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Intro: We are in our third week in a series called, “REDEEMED.” We’re looking at Old Testament stories to gain a deeper insight into what it means to be the redeemed of the Lord.

In the first week we looked at the redemption of Lot by his Uncle Abraham. Lot had been captured by King Kedorlaomer and other kings while Lot was associated with wicked Sodom. Abraham risks his own life and the life of 318 fighting men in his bet ab (his household) in order to save his kinsman. We may find ourselves down the wrong alley, having made some unwise choices of our own. Or maybe because of the evil intentions of others, we may find ourselves trapped in circumstances beyond our control. The good news is that we have a Redeemer who risked his own life—in fact, gave His own life—so that we might be set free.

Last week, we talked about the beautiful story of a widow named Naomi, her daughter-in-law, Ruth (also a widow), and a kinsman named Boaz. Life had become bitter for Naomi as she found herself without a husband, without sons, and without an economic future. But the love of a Ruth for her mother-in-law and the faithful obedience to the social and religious mores of the times not only gave Ruth a future, but also Naomi. Boaz risked his own financial future to buy back the estate of Ruth’s dead husband, Mahon, one of Boaz’s kinsman. Life can throw us some serious curveballs and we may feel as though we have no family and no future. But Jesus left his heavenly home to buy us back from the place of utter despair and desolation. Jesus is our great kinsman Redeemer.

Today we are going to look at one of the minor prophet’s in the OT to examine another example of redemption—the story of Hosea and Gomer. I gave a message on Hosea last August, so some of what you hear today may sound familiar. But it never hurts to review, right?

Hosea was a prophet of the Northern Kingdom of Israel during the reigns of several kings—Jeroboam II and six successor kings in the north and Uzziah through Hezekiah in the Southern Kingdom. Hosea’s prophetic ministry lasted a quarter century during some of the most turbulent times in the Northern Kingdom of Israel (also known as Samaria and Ephraim), though he likely never saw its fall to the Assyrians in 722 B.C.

Hosea was not the only one prophesying to the northern and southern kingdoms at that time. Amos, Micah, and Isaiah all spoke the judgment of God on the people of Israel for their sins and the hope of redemption and restoration because of the unfailing love of the Lord.

The thing that makes the prophet Hosea so unique from the other prophets in the OT is that his oracle was an actual object lesson. Hosea actually lived out the message God gave him for Israel.

Let’s hear the opening words of the prophet Hosea [READ HOSEA 1:1-3 NIV].

Nowhere in Scripture is an opening statement of judgment by the Lord more clear than in these verses. “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the LORD.”

We’re not sure if Gomer was a woman with a “reputation” for promiscuous behavior or a woman professionally employed as a prostitute, but we are given the impression that Gomer is NOT the kind of woman you would bring home to Mom’s house.

Get this picture in your mind. Here’s a man of impeccable character as a holy man of God crossing the tracks to the “other” side of town—maybe even to the local brothel—to pick out a wife! Can you imagine the gossip circulating around this scandal in a small town of less than 250. “Did you hear about the holy man, Hosea? He married on of THOSE girls! What is this world coming to?”

Can you imagine how Hosea must have felt obeying the word of the Lord? The custom of marriage in that day would be for a young man to marry a virgin from within his own clan, having built a room onto his “bet ab” [father’s household] and to build a life with her with many strapping young sons and beautiful daughters. Yet Hosea is to marry a woman who has—for whatever reasons—become someone else’s sex object. She’s damaged goods. In Hosea’s day, she would have been considered the least of the least of women.

But let’s consider Gomer for a minute. Do you think that as a little girl Gomer said to herself, “One day I want to be a prostitute”? “One day I hope to be an unfaithful tramp in my community.” We don’t know the circumstances that landed Gomer in her miserable state. She had no “father’s household.” She would never have a husband because of her past. All she could do was to sell her body (either for money, food, shelter, etc.) to survive.

Does anybody PLAN to become a disappointment to their families…a blemish on society? You may not have the past that Gomer had, but everybody’s got a past we wish we could undo. Some of us in this room are still fighting the demons of your past. You made some very poor choices outside the will and plan of God and you’re STILL paying for them.

