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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Matt's Messages - Against God

“Against God”
August 13, 2006
Hosea 11:12-13:16

Before we get into Hosea, I want to take some time to say to you again how proud I am of you and thank you.

Like I said last month, I am so proud to be your pastor. This weekend has been West Branch Community Days, and just 1 month ago, we decided to throw our hat in the ring and try to build some bridges to our community at this new community festival.

We only had 4 weeks to plan and that right on the heels of a big Family Bible Week.

But many, many of you rolled up your sleeves and got to work on this outreach. I’m very proud of you.

Obviously, it was a learning experience. There were things that we never thought of in the planning and miscommunications about who was going to do what. It was the first one ever, and there were definitely bumps in the road.

I was very disappointed that almost nobody outside of our church was present at the Vespers on Friday night–we won’t do it like that again! But I was so proud of those of you who put it on. Set-up, take-down, transport, sound, ushers, music, singing, testimonies, prayer. You guys did it. And you did it with a cheerful heart.

One of you said to me afterwards, “Well, we just praised the Lord!” And that was right.

So, thank you. Thank you for serving the Savior and His church.

Thank you to those of you who worked (and are going to work this afternoon from 1 to 5) in our outreach booth. Sarah Myers was our MVS (Most Valuable Servant; she stayed all day yesterday). I think it was a success.

We gave away a ton of sno-cones and bags of popcorn and somewhere around 50 giveaway bags with New Testaments, JESUS Videos, 4 Spiritual Laws, and an invitation brochure to our church.

Have you seen these? Jeff Schiefer worked these up during his lunch hours for us. They have information about our Fall Programs and Services in them, as well as a little bit about the church and a picture of a beautiful woman with your shiny-headed pastor.

Please take some and give them or post them around town because they are time-sensitive. They talk about things that are going to begin first of September, so pass them out.

And what I’m most proud of is just the way that you served the community. Everybody showing up and loving on people in the crowd. Now, the crowd wasn’t as big as we had hoped for this year. But you guys were big. And I’m whatever the spiritual equivalent of proud is of you. Thank you.

We’re going to be in Hosea chapter 11, verse 12. Pew Bible Page #897.

Last week, we got a glimpse into the heart of God.

We saw that God has a holy love for His covenant people that issues into astonishing grace.

And I wish we could stay and linger there a little longer. But in chapters 12 and 13, God once more returns to judgment. God is amazingly gracious and will hold back the full extent of His wrath.

But Israel has not yet repented, and they must face God’s judgment.

Why?

Because Israel has been “Against God.”

And IF YOU ARE AGAINST GOD, GOD WILL BE AGAINST YOU.

Hosea 11, verse 12.

“Ephraim has surrounded me with lies, the house of Israel with deceit. And Judah is unruly against God, even against the faithful Holy One.”

Israel, even if they didn’t know it, had come against God. Even the Southern Kingdom of Judah (which was generally more godly) was characterized by rebellion “against the faithful Holy One.” Against God.

How had they become against God?

The first is that they were full of lies.

“Ephraim has surrounded me [God] with lies, the house of Israel with deceit.”

They didn’t have an honest bone in their bodies.

And when you lie, you are lying against God.

The second way that they had come against God was bad allegiances. Chapter 12, verse 1.

“Ephraim feeds on the wind; he pursues the east wind all day and multiplies lies and violence. He makes a treaty with Assyria and sends olive oil to Egypt.”

Remember a couple of weeks ago when it said that they had sown the wind and were going to reap the whirlwind? Here it says that the wind was their dinner. Not very nourishing.

And instead of trusting God, they trusted in their enemies [!] and tried to make placating alliances with them.

First with Assyria, the enemy to the North and East, and then with Egypt, the enemy to the South and West.
They were trusting the wrong people.

Have you ever done that?

When you put your trust in bad friendships you are doing it against God.

And if you are against God, God will be against you. Verse 2.

“The LORD has a charge to bring against Judah; he will punish Jacob according to his ways and repay him according to his deeds.”

Judah might think that they are getting away with something because they see Israel get pounded but are going to escape a pounding for the time being.

But God is not missing anything. And to the degree that Judah is against God, God will be against Judah.

This wrestling match with God has been going on for a long time. It is bound up in the names of the whole nation: Jacob and Israel. Verse 3.

“In the womb he grasped his brother's heel; as a man he struggled with God. He struggled with the angel and overcame him; he wept and begged for his favor. He found him at Bethel and talked with him there–the LORD God Almighty, the LORD is his name of renown!”

These verses are all about the Jacob we learned about back in Genesis.

What does Jacob mean? “Heel-grabber.” Another way of saying “Deceiver.” Jacob was always trying to out maneuver someone.

