(This is the introduction to a sermon on Hosea 1-2)
The Savior Who Bears Shame
Hosea 1:2 (NASB95)
2 When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord.”
The story of Hosea is a story of the unyielding, unchanging grace and love of God. It is the story of love which undergirds the course of history. The love and grace of God form the architecture of the movement of time. The rebellion of Adam and failure of Israel could not unmake the love of God. “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”. Rom. 5:20.
God’s grace brings life from death, for
1 Corinthians 1:27–29 (NASB95)
27 … God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,
28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,
29 so that no man may boast before God.
This love runs deep in the channels of time; it forms the steel frame of all the universe; it bears such strength that not even death, not even adultery can break the bond of God’s love. It is the love of a God which begins before God said, “Let there be light.” As Paul tells Titus, God promised eternal life, “long ages ago.” It is a love which stretch into all eternity, as Christ has promised, “Where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:3. It a transforming love which takes the one who is unlovely, and remakes him; it is love which presents the bride, “holy and blameless”. Eph. 5:27
It is a love that will overcome all obstacles, so that not even the foulest rebellion will thwart his love:
For love is as strong as death
Jealousy is as severe as Sheol
It’s flashes are flashes of fire
The very fame of the Lord
Many waters cannot quench love
Nor will rivers overflow it
If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love
It would be utterly despised.
But the story of God’s love in Hosea does not begin with the beauty of romance; with the hope and expectation of young love. The story begins with rank adultery, with spite, with unloved children, with war and chaos lurking at the horizon.
The book begins with this gunshot to the chest. We know nothing Hosea before — and little after — this command comes from the Lord:
Go take for yourself a wife of harlotry
Or as the King James aptly puts it
take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms
There is no preparation told us for this command. God comes and makes this command — and the personal commands of God cannot be avoided — a shocking command. Image come has come to you and says, You, marry that whore. Think of the confusion, the revulsion, the pain.
The command is almost inexplicable on its face. A variety of commentators have sought many explanations — and there are several explanations — but none of them can really get around the point of the disgust.
John Calvin, for instance, cannot believe that God would give such a command to the prophet. He draws out the trouble here: the wife to be is not “without blame in holiness before our God and Father”. She is no one’s “hope or joy or crown of exultation.” As Calvin writes, this woman
who has exposed herself to all, to gratify the wish of all, who has prostituted herself, not once or twice, nor to a few men, but to all.
This woman is not beguiling, not attractive. She is ruined with lust. Calvin cannot believe that God would bring such shame upon His prophet
for how could he expect to be received after having brought upon himself such disgrace.
Keep that question in mind, for that shame and disgrace are at the heart of the love of God. But for now just see this: God commands Hosea to marry a whore, because God himself is married to whore:
When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry;
Having given the command, God gives the reason:
for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord.”
The shame the Lord calls the prophet to bear is the shame which the Lord, himself, bears.
(Picture, “War & Poverty” by Kelly Short — I am using this picture because it provokes one to sympathy by seeing the horror of war — is one of the primary effects of Isaiah 15-16)
In reading Isaiah 15-16, I thought (1) How would I preach this passage? And (2) What is important in the manner of its composition: It is poetry, with a great deal of emphatic compression, repetition and imagery. Why is written like this and not as a narrative or as a didactic declaration?
I. The Horror of Judgment
The overall tone is one of pathos. The repetition insists upon the horror and sorrow:
Ar of Moab is laid waste in a night
Kir of Moab is laid waste in a night
And so on. Every detail of the devastation is repeated and amplified. It is like a series of snapshots of broken walls, bodies and wailing. The destruction is absolute and goes down even to the earth. 16:8-10
There are refugees fleeing in all directions and the terror and sorrow spread in all directions like blood from the corpses:
Isaiah 15:8–9 (ESV)
8 For a cry has gone
around the land of Moab;
her wailing reaches to Eglaim;
her wailing reaches to Beer-elim.
9 For the waters of Dibon are full of blood;
for I will bring upon Dibon even more,
a lion for those of Moab who escape,
for the remnant of the land.
I can help thinking of all the millions pouring out of the Middle East who suffer loss and death and sorrow even as they flee. Any sermon must effectuate the sorrow and horror of the judgment or the sermon will have failed in its purpose.
II. The Cause of Judgment
Second there is the cause of this devastation:
Isaiah 16:6–7 (ESV)
6 We have heard of the pride of Moab—
how proud he is!—
of his arrogance, his pride, and his insolence;
in his idle boasting he is not right.
