************ Sermon on Hosea 6:1-2 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 4, 2004
"Another Prodigal Son"
I The Other Prodigal
A We all know the Parable of the Prodigal Son. We can find it in Luke 15. Did you know there is also a prodigal son in the Old Testament. His name is Ephraim – another name for the Northern Kingdom of Israel – and Judah. Although Ephraim and Judah were still "at home" when Hosea wrote the words in front of us, in his mind's eye the prophet already saw them in a distant country, in exile. And, the prophet heard them say to their fellow exiles, "Come, let us return to the LORD" (vs 1). That's just what the prodigal son in Jesus' parable said: "I will set out and go back to my father ..." (Lk 15:18).
B We all know why or when the prodigal son finally said this. He didn't say this until he had spent all of his money and began to be in need and was reduced to eating pig food. Only when he felt completely defeated, only when he had nothing left, only when he realized how helpless and hopeless his condition was, did he come back to his senses and decide to return to his father.
Ephraim was exactly the same way. In chapter 5 Hosea told us about Ephraim's sickness and Judah's sores. Out of desperation Ephraim turned to Assyria, to the great king, to a foreign general, for help. But that only made matters worse and Ephraim was led off into exile. Then, and only then, when the nation had been crushed, when the situation was helpless and hopeless, did Israel think again of the Lord. But isn't this what the Lord said through Hosea in the last verse of chapter 5: "In their misery they will earnestly seek me" (5:15b).
Topic: ChurchMoody concluded his story by saying: "And this is the way with men; they won't go back to God till they have no friends and have lost everything." That certainly was the case with the prodigal son. That certainly was the case with Ephraim and Judah. And, we often see this with those among us who stray away too – they have to hit bottom before they start thinking of their Father and our Father in heaven.
Subtopic: Compared to a Flock
D.L. Moody used to share the following story:
In the Highlands of Scotland, sheep would often wander off into the rocks and get into places that they couldn't get out of. The grass on these mountains is very sweet and the sheep like it, and they will jump down ten or twelve feet, and then they can't jump back again and the shepherd hears them bleating in distress. They may be there for days, until they have eaten all the grass. The shepherd will wait until they are so faint that they cannot stand, and then they will put a rope around him, and he will go over and pull that sheep up out of the jaws of death.
"Why don't they go down there when the sheep first gets there?" Moody asked.
"Because they are so very foolish they would dash right over the cliff and be killed if they did."
It is a shame that people turn to God only when there is no other option. But turning to God in such circumstances is better than not turning to Him at all.
A When we look at what our text tells us about Ephraim and Judah we see progress in their spiritual walk or journey. First, we finally see an acknowledgment of sin and misery. Ephraim says,
(Hosea 6:1) "... the LORD ... has torn us to pieces ... he has injured us ...These words, I say, are a confession of sin and guilt. Ephraim knew why the Lord had punished her. Judah knew why she was being torn and injured. Ephraim and Judah knew that because of their sins they fully deserved God's righteous anger and His just judgment. They knew that they deserved punishment both in this life and in the life to come.
Do you remember what the prodigal son said to his father? He said, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you" (Lk 15:21). Do you remember the confession of the tax-collector? He said, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner" (Lk 18:13). Do you remember the admission of the thief on the cross? He said, "We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve" (Lk 23:41). In our text we hear Ephraim and Judah confessing that they have sinned against heaven. In our text we hear Ephraim and Judah admit that they are sinners. In our text we hear Ephraim and Judah declaring that they are only getting what they deserve.
B The second step that Ephraim and Judah take in their spiritual journey is that they know their deliverance. Ephraim says,
(Hosea 6:1) "... the LORD ... will heal us ... he will bind up our wounds.Here they confess that the Lord's mercy is unto all eternity. Notice, there is no doubt about the Lord's mercy and love. It is not just wishful thinking on their part. They are firmly convinced of the Lord's healing. God will be like a father and also like a mother. With gentle hands He will bind up wounds and bring healing.
Like the father in the Parable, the Lord is so loving. He does not turn His back on His wayward but repentant children. He is merciful to those who turn to Him for comfort and strength in their hour of need. The main thing is that He gets His child, His sheep, back in the fold.
