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Everyone loves a good love story.

The Princess Bride.

Tangled.

The return of the jedi.

 

If you flick through the tv channels you’ll see evidence of our cultures fascination with love stories.

The Bachelor.

Married at First Sight.

First Date.

 

Not endorsing any of those programmes – especially as these ones often end up unhappily ever after!

Hosea is one of those books that probably should come with a PG rating, and would make reality tv viewers go nuts on social media but is my favourite book of the Bible.  It is a phenomenal picture of the gospel and of God’s unrelenting, everlasting, never stopping, never giving up love for us.  The name Hosea even means Salvation and is the same name as Joshua and Jesus and as we read Hosea we see that not only his words, but that his whole life was a prophetic message to Israel.

The book of Hosea is a love story.  Of the epic romance movie kind.

I’ve been doing some research bout love stories and romcoms this week.  There is a formula for romantic movies did you know.

Boy meets girl.

Boy and girl like each other but must overcome obstacles to be together.

Plot twist.

Happy ending.

 

The book of Hosea follows the genre well.  It focuses on one of the craziest things that God asked anyone in the Bible to do. God told a man named Hosea to marry a woman who had a “shady past” and thus, boy meets girl.    God loving good Christian boy Hosea meets worldly atheistic good time girl.  But the craziness doesn’t end there.  Plot twist number one.  Gomer abandons Hosea and sleeps around, becoming a professional hooker, having kids by these other men. Plot twist number two.  The good times run out for Gomer, and she ends up being sold into sexual slavery.  Plot twist number three. God tells Hosea to go and buy her back and bring her back into his home and to share his love with her again. Believe or not, Hosea obeyed! What was God up to? And will there be a happy ending by the time the credits roll?

The human story was to teach people about His Story. It’s a story that definitely gets our attention, and it’s an incredible reminder of God’s radical love for us.

Hosea is a great picture of Jesus – who redeems the lost and broken – and makes them His bride.  We were far away from God, our thoughts and the way we lived our lives made us separated – just as how Gomer’s thoughts and actions separated her from her husband Hosea.   Jesus paid it all and has done it all so that there is a way back to God – so that we are now called beloved children of God.   Jesus is on every page of Hosea.

Heavy stuff!  Not your every day with Jesus bible story.   So how does this speak to our lives in the 21st century?  How does this play out on my Monday, with my family, in my workplace, in our church and in our relationship with God?

 

Let’s give you a bit of the backstory to give you an idea of the culture and context Hosea lived and ministered in.

About 200 years before the time of Hosea, the 10 northern tribes (Israel) had separated from the southern tribes of Judah and set up an independent kingdom. When Hosea arrived on the scene, Israel was experiencing the greatest time of peace and national prosperity since the separation.  People were “living it up,” as we might say, and didn’t have much time for God. However, the good times were not to last, as social injustice, political disorder and moral decay began to eat away at the fabric of the society.

Hosea’s message was primarily for the northern kingdom of Israel, although he occasionally refers to the southern kingdom of Judah. Hosea prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezkiah in Judah and the last six kings in Israel.

 

 

 

  1. GOD LOVES US IN OUR MESS

When we first read about Gomer it’s not pretty despite what movies like Pretty Woman would like to make you believe!

She is described in the NIV as a promiscuous woman

In the NLT as a prostitute

In the ESV as wife of whoredom

In the NASB she is the a wife of harlotry

What kind of love story is God writing here?

Can you imagine what Hosea thought when God impressed upon him to marry her?  Her?  THAT woman?

We’re very quick to judge aren’t we?   That naughty woman.  That naughty country Israel who ran after false Gods and did bad bad bad stuff.

However, if we want to see ourselves in the story we’ve got to see ourselves in Gomer.  Yes, That woman.

When we, like Gomer, were enslaved, God bought us back. When we found ourselves stuck in chains we never intended—chains of insecurity, discontentment or fear—God freed us. It is a wonderful picture of how very deep God’s love for us is, even when we don’t deserve it
Colossians 1:13-14 says “God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son He loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.”

 

We need this reminder every day for ourselves.  I’m not perfect and unless I’m reminding my heart of these truths then the tape that plays in my head that says Im not worth it and that I’m a fake and that I’m a failure messes with me.

And we need this reminder every day for the people in our world.  Are we loving the people in our world like God loves them?  Are we making it easy for them to believe in God who welcomes people to come “just as they are” or are we placing unnecessary expectations upon them?

