God’s Love for the Loveless – Part 2
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Dr. Michael Easley; ©2007|
|Hosea’s message is that judgment is going to come, but there’s an anticipation of joy. Judgment is going to come. The boom will fall, but there will be a future joy.|
This message was recorded at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Ashville, North Carolina. Through the ministry of The Cove we’re training people in God’s Word to win others to Christ. It’s our goal to develop Christians who experience God through knowing Him better, knowing His Word, building godly relationships and helping others know Him. We trust that this message will strengthen your walk with God and help you experience Him right where you are.
Let’s look at the book of Hosea. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea. If you come to Joel, Amos, Obadiah you went too far. Last night we began this little book thinking through God’s love for the loveless. We talked a little bit about the fact that prophets had a very hard job. They have job that they’re going to go in as a politician as it were, that everyone’s going to hate. No one’s going to embrace a prophet and say, “Oh, I’ve been waiting for you to convict me and tell me how sinful I am. Come into my home.” They’re going to ignore you. They’re going to diss you. They’re going to stone you. They’re going to throw curses at you, so prophets had a hard job.
I mentioned last night about the blessing and cursing motif from Deuteronomy 28. If you do these things God will bless you. If you do not do these things He will curse you. He will bring on you these corollary effects of your sinfulness. We also looked at the fact that the book of Hosea in miniature, a picture of God’s love for Israel. Hosea is to marry Gomer, this immoral woman, to have immoral children of this immoral woman, and to love and pursue her. God, Yahweh, has chosen this people called Israel. He loves them. He’s made them promises and they throw themselves into the arms of other nations.
We talked about the word hessid, lovingkindness. And God loves to be loyal to two things. Now, this will be amazing if anybody remembers these. They are both CP: He loves to be loyal to His chosen people and His covenant promises. I am amazed. I’m amazed, because I even messed it up last night and you got it. His chosen people and His covenant promises. And the character of God, His person, who He is, He loves to be loyal to His people and to His promises. That’s the kind of God we have, a God of hessid, a God of lovingkindness.
Alright, we then looked at two commands that God gave Hosea. The first was to marry a harlot and the second one is to have children of harlotry, Jezreel, La-ruhamah and Lo-ammi. So today we want to then look at the second part of the book, and it really begins in chapter 1, verse 10. If you look at your Bible you probably have some annotation that says in the Hebrew text chapter 1, verse 10 is the beginning of chapter 2 in the Hebrew. The English broke it at chapter 2, verse 1. By the way, English works. It really doesn’t matter. It’s a unit of thought, and I think there’s good reason to see the so-called Masoretic text of breaking here. So if you want to really detailed and picky, chapter 1, verse 10 is chapter 2, verse 1 in the Hebrew text. Add you just add two verses to all the English numbers and then at chapter 3 it starts over at chapter 3. And there’s good reason for that. It’s not critical for your spiritual life, but it is a unit of thought, and that’s the way I want to look at it.
Chapter 1, beginning in verse 10; we’re moving from the shock of section 1 of this tragic language, these horrible names, this unbelievable message to chapter 1, verse 10:
Yet the number of the sons of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered; and in the place where it is said to them, “You are not My people,” it will be said to them, “You are the sons of the living God.” And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, and they will appoint for themselves one leader, and they will go up from the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel. Say to your brothers, “Ammi,” and to your sisters, “Ruhamah.”
Let’s look at this then in some detail. First of all, judgment is going to come, but there’s an anticipation of joy. Judgment is going to come. The boom will fall, but there will be a future joy. And the writer, God, through the prophet Hosea, is forecasting in the middle of this shocking, jarring tragedy, there’ll be a future of joy. So it’s even a little wisp of grace in the midst of a very soon coming judgment on Israel.
Seven times we have the phrase “son of Israel, sons of Israel” in the book of Hosea. The idea of sonship of course is integral to Israel being God’s son. He chose these people. They’re His children and the son relationship is a remarkable relationship. And we don’t want to miss the most obvious, the Son of God. I have a book in my head that I want to write one day called The Father/Son Metaphor. It needs a better title, but that’s what book publishers do. They give you titles. You have ideas and they make them easy to the masses. But why in all of Scripture, why does the God of the universe reveal Himself as the Father, and why does He call us His sons, His children?
