Grace be to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. My fellow beloved children of God, you know, November is really a kind of a, a Thanksgiving month, isn’t it? And this weekend then we take this time as we did at the beginning of the service to be thankful and remember our veterans. Past and present, who have given and sacrificed so much to defend us and our country from the powers of evil in this world. We pray for peace, don’t we? We want peace, but evil continues to take it away from us. And so, we are thankful to these veterans who have done all that they could for our peace and safety. Thank you. And today, we are also thankful to our God who continues to form and reform His children In the past, and in our present time, too. The Jews in the Old Testament, as we know, needed reforming, but it is something that we also need. Our Old Testament text today, and the next two weeks text from the Old Testament, deal a whole lot with the sin and the rejection on the part of God’s chosen people, the Israelites. But a whole lot more of God’s faithfulness, His love, and forgiveness. As the Apostle Paul would write later in Romans chapter 5, where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more. When we sin, we know this. Simply put, there are problems, there are consequences. And left to itself, it brings despair, damnation, and destruction.
That’s the law. But where sin increases, grace also increases all the more. It becomes more and more amazing. God is so faithful, and he shows his love to all of his children. So let’s read our Old Testament text that is going to guide our thoughts today from the prophet Hosea, chapter 11, verses 1 through 9. When Israel was a child, I loved him. And out of Egypt I called my son. But the more they were called, the more they went away from me. They sacrificed to the bales, and they burned incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms. But they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them both with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them, I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bend down to feed them. Will they not return to Egypt? And will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent? A sword will flash in their cities. It will devour their false prophets and put an end to their plans. My people are determined to turn from me, even though they call me God Most High. I will by no means exalt them. How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over Israel? How can I treat you like Adma? How can I make you like Zeboim? My heart is changed within me. All my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I devastate Ephraim again. For I am God. And not a man, the Holy One among you, I will not come against their cities. This is the word of the Lord. Let’s join in prayer. Heavenly Father, we ask your blessing upon us today as we meditate and hear your words. Send your Holy Spirit to guide and teach us. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Now Hosea is, uh, a little known prophet who listened to his Lord and took the message of law and gospel to the Israelites about 750 BC, that’s some 20 years or so, before the Northern Kingdom. Uh, they were also called the Kingdom of Israel, also called the Kingdom of Ephraim in our text, were to be conquered and led away captive by the Assyrian Empire, never to be heard from again. They’re commonly referred to today as the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. So let’s get a feel on a map of where we stand today as we look at this. You see the, this whole brownish area is the Fertile Crescent. Way up at the top in the middle is Haran, that’s where, um, Abraham was called out of the Ur of the Chaldees. And way over at the right now, this is an ancient map. And that’s where the Assyrians had their headquarters, and where they ruled from, but they controlled the world as it was known. And you go all the way around to the bottom, and way over there is Israel, Jerusalem, and they were led captive over there. Now… That eventually the Assyrians were conquered by the Babylonians, as we’ll hear in a minute, and they made, of course, the capital city Babylon. Very familiar to some people because you know that it also had one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the hanging gardens of Babylon, right? But today you know it as Baghdad.
That area is Iraq today. This is what Israel looks like on the next map today. Very familiar in our time with the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. So only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, the Southern Kingdom, commonly called the Kingdom of Judah, would be left. for a while. But then they were to be taken captive by the Babylonians in 586 BC. For exactly 70 years they were held captive there and finally a believer king released a remnant. A small group of them. who were allowed to return to the promised land of the city of Jerusalem and rebuild the temple and survive until the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ, would be born right there from them. Then they too, of course, would eventually be conquered by the Roman Empire. But, you know, in all of this history… God’s love remains. No matter what happens to them on this earth, no matter how bad it got, God still loved them. He still invited them all to come and embrace His grace. And He still invites us today to embrace the forgiveness and love of Jesus Christ, our Savior. God’s love is always the answer. And so we learn today that no matter what is going on at Hosea’s time or in our world today, too. Here it comes on the slide, wait for it. We have the answer. The name Hosea is, uh, same root as Hosanna. Hosea is the noun meaning salvation. Hosanna is the prayer and the imperative God save us.
