December 3, 2017
Pastor Jeff Struecker
We’re going to start off with a couple questions. First question: What is your normal way of responding, what is your first reaction, when somebody hurts you badly? I’m talking about somebody you love who has just done you wrong.
Let’s take it a step further. How about when the same person has hurt you in the same way again and again? Now how do you react? How do you respond when you’ve been burned by the same person in the exact same way over and over again? Really the question I’m trying to get at is: Are you the kind of person who starts to build up a wall and starts to protect your heart to make sure that you don’t allow it to get hurt again, or do you have the kind of heart that you open it up, even when somebody’s hurt you again and again in the same way?
Look, do you want an easier question? How does God react when people hurt him in the same way over and over and over again? What is God’s response to that? Really what I’m trying to get you to do right now, is to put these two questions together and ask yourself this question: Do I respond the same way that God responds when somebody has burned me and hurt me badly?
In the last sermon of this series, we looked at what it’s like when you get hurt, and we said that love is the deepest where your hurt is the greatest. That’s where love is the deepest. I’m going to take that idea a step further. I’m going to tell you something that everybody in this room inherently knows. You learned this on the playground in elementary school. Here is the truth: Getting burned by the same person in the same way, getting burned twice will cause all of us in this room to have one of two reactions. Either your heart starts to become callous and it starts to become tough, or your heart can become tender.
All of us know that already, but I want to just make sure that you understand this: The difference between a tough heart and a tender heart…the choice is yours. If you’ve been hurt by somebody, you’ve been hurt badly by somebody, they burned you not once, but twice, 3, 4… 20 times, now whether your heart gets tough or your heart gets tender, that’s totally up to you. My guess is, you’re probably saying, “Jeff that’s not fair. Wait a second. The world is not supposed to operate this way. Why is it that the people I love have the ability to hurt me. Isn’t it supposed to be that the people that I love are the ones that make the most impact on me? They’re the ones that I’m most at ease with, most comfortable with. Why is it that the more I love, the more I get hurt?” And all of us inherently just know the world is not supposed to work this way, but it does. The people you love can burn you badly.
In this series, we’re taking a look at the “OMG” or “Oh my God!” moments where in the Bible, what we’re seeing doesn’t look fair. It doesn’t seem right. It should be this way. Today we’ll talk about a guy by the name of Hosea. Hosea is a prophet in the Old Testament, and there are basically a couple of ways that people are prophets in Old Testament times. For some people, God tells them what he’s about to do in the future. Those are prophets who foretell the future. Sometimes God calls a prophet, and he tells that prophet exactly what’s happening in Heaven and how God feels about what’s going on here on earth.
They tell the people on behalf of God what God is thinking. That’s called foretelling.
Then you have some prophets like Hosea who do both. He tells the people, “This is what’s going to happen in the future,” but his life, his marriage, his children are an example of what’s happening with God right now. Back in Hosea chapter 1, God commands this holy man, this priest, this very public prophet, to go marry an unholy woman. He is a godly man, and before he even meets this woman by the name of Gomer (it’s not my fault. I didn’t name the girl Gomer, but that’s a real name). Before Hosea marries Gomer, God says ahead of time, “This is an immoral woman. You go meet her, and you go marry her, and your marriage is going to represent the way that the people are treating me, Hosea.”
Then Gomer and Hosea have some children. The first child is named Jezreel. Jezreel is a famous battle in ancient Israel where Israel was just spanked badly. They were just totally annihilated, and it would be like the equivalent of naming a child Pearl Harbor today.
The second child that Gomer and Hosea have, Hosea is commanded by God to name “I don’t love that child”. This is God’s relationship with Israel at the time. Then Hosea and Gomer have a third child, and God says, “Hosea, this is what I want you to name that third baby. You name that baby “I don’t know who the daddy is, but it’s not me. That’s not my child”.
So, I just want you to picture this for just a second: You’re doing some Christmas shopping at the checkout line at Walmart, and the checkout lady is trying to strike up a conversation with you in the checkout line. You’re by yourself with the three kids. Who knows where your wife is? Who knows who she’s with? Who knows what she’s doing? And the lady next to you in the checkout lines says, “Awww! What a beautiful baby! What did you name this child?” And you say, “This is my son. His name is ‘I have no idea who the daddy is, but it’s not me’.” And that woman doesn’t want to touch this thing with a 10-foot pole.