God’s love is available to us no matter what we’ve done or where we’ve been. It’s completely unconditional—there is nothing we can do to make God love us less or love us more. Conditional love is based on behaviour and actions and deeds. If we don’t act a certain way, this person will no longer love us. Or if we do act a certain way, this person’s love for us will grow. But God is faithful and has promised to never leave or forsake us, even when we make mistakes and sin.

 

 

 

  1. GOD’S LOVE SEES US AS WE REALLY ARE

So, God sees us in our mess.  He knows us inside out and upside down.  The Creator who breathed out the universe and holds everything together with His glory knows everything about us.

 

Names are very important in the book of Hosea

Hosea’s name means God saves – it is the same root name as Joshua and Jesus.  Jesus on every page, in every chapter.

The names of their children are prophetic symbols of what God was doing in the nation – Hosea and his family were living examples to the nation – God was prophetically speaking through his everyday life and reality.

Hosea’s firstborn was called “Jezreel: it means bloodshed.  Seriously.

But it gets worse.

Gomer had an affair had got pregnant and had a daughter which Hosea named LO-RUHAMAH meaning NOT LOVED or NO MERCY.

Gomer had another affair and had another daughter which Hosea name Lo-AMMI which means NOT MY PEOPLE.

So we have bloodshed, no mercy and not my people.

Bloodshed, dinner time.

No mercy, Not loved, time for bed.

Good morning not my people.

Pretty dire.

It’s beautiful to see the turn around in Hosea 2:23 though

I will show love to those I called ‘Not loved.’ And to those I called ‘Not my people,’ I will say, ‘Now you are my people.’ And they will reply, ‘You are our God!’”

 

The Definition of Gomer

Gomer means complete (Strong’s #01586). The root word is gamar,(Strong’s # 01584) and it is a verb. In addition to complete, gamar means to perfect or to finish. I love the use of this word in Psalm 138:8. It says that the Lord will not leave us in the lurch. He has a plan for our lives, and He will finish what He has started.

 

The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; 
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

Blaise Pascal, a famous French mathematician and philosopher, put it like this: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”

Gomer left Hosea and tried to fill the gaps of her life with lovers and with money and with fine things.  But only God can make us complete.

Philippians 1:6 says that we can be confident God will complete the good work He has started in our life.

God sees us as we really are – He sees us in our mess but more importantly He sees us as He calls us to be.  Peter went from being a flake to a rock.  Jacob the liar was seen by God as Israel the prince.    Stretch into what God says about you.

 

3 GOD’S LOVE HAS NO COMPARISON

The message of Hosea is if you don’t straighten up and stop messing about there are consequences.   He’s pretty straight up and black and white about stuff.

In this grace-centric age we can sometimes try to dumb down sin and call we have as Christians to live to a higher standard, to live holy.  We’re reluctant to say this is bad and this is good because some people will say well whats good for you is not good for me and whats bad for you isn’t bad for me.  God has something black and white to say about what is good and what is not.

We make excuses for compromise and allow the world to shape us into its image instead of recognizing that we’re meant to be different, that we’re meant to live different.

God is not a killjoy.  His boundaries, His commands, are not to rob us of a great life but to give us the best life, abundant life.  Sin wrecks relationships, hurts others and makes a mess.

God offers us so much more than sin ever could.

Gomer and Israel had been persistently rebellious against God – chasing after other gods (to provide food) and other nations (to provide security), rather than trusting God. You know, God Almighty, the one who led them into the promised land full of food – giving them tasty desert snacks along the way – and who fought their battles for them, who guided them with a pillar of fire and a pillar of light, who split the red sea, who split the Jordan river, who made the walls of jerico fall down like that… That God.

Because of their sin and rebellion God is about to hand the nation of Israel over to the consequences of their actions: drought (let’s see how Ba’al goes at providing for you) and conquering armies (how’s that whole Assyrian alliance going?)

 

All the while God is offering this: Hosea 11:4 I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.

 

Now lets see how this plays out in our context…. Because its important to see ourselves in this cycle. We might not be running after idols of wood and stone but it doesn’t mean that idolatry isn’t alive and kicking in the 21st century.

The Bible says  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.”  Idolatry is dangerous because it undermines our enjoyment of God’s love for us and the authenticity of our love for Him.

God offers true love the world offers a counterfeit.   We try to fill that God shaped hole with anything but God, we’ll end up dissatisfied, restless, discontent.

