April 3, 2012 David Balzer

Hosea 1-3: The Heartbreak of Unfaithfulness:

God was hurt. And disappointed. Betrayed. Heart-broken.

Once again his own people had turned their back on him. He’d given Israel everything, and they’d just shrugged their shoulders. And wandered off to find something more exciting.

He wanted to tell them how he felt. So he searched for the right words. A picture that would show the depth of his commitment. And the intensity of the HURT and betrayal he felt.

Was it like the rejection you felt from A STRANGER? The anger and fist-waving of the driver behind you, or your opponent on the sports field? No, that didn’t come close. The relationship was too impersonal. Too distant. Too easy to shrug off that kind of rejection.

Or what about a close friend? You confide in them. Tell them your closest secrets. And then they go and tell the world. Brag about it. Mock you in front of your enemies.

Was THAT what the betrayal felt like?  No, that wasn’t it, either. Because people can always find new friends.

And so God thought some more. What about a father and daughter? A father who sinks his life into his daughter. Provides for her. Protects her from moral and physical danger. Drives her to dancing. Picks her up from parties.

But then the daughter gets tired of his rules. Other people are more exciting. Make her feel special. And so she gives Dad the flick. Cuts off all contact. And Dad’s heart is broken.

Was THAT what it felt like? Getting closer. But still not quite right. Children always do foolish things. You almost expect them to push the boundaries.

Well then, what about husband and wife? The closest of all human relationships. Two people who’ve publicly committed themselves to each other. Unconditionally. For better or worse. For richer or poorer. Sickness or health. Who’ve become one flesh. United. Connected. Inter-dependent.

But then the wife’s eye starts to wander. And her appetites grow. Appetites her husband can’t satisfy. Possessions beyond his budget. Attention beyond what one person can’t provide. Expectations beyond what anyone can fulfil.

And so she goes looking for other men. And joins with them. They make her feel attractive, and special. And they pay her generously. And finally she can get all the trinkets she’s ever wanted. And she thinks she’s happy.

But she betrayed his trust. Ripped his heart out, and stomped on it. He feels worthless. Gutted. After giving her everything. This is how she’s treated him.

Yes, that’s it, thinks God. That’s how I feel when Israel treats me like that. When she takes her eyes off me. Forgets me. Takes me for granted. And worships other gods. Because they suit her better. Or promise her riches and prosperity or fertility or fun.

That’s exactly how I feel. A jilted husband. God’s heart is broken.

The heartbreak of unfaithfulness. There’s perhaps no bigger betrayal than wife betraying husband, or vice-versa.

And it’s all around us. And the Presbyterian Church isn’t immune from it either.

I know three Presbyterian ministers in NSW whose lives have been torn apart by marital unfaithfulness. Let me tell you about two of them. Alan was a minister in Sydney. He was married to Kathy, and they had two kids. On the surface things looked fine.

Then they moved to a church in a small country town. Shortly after they arrived, Kathy began spending time with a single farmer living out of town. Their relationship deepened. Within a few months of arriving there, she’d moved in with him, and taken the kids with her.

And Alan’s life and ministry in that church were destroyed. And he never saw it coming.

For weeks he sat in a darkened room, curtains drawn, not answering the phone. A zombie. Struggling to come to terms with what had happened. The heartbreak of unfaithfulness.

And then there was Peter. A minister in a NSW Presbyterian church. He had what looked to be a pretty successful ministry. He was married with children. He preached the gospel. The church was growing, people were maturing. He was energetic, and motivated. People were encouraged.

But he was leading a double life. For at least three years before he was found out, he met with prostitutes, and was increasingly involved in pornography. All sorts of betrayal.

He preached holiness, and the importance of trust in marriage. While he betrayed his wife and his church behind their backs.

And when it all came out into the open as it nearly always does. It destroyed a marriage, and critically wounded a church.

But God’s determined that it won’t end that way with him. He devises a plan. He’s just not going to let his bride wander off like that. He cares too much.

His plan involves moving BEYOND unfaithfulness. To separation. And then finally to reconciliation.

It’s a series of steps many couples work through every day. Many couples never get PAST the separation.

But with God RECONCILIATION is the goal of the whole process.

And the key to the process is Hosea. God’s going to use Hosea to chase after his bride. To convince her. Plead with her.

But he does more than just give Hosea the WORDS to say. He’s going to make Hosea himself  a LIVING PICTURE. Hosea and his family will REPRESENT God and Israel. God’s MULTI-MEDIA MESSAGE slamming Israel’s adultery.

As we read through Hosea as we follow his family story God WANTS us to think about all those broken marriages we know of. All the heartbreak, and pain, and deception, and betrayal, and perhaps even to weep.

Because as we recognise the heartbreak of unfaithfulness in MARRIAGE, we might just understand a little BETTER  the heartbreak of unfaithfulness in OUR relationship with GOD.

