Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Hosea had wife trouble. Hosea didn’t just have wife trouble though; Hosea quite possibly had the very “Worst Wife in the World”. If the Prodigal Son is the New Testament’s most famous story of Family dysfunction due to odd dealings between Father and Son. Hosea’s story is the Old Testament’s most famous tale of Family dysfunction highlighting the odd dealings with Husband and Wife.
Hosea had a wife named Gomer. Gomer worked as a prostitute. Hosea had married Gomer for no good reason other than God had ordered him.
God had a very odd reason for wanting Hosea to marry Gomer. Hosea was known as a "complainer" or a "belly acher". The type of person that once he started ranting people would just say “there goes Hosea again.”
What Hosea was always ranting about was the harm that had fallen unto the nation of Israel because of their failure to abide by any sort of sexual boundaries. Within Hosea’s life prostitution was running rampant. Finding prostitutes in Israel was about as difficult as finding casinos in Las Vegas. In fact prostitutes would even line themselves up outside the Holy Grounds of the Temple.
God was going to use Hosea, famous for his ranting, to make a dramatic point regarding the relationship between God and the people of Israel. God knew that as soon as Hosea would be ordered to marry Gomer that Hosea would be the definition of loving in return. Hosea would be the perfect Husband; he would be the guy with the flowers, the guy with patience, kindness, and understanding. Hosea would set out on a course to do anything to make Gomer happy.
God knew that Hosea’s friends were probably going to tell him “to run away from Gomer, that she was nothing but trouble”. People were going to snicker behind Hosea’s back about how foolish he was being.
God knew that Gomer was going to be loved by other men and turn her back on Hosea through adultery. Only, Hosea was just going to keep on loving Gomer, the Prostitute, no matter what he grief he had experienced at Gomer’s hands.
What can we say about Hosea and Gomer’s marriage? They had three children together although only one for certain was known to be Hosea’s.
No matter how loving Hosea was to Gomer, Gomer just couldn’t stop herself. Gomer kept cheating on Hosea, then she cheated on him again. Gomer’s life continued into a deeper and deeper downward spiral until the point that Gomer eventually abandoned her dysfunctional family, only for Gomer to end up so low that she ended up on the brink of being sold into slavery.
The reason that God wanted Hosea to marry Gomer was because he wanted their marriage to serve as an illustration of the relationship of God to the people of Israel.
How the people of Israel had been unfaithful. How even with the depths of God’s steadfast love, Israel had gone out to pursue what they considered to be more attractive gods.
The story of Hosea illustrates how “God is going to be faithful even as the people of Israel continue to be unfaithful.”
Think of how many people out there would stay in a relationship like Hosea’s? How absolutely no one would ever seek out to marry someone who they knew was going to be unfaithful to them continually.
The point of Hosea’s story is one we often miss. People often view relationships in terms of potential. Girls figure if they can just tame a guy’s wildness they’ll make really great husbands. Guys figure that if they can get a girl to lose that final 10 LBS that she’ll then be the girl of their dreams.
Girls figure that they can get a guy’s work ethic to turn around, get him to dress better, get him more clean shaven, get him to get nicer haircuts, give up the extra beers on Saturday night then they’ll have the ideal husband.
Too often people view potential mates in terms of what they will eventually become. The way we understand our normal relationship working is we see devotion being returned with devotion, “If you love me you will do this.”
This is what made Hosea’s marriage so dysfunctional; Hosea received no devotion in return.
Hosea only received grief in marriage. Hosea’s marriage was the one that everyone around him felt sorry him. Hosea had to put up with Gomer.
Yet word finally got back to Hosea after Gomer had abandoned him that she was about to be sold into slavery. Hosea finally had the opportunity to be done with the “Worst Wife in the World” once and for all. Many guys would have shouted out “Hallelujah” at that moment they could have been done with Gomer.
Only, Hosea refused to give up on Gomer. Hosea sought Gomer out once again. Hosea was going to stop at nothing to buy Gomer back again and bring her back home. Hosea was going to buy Gomer back, no matter the cost.
Once Hosea had finally purchased Gomer back from the dead for Fifteen Shekels of Silver and a Lechel of Barley, Hosea spoke to Gomer how their relationship would be defined from that day forward,
“You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.”-Hosea 3:3
Hosea was not going to look upon Gomer with a grudge, or never ending one-upsmanship. Gomer was going to remain Hosea’s wife from that day forward, whether even Gomer herself believed it or not.
The story of Hosea and Gomer is a tale of redemption. A tale of being brought back from the dead. A tale that speaks how far Grace can reach.
Hosea’s story is ultimately a parable of the Church. How those who that gather here today have made their share of bad decisions, how the Church is full of people who have experienced the consequences of their actions, how the Church is full of people who are sick in need of healing. Yet Christ chooses us still. Christ chooses us a bride, he didn’t overlook our flaws, our warts, our stains, our sins, he took them unto himself.
