We're here tonight to study and to finish our study of the Book of Hosea. So if you'll turn to chapter 12, we will continue tonight as we finish off this exciting prophecy.
Speaking of the coming of the Lord, wouldn't it be great if before we finished our study tonight the Lord would show up?
Even if we don't know if the Angels won the game or not. it would just be great to have the Lord return.
Once upon a time, there was a woman who was very discontented. She married a banker who lavished her with money and with gifts. She became discontented with the banker and divorced him and married a movie star who showed her the Hollywood lifestyle. She soon lost her enammerment with the movie star and married a preacher who spoke about the verities of life and death. She didn't last long in that marriage. Her fourth husband was a mortician.
And somebody remarked what an odd lineup of men to marry and divorce And so somebody asked, why did you marry those men? She said, it's quite obvious and very easy. I married one for the money, two for the show--
--three to get ready, and four to go.
Now on a more somber note, and in real life there was once a woman named Gomer who became disenchanted with her own marriage to the prophet, Hosea, the one we're studying. And God forewarned Hosea that she would leave him and leave the family, which she did, and it was all about the money. She went after other lovers, and God told Hosea about this gal and about what would happen. Because on an even more serious note, that's exactly what the children of Israel were doing with God, leaving him and going out on God, committing spiritual adultery, going after other gods, other worship systems, other alliances. Because of that, it broke the heart of God, and God would send judgment.
Unreciprocated love always brings pain, because, you see, love is meant to flow in two directions. It's never meant to be unilateral, but bilateral, that is pouring out love, you want love in return. And when it only flows in one direction and is never reciprocated or returned, the heart breaks. Hosea loved his wife, and even when God said, go love her again and bring her back, he did so, and she spurned his love. And the relationship was never solid because she was always in her mind thinking of other men, other relationships. And it's interesting that God would choose this tender-hearted prophet to experience much the same things that God was experiencing so that when he shared in prophesy to Ephraim, the 10 northern tribes, he would feel the emotion in his heart and prophesy and speak with great pathos great emotion the very words of God.
The truth was this: Israel was lost and didn't even know it. That is tragic. It's one thing to be lost and say, I'm lost. It's another thing to be absolutely lost and be unaware of your condition. You have to be aware of your condition before you turn and seek God in repentance.
One day, a grandmother took her two sons to Disneyland, and they loved Disneyland. And they loved the parade when the toy soldiers would march and go through the square, and she couldn't find Mikey, the four-year-old, during the parade. She called for him and searched for him and sat down just exhausted, and there was Mikey, marching with the toy soldiers in the parade. Now Mikey was lost in her estimation. Mikey didn't know it. Had she not found him, he would have marched right on through and been absolutely lost later on, not able to find Grandma. Well, the parade was about to stop.
The music was about to stop for those 10 northern tribes in Ephraim. And we find that tonight. In verse one of chapter 12, the Lord speaks to the prophet. Ephraim feeds on the wind and pursues the east wind. He daily increases lies and desolation. Also, they make a covenant with the Syrians, and oil is carried to Egypt. They had this tendency to form alliances with other nations, and they were making a statement. In looking to Egypt in making alliances with Tiglath-Pileser, the Assyrian emperor, and selling off their products down south to Egypt. They were basically saying we don't trust God anymore.
For us to be stable as a nation, we have to form political pacts, alliances, with other nations. The irony is that one of these nations, the northern kingdom of Assyria, would be their very doom. You see, when the King of Israel made an alliance by paying tax as tribute money, paying off the Assyrians, they eventually saw it wasn't a good idea. They were draining all of their money on the north. And so the King of Israel decided, let's get Egypt to form an alliance with us to fight against Assyria, and that was their doom. When the Assyrians found that out in 722, they came down and conquered Samaria and took those people captives.
Israel was always in a precarious situation between two superpowers, the superpower in the north Assyria, the superpower in the south, Egypt. And because of that, Israel was always seeking the balance of power. How do I form the right kind of alliance so that I'll stay stable as a nation? Of course, we know what the answer was. The answer was trust in the Lord. He will be your protector, your provider. He founded this nation. He'll help preserve this nation. They would have none of it.
So verse 2, the Lord also brings a charge, the Hebrew word reeb, which means a legal charge. God is saying I'm taking you to court. The Lord brings the charge against Judah. Now Judah's the southern kingdom, the two southern tribes, and will punish Jacob. Jacob is the term referring back to before the name was changed to Israel, and you often find that God goes back and speaks of Jacob the way God found the patriarch before the name was changed to Israel. And collectively all of Israel in the north and Judah in the south is under this one term, this one banner, Jacob. So the Lord brings a charge against Judah and will punish Jacob according to his ways. According to his deeds, he will recompense him.
Always keep in mind when we're going through these Old Testament prophets, these minor prophets, that the kingdom was split after Solomon where Rehoboam took the two southern tribes, and Jeroboam took the 10 northern tribes. There was always an animosity between them. The animosity however, would grow worse after the captivity, even more so than before the captivity.
