Relentless, Yet Reluctant in Judgment

Hosea 13:1-16

Present text (especially along with text from this morning) highlights why is essential to understand God’s Word in its context. What kind of Sovereign is God? What is his attitude toward his people, rebellious sinners, and the like? Dr. Charles Hodges – book – Good Mood, Bad Mood – depression and bipolar. Large segments of what passes for Christianity and many who challenge Biblical Christianity would diagnose God as bipolar.

Why is God so angry in the Old Testament and so loving in the New?

The angry, violent, vindictive God of the Old Testament often seems completely at odds with the loving Father of the New Testament.

Why was God so harsh on people in the Old Testament and more forgiving in the New Testament?

Harsh God of OT the one skeptics and professed atheists present, often a caricature of the real – bring over into NT, accuse God of “cosmic child abuse” at the Cross. Loving Father of NT the one theological liberals emphasized as basis for watered-down gospel. Many well-intentioned Christians struggle with their understanding of “Good Mood Bad Mood God” and how to relate to him, how to honestly share their faith in God with others.

Is relatively new problem in popular culture, essentially 20th century thing. Two things contribute to its continued presence – people don’t read the Bible, pastors don’t preach the Bible… comprehensively. Bible’s size / word count not a good enough reason/excuse for not reading:

Bible – 750,000 words; Lord of the Rings – 480,000; War and Peace – 580,000; Harry Potter series – 1.1 mil.; Left Behind – >1.3 mil.

Host of reasons given by church leaders for avoiding more than sporadic attention to cool stories of OT, favoring NT material in its place. Heaven forbid should trudge through any more than first 3 chapters of Hosea, that only as part of series on marriage and divorce. Rest of minor prophets?? Maybe on Christmas/Palm Sunday/Easter, then only specific short texts. For diligent reader of God’s word the Bible, especially when read more or less chronologically, much different picture of God emerges. In both Testaments we find complete description of character of God – NT adds no new tidbits to indicate God is work in process; NT leaves out no essential points either. Does not make either OT or NT standalone resource – each enhances and relies on the other for full picture of God and how he displays his character.

Our text only one of many that give multi-faceted view of God in relation to his people. Reminds of statement maybe even your parents used: “This is gonna hurt me more than it will you”. Probably thought parents were exaggerating, might have been. Yet is that true if God were to say it? Would God be exaggerating? Basic issue present here is God’s response to sinful rebellious people.

Because God is holy and just, sin must be punished. Because God is love, has both ability and desire to be merciful. In order for God to show mercy, holiness and justice cannot be compromised. God’s solution, we all know, what he spoke of in v.14: “I will ransom… I will redeem” – God paid infinitely higher price than his people to satisfy justice at the Cross.

Didn’t start out this way for Ephraim – at one time… was pleasing to God, then things changed.

A. how did this happen? v.1-3

a good start (1a)

so long as Ephraim acted humbly, life was good; God gave grace and exalted him – experienced life, God’s good provision

was true throughout course of Ephraim’s history: received “right-hand” patriarchal blessing when still a child, instead of Manasseh

later, after conquest of Canaan, assumed strong leadership role among tribes in northern Israel; name came to stand for 10 tribes like Judah for southern kingdom

for much of early history, northern 10 like the rest did worship true God, more or less follow his laws and reject idolatry

a bad choice (1b)

added to God-shelf – never did officially and outwardly reject true God; even today Jewish hope is that temple be rebuilt, worship established once again in Jerusalem

started worshiping other things along with old religion, no longer devoted with singleness of purpose to true God… who was still taking care of them, btw

only takes one wrong choice to begin trajectory that is eventually opposed to God and the truth – sometimes a short trip, other times can be longer and not so obvious

all downhill (2-3)

notice “things lead to things” – he offended through Baal worship, now they sin more and more – like proverb: “If the camel once gets his nose in the tent, his body will soon follow.”… and camel takes sole possession

downhill because following/worshiping anything less than true God leads to death – only Yahweh is source of what has substance and value

B. no God but Me v.4-5

one God, one Redeemer, one people

by virtue of who he is, what he has done – has right to be exclusive, to require total allegiance from people he has made his own

exclusive devotion works both ways

God exclusively devoted to his people, those one with his Son, just as he expects them to be devoted to him

is committed to doing all necessary for their well-being: their one-stop source for all needs without exception – spiritual, emotional, material

don’t miss: not a present reality but future promise

people weren’t presently devoted to one God but would be in future – means all bad stuff promised would not utterly destroy

why didn’t God vaporize Adam and Eve, then start over? to redeem and restore fallen humans, then glorify them for eternal existence brings him greater glory… and he has always had that end in view

C. why did this happen v.6, 11-12, 16

proud in prosperity (5-6)

could be dependent on God in the desert; in “land flowing with milk and honey” much easier to take personal credit for prosperity

when life is stable, material reserves steady or increasing, not necessary to depend on God for daily bread – focus of sight, thought, attention drops from heaven to earth

rejected God as king, then kings rejected God’s leadership (11)

God’s assessment to Samuel: “they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.”

Saul took authority not his own; Solomon married contrary to God’s design; Jeroboam multiplied gods on the god-shelf

piled up sin upon sin (12)

in spite of God’s rebukes through prophets, internal and external calamity, continued to sin wilfully; short of repentance, would be day of reckoning at some point

summary: rebelled against God (16)

not ignorance, not case of trying but not making the grade – weren’t even trying to please God, instead the opposite, wilfully going against God…his laws…his authority

D. relentless yet reluctant v.7-9a, 13, 15

expression of God’s actions and attitude goes from justice to mercy and back – v.9, for example

not because God is fickle or undecided – has greater purpose than maintaining his character by destroying enemies

justice is necessary and God takes pleasure in showing mercy; without justice, mercy would have no context and no meaning

like a predator (7-8)

imagine meeting up with lion, leopard, mad mama bear – what would you guess odds of survival? …without someone to rescue

is God’s point – situation is hopeless so long as relying on own resources; will be that way for those who rebel, intended to persuade change of direction

pain upon pain (13)

and with no good outcome – woman in labor but too weak to push child out; child to stupid to crawl out on his own

similar predicament: certain death for both mother and child unless there is outside intervention; just as true on spiritual level

incredible hardship (15)

God will purposely turn all efforts into nothing – dry them up, blow them away, bringing to end of all available resources… no reserve; greatest accomplishments end up empty… by God’s design

God refuses to give up until he has achieved his goal, using what is necessary to achieve it… no more, no less

E. I will be your King v.9b-10, 14

I will be your help (9b)

no matter how desperate conditions are, at hand of God, he stands ready to help all who turn to him

your king (10)

God’s desire and intent is to be King – in NT terminology, Lord – the ultimate authority and provider for all needs of his people

your substitute (14a)

for those who trust in Christ, God is the one who satisfies his own demands for justice… in the place of his people, paying full price of their ransom himself

your redeemer (14b)

how many ways does God need to make clear… in OT no less! that he has redemption of sinners in view continually

So how should we respond… to God’s goodness as well as his discipline? Recognize that Christ and Christ alone can satisfy. Stimulate appetite and thirst for Christ. Satisfy that hunger and thirst with Christ and Christ alone. Understand the more we satisfy our desires with Christ, the more we will desire him.

 

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