************ Sermon on Hosea 6:7 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 29, 2004
"Breaking the Covenant Like the World"
I Breaking the Covenant
A Israel has broken the covenant. That is the charge that Hosea lays against them in our text: "Like Adam, they have broken the covenant – they were unfaithful to me there." The children of Israel are covenant breakers.
In the life of Israel, the covenant relationship was the most important relationship that they had. It was the covenant relationship that set them apart from the heathen nations. But Israel broke the covenant. She did not prize her relationship with God. It was not number one in her life. It did not count for anything.
In the life of God's New Testament people, the church, the covenant relationship is also the most important relationship that she has. This relationship has been established with the blood of Christ. This relationship is guarded by the Spirit of Christ. It is the covenant relationship that sets us apart from those who are unbelievers. It is the covenant relationship that makes life worth living and that makes sorrow and hardship and disease and trouble and death bearable. I will be asking, again and again, if we also break the covenant; if our relationship with God, in Christ, is prized above all other relationships; if the covenant counts for anything in our life.
B Israel broke the covenant. We need to ask in what way Israel broke the covenant.
When we think of covenant breakers today, we usually think of adult singles who have turned their backs on God and, like Esau, have given up their birthright. But this is not the kind of covenant breaking that Hosea is speaking of in our text. He is speaking of another kind of covenant breaking. The kind of covenant breaking he is talking about is far more common, but it attracts much less attention.
C Hosea is thinking of a lack of love. Many of those breaking the covenant in this way bring all sorts of offerings to God. In fact, they continually bring gifts and sacrifices to the altars of the Lord. They spend all sorts of time at the temple. They know all about the covenant and doctrine. Today they would be viewed as good and faithful members of the church. Yet, they are covenant breakers because they fail to keep the law of love. "Like Adam, they have broken the covenant."
You all know what God requires in the covenant. In the covenant God says,
(Mt 22:37-40) "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' (38) This is the first and greatest commandment. (39) And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' (40) All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
D In our Scripture reading Hosea explains exactly how the Israelites broke this covenant demand for love.
It seems that many in Israel ignored the sixth commandment about murder, for murder and killing were the order of the day. Hosea says, "Gilead is a city of wicked men, stained with footprints of blood" (Hosea 6:8). Hosea is probably referring to the murder of King Pekahiah by Pekah with the help of 50 men of Gilead (cf 2 Kings 15:25). They broke the covenant by murder.
Hosea also says, "As marauders lie in ambush for a man, so do bands of priests; they murder on the road to Shechem, committing shameful crimes" (Hosea 6:9). Here Hosea is referring to the men recruited by King Jeroboam I to be priests in Israel. These recruits were generally low-lifes. Many of them joined together to form a band of robbers and made the road between Bethel and Shechem unsafe. Apparently they went so far as to kill those travelers who offered resistance or refused to pay up. That makes these priests much worse than the priest in Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan. If you remember, that priest left the victim of robbery lying halfway dead by the side of the road. He showed no compassion and offered no mercy. The priests that Hosea speaks of broke the covenant by murder and violence and bloodshed.
In verse 10 Hosea mentions another element of Israel's covenant breaking: "I have seen a horrible thing in the house of Israel. There Ephraim is given to prostitution and Israel is defiled" (Hosea 6:10). Here Hosea compares Israel's idolatry to harlotry. You may remember that in his own life Hosea had a very painful illustration of this kind of covenant breaking. We are told in chapter 1 that Hosea's wife chased after and slept with and even bore him children by other men. In the same way as Hosea's wife prostituted or sold herself to other men so the children of Israel prostituted or sold themselves to other gods. They broke the covenant by idolatry.
Among the children of Israel neither the command to love God or neighbor was taken seriously! They were covenant breakers. "Like Adam, they have broken the covenant."
E We may shake our head about those Israelites and their wicked and rebellious ways. But are we any better?
How many of us, for instance, are concerned about our secular friends and neighbors who don't know the Lord Jesus and are headed straight to hell? Does it bother us whenever a lost soul dies? Does it bother us when an homosexual dies of AIDS without repenting or do we think, "Good riddance and thank God he has died." We have lots of prisons and prisoners in California. Many of the prisoners have committed the most horrible kinds of crimes. Most of them are unrepentant and even belligerent. Do we delight in their punishment or do we pray that they come to know the Lord? Does the sound of feet marching to hell keep us awake at night and praying during the day? Do we show love?
We have members in Trinity whom other members find difficult to love. Some of these have unpleasant personalities, some are self-centered and full of boasts, some are irresponsible, some lead wayward lives, some are full of gossip and lies and malicious talk. True love does not just love people who are lovable, people who love us back; true love – love that keeps the demands of the covenant – loves people who are difficult to love. As members of the covenant do we show love? Have we broken the covenant like Israel?
