************ Sermon on Hosea 5:13 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 20, 2004
"Who to Call When Sickness Strikes"
Who do you call when you become sick? If you have a heart-attack do you visit your mechanic? If you come down with cancer do you call pest control? If you need an angioplasty do you cry for a plumber? If you break a leg do you find a carpenter? Who do you call when you become sick? I think we all realize you call a doctor; that is so basic, so simple.
But now look at our text. Whom does Ephraim call when she is sick? Who does Judah look to when she is covered with sores? Judah and Ephraim ("Ephraim" is another name for the northern kingdom of Israel) seeks medical help from the King of Assyria. Ephraim is sick and she calls for a general. Judah is covered with sores and cries out for a soldier. I ask you, what good will that do?
(Hosea 5:13) "When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his sores, then Ephraim turned to Assyria, and sent to the great king for help.
I The Sickness
A What is the sickness that is afflicting Ephraim and Judah? One verse earlier gives us more precise information. There the Lord speaks of "moth" and "rot." Now, Israel and Judah did not really suffer from moth and rot; they are but symbols or metaphors of another kind of sickness. The moth symbolizes what happens on the outside of man, to his physical existence. The rot symbolizes what happens to the inside of man, to his spiritual being.
The first thing Hosea mentions is moths. Moths are a real problem in the Middle East. The moths that are referred to lay eggs in clothes and garments. The caterpillars that hatch from those eggs then use the cloth for food and other needs. The problem is that one rarely sees the moth at work. On the surface a garment seems untouched even while the caterpillars are eating away at the beautiful cloth. Before long there are large holes and the garments becomes worthless, useful only as a rag. There were few things that plagued people in Palestine as much as moths.
What is in mind here? What is Hosea speaking about?
The children of Israel made a big show of worship. How they loved to worship. They brought sacrifices and offerings to the Lord by the thousands. The land was filled with the smoke of incense and offering. On the surface everything looked so good. But the Lord could see the truth. He could see the holes that were forming, that were already there. He knew it was all show and pretense and sham. He knew that moths were busy at work.
It isn't only Israel's worship that is being exposed. In earlier verses God announced what would happen to the land, to the people, to the cattle, to the outward existence.
(Hosea 4:3) "Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying."When the moths are done with their work, this is the end result that Hosea has in mind: a lost of wealth and riches, farms and homes, goods and cattle.
(Hosea 4:10) "They will eat but not have enough; they will engage in prostitution but not increase, because they have deserted the LORD ..."
B Hosea also speaks of rot. What this means is that the decay will affect not only the outside but also the inside; not only Israel's clothes but also her body; not only outward appearances but also the inner existence.
By rot Hosea has a specific kind of disease in mind. Perhaps he is thinking of a cancerous growth or leukemia. Perhaps he is talking of pneumonia or tuberculosis. Perhaps it is a sexually transmitted disease like syphilis or gonorrhea that is doing its work. Today he might be talking about AIDS or herpes. Whatever the disease is, it attacks the body from within. Eventually, it leads to death.
Ephraim was suffering from some such horrible disease. She seemed to know she had this disease. So she sought medical help from the great king of Assyria.
What is in mind here? As I said, the moth and the rot are only symbolic, a metaphor, of another illness. The rot, like the moth, symbolizes Israel's broken communion with God. Ephraim's communion with God was broken, but she didn't want to admit it, and she liked to think she was on the best of terms with God. She liked to think the relationship was healthy, that all was well with her soul. But the invisible, silent killer was busy at work. Things were not well at all. In fact, doom and destruction were on the way.
C Was Israel concerned about this? Hosea told Israel about moths and rot, about her outward and inward sickness. But was she concerned? Now, it is quite true that most people are more afraid of moths than of the spiritual dry rot that gnaws away at their inner life. People cry more over a garment that has been ruined than over a corrupted heart. The loss of goods and possessions, food and clothing, is usually regarded as a greater reason for lamentation than the loss of heavenly treasures. Israel was no exception. This reminds me of Jesus' warning in the Sermon on the Mount:
(Matthew 6:19-20) "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. (20) But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal."And, in another place Jesus pointed out that it would do us no good to gain the whole world and then lose our own soul (Mt 16:26).
Israel was suffering from a horrible disease. She was rotting away from within. But she did not care. She cared more about the loss of goods and cattle, homes and farms, wealth and money.
D As we all know, some people die suddenly because of a heart attack or an accident. But most people get sick first and suffer through an illness before death carries them away. Every once in a while we hear of miracles that happen, of someone who defies the odds and is cured. But usually this does not happen. As Christians we know that if God has decided that a person's time has come, the most talented physician will not be able to heal him or her.
This is certainly the case with Ephraim and Judah. On many occasions and in many ways, God has already said that the existence of these two kingdoms will come to an end. The end will not be sudden like a heart attack or abrupt like an accident. Rather, the end will come through a gradual process of sickness and declining health. Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah was well aware of her wound so they called for help from the king of Assyria.
(Hosea 5:13) "When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his sores, then Ephraim turned to Assyria, and sent to the great king for help. However, Hosea tells them ahead of time it will do them no good.
(Hosea 5:13-14) "But he is not able to cure you, not able to heal your sores. (14) For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah. I will tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them.God has determined that nothing and no one can possibly arrest the illness, the destruction, the ruin that is coming. He has spoken so it will happen!
II Looking to a King for Help
A When Ephraim saw his sickness and Judah his sores, who did she turn to for help? According to Hosea, "then Ephraim turned to Assyria, and sent to the great king for help."
