Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hosea Intro

Intro to Hosea
April 26, 2015

         This is the beginning of a sermon series on the 12 Minor Prophets. My plan was to do them in 12 sermons but I am going to take 13. This sermon is on Hosea but before we tackle Hosea, I want to do a little spadework on some theological terms as we return to the Old Testament and to the Minor Prophets.
         These sermons are from the Old Testament. We all understand the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The old being the time before Christ and the new being the time since Jesus was born.
But we do get confused when we talk about the various covenants that God has made with man. And the confusion is understandable because there are two covenants but they do not correspond to the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The two covenants are the Covenant of Life and the Covenant of Grace. The Covenant of Life, sometimes called the Covenant of Works or the Covenant of Creation, was made with Adam and Eve and ended when they sinned. The Covenant of Grace began in Genesis 3:15 with the promise that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. That seed, of course, is Christ.
The reason this is significant is because of our common misunderstanding of the Old Testament or the administration of the Covenant of Grace before Christ. Before Christ, the Old Testament saints were in a Covenant of Grace with God. They existed and were received solely upon God’s grace to them. Like Abraham, God reckoned their faith as righteousness. They were required to have faith in God and were saved based upon God’s grace extended to them.
The extension of that grace looked different than it does after the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In the Old Testament administration, grace was extended to them in types and shadows pointing forward to Jesus Christ. We know these types and shadows as part of the sacrificial system and the holiness code.
These revealed to the Jews that they had no righteousness of their own apart from God and in order for them to draw near to God, they needed to do so based upon God’s kindness to them in washing away their sins and receiving them into His presence.
However, they constantly misunderstood His grace to them. They either understood it in a merit based fashion, we have earned the right to enter God’s presence. Or, which we see more often throughout the Old Testament, they simply didn’t do what God prescribed and turned to worship false gods. This turning to false gods also smacks at the heart of the system that the true God presented to them. The false gods were harsh task maskers.
Yahweh, on the other hand, had simple requirements. The Jews were to simply believe in His grace, worship Him only, and were to receive manifold blessings. We sometimes think that the Old Testament administration was really complicated. In reality, it was fairly simple and God was at work through it to get to the hearts of His people.
They failed to be faithful to Him on numerous occasions and God brought judgment upon them. This judgment was never rash. God was very patient with them and we see the nature of His patience displayed in the book of Hosea. God provides a process of discipline so that there is room for repentance. But when there is no repentance, God will act in judgment.
These Minor Prophets consist of 9 pre-exilic prophets and 3 post-exilic prophets.
         We should do a little history refresher as we begin our sermon series. These twelve books cover about a 400 year time period from around 840 BC to around 430 BC. Some of these dates are in question.
         To put that timeframe in perspective, consider that David ruled as king until about 970 BC and then Solomon ruled until about 940. Hosea lived about 200 years after David’s rule.
We tend to look back at those times and shrink all the time together. It was all back then. But if you think about the time from David to Hosea in modern terms, that span covers the same amount of time in America dating back to 1815, which is nearly our entire history as a sovereign nation. Thomas Jefferson had just finished his presidency and James Madison was president. It was nearly fifty years before the War Between the States. When we look at history this way, we understand that a 200 year stretch in Israel from 970 to 770 BC could contain a huge number of changes. And the nation states were much less stable then than they are now, as we will see in the history of Israel.
By Hosea’s time, the monarchy had been split and there was a northern and a southern kingdom.
I want to remind you of those terms as we move into our study of the Minor Prophets. The monarchy refers to the rule of Israel by kings. Saul was the first King to rule. David ruled after Saul and solidified the monarchy as he defeated many foes. Solomon inherited that rule and for about 40 years ruled in relative peace and security nearly all of the land promised to Abraham a 1000 years earlier. That peace in the land dramatically shifted under Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. His foolishness in ruling caused a rebellion and the ten Northern Tribes split so that we had a northern and a southern kingdom.
The Northern Kingdom had its capital city in Samaria. The northern kingdom is usually referred to as Israel. The Southern Kingdom is referred to as Judah with its capital city in Jerusalem.
         Hosea prophesied from around 760 down to just a few years before the fall of the Northern Kingdom in the destruction of Samaria in 722 BC.
         At this point, we should also think about the term exile. I mentioned that there are 9 pre-exilic minor prophets and 3 post-exilic prophets. What exile am I talking about? I am talking about the exile after Jerusalem is destroyed in 586 BC.
This also can get confusing because many were carried into exile when Samaria was destroyed in 722 BC by the Assyrian Empire. 
When the Assyrians conquered the Northern Tribes in 722 BC, they carted many of them off to Assyrian cities, especially the leading citizens. Furthermore, they brought in Assyrians to populate the depopulated areas. This is why the remaining Jews in the Southern Kingdom looked so arrogantly upon those in the north that they began to call Samaritans. Samaratins were mixed peoples. They were not pure Jews. Because the tribes were dispersed never to return, these are called the ten lost tribes of Israel.
         But the Biblical exile and return from exile refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC and exiles being taking to Babylon under Nebuchadnezzer.
         The order of the twelve is not chronological. However, it seems that the Twelve are meant to be taken together as one book. With this in mind, it is wise to seek to discover a contextual theme of the The Twelve Books.
In attempt to find a lucid theme, Pastor Duane Garner suggests a theme of ending points of one book and the starting of the next. These themes continue to degenerate to decreation language until the promises of recreation are reaffirmed in the latter three post-exilic prophets.
Pastor Garner says,
"Hosea ends with promises of lengthened roots and spread branches, the beauty of the olive tree, and the growth of vines. (Hosea 14:4ff) Joel opens with all of the vegetation laid to waste, and the vines stripped bare, and then we find out why. (Joel 1:4-5,9,11)
Joel ends with the promise that Yahweh will roar from Zion. (Joel 3:16) Amos opens with Yahweh roaring from Zion. (Amos 1:2)
Amos closes with talk of Edom. (Amos 9:12) Obadiah is all about Edom and then Obadiah ends with "the day of Yahweh upon all nations is near" (Obadiah 15) Jonah then is sent to carry the day of Yahweh to "the nations.""

