God’s Love for the Loveless – Part 3
|By: Dr. Michael Easley; ©2007|
|Sin and shame have certainly fallen out of favor. Sin and shame in our cultural context have been sort of amalgamated and put off in the corner and said, “Well, don’t be ashamed of what you did. Exploit it for your advantage.”|
This message was recorded at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, 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.
I don’t know if you’ve followed the news in past week or so, but there was a little bit of a scuttle with Miss New Jersey. It seems she had some pictures taken of her and someone was going to blackmail her or bribe her or embarrass her in some way, shape or form. For the record, I have not seen the pictures. I hope I never see the pictures. I did read a description of them on one news service I get, and apparently they were not as salacious as maybe the public wanted them to be.
But my mind raced back to a number of Miss Americas and other beauty pageant contestants in the last two or three years who have been ashamed, who, I guess one lost her position. My mind ran back to Paris Hilton and how Paris Hilton has become famous because of a video tape in a shameful scandal.
Sin and shame have certainly fallen out of favor. Sin and shame in our cultural context have been sort of amalgamated and put off in the corner and said, “Well, don’t be ashamed of what you did. Exploit it for your advantage.” The idea of sin is an incredibly unpopular topic. The idea of shame is even more unpopular. We are a culture that loathes shame. We don’t like to; we talk about shame-based parenting as an old throwback of an inappropriate way of leading our children. So both sin and shame have fallen on hard times.
In Hosea 2:2 we read “Contend with your mother, contend, for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband; and let her put away her harlotry from her face and her adultery from between her breasts.” Verse 2 is a summons. It’s like the “Hear ye, Hear ye;” you can hear a gavel hitting the block on the judge’s desk. “Contend, contend with your mother.” This is a lawsuit language. We find the same language in Exodus 23ff. It’s a dispute between God and Israel and these are serious charges. This is a covenant breech. It’s a covenant relationship that’s been broken. And in this picture God is saying, “She’s not My wife. I don’t know a thing about her and I’m certainly not her husband.” We might say it this way: if she were my wife would she live like this? Of course not!
Now remember the overall picture of the book of Hosea. This personal tragedy that Hosea is going to experience with Gomer is a representation of the national tragedy that Yahweh has experienced with His people. And so through a terrible set of language, a terribly shocking set of terms, God wants to sort of get Israel’s attention. And this passage is one more notch of the flame being turned up. It’s one more set of pretty condemning words that He’s saying.
And now in this picture we’re moving beyond the fickle wife, Gomer, who has thrown herself in the arms of two, perhaps, men, certainly children of one other man, but she’s thrown herself in the arms of at least two other men. And here we have a picture of not just a fickle wife, but of the children calling their mother into correction. I don’t know about you, but when my children correct me, I don’t like it. When they were little they could sit in the back in their car seat and tell me when I was going too fast. Daddy, you’re going over 55, and they would get all exorcised about this. And it’s really annoying when they can read. And when they can start figuring you out, right. I don’t like my children to correct me.
This call to repentance is the first of many in the book of Hosea and this theme begins to unfold. The vivid language is twofold. One “put harlotry away from her face, put adultery away from between her breasts.” And each of these summons, one is a sinful summons; the other is a shameful summons. The idea of putting it away from her face could be a word-play in the Hebrew text. It might mean that she’s made herself up.
Now how many of you have raised daughters and granddaughters? How many of you remember when they first started putting makeup on? We have a picture of Jessie when she found her way into her mom’s makeup and, I mean, she looked like bad drama art. I mean, it was just really over. I mean, she didn’t know what she was doing. And, of course we have celebrated that picture, and we’ve promised her it will be at her rehearsal dinner when she gets married. It’s a great picture. And as they grow older in their teen years and they look at pictures in magazines they begin to sort of overdo things and you have to try and teach them about modesty and the proper use of these things.
It also could be a double entendre. It could mean a woman who’s exposed herself. We see in the Muslim culture an overstatement of this where some sects of Islam cover all but just a little bit of their eyes. Some even cover their entire heads. And the idea is you’re trying to take away any nuance of harlotry or exposing yourself.
The verb implied “put away” continues over to verse 2, “put away adultery from between her breasts,” a very seductive set of words. It’s uncomfortable to talk about, but we’re adults in this room and if we can’t talk about it here in the Word of God where are we going to talk about it? The picture here is something that’s evocative, something that’s seductive and suggestive and literally exposing.
