Summary: The story of Hosea is an incredible picture of grace foreshadowing the most grace-empowered act of the universe.
“Imagine the soundtrack from ‘Moulin Rouge’ playing in the background: ‘…There was a man who loved a woman deeply.’
“She was a prostitute. There may have been reams of reasons why she sold her body to men to do what they would. But whatever, her soul had shrunken to a size so small she could not hear it cry, only faint whimpers from time to time. But the man who loved this woman was mesmerized not by what she was, but what she could be. Not by how she lived, but how she could live. Not by the layers of makeup that now painted the wornness of her face, but a beauty marred like a coin handled too many times, pocketed too much, and spent too easily.
“He loved her. No, he was intoxicated by her. Why? Because he was married to her. He had married her when she was a prostitute. He knew that. She gave him two sons and a daughter. Years later, when she had left him again, he traveled to the street corner where she sold herself each evening. Men knew who he was. They grinned and made jokes about his manhood. And in front of all, he paid her pimp a sum of money to have her. The thugs in the alley laughed; what kind of husband had such little self-respect, so few prospects, so pathetically romantic that he could not see what she was? But he knew exactly what she was. Bathed in the mercury-vapor streetlight, head hung in shame, long curls hiding her eyes from his gaze, he knew deeply who she was. She was his wife. And these other men, these jackals, would never know her like that. Never. Because they’ve never known the glory of true love. He took her home. Again.
“Prophets sometimes had the tough job of serving as real-life dramatizations under the great Director of this Cosmic Drama—God Himself. And God was directing an autobiographical play—His love for His wife, Israel, which served as a microcosm of His love for the human race, His beautiful creation. The price He would pay to buy an unfaithful bride would be the life of His own Son. The New Testament writer Paul says that all these events of the Old Testament serve as allegories, as types. There is a hidden story between the lines.”
That’s the true story of a prophet named Hosea in the Old Testament…retold in The Outward Focused Life. It’s an incredible picture of grace…foreshadowing the most grace-empowered act of the universe.
Can you imagine that screenplay?—a God who marries a prostitute. We don’t look good in this story. And here’s the reality check: we’ve all prostituted ourselves at some point. We’ve loved other things more than the Ultimate Lover of us. It is God who takes us home…again…and again. The Faithful One pursues the Faithless one.
That’s a picture of grace…and that’s what we’re going to look at in this first week of this series called The Outward Focused Life. Grace is the undeserved favor—the unearned love, the offer of a “supernatural power to be free”—from God…to you. And if we don’t understand grace, then we won’t understand the heart of God. If we don’t understand grace, then we certainly won’t understand Christianity. And if we don’t understand grace, then we’ll never really become outward-focused. Being outward-focused is one of our core values at this church; in my mind, we can’t talk about it enough.
Sometimes I’ll meet people who, when they find out I’m a pastor, will tell me they don’t go to church, but they’ll often follow that by saying, “But I’m really a spiritual person…” Well, I totally understand that going to church doesn’t necessarily make you “spiritual”. I get that. I could sit in the Cincinnati Bengals’ locker room all day and never become a linebacker. But sometimes when I’m feeling feisty, I’ll ask them what that means: “I’m really a spiritual person.” Sometimes it means that they see themselves as being sensitive to spiritual things. But I still don’t know what that means. Is that like some spiritual radar that causes you to pick up metaphysical sound waves passing through the air? Does it mean that you consider yourself a “spiritual being”?
That’s nothing to brag about: the devil’s a spiritual being, too. But he’s full of himself. And it’s not working out that well for him…he gets fried at the end of the book.
In real spirituality, there is actually a continuum that we move on. We go from being someone who has zero awareness of God…
…to someone who’s reborn by the Holy Spirit…
…to someone who’s whole life is focused on Jesus Christ.
And the reason it’s focused on Jesus is because He’s God…and He’s the mechanism for this wildly amazing thing called grace.