For far too many, God is “the Big Man Upstairs;” a cold, detached, remote deity in the sky. As a result, our lifeless devotion often follows a similar trajectory. Cold. Detached. Uninterested. Lukewarm love satisfies no one. But, what if rather than being a distant, dispassionate Clockmaker, God is actually the most passionate Being in the universe. In the words of author Tim Chester, “People often talk about what they feel about God. Hosea tells us what God feels about us.” Through the words of the ancient Hebrew prophet Hosea, we get the full range of God’s heartbeat on display. Relying on images of marriage and family, God leverages the real life story of Hosea and his unfaithful spouse, Gomer, to reveal His jealousy, commitment, heartbreak, enthusiasm and compassionate pursuing love that gets the final word. After all, it's the revelation of His white hot consuming passion that stirs our passion in reply: our jealousy for God, our commitment to Him, our heartbreak over sin, our enthusiasm to serve, and our love for the lost. God’s heart sets our tepid hearts on fire. In this new year, let’s feast on the all-consuming passion of God for us and His world.
For the vast majority of this book, the primary metaphor for God's relationship with Israel has been that of a husband and a wife. Marriage is the overwhelming backdrop of this book- between Hosea/Gomer and God/Israel. However, in this last sermon of the series, God changes the metaphor and swaps out the comparison from marriage to parenting. Hosea 11 is a complete poem about the Father heart of God. Same prophet. Same people. Same limitations. Different angle. God replays the tapes of Israel's childhood and "teenage" rebellion. And then, in deep emotion, God declares His heartfelt compassion for Israel that will not give up. This book closes with one more reminder that God is not what we think or what our collective experience tells us. God has emotion for His people, emotion that He needs us to experience if we ever want to live out the fullness of our life story.
There is probably no single attribute of God with greater baggage or that causes more visceral triggers than the wrath of God. The very mention of that word causes many to cringe, recoil or shudder. Unlike God's wisdom, mercy, holiness or love, the wrath of God causes people to avoid it, ignore it or artfully dance around it. However, because love and wrath do not stand in contradiction to one another, the unlikely prophetic love story that is the book of Hosea would be incomplete without at least one conversation about it. This week, in exploring Hosea 8, we will take a biblical view of wrath, see how it is provoked and explain what is at stake for a 21st century disciple of Jesus. Rather than being a grumpy, irritable, out-of-control overreaction, the wrath of God challenges our flippancy, hypocrisy and complacency while also giving us hope in final justice and the supremacy of Christ.
Moving into Hosea 4, this passage marks a new section of the book and a noticeable shift in our eccentric, heart-wrenching, unlikely prophetic love story. Rather than focusing on the details of Hosea and Gomer, chapter 4 and following involve the details of God summoning Israel to court with the specifics of His legal complaint. God has the chance to openly and passionately explain His "indictment" of the people of God. God speaks and the people of Israel are called to listen. As God dives into the specifics of their sin, we are given a better understanding of how sin works- all of which reveals how often we ask the wrong sin question. Most of us spend a lot of time on the "what" of sin rather than the "why." Hosea 4 helps us unpack both the what and the why; the sin and the sin underneath the sin. Or, using other terms, Hosea 4 exposes both the fruit and the root of our sin. God calls us not just to end the various sinful behaviors. But even more deeply, God's calls us to a place of loving knowledge of Him in real relationship.
Hosea chapter 3 brings the storyline back to the specifics of the Hosea/Gomer love affair. Being a chapter with only five verses, it is a concise, quick, punchy real-life redemption parable. As Hosea is called to "go back and love" his unfaithful wife who is in the arms of another man, his action brings further understanding to the elements of redemption that we often have a hard time holding on to. God-style redemption reveals (1) Limitless love, (2) Costly love, and (3) Intimate love in ways that blow our minds and stir our hearts. Hosea 3 reminds us what God's redeeming love actually feels like as it speaks to our shame.
The deeper one moves into the story of Hosea, more questions emerge. How does a holy and jealous God respond to the fickle ways of an unfaithful people? When we scorn God, how will He respond? The end of Hosea 2 reveals that God does not give up, run away in exasperation or respond in passive aggression. God, in His faithful love, pursues His unfaithful bride when she least deserves it. And He does so in two unconventional ways that need some explanation. In pursuit, God frustrates our misguided loves. And in pursuit, God flirts with our souls. He frustrates our misguided loves by exposing and upending the idols we are quick to chase. Then, in His kindness, He allures us by speaking tenderly to our identity. Come discover the One who frustrates and flirts, drawing us closer to an exclusive love relationship with Himself.
Moving deeper into the Hosea storyline, the focus shifts from Hosea's children to his unfaithful wife, Gomer. Through her storyline of promiscuity and running into the arms of other gods, God reveals His Husband heart toward Israel as a fickle bride. Rightly stated, God is jealous for the exclusive love and affection of His people. But contrary to human jealousy which is often based on fear, paranoia and petty insecurity, God's jealousy is rooted in His holy zeal for what is rightfully His in relationship. The more we learn about fickle Gomer and unfaithful Israel, the more we see our patterns of wandering that break the heart of God. Our sin is not just about breaking the law. It's even more fundamentally about breaking His heart.
The first chapter of Hosea introduces us to this bizarre, unorthodox and compelling story about a man named Hosea and the calling God has for his family. In the opening lines, we learn that God calls an ordinary man living in opulent times to enact in his family the gospel of grace... even when everything in his gut screams no. This week, we will explore the Hosea storyline and these introductory components (an ordinary man, opulent times, family and grace). In doing so, we are hoping to discover in visceral ways the way that God feels about us. Our lives will only be able to shift from observation to participation in the Kingdom of God when we are consumed by the eternal, infinite fire of the passion of God for us.