Summary: This is a message about God and His heart towards us. It’s also a message for all followers of God – in terms of how to shape our hearts and responses in the face of rejection and pain.
A Covenant’s History ~ The Love of the Father
Scripture Text: Hosea 11.1-11
I want to tell you two stories. They are two stories that are almost-as-old-as the hills, …but these stories still capture the hearts and imaginations of people-everywhere.
The first story is one that you’re fairly-familiar with. It’s the story of a God who does some pretty-amazing and powerful-things. It’s the story that is found in our Bible.
There once-was-a-people who were tied-up in slavery. Day and night, …night-and-day they slaved away.
Building-buildings, …planting-fields, …harvesting-crops… These people were-treated like-machines ~ …to-their-owners, …they were important because-of what they made… …they did the work that the people-in-power wanted them to do. For several generations ~ …sons-and-daughters, …becoming moms-and-dads, …and moms-and-dads becoming grandparents ~ …one generation after-the-next was-spent planting-and-harvesting, …making-bricks and setting-stones. They were the machines-of-production.
And they accomplished some-pretty incredible things… The pyramids of Egypt are lasting-legacies ~ …not to the Pharaoh’s who ordered-them constructed; …but they are lasting-legacies to the slaves that poured-out their sweat-and-blood, …to raise-those-magnificent-structures out of the sands of Egypt!
Have you ever felt like your employer valued you, only-for what you could produce?... Of-course-you-have! Whenever an employer doesn’t care what’s goin’ on in your personal life, …whenever your boss pushes you to do more-and-more ~ as though you’re a tool, …or a machine that just needs a little more fuel to get more-out-of-it, …whenever your beliefs, …or your convictions are-ignored by those who sign your paycheck ~ …Those are times when you are simply-looked-at as a piece of the machine. And it doesn’t take long ~ if your employer treats-you like a cog-in-the-wheel ~ …it doesn’t-take-long before you wish for something-different, …wanting something-else.
But-ya-know… that’s the difference between us and those-in-slavery! We are free to go find other-work. We aren’t bound by shackles or watched-over by guards. We can put our resume out-there and see if someone is interested.
But, slaves can’t do that. They have to bite-their-tongue. They have to hunker-down. They have to put their shoulder-to-the-wheel and keep pressin’-on, because they have no-choice.
Those-people, that-were-slaves to the Pharaohs ~ …the ones who built the pyramids and other magnificent-structures in ancient Egypt ~ …they wanted to be free.
But they couldn’t put-in a two-week-notice; …they couldn’t close-up-shop; …they couldn’t strike a picket-line to protest unfair-working-conditions; …or post their resume on Monsters.com.
They served a “monster”… And his name was Pharaoh! He ruled them with an iron-fist; …and he tried to crush their spirit with his steel-toed-sandal!
And-so, they cried-out to the Lord God. They asked Him to rescue them. They prayed for deliverance. They wanted to be free of Pharaoh’s tyranny.
And it happened!... You remember the story, don’t you?... God brought one-plague, after-another upon Egypt, …and it brought Pharaoh to his knees!
The Lord parted-the-Sea so the Israelites could safely get-away from Pharaoh’s army. God brought-them through the desert and defended-them against armies that wanted to take-advantage of this poor, helpless-people. He brought down the walls of Jericho and scattered the Canaanite people, so-that the Israelites would have a homeland. And through it all, …Israel came to see God’s power. They began to understand that God was a warrior that could not be overcome. He brought mighty-Pharaoh to his knees, …and Pharaoh’s chariots to a stand-still. He defended them against warring-armies. The Lord was their shield.
The people-of-Israel saw-that their-God was a God who could be counted-on in-battle ~ …and in the desert, …or whenever-they-found-themselves under-the-boot of some-oppressor. He could-be-called-upon. He could-be-counted-on for help and deliverance and defense. The Lord is a Warrior!
But when the Israelites settled in the land of Canaan, …they began hearing about another-god. This god’s name was Baal. And his-story is the second story I want to tell you. The people of Canaan believed Baal was the god of storms ~ …sometimes they called him “Rider of the Clouds”. Thunder and lightning and rain were his calling-cards ~ And to a people-who depended on land-and-crops ~ …Baal was a very-tempting deity.
The Canaanites believed that Baal brought the rain every spring and every fall. They thought that the land was watered when Baal did his thing.
And as-crazy-as-it-seems to-us, …the Israelites started-thinking that Baal was the god to-serve on the week-days ~ …the days when you work, …and plant, …and harvest, …and shepherd your flocks. They thought that Baal was the god who brought fertility and success and prosperity during the week.
But, on the Sabbath, …they continued to worship the God of their fathers: …the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, …the God who had-delivered them out of slavery and rescued them from Pharaoh and took-care-of-them in the desert for 40-years. He was mighty. He was powerful. He was a warrior with no-equal. And-so, they continued to-gather at the Temple, ..and to-honor the Lord at the great celebrations each-year.