Again, raising three daughters as a father I am probably overly modest. I would like my girls to always wear turtlenecks and long sleeves. When Jessie came home with one of these prom dresses or whatever it was one time, I said, “And where’s the coat that goes over it?” I’ll buy a turtleneck prom dress, but you can’t wear this thing. There’s no, there’s negative fabric in this dress. And this is a Christian school. I went to the picture part of this thing and I took pictures of all the girls and all the boys. That’s what you do in the Midwest, is you go to somebody’s house and you take pictures before the little prom thing. And they go in packs and herds, which is a good thing. And I brought these pictures home and I showed them to Cindy and I said, “Can anything good come out of the way these girls are dressing?”
There’s an old Van Morrison tune that will date me and those of you who don’t know who he is, I’m sorry. He’s a rock and roll singer and he has a line in one of his songs, “The girls walk by dressed up for each other and the boys are the boogie woogie on the corner of the street.” It’s profound! It really is because women are dressing up for one another. And what I think Van Morrison means, and what I’m trying to talk about without being too over the top, is women dress up in styles and fashions that other women approve and applaud, and in the process often can be seductive to men without ever intending it.
You say, “Well, men just need to get their minds out of the gutter.” I agree. Men need to have self-control. I agree. But when everything is exposed, it’s hard for a guy to keep his mind on the right thing and to keep self-control. So when our daughters were young and dressing up and putting on make-up I would tell Cindy, “Be careful.” Cindy would say, “Oh, they look cute.” I’d say, “The average pre-testosterone boy does not think cute. He thinks one thing.” And shoulders and necklines and back that plunge in these little spaghetti tops they wear that are so cute don’t help a young adolescent boy one iota.
We fight it at Moody, and I encourage our female faculty. Somebody’s got to come alongside and tell these young women this isn’t part of the way you do this. Now when you’re hanging out in your dorm room with all your girlfriends and, you know, or whatever, that’s fine. But when you take yourself out on the street,… The irony of this is, let’s say women are doing this to attract men. Let’s say subconsciously they’re dressing up, you know, showing themselves and, in appealing ways. And when you get married I don’t want her dressing that way after I’ve married her. Maybe some men do. Maybe I’m just an old dinosaur and a prude.
Be that as it may, this passage is pretty graphic. “Put away harlotry from your face.” Whether it’s a countenance, whether it’s exposing, whether it’s over-made-up. “Put away adultery” —what a vivid picture—“from between your breasts.” Face your sins and repent. That’s what He’s saying to Israel.
Well, secondly there are dire warnings in this passage, and that begins in verses 3 and 4. If you don’t do this, look at verse 3, “Or I will strip her naked and expose her as on the day she was born. I will also make her like a wilderness, make her like a desert land and slay her with thirst. Also, I will have no compassion on her children, because they’re children of harlotry.” The dire warnings are if you persist in this punishment is going to come.
Now this warning is spelled out with three specifics. Each one of them begins with the phrase “I will.” If you look back at your text, “I will strip her naked,” “I will make her like a wilderness,” “I will have no compassion.” “When Michael read Psalm 24 tonight,” “when you find these things in the Bible,” —they’re declarative statements. You ought to learn to circle them or underline them so you’ll see them visually. When God says, “I will, I will, I will, I will,” those are declaratives that God’s telling us about His character. When the psalmist says “I will, I will, I will,” he’s making a choice to worship.
Now here God is giving three very clear warnings, “I will, I will, I will.” The first one “strip her naked and expose her.” You know the phrase, “Talionic Justice,” an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, injury for injury. I think there’s some talionic going on in this text. In other words, if you go out and play the harlot, I’m going to strip you naked. If you go out and do this under the cover of sin and shame, I’m going to expose you. I’m going to strip you naked. If you engage in immorality, I’m going to pull the covers off.
The second warning, “make her a wilderness.” The land again, is reinjured. I mentioned earlier today Israel is a desert. Israel is in the Judea wilderness, a parched land. The fertile areas as you go north into Israel are becoming more and more endangered because of water. Water is the number one issue in Israel. Years ago we said the Middle East crisis would be over oil. I sometimes think it’s going to be over water. And if they don’t come up with a desalination process for the Mediterranean Sea or something like this, between those different people groups over there they will fight for water. And the Jordan is drying up. The feeders from Mount Herman, the snowfall, all that comes in is being dammed and sent off and it’s a huge issue.
So “I’m going to strip her and expose her; I’m going to injure the wilderness, make it like the wilderness;” if there’s no water there’s no life. And thirdly, “I will have no compassion on her children.” And, of course, that should take us back to the what? Lo-ruhamah, no compassion, not My people, Lo-ammi, Jezreel, this valley. And so there’s a lot of things being played here.