In 722 b.c. when the Assyrians came and conquered the northern kingdom, destroyed Sumerian, it was their habit to bring in other conquered peoples from other lands that they had conquered and repopulate the area with a whole slew of foreigners. Now, the worship system in the North was already fractured, and it was already polluted, corrupted, but even more so by bringing in other peoples with other gods and goddesses, corrupting and polluting it further.
About 130 some odd years later when Judah was taken into Babylonian captivity, they were there, but they returned after 70 years. When they returned after 70 years, they wanted nothing to do with Sumeria any longer, so much so that when a couple of emissaries from the northern tribes and specifically from Sumeria tried to help Nehemiah and Ezra rebuild the city and the temple, they would have nothing to do with them. So the animosity grew and widened.
You may remember toward the end of the Book of Nehemiah when Nehemiah is back in Jerusalem on a second occasion, and he discovers that one of the priests has married the daughter of one of their enemies, the daughter of Sanballat, the governor of Sumeria. When he finds out that the high priest has been polluted, he takes this fella and kicks him out of Jerusalem. Josephus, the Jewish historian, tells us this young man fled north to his father-in-law, Sanballat, the enemy of the Jews in Jerusalem, and brought with them a Torah scroll, the first five books of Moses, and started, at that point, a rival religion on Mount Gerizim were a temple had been built and started making up things, retelling the story, saying that Abraham didn't almost sacrifice Isaac down on Mount Mariah, but on Mount Gerizim, denying the 39 books of the Old Testament and held only to the first five books of Moses.
That's how that Samaritan religion evolved so that by the time of Jesus that gap was wide. And when Jesus was there facing the woman at the well of Samaria, she said, our fathers worship in this mountain, Mount Gerizim. You Jews say, Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship. And before Jesus got to the heart of the matter, he said, you don't know what you worship. We know what we worship for salvation is of the Jews. So the north had been corrupted and stayed corrupted even through the New Testament times.
He took his brother, verse three, by the heel in the womb, and in his strength, he struggled with God. Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed. He wept and sought favor from him. He found him in Bethel, and there he spoke to us. That is the Lord, God of Hosts. The Lord is his memorable name.
In this chapter God is going into the past. Now in chapter 13 God will address the present, and chapter 14 God will deal with the future. But here, the Lord goes back into their past and looks at the patriarch Jacob, a thumbnail sketch of Jacob's life, to show that this fella Jacob always had a penchant for being a scrapper. He was a wrestler. He was a fighter. So going back to the birth of Jacob and then later on to another incident where he wrestled with the angel of the Lord at Peniel. The meaning is obvious. This guy always jostled and wrestled and had an agenda.
You'll recall that when Jacob's mother, Rebecca, was pregnant with the twins Esau and Jacob, that there was a jostling in her womb. There was a lot of activity. There's usually a lot of activity during pregnancy, but it was abnormal. And so she went to the Lord and asked the Lord about it. Why this increased activity in her womb? And the Lord said, two nations are in your womb. Well that would certainly account for lots of activity, now wouldn't it? Two nations are in my womb? And the Lord explains, two people will be separated from you. They will fight against each other. The older shall serve the younger.
The first one that was born came out, and he was all red, and he was very hairy, abnormally hairy as a baby. And so they named the child according to the circumstances of the birth, and the Hebrew Esau is very similar to the Hebrew hairy. So they said, look, he's hairy and red. Call him Harry. After Harry was born, grabbing onto his heel was his twin brother. His twin brother was given the name Yacov, heal catcher, supplanter. Even from the womb, he was trying to trip his brother and get ahead, and it actually was accurate of the life of Jacob. He was a conniver. He was a supplanter. He wanted to be first, and the prediction is that he would be first. He would occupy that level of the first born, and Esau sold his blessing to Jacob, and heel-catcher, that striver moved ahead.
Well eventually, he went from his home. His mom said, look, your brother's awfully angry at you and is going to kill you, so I suggest that you go to Padanaram. And so he fled from home, and he went over to where Laban was. And when he was on the way back-- there is that story in the Book of Genesis where an angel of the Lord wrestled with him until the break of the day. And he's wrestling with him, jostling with him, striving with him. And finally, this angel of the Lord, who is called by Jacob later on the Lord himself, says to Jacob, what's your name? He said, I'm Heel Catcher. He said, well I'm changing your name. It's not going to be Heel Catcher Yacov any longer. It's going to be Israel, one who fights with God, one who strives victoriously with God.
And there's that story of how he dislocated his hip. He said, I won't let you go. That is Jacob. I won't let you go to this angelic being, this angel of the Lord, until you bless me. So these are the two incidences that are mentioned here.
And look in verse 5, that is the Lord of Hosts. The Lord is his memorable name. Literally, it's Yahweh or the Lord. Yahweh is his memorial. His name is his memorial. Anytime time you find a capital L, capital O, capital R, capital D it's the tetragrammaton, the ineffable name of God sometimes pronounce Jehovah or Yahweh. Yahweh, his name is his memorial. You'll never find in the Bible where God says, build me a memorial. Remember me by building me some statue or graven image.
