“Go marry an adulterous woman.” That’s what God told Hosea to do in the beginning of his prophetic career. “Go marry a promiscuous woman and have children.” It’s hard to believe God would ask the prophet to do something this strange, but Hosea did it.
Then, God tells Hosea to call his children crazy names. His first son is to be named Jezreel which means God scatters. Hosea’s daughter is called Lo-Ruhama which means unloved. Hosea’s third child, a son, is named Lo-Ammi which means not my people. God has a purpose for Hosea naming his children these awful names. God uses the names as a way of communicating to Hosea and the people of Israel that God is going to scatter the nation because Israel is not loved and no longer God’s people.
God, too, has a purpose for Hosea marrying an adulterous woman. Hosea’s marriage is a metaphor for God’s relationship with Israel. God wants Hosea to know what it is like to love unfaithful people. The union of 2 people in marriage can be the most intimate relationship just as our relationship with God is to be intimate. God likens Israel’s infidelity in worshipping Baal and Asherah to that of an unfaithful spouse.
Again, and again, throughout history, God tried to turn the people back from their worship of idols. Like we read last week, God shows up in a big way. The people respond with overwhelming faith and public confession. But, it’s not long before they’re back to their old ways. Psalm 78 is a good summary of all that God has gone through with the people of Israel. God brought them out of Egypt. God spared them again and again. The people were rebellious again and again. They would call on God and when He answered, they would be faithful for a short time. Then, they quickly went back to worshipping the false idols.
God was concerned with the people’s worship of the Canaanite idols for many reasons. They were straying away from the covenant with God. They were choosing other gods over the One True Living God. God was concerned about how the love fests caused people to betray their marriage covenants. But, more so, God was concerned with the human sacrifice that was often part of worship of the Baals. God expected His people to keep the commandment not to kill or murder and human sacrifice was most definitely against the 6th commandment.
Hosea’s message is more concerned with proper worship of God than social justice like the other prophets. Hosea wants the people to turn toward God, repent of their idol worship and be faithful people of the covenant. Every time the people of Israel go back to worshipping idols they are unfaithful to God just like a cheating spouse. Hosea knows what that’s like from being married to an unfaithful spouse. God wants Hosea to know that God is affected by the people’s unfaithfulness and grieves, just like a husband grieves when his wife cheats. God is hurt by their infidelity and angry that they keep turning away from Him.
In chapters 1 – 3 of Hosea, God uses the metaphor of marriage for His relationship to Israel. Then, sometime in chapters 4 – 10, God switches to the metaphor of a parent and rebellious children. The relationship between a parent and a rebellious child is much different than the relationship of a husband and unfaithful wife.
All kids rebel is some way as teenagers. That’s what the teen years are about. Teens begin to assert their independence and want to be able to make decisions for themselves. They think they know what is best for them and can govern themselves better than all of mom and dad’s crazy rules. A parent has the difficult task of deciding when it is safe for a child to rebel and learn a lesson or when it is too dangerous and the child needs to be prevented from bad behavior.
I thought I was a rebellious kid and I know my brother was. Mom seems to see things a little differently. She doesn’t think we were all that bad as teenagers. I’ve since discovered that she knew about many of the mischievous things my brother and I did, even the stuff that I thought she didn’t find out about. That’s one of the things about living in a small town. She knew what we had done before we even got home. We hadn’t even had time to come up with a good fib about it.
My mom and dad allowed my brother and I to make some mistakes so we could learn the important lessons. They allowed us to be kids and make mistakes. They prevented us from making mistakes that were too dangerous, because they loved us. But, there were times they wanted to beat the snot out of us.
The first 8 verses of Chapter 11 of Hosea is God’s thoughts on giving up on His rebellious teen, Israel. They had tried Him one too many times. He had helped them over and over and over again. They were just too rebellious and He was done.
Then, something happens within God. Nothing changed with Israel or their behavior. There was no repentance. The change was in God. God decided He would not give up on Israel. They may be a rebellious people and He may be angry. But, He is not going to give up on them. Just like a loving parent doesn’t give up on a rebellious teen.