But one day, Jacob met somebody that he couldn’t out maneuver. And he got a new name for it–Israel–“One who wrestles with God.” He won that match, but he found himself weeping and begging for favor, receiving grace.

He found God at his return to Bethel and “talked with Him there–the LORD God Almighty, the LORD is his name of renown.”

I think that God, through Hosea, is saying that this nation needed to go through a transformation like Jacob had and receive God’s grace like Jacob had.

There was too much Jacob in Hosea’s day and not enough Israel.

Too much deceiving, lying, striving against men.

And not enough seeking, talking, wrestling with God, in a positive way.

If they were just going to be against God, then God would be against them.

But if they were going to turn and seek God...verse 6.

“But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.”

More like Israel than Jacob. We’ll come back to that.

There are more lies in verse 7.

“The merchant uses dishonest scales; he loves to defraud.”

And that makes him rich. And that makes Israel trust in his riches. Verse 8

“Ephraim boasts, ‘I am very rich; I have become wealthy. With all my wealth they will not find in me any iniquity or sin.’”

Really? Another way that Israel has been against God is to trust in their wealth.

Remember, this is an exciting time to be a part of the Northern Kingdom. It’s a booming economy. There is money everywhere.

Israel seemed to think that God was blessing them. But they were trusting in their money (have you ever done that? I have.), and when you trust in your money you are trusting against God.

He hates self-sufficiency. He wants to be our sufficiency.

It’s not wrong to have money. It’s wrong to love money and trust money.

Because when you trust in your money, you are trusting against God.

And God will be against you. V.9

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt; I will make you live in tents again, as in the days of your appointed feasts.”

Do you see how God is concerned with the fame of His name? Verse 5 said that the LORD is His name of renown. Here He says that He is one who brought them out of Egypt.

And for what? So that they could be against Him? So that they could trust in their own riches?

No. He is going to send them out into the desert again. They will have to live in tents like they do once a year at the Feast of Tabernacles. It’s time for another wilderness experience in exile.

They have been against Him. He is going to force them to go wandering again.

How were they against Him? They didn’t listen. V.10

“I spoke to the prophets, gave them many visions and told parables through them. [There were ample warnings. Were they heeded? V.11] Is Gilead wicked? [Is the Pope Catholic?] Its people are worthless! Do they sacrifice bulls in Gilgal? [Is the sky blue?] Their altars will be like piles of stones on a plowed field.”

They weren’t listening. They weren’t paying attention.

Have you ever done that? I have.

And when you aren’t listening to God, you are listening against God.

God’s been taking care of them. Verse 12.

“Jacob fled to the country of Aram; Israel served to get a wife, and to pay for her he tended sheep. [God’s been tending sheep, too.] The LORD used a prophet [Moses] to bring Israel up from Egypt, by a prophet he cared for him.”

And how did they return His care? They were against Him. V.14

“But Ephraim has bitterly provoked him to anger; his Lord will leave upon him the guilt of his bloodshed and will repay him for his contempt.”

If you are against God, God will be against you.

Obviously, here is another way that they had been against God: bloodshed, violence, hurting people.

When you hurt someone else, you are going against God.

Sometimes we get the idea that we can hurt someone else, and all we’ve done is hurt that person. But that’s not true. When you hurt someone else with your words, or with violence, you are also going against God. All sin is ultimately against God.

Of course, the ultimate way that Israel had gone against God was to go after other gods: idolatry. Chapter 13, verse 1.

“When Ephraim spoke, men trembled; he was exalted in Israel. But he became guilty of Baal worship and died [the wages of sin for this nation were idolatry]. Now they sin more and more; they make idols for themselves from their silver, cleverly fashioned images, all of them the work of craftsmen. It is said of these people, ‘They offer human sacrifice and kiss the calf-idols.’

When we worship anything that is not God, we are worshiping against God. V.3

“Therefore they will be like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears, like chaff swirling from a threshing floor, like smoke escaping through a window. [Those are dramatic word-pictures, aren’t they? Who wants to be mist, chaff or smoke?] ‘But I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt. You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Savior except me.”

As we have seen again and again and again this Summer, God is a jealous God who will not allow any rivals.

When we allow ourselves to worship anything that is not God, we are worshipping against God. And God will be against our idols.

I won’t mention my carpenter ants today.

But if I did, it would be to remind us of our heart-idols which we may want to ignore or not talk about, but God does not ignore and actively opposes.

God wants to be our God alone. “You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Savior except me.”

He wants to be our Savior. Our only Savior. Nothing else can save but Him.

And when He saved before? V.5

“I cared for you in the desert, in the land of burning heat. When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.”

Another way that Israel was against God was pridefully forgetting Him.

Have you ever done that? I have.

When life is going well, we tend to forget God and get full of ourselves as if we did it!

