Sermon for February 14, 2021 — God Woos Us
SecondLesson: Revelation 21:1-8:
1Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.7Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Psalm: Psalms 133-134 on page 115 in Christian Worship
How good and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in unity!
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.
Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord
who minister in the house of the Lord.
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary
and praise the Lord.
May the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth,
bless you from Zion.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Gospel Lesson: Mark 2:18-22:
18Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
19Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.
21“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
First Lesson/Sermon Text: Hosea 2:14-16, 19-20:
14“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. 15There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
16“In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’ 19I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. 20I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord.
A happy Valentine’s Day to all of you. What do you think of when you think of Valentine’s Day? You think of a holiday that celebrates romantic love. It is one of those Holidays that can become more special as someone is married a longer and longer time in their life. You know how it goes. When a young couple meets, they have this unbelievable outpouring of romantic love. After they get married, they get more and more used to each other. They start to take each other for granted. I certainly know that I am guilty of that. Every once in awhile, though, you can take an occasion like Valentine’s Day to remind yourself of just how much your spouse means to you. You can take the time to have special dinner , a romantic conversation, a little bit of time to yourself away from all of the cares of the world. In this way, a couple can remind each other what they mean to each other. That is why it is a wonderful thing that we’re looking at this portion of scripture today. It is a reminder to us of just how great our God’s love for us is. It is a relationship that he is working on continually.
Our Lord Woos Us
I. With tender words
II. With rich gifts
The book of the Prophet Hosea is one of the most unusual of the works of the Old Testament prophets. It is unusual because God asked Hosea to deliver his message to Israel not only through his words, but also through his life. His ministry came during one of the darkest periods in the history of God’s people. He spoke primarily to the people of the northern Kingdom of Israel, but his message was also meant for the people of Judah. This was a time when the people of Israel had strayed very far from the Lord. They had turned to other gods, the gods of the Canaanites who lived all around them. God spoke to Hosea and he said that he wanted Hosea not only to tell them that they were unfaithful, but also to show it through his life.
God told Hosea to show this by marrying a woman who is going to be unfaithful to him. He married a woman by the name of gomer. This wife very quickly ran after other lovers whom she said could provide her with better material goods than Hosea could. She gave these other lovers a shower of her love and affection. During the time of their marriage, she bore three children. Because of her unfaithful ways, it was never clear whether any of these children were fathered by Hosea or by one of her other lovers. Each of these children was given a name that symbolized the deteriorating relationship that God had with his people. The first child, a son, was named Jezreel because that was the name of the place where one of Israel’s Kings had committed great atrocities. It was emblematic of the ungodly nature of their lifestyles. The second child, a daughter, was given the name Lo Ruhama. This is a name that means not loved. This refers to the promise that God had made to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai that he would love them and show them his rich blessings if they loved him and obeyed his commandments. Because they had been unfaithful to him, he would take away that kind of love. Finally, they had another son, this one named Lo Ammi. That is a name that means not my people. It was a prophecy of the time when they would be taken out of the land that God had given them. In this way, they would see that they were no longer recipients of God’s promise and they were no longer his special nation.
That must have been a pretty bleak life for Hosea. It was because that life was proclaiming a very bleak message. He was pointing to the people of Israel and saying that their sin was just like the sin of an unfaithful wife. Her husband had showered her with love, protection, and blessings. However, she had abandoned all of that to go after something that she thought would bring her a better life. In the same way, Israel had abandoned her God Anna turned to idols that could do her no good. As we look at this picture that Hosea draws, we see not only the Old Testament nation of Israel, but we see ourselves. We need to remember that our sins against a holy God appear to our God in the same way that the betrayal of an unfaithful spouse appears to the other spouse. Our sins are not just mistakes. They are not just short-term flings. They are a slap in the face to a holy God who created us and gave us every blessing in life. It is good to take a look at the book of Hosea to see just how ugly our sins are before a holy God.