And to add another layer to that.  God has a plan for your life but the devil has a plan too.  John 10:10 says that the devil comes to steal, kill and destroy but God gives abundant life.

The devils plan is to steal, kill and destroy your life.   He wants to steal your joy, kill your relationship with God and destroy your family and your future.

Let’s get specific.  What are the ways that the devil tries to steal, kill and destroy us?  What are some modern day idols?  If you think of an idol as anything we want more than God, anything we rely on more that God, anything we look to for greater fulfilment than God then we can add these things to the list:

Our careers

Relationships

Money

Success

Image

Entertainment

None of these things are necessary bad in themselves but have the potential to derail if not lived within the boundaries that God lovingly set.  Remember, He is not a killjoy.

The world will offer you an easy fix.

Eat this

Drink this

Have sex with this

Smoke this

Spend this

Buy this

Go here

Go there

Watch this

Sometimes waiting on God and getting God’s best takes time, but its worth it.  What God offers you is no comparison to what the world offers.

Because eat this, drink this, have sex with this, spend this, watch this has a massive cost.   They’re empty promises that cant deliver and create more problems than the solve.  They steal, kill and destroy.

 

Choosing counterfeit gods, small g, will erode your faith and your walk with God.  It will play out in your life.  It will put out your fire.   Our relationship rarely implodes suddenly.  We don’t worshp God hard out on Sunday then wake up on Tuesday and go stuff you God.  Instead, there’s almost always a slow erosion until eventually we find ourselves caught in a riptide and drifting out to sea.

What’s the solution?

Make sure your talk matches your walk. Be honest about any flaws you have, and speak from your weakness as much as your strength.

If you have an idol that needs to be addressed, address it. Get help. Tell a friend. Get connected in a Connect Group.  Go see a pastor. Get before God.

Fix your eyes on Jesus.  Remind yourself how amazing He is and how amazing His love is.

Change the way you think and the way you live.  Revelation 2 talks about going back to our first love, and doing those things we did at first.  Refind the fire.   Rebuild the relationship.

 

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  1. GODS LOVE TRANSFORMS

God will do whatever it takes to transform us

“Here’s the dangerous thing about Jesus: He’s not after your behaviour; he’s after your heart. Make no mistake about it. Jesus is going to relentlessly and passionately pursue your heart. Even when your behaviour tricks everybody else, it just doesn’t trick Jesus. He’s coming after the heart.” ~ Perry Noble

God is not interested in developing your vision first.  He is not interested in building your ministry or your platform.  He is interested in developing you.

Your capacity to live your vision, to thrive in ministry and to build a platform to make God famous is determined by your character. Your competency will take you only as far as your character can sustain you. Character, not competency, determines your capacity.

 

Hosea 2:14 says  “But then I will win her back once again.
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her there.
15 I will return her vineyards to her
and transform the Valley of Trouble[b] into a gateway of hope.
She will give herself to me there,
as she did long ago when she was young,
when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.

Verse 16 says, “ ”And it shall be in that day,” says the Lord, “that you will call Me ‘My Husband’ and no longer call me ‘My Master.’ ” ”  O Israel, I will wipe the many names of Baal from your lips,     and you will never mention them again.

2:19-I will make you my wife forever,
showing you righteousness and justice,
unfailing love and compassion.
20 I will be faithful to you and make you mine,
and you will finally know me as the Lord.

 

We see here that God is intent on transforming Gomer, from the wife of whoredoms, to a faithful wife, from a spiritual adulterous, to a faithful worshiper.  It is in the Valley of Trouble that transformation happens.  It is in that place where we have to depend upon God and lean into His promises.  It is in that place we learn the reality of God’s love.

God allows circumstances to exist in our lives to drive us to dependency on Him.

If you study in Scripture those who had a lasting impact, you will find that God led them through a season of preparation – a season in both a literal and figurative desert or wilderness. For Joseph, that season lasted about 13 years. Moses had to spend 40 years shepherding in the wilderness before he was ready to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Jesus himself spent 30 years preparing for his three years of ministry – the most impactful ministry in history.

 

Our heart is our point of connection with Jesus – the place where we become rooted in our relationship with Him. He wants us to develop His heart-to-heart connection with us to the point where we become fully united with Him, where we think like He thinks, want what He wants, speak like He speaks, and do what He does.

 

The desert can be a place of correction but it is often a place of preparation.   A season in the desert regularly precedes being released to do what God has called us to do.