Now why does the God of the universe pick a people and call them His children? Why does He forecast the word “Joshua” and “Jesus” as the beloved Son of God? Why does heaven open up and God vocalize “This is My Son in whom I’m well pleased”? Why does God the Father call us His children? Why does Jesus call us little children? Why does John write to the little children? Why, of all the metaphors that God could have used—and He’s sovereign; He could have done whatever He wanted—why does the Father choose to reveal Himself as such and call us His children?
And in all the parental psycho-babble stuff that some of us are into and have been infected by and maybe sort of proliferate ourselves, there is an undeniable hole and longing and want between a father and a son, a child and a parent, isn’t there? Not that all of us have had perfect homes. I know that we haven’t. Some have been deeply wounded by their parents, by neglect or absent parent or father, or abandoned or a single parent, not minimizing that. There is a vacuum in the soul of all of us that’s looking for a perfect father.
Talked with some friends last week, three daughters, they’re all married and have children. And her mom and dad, the daughter’s parents, are very wealthy and they take the whole kit-’n-caboodle to Hawaii for 10 days every year. And they have a place they go that is sort of a remote part of the island and they take over this little hotel. And she was telling me how much fun it was. I said—well, now I have to ask some questions—“You actually like being with your family for 10 days?” And she said, “Michael, every one of us gets along.” The sisters are best friends. “We love everybody’s husband. The kids play just perfectly.” I said, “And you actually like your parents?” She said, “I adore my mom and dad. All of us just adore.”
I said, “Now tell me,” because of her husband Steve, I said, “Steve likes this?” “He looks forward to it every year.” I said, “Are you just, are you blowing smoke at me. I mean, I don’t know anybody that likes their family this much.” And she just couldn’t stop talking. And I thought, that’s a wisp of heaven. We have a perfect Father who loves perfectly His children. “Sons of Israel,” seven times you read it in the book of Hosea. Don’t rush over these terms. We’re related to the Father. If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ you are a son, you’re a daughter.
The reminder of God’s covenantal love in the first part of verse 10, look at it. “Yet the number of the sons of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered.” Now this takes back to the promise of Abraham. If you have your Bible, you might drop back to Genesis 32:12 for just a moment. Genesis 32:12, the Abrahamic promise. The Abrahamic covenant I believe is critical to all our understanding of Scripture. This unilateral covenant, I mentioned last night, this one way covenant, you’ll be a blessing. The things that God was going to do through Abram who would become Abraham. In Genesis 32:12 we read, “For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered.’”
Now despite the rejection of the Northern Kingdom one day this judgment is going to be reversed. The prophecies made hundreds of years prior, now God in the book of Hosea when the kingdom is split and it’s about to be dissolved, Israel will be gone. The Assyrians will come in 722 and that’s the end of Israel. Israel as a people will never be regathered again in the way they were post the divided kingdom until the future, until the eschaton. So these prophecies came true. And He, God, is telling them on the cusp of this there’ll be a day when that promise is still good and you won’t be able to count the number of the sons of Israel because of His covenant promises. In the future God is going to keep His promise.
In the middle it doesn’t feel very good because we’ve chosen to sin, we’ve chosen to throw our arms into the cultures around us. But there’s going to be a day, My promise is still valid. You went off the reservation. My promise is still good. My promise still awaits you.
If you are a note taker I want you to jot down a few times this covenant is mentioned and unfolded. Genesis 12, of course, is the beginning of the unilateral covenant with Abram, and then Genesis 15, 17, 22 and 32. So five references, Genesis 12, Genesis 15, Genesis 17, Genesis 22, and Genesis 32. Each one of those chapters unfolds a little more of the covenant. It’s a remarkable study. Just take those passages in your devotion sometime and see what’s different than the Genesis 12 covenant. What did God say in chapter 15? What did He say in 17? And God tells Abram a little more each time of this covenant promise. And you lay all those out together you get a remarkable picture of the effectiveness and the broad reaching aspect of this Abrahamic covenant. Well, a little bit perhaps technical: judgment is coming, but joy will come later. That’s sort of the reduced part of this passage.
Now I think there is an application for us beyond sort of the Bible study piece of the covenant. And that is simply this, that God promises, even though they’re ancient, are irrevocable. God’s promises He made to Abraham, even though they’re ancient, are irrevocable. God’s promises to you, through the person and work of Jesus Christ, even though old, are still good promises.