God cannot overlook sin. Lewis Sperry Chafer said, “A secret sin on earth is an open scandal in heaven.” I wonder sometimes; I mentioned yesterday, I believe, why we sin, to be a student of your sin. Another aspect of this is, when we sin are we sorry for our sin or sorry we got caught or feel guilty? And again, if you parent you know that much of your challenge in parenting children is getting them beyond the sorry they got caught. And that’s where Cindy and I have been with any one of our children at any given time. You’re not sorry for your sin; you’re sorry you’re in trouble.
One of my children one time; we have this thing about apologies and asking for forgiveness. And you just can’t say “Sorry.” We are just cruel parents. We say, “What are you sorry for? What are you apologizing for? Say it.” “I’m sorry, dad, that I was disrespectful. Will you please forgive me?” That is a question I’ll respond to. Anything else I don’t respond to. They say, “Sorry,” I go, “Sorry for what?” And a while back one of them said, “I’m sorry that I made you mad.” And I said, “I’m sorry I don’t hear anything you’re saying.” And it took quite a while to get this child to see it wasn’t about dad being mad. I was fuming inside. I did not explode or blow it. It was one of the few times I actually controlled my wrath and I was quite contained, but they were trying to blame me. And I said, “You know what? This isn’t about daddy or mommy being mad, and, yeah, we get mad sometimes. We get very frustrated sometimes. This is about your lying and deception and covering things up.”
So then they finally say it, but they don’t mean it. You ever been there? And so then, as an all-knowing wise omniscient parent we say, “You don’t mean it.” And of course this is always very helpful. It’s like sending your children to their room until they change their attitude. “Go to your room until you change your attitude,” like, what difference is that going to make? They might take a day for that child to change his or her attitude. You going to feed them under the door? What are you going to do? We’re funny the way we parent.
I think we’re pretty poor on repentance. We’re pretty poor on saying, “I sinned.” It doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t do. I own my sin. Will you forgive me? I’ve often said if Richard Nixon would have said, “I was aware of the wiretaps. It was stupid on my part. I shouldn’t have done it,” we’d have probably never known any more about it than a little scandal. It would have been handled behind closed doors. With all due respect to President Clinton, the same thing would have occurred. If he would have just said, “You know, I made some poor decisions,” it’d probably been handled behind closed doors. It would have been a political chip that would have been played, but it wouldn’t have been a scandal.
We can’t simply say, “I was wrong.” I watch these Court TV things sometimes and I go “Does anybody ever say, ‘I’m wrong’?” Does anybody ever say “I’m guilty”? Does anybody? There’s this guy right now who’s, what is he? He’s a person of interest in the disappearance of his wife. Does anybody think the guy’s not guilty? Does anybody except the defense attorney think the guy’s not guilty? And the defense attorney probably does, but under the rule of law we have to provide him or her with an adequate defense. I’m all for that. I believe in that. But the guy’s guilty, right. We know he’s guilty, right.
So, well, I guess given the choice of going to jail the rest of your life and lying, I guess you’re going to lie. I just wonder how many things in life would be a whole lot easier if people would just, you know, “I was wrong. I cheated. I stole. I lied. I was wrong. Will you forgive me? I’ll accept the consequences.” But we’re more concerned about being caught. We’re sorry we got caught. We’re really not sorry we sinned.
Part of this, I think, is the loss of shame. That’s what this passage is talking about. There’s no shame in the sin. Allan Bloom, his book The Closing of the American Mind, written in the late ‘80’s, was a powerful book. Allan Bloom said, quote: “Psychologists are the sworn enemies of guilt.” “Psychologists are the sworn enemies of guilt.” Now, that’s not true of all psychologists, but it raises an interesting point. We have vilified guilt and shame to the point that shame-based parenting is horrible.
This passage is about the shame of your sin. And many Christians are sort of sheepish around, well, we don’t want to shame anybody. I mean, when’s the last time you heard someone say, “Shame on you!” That person would be sued today if they used those words. How many of you had corporal punishment when you were in school? And proud of it, aren’t you? I was lifted off the ground with pops I got in elementary and junior high. I had one guy say, and I don’t know, I think he was just a sick man. He said, “If you flinch I’m going to give you another one.” Where does this come from? Principal Torture Book 101: if you flinch. Of course you’re going to flinch! It’s like when they put the stethoscope, it’s cold! I can’t help but take a deep breath, you know. There’s no choice here. Of course you’re going to flinch when they swat you with that paddle. And I lived through it and you probably did too.