Hosea is a contemporary of Isaiah, Amos, and Micah, all very familiar prophets to us. But Hosea was unique in that he was told by God, by the Lord, to marry a woman who had committed adultery. That would be a metaphor teaching the children of Israel how unfaithful they had been toward their father God in heaven. The woman’s name? Challenge you not to snicker. Her name was Gomer. Uh, some of you did. Gomer. It meant unfaithful in Hebrew. Hosea and Gomer had three children. Jezreel, meaning punishment. Ruhamah, meaning no love. And Lo Ami, meaning not my people. So all of this whole family. Was there and intended to be used by God to get the attention of the Israelites as Hosea went about his work of Preaching and teaching and prophesying and bringing God’s love and compassion to them. Just read all 14 chapters Sometime of Hosea. We hardly ever cover it in a Bible class. So you got to do it yourself It’s some of the most picturesque. It’s the most amazing poetry prophecy that there is in the Old Testament But it is So sad. It is so sad. As you’ll see in this text too. Let’s take a look. First verse. When Israel was a child, I loved him. And out of Egypt I called my son. So, Hosea starts out this chapter with just a simple little reminder of what God had done for them. so graciously in the past. And we remember that Abraham had a child with Hagar, a concubine, and his name was Ishmael. And he and his mother were eventually both exiled to Egypt. And then remember that, uh, Abraham’s grandson, not Isaac, but Isaac’s son, Jacob, had to take his family to Egypt to get food from his son, Joseph. who was there, and then they stayed there, and eventually, because the pharaoh who loved Joseph died, and the next pharaoh didn’t like Joseph so well, they became slaves to the Egyptians for 430 years.
That’s when Moses called by God to go there and lead his people out of Egypt. And he led them to the promised land where they prospered for more than 500 years. Now that history alone should move the Jews to love God who loved them so much. They had this loving God. They were his children. They had the answer. And not only that, but remember that after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, his parents had to flee to Egypt to protect him from the slaughter of the innocents by King Herod there. And Matthew in his gospel picks up on this whole thing and reminds everyone that He was called out of Egypt. You get it? Double meaning. Hosea said the children of Israel called out. Matthew says, yeah, my son Jesus was called out of Egypt. And so Hosea reminded them. And he goes on. Now listen to the poetry. The picturesque language of God’s love for his people. The more they were called, the more they went away from me. I’d led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek. And I bent down to feed them. But the Jews struggled so. They continued in their paths of waywardness. Listen to the prophet. Will they not return to Egypt? And will not Assyria rule over them because they refused to repent? My people are determined to turn from me.
Even though they call me God Most High. Israel rejected God and His love again and again, and here, here too. They turned away from him. God’s heart was torn. Can you imagine? Can you imagine the pain our God in heaven felt due to Israel’s disobedience because of all this love that he had shown them? But now listen, God’s unchanging love continues for them. How can I give you up? How can I hand you over, Israel? My heart is changed within me. All my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, for I am God. And not a man, the Holy One among you. God’s love leads to the promise of reformation and restoration. We listen, we trust, and we know of God’s ability to restore us and bring us back.
We are confident in the Gospel. In His good news of love and forgiveness, He gives them the answer. I will not carry out my anger, for I am God. And not a man. And now, we have the answer. There have always been so many ups and downs recorded for us in the pages of the Old Testament, in the lives of the Jews. But it also seems to be true to this day, doesn’t it? Especially going back to October 7th, just a month ago. Horrible. But it’s also true of Christianity down through the history of, of its life and, and if you know any of it. We may wonder then if our faith will continue, or could it survive, and will it ever thrive again in troubling times? When we look back in the distressing times of the Israelites in the Old Testament history, and then we jump forward and look at the early church, the medieval church, the countless persecutions around the world that still continue to go on, what do we see? We could give up. There’s trouble, there’s problems, there’s pain, there’s death, there’s torture. Killing Christians just because they’re Christians in some places. But we also see something else. The gospel of Jesus is spread, and our time is no different. In our modern times, I’ll give you a couple examples. We look around at the church, and people tell us they see a decline in church attendance. Well, they sure don’t see that here. It’s not declining at victory, is it? You guys come at 8 o’clock or 4 o’clock on Saturday, you get a better seat, you know. But, uh, it’ll get filled up. We have to add an 11 o’clock service, I suppose, after the first year, right? Yeah, we’ll, we’ll work him. We’ll work him.