The thing that I have studied in my own spiritual life and maybe you have as well, my experience always tries to tell me something different about God than what I know about God. You understand what I’m saying? The experiences we go through in life tell us different things about what we are supposed to believe about God and His promises to us. So we know we are in some way recipients of blessings. But sometimes we don’t feel blessed. We know that things are supposed to work out between Christians. Sometimes they sue each other and get really nasty and ugly. We know we’re supposed be married in a covenant relationship all of our lives. Sometimes we go through a divorce and there’s not a thing you can do to stop it. We know our children are supposed to follow Jesus Christ, and if you train them it sounds like a promise and a guarantee they’re going to do it. And some of them take a left turn in life and they break your heart even in their 40’s and 50’s. So sometimes our experience tries to tell us something different about what we know God to be and His word to be.
So how do you navigate these things? I don’t know if you read The Da Vinci Code or saw the movie. I don’t read fiction in the main, but I read that; and I don’t think I have been that angry in a page-turning novel than reading Dan Brown’s book. I don’t know if you’ve read Dawkins, The God Delusion, Sam Harris’s Open Letter to A Christian Nation. Sam Harris is a professed humanist and he in his first chapter says to the effect, if you believe that Jesus died for your sins and you believe in trusting Him you have eternal life and you believe He’s the only way to heaven—and he gives a very fair representation of the gospel—and then he says, you believe all these things and you’re wrong. And then he just excoriates Christianity and the notion of a Christian nation. And the book is a New York-listed book, not a best seller, but it’s on the list. And I think Sam must be buying a lot of them.
There’s another one out right now. The title escapes me. I had it on my desk and I left. I don’t know, as I get older I have no RAM. Are you this way? Morning by morning new verses I read. I just, I can’t remember anything anymore. But this guy’s a British Fox News contributor. He’s an atheist and just wrote a book. Anyone know what I’m talking about? God Is Not Great. What’s the guys name? Do you remember? It starts with an “H”. Hennsinger? Henson? [It’s Hitchens.]. And these books are, they are selling like crazy. I saw a Wall Street call out the other day of the top humanist books, and his is one of them. And they are selling like crazy, so people are buying them. I don’t know that they’re reading them, but they’re buying them. I have a theory, that people buy books but they don’t read them.
Anyway, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Phil, Ted Turner, tell us things and we start to believe them. TV evangelists tell us things and we start to believe them. I have a friend who’s an attorney and he hates attorney jokes, and so I always tell him attorney jokes. He really gets angry with me. And he said, “You know, Michael, I can turn that into a television evangelist joke.” And I said, “But I ain’t on TV.” So anyway, they tell us things that are partly true, but there’s enough hair on it we say this isn’t right. But over time we start believing it.
I want to meddle just a little bit, and like I said I leave tomorrow so you don’t have to like me. I talked last night about the material prosperity of our world being sown into our view of Christianity. If we were to take Christianity the way a Chinese believer lives it, would we still be Christian? If God took away all the props, He took away our finances, our pension, our insurance, our health insurance. You know, I find it fascinating; America’s so obsessed with pension laws and health insurance when most of the world has neither. You spend some time in Nigeria or Korea or Spain or even the UK. The UK is in a 40% tax bracket, 40%, and we complain about so much over here.
And I often wonder, we have amalgamated Christianity in such an American red, white and blue context. Do any of you know Crawford Loritts? Crawford is a dear friend of mine. We’ve been friends for about 20 years. And when I served in the Washington DC area he came and preached for me a few times. And the church I served is red, white and blue. I mean, those people hemorrhage red, white and blue. They love God and country, and sometimes they love country before God. And Crawford got up and he was spun up and he says, “Jesus Christ does not stand up when you say the Pledge of Allegiance.” And there was a pause in that room going, well, maybe He does. I mean, it was a pregnant pause. And people were,… And I thought, man, I’m glad you said that and not me, because I’d be packing my office if I said that. And I thought wow, he is so right. But I love my country. I know many do not anymore. I love my country. But the cross is not draped in a red, white and blue flag. It is draped in a red scarlet.
And when we hear things in the world tell us things about God and we start to believe them over against the ancient promises, we’re off the reservation. Let me change the angle a little bit. What your mother or your father or your step-father or your coach or your science teacher or your employer or your mother-in-law told you about you is probably not true. But God’s Word’s true, and God calls you His child. He loves you more than you understand. He cannot love you more and He cannot love you less. Don’t let the world crowd that out. Don’t let the world teach you theology. Even the rebellious Israelites were His sons. Even the rebellious stiff-necked throw themselves into the arms of other lovers are called His sons. They’re Mine and I’ve promised them because they are My chosen people. It is not based upon what they do.
