Hosea 11

Sermon preached on December 28, 2008 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2008. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Tex Watson is known as one of the Charles Manson family killers. In August of 1969 he and three women broke into a Los Angeles home and brutally murdered actress Sharon Tate and four others. It was a most horrific crime—an absolute slaughter. At the time Tate was nine months pregnant and after she witnessed others being killed, she pleaded to be spared so her baby could be born. But there was no mercy for her and she was stabbed 16 times. The very next night Watson and Mason went to the home of supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary. Watson stabbed both of them to death. The murders were very brutal, even sadistic. Watson was tried and convicted of murder and sentenced to death. His sentence was later commuted to life in prison and he remains in prison.

Now, many years later, Watson claims to have become a born-again Christian. He even has a web site, called Abounding Love Ministries, which appears to have a sound statement of faith and presentation of the gospel. Is it possible that he truly has been bon again?

David Berkowitz, the notorious killer who was known as "Son of Sam" also claims to have found Christ. In 1976 and 1977 Berkowitz terrorized New York City with a series of brutal killings. He would shoot people as they sat in their parked cars or as they walked along a sidewalk. He was arrested and has been in jail ever since. According to Berkowitz, in 1987 he became a born-again Christian while reading Psalm 34:6 from a Gideon Bible that a fellow inmate gave him. A few years ago I saw an interview with him on TV during which they asked him about his conversion. I was skeptical about it and kept listening for something that would lead me to believe that his conversion wasn't genuine. But that doubt never came. Berkowitz gave a credible confession.

Can such claims be true? Have they really found the Lord? How do such claims make you feel? Do they shock you? Do they offend you?

Their actions caused such tragedy. Some of the people that they murdered probably weren't Christians, and that means that they were instrumental in putting them in hell. The murders also had other dreadful consequences—like driving people away from Christianity. In 1984, the film director, Roman Polanski, Sharon Tate's husband, wrote in his book,

"Since Sharon's death, and despite appearances to the contrary, my enjoyment of life has been incomplete. In moments of unbearable personal tragedy some people find solace in religion. In my case the opposite happened. Any religious faith I had was shattered by Sharon's murder. It reinforced my faith in the absurd."

Watson's actions drove Polanski away from God. It seemed to have hardened him against Christianity—the only way to God.

Some people are disgusted and offended by conversions like that of Watson and Berkowitz. Marg told me that someone told her that that's the reason he won't become a Christian. He said he won't believe because of the fact that Christianity teaches that you can be bad all your life and at the very end believe in Jesus and He'll accept you. He said that a little old lady, who had been good all her life, yet didn't believe in Jesus, could have a heart attack and die and not go to heaven, and yet a hardened criminal on death row could at the last moment turn to Jesus and find salvation and go to heaven. He didn't like that idea at all. He even used the example of the thief on the cross to illustrate his point. He found that whole scenario morally repugnant. He just can't get by the fact that God's grace doesn't take into account worth. It seems he thinks that God should only save relatively good people and not really bad people. But because God saves really bad people—he won't believe.

In one sense Marg's acquaintance is absolutely correct. God does save really bad people. But in another sense he's totally wrong—that's not a bad thing but a very good thing. For what our text teaches us—and what many other places in the Bible teach us—is that we all ought to be extremely thankful that God doesn't base His salvation on our worth—for none are worthy. We're all really bad and it's only God's grace that makes a difference in our lives. So rather than despising God's love—we ought to be rejoicing in it and be amazed at it—that God could love sinners such as ourselves is absolutely wondrous. That God should send His Son to become one with us and take our sin and sorrow—is love that is so marvelous that it ought to delight and astound us.

So let's look at our text so that some of these things can happen. The main thing we see from Hosea 11 is that

the ancient people of Israel were unworthy of God's love, yet God bestowed great love on them.

Indeed, just like we saw last time, when we looked at the prophecy of Jesus birth in Micah 5, we see that in the midst of great rebellion against God, we have a prophecy about the Messiah. Here in Hosea it is also given in the midst of dark times in Israel.

First, consider what we are told here about

the unworthiness of the people of God.

God gives at least three indictments against His people and each one of them is devastating and shows Israel's unworthiness.

First of all, God says that

they despised His offers of kindness and love.

In verse 2 God said,

"But the more I called Israel,
the further they went from me."

