Why are we doing this “Story” series? Well I believe it is vitally important that for the health of every Christian and non-Christian that they are a part of a larger Story whether they believe it or not. Understanding this Story is about understanding life. It is about happiness and joy. Above all else it is about the Glory of Christ! It is only in Him is there true lasting joy. Every story requires a context, and if we want to understand the Story of Christ we need to understand all the background. So what have we learned so far?
God created this beautiful, awesome world that is hard to imagine. And that is because our first parents rebelled against God and brought sin into the world. Every generation that has come after them has been in this cycle of sin and rebellion. God chose a certain family through which He would bring healing to the world. So we have been following that family’s history. They continue to sin and rebel, but God keeps the promises He made to their ancestors. And the reason that is important to us is because as God blesses this family, He is benefiting the whole world. Healing and redemption will come through that family.
Last week we explored what Israel was like under the leadership of judges and kings. The next major group that comes along is what we call the “Prophets”. Personally I like to call these guys the “rejected leaders”. Many of the prophets do not have “successful” ministries. The prophet’s primary task is to regularly remind the people of the “Story”. For instance, they would regularly use the language of the Exodus to remind the people what God did for them, so they would remember He is still doing something during their time. It is as if the prophets are saying, “Don’t forget you were chosen for a purpose!”
What we are going to do today is focus on one prophet—Hosea. I think he is a good example of how tough the prophet’s lives were and the radical messages they were called to preach.
Let me give you a little background on Hosea. This prophet is told by God to go marry a prostitute. There is some immediate application for you. When God tells you to go do something, no matter how radical it may sound, if you truly believe He is King and knows what is best, you go do it. Hosea’s life will end up being a picture of what God thinks the relationship between Him and Israel looks like. So let’s READ Hosea 1.2-9.
Theme: The OT prophet’s warnings are full of gracious hope.
1. The prophets are always confronting God’s people.
So what we immediately see from chapter one is God asking Hosea to marry this prostitute named Gomer. They have children, literal children, but even their children are named after how God sees Israel at the time. Their first kid is a boy and is named “I will punish Israel”. Then they have a daughter and her name means, “I will not have mercy”. Then they have a third child, a baby boy, and they name him—“not my people”. Talk about a downer, huh?!
I mean this whole book starts off pretty depressing. All this sounds like there is no hope for Israel. The charge being brought against Israel is not about laws per se, but about the rejection of a relationship—a covenant.
It is very easy when reading the prophets to focus on the surface sins. For instance, Amos is addressing the social justice problems in the land—God’s people do not love the poor. Isaiah addresses empty worship—God’s people are meeting all the expectations of the law, but they don’t love God. Jeremiah addresses how idolatry has become the predominant practice among God’s people. Hosea and Ezekiel deal with God’s people chasing other lovers. So the prophets always confront people, but they offer hope through their warnings.
2. The prophets always offer warnings.
Many times God’s people can look like they are doing well on the surface, but in their hearts they are far from God. For instance, God’s people constantly forget that they are blessed by God to be a blessing. This was true back then, and is still true today. We get that bonus from work, some extra money we weren’t expecting, and our first thought is, “Awesome! I wonder what ‘I’ can get with this!” The prophets remind us we are supposed to think, “Awesome! Why did God give this to me? How does He want me to be a blessing with this?” You see the prophets will come along and warn the people that their worship has become empty, vain, or meaningless. For the prophet’s worship is a lifestyle—it is holistic. Every thought, action, affection is an opportunity to bring glory to God. The prophets warn God’s people that if they do not keep a close eye on why they are doing what they are doing, then God will hand them over to their “true” passions—their functional “gods”—READ Hosea 2.7-8, 13.
The prophets will warn other nations, but they primarily warn God’s people. During this time that is Israel. Today that is the Church. Why do they do this? Well, because of the promise given to Abraham (cf. Gen 12.3). God promised to bless the entire world through One family—the descendants of Abraham. If they are being selfish, self-centered, then those blessings don’t go to the other nations. One of the first ways to bring healing into your life friends is to remember that you have been grafted into the family of Abraham. Therefore, God is blessing you to be a blessing. If I can be frank with you, then the best way to get over your junk is to get up, and go be a blessing to something else. “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve” (Mark 10.45). “...in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Phil 2.3).
Have you noticed this, once again we are back in the Garden? God has blessed us by bringing us into “goodness”. Yet we use these things for our own glory, therefore, God exiles us from the blessing just like our first parents. If we continue to trust our ways more than God’s then hands offer to own blessing and protection. It is not protection and blessing though—it is a curse! God uses the prophets to offer warnings. Honestly I think this is what prophecy primarily is today as well. They are godly people who regularly offer us warnings.
After years of wavering back and forth between loving God and loving things that are not God, the people of Israel are sent into exile. They were warned about this all the way back in Deuteronomy—READ Deuteronomy 28.58-59, 64.
3. The prophets always offer hope.
Now while the prophets can seem gloomy to the average Bible, within them is great hope. We cannot forget the covenant promise made to Abraham and His offspring is an unconditional covenant. This means God will keep despite failings of His people. We call this grace!
We just saw in Hosea 2 was God telling His people that He would cast them out because of their empty worship—their worship of idols. But look with me at Hosea 2.14-23 [READ]. I mean, “WHOA!”. This is one of the most amazing passages I have ever read in the Bible! What does all this mean? It means that in the midst of all our rebellion, and even in our exile, God will not abandon His covenant people. Notice the use of the “children’s names” again. The “Valley of Trouble and Desolation” will become a valley of blessing again. Those who had not received “Mercy” will now have mercy. Those who were once not God’s people will be God’s people.
Imagine how this feels for Hosea, his children, and even his bride! You see friends the hope of the prophets is that there is a Greater Prophet coming. One who is willing to marry a prostitute. One willing to have children with that prostitute. One who will has a wife chasing other lovers. But He is willing to go into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her, and win her back.
Look at Hosea’s response to this—READ Hosea 3.1-3. Hosea went and bought back His wife. Let’s stop and think about this for a moment. Prostitution can be a very dangerous and expensive industry. For instance, in the movie the Equalizer with Denzel Washington he uses his savings in an attempt to rescue this young Russian girl from a life of prostitution. When he brings her pimps $10,000, the pimp laughs at him, and says he gets more for her in a month that what he is offering. She is run by Russian gangsters. I mean friends this is dangerous and expensive. This is what Hosea is willing to take on. Why? Because He recognizes this is what God is willing to take on for His bride. God will enter into this dangerous environment, our sinful world, and will purchase us away from the dangerous oppressive pimps of this world—sin, satan, and death.
Friends we must recognize that in the Story we are not Hosea, but Gomer. We are the prostitutes desperately in need of God’s gracious prophet. God is willing to purchase us back even when we don’t to leave that lifestyle. Are we ready to admit today that we are prostitute selling ourselves to other lovers? If we are, and want a better life, then God is standing in the wilderness ready to purchase and rescue us from that lifestyle. All that is required of us to turn away from our lifestyle and trust Him. Are we willing to that today?