Category Archives: Hosea

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Hosea – 371

01/05/15 – 371

There’s a lot more to the book of Hosea than there is to his personal story. In fact, beyond the first 3 chapters the text doesn’t tell us anything more about Gomer’s journey of reconciliation. Much of the remaining 11 chapters is an extended narrative/sermon about Israel’s stubborn resistance to God, their refusal to give up their adulterous and sinful lifestyles. But it does end the way the story usually ends, with a remnant of the faithful being saved as a chance for the rebirth and restoration of the people.

This is another analogy that carries over to us as individuals also. When we talk about dying to self, being born again and all that – this is exactly what we’re talking about. We simply can’t remain the same old people we always were and hope to change a little here and there to become what God intended us to be. We are way too impure, far too contaminated by sin for that.

Our only hope is that we let every part of ourselves that has been given over to sin die, and the remnant that remains be reborn and restored as God intended. This may mean old relationships have to be broken off – permanently. It may mean that otherwise innocent pastimes that you enjoyed may have to become nothing more than memories because of their association with sinful things. (Example: I enjoy a certain type of music, but it brings back memories and feelings I only had when I hung out at the bar and drank and . . ..)

Better to find another kind of music that doesn’t carry that meaning for you. Remember, it takes repentance to complete your restoration, and that means change. The last chapter of Hosea, though is one of the most beautiful promises of hope and love that God has ever given us. The translators call it ‘Repentance to Bring Blessing’

Hosea 14: 1Return, Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall!
Take words with you and return to the Lord.
Say to him “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips.
Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount warhorses. We will never again say ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion.”

“I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots;
his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.
People will dwell again in his shade; they will flourish like the grain, they will blossom like the vine—
Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon.
Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? I will answer him and care for him. I am like a flourishing juniper; your fruitfulness comes from me.”

Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.

As we finish the story of Hosea today, let’s pray that God would help us to complete whatever we need to make a complete restoration within ourselves, so that we, like the Israelites, may rise from that remnant as a brand new person, pure, committed and wholly pleasing to Him.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Hosea – 370

01/04/16 – 370

So Gomer did the only thing she could do. She went home with Hosea, no doubt wondering all the while why in the world he would show her such mercy. Or maybe the better word is ‘grace’. She would be restored to her home and fellowship with her children, which had to be great! Yet for all that, did you notice that her full restoration (forgiveness) was conditional?

Hosea 3:3 Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.”

Much too often, we make the grave mistake of talking about God’s ‘free’ gift of forgiveness, or ‘unconditional’ forgiveness. But I have found no such thing in scripture. What I have found is exactly according to Hosea’s example. This is that God’s love is unconditional and free – it never fails and He never withdraws it from us. His forgiveness, however, is another matter entirely.

Gomer’s redemption wasn’t free for Hosea, it cost him not only the price of a slave, but (I’m pretty sure) endless heartache and soul-wrenching pain. In order to start the whole process in the first place, Hosea had to be willing to give up his entire life and will for God’s purpose alone – there would never be room for anything of his own desires. Our redemption was no less costly for Christ, why we should think of what it cost Him and then think it should be free for us I can’t fathom. So what’s the price for us? Jesus Himself told us.

Luke 13:3 “But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Repentance – true repentance – is more than just saying you’re sorry. It is feeling real sorrow for your sins, for how they have hurt others, especially the One Who came to pay the price of a slave to redeem you from that auction block and set you free. It involves changing your life, not repeating the same sinful behavior and choices that caused you to be enslaved in the first place. Truthfully, It means giving your life back to the One who created you as a free soul, redeemed you from the slavery of your own wrong choices and set you free again, by giving up His own life for yours – of His own free will!

I am sorry, I know it’s not the popular or politically correct thing to say anymore, but it is the truth as best I can discern it. And, it makes perfect sense to me. Why should Gomer have expected that after all she had done to Hosea and the kids, she should waltz back into their lives as though nothing had ever happened? Try to put yourself in their shoes. Can those relationships and trusts be rebuilt? Yes, but only with a long time and a lot of effort.