But what would happen today if a teacher took a child in the office and paddled them? Wow! You’d never hear that teacher again. They’d be working at Wal-Mart or something. I don’t know what they’d do, but they wouldn’t teach. The notion of shame, the notion of guilt, the notion of culpability, the notion of “I was wrong” is eradicated from our culture. And we wonder why a teacher can’t teach.
There’s a law of diminishing returns in our sins. The more we sin the less we’re ashamed. We are careful and clever at sinning and repressing our guilt and shame, and that callus develops. And before long we can live in sin with absolutely no conviction. The press of guilt and shame come in and we repress it. Or what’s been interesting in the last three decades, is we “come out” against our shame. Have you thought about this concept of coming out? What was once shameful and brought the ire and the, you know, wrath, now we come out and we celebrate.
You see what happened in San Diego last week at the baseball game? They had a gay welcoming type thing and didn’t tell people. They didn’t the parents of children. And there was a lot of overt behavior going on in the stadium and it got a lot of media coverage. And they interviewed parents and said, you know, “They could’ve at least told us. We would have chosen to go to a different game.” When Disney World has a Gay Pride Day they let people know this is Gay Pride Day for Disney World or Disney Land and then parents can make a choice. They can avoid that day or they can choose to go and deal with it. Other people say, “No, I don’t care. You know it’s fine. It’s the way our world is.”
And not to be a harsh on a particular sin or unkind, but what was once shameful is proudly exalted. And we can do this at any level of sin. Paris Hilton; a former Miss America; anybody can do this. It’s an interesting culture. The Bible says, “Face your sin and repent.” Scripture says “There’s punishment that will come if you persist in sin.”
Verse 5: “For the mother’s played the harlot; she who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’” Thirdly then, judgment comes, and you’re going to lose your, quote, “lovers.” Number 1: face your sins and repent; two: if you don’t there’s a dire warning, punishment’s going to come if you persist in this sin; thirdly: part of this judgment means you’re going to lose your so-called lovers.
Now, Israel’s unfaithfulness in pursuing these lovers—notice verse 5 is plural here—this of course parallels the Baals. Baal worship was the enticement of sin with the promise of prosperity. We think we have it sort of interesting in our culture. In Baal worship licentiousness and sexual sins were the way to worship God. So it’s sort of like all the things that you can’t do and you’re tempted to do, you can do and call them worship and religion. That’s pretty appealing to anybody. That conscience part of me that says I shouldn’t indulge or exploit or act out on my emotions and passions and sensual drives and there should be no limitations and I can do that under the pretence of worshiping Baal sounds like a pretty good religion. And that’s what they were pulled into, the lovers and the prosperity.
She plays the harlot. Now this sounds sort of anti-climactic to you and me, but look at the passage. It has to do with bread, water, wool, flax, oil and drink, literally wine. So these couplets are probably three parallels, your bread and water, your wool and flax, your oil and your wine. Bread and water, of course, is the basic substance of life. You have to have the staple and a liquid. Wool and flax would be clothing. And oil and wine would be delicacies. So if you do this Baal worship thing we’re going to take care of your food, your clothing and your delicacies. That’s what she’s saying. My, my, you see it, my bread. What she’s saying is when I play the harlot the Baals give me all I need and more. The Baal worship gives me all that I want and more that I’m not getting on this side. The belief that Baal could provide these things, and God was the one of course who was providing their necessities.
Verses 6-7: “Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her so she cannot find her paths. She will pursue her lovers, but she will not overtake them. She will seek them, but she will not find them.” He’s going to block her path to sin. He’s going to block her path to her lovers.
Some of you perhaps, some of us know friends who have sent a child, a son or daughter off to a school that sort of protects them from the world. Maybe you’ve had a son or daughter or grandson or granddaughter or know someone whose child got involved in drugs and sex at a very early age, maybe had a child and so you sort of whisk your son or daughter off and you put them in these special schools. What are you trying to do? You’re trying to get them away from sin and get them away from the culture and block the path of evil influence in their lives, right. And that’s precisely what God is saying in verses 6-7: “I’m going to hedge up her way with thorns. I’m going to make it nearly impossible for you to get to her.”
When we lived in Texas there was a popular poor man’s alarm system and it was a particular holly bush that had these thorns that were about an inch and a half long and were really strong. They were hard to break or cut. And people would plant them around the back side of their property. It’s a pretty good poor man’s deterrent. Those thorns keep people from trying to get in. They’re just, and those thorns stay there all year round and when the plant dies in the winter they get hard like a nail so it’s like worse when the foliage is down than when it’s full of greenery.