We all have, many of us in this room, have children, have grandchildren. I mean, you love your kids no matter what you do. Now they drive you crazy sometimes. Cindy and I have this expression when we talk of each other. We say, you know, I love you but I don’t like you right now. And anyone that’s been married more than a year or two knows exactly what that means. There are days Cindy loves me but she’d like to kill me. I never want to kill her however. I want to run away from her sometimes for a threat of death, but I don’t want to kill her. Sometimes we do not like each other, but we have committed to love each other.
And the love with which I love her is not the love with which I dated her. The love with which I love her has been hammered out in 27 years and she’s worn me to a nub and I love her. I often say I could never marry again because I wouldn’t live long enough to love the person, you know. Cindy and I have a wonderful, marvelous, fantastic, loving relationship, but it took a long time to get there, right. And if any of you are honest say amen. The rest of you are in denial.
I had a coach that used to excoriate us for being stupid or doing something wrong and throw chairs across the room, and he was just an explosive coach. And I played basketball in a former generation and I wasn’t very good, but I was the tallest kid on the team so I had to be center. And he would drill me and drill me and drill me and if I did something wrong he would just explode. And he kept films of our games. We’d watch the films and he’d get all animated, and to his credit though, if you did something right he would go crazy too. He had a name for everybody. He called me “Iron Mike” and when I did something right and he lavished on the praise I’d do anything for that coach. I’d do anything for that coach. But if I did something wrong and he threw a chair at me, I wasn’t very motivated to do anything right for him.
God, in His grace, doesn’t throw chairs. He did all that with Jesus. Your Father loves you and you’re His son or His daughter if you’re rightly related to Jesus Christ no matter what you do. Do we exasperate Him like a child does a parent? Probably in some theological context yes, but He doesn’t throw chairs. He doesn’t hurl fists. He doesn’t throw insults at you because you sin. He did that on His Son. Peter knew this. In 1 Peter 2:10, under the authority of the Holy Spirit, he writes, “You were once not a people, but now you are the people of God. You had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
We have three adopted children as I mentioned last night. Adopted children and adopted adults all go through an analysis of abandonment at some point in their life. Cindy and I have adult friends our age in their 50’s and when they meet our children and I tell them they’re adopted, adopted adults always make overtures toward adopted children and say “I’m adopted too.” It’s a wonderful connection. I remember the first time this happened with Jessie. She was four years of age. I introduced her to my friend Brian who is about 6’6” and about 280 and he stood up and Jessie was a little pixie about this big around, about this tall. And he said, “Hi, Jessie, I’m adopted too.” And she said to me later, “He sure is big to be adopted.”
But adopted people have got a thing that we don’t as biological people, and if we’re in a family that was intact, because they go through this at some point. Well, why did my mommy abandon me? Why did my daddy abandon me? Interestingly there’s more affinity toward the mom than the father, which is a whole other theological discussion. But each of my children goes through this phase where they feel abandoned. And they ask questions and we encourage dialogue.
We are one of those families that’s open about it. They all know they’re adopted. We talk about it constantly because we want them never to be surprised. We want them to be proud of it. Enjoy the fact, proud in a good way, that they’re adopted. We say, you know, anybody can have a baby, but God put three children in our family so that we could be a family that we could not have otherwise had, and we celebrate this part of our family. It’s sort of unusual.
And each of these children processes differently in their abandonment. And when they’re discouraged or mad or in trouble or angry, who knows what’s going on in their heart, I will often tell them two things: I will love you unconditionally all of your life; and I will teach you of Jesus. And what you do with that is your business. I can’t make decisions for you. I can’t solve life for you. I can’t make you make the right choice, but your dad will love you unconditionally and try to teach you of Jesus as long as you’re around me. At the end of the day I’ll help you any way I can, but that’s all I can demonstrate to you. I will love you unconditionally and I will teach you of Jesus.
And maybe somewhere in their soul and their head and their heart that’ll connect and Peter will say “You were once not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Don’t let the world teach you theology men and women. Don’t let your experiences tell you otherwise about the fact that you are the sons of God. You’re His adopted children. You were illegitimate, thrown away Gentile Goyim riffraff and He chose you. He said, “You’re My son, you’re My daughter and I love you and I’ve shown you mercy and I died for your sins. Don’t you ever self-deprecate yourself, because I paid for that. Don’t you ever think you have to be better to get My affection, because you can’t. Don’t you ever think you have to do something to get Me to turn My head toward you because I threw My life on Calvary for you.” Your experience will always try to tell you otherwise.
