Summary: This sermon is based on Hosea 11 and is an attempt to help us feel the heart of God. Too often sermons deal with the divine will or mind while ignoring the divine heart. This sermon is designed to address this issue.
TRUST HIS HEART
If we wish to know God’s will we can refer to his law. If we wish to understand his mind we can study his revelation. But how do we handle his heart?
I have but one intention today: To usher you into the presence of Almighty God and allow you to feel his pulse, to sense the rhythm of a heart powerful enough to sustain a universe yet sensitive enough to touch one fragile creature.
What does God feel? What really matters to him? What makes him happy? What saddens him? Perhaps in becoming cognizant of the pulsing of his cosmic heart we may discover its rhythm in our own hearts.
Our prism for understanding the heart of God is Hosea 11. The prophet ministered during the 9th/8th century BC. That was an age of apostasy, an age of open rebellion against God by his special elect people, Israel. Prophet after prophet was sent in a futile attempt to stem the tide of sin and evil that was propelling Israel to its ultimate doom.
By virtue of his personal experience, Hosea, more than any other person, understood perfectly the heart of God. His wife, Gomer, had proven to be as unfaithful a spouse as could be found. It appears that at least two of their children were not Hosea’s. Gomer’s trysts finally led her to leave her husband and children. She eventually ended up in a slave market. Following instructions from God, Hosea went to the market and bought his wife back and restored her to her rightful place as his wife. Through his eyes we will now gaze into the heart of God.
The Pain of God
The first discovery we make is the pain of God. We first meet God’s pain in Gen 6:5. As God looked down upon a world so overcome by evil that it was virtually irredeemable, we read that “God’s heart was filled with pain.” This pain of God is analogous to Eve’s childbirth pains and Adam’s pain in toiling the ground. The same Hebrew word is employed in all three episodes.
We can sense God’s pain through the agony of the Father in the parable of the lost son (Luke 15) as one son rudely demands his share and leaves home and another son angrily accuses the father of unfairness and favouritism. Again we hear God’s pain in the voice of Jesus as he wept over rebellious Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44). “O Jerusalem! If only you knew . . . !”
I imagine that every time his children slalom down the precipice of sin, God’s heart convulses with agonizing pain. As the apostle Paul put it, each time any of us sins, Christ is again put through the agony of crucifixion. Here in Hosea 11, God cries out, “My heart is troubled within me!” (v 8) God is in pain. His heart is in pain. He is in pain because of us!
The Perplexity of God
Our second discovery concerns the perplexity of God. Again, as God pondered the fate of the antediluvians in their headlong pursuit of evil, we read that “God regretted he had made mankind” (Gen 6:5). Lest we triviliase this statement unduly, consider this: A good God had created a perfect world which had then openly rejected his governance. I think that we find here a statement of divine perplexity.
We also encounter this divine perplexity in the Song of the Vineyard, Isa 5:1-7. As God reflected on the unbending rebellion of Israel, He is driven to ask, “What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?” I invite you to feel the perplexity of God in the classic courtroom drama of Micah 6. In utter desperation, the Lord asks his people, “What have I done to you? How have I burden you?”
Here in Hosea, God again agonises over the maddening conduct of Israel. Hear the exasperation of God: “When Israel was a child I loved him . . . I taught Israel to walk . . . I healed them . . . I led them with cords of kindness . . . I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them. But the more I called to Israel, the further they went from me . . . My people are determined to turn from me!” (vv 1-7)
God muses, “Israel, how can I give you up? How can I let you go?” (v 8) Promises galore! Threats of judgements abound! Yet God’s people seemed intent on being contrary. No wonder even the Lord is perplexed!
The Purpose of God
Our third discovery pertains to the purpose of God. Despite the pain and perplexity, God’s purpose remains singular and steadfast. “I cannot give you up!” (vv 8-9) A century later, God repeats his intention in Jer 29:11-12. “I know the plans I have for you; plans to give you hope and a future.” God had promised Israel that they would be his treasured possession (Exod 19:5-6). The promise was repeated to the Church (1 Pet 2:9-10). God would not abandon his purpose.