Who Moved?

READ AT BEGINNING OF SERVICE:

James 4:8 (NIV)

8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

INTRODUCTION

Hosea 6:1-3 (NIV)

1 “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. 3 Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

Before we even begin to look at the text for this morning?s message I think it would be appropriate if we first of all look a little bit into the background of the man who wrote it and the context of what he wrote.

Hosea was a prophet who ministered to the nation of Israel in a time when Israel had reached the furthest boundaries since King Solomon?s reign. He was a prophet to Israel and Judah at the time Israel was a separate nation from Judah and it was living in affluence ? buildings were going up all over the place and the land was producing ? a time of economic and political prosperity.

Hosea?s name is equivalent to Joshua and the Greek form of his name is Jesus. His name means salvation. Some of the things Hosea speaks against in his ministry were:

Israel?s flagrant disregard for the Law (4:6)

Hypocrisy (4:7)

There was no priestly direction (4:7)

Pride (Amos 760BC) (5:5)

Calf worship at Bethel and Dan (2:8;10:15;11:2)

Sacred Prostitution (4:10-12)

In fact, if you look carefully at the writing of Hosea you?ll discover that the word used frequently to describe Israel?s sins is prostitution. But this carries much more significance than what first comes to mind.

Hosea?s writing can be divided into two main parts:

Hosea?s marriage to an Adulterous Wife (1-3)

Hosea?s message to an Adulterous Nation (4-14)

Threading through what Hosea has recorded can be found two reoccurring themes:

The nations? violation will cost Israel her national integrity.

God?s loving mercy solicits repentance.

It is interesting to note that the account of Hosea begins with the Lord telling Hosea to, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness?” (Hosea 1:2). I know if I had of been in Hosea?s shoes I probably would have said, “Huh? Am I hearing right from you Lord?” I mean, marrying someone who is unfaithful doesn?t isn?t fit the bill of a “good” wife for a prophet! Can you picture Hosea looking for a wife to fit that description?

“Uh, Hi ? the names Hosea. Um, do you know of a woman in this town who sleeps around?” “Aren?t you a prophet?” “Uh, well, yes ? but God told me to marry an adulterous woman.”

Eventually Hosea found and married Gomer ? and as it is recorded she fit the bill perfectly. Not only was she adulterous and sold herself as a prostitute but she also bore three children conceived by her relationships with other men! Ouch! Hosea?s personal life and his relationship with his wife read a little bit like a soap opera and if it had happened today would have been grounds for divorce and bitter separation. Gomer ran away from Hosea in her adulterous affairs but then the scripture records in Hosea 3:1 God telling Hosea to go and be reconciled to his wife and Love her. Ouch again! I don?t think I could have put up with what Hosea went through!

The thing I admire about Hosea is that he obeyed what God told Him to do even though it probably cost him great personal pain. Talk about commitment! But there was a reason for God telling Hosea what He did. Hosea?s life was to be prophetic of the relationship between God and Israel. For in the same way that Gomer was unfaithful to her husband was Israel unfaithful to God. In the same way that Gomer prostituted herself to other men ? Israel had prostituted themselves to other gods. Hosea?s marriage to Gomer gave conviction to his words to Israel because he was able to identify with what God was feeling towards Israel.

Today I?d like to focus on just a portion of Hosea?s message that is almost smack dab in the middle of the book. I believe that Hosea?s message is not only pertinent to the nation of Israel but also to the church of Christ. For the same imagery is used later on in the New Testament to describe the Church of Christ as the Bride of Christ and I think there are some parallels that can be made with Hosea?s message to the Israelites and what Christ would say to His church. I?d like to focus on four things Hosea says in the text for this morning but before we begin, let?s pray.

PRAY

“come, let us return to the Lord” (6:1)

Hosea begins with an urgent request to the nation of Israel to return to the Lord. In this time of affluence and prosperity Israel had become a little slack in their relationship with God and had moved away from Him.

There?s a story of a couple who were traveling in a car and one day the wife said to her husband who was driving, “Honey, do you remember how we used to sit close to one another in the car? Why don?t we sit that way anymore?” As he drove on his response in a loving and joking manner was, “Who moved?

Sometimes Christians and churches may find themselves wondering and crying out to God ? where have you gone? I miss the good old days when everything was fresh and new and exciting. If you feel that way, you need to ask yourself this question, “who moved?”