So it’s a great thorn picture. Protect a wall so people can’t find her path, an interesting picture. She might sneak through the alleys and byways to go to her lover. God’s going to put a wall there so they can’t even find where she used to come. Her tracks are going to be hidden and protected.
The result is the last resort, the last part of verse 7, “Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now!’” What does that sound like? What does that remind you of? The prodigal. Luke 15:17, look at it later tonight. It’s almost the same phrase. It was better for me then than now. Interesting, God the Father is putting these things in her way so that she’ll come back. It’s still love, right? There were many lovers but her one motive was what was in it for her, and God’s going to blockade that.
Again, I mentioned yesterday about studying your sin. I have a definition of sin. It’s not a perfect definition of sin, and you can improve on it. Sin is an illegitimate means to a legitimate end. Sin is an illegitimate means to a legitimate end. Now this illustration does not stand on four legs; it stands on three at best. But stay with me and think about it just a minute.
Let’s talk about sensualities, since that’s the passage in the book. If I want a sexual relationship with a person, anything outside the boundaries of a heterosexual monogamous marriage in the Bible is sin. So as a young man, as a teenager, as a single man, as a married man there are temptations all around that promise this wonderful relationship. And if I pursue those ends I will be a miserable person in no time at all. But in a heterosexual monogamous relationship with Cindy for 27 years and God’s kindness, faithful to one another only, there is a wonderful relationship there. An illegitimate means to a legitimate end. If I want love in that way I find it in only one place. The other outlets will only lead to dissatisfaction.
And the culture is such a great commentary on this. Why do the most beautiful people in the world, movie stars, marry and divorce so often? They have fame. They have fortune. They can do whatever they want in life, and they can’t satisfy one another. They have drugs. They have sex. They have alcohol. They have indispensable incomes. They can go anywhere in the world. They can live in France, in Europe. They can have homes all over the country. They can have parties galore. They can cavort with politicians, with the most powerful people in the world. They can spend months on end in Hawaii. They can do whatever they want, and it doesn’t make them happy. What should that tell us? It doesn’t satisfy. An illegitimate means to a legitimate end.
But in the context of a marriage there’s a wonderful love relationship far beyond sex, far beyond sensuality, right. I remember a man telling me one time that marriage, the marriage bed, was a guilt-free love. And that’s pretty good, a guilt-free love. Any sin is a lie.
Let’s take power for a moment. If I go after power, if I use the force of my personality to get what I want there’s an illegitimate means to a legitimate end. Control, perhaps, is the outlet. But if I trust God and I work through the right ways and through good authority channels and I’m humble and I appeal and I work all the proper routes, there can be a legitimate outcome of a good thing.
Money; God gives us enough money to live, everyone of us. Now there are situations in life, if we have an illness or a catastrophe or lose a business or something happens it, sometimes it’s not just one plus two equals three. But more often than not if we live within our income, we save a little, we give first to the Lord, we live under that level, you can do pretty well. There will always be people that make more money than you, but we’re the wealthiest nation in the world. You can get a job at UPS, you can get a job at Starbucks and if you live under your income level, you don’t go into debt, you give and you save, you can do okay. Can you live in the house of your dreams and have a car and a boat and go on vacations? Maybe not, but that’s not a need is it. We can do a lot in life if we do it the legitimate way.
Sin, I’m suggesting is an illegitimate means to a legitimate end. So this is why I say study your sin patterns. I had a friend who was in three different drug treatment programs. These things are incredibly expensive. They’re several thousand dollars for a month. The particular one he was in in 1985, I believe, was $10,000 for about eight weeks. And we helped him, our little church helped him as well as some individuals to go on this drug treatment program. And I went to visit him the first day he was able to have a visitor and he told me, he said, “Michael, they told us there’ll be one of us in the 20 that will be clean and sober 120 days after treatment.” One, the recidivism rate is high.
So he and I were talking and he was so excited. He said, “I learned something. It’s called HALT, and they taught us this. Never go outside when you’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. If you’re hungry and you go out you’re going to want to use because that hunger creates other cravings. And if you go out with a hungry belly it’s like going shopping when you’re hungry.” Wrong time to go shop, right? Go shopping tomorrow after lunch right away. Like if you went shopping right after this meal tonight you’d come out with one little bag. If you haven’t eaten all day you’d come out with two grocery carts full. Don’t go outside when you’re hungry.
Don’t go outside when you’re angry. Because if you’re angry you’re going to justify your behavior. You’re going to entitle yourself to a decision because you’re mad and you deserve it. And this is why a lot of couples get in trouble in having affairs. They’re mad at their husband or wife and they’re on travel for work. And they’re ticked at their spouse, and an opportunity knocks.