Secondly, there is a reversal of fortunes for Israel. In the second part of verse 10 we read “‘You are not My people,’ it will be said to them, ‘You are the sons of the living God.’ And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, and they will appoint for themselves one leader, and they will go up from the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.” In this reversal of fortunes we have the three names mentioned again, Jezreel, Lo-ruhamah, and Lo-Ammi. Jezreel meant God sows, and remember it was a place basically of genocide. That’s an easy way to think about it, Darfur, Dachau, Bosnia, Herzegovina. You don’t name child these names. You don’t name a child a genocide type name. So Jezreel will be a place of redemption.
In 2:1 it says, “Say to your brothers, ‘Ammi,’ say to your sister, ‘Ruhamah.’” Remember the “lo” in Hebrew, it just means not or not; it’s a negative article. So it means not My people, no compassion, no. Say to your brothers “You are My people.” Say to your sisters, “God is compassionate.” So there’s a reversal of fortune on these word plays that we see in the old, in chapter 1 and chapter 2. Again they’ll be like the sand of the sea. In verse 10, the second part of this, “Israel will be like the sand of the sea which cannot be measured or numbered.” And I think it’s not just coincidental that land is intrical in the part of sonship. The sand of the seashore; the Mediterranean of course prevents any expansion of Israel east of their Jordan River.
And if you’ll look at a map Israel is a fascinating piece of land because they’re landlocked on the east by the Mediterranean Sea. And as you go toward the; am I saying that right? The west, thank you. And as you go, I’m looking at you thinking then in wrong terms. And as you go to the west you’re up against the Syrian border and the Jordan border which, you know, that’s a little bit vitriolic over there, not exactly chummy neighbors. And so you have this very small slice of land that, from this way it goes like this and there’s nowhere to go. And when they’re fighting over the West Bank and over the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights they’re fighting over tiny pieces of real estate, but when you don’t have much it’s a lot.
I remember W.A. Criswell years ago preaching a sermon on people groups, and he says, “The Perizzites, the Hittites, the Ninevites, the Amalekites,” goes along, “the Canaanites,” goes, “they ain’t around anymore, but there are Israelites,” and he’d go on about all the “ites”. Well, there are Israelites. And then he made the observation, “Why does God let that little tiny piece of land hang on?” Why didn’t He let Syria or the Jordanians or the Palestinians or other, some Arab group just push it into the Mediterranean? And if you look at the power and the real estate and the money of the surrounding lands, and it is fairly interesting, this little sliver of land can kind of hang on for dear life.
Sonship seems to be related to the land. Sons of the living God. Deuteronomy 5:26, “For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire as we have and lived?” Joshua 3:10, “God said, ‘By this you will know that the living God is among you.” Joshua’s saying, “Look, you’re going to know your God is alive by this thing.” He continues, “He will assuredly dispossess from before you the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Hivite, the Perizzite, the Girgashite, the Amorite, and the Jebusite.”
What am I saying here? Sonship is somehow intractably sown into this land. And the way you will know you are a son of the living God is that He will dispossess these people groups. He’ll drive them out before you so you will inhabit the land. In other words you’re too puny to do anything about this. And when you go in the land God will dispossess it for you ahead of you and when you get those fields and those homes and those vineyards you didn’t plant, when you get that you acknowledge God gave it to you because you’re a little tiny people group and God has enabled you to dispossess those, to drive them out.
Again, as we try to put some shoe leather on this, back to God’s love for you as a child of God, your Father is not dead or distant; He is alive. You are sons and daughters of a living God. Sometimes, and my training has sort of probably jaded me this way, sometimes I’m a God of print on paper. Does that make sense? I mean, I love the Bible. I love studying the Bible. I love doing word studies. I can get lost in a Bible study and be late for an appointment. I can just fall into it. And sometimes the words and the meanings and the connections I’ll see and the insights I’ll get, if I remember them, they’re wonderful. And sometimes I am guilty of being a, I don’t know how to say this, but I kind of worship the word more than the God of the word. Now, it is Him. I mean, His word living and active. It’s His revealed will. You know why I’m saying this, but I think you understand what I mean. I’m not a bibliolater, but sometimes the Word, I forget, oh, this is God’s Word. This is a loving God’s Word.