So, it is an amazing thing. People say it’s declining, they can’t get a pastor in their church because there’s not enough students that enroll in seminaries. Churches are closing their doors because of it. I just read an article earlier this week that said there’s some, some churches, there’s a pastor that’s trying to do church by not mentioning God. Thinking that might bring people in. Don’t think so. Sad, right? It’s sad. It is so sad at times when you look around. But remember, in bad times and in persecution, the church often grows, it often thrives, because our God has compassion. He is God and not a man. You can find reports that say global Christianity at this point is booming. There are countries where our Christian faith is quickly becoming the center of their culture. As an example of this, a recent reading of the website LutheranWorld. org reports that there are more Lutherans in Tanzania and Ethiopia than in the United States. They’re thinking about sending missionaries over here. Our country needs it. And you can find confessing Christians all over the world like that. And it looks like we might be declining, but Christianity is always growing somehow because we have the answer.
For too long, our society has looked at us humans only through the lens of biology and physics. But we’re more than bodies and brains. We have a soul. There seems to be all sorts of so called spiritual messages out there that bombard us. People will say, I’m not religious, I’m just spiritual. Which means they just don’t want to go to church. Christianity, though, has the answer to it all. It starts with the incarnation. God became human. And continues to come to us in tangible ways in the means of grace through the gospel, in word and sacraments, baptism in the Lord’s Supper, and that’s exactly what we use here in our church and our ministry. God calls each of us into a real world vocations to carry out his extraordinary love in ordinary ways. Most people are looking for a deeper meaning and purpose in their everyday lives. They’re attempting to put that spiritual together with their physical. We have the answer. Our culture is acutely aware of suffering and injustice. Just turn on your TV and listen to the news. At one time, we accepted all that collateral damage in the world around us to our workers and families in the name of progress, but not anymore. The modern world promises an end. It promises an end to suffering through the three Ps. Psychology, pills, and policies.
And yet there is more suffering now than there ever has been. Modern times has no answer to the question of why is there suffering. It could only try to promise the eradication of suffering. But Christianity tackles the question by seeing suffering through the lens of the cross of Jesus. If God can make an awful Friday afternoon into a good Friday, then we know he can and he will make our crosses work for our good and our suffering as we look forward to eternity. We have the answer. During the pandemic shutdown, we had to be alone, you know, social distancing, you remember? Separated from others, but now we’re getting away from that lonely individual thinking. And trying to get back and liking to be in our group gatherings again now, we won’t lose being an individual, but we also celebrate the group. Here it’s called the Body of Christ. We are the body of Christ and people seek belonging right there. In this church, our group of Christians are loved unconditionally so that we may flourish and then love unconditionally as well. Yes, we have the answer. It seems that somehow our society has also replaced true and false, right and wrong. What happened to morality? Where are the Ten Commandments these days? Replacing truth and morality with something or nothing only leads to a different set of problems. We grow weary of laws without enforcement. We grow weary of laws of less law and order, where everyone does their own thing with little or no consideration for their fellow human beings. But Jesus comes along and he flips that whole script upside down with his love. His agape love, which is selfless, not selfish. It’s unconditional. Be kind and compassionate, the world likes to hear. But do they listen to the rest of Ephesians chapter 4, verse 32? Be kind and compassionate, forgiving one another just as God in Christ has forgiven you.
