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God Changed a Name: Hosea’s Kids December 21, 2011

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Hosea 1-2

 Advent Midweek 4

December 21, 2011

Focus: God remains faithful to His covenant.

Function: That the hearers find the gospel in the Old Testament.

Structure: Textual.

 

God Changed a Name: Hosea’s Kids

            When they teach us how to write sermons at the seminary, they say we really need to grab everyone’s attention with the introduction.  The same goes for public speaking in general.  So how about this one: prostitutes.  That’s right, Vicar’s going to talk about prostitutes from the pulpit today.  You know the type: men and women who use sex for pleasure or money instead of treating it as the marital blessing that it truly is.  That’s the image that God chose to call Israel, His people.  That’s the image He chose to burden His prophet Hosea with: a prostitute.

Before we dig into Hosea’s life, though, we need to recap our history up to this point.  A few weeks ago, we saw God make His covenant with Abraham, that He would make him into a mighty nation, with offspring too numerous to count.  Kings would even come from Abraham’s descendants.  He promised that He would give him vast lands, which came to be known as the Promised Land.  Yahweh would be their God, and they would be His people.

We see the covenant renewed with Isaac, Abraham’s son.  And we see it renewed again in Isaac’s son Jacob.  But in Jacob, it truly starts to come to fruition.  The command to multiply, the blessing of becoming a nation, all come about in Jacob’s sons, the tribes of Israel.  Read Exodus, and you’ll see the people inherit the promised land.  Read Samuel and Kings and you’ll see the kings that come from Abraham’s descendants.  Read through any and all of the Old Testament and you’ll see God being their God, leading them, fighting for them, strengthening them, and providing for them every step of the way.

This is the covenant of old.  And it’s all about the things God was going to do for them.  So what was expected from the people?  They were to be circumcised; they were to be blameless; they were to act and live as God’s people.

On that same read through of those Old Testament books, you’ll have noticed how the people behaved.  You can’t help but see them as they grumble, doubt, and commit atrocious sins against Yahweh, indeed even turning away from Him and worshipping false gods.  They were anything but blameless.  They did not live as God’s people.

By the way, this covenant, God’s words, still apply to us today.  God still expects us to be blameless, He still expects us to live as His people.  By failing, by sinning and turning away from Him, pleasing ourselves and not our God, we lump ourselves together with the rest of God’s people.  We bind ourselves to the fate of Israel.

But this is where the prophets come in.  They were God’s messengers to call people back to Him, to call them to turn away from their sin and their wickedness and to walk again as children of God.  Isaiah to Israel, Jeremiah to Jerusalem, Jonah to Nineveh.  The prophets all came to bring God’s people back.  Some of the prophets, like Jonah, fought their calling.  Others required signs from God and some even became signs from God.  Hosea was one of the latter; he became a living sign of God.

Yahweh held nothing back from Hosea; He was honest with Him from the beginning.  He told Hosea to go out and to take for himself a wife who was a fornicator, a prostitute.  And on top of that, he is to have children with this woman.  Why?  Why should he do such a thing?

Because that is what the people are doing.  By forsaking God, turning away from Him to follow their own desires, God’s chosen people were just like prostitutes.  They had stopped living life for the blessing that it is, stopped respecting and appreciating the relationship they had with the God who had created them and made them into the nation that they had become. They were living for their own desires.  They whored themselves out for the pleasure and wealth of the world.

God let Hosea know what He was doing.  Hosea was to be the walking image of God.  Hosea represents God, and his wife and children from prostitution represent Israel.  It’s the ultimate in visual aids.  Whenever people would see Hosea, they would see the prostitute and they would question what this prophet and prostitute were doing together.  And when Hosea succeeded as a prophet, they’d realize that they were the prostitute who was being unfaithful to God.

So Hosea does as he was instructed and marries a woman named Gomer, who was well-known for being unfaithful.  And as time passed, they began having children, whose names were prophecies in and of themselves.