Now, sometimes they were instructed to remember an event or an occasion by some stone altar or some pile of stones that when the children later on would ask, hey, what's all this about? You could point to it and say, the Lord did this for us at this place and at this time. But, as far as a memory of God, a reminder of God, his name is his memorial. So that whenever somebody builds a memorial to remember God, a statue, a graven image which God forbade to remember God, it indicates something about that person. It indicates they have lost something. They have lost the present awareness of God, and they need a reminder. You know what it's like if God is that far away from you and you need some visible statue to remind you of God, it's because you've forgotten God. So you walk by the statue and go, oh, that's right. God! I'd forgotten.
But if you have a relationship with Him and you walk with Him and you worship Him and you talk to Him and He talks to you, you don't need any visible reminder. His name is His memorial. So you, by the help of your God, return observed mercy and justice and wait on your God continually.
Notice in verse 6, three stages: repentance, obedience, subservience. That's the stages of coming back to the Lord. Repentance, return, obedience, observe mercy and justice and then subservient. Serve the Lord. Wait on your God continually.
A cunning Canaanite, deceitful scales are in his hand. He loves to oppress. The Canaanites, which included at that time the Phoenicians, had a reputation of being money lovers, traffickers, and they'd always cut corners to get a good deal. In fact, even the great Greek poet, Homer called the Canaanites lovers of money. God is applying that well-known term used for Canaanites to the 10 northern tribes, the people of Israel. It seems that they were treating each other unfairly. So much of the Old Testament has warnings against using diverse weights or unjust scales so that you would weigh the scale a certain way, and you would sell something to someone, and the buyer would think he's getting more than he actually is from the seller. God save your scales must be just, and he's referring to the unjust practices with each other. And Ephraim said, surely I have become rich. I have new found wealth for myself. In all my labors, they shall find in me no iniquity that is sin.
Now we're getting to the root of the problem. Ephraim is being lifted up, and pride surfaces in so many of these verses in chapters 12 and 13. Ephraim was reasoning this way. My very success, my very prosperity is proof that the prophets are wrong and that we're OK with God. Look at the prosperity. Look at the blessing outwardly in our lives. It must be proof. Since God isn't intervening, he's not doing anything. These prophets are preaching doom and destruction and judgment. It hasn't happened. I must be OK. It's always a mistake to think that the patience of God is God allowing sin. It's a mistake when the forbearance and the long suffering of God is somehow seen as God letting me get away with it.
There is a perversity in our nature. I remember as a kid doing all sorts of things that were wrong, that I knew were wrong, committing even crimes but going to church. And because I was going to church and because I was getting away with them, I reasoned in my warped mind. I must be in the will of God, even though I'm doing something that is against my conscience and against what the Bible declares. Solomon, in the Book of Ecclesiastes, speaks to this in chapter 8 verse 11 because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Anytime there is a delay in the justice system, it encourages the criminal. It mocks the system. The system is laughable. Its mockable. It's not working because there is a delay in justice.
In Israel the 10 northern tribes, Ephraim was mistaking God's patience for God's approval, but verse 9, but I am the Lord your God, ever since the land of Egypt. That's where the relationship really began, at that deliverance. I will again make you dwell in tents as in the days of the appointed feast. Go back in your mind to the wilderness 40 years. They were out there in tents. They were homeless, basically. They were living by faith. God would bring water out of the rock and manna out of the sky, and they trusted in the Lord. And they moved when the cloud that was over the Tabernacle moved. So there were the tents-- thousands, hundreds of thousands of them-- out in the wilderness. And imagine little Johnny getting up in the morning saying, Daddy, how long are we going to camp here?
Well Johnny, I don't know. What do you mean, Dad? Well, we're waiting on that pillar to move, and when it moves, we move. When it stays, we stay. We're just here as long as the Lord wants us here. And so they live by faith. They lived in tents, and when they got into the land of Canaan, God told them, keep a feast in the fall of the year-- the Feast of Tabernacles-- where for a period of a week, you're going to live and lean-tos to remember living in tents in the wilderness and how God provided for you as you lived that wilderness experience and that life of faith.
So what does this verse mean when God says, you're going to again dwell in tents? It could mean number one, that just as you were living apart from a stable home and you were out as a nomad wandering around the desert for 40 years, again, you are going to be homeless because you're going to be taken to another country, Assyria. And/or it could mean I'm going to bless you in the land once again, and you'll celebrate with joy that Feast of Tabernacles as in days of old. I personally believe it means both.
God would judge them. 722 b.c. happened. They were taken as captives to the north. They lost their homes. They were dislocated. They were displaced, but with this is a prophecy-- I believe for restoration-- that God would bring them back into the land. God would deal graciously, kindly, lovingly with them once again. And there is a beautiful prediction in the Book of Zechariah that refers to the future millennial reign of Christ, that those who are left after that great battle against Jerusalem will yearly make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
So I see in this verse-- what I see in so much of the Book of Hosea-- this prediction of judgment and blessing all in one verse. You are going to be taken captive. You are going to be judged. You're going to be homeless, but you'll keep that Feast of Tabernacles as I regather that nation in the future. I have also spoken by the prophets-- verse 10-- and in multiplied visions I have given symbols through the witness of the prophets. In other words, look, I've given you so many ample warnings and occasions to turn by so many prophets who have said the same thing to you over and over again.
