************ Sermon on Hosea 6:4 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 15, 2004
"What Can I Do With You?"
Block of wood used to make a pine wood derby car
A couple of unfinished cars
A couple of finished cars
Block of Wood Transformed
Show the boys and girls a block of wood. Ask them what it is used for and get a response.
Show them the unfinished cars and the finished ones.
Talk about the process of making: cutting, shaping, molding, sanding, painting, weighting
The Bible tells us that we are like a block of wood (hold up block). The Bible also tells us there is someone who works on us blocks of wood, molding, cutting, shaping, and sanding us. Does anyone know who it is that works on us block of wood? (Get a child to respond that it is God Who does this)
God is at work molding, cutting, shaping us blocks of wood (hold up block) so that we might look nice and beautiful like this sleek racing car (hold up finished pine wood derby car).
God's goal in all this shaping, molding, and cutting is to make us look like Himself.
People Transformed by the Word (and Spirit)
In doing His work of cutting shaping us blocks of wood (hold it up) so that we are like the sleek racer (hold it up) God uses some tools.
The main tool He uses is His Word.
So we need to read the Bible and listen to the Bible and pay attention to the Bible. Because that is what God uses to turn blocks of wood into people Who look like Him.
Hosea tells us that if we look like God, then we are filled with love.
Do you boys and girls love Jesus. Do you love your brothers and sisters, your parents, your friends? If the answer is YES then God is busy at work molding and shaping you from a block of wood (hold it up) into a beautiful sleek racer.
Why all this talk about shaping and fashioning, cutting and sanding, painting and sculpting? Because Hosea tells us that is what God does with us. That is what God did with Ephraim (which is another name for Israel) and that is what did with Judah. God is the great Sculptor Who fashions man in His own image. He glories in turning the splinters and little pieces He works with into a people whose features are like His own.
Topic: ChristJesus is the one who sees and can release the image of God in every man. But to do this He needs to shape us and sculpt us. He needs to turn blocks of wood into sleek racing cars (HOLD UP).
Once someone came on Michelangelo chipping away with his chisel at a huge shapeless piece of rock. He asked the sculptor what he was doing. "I am releasing the angel imprisoned in this marble," he answered.
I Hard Material to Sculpt
A In our text this evening God says, "What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah?" (vs 4a). It seems – if you can talk this way – that God is frustrated in His work of shaping or molding Israel and Judah. No matter how He shapes and fashions, cuts and sands, paints and sculpts, nothing seems to work. Instead of ending up with a nice sleek racing car, He is ending up with a pile of splinters and tooth-picks.
This reminds us that the material God works with is often hard and resistant. Many times, I think, God would have an easier time working with granite or marble. According to our Bible reading, for instance, God found it easier to write His Law on tablets of stone than in the heart of Ephraim.
"What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah?" (vs 4a). From a human point-of-view the answer is: "Nothing! You are a hopeless case! You are a hard nut to crack! You are a knotty pine! I can't do anything with you!"
B Verse 5 indicates that there have been many attempts to make something of Israel. Hosea reminds the Israelites of the labors of the prophets throughout the ages:
(Hosea 6:5) Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth; my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.Do you know why God has sent the prophets? He sent the prophets to mold and sculpt the people. That is the work of the prophets. Nothing more and nothing less.
The work of prophets is nothing more than molding and sculpting! Prophets are not to hack away at Israel recklessly and smash everything to bits. Prophets are not wreckers but builders; they are not wood-choppers but artists. Turning a block of marble into the End of the Trail statue at Mooney Grove Park, for instance, required more than a hammer and a chisel; it also required a great deal of love and skill and patience.
The work of prophets is also nothing less than molding and sculpting! The words of prophets has the effect of a hammer and a chisel. They are not empty sounds or rambling speculations; they are not literary outpourings or lectures on doctrine.
The prophets of Israel knew that their calling was not to present their views on various topics. Rather, their job was to cut and mold Israel into a certain shape and size. Therefore they spared no one and no thing. They did not hesitate to hit so hard that splinters flew in all directions. They did this not because they loved the destruction so much but because they had to and wanted to make something of Israel. They were trying to make Israel conform to God's image.