Maybe you were married once, but the marriage ended badly and your kids won’t have anything to do with you.
Maybe you started partying as a young man or woman and never left that lifestyle. Now you can’t go very many days without a drink to numb the pain of your past.
Or you went into business with a “friend” because you just knew it would turn out profitable. But it went bust, the friendship is ruined, and you are filled with regrets.
No matter your past, you can relate to Gomer in some way.

But there are others in this room who think they have nothing in common with Gomer…or Hosea for that matter. You would NEVER be caught hanging around “those” kind of people. You’re in church every time the door is open and all your friends are with you there. Why, you’ve never even tasted beer, yet alone gotten drunk! You always pay your taxes. You follow the rules…at least the rules that would make you look bad in our small town if you got caught. And you KNOW God is pleased with your conduct. You thank God you are not like THAT woman or man.

But you also play it safe. If God were to call you to minister to a pregnant teenager, you would resist. If you were called to mentor or tutor at-risk middle school kids with no dads, you would say that someone else was more qualified and respectfully decline. If you were asked to travel to another culture to help build houses, lead VBS, or provide food and supplies to deeply needy people with little or no governmental assistance, you would give a little money, but there ain’t no way you’re getting on a plane to help relieve their pain and show them God’s love in person.

But here’s an amazing…and, frankly, OBVIOUS truth: EVERYBODY deserves a chance….to turn their life around…to be able to live and thrive free from oppression, hunger, and loneliness. So did Gomer. Then one morning a miracle happens. A man from the “good side of town” offers to be her husband. Gomer goes from being a nobody to a somebody with one covenant ceremony.

Let me say a word about covenants, and specifically the covenant of marriage. If you come to our Epic of Eden small group you will hear much more about covenants and their biblical significance, but let me mention a couple of things. Covenants in the OT are very similar to contracts in our modern world, but not exactly. According to Dr. Sandra Richter in her book, Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament, a covenant is “an agreement enacted between two parties in which one or both make promises under oath to perform or refrain from certain actions stipulated in advance.”

The most common covenant we still use today is marriage. It’s big deal in the eyes of God.

Genesis 2:24 offers a commentary on the creation of woman and the joining of her to man, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
The first miracle Jesus performs in the Bible is turning water into wine at a wedding at Cana of Galilee.
And in the New Testament writings of Paul, the picture we get of the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church is that of husband and wife: I promised you [the church] to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. 2 Corinthians 11:2 NIV

Marriage covenants have elements similar to other covenants: Preambles, Historical Prologues, Stipulations, Witnesses, and blessing and curses (even though implied). And rather than sacrificing an animal and walking through it’s blood while reciting the stipulations (which could get very messy in our sanctuary!), we exchange rings which are the symbol of our covenant. It is to be taken VERY seriously.

But we all know marriage covenants are broken all the time, don’t we? Sometimes it’s due to sexual infidelity, but often it’s due to emotional and spiritual unfaithfulness. There can be:

A Failure demonstrate love and empathy
A Failure to show respect and honor to our spouses
Putting other activities and other people ahead of our spouses and families.

Back to Hosea. He marries Gomer the prostitute to illustrate God’s faithful love for a people who are not wholeheartedly devoted to him. Hosea and Gomer have children together with names that means things like, “God plants,” “not loved,” and “not my people.”

You would think that the story of the redemption of Gomer would be a Cinderella-like “happily-ever-after” ending. Gomer would now live content in her relationship to a faithful, loving husband and father to her children. But that’s not the story of Hosea, nor is it our story with God.

Gomer goes back across the tracks. Sometimes we can get out of our past, but it’s harder to get the past out of us. We don’t know why she chose to go back to her life of sin and unfaithfulness. Why did she chase after other lovers? Why could she not be satisfied with her husband. That’s the struggle with sin.

Our adversary crouches at our doorstep…he prowls around like a hungry lion seeking someone to devour. If we are not on our guard…if we listen to the seductive voices of our culture and of our sinful nature RATHER than listening to the voice of our Shepherd, we too can go astray. We, too, can chase after other lovers…other gods who demand our attention.

What are those gods? How much time do we have? For you, it can be materialism. It can be greed of your time so that you don’t have time to serve God. It can be the god of bitterness, unforgiveness, and anger that you serve so that your heart is not open to receive the forgiveness of Christ. It can be the idol of idleness, where you spend countless hours watching TV or playing video games rather than engaging the world with the love of Christ in word and deed. In short, anything that competes for your love, affection, and obedience to our God is a “lover you run back to.”

