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The 7th Sunday after Pentecost; Hosea 1:2-10

I want to bring you with me on a journey to another time and place. We’re going back almost three thousand years to 8th Century BC. We’re also going across the Atlantic, to the kingdom of Israel.

The kingdom of Israel split from the kingdom of Judah over one hundred years ago, and their northern neighbour, the Neo-Assyrian Empire is gaining power.

For some, the writing is on the wall. They see the threat that the Neo-Assyrian Empire poses to their fractured kingdom. Others, are being led astray by their leaders as they worship false Canaanite gods, and are unable to notice.

The prophet Hosea is one of those who can see the writing on the wall.

He sees the Northern kingdom of Israel, his homeland, falling apart around him, but he also sees that its royalty, nobility, and priests have been leading their people away from the Lord towards sin and destruction.

God uses Hosea to communicate to His people, and as we read today, He harshly warns them that their Kingdom will fall if they continue their idolatrous ways.

God even goes so far as to use Hosea’s personal life to illustrate His points. The Lord commands Hosea to marry a promiscuous woman with a reputation, to illustrate the relationship between Himself (God) and promiscuous Israel.

Unfortunately, we can tell how unhealthy that relationship is by the tone and the language used in today’s reading. In the second verse of the entire book, Hosea uses the Hebrew word znnim to describe the wife God wants him to have.

Znuim can be translated to promiscuity, unfaithfulness, or prostitution, depending on which English translation of the Bible you’re reading. This morning, we had, what I believe to be one of, if not the harshest of this word’s possible translations; When God commands Hosea to take a wife, he says “Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.”.

And it doesn’t stop there. As we read on, we learn that Hosea has his “children of whoredom”, and when he does, God tells Hosea to name them “Scattered”, “Not loved”, and “Not my people”.

So not only do we have the metaphor of Hosea being God and his wife being Israel, we also have the parallel of the names of Hosea’s children also representing God’s children. These harsh names are used to warn Israel of their impending judgement and exile if they don’t change their ways.

How could the Israelites find redemption in a God who, through Hosea, says that he will scatter and disown them?

And what does this mean for us, Gentiles who have been grafted onto Israel? Do these warnings apply to us as well? And if so, how do we find redemption in this God?

I feel like the easiest thing to do with readings like this is to just dismiss them as something from the past. It’s easy to pass it off Hosea’s words as a warning that only applies to the Israelites of the Northern Kingdom during the 8th century BC, especially because we’re no longer being being led by our secular and religious leaders to worship Cannanite Gods, nor are we fearing the thread of the Neo Assyrian Empire invading Canada from the North.

However, as I was preparing for this sermon, this reading from Hosea was the one I kept coming back to, I was drawn to his wisdom, and I truly feel as though there is plenty that we can learn from this text today.

A theme that I felt was prominent in this reading was that of covenants.

God made several covenants with the Israelites, including the Mosaic covenant, where God says that He will be their God, and they will be His people.

Humans also make a covenant with one another through the sacrament of marriage.

However, as we see from today’s reading, these covenants can be broken.

The kingdom of Israel breaks their covenant with God by turning away from Him and worshipping false idols. Hosea’s wife breaks her covenant with Hosea by being unfaithful in their marriage.

Again, it’s easy to believe that breaking covenants with God is something that happened during the time of Hosea, and that this cautionary tale can’t possibly be applied to us as Christians today.

However, I would like to remind us that we also make a covenant with God through our baptism.

And, because of our flawed human nature, we are not immune to breaking our covenant with God.

In our modern society, we have our own idols that our secular leaders suggest we turn to at times when we should be turning to God.

I’ll use an example from my own life. At the end of a long day, or if I need to decompress, I default to opening a game or an app on my phone.

One app that I often use for this purpose is TikTok. If you don’t know, TikTok is an app where users share short videos; featuring dance challenges and lip-syncs. It uses a combination of coding and psychology to give us a dopamine rush when we use the app, making it addictive. I’ve spoken with friends who also have TikTok, and we’ll both express this mutual feeling of regret we get when we realize we’ve been immobilized by the app for hours.

As I wrestled with this reading, I wondered, how much better of a Christian would I be if I took this time of mindless scrolling and put it towards the reading, studying and teaching of the Gospel?

And how much better would we be, both individually and as a church, if we turned away from our idols and towards Christ?

I’m not saying this to make any of us feel bad, but to remind us that it is so easy to slip into these sinful habits. These habits are comforting because they’re familiar, even if it they are causing us more harm than good. Change is just that much more difficult, because it takes us away from what we know into the unknown, which, at first glance, is often scarier than any consequence of continuing our sin.

I know that so far, I’ve painted a gloomy picture, but I want to circle back to a question that I asked earlier: “How could the Israelites find redemption in this God?”, and “How do we?”.

Our reading from Hosea today answers this, too. The last verse reads “the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.”

God is promising that in the same place He disowned the Israelites for breaking their covenant with Him, He will redeem them.

This promise extends to us as well. Meaning, that even if we break our covenants with God, that we are not beyond redemption. He had grace for His people then, and he has grace for His people now.

And it is through His grace we, His people have been delivered time and time again.

Because of His faithfulness, we can trust in our deliverance into eternal life, which has been made possible through our baptismal covenant, where we, as participants in Christ’s death and resurrection, are also able to overcome sin and death to achieve eternal life.

Copyright ©2022 by Tianna Goran