The desert is where we learn God’s strategies for the things he’s called us to do later in life: Moses learned how to hear God;  David learned confidence in God as a boy defending his father’s sheep, which became the courage to bring down Goliath and eventually defeat Israel’s enemies on the battlefield. In the wilderness, David became a man, then a warrior, and a king.; and Joseph learned leadership lessons that launched him from the prison to the palace.

Elijah went on the run from Jezebel, overnight going from success to mess. He sat under a tree in the desert and actually prayed that he would die. The Lord visited Him and gave him directions for a new season of his ministry. He was to call Elisha as his successor and anoint a new king who would bring Jezebel’s reign to an end.

For Gomer it was a place where she rediscovered love and found her completeness.   The movie Jerry McGuire was right – but only when it comes to God!

Hosea 2:16 says And it shall be in that day,” says the Lord, “that you will call Me ‘My Husband’ and no longer call me ‘My Master.’ ”  

Gomer’s relationship changed from ownership and duty to love and romance, to faithfulness and friendship. 

How you respond in the desert is very important. No matter what you have done, no matter what people have done to you, and no matter what the enemy has done against you, God is sovereignly working ‘all things together for good.’

Will you allow God to transform your heart, shape your character and prepare you for the next level of walking with Him and changing the world?

 

 

 

5 GODS LOVE NEVER GIVES UP

 

God will do whatever it takes to bring us back to Him

God loves the unlovely

Welcome home – not a place of judgement but welcome

“Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods” (Hosea 3:1).

Go find her Hosea said God.  Go find her, bring her home.  Show her love.  Love her just as I love Israel said God.

Now we can read that and forget about the process.  Hosea had to go and track her down.  No just being able to look her up on facebook or text her to say “come home”, Hosea had to go and find her.  He had to search for her.  He had to go.   How painful is that search.   How messy is this situation.

Can you see Jesus in this?

When we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Before we loved God, He loved us.

God sends you and me on this rescue mission.  Go find her, Go find him.  Those who are lost and hurting, those who need healing and grace.  Go into the messy places and the backstreets.  Track them down.  Bring them home.

Look the reality is that some people walk away from God, for many different reasons.  Life gets busy.  People get hurt.  Sin.   Our job is not to judge, but to love.  It doesn’t matter why someone walks away, God calls them home.

And when they come home we want them to find a place of welcome, of friendship, of belonging.

We want the River to be a place for prodigals to come home, for Gomer to feel welcome.   So when someone comes back who haven’t been here for a long time how do we react?  Do we call them sinful heathens?  Even with jokes?  Do we berate them for their absence?   No,  hug them.  How’ve you been?  We’ve missed seeing you around?  Connect with them.  Let’s make it really easy for people to come home?

 

When Hosea finds Gomer she is at rock bottom.   She’s being sold into slavery, not a prostitute by choice, but a slave.

The mother of their 3 children, the wife he married and made vows to.  A slave.

And he has to buy her back.

Only think of how painful it must have been for a husband whose wife has run away from his loving provision to have to purchase her from another man. But Hosea did it because God has done that for us. Though she had not loved him, he loved her. Through Hosea’s story, God sent a powerful message to his people. Though they had served other gods and run away from his love, he wasn’t through with them. He loved them and would redeem them so they could return into the safety of his love: “I will heal their backsliding; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them” (Hos. 14:4).

Do you see Jesus in this?

Because God had to buy his bride back too.   How much did God have to pay to rescue and redeem us?

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect (1 Peter 3:19-20).

Aren’t you glad God does not treat us as our sin deserves? (Ps. 103:10) God chose you and loves you. This love story is your story. Even if you are faithless, He will remain faithful.

  • If you are enslaved, God will buy you back.
  • If you are lost, God will find you.
  • If you are ashamed, God will cover you.
  • If you wander off, God will bring you home.
  • If you give up on Him, God will not give up on you.
  • No matter where you are, God sees who you are, and He loves you.

 

Through the story of Hosea, God tenderly touches your arm and whispers, “Come home. My love sets you free. When you get tired of striving and wandering, I’ll be there to draw you to Myself again and remind you who you are in Christ.”

 

 

 

Today God is calling you home.  He is calling you out of compromise into faithfulness.  He is calling you to walk with holiness.  He is calling you to stretch into your destiny and capacity.  He is calling you to draw near.

He is calling you into relationship.    He is calling you to know His unrelenting, everlasting, never stopping, never giving up love for us.

He is calling you to live a love story with Him that has a happy ending.

 

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