God is never without a witness. People say, God doesn't speak like he used to speak. I say, people don't listen like they used to listen. God always has a witness. God is always speaking. The Book of Hebrews opens up God, who in various ways and at various times spake in times past to our fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by his own Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom also he made the worlds. God spoke in times past through the prophets to our fathers.
Mankind has a predicament. We are apart from our creator. We have walls of time and space. We're in the time space continuum, they call it. So we're living in a finite limited capacity. God is infinite. God is transcendent. So God graciously sent prophets, people, to bear his message time and time again into our box of time and space. But it says in Hebrews, but in these last days he has spoken to us through his own son. There came a point when prophet after prophet after prophet representative after representative wasn't enough. So God condescended even further by crawling into that box of time and space Himself, becoming a man so that for the first and only time men and women could see and touch and feel and hear eternal God. God manifest in the flesh. The incarnation God with us. God spoke through the prophets. He said he gave witness, but 2000 years ago the ultimate revelation. He has spoken to the world by his own son.
The good verse 11. Though Gilead has idols, surely they are vanity, though they sacrifice bulls in Gilgal, indeed their altars shall be heaps in the furrows of the field. In this verse-- and I'm going to make it quick on this verse-- there's a play on words, and it's typical of the style of Hosea. There's a phonetic similarity between three words in that verse: Gilead, Gilgal, and the English word in verse 11, heaps, and that in Hebrew is ga'alim. There's a play on words. I will make your Gilgal ga'alim. I'll make your city that you boast in a heap. It's a play on the phonetic pronunciation of the Hebrew.
And by the way, these two cities Gilgal and Gilead were Northern cities. There's a Gilgal down south, but he's speaking of these two crown jewel cities in the North that they boasted in. Both fell. Jacob fled to the country of Syria. Israel served for a spouse, and for a wife, he tended sheep. So once again, God is reaching back into their history, looking at that famous patriarch, Jacob saying, Look, your forefather, Jacob, was once a sheep herder, and he watched sheep to get a wife. By a prophet the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet he was preserved.
So God is reminding them of their humble beginnings. They had gotten prideful. They had become cocky. They had become arrogant before the Lord, my wealth, my stability, my strength. So just as he took them back and say, your history is one of struggling, wrestling, fighting. He takes them back to the time when Jacob was looking for a wife, and it's a beautiful story. He is sent out of his home. He goes to Uncle Laban. He's there by a well, talking to some of the guys in Padanaram, and Jacob says, Hey, do you guys know a fellow by the name of Laban? Oh, everybody knows Laban. He's quite famous around these parts. In fact, there is his daughter Rachel coming to take water for the sheep. He looks up, and he sees Rachel. And she's a beautiful gal. And she comes, and he opens the mouth of the well so that she can have water for the sheep. And the Bible says something very interesting. Jacob walked right up to Rachel and kissed her. Now we would call that forward these days. Not, Hi. How are you? Just kissed her. And then he did something even weirder than that. He lifted up his voice and started weeping, crying. You know, kissed her and (MIMICS CRYING) And I'm sure she thought, who is this guy, and why did he just kiss me and then cry?
They go back home to her father, Laban. She tells the story to him. He's already performed a good deed and a service and bringing water to the flocks. And Laban says to Jacob, Look, if you're going to work for me, I at least have to pay you. What is it you'd like? Big smile grew on his face. That gleam in his eye, he looked over at Rachel, and he said, Her! I'll work seven years for her! He says, Deal!
After seven years of service-- which by the way, it says it seemed but a day to him because of the love he had for her. Isn't that romantic?
Seven years of hard labor, seven years of putting up with wool and sheep out in the wilderness just seem like a day because he loved her so much. But on the wedding night, after the ceremony, Laban pulled a switcheroo. Instead of giving her Rachel, gave her Leah. And when he woke up in the morning he said, What is this trickery? I worked seven years for Rachel. Well, it's a custom to have the first born married off before the second. And so, hey, you want Rachel? You're going to have to work another seven years, which he did. Now it doesn't say those seem but a day to him, but--
--nevertheless, 14 years of labor he worked for this wife, and that's the reference. Jacob fled to the country of Syria. Israel served for a spouse, and for a wife he tended sheep by a prophet of the Lord. By a prophet, the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt referring to Moses, and by a prophet he was preserved.
Ephraim provoked him to anger most bitterly. Therefore, the Lord will leave the guilt of His blood shed upon him, and return His reproach upon him. Now it says that Ephraim provoked him to anger most bitterly. In the Hebrew, the syntax is a little bit different and more precise. It reads this, "They provoked God to anger with bitterness, itself." It would seem, then, that as the history of Israel progressed, they started becoming bitter against God. That's what the text would reveal, if that is indeed the correct translation derived from the Hebrew.
