Theme: Appreciating the End requires appreciating the cost.
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?
We began this series called the “STORY” 3 weeks. We have been seeking to understand the entire story of the Bible and how it all fits together. So what have we learned so far?
The beginning of the Bible tells us God created a perfect world that is hard for us to imagine now, because our first parents rebelled against their Creator—God. The result was sin entered into the world, and all of their descendants have been living in a continuous cycle of rebellion and sin. Even the intention of humanity's hearts are wicked God decided to show grace, mercy, and compassion on a few in order to bless all of humanity (cf. Gen 6.5, 8; 12.1-3).
Some of those few were men like Noah and Abraham. Their descendents moved to Egypt and became so big they were seen as a threat, so the government decided to make them their slaves. God knew this would happen and used it as a way to display His glory. He used His power to set the nation of Israel free, and destroyed their oppressors. God began to form a nation by providing clear instruction on how they could live in such a way that would glorify Him, and show the other nations around them how wonderful it is to live for God’s glory.
What we will be looking at today is what Israel did with those instructions. My hope is what we will see is...
Theme: Humility flows from embracing our sin, and beholding the glory of God.
1. The continuous cycle of rebellion and repentance.
When you read the rest of the Pentateuch or Torah we see Israel wandering around in the wilderness, because they don’t trust God and His ways. They continue in the problem of rebellion. As we mentioned last week, they are still living like slaves. They literally say things like, “we had it better back in Egypt.” Moses leads these people all throughout the desert, but even he is not aloud to go with them into the Promised Land. Joshua is put in charge, and goes into the Promised Land & wins many battles. But eventually Joshua dies and we see the rise of new leaders—the JUDGES.
It doesn’t start too bad—READ Judges 2.1-5. But Joshua dies in verse 8, and look with me in Joshua 2.10-12 [READ]. Within one generation we see people ignoring the instruction of the LORD. These are the children of those who came out of Egypt, and they saw the results of ignoring God’s instruction. Yet they still choose to do what they want, and not teach their children the path to true joy. This is the cycle that continues throughout the book of JUDGES. God will raise up a new leader to help the people repent and then nations that are oppressing them will be defeated. But the next generation will end up going back to the old ways, and many times end up worse than the previous one. By the time we get to the end of book we have a Levite, which was the priestly or spiritual leader tribe, doing extremely horrible acts. So much so the entire nation ends up in a civil war. The books closes with this statement—READ Judges 21.25.
Much like the people in the Story we want peace and prosperity. I don’t know many people who don’t want a better life for their children. The problem we have is no different from these people. We want peace and prosperity without God. We create IDOLS for ourselves just like them. We want to be like the nation or nations we are surrounded by. Some of us may have been really blessed and are not living with the same struggles as our parents, but our temptation is not view this as grace, but as our own work. We should be saying, or more specifically praying and praising, God that He has decided to bless our efforts when He does not have to. Any blessings you have today come from God and God alone! There are many people who work hard, maybe even harder than you, and never get to see the success you do. Have you ever thought about that? What’s the difference? The Wisdom Literature speaks about these issues...
The rich and the poor meet together; the LORD is the maker of them all.—Proverbs 22.2
Hear this, all peoples! Give ear, all inhabitants of the world, both low and high, rich and poor together!...Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit.—Psalm 49.2, 7-9
In the words of Job, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away” (Job 1.21). It is not wrong to work hard—it is a wonderful gift from the LORD. It is awesome to lie down at the end of your day or week, and feel good about the work you put in. But why are we doing it? Is it for our glory or God’s?
For instance, you could create a better life for your children—better than you ever had. But if their relationship with God is not right, then they will not only end up dead, but they will suffer forever. Their life will get worse over time. That is the claim or reminder of the Bible. What are we living for?
2. The tale of two kings.
This part of the Story continues after the book of JUDGES in the book of I SAMUEL. It actually picks up right were it left off. Samuel becomes the last JUDGE in Israel’s history, and we see the beginning of the KINGS.
During the time of Samuel Israel has some peace and prosperity, but they recognize his sons are super wicked, so clearly even this really godly man did not raise his children to glorify God with their lives. Therefore Israel comes to Samuel with a request—READ I Samuel 8.1-10. Before get upset with Samuel God knew this was going to happen and prepared for it by creating laws that would remind this “king” he works for God—READ Deut 17.18-20.
“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.—Deuteronomy 17.18-20
So the first king of Israel is installed—SAUL. Now listen to the description we immediately learn about this man—READ I Samuel 9.2. Much like many of the judges Saul starts off pretty good, but this verse a play on irony. Saul is going to eventually think because he is king he do things the way he wants and not God’s ways. God is not pleased with Saul.
Eventually God tells Saul through Samuel that his family will not be the royal line in Israel—READ I Samuel 15.22-24. Saul tries to repent, but God is not pleased with Saul. Thus enters the greatest king in all of Israel’s history—DAVID.
