Online Text Sermon - Survey of Hosea, Hosea ch.6 vv.1-3
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||Survey of Hosea|
|Text||Hosea ch.6 vv.1-3 |
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"Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth" (Hosea 6, 1-3).
I should just say a word about Liverpool where I was preaching, as you know, at a conference last weekend; Friday, Saturday and the Sabbath. The position in this country is that there are small congregations of men and women like yourselves all over the country, and Liverpool and the Calvary Baptist Church where I was preaching is one of these - men and women who earnestly long for the Spirit of the Lord to come down upon the country. Indeed, if it were not for men and women like you, and like them and others - like you both - then there would be little hope for this nation. Coming to prayer meetings like this and waiting on the Lord is far more important than all the political changes which happen in nations. God's eye is not upon Westminster so much as upon His own dear people who wrestle with Him. It is impossible to calculate the spiritual benefits which the nation as a whole has from your prayers, in secret and in public. So they want me to convey their warm Christian greetings to you, as indeed I took yours to them.
The purpose of this short series on the Minor Prophets is that we might open a few windows on these books of the Old Testament, which I suppose many of us find a little more difficult than some of the books of the New Testament. This evening, as you see, we come to speak a little about Hosea.
Beginning with Hosea, we come to twelve little prophets. You will know that we refer to these twelve as 'minor prophets'; not minor in the sense that they are not so inspired as the other prophets; they are just as inspired as Isaiah and Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. The reason why we refer to them as 'minor prophets' is purely because the books are somewhat shorter than the ones I have just mentioned. The Jews themselves used to look upon these twelve books really as forming, as it were, one book. They spoke of 'the twelve'. We really don't know why the twelve prophecies of the 'minor prophets' are in this order: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah and so on. Nobody knows; it is one of the secrets of God, but this is the order in which we have them.
Hosea prophesied at the same time as Isaiah. They were contemporary prophets. As we have said a little before today, all of these prophets whose writings are contained in the Old Testament are referred to as the 'writing prophets'. There were prophets before this time, like Elijah and Elisha and others. But those prophets we refer to as 'acting prophets'. Acting prophets did not leave books after their own names. There is no prophecy of Elijah in the Old Testament; there is no book of Elisha. They were men of action and they did tremendous work in their own generations. But now with the coming of the eighth century before Christ - that is seven hundred and so many years before Christ - we come across this new kind of prophet which God raised up. Isaiah and these others are all referred to then as 'writing prophets' because they have books after their own name.
You will appreciate that this is the period in which the people of God were divided into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. You will also remember from your reading of the Old Testament that the southern kingdom of Judah was much closer to the Word of God than was Israel in the north. Israel was ruined by one single king whose name was Jeroboam the First. There were two kings with that name. The second of that name is to be found in the opening verses, indeed opening verse, of this prophecy of Hosea (Hosea 1, 1). This Jeroboam, mentioned here in this book, is Jeroboam the Second. What Jeroboam the first did was to corrupt the religion of Israel. He did it for political reasons and Israel never recovered. We refer to Israel as the 'ten tribes'.
At the time when Hosea is writing, the ten tribes were perilously near to apostasy. They were right at the end of their national existence. In the lifetime of Hosea and in the lifetime of those that heard him these ten tribes were swept away by the terrible cruel armies of the Assyrians, coming down from the north and east. They took away these ten tribes and they vanished. Some indeed escaped south to Judah and survived there. But it is one of those mysteries of history; nobody knows what happened to those ten tribes of the north. Hosea's ministry then was to warn these ten tribes of their sins and of their impending judgment. He warned in the name of God and he showed them that they were terribly near to so provoking God that He would come in destruction upon them. In the first chapter, indeed, you will have seen references to that effect.