And it could be that they looked at the land they were in. All of the enemies were not vanquished. They didn't obey God to the utmost, so they still lived with enemies. Life was hard. It was because of their sin, but instead of getting mad at themselves and their own disobedience, they started getting bitter at the Lord. There's a lesson there for us. Bitterness can destroy us.
You remember in the New Testament when Phillip was in Samaria, and there was Simon the sorcerer. And he was following them around, and seemingly endorsing the ministry of the early church. He had mixed ulterior motives. And the man of God turned to him and said, I perceive that you are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity. It was his bitterness that was motivating him.
The Book of Hebrews tells us that a root of bitterness can spring up defile many. There is nothing heavier that you can carry on your back than a pack of grudges. It's the attitude that says, Well, I'll forgive you, but I'll never forget.
I'll bury the hatchet, but just in case you come back into my life, I'll have the handle sticking out. It was that bitterness toward one another, toward the Lord that brought in part his wrath.
Now in chapter 13, we move from the past to the present. If the past was God's confrontation for their past sins, then chapter 13 is Israel's dislocation from their present land. They would be taken captive. When Ephraim spoke trembling, he exalted himself in Israel, but when he offended through Baal worship, he died.
That is when Ephraim's spoke, people trembled. You may remember that old E.F. Hutton commercial, When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen. There was a time when Ephraim, because of his greatness-- and he was great. He was a notable tribe, a large tribe, a powerful tribe. Joshua, the general of Israel, came from the hill country of Ephraim. They were quite prominent. When Ephraim spoke, when Israel spoke here, that tribe of Ephraim, men trembled.
Back in the Book of Genesis, Joseph-- who had two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim-- when Joseph brought his two boys to their grandpa to get a blessing, it says Jacob was old, and his eyes were dim. Joseph knew he would soon pass from this life. He wanted his sons blessed by Jacob the patriarch. So what Joseph did is he placed Manasseh, his first born, in his left hand and Ephraim in his right hand so that as he approached his father Manasseh, the firstborn, would be by Jacob's right hand so he could just simply reach out and extend the blessing of the firstborn to the first born, Manasseh. But the Bible says that he reached and crossed his hands, placing his right hand on the head of not Manasseh but Ephraim. Joseph freaked out. Can't happen. Dad, no, no, no. You've them mixed up.
He didn't have a mixed up. He was guiding-- the Bible says-- his hands knowingly, and he gave this prediction. The younger brother shall be greater, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations. The prophecy is that Ephraim, though younger, would be great. When Ephraim spoke, people trembled, but through Baal worship, through that sin he died. That is he sealed his fate for destruction by his own sin. You know, whatever greatness you've had in the past is no guarantee that you'll have it in the future.
You can never march forward through life looking back over your shoulder. Your relationship with God can never be past tense. Oh, I remember how close I used to walk with God and the prayers I used to offer to God and the sweet fellowship we enjoyed. You remember? It's good that you remember, but it should never be something that you have to remember from the past, but rather something you are experiencing in the present.
Ephraim, at one time, was so great, but they sinned through Baal worship. Now they sing more and more. The infection grows worse because they multiply idols. They have made for themselves molded images, idols of silver according to their skill. All of it is the work of craftsmen. They say of them, let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves. Therefore, they shall be like the morning cloud that is temporary. And like the early dew that passes away, again, temporary. Like chaff blown off from a threshing floor and smoke from a chimney, all metaphors of something that won't last, temporary.
It is odd for us as we think back to the kind of idolatry that was prevalent in Israel that they had these calves for worship and would tell people who came to the altars, hey, bend down and kiss the feet of this statue to show reverence to your God in heaven. Now in ancient times a kiss was always a sign of homage, and typically the hands or the feet were kissed. Now for us, perhaps in this culture, it sounds foreign. But you know if you were to travel over to Asia-- say Thailand, Sri Lanka, India-- where Hinduism is rampant, you would see people bending down and kissing their idols, paying the same kind of homage to it. We were in Jerusalem, and there in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher people would bend down on their knees and kiss the floor of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. And I asked somebody, why are you kissing the floor? They said, we get a blessing when we do. I'd never kiss the floor of a church. I only get germs, not a blessing.
There was this odd belief-- it's prevalent today in Hinduism; it was prevalent back then; it's even prevalent in certain religions in America-- that the deity, the God, somehow resides in that idol so that whatever you perform in the presence of that statue is received and experienced by the deity himself or herself. So in ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia they would take these statues and wash them, dry them, put clothes on them, put food in front of them, because somehow energy was derived from the food to keep the God going. So they had gone to such a low level that not only were they representing God falsely, but showing physical homage to these calves that they called God.