There are two important things to understand the stories between Saul and David, because both are sinful men who let God down. First, one views obeying or disobeying the law as a means to keep a position of power and influence, while the other views it breaking the heart of a gracious God. David understands his sin as breaking the heart of God, while Saul’s heart is broken not because it hurt God, but himself. Some time read I Samuel 15 and Psalm 51, and compare the way the two kings repent.
Second, David does not see his sin as one isolated incident but as a lifestyle. Saul has a very surface view of his sin. He thinks he is genuinely a good guy and does not think every intention of his heart is evil. David recognizes that if God does not intervene he will continue in the sin. Saul views the intervention as an interruption to his own desires and goals for life. For Saul it is about SELF-GLORY, while David it is about the GLORY of GOD.
As the Davidic story continues he becomes king through much toil and affliction. Eventually he looks at his palace, and sees God is living in a tent. He decides I want to make an AWESOME house for God—THE TEMPLE. Now this is awesome! God says, “sure, you can do that. But let me tell what I am going to do.” This is long, but please pay close attention to this—READ II Samuel 7.4-16.
WOW! Did you just catch that?! David has the reaction we are all suppose to have. Whenever we think we are about to do something amazing for God He kindly reminds who is God. He is the one who blesses us and not the other way around. David understand he was a part of the story, but the more God revealed Himself to him, the more he saw he was just a part. David regularly experiences the GREATNESS of God, and is humbled by it. This is why the Bible writers tell us David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13.22). We need more David’s in the world. We need more people who become more and more humble by regularly experiencing the vast GLORY of GOD, and also recognize how deep their sin is. We FAIL greatly in comparison to God, therefore, when God speaks we should humble ourselves before the LORD.
We are supposed to see in the stories of the JUDGES and KINGS that evil intentions of humanities continue, but the grace of God is also there in the midst of our sin and rebellion. It is almost as if in the midst of sin the grace of God is this precious jewel sitting in the shadows. It’s scary to go over there because it is mysterious. But once we go over there it lights up the whole room. Let’s humble ourselves before the LORD today, embrace we our finiteness before, and behold the GLORY of GOD.
Introduction: Review and Imagination.
[Try watching the new Exodus movie on HBO this week].
Week 1 we looked at Genesis 1-2 saw a picture of a magnificence perfectly beautiful world created by God. And at the height of that creation God created humanity. They were made to carry out God’s ministry of bringing the goodness of God into the world. But we quickly learn in Genesis 3 that our first parents choose to reject this calling, and decided what was best for them and the world. Christians call this the “FALL”—when humanity fell from away from God’s intended design for them.
We have also seen these desires did not end with our first parents, but continued throughout the history of the world. In Genesis 6 God says—READ Genesis 6.5. God keeps showing His unique loving kindness to certain people throughout the book of Genesis. One of those was Noah, but a descendent of Noah is a man named Abram. We learn in Genesis why God called Abram—READ Genesis 12.3. God wants to bless all the families of the earth through Abram’s offspring. Through Abram God is building a people who will return to God’s design for humanity. One day God will allow these people to experience a world free from the brokenness of sin.
1. Israel’s problems are everyone’s problems.
Where we pick up in the story is with the descendents who come after Abram. Eventually his offspring experience a great famine in their region of the world, and they have to move to Egypt. Through a series of tragic events, one of their families members had become second in command in Egypt, which is the leading super power in this part of the known world. So all the Israelites move their and Exodus 1.7 tell us,”...the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.” We want to notice God is keeping His promise He made to Abram. God is faithful despite the continued failures of people He has chosen. We also do not want to loose sight that God told Abram He would bless his family in order to bless all the families of the earth.
The problem, or crisis, is the Egyptians do not see Israel as a blessing, and thought they might try to take over, so they made them their slaves (Ex 1.8-14). As a growing nation, they end up under severe oppression for 400 years. Instead of building a kingdom that will glorify God Israel is forced to build a kingdom that glorifies the Pharaohs.
But in the midst of this God intervenes and saves a young boy named Moses through an Egyptian. I mean did you just hear that! Through the enemies of Israel God saves a young Israelite baby! Moses is raised as Egyptian royalty, but eventually murders an Egyptian and must flee into the wilderness. He marries a shepherds daughter and becomes one himself. He seems content out there. Then one day he sees a bush that is burning but is not being consumed. I think that might get most people’s attention (Ex 3).
God and Moses have a unique conversation. God reveals to Moses that He has not forgotten what He promised His grandfather, Abraham. God begins the conversation with Moses through revealing Himself more fully to him. And what does He reveal to Moses? FIRST, He reveals He is the God of His forefathers and He is going to rescue His people because of promises He made them—READ Exodus 3.6-7, 9. SECOND, He reveals the nature of who He is. Moses was raised in the Egyptian court, therefore, He was raised to believe in polytheism. God reveals to Him is the Only One true God—READ Exodus 3.14-15. God is essentially saying, “I am the one who was, is, and will always be.”