Can you imagine the range of emotions Hosea must have felt when his wife left him to chase after other lovers: anguish, rejection, humiliation, anger…you name it. Imagine how God feels when we choose to follow our sinful ways instead of being faithfully obedient to Him. What would you do if you were Hosea? Maybe your flesh would get the better of you and you would take matters into your own hands. You would make the Memphis nightly news as one of those double-homicides we hear about all the time.

God is right to judge Israel for her sins. God promises to be Israel’s God…to protect her, to give her land and possessions they didn’t earn for themselves. But like any faithful husband, God expects fidelity in the marriage. God expects Israel to love, worship, and serve only Him. But they failed to remain faithful to the covenant. Ever since the kingdom divided, the northern kingdom disobeyed God when it came to worship. Not only did that build their own altar to the Lord (as opposed to worshipping in Jerusalem), but they joined their worship of God with other so-called gods, especially Baal. Since he was a fertility god, sexually deviant temple practices were common to appease Baal. This makes the object lesson of Hosea and Gomer that much more poignant.

Hosea is a depiction of the unfaithfulness of Israel toward God and His righteous judgment for her sins. Because of her disobedience, God sent nations against Israel, including the southern kingdom of Judah. Often times, these evil kings would turn to other nations and make alliances with them for protection rather than turning to almighty God. In essence they sold themselves out. So God is justified in his response to her sins.

There’s judgement, but there’s also hope. In the latter part of chapter 2 we read some of the most grace-filled words of the Old Testament which are actually a foretelling of the New Covenant to come. These words come 100 years before the New Covenant prophecy of Jeremiah. Listen to this: 14“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. 15There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor[trouble] a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. 16“In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’ 17I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips; no longer will their names be invoked. 18In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety. 19I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you ind righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. 20I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord.

To demonstrate God’s faithful love for his people, he has Hosea buy Gomer from an auction block. Here’s what God said: READ HOSEA 3:1 NIV: 1 The LORD said to me, “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 and love the sacred raisin cakes.” Somehow, Gomer has reached rock bottom and is being sold into slavery. But Hosea faithfully offers 15 shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley for his wife. THAT’S REDEMPTION!

Almighty God is a faithful husband, if you will, and Israel rejected God’s love and fidelity by breaking the covenant…by trusting others and even themselves instead of trusting God. In rejecting God’s love, they threw it in his face! BUT GOD, who is so rich in mercy, does not give up on His wife, Israel. Though there are consequences for sin and disobedience, the marriage isn’t a complete shambles.

This is our story. We were once far from God. We had chosen to go our own way. But God, out of his unfailing love, sent his only Son to pay the bride price—in this case, His very life—so that we may be REDEEMED and restored into the marriage covenant.

Then we blow it. Like Israel, we step out on God and show unfaithfulness when:

We say we believe Jesus died for our sins but go on living as His sacrifice means little to us
We say we worship God, but spend most of our time chasing other idols like money, possession, status, personal happiness and pleasure, and the like.
We say we trust God but live as if we don’t by hording our money and time, fearful that God is holding out on us.
We give or serve others only when it suits us and costs us very little, knowing full well that our salvation cost our Savior everything!
We say we want God’s will for our lives, but we really want God to bless OUR will for our lives
We live below the standard of sacrificial love that Jesus Christ gave us.
We break a relationship with someone because our pride won’t let us admit we were wrong
We hurt those close to us by our words or actions

Truth is, Jesus seems to get the raw deal in this marriage! He paid the ultimate price and we THROW IT UP IN HIS FACE when we fail to follow Him wholeheartedly. BUT THANKS BE TO A GOD OF SECOND CHANCES! Just as Hosea marries Gomer again to show God’s willingness to give Israel a 2nd chance, God has given us another chance at forgiveness and restoration.

ConclusionàThere it is. We blow it! But God’s wind of grace blows stronger. Our God is faithful even when we are not. He offers grace—unmerited, unearned favor—because that is His character. He is a God of ANOTHER CHANCE if we will give God that chance.

Will you do that today? If you’re living in unfaithfulness to God, now is the time to turn back to God for forgiveness and restoration through the blood of Jesus. You may have been a Christian most of your life, but you’ve been living as if the covenant didn’t really matter. Well, it does. Now is the time to get right with God.