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Monday, January 19, 2015

God Knows the Heart

A Severed Relationship
Hosea 1
Shirley Connolly


Introduction: This week's theme for our Koiononia Community study comes through the first chapter of Hosea. I've called it A Severed Relationship but it could also be called The Harlot Bride.

In Chapter One of Hosea, the prophet is about to marry Gomer, the harlot. This might not have been something Hosea, a prophet of all prophets, or actually any prophet of God might normally do. Yet God had His reasons for telling Hosea this is what HE wanted. And once the LORD decides something, no matter who it's about or for what reason, God also expects obedience.
Hosea's forthcoming obedience to God would ultimately change his entire future.

WHAT WAS GOD'S PURPOSE?

The Lord wanted to get a precise message to the people. He looked for the best way. He figured this was the one He'd use to reach the Israelites, who were, at this particular time, in a very bad state.
A very important message is here for you and me as well. What is God's purpose for us?

Perhaps you don't think your life is anywhere close to that of harlot's life or maybe that this book of Hosea might prove interesting but not relate to you. But what does God see in us?

As we study Hosea, we will have the opportunity to compare what we are really like on the inside; maybe not so much with our outside actions, but in our hearts.

God knows our hearts so much better than we do.

In the book of Hosea, we'll learn how the harlot Gomer will choose to continue on with her questionable ways even after she's married, and against her very own husband. She will show how she's a person who never once deserves the kindness she receives from a very giving person.

There is something deeper here too. Something we can take to heart.

God wants you and I to fully grasp through this book of Hosea just how much compassion He truly has not only for what happened in this situation but for us and for the entire world.

Sometimes it is difficult to get our hearts and arms around just how all-embracing the depth of God's love really is.

I.                   WHO and WHY HOSEA?
Preliminary

Hosea was one of God's wonderful prophets. Some commentators gave titles to the prophets as either major or minor, but you wouldn’t necessarily have found that emphasized in any Hebrew translation of scripture. ALL PROPHETS HAD A MAJOR PURPOSE IN THE LORD'S EYES FOR THEY HAD SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO GET ACROSS TO THE PEOPLE THEN AND NOW

God decided to use these prophets who belonged to a particular period in what we now know as the divided kingdom. We read about them in several important books of the Old Testament.

We might wonder why God chose to raise these men up when He could have used anyone if He'd wanted to. Just like today -- God can use anyone He wants to serve His purpose..

During this time in history there were ruling Kings all over the place but most were filled with their own problems. Many, if not most of those Kings continually failed. With failing Kings, God chose to look to these prophets instead to get the right words out to the people.

The Divided Kingdoms: Jeremiah was the last prophet of the Southern Kingdom. Hosea was a prophet of the Northern Kingdom. He came to warn the nation of its forthcoming captivity. In his book, we will come to understand the results of a Broken HOME or having a Broken HEART, while Jeremiah, we see the illustration of a Broken NATION. Since Hosea was a man with a broken heart, he was the best person God could use to convey what He wanted to the people. What He can convey to you and me.

  • He wanted Israel to see it, acknowledge it, and believe it
  • He still wants Israel to see, acknowledge, and believe…but they don't yet.
  • He wants you and I to know and live according to God's ways  

For these prophets, and especially for Hosea, the message seems severe, yet in the end through the tender mercies of God, there's always a way out and a communication infinitely important to learn and comprehend -- to take to heart.

Hosea's wife Gomer shows us a woman who either already was a harlot when Hosea went out to get her, or a woman who became a harlot after he took her to wife. Different commentators bring it out differently, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter. The message is clear.

God's message is that many continue to live apart from Him.

So often, we think the Old Testament Standards don't apply to us but they do…

God wants people to see just how far they have come from living up to His standards and how easy it is to do so. God has set those standards for everyone. The Book of Hosea will show us just how unfathomable God's feelings are for us, in spite of the many ways we so often let Him down. This book will also show us the mercies of God and how amazing they are if we will only continue forward in our Christian walks, rather than slip back.

HIS MERCY and HIS FORGIVENESS -- True grace in action

II.                BECOMING OBEDIENT TO THE CALL
Hosea 1:1-6

If you’ve taken a moment to read these verses, you'll find it pretty startling what the Lord is asking Hosea to do. Either wed a woman already a harlot or one that God knows is going to go in that direction.

A.     Hosea, the Prophet
1.      God knew what He was asking of Hosea. Hosea chose to be obedient to it.
2.      When God says "This is what I want you to do, to anyone, including the prophet Hosea" He didn’t mean it as a request, it was a command.
3.      God was not just granting Hosea permission to marry a specific person so God could turn around and make things go wrong. God had a plan to fulfill. He would show both Hosea and Hosea's wife in the story what she was really like.