I must explain how this prophet, and all the prophets, addressed the people. You could, if you like, call it the prophetic method of preaching. And it is still very much the correct method of preaching today because human nature hasn't changed. All these prophets begin by denouncing the sin of the people, they all do it. Usually in the opening chapters of their prophecies they do it very sternly and energetically. They point to the sins which men commit and they don't spare the people. They rip up their consciences; they tear into them and show them the sins which the people had committed. The purpose of doing that is to drive sinners into a state of fear. But then when the people are brought into a state of fear, the prophet then gives them comfort and assurance, and he makes it clear to them that if they repent and turn to the Lord they will be forgiven. The Word of God never drives men to despair. The Word of God does not drive people into black darkness. The prophetic method, to repeat myself, is this: first of all to show the people their sins, and to do so methodically, energetically, and to bring the people to fear the consequences of their sins; but then to pour upon them comfort. You would have seen that both of these features of the preaching of these men, these prophets, are illustrated by the first and last chapters of the Book of Hosea which we read. In the first, he challenges the sin of the people, and in the last he gives them this great comfort. That is the correct method of preaching. A preaching which does not aim at sin is defective preaching and is likely to lead to spurious conversions and spurious professions of faith; and that is the very last thing that these Assyrians wished to do. If you are good at dates, I will give you one date simply and that is a very famous date in Old Testament history, a B.C. date, therefore 721 B.C. In 721 B.C. the Assyrians came and they carried out this destruction of the nation of Israel. They swept through the land and carried the people away, and they never returned. That then in general is Hosea's message.
Since my purpose is not so much to preach a sermon in an orthodox way but rather to give you a window or two on this Book, I am going to do two things this evening. First of all I want to show you the division of the Book. There are two halves to it, two parts to it if you like. And then secondly I wish to concentrate on the first three verses of chapter 6 which I just read as a sort of text. As I explained before, the intention in doing this is to try to encourage people to read these wonderful prophecies. They are not always easy, but they are extremely profitable and they speak so aptly and pertinently to our time. If you want the most up-to-date commentary in Britain today, don't go to the press and don't go to tomorrow's newspaper. If you want the most up-to-date comment on the need of Britain, go to the prophets; it's all written here. These are timeless exposures of the evils of nations, and the remedy therefore for the nations' sin.
The division comes next in our concern. There are just two divisions, really, in this book of fourteen chapters: chapters 1, 2 and 3 form the first section; and 4 to 14 therefore form the second section. When we read chapter 1, as we did tonight, we immediately find a difficulty which now I wish to address. If you look at verse 2 in chapter 1, you see these words: "The beginning of the word of the Lord by Hosea. And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD" (1, 2). This word 'whoredom' is not a common word today but of course, as you well know, it means fornication or promiscuity, sexual impurity. Here is the difficulty: God himself commands this man Hosea deliberately to select a woman for his wife who is immoral. He commands that children should be born to that union. The difficulty, of course, is obvious: how could a holy God command one of His own holy prophets to do such an inconsistent thing? For that reason many commentators, not all, but many commentators take the view that this was not intended to be taken literally and that Hosea never literally married an immoral woman, but what he did do was, as it were, in a parable or a figure of speech. I think that is the correct way to understand this event in chapter 1 which is indeed carried on into chapter 2 and reflected on in chapter 3. It's a sustained illustration; it's an ongoing picture and illustration. The reason why God uses this method of teaching the people is to show them that just as Hosea had taken such a woman, so Israel was treating God like an unfaithful wife.
When people depart from God it is, in the eyes of God, a sort of spiritual fornication, a kind of spiritual adultery; it's a kind of forsaking God and being joined to idols. That is a very common illustration in these prophets. The worst sin in the world is not simply bodily sin, which is so obvious that people tend to think that's the worst sin of all; no, the worst sins of all are spiritual sins, not physical sins but spiritual sins; the sins of departing from God; the sins of turning our backs upon the truth; the sin of living without God in our lives. God calls all of that by this term, spiritual whoredom. It is a turning away from the fountain of life, God himself, and making creatures, making created things, our gods.
You notice at verse 3 of chapter 1, he takes this woman and she has a name. All of this is symbolical. Her name you notice is Gomer. Gomer is the Hebrew word for corruption. That was a symbol of the state of the nation, a corrupt nation, a nation in a state of moral ruin and depravity - a symbol of Israel.
This woman gives birth to three children. You will have noticed in chapter 1, the first one is a son called Jezreel and the second, in verse 6, a daughter called Lo-ruhamah. Another son is born, later on, with the name Lo-ammi (1, 9). Gomer then is the name of this, probably symbolical, wife - not really done in fact probably, but done, as it were, in a kind of prophetic illustration of the state of the nation. Each of these children born to the woman has a prophetical name. What do these names mean? The first one is Jezreel, which has the sense of dispersion, being cast away, being scattered far and wide, for the obvious reason that this is what the invading army of Assyrians were going to do to Israel: they were going to come down and they were going to bring with them their horses and chariots, and they would scatter the population and take them away by handfuls to other nations.
