Is it possible for God to show mercy and grace even in the midst of His judgment? Can judgment/discipline be a positive event in our lives? Is it possible to view judgment in a positive light? Let’s discover the answers to these questions and more as we turn to the book of Hosea. Here at Southern Calvert Baptist Church, we have been walking through the entire Bible over a three year period. Currently, we are in the book of Hosea. Our goal is to examine every book of the Bible and discover how each book points to the person of Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind.
Hosea’s marriage is a picture of Israel’s relationship to God. Ultimately, this Truth applies to the church’s relationship to Christ. The Apostle Paul teaches us a very important Truth about what we find in the Old Testament:
For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)
Hosea is a tough story to read yet, according to what the Apostle wrote, Hosea’s story is to encourage us and to give us hope. Hosea’s story is a story of judgment, hope, mercy, and grace. We have much to learn from it.
I. Hosea and Gomer
Hosea is a godly man. He has a genuine relationship with God.
The Word of the LORD which came to Hosea the son of Beeri . . . (Hosea 1:1)
The Lord communicated with Hosea the same way that He communicates with us today, through His Holy Word. The Lord gives a very strange command to Hosea.
When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD.” (Hosea 1:2)
There is a very specific reason in telling Hosea to choose a harlot as a wife. God is making a living statement to the children of Israel. The people of Israel had been cheating on God for many years, the same way that Gomer was going to cheat on her husband, Hosea. It was going to break Hosea’s heart yet, he was going to set himself aside and love and serve his wife, especially when she did not deserve it. God has been doing this for Israel and He is going to continue doing this, even during difficult times when Israel was going to have to suffer the consequences of her sinful choices. God is not going to stop loving her even when He allows her to suffer the consequences of her sin. To foreshadow this suffering, God tells Hosea and Gomer to give their children very specific names upon their birth.
- First born: Jezreel – this name means that God sows or God produces. The things that are going to happen to Israel are God’s doings. He is about to judge Israel for her sinful actions. Israel is going to have no one to blame but herself. God is not unaware of what is about to happen. He is actually going to use this calamity for good.
- Second born: Lo-ruhamah – this name means no mercy or no compassion. It is going to seem like God is showing no mercy or compassion on the Northern Kingdom by allowing what is about to happen. But, knowing the big picture will help us understand that God is merciful and full of compassion even in the midst of terrible calamity.
- Third born: Lo-ammi – this name means not my people or eclipsed. The Northern Kingdom is going to be eclipsed for a while by the Assyrian captivity. God is going to use this event to warn the Southern Kingdom time and time again. This is a form of God’s mercy and grace even during a period where there seems to be no mercy and grace.
When all of this is put together, we see the warning signs given ahead of time. The people simply would not heed the Word of the Lord. They ignored the living message of the Lord in the form of the family of Hosea and Gomer. The judgment is going to be severe. The judgment could have been avoided yet the people would not listen. The judgment is going to be used as an example of what not to do for the Southern Kingdom. They are also not going to listen and have to pay a similar price, yet, in the midst of all of this judgment, God still has mercy and grace available. The end result of God’s discipline is found in Hosea, chapter 3.
4 For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar and without ephod or household idols.
5 Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days. (Hosea 3)
Israel will finally come to her senses and return to the Lord. But, God has to take the initiative in wooing her back the same way that Hosea is going to have to take initiative in wooing his wayward wife back.
14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, Bring her into the wilderness And speak kindly to her.
15 “Then I will give her her vineyards from there, And the valley of Achor as a door of hope. And she will sing there as in the days of her youth, As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt. (Hosea 2)
This is the beauty of our Lord’s mercy and grace. He takes initiative. He reaches out to pursue us. Even His discipline is for our own good because it causes us to return to Him with all of our hearts. God even takes the consequences of our sin and uses those to extend His mercy and grace to us, to give us hope during very hopeless times.
II. Our Response to Discipline
There are several different ways that we tend to respond to discipline from the Lord. The Lord tells us in Proverbs 1 that the way that we respond to being corrected shows if we are wise people or foolish people. Take a look at how people respond to correction.
- Ignore the advice – I have encountered this response many, many times. As a spiritual leader, I have been called by God to reprove and correct using the Word of God. Reprove means to show people where they are wrong and then correction means helping them get back right. It is not a fun process but, it is a necessary process. One of the most frequently encountered responses is simply to ignore the advice. I have had people sit, listen, agree with me, and then turn around, leave and do none of the things that I counseled them to do. They simply ignored what I said. It is sad to see people do this because their lives tend to go from bad to worse because of the poor choices that they make.
- See the discipline as an attack – According to Proverbs 17:10, a foolish person views discipline and correction as a personal attack. The passage compares discipline and correction to punches and kicks. I have also encountered this many different times. People get defensive right away. Our sin nature immediately wants to justify our actions. It’s who we are. A foolish person goes with that natural instinct to justify.
- Counter attack – Because the person feels threatened by discipline and correction, he has a tendency to strike back at the one who offers discipline and correction. In our case, it is literally striking out at God because He is the One offering discipline and correction for our own good.
- Gossip about the one offering discipline – I have had this happen to me and I have had people try and come to me and share about another church or another pastor. I simply refuse to listen to it. I always offer to go with the person to confront the pastor or church and, as of now, I have never been taken up on the offer. According to Hebrews 12:5, a foolish person faints when disciplined or confronted. They usually run away and talk bad about the one who offered discipline and correction. Have you ever done that?
- Confess and Repent – I wish this were the majority of the cases but, sadly, it is in the minority. This was the advice that Jesus gave to the churches in Asia Minor in Revelation. He confronted them and disciplined them. The solution was, remember, confess, repent, and return. This is why God disciplines us. This is why God corrects us. Unfortunately, we do not like to admit that we are wrong and our pride keeps us from following the advice of the one who disciplines and corrects us.
How is the mercy and grace of God manifested in all of this? By disciplining us, God does not allow us to continue down a destructive path. He offers us a way of escape. Whether we decide to take that way of escape is up to us.
Think back over your life the past couple of years. How have you responded when God used one of His leaders to confront you? Did you ignore the advice given? Did you feel threatened and strike back? Did you run and gossip about the one who confronted you? Or, did you confess and repent? Even if the person confronts you the wrong way, if what they are saying is true, how you respond reveals if you are a wise person or a foolish person.