Don’t go outside when you’re lonely. If you’re alone you’re vulnerable. You’ve got to have a good friend. You’ve got to have a person that’s closer than a brother, closer than a sister.
And don’t go outside if you’re tired, if you’re not well rested. Hungry, angry, lonely, tired – HALT!
You know that applies to your sin as well, when you and I are tempted. And I think you can put all your sins under money, sex and power. Those are the three umbrellas. As I study my sin and I talk to people about their challenges I think you can put every temptation you have under money, sex or power—lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, the boastful pride of life; sounds biblical. Okay, so you have these three areas of sin.
One of those really is the one that’s got your number. And that’s the one we used to call the besetting sin. Remember my besetting sin. Somehow it makes it better. I don’t know it’s still sin. So how do you face it? You have to study: what situation do I get in where I’m more likely to sin in that regard? And hungry, angry, lonely and tired is a pretty good idea of a little yellow flag saying, “Hey stupid, don’t go there!”
I remember Norm Geisler, a professor of mine back in Dallas days, he said, “You know, guys often ask me about how do you know if that woman is the woman you’re supposed to marry, or how do you know if that’s God’s will for you to marry this man?” And there’s a lot of people with a lot of opinions on that. He said, “You know, once I said ‘I do,’” he said, “I don’t sit around a whole bunch of college age single girls going ‘Did I marry the right woman?’”
You know, Cindy and I, early in our marriage I learned a thing about protecting our marriage. You’re supposed to go home after work. That’s pretty silly, isn’t it? If you’re married you need to go home. I need to spend a lot of time with Cindy. If I’m going to keep that marriage and enjoy that individual the rest of my life until one of us buries the other, I’ve got to spend a lot of time with her. There’s no person I’d rather spend time with than Cindy. She’s my friend. She’s the mother of our four children. Thank God she’s a far better parent than me. I’ve got to keep her healthy. If it was up to me my children would live in a cardboard box. Cindy takes great care of our children. One day they’re going to realize they’re going to bless her socks off if they live long enough and she lives long enough to hear it. She’s a wonderful mother, a wonderful friend. She has a great sense of humor. She puts up with me. She helps me in so many ways. I’ve got to go home to momma.
I told this story a while back that happened after Candlelight Carols. The Institute has this wonderful event. We have these three Christmas concerts. They’re spectacular. The students do the whole thing. We fill up the Moody Church three times, sell out all three services, 3,900 and change. The thing is totally sold out. And Cindy and I went to the three concerts and we had a lot of meetings and stuff. And so we stayed Saturday night downtown in a hotel because it was like 11:45 when we’re done. We said “Look, we’ll just get a hotel room and crash,” and slept until the next morning.
And so I get up very early in the morning and we have this routine when I travel, when we travel. So I get up, I take my Bible and my little computer with my Bible study software program. I leave the room probably at 5:00 in the morning. She’s still asleep in the bed and I go, and I find a Starbucks and I get my Bible study, and I get my venti, and I sit in the corner. And I drink my Starbucks and I have my devotions. And so I did this for about an hour, hour and a half. And then I’m going back to the hotel room and I’m getting her a coffee to go.
So I’m back in line and these two women were sitting right about over here, and they were kind of smiling at me and I thought they must have been at Candlelight Carols because this is downtown Chicago. It’s sort of an intimate place. Everybody knows, oh, that’s Michael Easley. So I’m thinking, okay, I’m busted and so I just kind of smile and wave back. The next thing I know this woman’s standing beside me talking to me and she says to me, “You’re going to be my next husband.” And I said, I didn’t look at her, I said, “Ma’am, I’ve been married for 27 years. I’m very happy.” And she said, “I don’t care.” Now I am a pretty unflappable guy. I’ve got to tell you, I was scared like a little boy that’d been caught with his hand in a cookie jar. I was terrified. I took my coffee and I ran home to momma. I mean, I went in that hotel. I said, “Cindy, I can’t believe what happened to me.” Now, she woke up really fast.
And I told this to the students and I said, “You know what, guys? This was Sunday morning at 6 a.m. and I had a woman hitting on me.” Now I have such a guilty conscience and I’m so stupid I wouldn’t know what to do with this thing anyway, but the point of the matter is it’s everywhere. There’s no shame anymore. And if I was hungry, angry or alone or tired that morning I might have thought twice instead of going home to momma right away. I might have talked to her if I was hungry, angry, lonely or tired.