Now, if you had a great mom and dad you probably have more of an affinity to look back to that and understand that God loves you. I have to work at that. I’m just a slow learner. But my Father is a living God who dispossesses enemies more powerful than me. Your Father is a loving Father who dispossesses enemies more powerful than you.
A lot of ways we can apply that. I think sometimes we become so disconnected with God that we don’t know that He loves us. Our experience starts to tell us otherwise. We get too embroiled in the culture, which is exactly what Israel had done in the book of Hosea. They walked away from Yahweh Elohim. They forgot to walk intimately in His Law. They were not following the sacrificial system. They were intermarrying. They were throwing themselves literally and metaphorically into immoral relationships with the people groups around them. It was part of the divided kingdom. They had corrupt kings. They were falling apart at the seams and this loving, living God seems distant. Your God is not a God of words on paper. Your God is a living God. Now His living word reveals Him to us, right, but He is a living God.
Sometimes when we feel distant to God,… I am a strange person. My wife would be here saying, “Amen.” I study a lot of things that most people never study. For example, I study my sin patterns. I study my stupidity. I say, why did you do that? Why did you say that? And I really try to figure out, God, what did I do? Why did I go off the reservation at this point? Because I think in studying where you’re weak or vulnerable or your emotions get spun up or you say something you regret, if you have the gift of gab you’re going to say a lot of things you regret. “A man of many words unavoidably lies,” the proverb says. I hate that verse of the Bible. I hate that verse of the Bible. If you talk a lot you’re going to lie. So you have to study yourself and say when am I in these situations that I know I’m going to do something.
And I don’t know about you, but as I look at my spiritual life the closer I am intimately connected with Jesus Christ in prayer, in devotion, in intimacy and trying to keep Him in front of me once in a while, the less I am apt to go into these areas of sin. The corollary is the closer I walk with Jesus the more of my sin I see, right. I don’t know about you, but I feel more of a sinner today than I did when I first came to Christ because I was too stupid back then. And now I know that a thought is sin, lust in my heart is a sin, anger and wanting to kill somebody even in a Christian sort of way is a sin.
What happens to me, from my hour devotion in the Word being lost with Jesus, being intimate in prayer and I get on the Eisenhower, driving through downtown Chicago and I want to kill everybody on the Eisenhower? Jesus, these stupid people, get them out of my way. They’re idiot drivers. There’s no accident and they’re going 20 miles an hour. Nuke them in Jesus name. What happened to the In The Garden song to wanting to nuke my neighbor on the highway? I’m saying I’m more important than all those people. I’m saying I’m smarter and a better driver—which I probably am—but and I’m kind of arrogant.
Now, I don’t know; you don’t have those problems I’m sure. But I’m trying to study why do I get in these same things when I have a loving God who doesn’t judge me anymore? He disciplines me, yes, but I want to walk closer to Him. I want to be His son. He’s a living God and He cares for me immeasurably and I don’t want to throw myself into the thinking of the culture. Maybe you are doing this far better than me.
A living God is powerful and present and He doesn’t neglect His children, but His children sometimes go away. His children sometimes go off to college and make the wrong decisions. His children fall into the wrong arms of the wrong lovers. His children experiment sexually. They experiment with drugs. And they experiment with money in the world in avarice and greed and trying to make money fast instead of honestly. And the Father loves. We left, He didn’t.
There is a reversal of fortunes; the land is going to be restored; God has not moved; His promise is sure. It’s the people who have moved and the consequences are going to be judged. Verse 11, “The sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together.” Now you’ve got it. There’s a divided kingdom. Who’s in the north? Israel in the north, Judah in the south. This verse, don’t miss it, “Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together.” There’s going to be a reunification in the divided kingdom under one leader.
Ezekiel 37:22, jot it down. It might be in your notes, Ezekiel 37:22, “And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel and one king will be king for all of them and they will no longer be two nations and no longer be divided into two kingdoms.” The prophecy of Ezekiel in context is the divided kingdom is going to be dismantled and destroyed by the Assyrians in 722, but there’s going to be a day when that dismantled, divided kingdom’s going to be one with one king. What’s he talking about? Messianic, this is the Jesus the King, the Son of David will rule in perpetuity over them. In 2 Samuel 7:11, the everlasting throne of David.