Even though the message of the book of Hosea is a fairly bleak one, there are still many bright spots. As a matter of fact, that is one of the characteristics of the book of Hosea’s prophecy. That , after detailing the people’s sins and the results that those sins deserve, God turns right around and speaks of his Amazing Grace. This section of the book of Hosea is one of those amazing little pictures. Throughout this section, God had given every reason why he should just completely abandon these people who had been so unfaithful to him. However, he shows that he is not willing to do that. He speaks about the actions that he will take with his people. He says that he wants to whisk them away to a private place where he can declare his love to the people. This is a picture of what he does for us. This is a picture of the tender way in which he speaks to us. Our God does not Thunder from Mount Sinai and continually condemn us for our sins. He comes to us with the gentle whisper of the gospel. He comes to us with the loving picture of Jesus. He comes to us with the gentle washing of baptism. He comes to us and he nourishes our faith through the wonderful sacrament of the Lord’s supper. He reminds us of his love on a continuing basis. And when we understand how much we do not deserve that, the voice of our God becomes all that much more sweet.
What does he speak to us as he takes us away from our sin and the problem is that those sins cause and whispers into our ears his gospel? Hosea tells us that he doesn’t just speak words of intent, he speaks about what he has done to secure a relationship with us. The last two verses of our text are just simply chock full of the things that our God has given us. Here God speaks of establishing an eternal relationship with us. This isn’t a relationship that is meant to be a casual fling or a summer romance. God says that he is in it for a lifetime and beyond. This is a relationship that he established with us when we were infants and one that he continues to work on until that time that we breathe our last. And, as he makes clear throughout all of scripture, he wants this relationship to be one that carries over into eternity.
How does he establish this relationship? He established it sit through righteousness and justice. When we hear of God’s righteousness we are reminded of the fact that our God is a holy God. Hosea has reminded us just how far short of that holiness we have fallen in our lives. Every time we have committed a sin, we have run after something else rather than our God. We have abandoned his love for us. God knows that we can never live up to His Holiness, so he provides it for us. In this season of epiphany, Jesus is revealed as God’s son. He is the one who led a perfect life and then gave that perfect life to us as the robe of righteousness so we stand before God as holy.
God also says that he beat rose us with justice. Again, when we think of his justice, we first think of the justice that a holy God shows sinners by giving them the punishment their sins so richly deserves. Our God did not do that. Instead, as we enter into the season of lent, we are reminded that our God established his justice bye pouring out all of his wrath and anger over our sins on his son Jesus as he took our sins upon himself when he went to the cross. In this way, as the Apostle Paul wrote, God became both the one who is just and the one who justifies by punishing Jesus for our sins and declaring us to be holy for the sake of his perfect sacrificial death. This is the great wedding present that our God has given us.
Why has he done all of this? Why has he established an eternal relationship by giving us his son’s righteousness and enacting his judgment upon Jesus? Hosea tells us that it is because of his love and compassion for us. When we hear of God’s love, we are reminded that it is an entirely 1 sided love. It is that kind of love that is given without looking for anything in return. This is the reason that God could love his Old Testament people even when they went after other gods. He loved them because he promised to love them. He also has compassion on us. He knows the kind of ill effects that sin has brought into our lives. He knows that we are subject to pain and sickness and, finally, death. Our loving creator God feels for us. He feels for us in the way that we feel for our spouse when they are going through a trying time. Our God, therefore, did all that he did so that we would not suffer from our sin . He did it so that we could be released from the ill effects of sin and be brought into his blessed home in heaven. This is the love that our God states to us again and again in his gospel message.
This, then, is the reason that we declare our love for him. After our God has done everything when we could do nothing, he leads us to appreciate that love and to respond to it through our love and trust in him. This is what happens when a couple renews their love for each other. This is what happens every time God speaks the wonderful message of the gospel to people who do not deserve to hear it. This is our God’s great gift to us on this day where we dwell on the concept of love. Amen.