I don’t know what your challenges are. I don’t mean to make you feel guilty or squirm, but I know the human condition as a Christian we all face temptations. And the difference between those of us who resist the temptation are people who are walking close to Jesus Christ. You know your limitations. You keep a short rein on things and you go home to momma. You don’t play with this stuff. Face your sin and repent. Dire warning: punishment’s coming if you don’t. Judgment will come and you’ll lose these so-called lovers who you think are giving you all this stuff.
Verses 9 and following, when judgment comes you’re going to lose God’s blessings. Verse 9:
“Therefore, I will take back My grain at harvest time and My new wine in its season. I will also take away My wool and My flax given to cover her nakedness. And I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one will rescue her out of My hand. I will also put an end to her gaiety, her feasts, her new moons, her sabbaths and her festival assemblies. I will destroy her vines and fig trees, of which she said, ‘These are my wages which my lover has given me.’ And I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field will devour them. I will punish her for the days of the Baals when she used to offer sacrifices to them and adorn herself with earrings and jewelry, and follow her lovers, so that she forgot Me,” declares the Lord.
Again I think we have a Talionic nuance here, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. You think Baal gave you bread and water, wool and flax, oil and wine? I’ll take it all away from you. Verse 8: “She does not know,” an interesting phrase, “she does not know.” Isaiah 1:3, “An ox knows its owner, a donkey knows its masters, but Israel does not know; My people do not understand.” A dog, an ox is a stupid animal and they know who owns them. A dog will go home eventually. Even a cat will go home eventually, eventually. But My people don’t know that I’m their owner. My people don’t know that I’m their God.
Baal is a licentious idol. I don’t encourage you to do this, but if you are a student of Scripture, if you use a Google search engine and you study biblical archeology and you look up Baal and Asheroth you will see some pretty nasty images. The Baal worship was a phallic symbol. It was a sexual fertility issue and it is grotesque and vile and pornographic in today’s terminology as well as then. They rejected the primary monotheistic mandate of Exodus 20:3, “You will have no other god’s before Me,” and they find themselves with the syncretism.
Deuteronomy 7:13, “He will love you and bless you and multiply you. He will also bless the fruit of your womb, the fruit of the ground, your grain, your new wine, your oil, and increase the herd of the young of your flock in the land which He swore to your fathers to give to you.” Not Baal, Yahweh!
Again, back to parenting. I always tell my kids, there’s the easy way and there’s the hard way. And the easy way is obeying God and the hard way is sinning. It is that easy. If you obey God, if you are a truth teller, if you seek Jesus Christ, He will take care of you. That’s not to say you’re not going to have problems. You’re going to have problems in life whether you obey God or whether you disobey God. But I will tell you this, if you disobey God your problems are going to be whole lot more complicated. They’re going to be a whole lot tougher to get out of. And we of course have the benefit of God’s Holy Spirit to help us, to remind us, to encourage us, to come along side us. Not Baal, Yahweh.
The wool and flax and linen here, again the issue of nakedness. Verses 9-10, “uncover her lewdness.” This word really has to do with exposing the parts you don’t want exposed. This takes it down to pretty much your skivvies. And this is the part you don’t want exposed. The related terms refer to all sorts of sexual immoral acts in the Bible. The uncovering has three nuances: You are destitute; you are humiliated; and you are shamed through that humiliation. If you read The Scarlet Letter when you were in college or high school there was a shame associated with the sin of adultery. Destitution if you’re poor, you’re ashamed. You’re thrown away. You’re exposed and uncovered. And so all these terms in the Bible are the idea of uncovering. Your sin is found out. You’re destitute and you’re humiliated because of your sin. That’s the picture. During Israel’s exposure, Israel’s lovers will stand by and Israel will be helpless. “No one will rescue her out of My hand.”
Verse 11, the celebrations of religion will cease. These sacred festivals have become corrupted and co-opted by the Baals. For those of you who have been to Israel you perhaps went to some of the temple remnants and some of the different syncretistic worship complexes. If you go to Tel Dan, any of you remember going to Tel Dan? Betty, you went to Tel Dan, didn’t you. You go to Tel Dan and you walk around and you will see an extruded aluminum frame of the size of a parameter of a ruin that they believe was this altar. They weren’t supposed to have an altar there.
If you go to Caesarea where the church of so-called St. Peter’s Church is on the Sea of Galilee, on the northern side you see this, the Church of St. Peter looks like something out of a James Bond movie. It’s got these real bizarre legs built up and underneath there is where Peter and his mother apparently lived, be that as it may. But if you walk around you’ll see these archeological finds and you’ll find one with a temple complex on it. It’s got a little tabernacle. It’s got little like pillars and a little top and it’s got wheels on it. You weren’t supposed to have wheels on the tabernacle complex. How was it carried? Poles by priests, very specifically. Don’t put wheels on it. It’s like putting a motorized golf cart on some of these courses. You don’t do that. The field marshal will take you away. You can’t do that. You can’t put wheels on the temple complex. And the syncretism leached in because of other cultures. And in this passage He is saying you have soiled what was sacred.