II Like the World
A Israel has not only broken the covenant, charges Hosea, but she has broken the covenant "like Adam." In the Hebrew "Adam" is not only the name of the first man but it is also a noun that means "mankind."
Hosea is charging, then, that Israel has broken the covenant just like man or mankind. Hosea is charging that Israel acts exactly the same as the heathen nations that surround her. We expect natural man – that is, man without Christ – to have an absence of love. We expect natural man to use violence and practice idolatry. But that is hardly what we expect from the people of God who have been fully equipped to do every good work.
It is a serious matter when a heathen nation like Tyre broke her treaty with Israel and betrayed whole communities into the hands of Edom (cf Amos 1:9). But it is an even more serious matter when the children of God forget about love for God and neighbor. Hosea is saying that just like Tyre could rip up her treaty with Israel like it was a mere scrap of paper, so Israel broke her sacred covenant with the Lord. What this means is that God's people have sunk to the level of the heathen and unbelieving. Israel has conformed to the world! She has transgressed the covenant just like everyone else. The people of whom God expects more acts just like any other. "Like Adam, they have broken the covenant."
B I think we all realize that the "old nature" remains active within all of us until our death. And, we are told that even the holiest among us makes only the smallest beginning in the kind of obedience and love that God expects of us. Yet, we cannot use this as an excuse. We cannot shrug our shoulders and excuse our behavior by saying sin is a part of life on this sinful earth. For, the Bible also tells us that those in Christ are a new creation; that for those who are in Christ the old has gone and the new has come. We are not to act like the first Adam but like the second Adam. We are not to act like the world but like God's holy, different, and special people.
The first Adam may still be present within us and seek to pull us in a sinful direction, but it is the second Adam Who controls us and gives direction to our lives – if we are a Christian. If we are a Christian, the wicked desires of the flesh no longer rule over us; they are nothing more than pockets of resistance that rise up in defiance now and then.
Thus, the believer is not to be like the world. He or she is a different person, who thinks and feels and acts and speaks differently than the world. He or she conforms to Christ in all that he or she says, does, and thinks.
C Again, it is easy for us to shake our heads about those Israelites and their wicked and rebellious ways. But are we any better? One of the best ways to tell is to look at our children and youth – because they always reflect what is going on in the home and school.
I know of Christian young people and children who curse and swear. I think we all realize they don't pull this out of the air. This means they hear it at home. Either their parents use such language or their parents tolerate such language or their parents let them watch TV programs and movies that use such language. Are we like the first or the second Adam when we and our children use such language?
I know of Christian young people who have been looking at pornography, using drugs, and drinking alcohol. Where are their parents? Do they tolerate this? Do they turn a blind eye to this? Do they pretend this is not happening? Do we want our children and youth to be like the first or the second Adam?
Lots of kids today show disrespect to teachers and others who are over them. Again, this usually comes from the home. Either the parents allow the kids to talk back to them or they allow them continual exposure to TV programs that glorify disrespect to those in authority. And, I suspect that in too many homes the parents themselves speak disrespectfully of those in authority. Are we like the first or the second Adam when we and our children show disrespect for authority?
Lots of kids today are allowed to watch anything they want on TV. They can buy and listen to any kind of CD's. They can tune in to any kind of radio station. They can go to any kind of movie. But again, the kids are being no different than their parents. Are we like the first or the second Adam when we and our children show no discernment in what we watch and buy and listen to?
A young woman I know became pregnant. She wasn't ready for marriage and didn't want her life disrupted. So she decided to get rid of the baby through an abortion. The man who got her pregnant wasn't asked for his input because it is a "woman's choice." Our two U.S. Senators – Boxer and Feinstein – talk the same way. Abortion is a woman's choice. That is the way the world talks. That is the way the first Adam talks rather than the second Adam.
A couple I know decided to get divorced after more then 15 years of marriage because they didn't feel in love anymore. That's the way the world talks. That is not the language of someone in Christ.
D I want you to realize that all around us there is pressure put on us and our youth to conform to the ways of the world, to talk and act and think exactly like the world, to let the first Adam rather than the second Adam rule over us. I want you to realize that all around us there is pressure put on us and our youth to break the covenant and be unfaithful to God and Christ and unloving to our neighbor. All around us there is pressure put on the Christian family to be exactly the same as the secular and heathen families down the street.
"Like Adam, they have broken the covenant." The solution to this problem of being like the world is the Spirit. We need to pray for the Spirit's presence and power. We need to pray:
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me;
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the living God, move among us all;
make us one in heart and mind, make us one in love:
humble, caring, selfless, sharing.
Spirit of the living God, fill our hearts with love.
I invite you to turn to this song, number 424, and sing it quietly and reverently as your prayer to God for yourself and your family.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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