Again, it’s no different with God and us. His love has never wavered. He has redeemed us, our sins have been forgiven, but conditionally. The condition is that we accept His gift by accepting Him, not only as our Savior but as the Lord of our life. This is a decision that we often have to make over and over again as we face many temptations. But make it we must, and He has promised always to help us to make the right choice. Let’s make that our prayer for today – that no matter what temptations or choices we may face, He will be with us and help us to choose Him over sin.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Hosea – 369

01/03/16 – 369

I know, I should have yelled ‘Spoiler Alert!’ when I told you that Gomer had not yet hit rock bottom. Maybe the guy that was keeping her got tired of her, maybe she just wasn’t so attractive anymore – who knows? Maybe he just saw an opportunity to make a little money from her. Somehow, she finally ended up on the block, being put up for sale as a slave. I have to wonder what she was thinking as she stood on that platform being groped and examined like a farm animal.

Did she remember the faces of her children the last time she saw them, as they begged her to change her ways and stay with them? Maybe she was regretting the loss of a safe, warm home and a loving husband, one who she thought would never even consider forgiving her because after all, she wouldn’t if the situation were reversed. Maybe she was so lost and tired that she had blocked all memories of who she used to be, because remembering is simply too painful. Maybe she convinced herself it was all a bad dream, that it just couldn’t be real.

Yet there she was. And to his credit, Hosea was there also.

Hosea 3:1-5 The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”

So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.”

For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the Lord and to his blessings in the last days.

The price Hosea paid is equal to about 6 oz of silver and about 430 lbs of barley. This was pretty much the standard price of a slave with nothing special to offer. This just may be the most important lesson you ever learn from the Old Testament. What Hosea did was quite literally redeem Gomer. The word means to pay the price of a slave not to keep them as a slave, but to free them from their slavery. This is a picture of what Jesus would do for us some 700 years or so later.

He didn’t argue the price, or try to bargain. He counted the cost – knew what it would take – and willingly came prepared to pay that price. When He did, He set us free from our enslavement to sin. Now it’s up to us. Do you want to enter back into that slavery? There’s not a thing stopping you. If there was, it wouldn’t be freedom.

But the question is – why would you? Isn’t freedom, for all its issues and problems, the responsibilities that go along with it, so much better than slavery? Weird as it might sound, not everyone agrees with that. Many people find comfort in slavery – for a while. But when the time comes that they realize that comfort was only temporary – a lure – it’s too late. Make your prayer today a prayer for freedom. Rather than being a slave o sin, you can commit yourself as a servant to and a child of the Living Messiah, Jesus Christ. Let’s do that instead.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Hosea – 368

01/02/16 – 368

Yesterday we talked about God always giving us that chance for redemption. As true as that is, it didn’t always work for the individual, at least in the case of Israel. As the nation moved away from God (as ours does today) many people will leave this world having made that irrevocable decision to reject Him. What God has always done has been to protect those that love and are faithful to Him, and leave a remnant of His chosen people so that nation can be rebuilt.

The problem for us is that in the meantime, times can be rough and we are still responsible for the decisions we make. As Hosea’s family began to grow, God continued to use them as a picture of the nation of Israel. He instructed the children:

Hosea 2:2-3 “Rebuke your mother, rebuke her, for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband.
Let her remove the adulterous look from her face and the unfaithfulness from between her breasts.
Otherwise I will strip her naked and make her as bare as on the day she was born;
I will make her like a desert, turn her into a parched land, and slay her with thirst.”

As Gomer’s extracurricular love life became more and more wanton, even her children put pressure on her. She eventually left the household, and apparently lived on the streets for as long as she could find men to support her. Well, as you might guess, this less-than-healthy lifestyle finally led her to live with a man who could barely afford to keep her fed, let alone well clothed and such. Word got back to Hosea, and he did what not too many men I know would even think of. But remember –even if he couldn’t live with her behavior in his home, he still loved her – no matter what.

The man Gomer was living with must have been ready to run or fight when he saw Hosea approaching – not knowing what to expect. But I’ll bet he didn’t expect Hosea to hand him money to take care of Gomer, to buy her clothing and food, and his offer to let him know if she needed for anything more.

Once more, you need to think about it a little, but what a close analogy of our relationship with God. He sends us clear teachings to guide us. When we stray from those to the point where we endanger our own (i.e. threaten the ministry of the church), He has put in place other Christians and things like church discipline that will either help to restore us or separate us with the same end goal still in mind. If we choose separation, He still loves us and watches over us while we work through the valleys until we find our way back home.