Yet, what happened? Absolutely nothing! The vast majority of the people remained unmoved. Even the sharpest threats and the most moving promises had no effect on their unyielding hearts. Israel did not change in the slightest. She refused to be molded. All the efforts of God to make something of Ephraim and Judah through the words of the prophets had failed. "What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah?"
C Preachers today are like the prophets of Ephraim and Judah at the time of Hosea. My job, my calling, from God is to also cut and shape and mold and sculpt the people of God. I too am not a wrecker but a builder. My words too are to have the effect of a hammer and a chisel.
But – and this is the question I have to keep asking myself – does the Word of God through me have any effect? Does it succeed in cutting and shaping, molding and sculpting, the people of God? If the Word of God falls on deaf ears and cold hearts, if you tune out and refuse to make any changes, then you are like Ephraim and Judah.
Do you think God would ever say to us what He said to Ephraim and Judah? "What can I do with you, Trinity? What can I do with you, Visalia?"
Let me ask: did you come to our worship service this morning and this evening to be cut and shaped, to be molded and sculpted, by the Word of God? Did you come here to be entertained and amused for an hour or did you come to be under the cutting edge of the sword which is the Word of God?
Often we forget the power of words. For instance, soft words sung in a lullaby will put a baby to sleep. Excited words will stir a mob to violence. Eloquent words will send armies marching into the face of death. Encouraging words will fan to flame the genius of a Rembrandt or a Lincoln. Powerful words will mold the public mind as the sculptor molds his clay. Words, spoken or written, are a dynamic force. Writing of Napoleon and his Italian campaign, Emil Ludwig said: "Half of what he achieves is achieved by the power of words."
There is power, power, wonder working power in the Word of the Lord. Power to change, power to cut, power to mold, power to shape, power to sculpt. We can experience that power if we open our hearts and our minds to what God is saying to us. We can experience that power if we do not harden our hearts. If only we would listen, if only we would obey, if only we would submit, the Word of the Lord has the power to change us into what God – the Master Sculptor – wants us to be.
II The Test: Love
A If you are being shaped by God, if His Word is causing changes in your heart, then love is a quality the Lord should find in you.
Listen to what God says about love in regards to Ephraim and Judah: "Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears." Hosea is talking here about love for God and love for neighbor. Ephraim's love, says Hosea, is like a morning cloud that disappears as soon as the sun rises, it is like the dew that vanishes as soon as the sun shines on it.
In His work of shaping and sculpting Ephraim and Judah, of molding and cutting, what God especially looked for was love. And, this was the one feature He did not find. Do you know what He found instead? He found numerous altars and numerous sacrifices everywhere in Ephraim and Judah. He found animal offerings and grain offerings and offerings of money and gold. But He did not find hearts brimming over with love. He did not find hearts burning with love. He did not find hearts on fire for Him the Lord.
We need to realize that anything given without love and devotion is worthless in God's sight. Anyone, for instance, who gives $50 or $500 or $5,000 or $50,000 to the church, but does so without love for God and man, might as well keep their gift in the bank. For God doesn't want it. And I am sure that the deacons and elders don't want it either. God is not satisfied, my brothers and sisters, when you make your pledges and contributions to the church or the school or some other kingdom cause but treat it more like an obligation than a gift of love.
B Why is love so important? Anyone who has a love for God and man in his heart displays the most glorious aspect of God's image, for God IS love. And this, says Paul, is greater than faith and hope. It is faith that makes a man throw himself into God's arms. It is hope that makes a man always look to God. But love is what makes someone look like God. Love is what distinguishes you and me as God's image-bearers.
My friends, with His Word and with His Spirit, God is at work within us. He is at work shaping us, molding us, cutting us, fashioning us. He is at work making us like Himself. He is at work making us into people of love.
Now, I need to ask how that work is going. Is God succeeding? Or does He say about you and me what He said about His people: "What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears."
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