(Summary of the sermon:20 Sep 2015)
God’s Amazing Love
Generally, I am anti-social on Saturdays.
That’s my day of preparation for the Sunday service. I usually don’t even attend phone calls so that I wouldn’t be distracted. On a recent Saturday however, I found myself answering a phone call hesitantly. It was from someone who comes to the church occasionally. He wanted to come home to discuss something. Reluctantly, I agreed to meet with him. When he arrived, he asked me about the church’s garage sale. I explained about it. He said that he had heard that I was planning to sell my Bolero to raise funds for the church building. He had also heard that I wouldn’t have a vehicle until the building construction was finished. I acknowledged that what he had heard was right. So he enquired about the sale price of the Bolero. I said that it was for Rs. 3.75 lakhs. Without further ado, he gave me a cheque for Rs. 4 lakhs saying that he not only wanted to buy the car but also wanted to let me use it until I got another one!
I wanted to start with that story to remind us that our God loves us with a crazy love! He cares for us beyond our imagination! Let us explore this deep love that God has for us.
LIVING OUT THE WORD
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, many churches had been planted. Paul wrote many letters and epistles to the Church instructing them how to live as a family of God and how to understand the love of God. He says that we can’t know the love of God just by reading the Word or becoming a scholar in it. We can know that kind of love only by knowing the Word which became flesh, lived on the earth for us, died and was resurrected for us. Today we can live out this love.
We see Abraham living out this love of God many centuries ago. After waiting for years, God blessed him with a son Isaac. But shortly after that, God asked Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice.
You know what? Abraham obeyed God.
He refused to give into his pain and instead did exactly what his God asked of him. He took his son and placed him as an offering on the altar. But before he could slay the boy, God intervened and stopped him from continuing with the sacrifice.
Now, God really didn’t want Isaac as a sacrifice. He wanted to tell His friend Abraham that one day in the future, His own Son would become a sacrifice on the Cross. He wanted Abraham to see the love that He had for His people.
When we go through life’s difficulties, are we ready to refuse to operate out of our flesh? If so, we will certainly get to experience the powerful love of God.
I say this from a firsthand experience. I lost my Dad at the age of 24 years. I thought that my world had come crashing down. But I thrived in the amazing love of God during that period.
MR. AND MRS. HOSEA
When the Lord began to speak by Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea:
“Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry
And children of harlotry,
For the land has committed great harlotry
By departing from the Lord.”
So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. Then the Lord said to him:
“Call his name Jezreel,
For in a little while
I will avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu,
And bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.
Then the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover[a]and is committing adultery, just like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.”
So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley. And I said to her, “You shall stay with me many days; you shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man—so, too, will I be toward you.”
For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days.
Let’s return to the story of Hosea. Last week, we learned that outer prosperity does not indicate the inner condition. Today, let us look carefully at Hosea’s wife.
Every eligible bachelor or spinster will have a list of conditions in their future life partner. I am pretty sure Hosea had a list too! But God overrides all of that and asks Hosea to instead ‘find a prostitute and marry her’.
Gomer was no naïve, young girl. She was a woman of the world employed in the trade of harlotry. In all likelihood, she had never thought that marriage would ever be on the cards for her. Then suddenly, a magical prince (well, a prophet actually) appears specially seeking her out and indicating his interest in marrying her. She must have been flabbergasted! But she agrees. Soon Gomer became Mrs. Hosea, the wife of God’s prophet!
Life was beautiful. They have two children and lead a pretty, nice marriage.
Or so it seemed.
Soon, Gomer becomes bored by domesticity. So she sneaks out behind Hosea’s back and runs after other men. In fact, she even has a third child that is not fathered by Hosea! And then just like that one day, she leaves!
GOMER RUNS AWAY
Hosea returns home to find his wife missing. He goes out searching for her. He tried to look for her everywhere. People around him probably mocked and ridiculed him. Why had he, a prophet of all people, married a known prostitute? What was he thinking?
Well, before we say ‘tsk-tsk’ and turn our noses up high, may I remind us that we are the Gomers and that God is Hosea? Yes, He was the man who loved us crazily! While we were still in the world, not knowing any better, He sought us out by name. He promised to love us forever. He took us home and made us His bride. Hosea meant Salvation. Our God was our Salvation.
Within no time however, we started leading double lives. On the outside, we are holy people. When we are in the Church and in other ‘spiritual’ places we lead exemplary lives. But when we are out in the world, we often give into the pleasures of the world. Like Gomer, by status we are God’s bride. But our hearts and minds belong to something else. We are so attached to the past attractions of our lives.
But sooner than later, our flirtations with the world will catch up with us. When we go our own way, we will soon mess up like Jonah. Because Jonah disobeyed God and headed to Tarsus instead of Nineveh, he was thrown out into the sea. He had to go through some pretty scary stuff (being gobbled up by a fish) to find safety.
Whatever the hold of the world is on our lives, are we willing to let it go? Even if it means that we have to deny something, let us do that so that we can live in the fullness of God’s love. As we live out God’s vision, plans and thoughts for us, we won’t have to worry about blessings. Even if we go astray, He will welcome us back. All that He desires is for us to return to Him.
GOMER – SOLD
Let’s return to Hosea and Gomer’s lives for a brief moment. Hosea finally finds Gomer in a slave market. She was bound and tied, and people are bidding for her. Hosea outbids everyone and buys her back. He releases her from her shackles, covers her and takes her home.
There is no condemnation. All that Gomer hears are the strains of unconditional love floating around her and her husband.
God is more than willing to bring us back home. He says, ‘You have a new beginning again. Come, walk with me. I will teach you how to walk, where to go, where not to go. All that is mine is yours and all that I ask of you is to not return to your old life. You are not a slave. You are holy, a conqueror, the head and not the tail, the first and not the last’.
The music has begun; again. Let us sway to the dance of new hope and life. Gone are the traces of losses and mistakes. The scandalous love of God is reaching out to us.
Let us stop running like Jacob. Let us respond to our God who is calling out to us. When we acknowledge Him and reciprocate His love, He will overwhelm us with His crazy and amazing love.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on this message in the comments section below.