The Lord knew exactly what would happen. God always knows. It shouldn’t be difficult for us to remind ourselves that if we belong to the LORD, He knows --- He knows --- He knows 

Ø  He knows where we came from;
Ø  He knows where we're going,
Ø  He knows what was on our mind and in our hearts yesterday,
Ø  He knows where our hearts were, and are, and whether to the good or bad,
Ø  He knows what is on our mind and in our heart right now.

Stop and think for a minute what has been on your heart this morning.

HE KNOWS.  YES, JESUS KNOWS.

Ø  He also knows what we are going to think about and then ultimately do, tomorrow!
Ø  He also knows what is His will and what is not. DO WE?

It's perilous to play around with what some call God's perfect will compared to God's permissive will. We either are in His will or we aren’t. There is nothing in the Old Testament scriptures that teaches us about permissive will in difference to God's only will. And if we aren’t living in God's will -- then we are doing our own thing.

Perhaps that is one reason God gave us the scripture: And every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

When God shows you or tells you something He wants you to do that isn't necessarily what you might decide to do on your own initially, how do you go about finding the answer?

B.     Gomer, the Harlot
According to Mosaic Law it would have been proper for Gomer to have been stoned to death, once Hosea learned what she was and that she had a life of harlotry, either as an unmarried harlot first or a wife who turned that way. But what God is showing is the parallel between physical harlotry (as with Gomer) and Spiritual Harlotry (as with Israel, who Gomer represents in this story)

Gomer's infidelity is best described as Israel's infidelity

In God's eyes, there is little difference between the two whether it's PHYSICAL harlotry or adultery and SPIRITUAL harlotry and adultery. But how does this apply to you or me today?

There is a real parallel here. There might be someone who tries to play fast and loose with the Lord and in their Christian walk. Maybe you know someone like this. That's a very dangerous place to be. In God's sight, He sees that, by itself, as SPIRITUAL harlotry.

C.     Physical vs Spiritual Harlotry?
One way to observe is when someone chooses not to cling tightly to the Lord and in her relationship with Him. It's so easy to play fast and loose with the Lord in one's Christian walk.

In other words, we don't look to Him for all our answers, because we simply spend too much time doing our own thing. As we do, we find ourselves playing on the fence, or maybe even leaning toward the ways of the world better than is spiritually healthy for us. It begins to get harder and harder to live with our focus in tact, and in a place that is always pleasing to God.  We begin to lose the fire in our life that was once there.

This that we do physically by our actions can slowly turn to spiritual harlotry. Selling ourselves too short -- Promoting worldly ways more than Godly ways.

Have you ever done that with spiritual compromise, those times when we make excuses for what we do or what someone else does?  

As we read here in scripture, God used plain language with which to speak. He didn’t hold anything back. Now, in the pulpit and in so many other places where faith is shared and discussed, you hear the importance of being politically correct. But the Word of God never changed and it won't now. It still says and means the same thing it did when God inspired it. (God could care less about being PC)

D.    That Spiritual Lesson

We read now about Gomer and Hosea's children. God will use the children of this marriage to teach an object lesson to us.
1.                  Jezreel, the name of Hosea and Gomer's first son is given to mean "God will scatter" which is exactly what happens. Jezreel (a city) turns into a place with a bloody history. God is going to show here that the Northern Kingdom where Hosea lives the people will be scattered, and they were.
2.                  Lo-Rummah was the daughter to Hosea and Gomer. God instructed them to give her that name, which meant she "never knew her father's pity"

What did that come to mean? Some commentators intimated that she did not know who her true father was.

How I see this revealed is when we look at the scandal going on in Hosea's house. God is basically saying: YOU WON'T KNOW MY PITY FOR I AM NOT YOUR FATHER

(Another way to say that is because of what you are doing, you are living as if I am not your father, or as if you have no relationship with me.)

We know His grace is sufficient for all of us, as it is with everything. But how many times do we find ourselves persisting in rejecting God's mercy and His grace in our lives? That's when we need to be ever-so-careful about using these free moral agents of ours (our strong willed minds and hearts) so freely.

It's too easy to live in defeat, when we try to think things through by ourselves. The choices we make mean so much more than we ever realize until we suddenly see after we make the decisions we do, the effect our decisions have on others.

Yes, everything happens for a reason. But how far do we go before we step beyond the boundaries with God? How far below the lines of God's grace will a person actually go and still think he or she can get away with it? Sinking so low in sin, the Grace of God cannot be reached.