Then the daughter - Loruhamah. Well it's impossible to understand why the girl has that name, unless we understand just the meaning of the Hebrew word. It means 'not pitied'; God has no more pity for the nation. It is a symbolical way of teaching the people what is going to happen to them. The Lord hath pitied his people. "You only have I known," He says, "of all the families of the earth" (Amos 3, 2). But now that they had sinned and committed this spiritual fornication, God in displeasure was about to say, "I have no more pity upon you."
Then this third child at verse 9 who has the name Loammi. Again, there is no way you can understand the significance of the name until we tell you that the Hebrew word means 'not my people'. That is what God is doing: He is saying to them - "Ye are not my people" (v.10) - a prophecy that the Jews were going to be cast away. This happened to the ten tribes within the lifetime of Hosea. It happened to the bulk of the Jewish nation when our blessed and holy Saviour Jesus Christ was born into the nation; they rejected Him and God rejected them. But here is the point we must see: there is more that must be said. All that I have said so far sounds like bleak and dark news, terrible news. But God has good news at the end of chapter 1. You see it in verse 10 - in the place where it was said to them, "Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God" (1, 10). That is a prophecy of the casting away of the Jews, not entirely, but for the large part; they have been cast away for a large part now for two thousand years. We believe that they will come in one day into the Church again. But those who were said not to be "my people" are the Gentiles: the people living in Britain and in the rest of the non-Jewish world. Scotland is not written in so many words but it is here by implication: "Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God" (1, 10). This is explained in verse 10, yet in spite of the casting away of Israel, "the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered" (1, 10). That is to say, there is a spiritual Israel as well as a national Israel, and although the national Israel is going to be largely dispersed and destroyed, and is not God's people and not receiving mercy, yet there is another Israel, a spiritual Israel, the children of faith, believers in Christ all over the world. They are going to come and they will be the enduring people of God. So verse 11, "Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel" (1, 11).
You notice they appoint themselves 'one head', in verse 11, and that is of course none other than Christ, the Head of the Church. They believe in Him, they trust in Him, they regard His majesty, His sovereignty, His saviourhood. The lesson, my friends, is this: it doesn't ultimately matter what happens to nations and kingdoms and people; what does matter is that you and I should believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. If we have Christ then we are internationalised. It little matters whether we're Jewish or Gentile, whether we're oriental or Occidental; nothing matters if we are able to make Christ our Lord and our Head. Then we shall come out of this world in safety and get to the heavenly inheritance.
We have to ask ourselves the question, in our deepest soul, have we made Christ the Head of our life? In our conscience, mind and spirit, are we adoring the glorious Saviour whom God has sent into the world? He came unto the Jews and the Jews rejected him; "He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1, 11-12) and they were born of God (John 1, 13).
I turn to Hosea 6 in order to give you a taste of a text to be found here in this passage. You will appreciate, as I said earlier, that we're trying to open windows to make the prophecy just a little bit easier to read on our own and to study at home. So I am taking these verses. One could take many similar verses, but these I take because they speak to us today"Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth" (Hosea 6, 1-3).
Let me give you a heading or a title for these three very beautiful verses. I think the title should be something like this: "A picture of men and women coming together in order to return to seek God," - a picture of people returning. I take it as a sample of Hosea's prophecy here in this beautiful book. The first thing I want to draw attention to in the text is this: notice here what this people are resolved to do, verse 1. This is their good resolution: "Come, and let us return unto the Lord" (text). You see this is typical of all these prophets - Hosea and all the others - they are showing us the remedy for the national troubles. God was certainly threatening the destruction of the nation; and indeed because they did not repent they were carried away, as I have said. But here is the remedy, and here is the remedy for Scotland, England, America, anywhere: "Come and let us return unto the Lord." That is the problem: we have forsaken God and we must return to Him.
Notice what they do. They first of all wish to gather together, "Come," they say. The word 'come' is a word meaning let's get together, let's come together, let's gather in a meeting. Then they say, "We are to do something further." Having gathered, they intend to return to God, to turn their back upon their previous evil ways, and they recognise that God is the one who has smitten them.
