************ Sermon on Hosea 5:6-7 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 31, 2015
"Unfaithful to the Lord"
Did you notice how our Bible reading starts with a warning to the leaders of Israel?
(Hosea 5:1) "Hear this, you priests! ... Listen, O royal house! This judgment is against you: You have been a snare at Mizpah, a net spread out on Tabor.The leaders of God's people are being addressed.
With this in mind, I want to continue what I started this morning when we installed elders and deacons. I challenged you and the congregation to do the work and service of the Lord. This evening I want to encourage leaders and congregation to be faithful.
Our text makes us think immediately of a court of law. When something is brought to court three elements must be present: first, there must be an accusation; second, there must be proof of guilt; and third, there must be a punishment for the offense in question. As we look at the text, we discover that all three elements are present.
I The Accusation
A The first element we need to look at is the accusation.
The accusation of our text is that the Israelites have been unfaithful. Hosea writes, "They are unfaithful to the LORD." Ephraim -- which is another name for Israel -- is accused of adultery.
Hosea sees the relationship between God and His people as being like the relationship between a man and his wife. In other words, it is a marriage relationship. Remember how Hosea married the prostitute Gomer, a woman who was unfaithful to him after marriage? Just as Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea by throwing herself into the arms of other men, so Israel was unfaithful to the Lord with her sin and neglect of His service.
B The charge of unfaithfulness is the worst and most painful charge you can ever bring against your spouse. Even in the best of marriages, something goes wrong now and then; there is always something that comes between husband and wife. But as soon as unfaithfulness enters the picture, the very foundation of the marriage is dealt a devastating blow. Any other dispute between husband and wife can be quickly settled, but unfaithfulness destroys the most beautiful and tender elements in the marriage.
In our text we hear Hosea accusing Israel, the bride of the Lord, of adultery, infidelity, unfaithfulness! This is the worst and most painful accusation that could be brought against Israel.
C Now here is a frightening thing: every sin committed by God's people leads to the charge of adultery, infidelity, unfaithfulness. This shows us how special and extraordinary the marriage relationship between God and His people is. In our marriages, there can be a dispute without adultery entering the picture; but this is not and cannot be the case in the marriage relationship between God and His people. You see, the Lord is a zealous and jealous lover. For Him, every sin, even the smallest departure from the straight and narrow, is a case of adultery.
God wants us to realize that we are unfaithful every time we fall, every time we sin, every time we miss the mark, every time we fail to do good. God wants us to realize that we commit adultery against Him, the jealous Husband, every time we break any of His commandments in even the smallest of ways. God wants us to realize that we are guilty of infidelity every time we tell a little lie, think lustful thoughts about someone not our spouse, cheat on our taxes, or wrongly desire what belongs to our neighbor.
Have you thought of your sin this way? Have you thought of yourself as an adulterer or adulteress, an adulterer or adulteress against the Lord? This reminds me of Nathaniel Hawthorne's book "The Scarlet Letter."
In 17th-century New England, a woman commits adultery and becomes pregnant. As punishment she has to wear a big scarlet "A" whenever she appears in public; the scarlet letter publicly brands her as an Adulteress. According to Hosea, each and every one of us should wear "The Scarlet Letter" branding us as an Adulterer or Adulteress.
Think back on the past week or month or year. Think back on the 25 years of existence of this church. How many times have we been unfaithful, unfaithful to the Lord? How many times should we have been branded with "The Scarlet Letter"?
We are sinners who need the blood of Christ. We need to repent of our sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. In the light of the New Testament that's the message of Hosea here.
II The Punishment
A The second element we need to look at is the punishment.
In the Old Testament, the punishment for adultery is death. Hence, it should not surprise us that the defendant guilty of spiritual adultery is given a stiff sentence. Actually, we find two punishments in the text. One comes before the accusation, and the other comes after.
We start with the second punishment. We find it in the last part of verse 7: "Now their New Moon festivals will devour them and their fields." This means that come Springtime many in Israel were involved in the New Moon festivals of Baal worship. These festivals, with their sexual rites, were supposed to guarantee fertility of the womb and the field. Instead, says Hosea, they will bring down God's judgment resulting in destruction and death.
What kind of destruction is Hosea talking about here? Pick any -- or all -- of the plagues that God visited upon Egypt: water turned into blood, frogs, gnats, flies, plague on livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, death of the firstborn (Exodus 7:1 - 11:10).
Think of the plagues mentioned in the Book of Revelation: hail and fire mixed with blood was hurled upon the earth and a third of the earth, trees and green grass was burned up; something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea and a third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships destroyed; a third of the earth's waters turned bitter; a third of the sun, moon, and stars was struck with darkness; torturing locusts descended upon the earth; a third of mankind was killed (Revelation 8 - 9; cf Revelation 16 for the seven bowls of God's wrath).
What Hosea foresaw was some sort of horrible affliction like these plagues that God would use to attack both the people and their fields. The result was the destruction of the people and their prosperity.
B This second punishment sounds bad. But the first punishment is even worse. Hosea says:
(Hosea 5:6) When they go with their flocks and herds to seek the LORD, they will not find him; he has withdrawn himself from them.
Not everyone would agree that the first punishment is worse than the second. If they were forced to choose between an invader devouring their fields and the Lord withdrawing from them, many people wouldn't hesitate to choose the Lord's withdrawal. They would rather get along without God than without money and possessions. They would rather get along without God's presence than without God's blessings.
