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Jericho Ridge Community Church (Archived)

Lost & Found

 “Lost & Found”

 Message @ Jericho Ridge Community Church – Sunday, Jan 12, 2014

Text: Hosea 1 & 3 // Series: Hosea: Lost & Found

 

“The dirt that clung to the ridges of her sweaty feet gave a clear window into the smudges of regret and guilt that clung to her heart.  Her thoughts spun out of control with inquiry, “How did I end up… here?”

 

She stood on a rough block of wood elevated a few feet above the ground displaying the goods that were on sale. Tears streaked down her face collecting dirt as they fell. The choices of her life flickered like a doomed 8mm movie in her brain.

 

Gomer was loved once, deeply loved. Hosea chose her to be his bride, his wife, his life partner.  She was valued, respected, and adored by her husband, Hosea.

 

Deep down inside though was housed a painful thorn-like thought: she was living a lie. “How could he love me? Does he know who I really am?”

 

She was convinced she didn’t deserve his love. So she moved to strike first, to reject him before he rejected her. She followed her stupid, restless heart into the arms of another man. And then another. And another.

 

Eventually, she ran out of money and men, became a slave due to money she owed, and now was being sold to the highest bidder.

 

Suddenly, a familiar voice cracked through the humid air and brought shock waves to her heart.

 

“I’ll buy her.”

 

That familiar voice. Could it be? Could it really be her… husband, Hosea?

 

“I’ll take her for 15 pieces of silver and barley.”

 

“SOLD.”

 

As he approached, she could make out his silhouette clearly. The way he tilted his head slightly to the right with curious determination. His broad shoulders and curly thick hair. She gasped with long-forgotten hope.

 

Hosea. She dropped her eyes avoiding the judgment she would surely endure from him. Trembling, she fell to the ground.

 

The warmth of Hosea’s touch jolted life into her bones. He lifted her chin. Tenderly brushed the hair out of her eyes. Then, scooped her up and carried her away from her dirty life.

 

She began to sob. This man. This man who she rejected. This man who she deeply hurt. This man who she humiliated… gave all he had and bent down into her dirt and lifted her up.

 

She tried to resist him, whimpering faintly, “Don’t mess with me. I’m not worth it. Find someone else who is more worthy of your love.”

 

His tender breath brushed the edge of her ear whispering a declaration that changed her life forever, “I love you. I want you.  I’m buying you back to restore you to who you truly are, a loved and valued woman. My wife. Now, let’s go home.”

 

This is story of Hosea and Gomer in the Old Testament book of Hosea chapters 1, 3 as written by blogger Amy Ruth.  

 

The book of Hosea which we will be diving into this January and Feb around Jericho is a beautiful love story that paints vividly and painfully a picture of God’s love for us as broken, sinful people.  Although we may reject Him again and again, Jesus gives everything to buy us back in order to restore us to our rightful place, of honor and value in relationship with Him.  But it’s a messy and complicated love that if you let it, will change your life forever.

 

We’re in the Old Testament book of Hosea, where there are two primary pictures that help us understand the depth and intensity of God’s love.  They are highly emotional and deeply relational images and they get acted out in the life of Hosea as a way of giving us a window into how God feels about His relationship with humanity when we disappoint and forsake Him, which if we are honest with ourselves, all of us do and have done. 

 

The first image we come across in Hosea is that of a husband with an unfaithful wife.  This image is really at the heart of Hosea’s love story. 

Last weekend Pastor Keith reminded us of the shocking reality of how the book starts in Hosea 1:2 where it says – When the Lord first began speaking to Israel through Hosea, He said to him, “Go and marry a promiscuous woman” So Hosea married Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim”

You could spend a long time trying to figure out whether Gomer was a harlot before Hosea married her or if she chose to become unfaithful to him at some later point in their relationship.  I think that the latter is more probable because it more clearly illustrates what God is trying to communicate to His people: that they were once faithful to Him and now they are not.  But regardless, the text doesn’t give us solid answers on that.  And that’s because what the text does focus on is the breakdown of the relationship as a direct result of the choices that Gomer makes. 

 

Picture it…  Hosea and Gomer are married, they have their first child together, they are starting their lives out together.  But at some point in this juncture in their young marriage, Gomer gives herself over to harlotry.  She runs into the arms of another man.  And then another.  And another.  And so the second and third children born in chapter 1 are likely not Hosea’s kids, although they certainly are Gomer’s.  We’ll come to the kids in a few moments but I want us to wrestle for a moment or two with the agony that Gomer’s choices and actions caused Hosea as a husband and as a person.  Some of you have lived through this kind of harsh relational betrayal and you know all too well how deep it wounds.  Hosea is left to eke out a living as a single dad for a season of his life.  He is left to raise three kids, only one of which is his.  But it seems that he loves Gomer deeply and he persists in loving her even after she wounds and forsakes him.  Because in the midst of all of this grief and heartache and pain, God tells Hosea to do something radical.  Look with me at Chapter 3:1

Then the Lord said to me, “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits [harlotry] with another. This will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them.” (Hosea 3:1)

 

“So I bought her back” verse 2 continues, “for 15 pieces of silver and five bushels of barley and a measure of wine.”  In Hosea, we find a person whose love cannot be quenched even by the betrayal of his love.  Here is a man who has had to look his kids in the eyes and tell them “mommy isn’t coming back to us”, and then later on in his journey he goes out and expends great personal cost to buy mommy back from the slave market.  For what adds up to 30 pieces of silver.  The price of a common slave.  That’s all Gomer’s life has been worth to her.  But not to her husband. 