Stay tuned. Believe it or not, Gomer will sink even further before she finds her way home. For today, let’s thank God again for His never-ending love. No matter what we do, no matter how far we go – even when our choices make it impossible for us to be with Him – His love for us never changes.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Hosea – 367

01/01/16

Lo Ruhamah (Not Loved), although the only daughter given to Gomer and Hosea, was not the last child. There was one more son. God gave this one a special name as well.

Hosea 1:8-9 After she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, Gomer had another son.9 Then the Lord said, “Call him Lo-Ammi, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.

Now Hosea has a wife turned street prostitute, a son who is a walking reminder of God’s wrath yet to come and the scattering of his people, a daughter who embodies God’s promise to withdraw His love from them, and now a second son who reminds them of their ultimate separation from God. I’m thinking they didn’t get invited to a lot of events – it would have been too depressing to make up the seating charts!

But the good news is – as always – God is faithful. Even though it may seem that He stops loving us for a while, He really never does. It’s more of a ‘tough love’ kind of thing. When we don’t get the message any other way, He does what He has to do to get through to us, because the alternative is so much worse. In all the messages God sent through Hosea, notice the one thing he didn’t say. He did NOT say that this condition would be permanent. Let’s read a little more.

Hosea 1:10-11 “Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ 11 The people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together; they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.

This is the God we all count on – the God of Hope! This is the God we long for, the One without Whom we wouldn’t have a chance for redemption. This is the God Who came to earth as a baby to suffer and die so that He could pay the price to redeem us – and that is a picture we will soon see clearly in this extraordinary love story of Hosea and Gomer.

A lot of people will use passages like this to accuse God of being vindictive and mean. The ‘God of the Old Testament’, they call Him, ‘always going around smiting people and looking for vengeance’. I daresay these are people that haven’t bothered to get to know Him. I really don’t know how He could be anything different than what He is. If He overlooked all our sin, He would be much less than righteous. If He left no means for redemption, He would be what His enemies claim. But the thing is – He did. Just because someone doesn’t happen to like the offer, well……that’s up to them. It doesn’t lessen the value of the offer.

Someone could offer me a million dollar mansion tax-free for life, utilities paid in a beautiful resort on a Caribbean island (Yes, I know. But it could happen!) If I choose to stay in my 1950s 3 bedroom ranch in Illinois, overpaying taxes to the most corrupt state government in the country (We’re #1 – yay!), it’s not the fault of the person making the offer that I refuse. It’s all on me. I don’t have the right to say “I want the mansion, but on my terms.” Yet that’s what we want to do with God. Take His offer of salvation, but on our own terms instead of His.

Let’s pray today simply that God would remove any thoughts or feelings from us that make us think we have the right to negotiate at all, and accept what He has to offer – on His terms! It’s a good offer, after all. We can pray the same for others who still don’t see it that way, and praise God for being the God of Hope for all of us.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Hosea – 366

12/31/15 – 366

So yesterday we talked about the name God gave Hosea’s first son (although clearly born of infidelity) – Jezreel. This name not only reminded the unfaithful Israelites that God hadn’t forgotten what they had done, and that He would have His vengeance, but it also had another meaning. It meant ‘scattered’. The message was that God would scatter the Jews among the nations like seeds on hard soil. That doesn’t sound so bad, you say?

Well, think about it. Every time the Jews strayed from their walk with God, they did end up scattered. This caused disunity among them, like a broken family. The people were one in name only, just as their walk with God was in name only. They simply drifted apart, until one cared no more for the other or for their roots. They would lose their identity not only as Jews, but also as Gods chosen people!

But as we said, Hosea was obedient anyway. In my personal opinion, he was more than just that. He could have just married Gomer – gone through the motions. We’ve all seen those sad marriages in which the couple lives together but never really seems to ‘become one’, and marriages of convenience were not new even then. But Hosea put his whole heart into God’s bidding. He allowed himself to fall completely in love with Gomer. So, the children of her unfaithfulness became as his own blood. After the boy Jezreel, a daughter came along:

Hosea 1:6-7 Gomer conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call her Lo-Ruhamah, for I will no longer show love to the house of Israel, that I should at all forgive them.7 Yet I will show love to the house of Judah; and I will save them — not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but by the Lord their God.”