But I tell you, that tells me something about the penitent of humanity. We have trouble dealing with the invisible. It's hard to walk by faith. We walk by faith and not by sight. They were walking by sight and not by faith. Mankind has always had trouble dealing with the invisible character of God. We want something visible so much so that will create it, and then say, that's God. I must worship it. Again, it is Yahweh. It is his name that is his memorial. They had degraded God to such a low level, yet, I am the Lord-- verse four-- your God ever since the land of Egypt, and you shall know no God but me for there is no Savior besides me. I knew you in the wilderness, in the land of great drought when they had pasture sure they were filled. They were filled, and their heart was exalted therefore they forgot me. So I will be to them like a lion. Like a leopard by the road, I will lurk. I will meet them like a bear deprived of her cubs. I will tear open their rib cage, and there I will devour them like a lion. The wild beast shall tear them.
When they were exalted, when they were in prosperity their heart became exalted. When they were in adversity, they cried out to God. Again, that's typical human nature. We're suffering. Things aren't good. Planes hit towers in New York City. People will pray. Churches will be filled. Both houses of Congress will sing.
It's commendable, but six months later when the economy is now stable and we're in our prosperity, our hearts that should always be humble before God become exalted. And God is once again forgotten. So God says, I'll be to them like a lion and a leopard. Now you know the job of a shepherd was to protect sheep from the lion and the leopard and the bear. David said, your rod and your staff, Lord, comfort me. The staff guided the sheep. The rod beat off the wolves. It was a comfort to have a shepherd that would be off the enemy. God says, I'll be that one who attacks them. I won't stave off the enemies any longer. I've had enough.
I find it interesting the choice of animals that the Lord gives to the prophet Hosea to share here, a lion, leopard, bear, and finally it says here, the wild beast shall tear them. I find it interesting. In fact, I notice a lot of you nodding. Red lights go off in our minds when we see these creatures, because it takes us forward to the prophecy of Daniel. You say, no, backward. No, forward, because Hosea was before, chronologically, Daniel who would be in Babylon. And Daniel-- chapter 7-- Daniel sees a vision of the beasts. And he sees first a lion with wings, then a bear raised up on one side with ribs in his mouth and devours much flesh, then a leopard with four wings, and then finally, this ferocious beast. And it's as if the Holy Spirit is putting his thumb print here and including these animals, which Daniel will explain will not just be a metaphor for Assyria in 722 b.c., but the world governing kingdoms that would come in the future.
Verse 9, Oh, Israel you are destroyed, but your help is from me. I will be your King. Where is any other that he may save you in all your cities and your judges to whom you said, give me a King and princes. I gave you a King in my anger and took him away in my wrath. Remember that time when the children of Israel came and asked the prophet Samuel to anoint for them a King. It was a mistake. Samuel wept before God because of it. And God said, Look, Sam, don't take it too hard, buddy boy. They're not rejecting you. They're rejecting me from being their King over them. See God wanted to be their King. It was to be a theocracy. God was perfectly content to be their defense. They didn't need a King, but they said we want to be like other nations. There's three reasons they wanted a King. Number one: they had problems with the invisible nature of God. They wanted a physical representative. Number two: they wanted to be like the world around them. Give us a King that we may be like other nations. And number three: because spiritual leadership in the country had gotten to such a low level, instead of addressing that, they decide they need political leadership.
You remember the story of the priest, Eli and his two boys, Hophni and Phinehas. There was a corrupt family. The boys were doing corrupt things, and dad didn't have enough courage to confront them, just let them go. And so they said, we want a King that we might be like the other nations. God gave them Saul, who was a failure. He even admitted, I have played the fool and erred exceedingly. And after his kingship, a man after God's own heart, David, was on the throne and then Solomon. But after Solomon the kingdom split, and there was a succession of kings in the north that brought failure upon failure for those 10 northern tribes until the last king, Hoshea, was dispossessed. And then down in Judah, 586 b.c., Zedekiah was the last King. I took him away in my wrath.
The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up. His sin is stored up. The sorrows of a woman and childbirth shall come upon him. He is an unwise son for he should not stay long where children are born. I will ransom them from the power of the grave. I will return them from death. O death, I will be your plagues. O grave, I will be your destruction. Pity is hidden from my eyes.
Now, in 1 Corinthians 15 you know that Paul echoes the words of what we just read, but he cast the words a little bit differently when he says, o death, where does your staying? O grave, where is your victory? The idea is that the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ conquered death. Jesus conquered death, gave us life, and it's a reflection of these words. Though he is fruitful-- verse 15-- among his brethren, an east wind shall come. That's Assyria. The wind of the Lord shall come up from the wilderness, then his springs shall become dry, and his found shall be dried up. He shall plunder the treasury of every desirable prize. Sumeria is held guilty, for she has rebelled against her God. They shall fall by the sword. Their infant shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped open. Again, the horrible devastation that would come when Syria did finally enter into the northern 10 tribes and take away these in captivity. So it's described as an east wind.