The first child, a son, was named Jezreel.  The name means “God sows.”  And here, it references God sowing destruction and ruin among the people.  It prophesies about the end of the nation of Israel, the exile into Assyria and Babylon that was to come.

Their second child, a daughter, was then named Lo-Ruhamah, which in Hebrew means “one who has not experienced compassion or love.”  Her name spelled the true doom of the people.  Through her name, God proclaimed to Israel that they would not know His mercy.  He even spoke with an absolute voice, “I will certainly, surely, not forgive them.”  And at the same time, God proclaimed that He would love and save Judah.  We’ll come back for this point a little later.

Gomer bore a third child, another son, whom they named Lo-Ammi, which means “not My people.”  And here is a good place to correct the English.  If you look at our text, to verse nine, you’ll see the explanation saying “for you are not My people, and I am not your God.”  The word for God is not there in the Hebrew text.  Literally it reads: “for you are not My people and I will not be for you.”  This is an important distinction, because it brings out God’s covenant faithfulness.  God hasn’t stopped being their God.  He hasn’t given up the covenant.  But, rather as they have stopped being His people, He has stopped blessing them.  He will not be for them, He will not act upon them favorably, generously, when they have turned away from Him.

God hasn’t broken the covenant, but His people have, we have.  The punishment for breaking a covenant is death.  This isn’t just a promise that you failed to keep your friend.  You failed God’s covenant, a pact made in blood, that’s the end for you.  That’s part of what makes the image of a prostitute so fitting here.  The punishment for prostitution is also death.  The people around Hosea would have wondered why he didn’t stone Gomer for her wickedness.  Not only did he let her live, but he married her, had a family with her, and went after her when she ran off with other men.  Hosea was faithful to Gomer just as God is always faithful to us despite our running off in wickedness.

That notion that God hasn’t abandoned the covenant, that God hasn’t stopped being their God, is revealed throughout this text.  We get the first glimpse in verse six, when God promises to save Judah.  He will not leave them in their exile, but will indeed restore them.

We see it again in verse ten, as the number of the children of Israel will be as the sand of the sea, without measure or number.  Despite their wickedness, the people of Israel continue to grow and multiply as God had promised them in the covenant.

At the end of chapter two and as part of His covenant faithfulness, God performs the great reversal.  He changes names:

“In that day I will respond,” declares the LORD– “I will respond to the skies, and they will respond to the earth; 22 and the earth will respond to the grain, the new wine and the olive oil, and they will respond to Jezreel. 23 I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God. ‘”

 

God reverses the names of each of Hosea’s children.  Jezreel, God sows, goes from being seeds of destruction to the sowing a people.  The people of God will be planted, rooted, established as God’s people in the land that He has given them.  Lo-Ruhamah, the one who has not experienced love or compassion, becomes Ruhamah, because God will show love to her.  And Lo-Ammi, not My people, becomes Ammi, as God will claim them as His people.  “’You are My people,’ and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”

Beyond that, in chapter three, Hosea goes after Gomer and redeems her, brings her back to himself, takes her again as his wife despite all of her unfaithfulness.  This is the same way God is with His people, both Israel and us.  Despite our unfaithfulness to His covenant, He continues to keep it.  He continues to bring us back to Himself.  And in reversing each child’s name, Yahweh continues to show His faithfulness to His covenant.

This Advent season, we have dwelled upon God’s covenant and the relationship He has with us as His people.  In this time of preparation, we wait for the coming King, the Messiah promised to us long ago.  This Savior is the fulfillment of God’s covenant with His people.  This Messiah brings about mercy and forgiveness.

While we do not live as God’s people, He still makes us His people.  We don’t deserve God’s mercy, but we get His mercy.  We don’t deserve forgiveness, and yet God forgives us anyway.  We break the covenant, but God keeps the covenant.  We sin and run away, but God redeems us and brings us back.  We aren’t faithful, but God is faithful.

 

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