Hosea 11:1-11 : "Who Loves You"by Ed de la Cour on November 18, 2012
Hosea 11: 1 - 11: "WHO LOVES YOU?"
Who loves you? That question can bring with it the realization, instead of being loved as you hoped, you are very much alone in this world. You may feel like an orphan because your relationships lack affection and closeness. You may live in the midst of many people, but you feel alone in your spirit. You wish for, you long for love, for a sense you are wanted and needed. On the other hand, sometimes no relationship is better than a bad relationship.
I cannot imagine being Hosea. It is easy to assume life was sane and simple thousands of years ago, but his life-situation is frightening to contemplate. From time to time, God will communicate with us and He will give us an assignment we may not want to receive, but we obey His voice because He is our Lord. If we say Jesus is our Lord, it means we obey His Word. We do not delay and we will not put it off until a more convenient time because delayed obedience is disobedience. Obedience is key to a saving relationship with God. If we claim we have a relationship with God, if we think we have a saving knowledge of Jesus, we will obey Him. More than that, we will want to obey Him; doing what’s right in God’s sight will not be like pulling teeth. Teams of wild horses will not stop us from obeying our Lord. That is a simple and basic truth of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. In John 14: 23 – 24, Jesus said very plainly, “If anyone loves Me, he will obey my teaching… He who does not love Me, will not obey My teaching.” If you aren’t there yet in your life, you are not there at all! So today’s message will be good for you as you give thought to God’s love.
At the outset of Hosea, the text says when God began to speak through Hosea, He gave Hosea this direction: “Go, take yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness.” In other words, Hosea, God wants you to marry a single mother of several children. She will not be a divorced woman, but a woman who made her living as a prostitute. Her children were the unwelcome consequences of her living and sleeping with any man who gave her money. Even worse, Hosea, your family life from that point on and into the future is going to be a picture, lived out live and in living color, a living symbol of the current relationship between God and His people Israel.
From God’s point of view, the people of God – the people of Israel and Judah – were married to God. Many people don’t believe it, but as far as God is concerned, marriage is the most important of human institutions. In Isaiah 54: 5, Isaiah referred to God as our husband: “For your Maker is your husband – the LORD Almighty is His name – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer.” That may be a spiritual distinction falling on deaf ears today, but for anyone seeking to take the Bible seriously, the relationship between God and us is intended by God and it is designed by God to be a close and intimate relationship. This is not some new or unusual teaching. Paul picked up on this in Ephesians 5 when he compared physical marriage with the intimate relationship that exists between the Bride, the Church of Jesus Christ, and her Lord Jesus, our Husband.
Religion teaches us to endure a formal, rather chilly, and bleak relationship with an ambivalent and distant god. That’s not the kind of relationship with God, or the kind of marriage I want to have. Instead, Paul compares our relationship with God to marriage. He taught the husband will give up, will offer up, and will surrender his own life for the sake of his wife. It is selfless love that provokes a response of faithfulness on the part of the wife. It is God’s faithfulness that provokes obedience and love on our part as we consider how great the love of God is for us.
Hosea says the people of God have been unfaithful to their God, to their Husband, to their Savior, their Redeemer; unfaithful to the One who delivered them out of Egypt. They willingly and happily prostituted themselves. They committed spiritual adultery. They went after any other god, any other possession or experience, and made that thing the center of their lives. Spiritual adultery is just as serious in God’s eyes as physical adultery. You soon learn God’s definitions are not our definitions. We kid ourselves into thinking our sins are merely “indiscretions.” We use “poor judgment” when we do wrong. The language God uses is more to the point; He calls us adulterers. Spiritual adultery happens when we have made a commitment to follow and obey the Lord our God and we decide to wander away from that First Love.
Hosea’s wife was a woman named Gomer. True to her character, she even left Hosea and wandered into the arms of another man. I would imagine Gomer took none of this seriously. To her, these were her little flings, more of those harmless indiscretions of which we are so fond. Harmless? Ask the husband; ask the wife who has found their partner in the arms of another if it was harmless!
Many people think that can presume upon the love of God. In Hosea 5:4, we see not only do deeds matter, but if you are going to behave like hell, if that same spirit of prostitution is in your heart, you are not able to turn to God – not until you have acknowledged God. That means until you have repented, until you have turned away from hell, until your living matches your speaking, and you’ve acknowledged God as having first place in your life; you are on your own.
God’s ways are not our ways. God declared His intention that you would belong to Him, that you would be His bride, and no one else’s. We are the ones who think we have a better idea. In Hosea 2: 16 – 20, God again calls us to recognize our relationship with Him is really like a marriage. Verse 16: “In that day you will call Me my Husband.” Verse 19: “I will betroth you to Me forever… in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion... in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD.” Can you name anyone who loves you the way God loves you?