Their sin was very great. They despised God's kindness to them and the more He called them to Himself, the more they ran away from Him. Continued, willful disobedience in the face God's love. In verse 7 God said,

"My people are determined
to turn from me."

They were extremely ungrateful. They did not realize that it was God who healed them, led them with cords of love, and fed them. They were incredibly ungrateful. Andy Woods writes,

"Yahweh's establishment of Israel after the Exodus is analogized to a parent training a child to walk and a master removing or repositioning an animal's yoke so that it might eat more easily. Yet despite Yahweh's care, the nation refused to acknowledge His acts of healing on their behalf. In sum, despite Yahweh's love and expression of that love through His deliverance of His people from Egyptian bondage, the nation ignored the prophets and habitually worshipped another god. In so doing, the nation committed idolatry and thus violated the basic tenet of the Mosaic Covenant (Exod 20:3, 23; 22:20; 34:17)."

They willfully rejected God and His tokens of kindness and love toward them.

The second indictment against the people is their idolatry and apostasy.

God said,

"They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images."

Instead of worshipping their God, they paid homage to Baal and served Him. Andy Woods writes, (The Use Of Hosea 11:1 In Matthew 2:15)

"In employing the Hebrew verbs "sacrificed" and "burned incense," Hosea shifts away from the perfect tense and instead makes use of two piel customary imperfects, which denote repeated action in past time. The idea is that the nation kept sacrificing to Baals and burning incense. The use of such a tense depicts the nation's continued willful disobedience against the backdrop of Yahweh's ever-present fatherly love."

They rejected God and worshipped other gods.

The third thing that we see that shows their unworthiness is the fact that God says that

they deserved to be treated like Admah and Zeboiim.

These were two cities that were destroyed along with Sodom and Gomorrah. God is telling them that Israel deserved to be destroyed just like those cities of old.

Now the point of this is that Israel was as bad as those cities of old that God destroyed. Ingratitude, apostasy, going after false gods, idolatry—Israel excelled in those sins.

If you look at the book of Hosea as a whole you'll see that there is a repeated pattern. For example in chapter 1 (continuing to 2:1) we see that
the sins of the nation are laid out, then the impending judgment because of that sin, and the ultimate restoration of the nation upon her return to God. We see the same pattern beginning in chapter 2, from verse 2 to verse 23. Over and over that pattern is continued. The point is that there's a lot of sin in Israel. If you look back at chapter 10 you'll see that God complained that they hadn't depended upon Him but on their own strength. They planted wickedness—there were evildoers in Gibeah and the great wickedness in Bethel. In sum, the people had made themselves like those that the Lord destroyed with fire from heaven. They were completely unworthy of God's love.

The second thing in our text that shows us the greatness of God's love is

the struggle within God regarding Israel and her fate.

We see this especially in verses 8-11 of our text. God said,

"How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?
How can I make you like Zeboiim?
My heart is changed within me;
all my compassion is aroused.
I will not carry out my fierce anger,
nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim.
For I am God, and not man—
the Holy One among you.
I will not come in wrath.
They will follow the LORD;
he will roar like a lion.
When he roars,
his children will come trembling from the west.
They will come trembling
like birds from Egypt,
like doves from Assyria.
I will settle them in their home"

What we should notice here is that God is not debating the relative merits of Israel. God is not saying,

"Well, you sinned in some ways, but in other ways you've been fairly good so I'm torn between punishing you or withholding my punishment."

No, nothing like that is going on. Instead, it's describing an apparent turmoil in God due to the fact that Israel truly deserves punishment—but because God is a God of love—He is very reluctant to treat Ephraim as she deserves to be treated. It's not because they don't deserve punishment—it's because He's such a God of love.

The Bible speaks the same way sometimes when it speaks about our salvation. In 2 Timothy 1:9 Paul writes about God,

"who has saved us
and called us to a holy life—
not because of anything we have done
but because of his own purpose and grace.
This grace was given us
in Christ Jesus
before the beginning of time,"

We have the same teaching in Ephesians 1 and Romans 9 with regard to our election and predestination. In Romans 9 Paul talks about Jacob and Esau and how He love Jacob and hated Esau, and that that was not because of anything they had done. Paul wrote, (Romans 9:11-17)

"Yet, before the twins were born
or had done anything good or bad—
in order that God's purpose in election
might stand:
not by works but by him who calls
—she was told,
'The older will serve the younger.'
Just as it is written:
Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.
What then shall we say?
Is God unjust? Not at all!
For he says to Moses,
'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion
on whom I have compassion.'
It does not, therefore,
depend on man's desire or effort,
but on God's mercy."