1. Unfaithfulness (1:1-5)

So let’s look at Hosea’s story. It’s not just his WORDS that send the message, but his LIFE as well. Look at v2.

(Hosea 1:2-3 NIV)  When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD.” {3} So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

It’s a pretty unusual request!

Hosea’s not married before this. Perhaps even looking around for a wife. Ticking off the usual criteria. Attractive, good personality. Someone you can talk to. Good sense of humour. Non-smoker. Social drinker.

But God says, “Forget all of that. I want you to marry an adulterous wife. A prostitute. A whore.

Ask the men at the street corner. They’ll be able to point you in the right direction. She’ll have no husband, probably children from previous relationships. She’ll be someone whose affections are easily bought, and easily lost. Fickle.

She’s the one. I want you to marry HER. Because that’s exactly what I’ve done in committing myself to Israel.”

You see, God didn’t make a covenant with Israel THINKING he was getting an upright and godly people. He KNEW, right from the start, how they’d turn out. He KNEW what was in their hearts.

And it’s the same with US. HE knows exactly how weak-willed we are. How half-hearted, and fickle, and self-centred. And yet he still chooses us. Still sent Jesus to die to reconcile us to himself.

And Hosea knows what he’s getting when he marries Gomer.

And so his marriage begins. And before too long, a son is born. Hosea’s own flesh and blood. And God says that his name is to be Jezreel. The name of a well-known town and valley. Perhaps INFAMOUS was a better description. It was the location of a gruesome bloodbath under King Jehu. You can read about it in 2 Kings 9-10.

A depressing name really. A bit like calling your son Hiroshima, or Auschwitz.

And God’s point is “This episode sums up who Israel is. It’s the way Israel ALWAYS acts. It’s just one chapter in a long story of blood-thirsty wickedness, greed, trickery and hypocrisy.

Actions that are the FRUIT of divided loyalty. Of UNFAITHFULNESS.

And so his message is that judgment’s coming. V5. “I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. I will break Israel’s bow in the valley of Jezreel.” SEPARATION is coming.

2. Separation (1:6-9)

And if you thought the arrival of the FIRST child was a cheery episode. It’s only downhill after him.

Because Hosea’s story continues. His wife has another child. This time it’s probably NOT his. V6 simply says “she gave birth to a daughter”. With Jezreel, it says, “she bore HIM a son”

But by now, she’s started sleeping around again.

And God’s call is that Hosea calls the girl “Not loved” or “not pitied”. How appropriate if the child’s not Hosea’s! Every time he looks at the baby, he’d be reminded of his wife’s adultery.

The second stage has begun. Separation. How hard it would be for Hosea to commit himself to this child!

And it works just the same for God. V6. “Call her Lo-Ruhamah (not loved), for I will no longer show love to the house of Israel.”

Whenever God looks at the children of Israel, HE’S reminded of the unfaithfulness of THE NATION.

And his warning is that he’ll withdraw his love and pity. Not loved.

And before too long, along comes a third child. This time another boy. And once again, probably not Hosea’s. And God says to call him, Lo-Ammi, which means “not my people”.

Once again, another fitting name. Because when Hosea looked into the eyes of his youngest son, he’d see someone else’s eyes. Someone else’s genes. He belonged to someone else’s family. “Not my people.”

And it was the same with God and Israel. Even though he’d promised himself to Israel. To be their God, and they his people. Their adultery had broken the marriage. “My people” had become “NOT my people”.

Is that what YOU think of your sin? That it’s committing adultery against God? Breaking his heart?

Or do you just ASSUME? Take his forgiveness for granted? “He doesn’t mind if I sin. After all, all I have to do is confess it.” But just because forgiveness is free, it doesn’t mean that your sin doesn’t concern God.

3. Reconciliation (1:10-2:1)

But even in the midst of God’s anger, separation is only the MEANS to an end. It’s RECONCILIATION he’s after.

And look at the wonderful way he describes the promise of reconciliation. V10. Right back in the beginning, when God and Israel were just GOING OUT, Dating, he’d promised something to Abraham – the Father of the nation. He promised to make Abraham’s family as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore.

And he’s declaring that the promise still stands. That assurance, whispered in a lover’s ear in the warm glow of a first date. Still rings true. The romance and the passion have never died.

And even though Hosea’s children represent the UNFAITHFULNESS, and the SEPARATION. God’s going to move BEYOND those steps. And their names will take on a NEW meaning. A fresh significance.

Look at the end of v11. Jezreel, which means “God scatters or God sows,” will represent God SOWING Israel back in the land, and they will come up out of it, like a healthy, fruitful crop.

And v1 of Ch 2. Instead of the brother being called “NOT my people”, call him “my people. And instead of the sister being called “Not loved”, call her “Loved one”.

That’s the reconciliation God’s looking for.

