************ Sermon on Hosea 9:14 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 6, 2005
"An Awful Prayer"
The minister had just delivered a hell and damnation sermon, fire and brimstone – it was riveting, to say the least. Then he closed in prayer. It turns out the sermon was nothing next to the prayer. It turns out the preacher held back during the sermon and unleashed both gun-barrels during the prayer. Listen to his prayer:
(Hosea 9:14) Give them, O LORD-- what will you give them? Give them wombs that miscarry and breasts that are dry.That's a curse, my brothers and sisters. The preacher cursed his audience, his congregation. He just gave them hell in the sermon and now he prays a curse upon them.
How would you like it if my prayer after the sermon asked the Lord for miscarriage, infant death, bankruptcy, cancer, paralysis, accident, and the like? I suspect the elders would demand an immediate meeting with me right after the service and probably would send me on a month long vacation to get my head together again.
Let's find out why Hosea prayed what he did.
I Hosea's Sermon
A A close reading of Hosea 9 seems to indicate that Hosea preached his fire and brimstone sermon during one of Israel's feast days. The reference to threshing floors and winepresses (vs 2) leads us to conclude it was probably the Feast of Tabernacles. At the moment when everyone was filled with the joy of the feast, Hosea appeared on the platform. I am sure that he was given a great introduction and that all the people welcomed him with a thunderous round of applause. I can imagine all the people leaned forward, straining to hear what this great man of God was going to say. But the sermon he gave that special feast day was a very strange sermon indeed.
I am sure the people expected him to start his speech with an acknowledgment of the joy and festivities of the feast day. Maybe he should have said something about what a great and glorious day it was. Maybe he could have exhorted the people to rejoice and to keep on rejoicing. Instead, his opening words were:
(Hosea 9:1) Do not rejoice, O Israel; do not be jubilant like the other nations.He urged them to quit their celebrations, to end their festival, to pack up and return home as soon as possible. What a kill-joy, what a party-pooper, this Hosea was.
And then he spoke words of gloom and doom and misfortune – what a downer in the middle of the feast. That would be like the recent wedding reception of Mitch and Katie being interrupted with bad news of death and mayhem and destruction.
(Hosea 9:2) Threshing floors and winepresses will not feed the people; the new wine will fail them.Things are going to go wrong, said Hosea. There will be famine and hunger. And then he added more bad news:
(Hosea 9:3-4) They will not remain in the Lord's land; Ephraim will return to Egypt and eat unclean food in Assyria. (4) They will not pour out wine offerings to the LORD, nor will their sacrifices please him. Such sacrifices will be to them like the bread of mourners; all who eat them will be unclean. This food will be for themselves; it will not come into the temple of the LORD.
Everyone was full of joy and rejoicing and the prophet broke the spell of that special day and shattered the mood. But isn't that what prophets so often do? When everyone is rejoicing, prophets weep. When the people are celebrating, prophets pile on threats. When the multitude is singing and dancing, prophets beat their chest. When the crowds are playing harps and lutes, prophets mourn. Hosea was really no different, after all. Listen to how he ended his sermon:
(Hosea 9:7) The days of punishment are coming, the days of reckoning are at hand. Let Israel know this.
B Do you think the people applauded – even politely – when Hosea finished his sermon? Do you think anyone yelled out an "Amen" after hearing this speech?
Hosea himself tells us how the people responded to his message. What they were saying and thinking and doing was not nice at all:
(Hosea 9:7) ... the prophet is considered a fool, the inspired man a maniac. (8) The prophet, along with my God, is the watchman over Ephraim, yet snares await him on all his paths, and hostility in the house of his God.A fool. A maniac. Traps and snares and hostility. Wow. Any minister today who thinks they are under attack should check out what Hosea all went through.
They considered Hosea a fool because he was passionate about God and religion and holiness. They considered Hosea a maniac because he actually believed what he said. In other words, they considered Hosea to be dangerous – like the Muslim suicide bombers in Iraq and Israel.
What are the traps and snares and hostility that Hosea was talking about? Notice, Hosea talked of "hostility in the house of his God." Those Israelite worshipers had no intention of listening to Hosea. They didn't come to worship with a humble and contrite attitude. They didn't arrive at the Temple with the worship of God in mind. They came, instead, with a critical attitude. They were going to pick apart what Hosea said. They were going to pick apart the worship. They were bound and determined to find fault with Hosea's ministry.
This reminds me of a man – not in this church – who carefully read through the bulletin every Sunday morning before worship. He would underline every single mistake – spelling, grammar. He circled everything he disagreed with – announcements, decisions of consistory. He was ready to pounce if the pastor made the slightest error – in theology or liturgy or prayer. After the service he made life miserable for the elders, pastor, and secretary.Hosea was surrounded by these kinds of people when he preached and prayed and ministered.
This also reminds me of the woman – again, not in this church – who listened for every single mistake made by the organist or pianist or choir. After the service she saw it as her duty to tell the musicians what she heard. And, she made sure that her circle of friends knew this too.
C In New Testament terms, Hosea was talking about enemies of the cross within the church. These are people who hate the truth. These are people who don't tolerate voices of accusation and blame being raised against them. These are people who want the preacher to remain silent about their own sins. These are people who love the comfortable pew – give us a little bit of religion, they say, but don't expect any real commitment from us. These are people who are worldly in their view and approach and mindset. These are people who seek treasure on earth rather than in heaven. These are people who first look out for themselves. These are people who would never dream of crucifying their old self with its passions and evil desires. They are people who basically are hostile to the Word of God. Amazing, isn't it, that the church is often filled with people like this?!
