************ Sermon on Hosea 8:7 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 28, 2004
"Sowing and Reaping"
I Sowing the Wind in Our Culture
A "They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind." This is a proverb. Paul says something similar in his letter to the church at Galatia:
(Gal 6:7-8) Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (8) The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.Hosea warns that those who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind.
What is Hosea telling us? He is telling us that everything we do has consequences. The sins we do have consequences. The good things we do have consequences. The priorities we have in life have consequences. The choices we make have consequences.
B "They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind." But Hosea is also telling us more. Hosea is telling us that many times the consequences end up being greater than the deed itself, just as a whirlwind is much greater than a wind.
There are many things that start off small that lead to great things. Great oaks, for instance, grow from tiny acorns. The giant sequoias start off from the smallest of seeds. And, Jesus could speak of seed that fell on good soil and produced a crop that was some 30, 60, and 100 times greater than the original seed.
In the same way, warns Hosea, we will reap a whirlwind if we sow the wind. In other words, we will get much more than we bargained for. We will get a frightening increase, for the whirlwind is a catastrophe that destroys the harvest, the reapers, and any building or tree that stands in its way.
C "They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind." In a recent issue of World Magazine, Joel Belz wrote an article entitled "Flunking Kindergarten." On a recent Saturday morning just before Election Day he was eating in a restaurant in Sacramento, CA. In the booth behind him were two couples and four children:
One of the fellows was telling, altogether too triumphantly, about a visit he and his teenage daughter had made to the Target department store. "You wouldn't believe it!" he exclaimed. "The checkout clerk must have been terribly new or terribly dumb. We had eight pairs of slacks, six shirts, and a few other items – and even though she ran them all by the scanner, almost none of them registered. She didn't even notice, and ended up charging us something like $17 for the whole cartful, when it probably should have been at least 10 times that amount." Everyone's laughter seemed to be taken as approval ...Talk about sowing the wind with his daughter and the other 3 kids in attendance. How much you want to bet that those kids will grow up thinking it is okay to rip off stores?! I was talking to the manager of our JC Penney store this past week. They lose more than $600,000 dollars a year to this kind of "theft."
The second fellow reported on his summer of coaching a little-league team:
What started off as a miserable season turned around, he said, when his team was able to recruit an outstanding young shortstop whose family had moved into the area from Costa Rica. There was a problem at first, he said, because the boy was 12 years old, and rules for that league set the maximum age at 11. No matter. He had a lawyer friend who knew just what needed to be done to produce some appropriate paperwork, and the over-age shortstop had made their season. "Wow!" I heard one of the children respond, "that's pretty cool."Again, talk about sowing the wind. What do you think those kids learned from this? That it is okay to lie and manipulate the rules just so long as you win?
One of the wives then launched into a tale about her teenage daughter who had not been able to get into the dorm she most wanted at the state university where she had enrolled as a freshman:
"Apparently enrollment was just way beyond what they expected," the mother said. "But Amanda," she reported with a bit of pride in her voice, "is not one to give up. Her boyfriend already has a room in that same dorm ... and since there was some mix-up about his roommate coming back this fall, Amanda has just moved in with him."Again, talk about sowing the wind. What do you think those kids just learned about shacking up and the sanctity of marriage?
It is fair to say that our culture, our society, has sown the wind and we are now reaping the whirlwind in terms of crime, broken families, AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, pornography, alcoholism, addiction, and a rising prison population, to name only a few of the consequences. A society whose people live by such a value system doesn't have a long life expectancy.
D "They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind." As Christians, as a church, we also sow the wind – and we should all hope and pray that the consequences are the opposite of what I just read from World Magazine. Parents at home, teachers at school, office-bearers in the church, missionaries working with non-believers, leaders and Sunday School teachers working with children and youth – we all are sowing the wind. And, what is the harvest that we can expect? The Lord of the harvest promises that we can look forward to reaping a crop that is 30, 60, and 100 times greater than the original seed. But is it a crop that pleases the Lord?
II Sowing the Wind in Israel
A "They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind." When Hosea writes this about Israel he does not mean this as a compliment. What they have sown is not good at all. Listen to this litany of accusations:
(Hosea 8:1) ... the people have broken my covenant and rebelled against my law.Israel has sown the wind with her wickedness.
(Hosea 8:3) ... Israel has rejected what is good ...
(Hosea 8:4) ... They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval. With their silver and gold they make idols for themselves ...
(Hosea 8:9) ... they have gone up to Assyria like a wild donkey wandering alone. Ephraim has sold herself to lovers.
(Hosea 8:11) Though Ephraim built many altars for sin offerings, these have become altars for sinning.
(Hosea 8:12) I wrote for them the many things of my law, but they regarded them as something alien.