It's all of God's grace. That grace comes, not because we deserve it—but because of something in God, something to do with His pleasure and will. As we read in Ephesians 1:4f,

"In love he predestined us
to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ,
in accordance with his pleasure and will—
to the praise of his glorious grace,
which he has freely given us
in the One he loves.
In him we have redemption through his blood,
the forgiveness of sins,
in accordance with the riches of God's grace
that he lavished on us
with all wisdom and understanding.
And he made known to us the mystery
of his will according to his good pleasure,
which he purposed in Christ"

It's all about God's pleasure and will, it's all about the riches of God's grace—not our worthiness.

We see the same theme in the Old Testament. In Psalm 25:11 begs God to forgive his great sin. Why? Because He deserved forgiveness? Not at all. David wrote,

"Because of Your name, Lord,
forgive my sin…"

We see the same thing in Jeremiah 14:7. Jeremiah says,

"Although our sins testify against us,
O Lord,
do something for the sake of your name."

What's incredible about the verses from Hosea 11 is that they show such love for Israel in spite of their sin. In considering them, contaminated by their sin, God held them in such love that when He contemplated what they deserved, He was greatly moved within Himself. What love these words express! Donald Macleod writes, (Behold Your God, p. 148)

"When God contemplated the possibility of chastising Israel He did so with the profoundest anguishÖ With what hesitation and misgivings and reluctance and sorrow did such a God—who does not at any time afflict willingly and for whom judgment is a strange work—with what reluctance does He bruise…"

What love.

The third thing I want you to see about our text that shows God's remarkable love is the fact that

it contains a reference to Jesus, and that Jesus, as the true Israel, relives a part of Israel's history and fulfills her calling.

In his gospel when Matthew relates the story of Mary and Joseph being told by an angel about Herod's attempts to destroy the baby—and tells them to go to Egypt, he relates that after Herod died, an angel again appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to return to Israel. Then Matthew writes, (Matthew 2:15)

"And so was fulfilled
what the Lord had said through the prophet:
'Out of Egypt I called my son.'"

Matthew's reference has caused much controversy. Some say that Matthew was not a good exegete and that he was reading something into Hosea which was not there. This controversy goes back at least as far as 360 A.D. when Julian the Apostate was Roman Emperor. Some have said that he was the first to take issue with Matthew's interpretation. At the time of the Reformation John Calvin wrote,

"scoffers have attempted to disturb the whole religion of Christ, as though the Evangelist had misapplied the declaration of the Prophet."

But of course Matthew wrote as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit and His interpretation of the text is absolutely correct. There are differing theories about how Matthew saw the historical events surrounding the Exodus fulfilled in Christ. But the fact is that he saw that Jesus' return from Egypt fulfilled Hosea's prophecy. John Calvin writes,

"In the first place, it must be remembered that Christ cannot be separated from his Church, as the body will be mutilated and imperfect without a head. Whatever then happened formerly in the Church, ought at length to be fulfilled by the head.""Then also there is no doubt, but that God in his wonderful providence intended that his Son should come forth from Egypt, that he might be a redeemer to the faithful; and thus he shows that a true, real, and perfect deliverance was at length effected, when the promised Redeemer appeared." "So in my view that comment is too frigid, which embraces the idea, that Matthew made only a comparison. For it behoves us to consider this, that God, when he formerly redeemed his people from Egypt, only showed by a certain prelude the redemption which he deferred till the coming of Christ. Hence, as the body was then brought forth from Egypt into Judea, so at length the head also came forth from Egypt: and then God fully showed him to be the true deliverer of his people."

What love God has for sinners. John 3:16 is really a summary of our text.

"For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life."

God gave His Son—to become one with His people to share their experiences, to go down into Egypt and up from there. He identified with us and took our sins, our slavery upon Himself. He came up out of Egypt and on the cross loosed the shackles of bondage and sin.

There are great lessons for us here.

First, you should realize that you are unworthy of God's grace.