4. Unfaithfulness (2:2-8)

And the series repeats in Ch 2. Ch 1 has given us the pencilled outline. Now Ch 2 fills it in. Adds the colour, and the shade, and the contrast.

Verses 2-8 go into a bit more detail. This time outlining Israel’s adultery. Her unfaithfulness. An adulterous look on her face. Unfaithfulness between her breasts.

Or down in v5.

5 Their mother has been unfaithful and has conceived them in disgrace. She said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my food and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink

God’s describing Israel’s IDOLATRY. You see, the local gods of Canaan were fertility gods. And they’d been Israel’s downfall almost from the first day they arrived in the Promised Land.

Make sacrifices to them, and the promise was a rich harvest. Plenty of rainfall. Food, water, wool, linen, oil and wine.

But what was so foolish about the Israelites was that went looking for the right THINGS in the wrong PLACE. They thought that the fertility of the land depended on the local gods. Rather than coming from the hand of the only God. The God of heaven and earth. Look down to v8.

8 She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold- which they used for Baal.

Israel’s adultery was swallowing Satan’s lie. The lie that God is STINGY, and that life is better somewhere else.

It’s the lie that ALL adulterers swallow. That life is better somewhere else. With some-ONE else.

5. Separation (2:10-13)

And God’s reaction to the unfaithfulness. Is to demand SEPARATION. Shock tactics to show the total depravity of the sin. V10. “I will expose her lewdness”

And down to v12. It’s easy to think that false gods are giving you fertility. As long as things are going WELL. But what if the land no longer GAVE its fruit? How much credit would the false gods get THEN?

And so God warns that the OPPOSITE of fertility is coming. Ruined vines. Weeds, thorns, and wild animals will invade.

Probably, the thought is of EXILE. SEPARATION. The adulterous people removed from the land, and from God.

With no-one in the land to look after the fields it all goes to ruin. Then the people can see the false promises of the false gods for what they are.

But once again. That’s not the end. The separation is meant to draw the people back to God. To reconciliation. And that’s what God promises next.

6. Reconciliation (2:14-3:5)

Look at v14.

14 “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.

God is going to forget the past. Put it all behind them. He wants to go back to square one. Pretend that he and his bride have just met. On their first date. And he’s going to woo her all over again.

And the result will be that the relationship will be as good as ever. The closeness and intimacy and trust will be restored. Look at v16.

16 “In that day,” declares the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’

And it’s not just the relationship between God and his PEOPLE that’s been restored. There’ll be peace in ALL relationships. With the animals (V18). With other nations (v18). And down in v22 – even with the land itself. It will bring forth grain and new wine and oil. All the things they thought the fertility gods would deliver God delivers.

It’s a picture of paradise. Eden restored. The new heavens and the new earth. And it’s all waiting for US. LITERALLY. Just like this!

But the greatest of all reconciliations is that between God and his BRIDE. Look at v19.

19 I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. 20 I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD.

New marriage vows. Eternal vows. With a new dowry. But rather than money. God promises to provide righteousness, justice, love, compassion and faithfulness. This is how he declares to act towards his bride. What wonderful marriage vows! What better qualities could you bring to a marriage!?

And notice what he says about Hosea’s children again. At the end of v22, God says that the land will respond to “Jezreel” – God sows. He will plant ISRAEL in the land. For HIMSELF.

And will show his LOVE to “Not loved”. And will say to those called “NOT my people”, you are my people. And they will say you are my God!

And while the complete picture is something we’ll only see at the end. In paradise. The words have come true in OUR time. We are their fulfilment.

Because Paul quotes these verses in Romans Ch 9. The whole chapter is about how the Gentiles fit into God’s plan of salvation. And in v25 Paul identifies THE GENTILES as those called “NOT my people”. And God has now called them “My people”. The offer of reconciliation goes to GENTILES. That’s you and me!

Just like Israel, we’ve broken God’s heart. We’ve flirted with other gods. Flitted our eyelids at human approval. We’ve lifted our skirt at materialism and comfort and security. We’ve held a long, seductive gaze with pride and power and purpose. We’ve gone looking for thrills, and excitement, and satisfaction, in places we shouldn’t.

And just like Israel. There’s been separation from God.

But it needn’t stay that way. Just like Israel, he offers us reconciliation.

Because of Jesus’ work on the cross. God counts HIS righteousness as ours. And OUR sin as his. And then he calls us “MY people”. What a privilege!

But, just like Israel, with privilege comes RESPONSIBILITY. This verse is quoted one other time in the New Testament. Peter quotes it in 1 Peter 2:9-10. God’s people have a responsibility to live as lights to his goodness. Ambassadors between his kingdom and those outside. Mediums contacts agents who offer God’s reconciliation to those we meet.

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Do you understand the depth of the reconciliation you have with God? How does your life show that understanding?

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