Hosea, a prophet of God having a wife who left him, cries out for a return. His wife had become a harlot (modern day prostitute) in the world. Now we might think that to compare ourselves to the likes of Gomer, a prostitute, is a bit harsh. However, it is not our assessment of our lives that really counts. It is God who looks at the heart and declares? “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Revelation 2:4).

Israel, as a nation, had lost their first love ? they had “prostituted” themselves to other gods. Are there any “gods” in your life that have caused you to move away from your first love? Money, Sin, Career, Popularity, School, Friends, Popularity?

“Let us return to the Lord.” How might we return to the Lord? Through prayer, the Word, worship, service and actions. We might be tempted to say like the rich ruler said to Jesus, “All these things I have done.” But the essence of the matter is, are we praying to return? Too much of prayer is asking what we want. Are we reading the Word as a map to return to God? Is our worship ritual or a means to return? Do our actions to others give evidence of our return to the Lord?

Hosea 5:4 (NIV)

4 “Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not acknowledge the LORD.

“He has torn us to pieces, but He will heal us” (6:1)

Difficult times are on the horizon for the nation, family, or individual, who moves away from God. Hosea was making obvious reference to the tearing away of Israel from Judah and the splitting of the nation in two. He was speaking also prophetically of the nations dispersement as a result of God?s judgement on them. Times of tearing and wounding fell upon the nation of Israel and times of tearing and wounding will fall upon those who move away from God. But bear in mind that these times are for the purpose of our return to God. God wants people to return to Him daily.

The beautiful thing is He will bandage, heal and raise us up as we return to Him.

Jeremiah 3:22a (NIV)

22 “Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.”

The return is not to be with slumped shoulders and hanging head. Our return is for the purpose of life.

Hosea 6:2c (NIV)

that we may live in his presence.

That we may live in his presence! When we try to live apart from God life is not as it is meant to be. But when we return to the Lord and give Him the first place in our hearts we may live in His presence which is life at its best. That is why David cried,

Psalm 51:11-12 (NIV)

11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

“let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge Him.”

Hosea speaks words of challenge and encouragement? “let us know, let us press on to know the LORD.” Hosea uses the Hebrew word yada for “know”. Essentially this word means: (1) to know by observing and reflecting (thinking), and (2) to know by experiencing. To “know” God is to have an intimate experiential knowledge of Him. Hosea is urging the Israelites not to be satisfied with being acquainted with God but to press on to know Him.

Many people in our world today have an acquaintance with God or know about Him. They have some vague idea that God exists ? but they don?t know Him. The sin of Hosea?s day was a lack of knowledge,

Hosea 4:6a (NIV)

6 my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.

Lack of knowledge of what?

Hosea 4:1-2 (NIV)

1 Hear the word of the LORD, you Israelites, because the LORD has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. 2 There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

This lack and destruction continue today because people don?t know God. Hosea?s voice cries out today, “Let us know!” Know what? Let us be challenged to move away from our smug attitudes of indifference. Let us know that we have moved away and prostituted ourselves to the other gods in this world of?time, money, work, and pleasure. Let us know that confession and repentance are required.

Let us be encouraged to press on to know the Lord once again in intimacy. Press on to forgiveness! The certainty of God must confront us and draw us back, the certainty of His grace and mercy must confront us and draw us back, the certainty of His holiness must confront us and draw us back.

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)

6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

“He will come to us” (6:3)

Hosea speaks to the Israelites of God coming to them like the winter and spring rains which water and nourish the earth. They bring nourishment for new life and abundant fruit of the land. Everything Hosea is saying is also a prophetic description of the joy that Christ brings to those who return to Him. The beautiful truth about this word picture is that God desires to bring life into our lives. He will come to those who return to Him. He promised it to the Israelites and it is His promise to sinners ?

James 4:8 (NIV)

8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

At the beginning of the message I asked the question, “Who moved?” Hosea?s cry to return is voiced in the certainty and trustworthiness of our God. God said through the prophet Malachi “I am the LORD, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6). Who has moved in your life? Folks God does not move away from us ? we move away from Him. But the hope we can have ? the joy of the Christian life is founded on the grace that when we move to Him ? HE actually moves to us!!

CONCLUSION

Look at your life this morning. Have you wondered where God went? Have you wondered where the excitement, the joy, the life of Christianity went in your life? I want you to know that God hasn?t moved. Hear the cry of Hosea, “Let us return”, “Let us know, let us press on to know God” and rest in the knowledge that as you return to Him ? He moves to you!!

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