What God said about the people of Israel in the time of Hosea is typical of people. Just like them you're a sinner and you don't deserve God's grace. None of us are good. None of us are worthy. There are not two categories, those sinners who are worthy of God's grace and those sinners who are unworthy of God's grace. No. There's one category—sinners who are totally unworthy of God's grace.

Psalm 14:1-3 reads,

"They are corrupt,
their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.
The LORD looks down from heaven
on the sons of men
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
All have turned aside,
they have together become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one."

Isaiah 64:6 says,

"All of us have become
like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts
are like filthy rags;"

Even our best works are unworthy—they are polluted like filthy rags.

In Romans chapters 1-3 Paul surveys the human behavior of both Jews and Gentiles and at the end of his survey he writes, (Romans 3:9-11)

"What shall we conclude then?
Are we any better?
Not at all!
We have already made the charge
that Jews and Gentiles
alike are all under sin.
As it is written:
'There is no one righteous,
not even one;
there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God.'"

A few verses later Paul penned the sum of it all, (Romans 3:23)

"for all have sinned
and fall short of the glory of GodÖ"

We are all the same. We are all in the same boat. Yes, it's true that some are better than others. I'm sure all of you are better than Tex Watson and David Berkowitz. But what we must realize that even that's the result of grace. You're not intrinsically better than Watson or Berkowitz. It's not because of you, and your efforts—It's because of God's grace. It's because God gave you things that He didn't given others. The apostle Paul refers to this in 1 Corinthians 4:7. He asked,

"For who makes you different
from anyone else?
What do you have that you did not receive?
And if you did receive it,
why do you boast as though you did not?"

Paul also wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:10,

"by the grace of God
I am what I amÖ"

And Ephesians 2:8-10 says that for those of you who do good works, those good works do not ultimately come from you, but from God. The apostle Paul wrote,

"For it is by grace you have been saved,
through faith—and this not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God— not by works,
so that no one can boast.
For we are God's workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do."

So it's all of grace.

Do you know what's just as amazing as Tex Watson or David Berkowitz receiving grace and salvation? It's you receiving grace and salvation.

In one sense there's really no difference between them and you.

How do you view Tex Watson and the David Berkowitz? Do they deserve God's grace? No. Not at all. In that regard they're just like you and me.

But are they too bad for God's grace? Again, the answer is no. David was a adulterer and murderer. Yet he was not too bad for God's grace. Saul of Tarsus, was an accessory to murder. He referred to himself as the worst of sinners. In 1 Timothy 1:15 Paul wrote,

"This saying is trustworthy
and deserving of full acceptance:
'Christ Jesus came into the world
to save sinners
—and I am the worst of them.'"

Paul knew that God could save the worst of sinners.

Secondly this means that there is

no place for pride in you.

There's no place for pride in the church. If you've attained more than others, that's all of grace. Who made you different? God. If you've received the things you have as a free gift—where's the place for pride? There's none. Even the good works you do have been prepared beforehand by God. Pride has no place in you.

Nor should you have pride toward those who are not Christians. You've been saved not because you're better than them—but because of God's will and good pleasure.

Rather than having pride you ought to be focused on God and be glorifying Him.


you should be amazed that God saved you.

Never lose that thought. Be amazed at God's love for you. You know what you're like. You know about your sin. You know your faults. Deep down you know that you're not worthy. But God loves you. Isn't that incredible? That He should send His Son associate with His people, to relieve to a certain extent their experiences, to die on your behalf! The wonder of that thought.

Every day thank God for His grace and love. Every day be amazed that God should love you—and realize that He does!

Fourthly, this means that

you should see all people as potential Christians.

Remember what Jesus said about the fields being white for harvest? The world today is a mess. People have rejected God and have embraced the sins of old. They are unworthy of God and His grace. Some are really bad.

But none of that matters. Jesus told us to go out and tell others about Him and make disciples. Christians, set your sights high. Be bold in telling others, all others, about Jesus and His love. It is the greatest story ever told. Today many children don't even know about it. Tell others about Jesus—tell one, tell all.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, this text shows you that

you need redemption.

You need to be saved. Israel of old need to be rescued from Egypt. You need to be rescued from your bondage to sin. If sin has its way with you—you'll be lost and you'll experience God coming in wrath. Don't let that happen to you. Go to Jesus today. Only He can save you.