Stubborn Love

by Sean Foster on August 4, 2013

Hosea 11:1-11

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them. They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me. The sword rages in their cities, it consumes their oracle-priests, and devours because of their schemes. My people are bent on turning away from me. To the Most High they call, but he does not raise them up at all.

How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath. They shall go after the Lord, who roars like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west. They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the Lord.

I have titled my sermon today Stubborn Love. But let me begin by asking if there are any here today who have actually read through the book of Hosea?

If you follow the weekly reading plan that takes you through the Bible in a year, the book of Hosea comes up sometime in September. Hosea reads like a modern day soap. There’s betrayal, unfaithfulness, rebellion; it’s all there. So, as part of your summer reading, you might consider adding it to your list.

But let’s back up a bit from the passage that Tom read to us this morning in chapter 11 of the book. Listen to the way the book begins, and I have decided to read it to you from a more modern translation, and I often read from Eugene Peterson’s translation, The Message.

It begins: This is God’s message to Hosea, son of Beeri.

The Whole Country Has Become a Whorehouse
• Some of you might now thinking why haven’t I read this book?

The first time God spoke to Hosea he said:
Find a whore and marry her.
(Remember, this is God speaking to his prophet)
Find a whore and marry her.
Make this whore the mother of your children.
And here’s why:
The whole country has become a whorehouse,

unfaithful to me,
their God.

It continues… Hosea did it.
He picked Gomer daughter of Diblaim.
She got pregnant
And gave him a son.

Then God told him:
Name him Jezreel
It wont be long now before I make the people pay.

Now that name Jezreel is actually the name of a town. The name was to remind the Israelites of one of their past sins. It was in Jezreel that the Israelites had massacred members of Israel’s royal family. This was a sin the Israelites had committed against God.

Listen again, God say’s, I’m calling it quits on the kingdom of Israel.

And I mean, this is just the first five verses of the book. Hosea makes it clear that the people of Israel had fallen out of relationship with God. Despite the fact that God had been faithful and full of steadfast love to His people Israel; His people turned away. They had gone looking for other gods.

And so, God uses his prophet Hosea as a living illustration to show the people how bad things had gotten.
• The prophet, who represents God is the groom.
• The Bride, Israel, is a whore.
o She is unfaithful.
o She cheats and whores herself out to other gods.

As the prophet himself is in relationship with a whore, it illustrates the relationship that God has with his people Israel.
• They were in relationships with other gods and ignored and forgot Yahweh.
• They forgot the covenant that God had made with them.
• They forgot God’s goodness towards them.

But things only get worse for Hosea and Gomer. They end up having three children.

The second child is a daughter who is also named by God, she is called Lo-Ruhamah. And translated, it means, not pitied. God say’s, I will no longer have pity on the house of Israel. God even tells Hosea, I will not forgive them.

God wants out! He wants out of relationship. He wants a divorce!

Now the third child, who is by far the worst, he is named Lo-Ammi, which means, not my people.

God is now ready to step out of relationship with the people of Israel.
• I am not going to be your God anymore.
• I am not going to be there for you.
• I am not going to rescue you.
You want those other gods?
You want to worship those worthless idols?
You want to be in relationship with something that wont love you back?
• Fine!
• I’m done with you.
• It’s over between us.

Hosea actually uses a couple of illustrations to show how bad the relationship was between God and the people of Israel.

The book begins with an illustration of marriage. The marriage between Hosea and Gomer was to illustrate the marriage that God had with Israel. But then the illustration changes. Again, Hosea and Gomer as parents to their wayward children, illustrating God as parent to his wayward children Israel.

But when we get to chapter 11, the passage that Tom read to us today, the story makes a dramatic shift. In chapter 11, things really turn around and in fact, God repents.

I mean, over and over again, God says’s how he is giving up on the people.
• He will not forgive them of their sins.
• He will not forgive their betrayal in following other gods.
God say’s he wants out of the relationship, and yet, despite his anger, God finds that he loves Israel. He cannot imagine not loving them.

I mean, these are good illustrations because we can easily relate to them. A marriage. A marriage that is falling apart. God had every right to call it quits and divorce Israel. But I think the illustration that is used by Hosea between a parent and a child is even better. We all know parents who have children who have broke the hearts of their parents by going their own way. Drugs, spending time in jail, associating with the wrong people. But the tragedy for these parents is that the more they love these children, the more they seem to rebel.