(Hosea 8:14) Israel has forgotten his Maker ...
We all know the whirlwind that resulted – the whirlwind of conquest and exile; the whirlwind of being scattered among the nations; the whirlwind of losing their identity and no longer being God's people.
B "They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind." As one example of this, Hosea points to Israel's relationship with Assyria:
(Hosea 8:9) ... they have gone up to Assyria like a wild donkey wandering alone. Ephraim has sold herself to lovers.
Mankind might be the crown of creation, but there are still a few things we can learn from dumb animals. Solomon, for instance, advises the sluggard to consider the ant. Isaiah complains that the ox and donkey knows its master but Israel does not know. Jesus told His disciples to look at the birds of the air. And Hosea tells his audience to learn from the wild donkey.
What is Israel to learn from the donkey? The wild donkey keeps to itself, while Ephraim tries to buy love. This needs further explanation.
The wild donkeys Hosea is talking about live by themselves on lonely plains. While they seek each other out at times, they avoid man because they instinctively fear man and know man will rob them of their freedom.
In contrast to these wild donkeys are the leaders of Israel. They are not near as smart as the wild donkeys. These leaders choose to break out of the isolation that gives them safety: "For they have gone up to Assyria ..." They are not afraid. They dare to venture into the presence of those who plot against them, who plan to rob them of their freedom! They run into death's arms!
Of course, that is not how the leaders of Israel view the situation. They thought they could make a treaty with Assyria, and therefore they went to the Assyrian court bearing all sorts of gifts, hoping to win the friendship of the Assyrians, hoping to buy their love. They thought it foolish to pass up the chance to make friends with mighty Assyria. Therefore, Israel broke the chains of isolation. We know the result. We know that the treaty with Assyria led to complete annexation and annihilation as a nation. Ephraim, Israel, was incorporated into Assyria, and her independent existence came to an end.
C "They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind." In more than one place God has declared that His people are to keep themselves separate. Like wild donkeys, they are to keep to themselves:
(Ezra 9:1) After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, "The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites.The result? The result was godless inter-marriage and idol worship. The cure. Listen to what the Lord prescribes through the prophet:
(Ezra 10:11) Now make confession to the LORD, the God of your fathers, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives."
But Israel decided she did not want to be separate. She decided she did not want to be like a wild donkey in the wilderness. She decided there was no advantage to being different and alone. She sowed the wind and reaped the whirlwind.
III Sowing the Wind in the Church
A "They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind." In Christ we are holy and different and also called to be separate. Like Israel, we are called to be like wild donkeys. Listen to these words from the Apostle Paul to the church at Corinth:
(2Cor 6:17-7:1) "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." (18) "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." (7:1) Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
B "They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind." Like Israel, we often try to make friends with the enemy. And, like Israel, we find the enemy's embrace can mean our death.
The enemy today is not Assyria. It is not Communism. It is the same enemy identified by the Catechism almost 500 years ago: the devil, the world, and our very own flesh.
The first enemy is the devil. Many Christians today do not really know what to do with the devil and evil spirits. In theory we all believe in the devil and evil spirits, but in practice we treat them as make-believe characters. How many of us, for instance, are aware of the spiritual struggle that goes around us and within us every single day? How many of us are soldiers in the battle against Satan and evil? And, the Catechism points out that gossip, slander, and condemning someone without hearing their side of the story are all works of the devil. In other words, without realizing it we use the devil's tools.
We cannot make a treaty with the world either. For the world has one purpose – to crush the life out of our faith, to make faith a Sunday-only thing, to turn religion into a private thing that has no impact on life. Yet, as one of my non-church going friends observed to me this past week, going to church and being a Christian seems to make no difference in the lives of most people. In other words, many Christians are transformed by culture rather than transforming culture.
And then there is our flesh. By that we mean our sinful nature. This is, perhaps, the most dangerous enemy because it is the enemy within the gate. We are our own worst enemies. So many times we blindly follow the leading of the flesh, we fall for the desires of the flesh, we dumbly go where we know we should not go and do what we know we should not do.
When we make friends with the enemy, when we make common cause with the devil, the world, or our flesh, then we sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.
C "They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind." Let me ask you, what do you sow? What do our children and youth see you sowing? Do they see someone who strives to be separate and different from the world? Or do they see someone who conforms to culture rather than to God?
Let me tell you, congregation, what you sow, what we sow, always reaps a harvest. If you sow to please the sinful nature, from that nature you will reap destruction. If you sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit you will reap eternal life.
But more than that, think of the impact your sowing has on future generations, on your children and grandchildren, on your students, on the youth who look up to you. Your sowing can strengthen and encourage a young faith. Or, your sowing can do great damage to a young and fragile faith.
"They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind." What do you sow? And, better yet, what do you reap?
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