So, she tries to change the subject by talking about your beautiful baby girl, the middle girl, who you named “That’s not my daughter. She’s not my people. I don’t love her”. That’s her name, and by the way, you haven’t asked, but I’ll just go ahead and tell you anyway. Our oldest son is named Pearl. That’s not his first name. His real name is Pearl Harbor Struecker, but we just call him Pearl for short.
You can imagine the conversation about you when you walk out of Walmart when other people are talking about you and those three crazy children when you walk out the doors of this public department store. That’s what life was like for Hosea, and God uses Hosea as an example of what his heart is going through with the people of Israel.
I. Learn to love again
So, I’m going to give us a couple of things to learn about God today, looking at Hosea chapter 3, and I hope you start to examine your heart as we follow along. The first thing that I would like for you to write down is this: Learn how to love again.
Now before we even look at Hosea chapter 3, I want to just go ahead and make this statement. Any time you put the words “love” and “again” in the same sentence, you have a painful combination, because in order to love in the first place, you’ve got to let your guard down, and by loving again, it automatically implies you’ve been hurt, and now you have to figure out a way to open your heart up to somebody who’s hurt you badly. I’m thinking right now of somebody in this room whose wife or husband has had an affair, and you’re trying to figure out, “How we put the pieces back together, Jeff? How do we make this marriage work when I got burned that badly?”
I’m thinking about a parent or grandparent in this room whose child has just gone buck wild. –rebelled, rejected everything that they’ve ever been taught, and really embarrassed the family name, and you’re thinking, “How do I bring this child back into my home?” More importantly, how to bring them back into my heart. I’m thinking about the many people in this room whose dad bailed on them when it got hard and left the wife and the children to figure out life on their own. Your father just totally crushed your heart when you were a young child, and now you’re trying to figure out, “How do I open my heart up again? How do I let my heart get tender?”
Listen to the example from Hosea in the Bible. Hosea chapter 3, verse 1:
Then the Lord said to me, “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them.”
By the language that we’re reading in Hosea chapter 1, we know that this was an immoral woman before they even met. We know that this marriage would have been a public scandal, because Hosea was a priest; he was a prophet; he was a public figure, and he just married a very public, immoral woman.
Somehow along the way, she bailed on him, and the textual evidence tells us that she’s probably gone into prostitution at this point. Perhaps she’s gone into temple prostitution, which means, she didn’t just reject Hosea here; she’s rejected Hosea’s faith when this happened, and God said, “Hosea, you go and get her back, and you go and not just bring her back into your home. Hosea, you bring her back into your heart. And you open your heart up to this woman who just crushed you badly, and you let her back into your heart, because Hosea, this is an example of what’s happening to me.”
God is saying, “This is exactly what my people are doing to me. You love her, Hosea, to the same extent that I love people.” If Hosea were honest, he’d have to say this wasn’t a request from God; this was a command, and this is a hard word from God. “God, how do I do that? How do I let my heart be tender toward this woman who has just hurt me so badly?
Look, can I be frank with you? It’s easy when you’ve been done wrong to develop some callouses on your heart, and those callouses protect you from getting hurt again.
True story: When I was brand new to the army, I was 18 years old and an infantryman. In the first few months in the army, I developed some blisters on my feet, and they hurt bad, and so I learned really quickly if I’m going to live as an infantryman on my feet, I’d better learn how to develop some callouses. So, I worked hard. I’m not kidding; I worked hard to develop some epic callouses on the bottoms of my feet. My feet were like elephant hide. I could walk 18 miles with leather boots on and no socks. My feet were that tough.
I had this psychotic friend I used to work with. His name was Rick Merritt, and Rick used to try to tell me, “Jeff, if you really want to make your feet tough, what you should do is practice running outside in the middle of the afternoon with no shoes and no socks on. Run on the blacktop road.” Rick is crazy, and I knew he was crazy, and I’m not sure why I listened to him, but one afternoon at work, I decided at lunchtime, I’m going to take my shoes and socks off, and in the middle of August, I’m going to go do a 5-mile run on a blacktop road out in Ft. Benning.
Do you know what happens to your callouses in August on a blacktop road? These are epic callouses that I had been working on for years, and I burned them off in a matter of just a couple of miles of that 5-mile run. I came back, and I said, “Rick, I will never listen to you again. I’d spend years working on those callouses, and they’re gone…in one afternoon on one 5-mile run with bare feet on a blacktop road in August. There’s something seriously wrong with you. You need to go get your head examined.”