I would guess that some of you even know parents who have disowned their children because there was too much heart break. They didn’t know how to help their children. Or, perhaps, more to the point, they couldn’t help their children. And trying to help them only broke their hearts. Perhaps it is best to part ways…

So, when we come to our lesson today that Tom read to us from chapter 11, Hosea recounts some of the reasons for why God wants to leave the children of Israel. They don’t want a relationship with me? Fine, I don’t want a relationship with them either.

But then God starts to reminisce. Listen to his words.

When Israel was a child, I loved him.
I called my son out of Egypt.
• God called the people out of Egypt for their safety.
• For their protection.
• Out of the bondage of slavery.
• God rescued them.

But the more I called them, God say’s
the more they went away from me.

• They ignored God.
• They acted like he didn’t exist.
• They ran away from God.
• In fact, they turned to other gods.

They would sacrifice to the Baal’s, writes the prophet.
• The Baal’s were so-called fertility God’s

They would offer incense to idols, writes the prophet.
• The Israelites would worship lifeless idols.
• But God puts up with their infidelity.
• God tolerates their unfaithfulness.
• God continues to chase after them.

Like a loving parent, I led them with cords of human kindness and bands of love, the text reads.

Within our lesson, the prophet Hosea has changed the illustration from marriage and is now using the illustration of parenthood.

Like a loving parent,
God taught Ephraim to walk.
When Ephraim fell, Yahweh would pick him up.
Yahweh would tend to Ephraim when Ephraim skinned his knee.
God would protect and care for Ephraim.

The prophet mentions “the bands of love”. God would ensure that Ephraim would not wander too far off and get into trouble.

But,…
• Despite the love.
• Despite the care.
• Despite God’s protection.
• Despite how God had provided for Ephraim
They failed to return to Yahweh.
• The Israelites go their own way.
• They follow other god’s.
• They go to other lands like Assyria.
• They even return to Egypt.

Verse 5 of the reading: They have refused to return to me.

This is a God..
This is a parent.. who is heart broken.

God owes the people of Israel nothing.
God has been more than generous and honored the covenant he made with them.
It is Israel who has broken covenant.

The parent owes the child nothing and still decided:
• To love the child.
• To adopt the child.
• To deliver the child from a place where it was being abused.
• Taught the child to walk.
• Mended the child’s wounds.
• Protected the child.
• Nourished the child.
But the child ignores the parent.
The child wants nothing to do with the parent.

Listen to how Eugene Peterson in the Message interprets verse 7 of our lesson: My people are hell-bent on leaving me.

And so, here we see God at a cross roads.

God is ready to leave the people of Israel.

But he can’t.
He can’t leave them.
He loves them so much, he can’t leave the people of Israel.
The very people God has been ranting about for ten chapters.

He loves them…

And it is here in chapter 11 that we see God doing what we would never expect from God. God repents. He changes his mind. He changes. He turns from the direction he intends to go and instead of leaving the people, he decides to embrace them.

I mean, this is fascinating. God changing his mind. God repenting of his intentions.

Listen again to verse 8 that Tom read to us.

How can I give up on you Ephraim?
How can I turn you loose Israel?
I can’t leave you to be ruined by Admah
I can’t leave you to be devastated by Zeboim.
I can’t bear to think such things.
My insides churn at the thought of being separated from you.
My heart recoils.
My compassion for you grows warm and tender.

I mean for ten chapters God goes on and on about how disappointed he is with the people of Israel. How they have hurt him. How they have run away from him. How they have sinned against him. I’m going to leave them. And if you read this for ten chapters, you start to believe it. That God is going to leave the people of Israel. ..

But he can’t. He loves them so much!
• God will not act on his anger.
• He will not destroy Ephraim.
God is so in love with them, he can’t leave them.
Call it stubborn love.
God will not give up on his people.

Somehow, God absorbs his anger and lets love and tenderness win out.

Israel, the child, does nothing to deserve this grace shown by such a loving, merciful and forgiving God.

But neither do we deserve such grace. And yet,… God has lavished His grace and love upon us.
• Despite the fact that we have sinned against God.
• Despite the fact that we also break covenant with God.
• Despite the fact that we run away from God.
• Despite the fact that we make idols out of our possessions.
• Despite the fact that we are sometimes unfaithful.

We did not deserve the gift of God’s only begotten Son. But that’s the point, God loves anyway.

Today as we come to eat and drink from his table, we remember a God who loves us so much that he was willing to die for us.

And as we eat the bread, we will remember Christ being sacrificed on the cross for our sins. For our sin.

As we drink today, we will remember that Christ’s blood was shed for us.
• So that we could be forgiven.
• So that we could be reconciled to God.
• So that we could be in relationship with a God who is head over heals for us.

A-men.

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