 

Hosea’s love could not be erased or undone by Gomer’s choices.  So you see, the point as it relates to you and me is this:  God’s love for you and me is not quenched when we betray His love and faithfulness.  God’s love is a remarkable, forgiving, nurturing, healing kind of love.  God’s love for you, as Abraham Heschel says, is “ineradicable”

Psalm 86:15 says it this way: “But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with         unfailing love and faithfulness.” (Ps. 86:15)

I love that old hymn which paints the picture of draining the ocean dry trying to write about the “love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong.”  Yet it is out of his anguish and his horrific personal experiences that Hosea rises to a more messy and certainly a deeper understanding of the depth and the remarkable nature of the love of God. 

 

And that’s just the first picture in this amazing book!  The second image that I want us to look at today is image of a parent and a rebellious child.  Or rebellious children.  In chapter 1, Gomer has three kids which she pans off to Hosea.  And God says to give these three kids some of the craziest names you have ever heard of in your life.  They are names infused with deep prophetic significance and meaning.  Because remember in the Biblical world, names said something significant about your identity.  Remember at Christmas we were talking about John the Baptist and what a big stir it causes when his father didn’t name his Zechariah.  Or think about Jesus’ disciple Simon, who went from being nicknamed “a son of thunder” to being called Peter, which means “rock” and Jesus declaring over him “on this rock, I will build my church”.  But as far as biblical names go, even these ones sound weird!  I think that people choose some crazy, crazy names for their babies these days but these I still think these ones take the cake. 

 

Let’s look at each of them.  So boy #1,from chapter 1:3 and following Hosea’s boy.  God says to call him Jezreel.  The name means “God scatters”.  You see, back at the start of the Northern Kingdom, the people to whom Hosea is speaking, a man named Jehu had established the nation by bloodshed and violence.  Jehu had slaughtered Queen Jezebel and the sons of King Ahab in a place known as the Jezreel Valley.  So the very name was associated for all of the listeners with murderous violence and evil.  In our day and time, it might be like naming your kid “Auschwitz” or “Hiroshima” – you just don’t name your kids that.  Yet through this kid’s name, Jezreel, God was saying to Israel, “watch out… payday for building your life and your nation upon a foundation of violence is coming!  Your consequences for these actions are on their way. I will scatter you.”  And sure enough, in 25 year’s time, God did put an end to Israel’s independence when Assyria conquered the land.  And you only get one guess as to the specific location of where that military overthrow happened: the Jezreel Valley.  With this son’s name it was as if God was firing a warning shot across the bow of the nation saying “I will scatter you to the far corners of the earth if you do not change your ways.  Payday is coming.  As people who have built your life on rebellion, you will not get away with this forever.  There are consequences for your actions.”  Can you hear the parenting metaphor ringing through loud and clear? 

 

Why would God do this?  Why would he have Hosea choose such an assertive and gloomy name like Jezreel for his eldest son?  I think that sometimes when we hear about the love of God and how rich and deep and pure and unfathomable it is, we can be tempted to take advantage of that reality.  Subtly or unsubtly we tell ourselves that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission and we think “Oh, God loves me so much, I can do whatever I want to do, life how I want to live and then I will come to Him and say I’m sorry and everything will be OK”.  But Jezreel reminds us of the accountability for our actions that each of us have before a Holy God.  Payday is coming, so do not abuse God’s grace.  In Romans 6, this is addressed head on: “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?”    

 

Even Hosea when he brings Gomer back home says to her in 3:3 “you need to stop you actions and we need to be apart for a time”.  I love you, but there are consequences to your actions.  Some of you need to come to that place today where you make a commitment to stop taking advantage of God’s grace.  Even with God’s love and grace, there are consequences for your actions and mine.  Payday is coming so don’t live under an illusion as if you & I are not going to collect and be fully paid the wages we have earned for our sins. 

 

This is the message God is trying to communicate to his people with Gomer’s second child.  Her name is lo-ruhamah.  Ruhamah in Hebrew means loved and lo is the negative prefix, so Gomer’s daughter’s name means “not loved”.  But listen carefully to Hosea 1:6 “I will no longer SHOW love to the people of Israel or forgive them”.  Not I will no longer love them.  But they will be unable to experience it because of their choices.  And here’s the point:  God’s love is unconditional, BUT I can choose to do things that remove me from an experience of His love

He still loves me.  But my actions can remove me from experiencing it. 

Think of it this way, if you have a son or daughter and they run away from home, as a parent you don’t stop loving them.  But as a result of their actions, they will not be able to experience your love in the same way they could if they were at home.  The point of this second child’s name is this: God’s love may be ineradicable BUT my enjoyment of His love depends on my obedience.