God made Hosea go to Gomer and take her back. He made Hosea show love to her, although she did not deserve his love. She should have been thrown out onto the street, under the bus, but Hosea obeyed the Lord and loved her back. His love drew her home again. God said, “Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites.” His wife might not love Hosea in return, but Hosea was to love her. I wonder how Gomer answered the question, who loves you? I wonder if she was ever able to believe her husband loved her with the love of God, because what she experienced from her husband really was the love of God.
It is a lot easier to talk about God’s love, than it is to demonstrate it. Showing the love of the Father is costly and it is painful. Imagine the hurt Hosea lived through trying to show love to his wife. This is how God draws us to Himself. We would never respond to God were it not for Jesus on the cross, crucified for us.
Showing the love of the Father – that is how God uses us to draw people around us into His love. It is not the quality of our argumentation; it’s our love. God's love led Jesus to offer Himself to die on a cross for us.
The love of the Father does not mean the children get to walk all over their Father, although an argument can be made that we do abuse His love all the time. The Book of Hosea is certainly about a people who abuse the love of God. Yet, God promised to love them if they would only come back, if they would repent of their adultery, and return to God. Whenever we begin to plumb the depths of His passion, we discover God’s love is a love we simply do not deserve.
The Father heart of God contains a love that will not let go. There are many thousands around us who have never known the love of a father. Whatever father love they experienced was shallow and hurtful. Perhaps Dad ran away from his family or maybe he beat them physically or verbally abused them into submission. That was not real love. That was not the kind of love that seeks, the kind of love that pursues, that holds, that protects, that sacrifices for the one who is loved.
The Hebrew word for this kind of love of God is hesed. I don’t know if you will consider this good news, but the Father love of God is pursuing you with His loving kindness. That’s what love does. In Hosea 11, God says He loved Israel and called him out of Egypt. It says God taught His children how to walk. Marian and I remember doing that with our own children. What an amazing experience that was with our kids: holding them, helping, encouraging, affirming, blessing. It has always been a picture to me of God’s love for me.
Hesed is God’s love, especially as that love is expressed to you and me. It sounds like a little word, but it has a huge meaning. God’s love is consistent; He never grows tired or weary. God’s love is ever faithful. He is not a fair weather god, here today and gone tomorrow.
God’s love is fierce and intense. When God pledges to remove the name of Baal, the demon of false worship, from the lips of His people, it means with the intensity of His purpose, God will distract us from our wandering and going astray. Because of our willingness to wander, only the fierce love of God can successfully unhinge us from the constant straying, the back and forth pendulum swings of our hearts moving between adultery and faithfulness. When God says you are forever betrothed, He means it!
God’s love is relentless. You will not be the only person God has pursued to the end of the earth. He comes for you because He loves you. He will not tire of seeking you. He is constantly pursuing. When God came after me, He sought me and sought me and sought me until I could run no more. Who loves you today? God loves you!
The love of God is extravagant and lavish. 1 John 3: 1 says the love of God has been lavished upon us, poured out on us. If the love of God could possibly be contained somehow, it would be poured out completely and there would still be more of God’s love for you.
Imagine then, how the heart of God is broken and disappointed as His own children run away from His love, seeking to please other gods. Israel even burned their oldest children in the fire as offerings to these demon gods. How vile! How awful! More than a few times in the Old Testament, God would cry out that to ask for such behavior never even crossed his mind, and yet Israel was always and forever quick to run to destruction.
I am struck by the unyielding nature of the love of God, how strong He is, and how unwilling God is to allow one of His children to escape His love. So often people hang their heads and fall into the trap set by the enemy of their souls: no one loves me; no one cares for me. The trap is set with the disappointments of relationships gone sour. Who loves me? Is there anyone who cares if I live or die? If that is the question on your mind today, I suggest you consider the love of God for you, especially as it is revealed in Jesus Christ.
If you are experiencing God’s love today, listen to this: You belong to the Kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is the manifest rule and reign of God in this area. According to the Word of God, you are now ambassadors of Christ, representing Jesus, the Good News, to this world. Because we are ambassadors, our friends and families, our neighbors and co-workers all watch us to see how we respond to life as it happens. When we are asked if we know who loves us, they are noticing the way we are living our lives to find our answer. Whether or not they say anything, they are watching you because they are secretly hoping you do have answers. They are hoping you do know who loves you. They are hoping you do have the key to a new life. They see your ethics and they remember whether you are faithful. They watch the way you treat your wife. If it’s there, they will see your hypocrisy. They see the effect the presence of God has in your life. They don’t care about what God did for you years ago; they are looking to see if He is present in your life today.
If God’s love is so real it will not yield, if God will not give up, if God will not throw you away, then folks around you are seeing the love of God being played out in your life. They are seeing undeserved love given, whether or not there is reciprocation. They are seeing longsuffering. They are seeing mercy and grace on a scale they would not have believed. Hosea’s love for his wife is God’s love for you.