I worked hard on those callouses. Those callouses protected my feet from getting hurt, and if you’re honest, a lot of you out there have developed some pretty epic callouses on your heart. Look, I’m being honest right now. Some of you ladies have been hurt so badly by your husband, you’ve built this little wall up. “He’ll never hurt me again, and the way that I’m going to protect my heart from ever getting hurt again, is I’m never going to let my guard down again. I’m never really going to open my heart up again.” I’m convinced that there are guys who will sit in a tree stand in 18 degrees on a Saturday morning. They’re miserable in that tree stand. It’s not because they love being outdoors; it’s because they would rather be in a tree stand at 18 degrees on a Saturday morning than in bed with their wife, because their heart has become so hard.
And the difference between a tough heart and a tender heart is totally up to you. It’s natural, it’s easy, it’s human nature to want to protect your heart from getting hurt again, and Hosea’s life is like that. His marriage is like that. His family is like that, and God is saying, “Hosea, you don’t even have the first clue what it feels like from my perspective. -to love people who have burned me again and again and again.” The first command from the Bible is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and the second is to love people to the same extent. -the unlovely, the difficult to love. You love them like you love yourself. That’s a hard thing to do, but it’s something that Christians are commanded to do.
II. Risk it all on relationships
Here’s the second thing that we can learn from Hosea: He bet it all. He really went all in on this marriage. I want to be clear before we look at this next verse. When I ask you to risk it all on relationships, I’m talking about at the heart-level. Ladies, please hear me. I’m not speaking about physical abuse. I’m talking about heart-hurt. If your boyfriend or husband is physically abusing you, leave him. Make sure that you don’t go back home again until that man gets lasting, professional help. I’m not asking you to open yourself up to bruises and broken bones physically. I’m asking you to be even more courageous and to open your heart up to be hurt again and again, because there’s no way to really go deep if you’re not willing to be hurt at the same time. This is a risk that all of us take when it comes to relationships.
Let me show you what it took. Like a crack addict who sells her body to pay for her addiction, let me show you what it took for Hosea to buy his wife back from this sin, this immorality that she was living in. Hosea chapter 3, verse 2:
So I bought her back for fifteen pieces of silver and five bushels of barley and a measure of wine.
Here’s the deal: Gomer is probably back in prostitution. She’s probably sold herself into temple prostitution, and in order for Hosea to get her back, he’s going to have to buy her back out of that temple prostitution. So, he gives us a very detailed list of what it cost him. We don’t know exactly how much wine that was. If we did, we could do it in today’s math, but here’s what we know. Hosea took the bank account down to zero. He took all of the silver out of the bank, went to the temple, plopped it down, and said, “I want my wife back.” Perhaps he went to the pimp to buy her back, and it wasn’t enough money.
So, he went to the cupboards, and he cleared out all of the cupboards, and he took all of the barley out of the house, all of the food out of the pantry, and he brought it to the temple, and he plopped it down and said, “Is this enough to buy my wife back?” And it still wasn’t enough money, so Hosea did the unthinkable. He took the family heirlooms; he took the wedding ring; he took the TV down to the local pawn shop. He pawned it all off and got cash for it. -paid for it with everything that he owned. He plopped all of the cash down and said, “That’s all that I’ve got. I’m here to buy my wife back.”
Then and only then, was it enough to purchase this woman back from her immorality, to purchase this woman back from her sin. Imagine what it took. Imagine the shame and the ridicule. Imagine what people were saying about this prophet on Facebook or the kind of posts that they were putting about him on Snapchat at this scandalous way that he’s conducting himself. -this very public, very holy man. You see, this is the “Oh my God!” moment in the Bible where you and I realize that is exactly what it cost God to buy you back.
You have sinned. I have sinned. The wages of sin is death. The Bible says that somebody is going to have to die to pay for this sin. There is no acceptable payment other than somebody is going to die. So, God says, “In order to purchase you back from your sin, Israel, I’m going to have to make that payment for you.” And Jesus is willing to leave everything, to leave Heaven to come to Earth, to live a perfect, righteous, sinless life (the only guy ever to pull that one off), and yet he still is willing to go to the cross. And it is his death on the cross and that alone that becomes payment for your sins.
If it was you and only you, and nobody else on the planet ever came to faith in Jesus Christ, it would take just as much of his blood and just as much of his death to buy you back from your sins. That man who was dead on the cross, whom they laid in a tomb, 3 days later got up out of that tomb alive, and now dwells with his Father in Heaven. And the promise from Jesus is, “All who come to me in faith will one day live with me in Heaven forever.”