         I think we have a lot more work to do on finding a clear theme that runs through all twelve books or to link them together in a clear story. However, Pastor Garner view is very consistent with the overarching them of the entire Old Testament and provides a good starting point in understanding the continuity of these books.
         In the stories from Judges and down through the Kings, we see this same process repeat. The people make a Covenant with YHWH. They serve Him, faithfully, for a time under the leader of the renewal. In Judges, these leaders were saviors that God raised up. In the Kings, it was various Kings who were faithful that sparked a revival. However, upon the Judges death, or often under the subsequent King, the people would waver in unbelief, return to idols and fall into various levels of sin. The Lord would send prophets to rebuke and warn them, judgment would fall and then God would raise up another savior.    
         Of course, the saviors always died and the people always turned away from God. Only with an everliving Savior can the people be permanently saved and given the ability to serve Him faithfully.
         When I speak of pre or post-exilic prophets, I am referring to the exile after the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezer in 586 BC. The return after the exile begins around 516 BC. Malachi was the last writing prophet around 430 BC. So, 9 of the Minor Prophets wrote before 516 BC and 3 wrote after. Those three are Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.
         These 12 prophets speak both of the coming doom of Samaria as well as Jerusalem, the restoration after the return from exile and a much larger restoration at some point in the future. That larger restoration is the fulfillment of all the law and prophets in the kingdom of the Messiah.
         As we look at Hosea, we get a similar theme as the one suggested by Pastor Garner. The Lord speaks to Hosea to take a wife of harlotry. She then bears him three children. Each successive child represents further distance from the Lord.
         The marriage union, creation, begins to fall apart into chaos, decreation. The blessing of children turns out to be curses pronounced on the family and on Israel.
         As the situation spirals out of control, there are greater and greater consequences of disobedience until the people of God are cast away by God for their disobedience.

         But while man is unfaithful, God remains ever faithful. God was certainly just to write Israel a certificate of divorcement, just as Hosea would have been just to write a certificate of divorcement to Gomer. Instead, however, God keeps pursuing the beloved until He eventually makes a way for her to put away her whoredoms by forgiveness of sin through a Savior and empowerment by His Holy Spirit.

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