The point of the story of Hosea and Gomer is how God operates within our own lives. God bought us just like Hosea bought Gomer. Because of the Cross of Christ we are assured that God’s love for us, is just as unconditional as was Hosea’s love was for Gomer.
How in the words of the Apostle Paul that “there is truly nothing that can separate us from the love of God found in Christ Jesus”- Romans 8:39.
How the love that has been given to us is not a love given with limits, but rather a love given without limits of forgiveness, time, and faithfulness. That love can reach the most unlikely of sources. That no matter how messed up and broken Gomer seemed to be. How even Gomer was not outside the possibility of God’s reach.
Why does the story of Hosea and Gomer matter to us today?
What can we say about Hosea and Gomer’s dysfunctional marriage before we go home today?
Let me read a reflection given about Gomer and Hosea if it were to take place in 2013 in Silver Bay written by Fredrick Buchner
Gomer was always good company-a little heavy with the lipstick maybe, a little less than choosy about men and booze, a little loud, but great on a party and always good for a laugh. Then the prophet Hosea came along wearing a sandwich board that read "The End is at Hand" on one side and "Watch Out" on the other.
The first time he asked her to marry him, she thought he was kidding. The second time she knew he was serious but thought he was crazy. The third time she said yes. He wasn't exactly a swinger, but he had a kind face, and he was generous, and he wasn't all that crazier than everybody else. Besides, any fool could see he loved her.
Give or take a little, she even loved him back for a while, and they had three children whom Hosea named with strange names like Not-pitied-for-God-will-no-Longer-pity-Israel-now-that-it's-gone-to-the-dogs so that every time the roll was called at school, Hosea would be scoring a prophetic bulls-eye in absentia. But everybody could see the marriage wasn't going to last, and it didn't.
While Hosea was off hitting the sawdust trail, Gomer took to hitting as many night spots as she could squeeze into a night, and any resemblance between her next batch of children and Hosea was purely coincidental. It almost killed him, of course. Every time he raised a hand to her, he burst into tears. Every time she raised one to him, he was the one who ended up apologizing.
He tried locking her out of the house a few times when she wasn't in by five in the morning, but he always opened the door when she finally showed up and helped get her to bed if she couldn't see straight enough to get there herself. Then one day she didn't show up at all.
He swore that this time he was through with her for keeps, but of course he wasn't. When he finally found her, she was lying passed out in a highly specialized establishment located above an adult bookstore, and he had to pay the management plenty to let her out of her contract. She'd lost her front teeth and picked up some scars you had to see to believe, but Hosea had her back again and that seemed to be all that mattered.
Hosea changed his sandwich board to read "God is love" on one side and "There's no end to it" on the other, and when he stood on the street corner belting out. Nobody can say how many converts he made, but one thing that’s for sure is that as Hosea held up his sign is that, there was a seldom a dry eye as he held that sign even Gomer (The Worst Wife in the World)
  http://frederickbuechner.com/content/weekly-sermon-illustration-hosea-and-gomer
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I want to tell you this morning about a former college professor of mine at Concordia named Larry. Larry grew up in Michigan in a good Christian Reformed home. Larry went into religious work with the intention of helping people, but eventually Larry got very jaded about the Christian faith. I once had a fellow professor describe Larry in this way, “He got his joy in life from questioning the faith of North Dakota farm kids”.
As I said Larry’s had cynical views towards religion. One time Larry was in a hospital working as a Pastor visiting a family whose Father/Grandfather was awaiting some medical test results. The Doctor walked in the room and gave the diagnosis, it was terminal. All the family members were devastated (Grandma, Grandpa, Kids, Grandkids).
They couldn’t believe that Grandpa had less than six months to live. An idea came into someone’s head (prayer). In Sunday school they had heard of Jesus healing people. They have heard other people express their belief in the possibility of miracle, the thought enters the head “maybe in Grandpa’s case- God will perform a miracle as long as we pray”. They turned to Pastor Larry to ask if he could lead them in a word of prayer. To which Larry responded “The Doctor made it pretty clear what was going to happen - there’s not much more than we can do.”
This story might seem shocking. Larry though was only expressing a common attitude that people have towards prayer. God has let them down before. They might have lost a loved one far too young. They might not have gotten the job they wanted. They might have had their heart broken, in spite of their faith at the time.
How do you answer a little girl who prays with her whole heart every night for Mom to get better- only for a few weeks later be crying over her casket?
How do you answer a parent who prays every night for their child’s health and safety only to have a trooper show up at the front door and say there was an accident?
How do we respond when someone starts praying as the only source of hope, only to see such hope crumble before their very eyes?
How do you answer disappointment, betrayal, confusion, heartbreak and weeping?
These situations naturally get people angry at God. When prayers go unanswered, it has the potential to destroy people’s faith.