Some of you here today are in a place where your actions have removed you from that place where you could actively experience God’s love.  You have made choices, said things, done things, left things un-done that have caused hurt to God and to other people around you.  And you wonder why you don’t feel God’s love in the way that you used to.  The Scripture reminds us that no matter how far you have wandered, the road back to God begins with a single prayer of repentance.  Three simple words, in fact.  “God, I’m Sorry.”  Some of you are playing the part of the prodigal child and you are doing a great job of it.  You’re calloused and hardened by life and by your choices but today might be your day for an about face.  Now is the time of repentance & salvation.  For some of you, this will be a first time decision, for others, today may be the umpteenth-thousandth time you’ve come to God and said “I’m sorry.  I messed up again” And into that place of brokenness and repentance, into that prayer, God breathes hope.  Listen to his poetic response in Hosea 3:3-5:

“The people of Israel are going to live a long time stripped of security and protection, without religion and comfort, godless and prayerless.

But in time they’ll come back, these Israelites,

    come back looking for their God and King.

They’ll come back chastened to reverence before God and His good gifts, ready for the End of the story of His love.”

Maybe that is you here today.  In a few moments we are going to respond in prayer and if you need to say “God, I’m sorry” don’t let the opportunity pass you by.  I want you to come and pray with our prayer team.  We would be happy to walk into that journey of repentance with you.  James says “confess your sins to one another and be healed” – it’s a gutsy move but whether it’s the first time or you just need to wipe the slate clean, I challenge each of us to examine our hearts here today and let God point out any choices we have made that have removed us from the full experience of His love and mercy. 

 

And this brings us to our last kid of the day.  The first kid, Jezreel, meant “payday is coming”.  The second Lo-Ruhamah meant “Not Loved” and the third, a son, was to be called “Lo-Ammi”, which means “Not My People”.  God says in 1:9 – for Israel is not my people and I am not their God.  This relationship has broken down to the place where we don’t even know each other anymore.  I am not “I AM” to you anymore.  Here again we see the consequences of choices made, but we also see that glimmer of hope again.  The notion that God, like a patient Father, is standing and waiting and saying “Make a different choice.”  This is the wrestling match that we are going to find all through the book of Hosea.  God clearly outlines the consequences, both natural and Divine, of the choices that the people make.  And they experience these consequences, some of the brutal and horrific.  And yet God doesn’t just walk off and say “I told you so!”.  He says “right now, you are not acting in a way that I can legitimately call you my people so let’s speak the truth and call it like it is: Lo-Ammi”. 

 

BUT look at the next verse.  In the middle of this mess, there is a message of hope which gives us incredible insight into God’s heart of love. 

“Yet the time will come when Israel’s people will be like the sands of the seashore—too many to count! Then, at the place where they were told, ‘You are not my people,’ it will be said, ‘You are children of the living God.’ Then the people of Judah and Israel will unite together. They will choose one leader for themselves, and they will return from exile together. What a day that will be—the day of Jezreel—when God will again plant his people in his land. In that day you will call your brothers Ammi—‘My people.’ And you will call your sisters Ruhamah—‘The ones I love.”

 

This prophetic promise of a Divine reversal is powerful.  I love the specificity of God’s actions: He gets involved right at the place of hurt.  Right at that place where it was proclaimed “not my people”, God will again declare “You are my children.”.  Right at your own place of deepest loss and darkness God can brings a declaration of hope: There will be a day of repentance and return when you move from being known as “not Mine” and nobody, to being known as “precious and beloved of the Father”. 

 

Some of you need to hear this message this morning because some of you have told youselves a lie.  You have believed for a very long time that as wayward son or daughter, God could never love because of what you have done or how far you have strayed.  Or how many times you have tripped up slipped up and repeated that same sin over and over again despite the fact you prayer and your promised that you would never do it again.  So you have told God and others “Jesus could never love me”.  You feel like you are stuck in a cycle of sin: Jan 1 came around and you thought “It’s a new day, I am free from that!” but already within 12 days, you are back at it.  Slipping back into patterns of anger & rage. Making choices to engage in deceit.  Allowing yourself to be overcome by Jealousy as other people describe the Christmas experiences. You promised to hold back but you’re back into a cycle of Gluttony, be it physical or financial. Your mind and your actions are promiscuous, even though you promised to find an accountability partner.  So because of this, you have told yourself I am “not loved” by God and if the people here knew the real me, they wouldn’t care to have me around either. But here again are the amazingly interconnected truths about God’s love that we learn through the names and experience of Hosea’s three children:

 

  1. God’s love for me is unconditional
  2. I can choose to remove myself from the experience of God’s love
  3. Sometimes God gets involved with what He hates in order to clean up those whom He loves

 

Just like Hosea who waded into the slave market and the world of harlotry in order to rescue his beloved from the choices she had made, God is willing and able to meet you & I today at our places of sin and rebellion with His amazing grace and his ineradicable love.  Let’s pray together as we respond to God. 

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