My friends, God loves repentance. God loves repentance, and repentance is what He most looks for in our lives. A wise man once said, "When Christians stop repenting they stop making progress in their Christian faith." That's very true. The way to make progress is always the same: repentance towards God. When your soul becomes dull and dead and dry - and how many times mine does, the answer for us all is repentance; to stir ourselves up and to say to ourselves, "Come, and let us return to the Lord." We have become formal, we have become routine, our services have become dry and meaningless; we're going through it as through a treadmill, we are simply doing it as a matter of habit and of routine. Our need is to come and return in heart to the Lord. That's what Jesus said to the church at Ephesus, you remember in the book of Revelation, "Thou hast left thy first love" (Revelation 2, 4) - and how often we do that, you and I. So we are to return to God. The Bible assures us: "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (Psalm 51, 17). God despises many things that men do wrong, but He never despises repentance. There is no case in the Bible of a person or a group of people repenting and God, as it were, spewing them out in contempt. No, no, even Ahab, who was one of the worst kings in the Bible, when he went softly in the fear of God, as he did on one occasion being threatened by the prophet Elijah, God noticed and God postponed the judgment; He lengthened out his tranquillity. And so you and I must tell ourselves, and all others, that the solution for the problems of the hour has a very great deal to do with repentance. "Come, and let us return to the Lord" (text). This is what ought to have been preached in Westminster Abbey! This is what ought to have been said to the nation! It is not economics, as one of the men was saying in prayer, it's not economics that matters supremely; they have their place no doubt; it's not the Health Service primarily; it's turning back to God that matters supremely, and you and I believe that. That's why we're here, beloved friends - I am speaking to those who love the truth, and I very well understand that - but this is what men must hear if they are going to have a message from God. It is a message which involves repentance and returning to the Lord from whom we have revolted so deeply. That's the way Hosea puts it: "Come and let us return to the Lord" (text).
Then he gives a reason why, in verse 1, "For he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up" (text). Whether it be floods that are the judgment, or whether it be foot and mouth disease, war, or earthquake - whatever God is pleased to send in chastisement and judgment upon any people - what time so ever they repent and turn to Him, He will cease smiting them and He will begin to comfort and to bless them. He has torn - look at that word 'torn' - God sometimes tears nations, communities, people, societies, towns, churches. He sometimes tears them, just as a lion would tear its prey, or a bear would rend a man in pieces if he got hold of him. God is not a God to be trifled with. This is something that has gone wrong. People today treat God as though He was a mere Father Christmas figure. God is supposed to be sitting down smiling at everything - good, bad and indifferent. He is not like that! He will tear the wicked in pieces if they don't return.
But, on the other hand, when the wicked turn from their wicked way, there is none kinder than God; He is ready to forgive, much more ready than men are to forgive. Men don't readily forgive anything, but God will forgive and pardon and turn away from His smiting. It's so obvious, and yet how often we need to be reminded of these things.
What then are the blessings that flow? I must be very brief. "After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight" (text). Well, it's very clear that He has got the remedy; He can heal our whole problem. Many writers, as you notice in verse 2, recognise here a reference to two and three days. They have seen a reference to the resurrection of Christ, who was dead, of course, for three days and rose on the third day; and they look for this as a prophecy, altogether probable. How much more clear it is then, that God raised Christ in a moment. There He was in the grave; there was the stone; there was no obvious sign of life; He was completely dead in His human nature; but then on the third day God raised Him up. That's what God can do to churches and nations and people and communities, in a day: He can bring new life into them, and we must remember that. We must never despair. It's so easy for us to say, "Ah well, things are getting worse and worse and worse, and they're going to get worse and worse and worse forever more until I die and then it'll be worse still and worse still..." No, not at all; the world has often been wicked, and often dead, and the church has often died down to the very roots and then grown again into a huge tree. So this is the vision: we shall live in His sight; He can revive us.
Then briefly, at verse 3: "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth" (text). Notice that - "his going forth is prepared as the morning" (text). What does it mean? Well surely he means this: you know very well that when the clock turns round a few hours it'll be the morning; even a child knows that. The hands of the clock go round and round till it's midnight, and then round again until six in the morning, and about that time - in springtime like this - there is light in the sky. It's sure, it's certain; there's no doubt about it. If God spares the world there's going to be a morning tomorrow morning. It's as certain as that, says Hosea. God will visit a people who repent; God will revive a people who turn to Him and return to Him. Oh what comfort! Here is the life we are to lead, a life unto God. Let's lead it, and hope for His visitation.
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