When life is going well, we pridefully forget God.

And when you are forgetting God, when you are full of yourself, you are going against God. And God will be against you. V.7

“So I will come upon them like a lion, like a leopard I will lurk by the path. Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and rip them open. Like a lion I will devour them; a wild animal will tear them apart.”

“You are destroyed, O Israel, because you are against me, against your helper.”

I’ll say it again. If you are against God, God will be against you.

More pride. Verse 10.

“Where is your king, that he may save you? Where are your rulers in all your towns, of whom you said, 'Give me a king and princes'? So in my anger I gave you a king, and in my wrath I took him away. The guilt of Ephraim is stored up, his sins are kept on record.”

Nobody is getting away with anything.

“Pains as of a woman in childbirth come to him, but he is a child without wisdom; when the time arrives, he does not come to the opening of the womb.”

And then, these words: ‘I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?

And then these words: ‘I will have no compassion, even though he thrives among his brothers. An east wind from the LORD will come [Assyria], blowing in from the desert; his spring will fail and his well dry up. His storehouse will be plundered of all its treasures. The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.’”

If you are against God, God will be against you.

Lying & deceit & fraud, bad friendship & allegiances, trusting in money, not listening to the Word of God, bloodshed & violence & hurting people, idolatry, and prideful forgetting of God.

If you are against God, God will be against you.

This is what Israel has brought upon themselves.

And, yet, there is verse 14.

Now some scholars believe that verse 14 should be full of questions like the New American Standard Version renders it: “Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? [Answer, No] Shall I redeem them from death? [No.] O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting?”

In that translation of the Hebrew, God is not showing mercy and is calling upon the powers of death and the grave to wipe out Israel.

And that makes a lot of sense in the context (look at verse 16!), so it could be what Hosea originally meant.

But Hosea 13:14 sounds familiar to you, doesn’t it?

It sounds like something that the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15.

Paul is writing about the Resurrection. The final resurrection when the believers are raised to new life in new bodies like Christ’s new body.

And He says, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed–in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Corinthians 15:51-57]

That’s what Paul saw in Hosea 13:14!

He saw a taunt against death and the grave!

He saw a ransom from the power of the grave. A redemption from death.

He saw Christ and His grace and His resurrection power.

And He saw this: IF GOD IS FOR YOU, WHO CAN BE AGAINST YOU?

Yes, if you are ultimately against God, you have everything to be afraid of because God will be against you.

But if God is for you because of Jesus Christ, ultimately nobody, nobody can be against you!

Not even death and the grave–and those are your worst enemies.

If God is for you, who can be against you?

You might have a lot of things coming against you right now.

You might have trials, enemies, hardships, crises, and pain.

But if God is for you because you belong to Jesus Christ, ultimately (and that’s what counts) nothing can be against you.

Now, that’s only true if you belong to Jesus Christ by faith.

It is only those who belong to Him that know that nothing will stand against them.

If you are outside of Christ today or running from Him or don’t know, then I challenge you to come in.

Put your trust in Jesus Christ. If you have not or are not trusting Him and what He did on the Cross, then you are feeding on the wind, you are provoking Him to anger, you are going to be a morning mist, chaff on the threshing floor, smoke escaping through a window. You are against God, and He will be against you.

But you don’t have to be. God will be for you if you trust in what Jesus has done on your behalf.

God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. [2 Corinthians 5:21]

Lay down your weapons and surrender to His grace. Acknowledge Him as Savior. There is no Savior but Him.

And God will be for you.

And if God is for you, who can be against you? No one.

And what should we do with our lives?

We know that we shouldn’t be against God.

What should we do? Look back at chapter 12, verse 6.

“But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.”

Return, maintain, wait.

To return is to repent. It is to go back to your first love.

Israel need to return to the LORD.

We may need to repent of something and return to Jesus.

Don’t be afraid to repent. It hurts at first but it feels so good.

Maintain love and justice.

That’s the opposite of all the ways that Israel was going against God.

Instead of lies, truth.
Instead of bad friendships and bad allegiances, good ones that help you in your walk.
Instead of trusting in money, trusting in God.
Instead of not listening, listening to the Word of God.
Instead of bloodshed and violence and hurting people, it’s loving people and being concerned about people.
Instead of idolatry, it’s true worship.
Instead of prideful forgetting God, it’s remembering God and making him the center of your life.

Maintain love and justice.

Love for God and justice/compassion with others.

Like the prophet Micah said, “He has shown thee, O Man, what is good and what the Lord requires of thee. But to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” [6:8]

And to wait upon Him. To look for Him. To seek Him. To do His will.

Return to God.
Maintain love and justice.
And wait for your God always.

Because if God is for you, who can be against you?

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