7 Therefore let Moab wail for Moab,
let everyone wail.
Mourn, utterly stricken,
for the raisin cakes of Kir-hareseth.
This reminds me of Obadiah 3 (which is interesting when you compare this to Amos 1:11-12 & 2:1-3). So this horror has come about because of pride.
III. The Escape from Judgment
Third, this is the real bite in the passage. God has destroyed Moab with a horror beyond belief. But God mourns the destruction:
Isaiah 15:5 (ESV)
5 My heart cries out for Moab;
her fugitives flee to Zoar,
For at the ascent of Luhith
they go up weeping;
on the road to Horonaim
they raise a cry of destruction;
Isaiah 16:9 (ESV)
9 Therefore I weep with the weeping of Jazer
for the vine of Sibmah;
I drench you with my tears,
O Heshbon and Elealeh;
for over your summer fruit and your harvest
the shout has ceased.
God loves his enemies: God judges, and yet there is compassion for the necessity of the judgment:
41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
There is a command to shelter the refugees:
Isaiah 16:3–5 (ESV)
3 “Give counsel;
make your shade like night
at the height of noon;
shelter the outcasts;
do not reveal the fugitive;
4 let the outcasts of Moab
sojourn among you;
be a shelter to them
from the destroyer.
When the oppressor is no more,
and destruction has ceased,
and he who tramples underfoot has vanished from the land,
5 then a throne will be established in steadfast love,
and on it will sit in faithfulness
in the tent of David
one who judges and seeks justice
and is swift to do righteousness.”
Notice this command ends with the protection in the tent of David. This phrase “tent of David” matches (in the LXX) the language of Acts 15:16:
The citation from Amos 9:12 follows the LXX fairly closely, though this version differs from the Massoretic (Hebrew) text in significant ways.49 ‘Precisely the divergence of the LXX from the Hebrew enables the text to be used midrashically.’50 The purpose of this restoration of the Davidic rule is not simply to bless Israel but also ‘ “that the rest of humanity may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things” ’. James adds words possibly taken from Isaiah 45:21 ‘ “(things known from long ago” ’) as a gloss on the concluding words from Amos 9:12 (‘ “these things” ’).51 This addition strengthens the claim that God’s plan to save Gentiles along with Jews is no novelty, since it was part of his eternal purpose (cf. Rom. 15:8–12).
David G. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 432.
The language of the throne coupled to the tent of David strengthens the tie to Jesus (and all of the cross-references to Jesus based upon this language).
The reason why the sorrow and terror are seen throughout the poem is that God intends to provoke the same sorrow and terror in the hearer. Moab is guilty. The judgment is justice, but it is sad, frightening event. God is calling upon his people to rescue the judged people of Moab.
It is interesting that it is not certain what attack is being foretold:
The first part of the prophecy, 15:1–9, tells of the devastating effect of the disaster which was to befall Moab. As noted above, the actual nature of the attack cannot be determined from the general account here. The major emphasis is upon the effect, which will be that the Moabites will be so demoralized that their only response will be weeping and flight.
John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1–39, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986), 336–337.
But by analogy, the lesser judgment all foretell the greater judgment to come. This would lend itself, by such analogy to a very evangelistic plea. The tie to seeking protection in the tent of David would strengthen the argument.
God foretells this judgment, primarily to the people of God, to provoke them with both the horror of the judgment and the sorrow of the victims (who deserve the judgment) so that they will reach out and rescue these people by bringing them into the tent of David.
Why does Peter quote a Psalm of David to Christian believers in the First Century?
1 Peter 2:1–3 (ESV)
2 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
(An Analysis and Summary of a Sermon by James Denney)
THE EXILE’S PRAYER
“I am a stranger in the earth: hide not Thy commandments from me.”
The text contains two elements: first the strangeness of being present in this world (“I am a stranger in the earth”), and a second element, the commandments of God.
In the first section of the sermon, Denney works through the matter of being present in the world and yet not being a home in the world. He introduces his topic:
The text expresses with great simplicity man’s position in the world, and the prayer which rises in his heart as the position is realized. He is a stranger here, a resident alien in a land which is not his home; and when he feels the strangeness of the place, he feels at the same time the need of God’s guidance if he is to pass through it with safety and honour. “I am a sojourner in the earth: hide not Thy commandments from me.” (38)
Yet, being a stranger is not our first thought. We are born feeling at home. As we advance, “We naturalize ourselves, so to speak, in the earth.” Now we cannot think this per se a bad thing. We were created to live on the earth.