Try that sometime. Try it again and again. That compassion conquers. Pastor Susan shared a personal story with us in our text study Tuesday that she said I could share but I can’t tell you the whole story, you’ll have to talk to her. But she had this opportunity, went to an outdoor public gathering someplace and here was a guy sitting on a bench. In terrible need, the spirit moved her to go over and talk to him and he was shocked at that in the first place, that anybody was going to pay attention to him, right? And then she told him about the love of Jesus. In, in God. He never heard it. He never heard that before. Amazed. He said, is there really somebody like that? That loves me and forgives me. His spirit was lifted. We have the answer. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his Testament of Hope that was written in the late 1960s said, Hatred paralyzes life, but God’s love releases it. You see, we have the answer. So where are we going to go from here? To be reformed, we probably need to start with repentance. The church is not perfect and never will be this side of heaven. If we blame the world for the mess that we’re in, we only come off as arrogant or naive. People are suffering. People are desperate, and desperate people do desperate things. Our initial reaction cannot be defensive. Oh, it’s those people out there that are attacking my way of life. Now, let’s be sympathetic. Go out there and put on their moccasins and walk in them for about a week. These people are sinners. These people are sinners just like me.
These people are sinners just like you and me, and they need the gospel. Just like you and me. So we need to preach the gospel. And I’m not trying to sound pious here, I mean it. There’s a difference between preaching the gospel and preaching about the gospel. Preaching about the gospel tells the story of the gospel. The who, what, why, where, and when. And that’s good. That really is good, isn’t it? But it’s not good enough. Preaching the gospel is when the gospel is for you, that it’s personal. Some of you will remember this phrase. I used to say it’s not about you, well the gospel comes along and says what? It is about you. It’s still about you. The gospel will always be about you. That’s preaching the gospel. We’re not just thinking beings who need to learn certain facts about it so that we can pass a quiz. Rather, we are bombarded with God’s law that shatters our self belief. piety and our self righteousness and our hopeless faith in ourselves and in politics and government and every other movement that might be out there and it comes along that gospel with this comforting message of hope, the sure and certain hope that’s found only in Jesus Christ, a hope that is for you. Do you need it? Do you get it? It’s great, as we’re so beautifully reminded, right from this pulpit, just a couple weeks ago, Hosea’s contemporary, Isaiah, wrote the same time, 700 years before the birth of Jesus, and he wrote this in chapter 53. He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities.
The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds you are healed. Do you get that? Your heart is so happy. That you know exactly what that means. You know who He is. It’s Jesus. You know who us is. It’s us. Pierced, crushed, punished, wounded. You know what that means. And you know the gift that’s offered to all. Through Jesus, the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. If there’s one thing I want you to get out of the Bible, it’s not memorizing the books of the Bible in order. I want you to get that by the wounds of Jesus. You are healed. You and God, because of Jesus, just like this. Not this. Not even this. But you are just like this. And your body may be falling apart just like mine, but it is well with your soul, because by his wounds. You are healed. Everything could fall apart. But if you know your relationship with God is not damaged or broken, and that by his wounds you’re healed.
If at the end of the day, I have to rehearse the things that I messed up on, the things, the sins that I committed, the shame that carry, that I carry around because of my past, I can just leave it at the cross and say to my Lord, by your wounds, Lord, I am healed. If there’s one thing in the universe that God wants you to know, it’s that if you get Jesus, you get forgiveness. If you have Jesus, you have salvation. And we Christians love to share that greatest news message to all people in the world. Sometimes the pendulum swings one way and then overcorrects and swings way too far the other way. So be it. It’s a messy world, isn’t it? Maybe we got too complacent in the United States. Maybe we ignored some sins while preaching fire and brimstone about other sins. Maybe the time has come when Christianity in the United States will not be the default culture anymore.
Maybe the church will be challenged. So be it. It might be a good thing. It will be a good thing if it brings you and me closer to God and brings others into the body of Christ through faith in Jesus. If it brings us to God’s love and forgiveness. So let’s rely on this simple little message spoken so long ago by the prophet Hosea. All my compassion is aroused, God said. I will not carry out my fierce anger. For I am God and not a man. We are. God’s beloved children, and you can say it with me. We have the answer. Now say it like you mean it. We have the answer. Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, you’ve given us everything we need to know in your holy word, in the law, and in the gospel. And you also tell us how to live that out then. And share that gospel with others. Send us your Holy Spirit to teach us, to guide us, so that we may be able to do that. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.