I kept coming back to the Prodigal son when thinking about a parent and a rebellious child. It’s a story we are all familiar with. The father has 2 sons. One takes his inheritance and wanders off to live a wild life. The other stays and works hard for his father. He is the faithful son. When the Prodigal son comes back to be a servant after squandering all his money, the father restores him to his place in the family. We hear the story of a loving, forgiving, compassionate, graceful Father.
That’s what we hear in the 11th chapter of Hosea, a loving, forgiving, compassionate, graceful Father. The people of Israel don’t repent to change God’s heart. God loves them and deals with them as a loving parent, because that is God’s nature. They may deserve the wrath of God. He may have been ready to unleash His wrath, but He pulled back. He chose to spare them, because that is God’s way. He offers unmerited grace and love even when we are at our most rebellious.
Verse 8 – 9 are God’s vow to not give up on the rebellious child. “How can I give up? My heart has changed; my compassion has been aroused. I will not lash out my fierce anger. Because I am God.” The Prodigal son’s father didn’t give up on him when he went away and God didn’t give up on Israel when they strayed.
The Old Testament God is often thought of for His anger and wrath, judgment and penalty. But, this God of Hosea 11 who is gracious and loving is the same Old Testament God. We know God in the New Testament as revealed in Jesus Christ is loving and gracious. We have a hard time reconciling wrath and judgment with love and compassion. Grace is the bridge between wrath and love or judgment and compassion. Even before Jesus, we see God’s grace offered to Israel. God may be angry, but God has compassion and offers grace.
That loving, compassionate, graceful God is with Paris, Beirut and Baghdad. Recently, there have been terror attacks in Beirut and Baghdad then Paris this weekend. Many of the people of Syria and Iraq live in constant terror. For them, God offers His loving, compassionate Presence to survivors healing from wounds and troubled minds, to families mourning the loss of loved ones, and to people afraid to leave their home.
There are plenty of awful preachers in pulpits today claiming that these nations brought this terror on themselves for being unfaithful to God. It is easy to jump to that conclusion when we read difficult texts like Hosea that reveal an angry God. But, we have to read past those verses and move beyond that interpretation to see that God changed His heart and promised Israel compassion and grace. I don’t believe God passed judgment on France and called on terrible things to happen to them. God didn’t give up on Israel and, for however faithful or unfaithful France, Lebanon, and Iraq, and for that matter America, for however faithful or unfaithful we are, God hasn’t given up on us.
I do believe God has directed His anger toward ISIS and has condemned the terrorists. God was most angry with Israel for participating in human sacrifice in their worship of Baal. God calls people to act with love and justice toward our neighbors. I am confident saying that God is furious with terrorists who disregard human dignity and slaughter innocent men, women and children going about enjoying the life God gave them.
Killing in the Name of Allah is an abomination of the Islamic faith. The terrorists have confiscated a long history of devotion to the God of Abraham and twisted it into an indignant call to arms to avenge the wrongs they feel have been done to them brutally murdering anyone who opposes them.
I want to say ISIS has the wrath of God coming for them. Then, I’m reminded that however angry God was He had compassion and grace to offer Israel. I don’t know that God will give up on terrorists. I don’t know that He will give up hope that they’ll change their ways. I don’t know if He’ll give up hope that they will put down their arms and take up the work of peaceful reconciliation and compromise. That’s the tough thing about grace. God gives it to people we don’t think deserve it.
O Compassionate, Loving, Forgiving, Gracious God, we pray for the souls of the dearly departed 128 killed on Friday in Paris. We pray for the uncounted souls of the dearly departed around the world taken by terrorism. Lord, receive their precious souls into your everlasting care and unfailing goodness. Raise them to the newness of life in eternal grace. Lord, we pray for those who have survived terrorism with physical wounds. Place your gentle healing hand upon them to restore their bodies. Lord, we pray for those who have survived terrorism yet suffer from trauma and continued fear. Make your Presence known to them today. Give them the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding. Lord, we pray for the terrorists inflicting unthinkable violence upon our world. Change their hearts, Lord, that they may come to the tables of negotiation with the true conviction of faith seeking reconciliation and peace. God, we pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen.