The following transcript was generated using AI from the sermon recording. Some grammatical and transcription erros may be found.
We've jumped forward a good deal again. We're finished with the part of the Bible traditionally known as the historical books, kings and Chronicles, and the narrative story that flows. We're coming into the writings of the prophets. Where poetry abounds. We're this message of calling God's people back to God, telling them that the path that they're on will not lead to good things. They're telling them the prophets are less trying to predict the future that these things will happen, so much as to say, if you keep going down this path, these things will happen. They're reading the writing on the walls, seeing what fruit will come from the seeds they're sowing, and trying to stop them. They're trying to keep them from going further and further so that they might turn back to God. Just last week, we had this contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. The people clearly saw the power of God when Elijah prayed for God to ignite the wood and the offering. God did that and destroyed the rocks, the dust, and the water in the trough surrounding it. People said all right, this is legit. You are my God. We'll follow you. And we're already at Hosea in this beautiful metaphor of who God is and what the people have done. Now, this is a metaphor. This is an image that many of you may relate to. As I was hearing the words read and reflecting on them, the image that kept coming to mind was incredibly personal.
I have two children many of you have met, and I remember when they first learned how to walk. They were unsteady on their feet. They would pull themselves up to stand on the couch or the coffee table. Then they would just start reaching a little further away to get to either me, Rebecca, or something they wanted. They would reach, and they would reach, and they would go so far, and then usually they would reach just a little bit too far and then plop down, and they were eager to take those first steps. They were eager to walk and wanted to walk towards us, for they loved us and knew we loved them. The other moment that comes to mind is sometimes they would reach away from the couch, and if we were close enough, they would grab our hands. And then they would grab one hand, one of theirs and the other of ours. We would walk across the living room to where they wanted to go, between our feet, and they were so happy, and we were so happy, and this is the image of God that Hosea is sharing with us.
I taught a frame how to walk. As a loving parent, I raised them as an infant to my cheek to feel the warmth of their skin, the soft mist. I could smell the baby smell of them. That's how close God has become to his people.
The imagery we hear in this story and this passage is one of God choosing his people, the adoptive child welcomed into the family, welcomed and loved as if his own. Well, you imagine God thinking back on these times, remembering these times of joy when Ephraim, the Israelites, walked with him,m and they were steady, growing, steady on their feet, and they loved him, and they expressed that love,e and they grew together. But we get the clear sense that God is reflecting on this time. This writing is retold from the perspective of God. God is thinking back and saying I remember those times when they would reach out from my hand and grab onto them so that I could help them walk to where they were going. I remember when they were still so small and precious, and they wanted to be near me that I could raise them, pull them in, and hold them close. But now they're teenagers. Now, my kids are not teenagers yet. I'm not looking for that word to that time.
Every once in a while, somebody will ask me how old my kids are, and then I tell them, and they say, oh, you've got maybe two years left, while they still love you and want to be around you, maybe three, hopefully. They always love me. But I know that as they grow, they will try to reach out and walk independently. They're going to step out of the safety. They're going to test boundaries. They're going to push against what they're supposed to do and what they're not supposed to do. They're going to try, as they grow into more mature people, they're going to push against those boundaries. And for most parents, those boundaries are right next to those nerves we'd rather not push against.
For some reason, their boundaries seem to touch our nerves, and there's something. I say this having been a teenager who has done this, not as one who has experienced it from the parents' side, that sometimes we can be mean, sometimes teenagers, with the words that they choose, the actions that they do, whether they mean to or not, whether it's biology and hormones. They've lost control of all of their senses. I have no idea. Again, I'm speaking from having grown up on the side and not yet experienced the other side of this relationship. Sometimes, the words we choose just hurt, which is where God is in this passage. He remembers fondly what was and is experiencing Israel as that teenager that hurts, that presses against those nerves, that keeps going astray, keeps doing the things that you know and they know they're not supposed to do In God's point. They're going back to the ball, they're raising incense to idols, they're turning away from the one that taught them to walk and brought them out of Egypt, the one that had provided manna and food in the desert, that cared for them, that raised them up, that showed so much love in just choosing them and welcoming them in as their own. And the people still turn away.
And God? Sometimes, we think of God as this distant being, this unemotional God, because if God has emotions, then surely we're over, going to be overrun. But God is experiencing from this, in this poetry, this loss, transformation, and the pain of this relationship. That was what seemed so natural and so intent. But a short amount of time has now transitioned, and God, in the midst of this, is angry. He said fine, I will leave them to what they're doing. They're making backroom deals with kings next door. They're worshiping gods, they're turning away, they're pressing all of God's buttons. Don't worship other gods; don't worship idols. These are like hot-button issues, part of the 10 things that God said: just don't do these things. You could do many other things, and we'll work on that but don't do these 10 things. It's that boundary that's right next to the nerve. You can imagine. That's immediately what they're doing. And all of these actions, all of these things that the Israelites are doing have consequences. The things that we do in this world.
When we make decisions, when we fail to make decisions, when we choose something, we necessarily don't choose something else. This is something that, again, teenagers often need to learn. When you choose to go to this event, you can't go to this event. That's at the same time. As adults, we need to learn that as well. But to be fair, God is ready to say, and it seems like he's saying OK, you want other gods, go worship them. You want to work with other kingdoms that aren't mine, that I'm not in control of, that don't honor me, have at it. But because you're going to do that, you're going to be under Syrian rule, and the gods are going to fail you. You're going to be lost and live under the sword.
As parents, I'm sure you've had those moments where they're going, pushing those buttons, pushing those boundaries, and you're ready to say, OK, have at it. Whatever happens to you is your own fault. Just keep going because I've done everything I could for you, and I just don't have it in me right now to keep going. If you've ever had those thoughts, it's OK. God had these thoughts. But what does he say next? How can I stay angry at Ephraim, at Eish Israel? How can I remain so angry at them that I'd let them fall into ruin? How can I let them keep going down that path? How can I make it so that I can even hear their cries, that they do not rise up to me? How is it that I could be so angry that I let my child, whom I helped raise and helped learn to walk, go down this path?
And God's anger relents. He remembers what was, thinks about what could be, and in the midst of that, he says if I were human, these emotions would overwhelm me, this anger would compel me. But I'm not human; I'm God, and my compassion, my mercy, my forgiveness, not like human compassion; mercy, and forgiveness, will not end. And in those moments, we see God, who is justified in the anger. We can relate to the anger, but he shows another way. He chooses to dig deep into that compassion, to dig deep into that mercy, and to deep into that forgiveness, so deep that he gave us his son.
His mercy and grace are so great that even while we were still choosing to rebel, even while we choose to abandon God, to test those boundaries and those limits, to push not only against them, to run headlong through them, God still doesn't say to us well, if that's what you're going to do, I'm just going to let you do it. He could do that. Instead, he says I love you so much that I'm going to give you my son, who will show you how to walk again, how to live again, how to love again, how to be with those who are sick and hurting and in prison, who are hungry and thirsty, and I will show you that. He will show us the right way to live, and when we still don't get it, he will die because of doing all of those things, showing us how not to hold on to that anger when other people push our boundaries. We have a God whose son cried out my God, why have you forsaken me? While also crying out unto the cross, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
Encapsulated in this in this passage in Ehozeah and the life and death and resurrection of Christ. A God that says you can feel that anger, you can feel abandoned, you can feel hurt by what other people do, but treat them just as I treat you. Remember who they are; remember that they are my beloved children, for whom I died, and if my anger does not stay kindled against them, how can yours? It takes a while to get there. It takes intention to remember who people are. It takes intention to remember who we are, to say I should stop pressing those boundaries and those buttons, but trusting in the one who loves us beyond all measure, who will never let us go, who continues to call us back, to follow and invite other people to experience that love for themselves.
We truly become people of God. We become more like Him when we let our human anger and our human emotions not overwhelm us, not that it's wrong to have them, but that we remember to stop them from overwhelming us so that we don't abandon the lost, we don't abandon the hurting, we don't abandon those who hurt us. God indeed shows us a new, better way, and he does so by showing us what he has done for us. This is the hope of the church. This is the future that we offer to a world that is hurting. This is the message of forgiveness of transformation that we, as a church, have been given to switch to the world. We've lived and experienced it enough to share it with others.
In just a few moments, we'll be transitioning into our hymn of response, but before I do that again, I will direct you out at the end of the service to there's coffee. Over there, there are refreshments to eat. There's time to be spent either in the library, around the table, or sitting in the parlor, where you can discuss what we've discussed that day. What does it mean? Where are those times when you know you've pressed God's buttons, and he's offered forgiveness? What are those things you're doing now that are pushing against what God might want for you, but you say, yeah, I really need to turn away from that? Or to bring it more physical. Is there somebody now who is pressing your buttons that you're close to that point of saying, all right, I'm done with you, I can't go on, whatever happens happens. Who might that be? Could you rewind the clock to find a way back from being overwhelmed by that feeling so that you might find hope and healing in that relationship? This is how we live out God's example here on her.