Think about this for a moment. The only one with enough power to stop the horrible disease was the Lord. But Ephraim didn't look to the Lord. She was no longer used to seeking help from above.
Isn't that sad? The Lord has given birth to His child, to Israel, to Ephraim and Judah. He called her forth from Egypt. He nursed her and fed her and clothed her and sheltered her. He bound her wounds and lifted her up when she was bowed down. He has been her source of strength and life. But now, now Israel looks elsewhere for help. Now she ignores the Lord and looks to a pagan king and a heathen kingdom for help.
Topic: FaithI need to tell you, congregation, that it always comes to that. In the final analysis, it is the Lord we need to look to and it is the Lord in Whom we need to trust. But Israel did not go to the Lord.
Title: Begin With Faith
Vance Havner, a Baptist evangelist, related the story of an elderly lady who was greatly disturbed by her many troubles both real and imaginary. Finally she was told in a kindly way by her family, "Grandma, we've done all we can do for you. You'll just have to trust God for the rest." A look of utter despair spread over her face as she replied, "Oh, dear, has it come to that?"
In our text God is complaining about this in a holy jealousy and with a great amazement. His people, though hit with a fatal illness, do not turn to Him for help.
B It is not exactly clear whom Hosea had in mind when he spoke of the great king. Yet, we can take an educated guess.
We know that Menahem, one of those who seized the throne of Israel around that time, made a treaty with Tiglath-pilser, a well-known Assyrian king. Menahem made a large payment to this king, hoping, no doubt, that this would assure him of Assyrian help in time of trouble.
In the original Hebrew of our text the king of Assyria is called Jareb. Jareb means fighter. Jareb certainly is an appropriate name for Tiglath-pilser, for this Assyrian Monarch loved to fight. The whole world trembled when he took up arms. This helps us understand why King Menahem made a treaty with the great Jareb. Only the foolhardy would not make friends with such a powerful king and try to find safety under the shadow of his wings.
C As I indicated in the introduction to this sermon, Ephraim and Judah were looking in the wrong direction for help.
(Hosea 5:13) "When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his sores, then Ephraim turned to Assyria, and sent to the great king for help. When you have a fatal disease you don't turn to a soldier for help. Generals and commanders are not known for their healing powers. Sometimes they like to pretend they can heal the world's ills by use of law and order, force and might. But we know better and so should they.
Israel was desperately in need of treatment and healing, but a general's sword or spear is hardly the suitable instrument to use. When you are sick it doesn't make sense to turn to someone who loves to fight, someone who tries to shed blood rather than save blood. It doesn't make sense to seek healing from a warrior. But that is what Israel was doing.
Israel should have been looking to the Lord.
III A Picture of Sin Today
A In our text Hosea may be talking about Judah and Ephraim but I think we all realize he is giving us a description of sin in the life of the Christian and church today. Sin is like rot that eats away at our insides. It is like a moth that quietly does its work of destruction. The sin may bear any number of names: idolatry, murder, hatred, anger, envy, covetousness, greed, theft, adultery, lust, deceit, lies. But whatever the sin, it is in the demolition business.
Like the moth and like the rot, sin does not do its work in a flash. Rather, it proceeds slowly, step by step. First, we are tempted to sin. Then, we want to sin. Then, we must sin. What was hidden at the outset breaks out into the open at the end.
B It is really easy for the church to be like Ephraim and Judah and to suffer from moths and rot. Now, don't forget, moths and rot do their work quietly. They are silent killers. You are not even aware they are working. From the outside a garment looks as good as new. But when you put it on, you find yourself with a tattered rag. From the outside a body looks healthy, while inside the germ or virus or bug or growth is busy at work. But when the doctor runs tests you find things are not so good. In the same way, from the outside the church of Jesus Christ can look so pure, holy, dedicated, loving, and Biblical. But appearances often are deceptive. The outside can look so good while the inside is rotting or rotten.
Do we suffer from moths and rot? As a church, as individuals, do we pretend everything is okay, that everything is well with our soul, when it isn't?! Do we put up appearances, a false front? As we struggle with sin and evil we have to admit that we are like Ephraim and Judah.
C As we suffer from moths and rot, from the disease of sin, who do we look to for help? Who do we call for healing?
(Hosea 5:13) "When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his sores, then Ephraim turned to Assyria, and sent to the great king for help. Like Ephraim and Judah do we call for a soldier, a plumber, a mechanic, a carpenter, the Orchid man? Of course not!
Yet, what do so many people do today? Many people today look to someone alongside of or in place of God. They look to their own works, their own human efforts, to the New Age movement, to psychic hot-lines, to astrology, to self-help books and seminars, and so on. Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (Jn 14:6). Yet, they try to find another way.
After the death of President Reagan, I was thinking about this. People have told me that faith and God and religion were important to the Reagans. I read the same thing about the Clintons. Yet, I remember reading that Hillary Clinton uses Jane Houston, a New Age Guru, to help her with her problems. Nancy Reagan, if you remember, consulted an astrologer before approving President Reagan's schedule. To us all this may seem strange. But the two former Presidents and their first ladies are but typical baby-boomers who consult not only New Agers but also psychologists, anthropologists, media specialists, and pastors.
Like Ephraim and Judah, they all call on the wrong person for help.
When we are sick we go to a doctor. And, when we are spiritually sick, we go to the great Physician. That is the only place we can find healing. That is the only way we can become better. Only there can we find the help that we need.
Who do you go to when you are sick? Who do you call upon and depend upon and trust when you see the sickness in your soul? My prayer is that you look to the Lord.
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