Well, verse 11, the last part, “They will go up from the land.” This is an interesting question for Bible students. Some think it refers to Egypt. Egypt of course becomes the parallel and a synonym for sin. Egypt becomes a parallel of going down to Egypt, being lifted out of the water, Moses, the Word, God lifts His people out of slavery and sin. Lots of images and metaphors in the word “Egypt” as it pertains to Israel. I think it’s referring here to growth, not Egypt the country. The land of Israel is an image that sprouts, that grows up. “Jezreel” means God sows. God’s going to take what was a bloody, a blood guilty, blood thirsty Dachau type thought and He’s going to turn it into a sowing and a growing and Israel will go up.
Bob Chislom says after judgment God will sow and Israel will grow luxuriantly. How many of you have been to Israel? Oh, a lot of you. The rest of you who have not yet been to Israel, it is God’s will for you to go to Israel. If you don’t go now, I promise you, you will go later. So get a preview and go now and see what the land is like. It is very safe. The hardest part of going to Israel is the plane ride over and back. And God made a little drug called Ambien that takes care of that. You sleep your way over and you sleep your way home and it’s sanctioned, I promise you. Other than that it’s a wonderful place.
I’ve been there in the summer when it’s so dry and barren you can’t keep hydrated. And then I’ve been there in the spring. I was there this last spring, this last March and I have never seen weather like this in my life. It was absolutely Eden. It was about 58 at night and about 72 in the day. It was low humidity. The orange blossoms were so powerful when you got off the bus you thought there was some cosmetic girl spraying something in the like in the department store. You just inhaled; man, the orange blossoms knocked you over. It was lush, green. The wild flowers were beautiful all over the sides of the highway. I mean it was a luxuriant land. Dr. Charlie Dyer who’s been over there probably 70 times now said to me, “I’ve never seen it this green in my entire experience coming over here.” It was unbelievable.
We were at Be’ath-Shan. It was about 70 degrees. I was there last summer, it was 121 degrees on Beth-She’an, and I thought a little bit of a tilt of the axis of the earth, a tiny bit of weather control and this place is luxuriant. If you travel down to the Dead Sea you will go, the Sea of Galilee at the top, the River Jordan and then the Dead Sea. It looks like a phone receiver hanging off a phone hook, okay. And as you go south you go into the Judean wilderness. The Judean wilderness is parched and dry and arid.
As you go to the Dead Sea it looks like a Grand Canyon where all the water drained out, because it did. On the side of the road the Department of Israeli Measures has put a line where the Dead Sea used to be in the 1960’s, and the Dead Sea’s evaporating at an enormous rate. It’s a big green concern because in 25 years it’s going to be gone unless they do something. They’re talking about piping the Mediterranean Sea into the Dead Sea. A little bit of an ecological problem. The Dead Sea has no organisms. The calcium and magnesium and sodium levels are so high nothing can live in it. It is dead. It’s the lowest spot on the globe. Ironic, and the salt and the minerals around there are harvested for cosmetics. But it’s not enough to make a living for a whole country.
And as the Dead Sea evaporates and goes down and you stand there, Ezekiel, one day there’ll be fish in that thing. One day it’ll be luxuriant. And you travel on the side of the highway at the Dead Sea there’s 20 and 30 acre plots of date palms. Do you know what a date palm is? In Florida you have palm trees, alright. A type of palm tree grows up and it’s got these dates that are just, I mean, they’re huge. And these date palm farms are right against the Dead Sea. And the Israelites were smart people, scrub the soil. They have a patented technique of cleaning the soil. They clean the soil and they planted these 10 acre date palm farms. And these things are 20 and 30 years old. And so you’re driving along in the desert, all of a sudden there are date palms in the wilderness. It just takes a little water, a little fertilizer, some smart people who know how to do it and they grow. Israel will be a luxuriant vine, and this picture is growing up to me, is the image is impossible to miss.
Chapter 2, the first verse, and we’re almost done. After judgment the restoration will come. No compassion; there will be compassion. Not My people; will be My people. This is critical theology, men and women. Listen to what Paul says in Romans 9:23ff: “And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us”—please circle that word—“even us whom He also called, not among the Jews only, but from among the Gentiles. As He said also in,” here we go, “Hosea, ‘I will call those who are not My people, My people, and her who was not beloved, beloved.”