Years ago, a group from Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa went over to Israel to live on a kibbutz. It was my joy to be part of that first group, and I experienced Israel like few tourists get to experience Israel. I worked for months on this kibbutz, and they had winds that would come seasonally. From the south it would blow. If it was the south wind, they call it the khamsin, came from Egypt. If it was from the east, they call it the sirocco. When the winds come, it's like you wake up the next day to a different land altogether. The chlorophyll in the plants has dried up. The bugs that come in, it was like judgment. The heat and the blight and the dryness, it was like it was like the Santa Ana's turned up to 10. It blighted the land. It felt like judgment. This east wind that they were pursuing, feeding on the wind, would be their destruction.
Now, Hosea 14 closes out the book. This is God's final word to Ephraim, His last word to Israel before their captivity. And wouldn't you know, just like the Lord, it's a word of comfort. It's a word they would read that would speak of their restoration. Covered the past, the present, and now the future of the covenant restoration. O Israel, return to the Lord, your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
Have you noticed throughout this book that Hosea is a straight shooter? He calls sin sin, iniquity iniquity, backsliding backsliding. He gives it the proper term for what it is. He doesn't mince words. It's because they need to know their sin, that they might turn from it, that they might find forgiveness.
Blessed, said Jesus, are those who mourn. They shall be comforted. If you want comfort, the first step is in identifying the need that you have because of sin. So he calls it here, iniquity. In 1 John, you know the text well, if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. If we confess our sins, the Lord is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The first step is confession, which means to agree with. Actually, it means more than that. The idea of confession is that you and I say the same thing about our sin that God says about it. That's confession. Sometimes people say, well Lord, forgive me if I have sinned. What do you mean if?
If you're not so sure, why are you even praying about it? No, identify what it is. Confess it. As it says in verse two, take words with you. That is a plain, identifying confession. Take words with you, and return to the Lord. And say to Him, take away all iniquity. Receive us graciously for we will offer the sacrifice of our lips.
I heard about a preacher who often spoke about sin very plainly, and he called it the abomination that God hates. Well somebody in his church took an offense to it and said, gee preacher, couldn't you soften it just a little bit, and call it a hang up? Or couldn't you call it something besides just the abomination that God hates? Couldn't you call it a bent or a penchant or a practice or a habit? Why do you have to say sin so much? And iniquity? Preacher said to the guy, come here. Took him to his office, and pulled out a bottle of poison.
He said, this is poison. You can tell it says poison right on the bottle, and the skull and crossbones give it away. Would you rather that I put the little title, a new label, that says wintergreen mouthwash on this bottle in case somebody might find it, and decide that they want to gargle with it. And the preacher said this, the more harmless the name, the more dangerous the dose will be. So don't be offended when God calls it what it is. And God always does. Oh, but today we want to soften it. Instead of, oh yes, they're committing adultery, we say, they're having an affair because it just sounds so much nicer. Instead of saying, that's homosexuality, that's perverted, say, oh, they are gay. I remember a time when Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble and the whole family had a gay old time.
It is a word that meant we're happy. We're joyous. The vocabulary has been changed to accommodate for the behavior. Not Hosea, straight up because he's a servant of the Lord. Take words with you, return to the Lord, and say to him, take away all iniquity. Receive us graciously for we will offer the sacrifices of our lips. Assyria shall not save us. We will not ride on horses, nor will we say any more to the work of our hands. You are our Gods, for in you the fatherless finds mercy.
Take words with you. Tell Him what's on your heart. Confess and God will love you freely and forgive you instantly. Sometimes people will ask, why do we need to take words with us? In fact, when we pray at all why do we need to pray specifically about anything? The Bible says God knows our needs. So why do we even have to tell him anything? I've thought about that, and I believe it's because the Lord, in his infinite strength, loves weakness. The Lord loves dependence.
There was a famous play called The Barrett's of Wimpole Street in which the two main characters were Robert and Elizabeth, husband and wife, and at a moment of weakness she cried and said, oh Robert, how can you love me so much when I am so weak? And his words to her were, my strength needs your weakness as much as your weakness needs my strength. What's the value of being infinitely strong when you can't apply it to those who voice their need and their dependence?
Take words with you. Talk to God. Be specific. I will heal their backsliding. I will love them freely for my anger has turned away from Him. I will be like the dew to Israel. He shall grow like the lily, and lengthen his roots like Lebanon. God promises to restore their strength and stability. His branches shall spread. His beauty shall be like an olive tree, His fragrance like Lebanon.
That to me is beautiful. His fragrance like Lebanon. A fragrance has absolutely no utilitarian value whatsoever. It's not useful, but it is a delight to smell something. Oh, that's great. God is saying, you will become my delight. I delight in you, and children of the living God know that tonight God delights in you. He hears your prayers, your songs of worship, and the attitude of love in your hearts, and it's like a sweet smelling aroma, a fragrance. Those who dwell under the shadow shall return. They shall be revived like grain and grow like the vine. Their scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon. Ephraim shall say, what have I any more with idols? What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard and observed Him. I am like a green cypress tree. Your fruit is found in me.
Now, we see the value of such a straightforward message that Hosea preached. He called iniquity iniquity and sin sin and backsliding backsliding. And He spelled out their offense before God, and here's the result, right here, repentance and fruitfulness.