Not only does Ephraim and Judah confess their faith in God's mercy, but they also believe God's deliverance will come upon them in the shortest possible time. They say,
(Hosea 6:2) After two days (the LORD) will revive us; on the third day he will restore us ..."This confession is remarkable when you consider that Ephraim's illness and Judah's sores are so serious that they are at death's door, so to speak (5:13). In such a situation it requires faith, great faith, to believe that a restoration will take place. It requires an even greater faith to expect that healing to take place in only two or three days.
Are Ephraim and Judah being overly optimistic at this point? Isn't Ephraim forgetting the seriousness of his sin when he assumes that healing will take place and mercy will be shown?
Not at all! For when we look closely at the book of Hosea we see that Ephraim's words are based upon God's promise. God has already said, in chapter 5:15, "I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt." That little word "until" is a word of grace. God was not planning to punish His people forever. God had no intention of making Ephraim and Judah experience His wrath eternally. Sickness and sores were to be their punishment for sin until they admitted their guilt. I think of what the Lord says through Isaiah:
(Is 54:8) In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you," says the LORD your Redeemer.Hosea agrees with Isaiah: God's wrath against the sin of His people is only for a moment; it is His mercy that is for eternity.
The Bible is overflowing with different statements that all make this same point: that God is exceedingly merciful; that He forgives gladly; that He forgives numerous sins. Consider what happened to the prodigal son. He had sinned, and sinned badly; yet his father forgave him. Zacchaeus was a small, mean little man; yet He was forgiven. The thief on the cross, by his own admission, deserved to die; yet, He too, was forgiven.
C This brings us to the third step that Ephraim and Judah take in their spiritual journey. They say, "Come, let us return to the LORD ... that we may live in his presence."
This is the language of true conversion. Ephraim and Judah desire to live in the presence of God. They want contact with God. They want to walk with God.
Up to now Ephraim and Judah have not done that. They have not sought God's face. They have prayed, but there was no more to their prayer than folded hands and closed eyes. They have offered sacrifices, but there was no more to their sacrifices than some poor bleating beast being butchered and burned. They have sung songs, but there was no more to their songs than open mouths and catchy tunes. But now, now Ephraim and Judah want to live in the presence of God.
When Ephraim and Judah say they want to live in God's presence they are also saying they do not want to live elsewhere. Like the prodigal son, they want to stay at home with their Father rather then stay in a faraway land. They do not want to stray from the Father's sight anymore for they know, from experience, what it is like to live far away from the Father.
The Lord once said to Moses that He would send an angel to be with Israel, an angel who would drive away the enemies of the Israelites and turn over the Promised Land to them. But He Himself would not go along. The Israelites of Hosea's day would have jumped at such a chance. They would have said, "Let's go for it!" After all, what could possibly be better than this? They would have an angel as their guide. There would be milk and honey all around. Their enemies would be defeated.
I dare say that many people today would also take God up on such an offer. Who cares if God Himself is not present just so long as we get all His blessings?
Do you remember Moses' response to this? He said no. He said he would rather live in God's presence in a barren, dry wilderness than enjoy all the delights of the Promised Land without God.
But now in our text we see that Ephraim and Judah have had a change of heart. For them the one thing that is necessary is not prosperity, it is not health, it is not wealth, it is not freedom, it is not independence. For them the one thing that is now necessary is life with God. "Come, let us return to the LORD ... that we may live in his presence."
The desire to live in God's presence is what distinguishes genuine faith from fake faith and the true Christian from the false Christian. The false Christian, you see, may want to come to the Lord but he or she never wants to stay with the Lord. That's too much bother, you know. That requires too big a sacrifice. That means I need to take up my cross and follow Him.
Now what is the point of this sermon? You and I are like Ephraim and Judah. You and I are also prodigal sons. You and I must also confess our sin. We must know our Savior. And, we must realize that the most important thing in life is to live in the presence of God.
Like Ephraim and Judah we cannot do this on our own. We need God's grace and mercy at work within us before any of this can happen.
God gives us that grace and mercy in Christ. I don't know whether you caught it or not, but Hosea speaks about Christ in our text. Listen to the words of our text as a prophesy about Christ:
(Hosea 6:1-2) "Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. (2) After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.It was Christ Who was torn and injured by God for our sins, but after three days He rose again. And, it is only because He rose again that we are able to live in the presence of God. There is no doubt in my mind that among the many texts Jesus explained, He also explained this text to the two men on the road to Emmaus when He set their hearts on fire.
You and I, we are the prodigal son. We are Ephraim and Judah. Like them, we have sinned. Like them, we have known the mercy of God. Like them, we realize the most important thing in life is to live in the presence of God.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page