It is just amazing that Hosea was talking the way he did about Ephraim. Ephraim! Didn't they regularly bring their tithe to the Lord? Was there ever a people as faithful as they in bringing their sin offerings and cereal offerings to the Temple? Didn't they scrupulously observe the feast days of the Lord? Wasn't the land filled with the sounds of their songs of praise to the Lord?
Yet, their worship was all show. It was a sham. It wasn't from the heart. It was not done out of love for God. We are to hear echoes of Amos in the words of Hosea. Amos, as the voice of God, let the children of Israel know what the Lord thought of their worship:
(Amos 5:21-23) "I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. (22) Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. (23) Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.When Hosea first heard these words he probably said one big "Amen." The Lord is not pleased, He is never pleased, when we simply go through the motions in our worship.
II Hosea's Prayer
A Just like we finish our sermons with a prayer, so Hosea concluded his sermon with a prayer. Now, don't forget, Hosea had just finished a fire and brimstone sermon. He had laid it on the line in his message. He told the people exactly what he and God thought about them and their worship and songs and offerings and feast days.
So what kind of prayer would he now utter?
"Give them, O Lord ...," he prays. Be thankful that in that whole, big, frivolous, partying, dancing crowd there was at least one person who still knew how to pray, to intercede, before God's throne of grace.
"Give them, O Lord ..." Be thankful there was at least one person down on his knees. There was at least one person with hands lifted up to heaven in supplication. There was at least one person pleading for a people headed for destruction. There was at least one person who loved the people enough to pray for them.
"Give them, O Lord ..." Give them what? What was he going to pray for? Hosea had so much to say in his sermon. He was never at a loss for words when he was on the pulpit. "Give them, O Lord ..." Hosea stopped. He hesitated. He couldn't go on. Maybe he wanted to think about his words. Maybe he wanted to choose his next words extra carefully.
"Give them, O Lord ..." The people listened in suspense. What was the prophet going to ask for?
B "Give them, O Lord ..." The Lord had so much to give to Ephraim. There were so many blessings He could have showered upon Israel. After that sermon, was Hosea going to ask for a new spirit? Was he going to ask for repentance and faith? Was he going to ask for a spirit of obedience? Was he going to make an appeal to God's grace? Was he going to ask God for mercy? Those are all the things we would ask for after hearing Hosea's sermon.
C "Give them, O Lord ..." Even we listen in suspense, leaning forward in our seats.
(Hosea 9:14) Give them, O LORD-- what will you give them? Give them wombs that miscarry and breasts that are dry.Wow. What kind of prayer is this? Like Balak with Balaam, we hear the exact opposite of what we expected to hear. Balak, if you remember, expected to hear Balaam curse Israel; but instead, Balaam blessed Israel. Ephraim expected to hear words of blessing in Hosea's prayer and instead heard a frightening curse.
Hosea was asking God to curse Israel with the worst punishment he could think of. He was asking God to wipe Ephraim off the face of the earth. Miscarriage means no babies. Dry breasts means babies will starve to death.
You would think Hosea's sermon was enough – with its fire and brimstone – so that in his prayer he could lighten up and hold out an olive branch or maybe just a leaf. But no. The prayer was even worse than the sermon.
Two questions come to mind. First, how could Israel – the people of God – have sinned as much as they did? Second, how could a prophet offer such a curse against his own people? How would you like it if you heard such a curse on a Sunday morning after the sermon?
D "Give them, O Lord ..." Was Hosea filled with such anger and wrath and hatred after seeing the godlessness of Israel's feasts that he lost his temper? Are we seeing another example of Old Testament wrath instead of the love we see in the New Testament? Was Hosea motivated by a personal desire for revenge?
Hosea, we have to say, was motivated only by love for God and concern for His honor. Hosea wasn't trying to pay anyone back. His desire was that God be acknowledged and praised. But, he knew sin was preventing that. Sinners caught up in sin do not and cannot acknowledge and praise God. Sinners, in fact, do the exact opposite – they bring dishonor to God's name (especially those within the church).
Anyone who takes God's name and honor and holiness with even a bit of seriousness should be able to understand Hosea's prayer. They know that anything that stands in the way of God's glory and honor and praise should be swept aside, destroyed, and cursed.
(Hosea 9:14) Give them, O LORD-- what will you give them? Give them wombs that miscarry and breasts that are dry.
Do you think it was easy for Hosea to pray this prayer? He loved this people. He was called by the Lord to serve this people. He endured so much for this people. But you know what? He loved his God even more than he loved his people. That's why there was that long, dramatic pause in the middle of his prayer. There was a struggle going on in his heart – a struggle between love of God and love of people – and love of God won out.
At God's command, Hosea was ready and willing to prophesy the destruction of the people he loved.
Only the horrible curse that rested on our Lord Jesus Christ can make us understand and appreciate the horrible curse in Hosea's prayer. For Jesus – even more than Hosea – put love for His God before love for His people. For Jesus – even more than Hosea – warned about coming destruction and hell fire. For Jesus – even more than Hosea – endured the name calling, the traps, the snares, and the hostility of God's people. Jesus – even more than Hosea – knew the awfulness of sin and endured God's curse against it.
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