Summary: Hope rests upon the heart of God. Hope tells us the desire of God. Hope has the potential to transform our most significant relationships into reflections of the covenant we have with Him!
A Covenant of Old ~ A Hope Renewed
Scripture Text: Hosea 1.2 – 2.1
If you are not familiar with Hosea ~ …his life and the message that God told him to announce ~ …if you don’t know that-much about Hosea, …then the story may be a little surprising. Actually, if you just looked at Hosea’s life, …you’d think you were reading the script for a modern-day soap-opera! But there’s more-goin’-on-here, than the broken-relationships and goofy-names…
So, let’s begin by quickly going through the list-of-characters. First, there’s Hosea. He’s probably a young man; …a man-of-God. We’re introduced to him by telling us that God began to ‘speak’ to him. He’s a prophet ~ …which means that he is a spokesman-for-God. He tells-it, like-it-is. Sometimes prophets are bombastic-and-confrontational; …other-times, they’d just-as-soon fade-into-the-shadows as-soon-as they get-done delivering God’s-Word. But, God gives Hosea an interesting directive: …He’s to-get himself-married! And-so, as-the-story-unfolds, …we see Hosea becoming a husband and a father, in-addition to-being a prophet. In-fact, a good-portion of the message that God wants Hosea to-proclaim is-made through his marriage-and-his-children! In-other-words, his family-life is a sort-of living-parable!
The second person we find in the story is Gomer. She is a lady of-questionable-character. Now, biblical scholars are divided when it comes to Gomer. Some think that she was already a prostitute when God directed Hosea to marry her. Others-say that she was not; but became a harlot sometime after they were wed. Still-others believe that while she wasn’t a prostitute before they were married, …she was a flirtatious, maybe-even promiscuous woman. And God told Hosea to marry her. But-whatever her attitude-and-reputation was-before they were married, …we know that after Hosea married Gomer that things unraveled in some-pretty-ugly-ways! Gomer is Hosea’s wife. She bears three children ~ some-of-whom may not be Hosea’s. And she is an adulteress. Not-the-kind of wife, …not the kind of marriage that you’d be-lookin’-for!
Three children are born into this mess-of-a-marriage. The first is Jezreel. His name means, “God plants”; …and it’s the name of a town that was nestled in a beautiful valley. However, through-the-course of Israel’s- istory, several-different massacre’s happened-there. And-so, this wonderful-little-town had ‘murder’ and ‘massacre’ woven-into its history-and-reputation. One Bible commentator says that naming a child “Jezreel” in ancient-Israel, …would be like naming a child “Auschwitz” or “Hiroshima” today! Can you imagine giving your child one-of-those names!?!... Talk-about a stigma! But, it doesn’t stop with the first-child.
The second-child is a girl, …and she is named Lo-Ruhamah. Her name means, “not loved”. If her name was simply, “Ruhamah” ~ …it would be a lovely name. It’s a Hebrew word meaning, “loved”; …sometimes it’s translated as “mercy”. But this-poor-child is named Lo-Ruhamah. “Lo”, in Hebrew, means “not”. And-so, this precious-little-girl is to walk-around the rest-of-her-life with the label: …not-loved, …no-mercy!
The third child is another son. Lo-Ammi. Again – you recognize the “Lo” prefix attached to the beginning of the boy’s name. “Ammi” means “my people”. It’s a tender and intimate term. Ever-since the Exodus of the people of Israel, out-of-Egypt, …ever-since they gathered at the foot of Mt. Sinaia, …ever-since Moses brought-down the Ten Commandment ~ …God has called the children-of-Israel, “Ammi”! “My people”. But-now, through the living-parable of Hosea’s life, …one of the children is named, “not my people” to indicate the absolute-brokenness of the covenant-relationship between the Israelites-and-God!
Well… that’s the list of characters in this sordid-story. But, it’s a story that is instigated by God. That’s not-to-say that God wanted all-the-ugliness to take-place the way-that-it-did. But, it is to say that He used the awfulness of Hosea’s marriage-relationship to preach-a-powerful-message about the state-of-the-covenant between God and the people of Israel.
James Limburg says,
For no other prophet were professional calling and personal life so closely linked as for Hosea. He understood the heartache caused by the actions of his young wife as a parallel to the hurting in the heart of God…. For Hosea there was no separation between office and home, vocation and family life… The pain in the heart of the prophet became a parable of the anguish in the heart of God. (Interpretation, 9-10)
No one gets married with the intention of failing! But, given the contemporary-statistics, …it’s pretty-clear that marriages and families in America have suffered from a lot of brokenness. Broken promises. Broken dreams. Broken hearts. Broken relationships.
They say that in some ways, divorce is worse-than death. At least, in death there is some closure and finality. When a marriage falls apart, …there’s a living-reminder of what-was, …but is-not, no-more. And it’s gut-wrenching!
You may be wondering if this sermon is about marriage. And the answer is: Yes-and-No!... It is, and it isn’t. It’s primarily about God’s covenant with His people. But, to get-at that ~ …to-help us picture that relationship, …to-imagine what it’s supposed-to-be-like, …and to-help us get-a-sense for how-badly it’s gone ~ …Well… to help us picture the relationship-which God plans-for and wants-with His people, …God draws-upon Hosea’s life-and-marriage as a living-parable.