‘Lo-Ruhamah’ sounds kind of pretty – a good thing for a girl’s name – until you know what it means. Can you imagine naming your baby girl ‘Not Loved’? They’d probably lock you up for abuse these days. Yet that was it. To make things sound even harsher, God’s message says He will still show love to Judah while ceasing to treat (northern) Israel in the same way. I know many children may be treated that way, or feel that way, but I think precious few are told that in such a direct manner.

Today let’s pray another prayer of gratitude for God’s directness in speaking truth to us, even when the truth hurts. Most of us won’t respond well to any other approach, and the truth is – why should we want to? The sooner we understand and obey God’s voice, the sooner we can live in right relationship with Him. And that, my friends, makes it all worthwhile.

Have a happy and blessed New Year.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Hosea – 365

12/30/15 – 365

Remember we said that God speaks to us in many different ways. It seems that in the case of Hosea, He had to use just about every way possible to get the message across. First He spoke directly, through Hosea’s preaching. Then, through the dynamic imagery of Hosea’s marriage to Gomer. This was truly an accurate picture not only of Israel’s relationship with God, but ours as well. Think about it.

In the beginning, God entered into this covenant with man knowing that we would be unfaithful to Him, breaking the covenant again and again. We would bear many children out of that infidelity, and raise them as children dedicated to countless gods other than the One who created us. In biblical days pople may have sacrificed their children to gods like Baal or Molek. Today we trade our children to the gods of materialism and self. You disagree? OK, Just ask a child whose dad left the family for another woman, or one who is being raised by the nanny instead of his mother, the hard-driving career woman.

God knew it going in, and so did Hosea. So the question is – why? Why would you do such a thing, knowing the pain that it would bring you? There can only be one answer. Can you guess? It had to be love. God loved us so much that He chose to go ahead and create us, give us that pesky attribute of free will, and enter into multiple covenants with us – giving us chance after chance to make things right, and redeeming us anyway. Hosea loved God so much that he was willing to be obedient, and then came to love Gomer so much that he went ahead and married her – entering into that covenant even though he knew what would happen. And when the children of infidelity came, he accepted and loved them too.

But then God spoke again – this time through the very names of the children – another not uncommon method in the Old Testament.

Hosea 1:3-4  So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. In that day I will break Israel’s bow in the Valley of Jezreel.”

Jezreel was the name of a town in which much evil had taken place. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel (arguably Israel’s most evil rulers ever) were killed there, and Jehu (who had been sent by God to punish them) went waaay too far, slaughtering Ahab’s 70 sons and taking over the throne. You can read about it in 2 Kings 9-10. Naming the child Jezreel was just God’s way of saying, “I haven’t forgotten, and it ain’t over yet!”

There are actually 2 questions that come to mind as I write this today. The first is this: I wonder how much I have missed if God still speaks to us (to me) in so many different ways? Why wouldn’t He? Are we not as hard to reach as the people of the Bible? I think we probably are – if not worse. So, it makes sense that God would use every means possible to get through to us. Yet how often we write things off as ‘coincidence’ or ‘luck’ etc.

The second is harder. If God asked the same thing of me as He did of Hosea, could I do it? Could I love that much – to enter into a covenant – knowing that she would break it. Shatter it! Do I love God enough to do it anyway? Maybe I would hope/believe that my love would be so great as to change her heart and keep her from becoming unfaithful in the first place. Maybe that was God’s hope for us.

I think today’s prayer needs to be a prayer of repentance – for all those times we have broken our covenant, been unfaithful, broken God’s heart. Only when we really repent of that, that can we ever begin to heal from the scars that our infidelity has left.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Hosea – 364

12/29/15 – 364

Let’s get to know Hosea a little bit before we get too deep into the story, OK? Hosea was, as I said yesterday, one of the Minor Prophets. This only means that he didn’t write a large volume of scripture for us. It has nothing to do with the importance of what he wrote. At the time our tale began, he was probably still a relatively young man, as he was still unmarried. He was known as a prophet, although from what we can tell not very well liked or with much of a following. He lived around the same time as the better-known prophet Isaiah, but in the northern kingdom of Israel.

He seems to have been known as a preachy-but-harmless kind of guy, that no one really paid much attention to. The culture of the day wasn’t too serious about their relationship with God. Although many people went through the motions, attending services and doing the required rituals, that was about it. In today’s English we might call them ‘nominal’ Jews – Jews in name only. This was one of those periods of Hebrew history that looked a lot like contemporary America, where everyone could believe as he pleased and the god of self-centeredness reigned supreme.

