Elijah, John the Baptist, or that salesman.
II The Corruption of Justice
A Now, what is the charge that Hosea makes against the royal house of Israel? He says,
(Hosea 5:1) You have been a snare at Mizpah, a net spread out on Tabor.These words are not mild.
Let us remember the job God has given to the princes and other members of the royal household. It is their job to administer justice. God expects them to take the side of the oppressed and to release people from the snares in which others have trapped them. Yet, they did the opposite: "You have been a snare at Mizpah, a net spread out on Tabor."
Mizpah was the place that Samuel administered justice when he was judge in Israel (1 Sam 7:15-17). Hosea condemns the house of the king by saying, "You have been a snare at Mizpah." Tabor was a favorite hunting spot for people who hunted birds. Birds were hunted there with nets. Hosea condemns the house of the king by saying, "You have been ... a net spread out on Tabor."
B What is the prophet saying? Hosea is saying that anyone who took his case to court flew right into a trap. By "anyone," I mean anyone who did not come armed with a lot of money. Unless you could afford to bribe the judge or hire a dream defense team like O.J. Simpson, you did not stand a chance in getting a favorable verdict.
Those who were oppressed and trapped were bitterly deceived when they looked to the judges for help. Instead of untying the knots and snares in which these people had been caught, the royal judges had more snares and traps ready. Even if some poor person was completely in the right, the judges and lawyers twisted things in such a way that the accusers ended up being the accused and the guilty ended up being the innocent. All who were oppressed and down-trodden in Israel were trapped by the courts like so many helpless birds.
That's what was going on in Israel. In each courtroom there should have been signs that read, "Beware of pick-pockets" and "Watch out for traps and snares." Justice had been turned inside out. Bandits were walking around in judges' robes.
All of this was done by judges of royal blood. These judges were supposed to reflect the image of the coming Messiah and King, especially in the way they administered justice. Isaiah pictures the Messiah for us:
(Is 61:1-2) The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, (2) to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn ...Do you remember what Luke tells us about this passage? He tells us that one day in Nazareth's synagogue Jesus applied these words to Himself. Jesus claimed to be the Messiah Who released the oppressed and dispensed a perfect justice. But in Hosea's day you would look in vain for any similarity between this picture of the Messiah and the judges who were supposed to be like Him.
III A Message for Us
A In spite of what we saw in the O.J. trial or with President Clinton, I have to say we are privileged to live in a land where justice is not for sale, where there is only one law for all. Rich and poor are treated alike in our courts. Our judges bear no resemblance to the judges at Mizpah and Tabor, who went about their greedy work of trapping the helpless. Therefore we might think Hosea has nothing to say to us this evening.
But the Word of the Lord never lets us off so easily. Whenever we read the Bible, we must ask ourselves, "What does it mean for me today?"
When we listen carefully to the Bible, we realize that this passage about corrupt judges who trap the poor like hunters trap birds is overflowing with meaning for us. This passage is intended to admonish and instruct us – if only we will listen.
B Hosea talks about royal princes who are supposed to uphold what is right. Who are those royal princes today? They are us.
Some of you might remember an old TV advertisement for Monarch Margarine. When people used Monarch a trumpet would blow and a crown would appear on their head. The point of the ad: anyone who uses Monarch not only eats like a king or queen but is a king or queen. We, who are Christians, are kings and queens, but not because we use Monarch.
I spoke twice at a Couples' Retreat. I urged the men to treat their wives like queens, like royalty. I told the men to be filled with awe that they can be in the presence of such nobility.
What is the basis for saying this? Our wives are to be treated like queens because, as born-again believers, they are members of God's royal household. Our wives are to be treated like royalty because, as Christians, they are children of the King of kings. And, as you all know, children of a king are princes and princesses, kings and queens.
What is true for our wives is true for all of us. God makes us kings. God makes us royalty. We are kings and queens, princes and princesses, because we are members of God's royal household, because we are children of the King.
C Now, we must live up to our position. We must live as kings and queens, as princes and princesses. What does this mean?
First, we need to remember that Christians live in the public eye. As the British royal family keeps discovering, kings and queens and princes are public figures. Everyone takes careful note of what they do or fail to do. It is not easy to live in a palace when so many are always watching you. It is not easy to be followed everywhere you go by an army of newsmen and photographers.
Like the British royals, we too live in the public eye. We too live in a palace or a glass house. The world and other Christians watch what we do very carefully. They notice right away when we do something wrong. Unbelievers may dismiss the church because of this. Young and weak believers may stumble and fall on account of this.
Second, we also need to remember that far more is expected of a king than of an "ordinary person." The world expects a great deal of us. They expect us to raise the standard in our marriage, in our dealings with our children, in our business dealings, in our relationship to our brothers and sisters. They expect us to live and act differently from other people.
Thirdly, Christians need to take a public stand with God, no matter what the cost. We need to take a stand for our faith and have the courage to say, "I'm a Christian." Every Christian ought to be ready to stand up courageously and unashamedly for the Lord. If we are to have revival in this nation, that's what Christians will have to do.
Subtopic: Examples of
Title: A Greater Allegiance
On one occasion Frederick the Great invited some notable people to his royal table, including his top-ranking generals. One of them, by the name of Hans von Zieten, declined the invitation because he wanted to partake of the Lord's Supper at his church.
Some time later at another banquet Frederick and his guests mocked the general for his religious principles and made jokes about the Lord's supper. In great peril of his life, the officer stood to his feet and said respectfully to the monarch, "My lord, there is a greater King than you, a King to whom I have sworn allegiance even unto death. I am a Christian man, and I cannot sit quietly as the Lord's name is dishonored and His character belittled." The guests trembled in silence, knowing that von Zieten might be killed. But to their surprise, Frederick grasped the hand of this courageous man, asked his forgiveness, and requested that he remain. He promised that he would never again allow such a mockery to be made of sacred things.
Perhaps you have heard of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand. Here is another example of someone who stood up for what is right as one of God's royal children:
Topic: CourageIt takes real courage to stand toe-to-toe with an evil government and proclaim the truth of God. Yet, that is what Pastor Wurmbrand did.
Subtopic: Examples of
In 1945, when the Communists seized Romania, Pastor Richard Wurmbrand had to make a decision. He could bow to the intruders or resist. Wurmbrand immediately began an effective, vigorous "underground" ministry to his enslaved people and the invading Russian soldiers. He was arrested in 1948 and spent three years in solitary confinement, seeing no one but his torturers. Following this, he was transferred to a mass cell for five years where the torture continued. Then he was set free and resumed his underground work, only to be arrested again two years later. Finally, in 1964 Christians in Norway negotiated with the Communist authorities for Wurmbrand's release and exit from Romania.
We too have to confront what is wrong in our culture and stand up for what is right. We live in a world that condones and even encourages adultery. We live in a world that permits abortion and says a woman has a right to decide what happens to her own body. We live in a world that finds homosexuality and bisexuality to be legitimate options. We can't compromise on any of this. We can't pretend this is not happening. We must stand and fight and let all the world know we stand for God and what is right.
D Do we live up to this high calling? The world and the Lord expects so much more of us than of "ordinary people" – and rightly so.
Do we disappoint the world and the Lord? Do we win our neighbors to Christ by our holy way of life?
Unfortunately, as you all know, many of the things done by the children of the King bring shame upon the name of the Lord.
"Listen, O royal house! This judgment is against you ..." Listen, you who are kings and queens by the grace of God. The world and the Lord expects you to act more royal and noble than other people do.
Tell me, do you live up to your high calling as children of the King?
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