Verse 12, vine and fig were formerly a testimony of God’s blessing. They will now become destroyed. You want blessing from your lovers? Okay, you think they give you this stuff. I’ll take it all away and then you’ll see.
In verse 13, “I will punish her for the days of the Baals when she used to offer sacrifices to them and adorn herself with earrings and jewelry, and follow her lovers, so that she forgot Me.” Burning incense to the Baals would be a close kin to pornographic worship in our terminology. Adorn herself, we might say she dressed up for a night on the town and went out and committed sin. The lesson in verse 13 is “‘She forgot Me,’ declares the Lord.”
I think, again, there’s a number nuances as to why we sin, but I wonder if forgetting God is why we sin. My kids forgetting is the best excuse they have. “I forgot my homework, dad.” Now I’ve just gotten old and sort of; I don’t know the word I want to use, stubborn. I don’t like the word “forgot” as an excuse. We have a sign on the bathroom mirror in the kids room. It says, “Brush your teeth.” Every night they have a drill. They go take a shower and they’re supposed to brush their teeth and come out of the bathroom. Now this is not a hard thing. It would be good to use soap and shampoo, but we set our expectations realistic. Cindy buys dark towels now. They’ll get there one day. They’ll realize they have a boyfriend or girlfriend and they stink and they’ll start using shampoo and soap, right. They’ll get there.
But brushing your teeth; this seems like sort of a bare minimum requirement of life, right. Did you brush your teeth? Yes! Let me smell. Did you brush your teeth? Yes! Why is the toothbrush dry? You know, it’s just sort of ridiculous. We go around and around about this, you know, brushing your teeth. And of course, the dental bill’s the other thing. Dad says “You know how much it’s going to cost at the dentist if you don’t brush your teeth?” None of it works. But “I forgot to brush my teeth.” Well, Cindy’s got a sign there about the size of Dallas that says, “Brush your teeth.” It’s pretty hard to forget. I don’t like “forget” as an excuse. “I forgot, dad.” You know you’re supposed to do this twice a day at least. How can you forget something you do twice a day? Do you forget to put clothes on? Do you forget to go outside without shorts and pants and a shirt? I mean, do you forget these things in life? Brush your teeth, you know.
Deuteronomy 8:19, “It shall come about if you ever forget the Lord your God, if you ever forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them I testify against you today that you will surely perish.” Judges 3:7, “The sons of Israel did what is evil in the sight of the Lord and forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth.” In God’s judgment forgetting is sin. So when I choose to foray into sin, when I yield to those temptations, when I turn my head, when I turn my heart, when I do those things I know are wrong, I’m forgetting God and I’m worshipping self and I’m giving into the temptations of the spiritual loins of my life.
God in His great kindness doesn’t judge you and me the way He judged Israel. Because He judged Israel and you and me in the person and work of Jesus Christ. So when He disciplines you and me He’s not just making us miserable for misery sake. He’s trying to bring us back into relationship with Him. It might be that God deprives you of friends. God might deprive you of a good job.
When I have acquaintances and friends that get highly involved in sin and deeply involved and they repress their guilt and shame and they go after it, if I know them—and I haven’t done this in a while—but back when I was a pastor I would tell these people; I told a guy a couple years ago, “I’m praying every day that you are absolutely miserable in your sin. God bless you.” You ever pray for someone’s misery? You ever pray they’ll just wake up and feel like the worst person in the world until they say, “I’m wrong God. I’ve sinned. I own my sin. Will You forgive me?” And the remarkable part is He does again and again and again.
Hebrews 12:11, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful. Yet to those who have been trained by it afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” When my kids do sin and they do, and when they apologize and they do, after we work through the whole thing, and there’s such a wonderful restoration afterwards, isn’t there. When a kid truly confesses and he or she says, “You know, dad, I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” I say, “You know what?” I say this, I’ll just use Devin as an example. I say, “Devin, what do I always tell you when you ask me to forgive you?” I always say, “Yes, I forgive you. I will always forgive you. I will never not forgive you.” And your Father in heaven is a lot better than that.
Prayer: Lord, thanks that You love, that Your discipline is for the moment painful, but it’s designed to bring us back into an unbelievable relationship with You. In Christ’s name, amen.