In other words, a good sermon wasn’t going to turn the tide – something more was needed. So God spoke to Hosea. It was a pretty good message – at first. Kind of like “Hosea, I’m going to give you a wife. Not just any wife, either. I am hooking you up with none other than Gomer!” Gomer, you see, was widely known as the most beautiful woman in the northern kingdom. Not bad for an itinerant preacher, eh?

BUT…. there’s always a catch, isn’t there? God went on to tell Hosea that Gomer would be unfaithful to him. In fact, during their marriage, she would become nothing more than a common prostitute! God went on to tell Hosea that the children they would have would not be his – instead they would be borne of her infidelity. So what do you think Hosea was thinking about all this?

He sure had a big decision to make. But one thing I love about this story is that God never pretended that His plan was going to be easy. Another is that He didn’t force or pressure Hosea to do it. As we’ve seen in other stories, any one person saying no to God will not stop God’s plan from going forward. It will, however, interfere with that person’s relationship with God.

Hosea 1:2-3 When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

The truth is that God has a plan for each one of us – if we are willing to listen. True, it’s not always that detailed (although hindsight often helps), but it’s often just as challenging. No matter what, we face the same decision Hosea did. Once we know what God is asking of us, do we say yes, regardless of the risk, or do we say no, better find someone else?

Although I believe Hosea knew some of what God was asking, I don’t think he knew all the trouble and heartache that was coming his way – yet he said yes. And what I really love about him is that he didn’t just say it – he put his whole heart and soul into it. He didn’t just marry Gomer – he really loved her. After all, his marriage was to be a picture of God’s relationship with Israel, wasn’t it? How could he have done anything less?

Let’s pray today for God to help us to have a heart like Hosea’s when it comes to doing His will.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – Hosea – 363

12/28/15 – 363

I’d like to start with a reminder to all of you that you I am always open to suggestions and requests for stories or studies that you would like to explore. The Spirit moves us in many ways – maybe next time He’ll even use you!

For now, I actually feel led back to the Old Testament to one of the ‘minor prophets’ – Hosea. Hosea’s story is really a Bible story for grown-ups. In fact, I’ll bet your parents never told it to you for a bedtime story, and it would probably be almost as safe a bet that you never heard it from your Sunday School teacher either. Let’s read the first couple of verses and you’ll understand why.

Hosea 1: 1-2 The word of the Lord that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel:

2 When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.”

Some translations simply say ‘marry a prostitute”.

Wow.

I’m thinking this story did not take place during one of the ‘mountaintop’ periods for Israel. But as we set the stage, we learn a few important things in this short passage. The first is that very often when God wanted to send a message through one of His prophets, it wasn’t simply a verbal or written message. God’s messages to us can take many forms – in this case it was almost a kind of performance art, in which Hosea’s life was to imitate God’s relationship with His people Israel. We may have a hard time understanding a covenant relationship with God, but if a friend came to us for marital advice, starting out with “I’ve got a question. I married this prostitute, and we’re having some issues…” – I think most of us could think of something to say.

Another thing is that God doesn’t always tread lightly. I think we get so used to preachers and authors who tiptoe around the real issues for fear of offending someone that we think that God should approach us the same way. Yet how we got that idea – I have no idea. Whether appearing as Jesus or a pillar of fire, God has never minced words with us. He simply tells us the truth and leaves it to us to respond as we choose. But, we do NOT get to choose the consequences of our choice.

The third point is a main one not only for this story but throughout scripture. Notice that the theme of adultery is to be illustrated through sexual unfaithfulness, but the reality is that in our relationship with God it’s not about the sex at all. It’s about the unfaithfulness – the breaking of a covenant. Keep this in mind whenever you read the word ‘adultery’ in scripture and see if it doesn’t change your perspective. More on that later.

For today, let’s pray that as we begin a new story, God would use it to speak to our hearts in a whole new way. You’ll find that this tale was a particularly painful one for its principal character, Hosea, whose only fault was his willingness to be used by God no matter what. And in that, you’ll find that it’s a whole lot less painful to learn from the harsh lessons of others than to have to go through the same things yourself.