Moses returns to Egypt after this, and God displays His Deity by performing 10 plagues in Egypt. The last plague is the most important one, because God promises that He will destroy EVERYONE, even Israelites. The only way one could survive was by SUBSTITUTIONAL ATONEMENT. The substitutional atonement was the BLOOD of an unblemished lamb.
There a few things we need to take notice of here. FIRST, the last plague all of creation—READ Exodus 12.29. The sins of every human does not just effect themselves, but ALL of creation (cf. Rom 8.20-22). SECOND, It is easy to forget that even the Israelites would have died without this atonement. Without God warning them what would cover their sins they would have died along with the rest of creation. THIRD, sin is enslaving. Our own sin and the sin of others enslave us. Only God can rescue out of slavery. FOURTH, these are ideas or themes that will carry on throughout the rest of the story. Israel is a microcosm of the whole world.
All the smaller stories of the Bible are about the whole world. Therefore, when look at these stories we are supposed to see what these stories are saying about God, humanity, and the world. For instance, throughout the rest of the first FIVE books of the Bible we will see Israelites say things like, “we had it better in Egypt.” I mean SERIOUSLY?! It was better for you to be slaves and oppressed! I think the biblical counselor Ed Welch compares sin to enslavement. He says it is volunteer slavery. We start out pursuing something we believe will bring us joy—we choose it. But those things never deliver—they always fall short. What ends up happening is they choose us, and they choose to destroy us instead of bringing us life, joy, and peace. Our choices become cruel task-masters.
2. All true freedom requires sacrifice.
What God offers us true FREEDOM, but all slaves must be bought. God does not just sweep our poor choices under the rug, but requires payment. The cool thing is He will provide the payment He requires. Christians call this the GOSPEL.
Israel came to into Egypt with around 70 people in their family, but leave with over 1 million. They leave Egypt, and even with their oppressors change their minds and try to bring them back God destroys their enemies. Israel is TRULY free! God uses this time to talk to them about what FREEDOM in His KINGDOM looks like. Therefore, He gives them the LAW. They go to a place called MT. SINAI and are there about a year. Around 600 laws were given.
The heartbeat of the LAW can be found in Deuteronomy 6. This chapter in the OT, and according to an Israelite, is considered thee most important passage in their history. The SHEMA is found here—READ Deuteronomy 6.4-6. This is a revelation of who God is and who we are to be in light of that revelation. The Israelites are told to talk about God wherever they go or in whatever they are doing (Deut 6.7-9). God shows them what it looks like for them to love the LORD their God with all of their heart, soul, and might.
Now why are they supposed to live this way?—READ Deuteronomy 6.20-25. We the Israelites are truly thankful for God’s redemption, then are should live like they are. For instance, if you meet someone special they may ask you to for exclusive love. This does not mean you can’t love someone else, but you cannot love other people they same way you love that person. There will be rules, statues, or regulations in that relationship. They are not instituted to harm you, take away joy, or freedom. No, they are instituted to MAXIMIZE your joy! The LAWS God gives us are not to harm us, but to bring LIFE and JOY. Listen to what king David has to say about the LAW—READ Psalm 19.7-11.
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.—Psalm 19.7-11
What is that reward? JOY! DELIGHT! Now let me be CLEAR. Some people make the LAW into a god instead of the LAW POINTING us to God. The Law can be a source of joy because it can bring us closer to God. But under the captivity of sin the Law can push us further away from God as well. The Laws are given so God can live among His people. When God is among us there is PEACE, LOVE, and JOY. Turn with me to Exodus 33—READ Exodus 33.14-17.
God gives Israel a regular sacrificial system to remind them of what He did to rescue them. A lot of people had to die to save them—it was costly to God. These were people that God loved and cared about. In a culture of shepherds and farmers they symbol was these animals they cared for would have to die for them realize the cost of it requires to have the presence of God among them. Sin is not just some MERE psychological problem, but has serious effects on layers of our lives and the lives of others around us. The lives of people and things we care about. God cares about these people and things much more than we do, and He wants us to realize the cost our sin has on them.
God build an entire nation to display these truths to the world. The Church is supposed to be the new and better Israel. We are supposed to live like we have been set from the slavery of sin. We have been called by God to live sacrificial lives—READ Romans 12.1.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.—Romans 12.1-2
All of this is rooted in the language and instruction given to Israel. Israel’s sacrificial system was just a symbol of how they were to live. It was not about just offering sacrifices and then living how you want the rest of the year. Listen to what the author of Hebrews tells us about the sacrificial system of Israel:
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near....But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.—Hebrews 10.1-4
When sins are truly taken away we begin to live differently. When are lives become living sacrifices then we deny the flesh and live differently.