A person can trifle with God only so long.

That's what the nation of Israel did. God is really trying to show them themselves through showing them what is happening here through Hosea's actions and GOMER'S actions. Do you think they are opening their eyes even yet?

III.             GOD DELIVERS
Hosea 1:7-end
If you are still reading, by what we see here in the seventh verse, you can also find a parallel to it in 2 Kings 19, and Isaiah 37. There is another prophecy of Hosea there (we find them filtered throughout the book). I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them…

We see how God miraculously delivers the people of the Southern Kingdom but He does not deliver those of the Northern Kingdom. Some of this is shown by the children we just described and the one that follows. In verses 8 and 9 we read about the next child of Hosea.

3.      Lo- Ammi, this one is called. It means "not my people" or not my child, speaking specifically about the nation Israel. But I added it to this next section because it must be read in the context of the verses to come more than the verses from before like the other two kids.

It looks at first like God is ready to give up on Israel, but I called this section "God Delivers" because it is not so. In the next few verses it shows He instead shows more grace than ever Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered…)

His prediction shows that there will be a rejection of Israel for a while, but God in His patience, and even with Him knowing they wanted nothing to do with Him, He still is filled with mercy and compassion for them. God's hand is stretched out to so many to try to bring them back to Him.

It's a precious promise of just how much He wants us to know of HIS love for us too. God does not give up on the ones He claims as His. The Jewish people still can't see it.

Do we as Christians take Him for granted? Or do we as Christians live our whole hearts for Him because of that love, compassion, and mercy He has for us?

IV.             FAITHLESS WONDER
Hosea 2:1- 11

When man or woman proves faithless, God still finds a way to prove just how faithful He is. After we read of all the tragic things that come to Israel because of their faithlessness, we also read how God will come through for them.

Two tremendous promises are shown in what we've read.
Ø  That they (Israel) would experience an increase in growth or population.
Ø  Also that the nation would begin to turn back to God.

Remember how He said the Northern and Southern Kingdoms would come together again and the twelve tribes would again become a single nation? That too was a remarkable promise of God.

Before that we read several "I WILL" verses which spoke of what God had in mind that didn’t seem so great. For your challenge, take the time to look them up and jot them down.
~ I will avenge Israel's blood
~ I will break the bow
~ I will show no mercy
~ I will utterly take Israel away
THEN to Lo Ammi
~ I will not be your God

In those ways, God was showing His purpose in its severity. And yet, we read also of His compassion which is so much greater. It's so important to see the entire picture. God, BECAUSE of His love had to act in judgment because of the infidelity going on in Israel. But His love never changes.

  • How many times will a person turn back from the blessings of an Almighty God? 
  • How many times will we take our Lord for granted and do our own thing?

When I think about this, the darkest period of Israel's history, I also have to apply it to today with the attitudes of so many people … with my own attitude of heart about my relationship with God

Thankfully God is still showing His purpose with us, whether it is with hope or with discipline first. In other words, Calvary is the ultimate expression of what Love really is.

G. Campbell Morgan said:
God interprets Himself to us through our own experiences, an experience we are on cannot always be understood at the moment we are going through it.

In other words, in the midst of tragedy anyone can find the love of God.
We need only to look for it.

Summary:

It's a tragic and heartbreaking story thus far -- this story in Hosea. Someone is taken in and accepted, love and cared for. That same Someone turns away and descends as low as she can go in spite of the goodness of another. And that Someone is restored again

So what is the lesson we are learning from this so far?

The story of Hosea (which allegorically tells us of God's love and also of Israel's rebellion) shows
Ø  How HOSEA came to understand the HEART of GOD.
Ø  We see now or we will begin to see what God suffered when His people sinned.
Ø  It tells you and me what God STILL suffers when you and I sin against Him.

Hosea would best be described as the prophet with the broken heart. He reveals through his book of prophecy the real nature of sin and the strength of divine love.

Never forget how Sin wounds the heart of God. God's agony is also revealed when His people choose to no longer be His.

Thankfully, in spite of sin and rejection, God finds that perfect way that makes it possible for the sinner to come home.


Sources gleaned from G. Campbell Morgan, Matthew Henry, Warren Weirsbe, Charles Spurgeon

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for this study, Shirley Connolly. I look forward to the next one.

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  2. Thanks, Janice. I enjoy doing these studies. GBU

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  3. I am enjoying this class on Hosea. This is one book of the Bible I have not read yet. Thanks for doing this. I will be back.

    Diane Carver

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  4. I really appreciate your coming by Diane. Watch for part 2 in a week or so. GBU

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