Israel is an excellent example of this attitude. The Lord had already withdrawn from the people a long time before, but as long as the Israelites enjoyed prosperity, they did not even notice. As long as they had their gold and silver, their sheep and oxen, their wheat fields and vineyards, they were not going to worry about it.
Compare them, for a moment, to Moses. Israel sinned and in a moment of disgust the Lord told Moses to lead His people to a land overflowing with milk and honey. He said He would send an angel along with them but He Himself would not accompany them. What did Moses do then? He did not want to go!
There are many people who would be delighted to go! Just think about it: a land overflowing with milk and honey; an angel leading the way. But not Moses. Moses said he would go only if the Lord would go with them (Exodus 33). That was the right attitude. Moses knew it was much better to be in a desolate wilderness with the Lord than in a land of plenty without Him.
That's why this first sentence is so much worse than the second. Think of what life without God means. You see, God is life. So life without God is death. Anyone without God is already dead. Thus anything would be better than being without God -- even poverty, bankruptcy, cancer, heart-attack, illness.
C Are we any better than Israel? One of my favorite Scripture passages is Psalm 42:1-2. It says,
(Psalms 42:1-2) As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. (2) My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?This may be a favorite Bible passage but, to be honest, many times I seem to thirst more for things than for God.
Too often if we are in good health and have a measure of wealth, we think we can get along quite well without the Lord.
There is an ancient tale from India about a young man who wanted to serve God. He went to a wise old sage for help. "How do I serve God?" he asked the old man. The old man took him to a nearby river. Out they waded into the deep water. Soon the water was up just under their chins. Suddenly the old man seized the young man by the neck and pushed him under the water. He held the young man down until the young man was hitting the water in desperation. Another minute and he may well have drowned. Up out of the water the two of them came. The young man was coughing water from his lungs and gasping for air. Reaching the bank he asked the old man indignantly, "What did that have to do with serving God?" The old man asked him quietly, "While you were under the water, what did you want more than anything else?" The young man answered, "I wanted air. I wanted air more than anything else!" The old man replied, "When you want God as much as you wanted air, you will serve Him."
How much do you want God, congregation? How much do you want Christ Who suffered and died for you? Do you want Him as much as you want food, drink, money, and pleasure? Would you rather have God's blessings or God Himself? Given a choice between the hiding of God's face and the withdrawing of His blessings, which punishment would you rather have?
III The Proof
A The third element we need to look at is the proof.
The Israelites must have been shocked by Hosea's accusation of adultery, infidelity, unfaithfulness. After all, they were a highly religious nation. They observed the festivals. They brought sheep and goats and other offerings to the Temple. Outwardly, at least, they seemed so holy and so pious.
B Hosea knew all of this. The Israelites pointed to the animals they sacrificed, but the prophet pointed to their children. The Israelites pointed to altars and festivals, but Hosea pointed to the offspring. "They give birth," he says, "to illegitimate children."
An illegitimate child, a child born out of wedlock, is proof of its mother's sin. Such a child is living proof that someone has committed adultery.
Of course, Hosea is not meant to be taken literally here. He is talking about spiritual children. What Hosea is saying is that there is an entire generation growing up that does not know and serve and love and fear the Lord. What Hosea is saying is that there is an entire generation growing up who do not know a thing about godliness and holiness.
Let us think about this carefully. The prophet Hosea is NOT accusing the children. He is accusing the parents. He is saying that if fathers and mothers had served the Lord faithfully, if they had set a strong example of godliness for their children, the children would not have turned out the way they did.
C Parents, if you want your children and youth to know and fear and serve and love the Lord Jesus, then they have to see you do that in your life. It does no good to make your children and youth attend worship, to send your children and youth to church school, to enroll your children and youth in the Christian school or to give them a Christian education in the home, if you yourself do not walk with the Lord. Outwardly, parents, you may be strict and regular in religious observance. But the most important thing is what lives in your heart. Children and youth need to see godliness far more than they need to see religious activity. Children and youth need to see that you love and serve the Lord Jesus like the soldier, athlete, farmer, and workman I mentioned this morning.
I think here of what Jesus said one day: "You reap what you sow." And, I think of that famous rule of thumb we go by: "The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree." What it comes down to is this: "Like father, like son. Like mother, like daughter."
Of course, there are exceptions. You can find weeds growing in the most carefully tended garden. There are God-fearing families -- and that includes some here -- who have a son or daughter who does not follow the path of holiness set for them by their parents. In such situations, we must remember that the choice ultimately is God's and the responsibility ultimately is each person's.
Are we like those Israelites? Is our spirituality mere outward show? Or, do we live in close communion with God in Christ. If so, is this clear to our children? Have we told them and showed them how much we love and fear and serve the Lord Jesus?
Listen to the accusation, the punishment, and the proof in God's court of law laid against Israel:
(Hosea 5:6-7) When they go with their flocks and herds to seek the LORD, they will not find him; he has withdrawn himself from them. (7) They are unfaithful to the LORD; they give birth to illegitimate children. Now their New Moon festivals will devour them and their fields.My prayer is that this is never said about us. My prayer is that leaders and congregation will always faithfully serve the Lord.
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