Summary: A sermon from Hosea 2:14-23. God had led Israel into a wilderness to get her attention. American may very well be heading for a wilderness. But the God who created the garden also created the wilderness. He's there. Waiting.
Has there ever been a time in your life where determination has taken over? Where you tried to do something on your own that it didn’t matter who you hurt? I have felt for some time that we very much live in a society of get on the train or get off the tracks. We touched on a similar issue in our Bible Study this past Wednesday, how from a very early age we are brought up in self-sufficiency. School systems teach young children to solve the problem on their own. And many of them do. When I was in school there was very few times where a group of students teamed to tackle a project or a problem.
I was reminded of a story of a boy whose mother put him in the car seat. She went to buckle him in and emphatically he said, “I’ll do it myself!” He struggled and struggled and every time his mother tried to help he’d repeat that sentence. After twenty minutes of fighting with the seat the mother heard the finally snap and she flew out of the driveway. When they arrived at their destination she got out and opened the door, reached for the buckle. The boy exclaimed again, “Mom, I’ll do it myself!” After a few attempts he unbuckled himself and stood at the door. The mother reached for him but he was determined. He fell flat on his face. When she reached down to pick him up he said whimpering, “I’ll do it myself.”
Men don’t like to ask for directions. Students rarely seem to ask for help anymore. If they can’t do it they just skip over the problem or they struggle with it for hours upon hours. We are conditioned that we have to do things on our own, that asking for help is a sign of weakness. We don’t like to admit fault. We don’t like to admit defeat. We don’t like to admit we can’t do something. We don’t like to admit that we can’t fix something. This idea has infiltrated the church. Pastors don’t ask for help – or that they need prayer because it could be seen as weakness. As a result lay people don’t readily express their need. And the one individual that gets hurt is God.
Israel is a prime example of a people, a nation, who believed that they could do things are their own. Ironically, they were unable to free themselves from Egyptian captivity. God had to do it. They were unable to provide food for themselves, so God provided manna and quail for them to eat. When they arrived to the Red Sea, they couldn’t cross it. They didn’t have any boats, so God created a way for them to cross. And yet, poor Israel still believes they don’t need God despite the many signs and signals along the way, the red flags and red lights that said, “You can’t do this by yourself. You need help!”
Now, the setting of Hosea is interesting to me. Hosea began his ministry during the end of the prosperous but morally declining reign of Jeroboam II. The upper class was doing well, but they were oppressing the poor. I will just leave at that. The whole message of the Book of Hosea is God’s expressing his love for his people, his creation. Throughout this book we read of the great measures that God took to bring his people back into right relationship with him. It portrays God in a very different light. So much of religion today seems to be bottom-up, what can we do to reach God. Yet here, God is the aggressor. God is the pursuer. God is the seeker.
Our text comes after God calls Hosea to marry a prostitute, Gomer. They marry, have three children, God gives them some very interesting names, and then explains the purpose of this calling to Hosea. Gomer leaves, just as Israel left. Hosea seeks his wife, just as God seeks his people. Hosea finds her, welcomes her back as his wife, just as God welcomes back those who turn to him. The key to this message, the key to this next, is found in those words; “If people turn to God.” That’s the message in 2 Chronicles 7:14; “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
In chapter 2, specifically beginning in verse 14, we see what will happen for those who will do that.
First, God will restore his mercy to the unfaithful.
We get a very interesting picture of mercy in this text. God says, “I will lead her into the wilderness.” That doesn’t sound much like mercy. The wilderness, humanly speaking, is a bad place. People can get lost in the wilderness. People can get killed in the wilderness. But note that the mercy of God is not found in where she is, but what God does while she’s there. Missionary Amy Carmichael knew this truth: “Bare heights of loneliness . . . a wilderness whose burning winds sweep over glowing sands, what are they to HIM? Even there He can refresh us, even there He can renew us.”