In the critical chapter 9 of the book of the most doctrinal book of the Bible, Paul’s saying the Jew who was the chosen person of God, who rejected God’s promises, broke the covenant, breached the covenant again and again, opens up this fissure to graft in the Gentile Goyim population—which I am one; I am an illegitimate thrown away child that God adopted through Jesus Christ. And by the way, so are you unless you can trace your blood line back to Jewish lineage, and you probably really can’t. They don’t think anyone can actually.
These magnificent prophecies are the faithfulness of God’s mercy: the two terms, faithfulness and mercy. God will keep His word. Even in the blessings and cursings God’s going to keep His word. And the mercy is going to come because that’s the kind of merciful God we have. This passage really is about reconciliation. It’s about the reconciliation of God’s chosen people who were sinful and shook their fists at God and threw themselves into the arms of national lovers, and they are reconciled back. Somehow they were spiritual prostitutes. They were orphans. They were abandoned. They were throw away people. And grace barged in.
I don’t know if you watched the Martha Stewart trial sometime back. It was what, early 2006 I believe. And Martha Stewart allegedly was guilty on four counts of obstructing justice and lying to investigators about her well-timed stock trades. Martha went to jail, sort of. The day she went to jail her website posted this: “I am obviously distressed by the jury’s verdict, but I take comfort in knowing that I’ve done nothing wrong and that I have been, and that I have the enduring support of my family and friends.” Later she posted: “I will appeal the verdict and continue to fight to clear my name.” On January 6, 2006 the Federal Appeals Court issued a 74-page ruling upholding her conviction. So she appealed it and fought for her name and lost.
Now, do you think Martha Stewart likes her prosecuting attorneys? Do you think Martha Stewart likes the judge that oversaw the first case or the judge that heard the appeal and upheld the appeal with 74 pages? Do you think Martha would have them over for Thanksgiving dinner? Do you think she’d cook one of her world famous turkeys made out of soy beans and coat hangers and tastes like butter and do you think she would serve them a Martha Stewart meal?
Imagine if Martha Stewart decided to take all of her enemies whom she had wronged and invited them, not for a Thanksgiving dinner, but for a Christmas celebration in Bethlehem. And she reserved the finest hotels and she cooked the finest meal that money could buy and she spent a week with them and she said, “I’m doing all this for you. I’m paying for your plane fare, your accommodations, your meal. I’m going to make custom made suits for you out of olive wood from Israel that feel like silk. And I’m going to do all these things for you and I’m going to throw my lavish ability on you to do anything I can to let you know that I love you.” And then on the front page of the Jerusalem Post we have Martha Stewart with her prosecutors all smiling and hugging and saying they love each other. That’s reconciliation.
Reconciliation is not merely overlooking the sin. Reconciliation is not saying, oh, it’s no big deal. Reconciliation demands payment. And someone has to pay for it to make love possible. Jesus Christ wasn’t guilty, but He took your guilt and mine. Jesus Christ endured the contempt, the hatred, the malice, the insults. I think we fixate too much on Mel Gibson’s version of The Passion, of the brutality of the crucifixion—which in no way demeans the brutality of the crucifixion—but I think we miss the point. There was a spiritual crucifixion in the heavenly places we do not comprehend. And when Jesus Christ calls out “My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?” that to me is the crucifixion. The physical brutality was none the less torturous and brutal and gruesome and inhumane, but it was the separation of God the Father from His Son because of the wrath being poured out on Jesus Christ in your place and in mine.
God had to judge because His Word and His character and His promise cannot change. And instead of annihilating Israel He pours His wrath on His Son. Instead of annihilating you He poured His wrath on Jesus and it’s only through God loving the loved, loving the loveless that the loveless become reconciled and become His children. Not My people; you’re My people. No compassion; I’ve got immeasurable compassion for you. Throw away, genocide; no, luxuriant growth. That’s the cost of reconciliation and that’s how much He loves the loveless.
Prayer: Our Father in heaven, help us to begin to understand Your great love for us, unlovely, throw-away, immoral, self-bent sinners. You love us! Help us to see the horror of our sin, to know the kindness of Your love, to see the compassion and mercy You extend to us even after we’ve trusted Christ when we should know so much better. Thanks that You don’t rub our face in the dirt. You don’t put Your heel in our back, but You persistently kindly pursue us with grace and mercy. Help us to come to our spiritual senses and to know that we’re so loved to fall on our face to pray “Abba” and to know that You are our God. In Christ’s name, amen.