III. Let Jesus keep your heart tender
Look, we’ve learned from Hosea that it’s going to be painful to love again. We’ve learned from Hosea that there are some relationships that are worth risking it all for, and here’s the last thing that I want you to write down. It’s going to take supernatural help in order to pull this one off. Would you ask Jesus and let him keep your heart tender when it really, really starts to become tough? -when you’ve been burned by somebody badly and your heart starts to become tough as a result of it.
There aren’t many times when we can do this in the Bible, but Hosea is one of those books in the Bible that has a moral to this story. Hosea is an example. He’s a real guy with a real wife who lived a long time ago, but his life was supposed to be an example of what Jesus and his people are like. You see, Hosea is Jesus, and you’re Gomer; I’m Gomer. And I have done to Jesus what Gomer did to her husband, Hosea, and it cost Jesus everything to buy me back from my sin. Listen to how this part of the Bible wraps up today. Hosea chapter 3, verse 3:
Then I said to her, “You must live in my house for many days and stop your prostitution. During this time, you will not have sexual relations with anyone, not even with me.” 4 This shows that Israel will go a long time without a king or prince, and without sacrifices, sacred pillars, priests, or even idols! 5 But afterward the people will return and devote themselves to the Lord their God and to David’s descendant, their king. In the last days, they will tremble in awe of the Lord and of his goodness.
Basically, this woman has become so confused, she’s become so immoral, so unclean that when Hosea finally does buy her back from her sin, he takes her home and says, “All right, I don’t want you to have sex with anybody, not even with me. You need to go through a period of time where you’re just simply getting right with God. And, here’s the truth: You need to go through a period of time where you need to really examine your relationship with God.”
Maybe she has confused her faith so badly, that now she doesn’t know what to believe. She’s practiced faith in God and practiced faith in false idols, and they’ve become so mixed up, that Hosea says, “We’re going to go cold-turkey. You don’t even go to church anymore. You just need to stay home, read the Bible, and figure out what you really believe.”
And this is God’s way of talking to all of Israel. “Israel, I’m going to leave you alone for a period of time until you can figure some things out. But, I’m not going to leave you forever.”
The people are going to think back on what they’ve done and what God is willing to do for them anyway. “In spite of what I’ve done to you, God, you’re willing to bring me back in? You’re willing to treat me like family again after what I’ve done to you? God, I can’t believe that you would be this good! Oh, my God! Why would you do something like this for me, because I don’t deserve it?!”
And Hosea is teaching us what life is like for God when his people have burned him not once, not twice, but again and again and again, and God has every right to say, “Enough. I’m done.” But instead of developing this tough heart, God develops this tender heart. This story of scandalous grace that you’re reading in the Bible about Hosea and Gomer is really a story about life is like from Jesus’s perspective when he’s been burned again and again and offers you a chance to come home and to return to him.
There is a modern-day example of this with a pastor named Bob and his wife, Audrey. Audrey had an affair and through it, became pregnant. After a period of hurt and anger, Bob eventually forgave Audrey and asked to name their new son with his own name, Robert.
There is a real example of a lady who messed up badly, and now this husband has to find it in his heart to forgive her. Let’s be honest. His friends are probably saying to him, “Bob, kick her to the curb. She deserves what she gets. Make her live with the consequences of that mistake.” But this man is tough as nails, because he has a heart that is tender enough to be able to take that child who is not his own and treat that child like his own son. Bob said, “I couldn’t do this on my own. I needed supernatural help to pull this one off. I needed Jesus to help me forgive this woman and to keep my heart tender.”
• I realize that my sin has hurt God. Today, I asked Jesus to forgive my sins for the first time.
– I have been starting to develop a hard heart. Pray that I will have a God-like heart.
+ I will open my heart up to someone who has hurt me in the past.
- Does your family have a tradition for baby names?
- What is your first reaction to someone who has hurt you?
- Describe the difference between relationship pains and physical pains. Which one hurts the most? Which pain lasts the longest?
- Something seems wrong about a pastor marrying a prostitute. In your opinion, what is wrong with this type of relationship?
- Why would God tell a prophet like Hosea to marry a woman like Gomer?
- What would you say to a friend who has been hurt repeatedly by the same person when asked if they should give the person another chance?
- Ask the Holy Spirit to help your heart remain tender.