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he wrote them a pretty heavy letter in 1 Corinthians about somebody in the church that was committing blatant sin and told the church to excommunicate them, or that one. But he wrote a second letter telling the church to receive him back in. And he said this, I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance for you became sorrowful as God intended. And so we're not harmed in any way by us for godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you, what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves.
The first words out of John the Baptist mouth were words of repentance. Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. The first recorded words out of the mouth of the Lord Jesus were similar, a call for repentance. And yet, in so many places today and so many churches, repentance is a hidden theme when it is a first and foremost theme throughout the scripture. And here's the result, repentance and fruitfulness.
Who is wise? Last verse, let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them for the ways of the Lord are right. The righteous walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them. How many times have you heard people challenge God? How could God let this happen? Why would a God of love do such and such? I never liked those questions, not because I can't deal with them, but I realize I'm dealing with a person who is dethroning God, who is saying God isn't fair. God isn't just. God isn't to be trusted. It's an accusatory stance Know this, that when it's all said and done and God is always right and always righteous, that even when the most severe judgment falls upon this earth in the tribulation and the earth is absolutely devastated and the people are wiped out by millions and billions, that the cry of the saints in Revelation 15, is the song of Moses. Just and true are thy ways, o God. God is always fair, and those who are wise know that.
Hosea, a heartfelt message from a heartsick prophet about a heartbroken God. He spoke it like it was, and he reveals not only the truth about these people, but he tells them the truth about a loving, gracious, forgiving God. Hey, you take words with you and you confess your sins, and you will find God will love you freely.
I worked with a gal at a local hospital many years ago, here in Orange County. She was a believer. Her husband was an unbeliever. And her story reminded me a lot of Hosea and his wife, but in reverse because it was this gal and her husband, who was a philanderer, and he was out with other girls. So this gal was a Christian. She loved the Lord. She trusted the Lord. And her husband was an unbeliever, but she prayed for him and asked us to pray that he would get saved. And time went on, and things went from bad to worse. He went out and had an affair, similar to what we read here in the Book of Hosea. Not only did he have an affair, but got the gal with whom he had an affair with pregnant. Now, all of the while, at work, Cathy would say to us, the Lord is going to restore my marriage. The Lord is going to restore our marriage. And you know after six months, and a year, and a year and a half, a lot of people said, Cathy, it's time to move on. And after the affair and then the pregnancy of that other woman, we said, look, forget it. Give it up! It's not going to happen. No, she said, the Lord is going to restore my marriage. I thought maybe she's delusional.
I had the privilege, about a year and a half after that, to remarry them both after she said to him, you come back into the relationship, and I will raise that child of that other woman, if you want. It so broke his heart, he repented. Gave his heart to Christ, and they were remarried because after the affair, he went out and divorced his wife. So there was an affair, there was a divorce, but then a glorious coming together and remarriage. And I'll tell you, there was not a dry eye in that wedding. It was so much like the prophet, Hosea with his wife, but it was such a testimony of the love of God shed abroad in our hearts.
So looking at Hosea and looking at the love of God, I'm going to tell you that with God nothing is impossible. And if you find yourself even in a relationship where it's hard, and you think I'm going to bail, I'm out of here, I've seen God restore under the most impossible circumstances and shower his love and turn around relationships like he does with his people.
Let's pray together. Lord, your grace really is amazing. Your love really is singular and unique, and we are here tonight as recipients of that love and that grace. We testify to it. You've forgiven us a debt we could never pay, and you paid that debt that you did not owe. Thank you for your love. Thank you for the obedience of the prophets that are examples to us. Moreover, thank you, Lord, that even when we sin to that extent like these people here in the Book of Hosea, you promise a restoration if there is a turning, and you promised to love freely. Thank you, Father. In Jesus' name, amen.
Let's stand. Book of Hosea is down, and Joel is coming up. And Joel actually brings us into the very present and into the future as Joel will tell us about the last days and the great tribulation that is coming in events in the great tribulation. So read it over this week, and study it. And then we'll come next Sunday night to learn more about God's plan for the future. And because we plan to be there, it becomes a very interesting thing. The pastors are down here again to minister to you tonight. The word minister really means servant. We're here to serve you. And as a child of God, ours is to serve you and to bring you into a closer relationship with God and to intercede with you for your needs those things that you desire that God might do in your life. So they're here to pray for you tonight. Whatever problem, whatever burden, whatever need that you might be having, whatever situation you might be going through God wants to help you. And these men are here to pray and to agree with you in prayer that you might experience that help of God and that work of God in your life. So we would encourage you, as we're dismissed, come on forward, and let them pray with you. And it's amazing what God can do if we'll just give Him the opportunity.
(SINGING) Sing hallelujah to the Lord.
(AUDIENCE SINGING) Hallelujah to the--
(SINGING) Sing hallelujah to the Lord. Sing hallelujah Sing hallelujah Sing hallelujah to the Lord. Sing hallelujah to the Lord. Sing hallelujah to the Lord. Sing hallelujah Sing hallelujah Sing hallelujah to the Lord.
God bless you.