Do stories like these make prayer a worthless activity? A lot of churches and preachers answer these questions in the simplest of terms? They say those whose prayers God didn’t answer, must not believe rightly.
Let’s look at the life of one of the 20th Century’s Most Famous Evangelists or Television Preachers after Billy Graham. A gentleman named Oral Roberts.
Perhaps the best known Oral Roberts story was in 1986- He sent a Letter to his followers stating if he didn’t raise eight million dollars within the next two Months, the Lord was going to take his life. “Time Magazine” wrote an article about this scam, but Oral Roberts had enough followers convinced that their giving would help God answer Oral Roberts’ prayer. This plan worked as Oral Roberts raised 9.1 million dollars.
Until the age of 29, Oral Roberts was a struggling part-time preacher in rural Oklahoma. Oral Roberts decided to open up his Bible and seek guidance for his lack of success in life. He opened it up to the Book of 3 John verse 2 which says “I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.”
Oral Roberts felt it was in these words that- God was directly speaking to him and saying “I want you to be rich and healthy”. The next day- Oral Roberts went out, still in debt, and purchased a brand new Buick. And as soon as the car keys got in Oral Roberts’ hands, he claimed to be given another direct message from God Instructing him “go out and heal the sick.”
Oral Roberts then formed a traveling healing ministry. Thousands of people would come to Oral Roberts’ Crusades with the belief that if Oral Roberts put his hands on them and prayed for them “they would return to health.” The only condition was that they needed to have enough faith for God to restore them to perfect health, because only if they had enough faith would God listen to their prayers. Oral Roberts even claimed to have resurrected dozens upon dozens of people from death all because people had faith.
What’s the problem with this belief that if you have enough faith- God will heal you? It only stands in direct contrast to the man who wrote more Books of the Bible than any other, the most influential leader in the Early Church- the Apostle Paul.
In the 12th Chapter of 2 Corinthian, the Apostle Paul speaks of having a medical ailment. Paul recalls praying on three separate occasions for the Lord to take this pain away. Yet nothing happened. Paul’s pain remained- even after he prayed for healing. Why was this? Paul had so much faith- he was willing to have his head cut off for preaching the Christian Gospel.
Is it possible that God might have had a reason for not healing the Apostle Paul? Paul seemed to think so when he said:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Paul’s whole point being “Why God allows bad things to happen to us as Christian people”.
If we were all Millionaires- who never had any problems in life (Always got along well with our family, loved every minute of our work day) we’d be prideful and reject God and his grace. We would have no need for the promises of eternal life. Life would be pretty swell as we’d be living in a world without any sin or any problems.
We must reject the idea on both counts that unanswered prayers serve as either a failing on God’s part or our own.
Why should we pray then, if it doesn’t guarantee us miraculous healings, or lives without problems?
I think one thing that should always be noted is “How prayers are answered is not always going to be clear”. We’re often not going to have dramatic proofs like an ailing Grandma getting up from her wheelchair and doing a jig across the stage.
Yet we know that God encourages us to pray and God promises to hear our prayer
“Call upon me and I will deliver you in the Day of Trouble”- Psalm 50:15.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”- Matthew 7:7
How then shall we pray?
I’ll come across people that when they’re asked to pray out loud in front of others, they get nervous and scared and don’t want to do it. The reason is simple- they’re worried that their prayer might not be good enough. They’re worried people will look down on their faith.
Today’s Gospel lesson provides Jesus giving us an example of ‘How to Pray.” It is a prayer we say every Sunday- the Lord’s Prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer gives us words to say that are simple and easy to remember. It’s a prayer that you can pray together with Christians from all over the world. I wish to reflect briefly as to what exactly is Jesus teaching in this prayer.
In looking at the Lord’s Prayer, the first thing that stands out is the simplicity. For a lot of people think that God doesn’t answer their prayers since they didn’t pray long enough or maybe not enough people were praying. Or maybe people weren’t praying the right way- if only they had kneeled then God would listen to the prayer more.
In the Lord’s Prayer- the focus is always on God’s action, not our own. The focus of the Lord’s Prayer is shaping a kingdom in God’s image, not our own.
We must always remember when considering whether God wants someone healed is that true healing does not take place in this world. Sure- Jesus raised a few people from the dead in the scriptures- Jairus’ Daughter, the Widow’s Son, and Lazarus, but such healings were only temporary acts of God’s Grace.
These miracles served the purpose of pointing to the power of the grace of God in sustaining life when it was impossible; thereby pointing to the day that God shall restore our body, mind, and soul to a state of complete health through his resurrection. All these people raised by Jesus eventually succumbed to death in this world, only to be raised up to something much greater.
For if the ultimate sign of faith was our own physical health this would be terrifying, since even the great Oral Roberts died in 2009. So have all the greatest teachers of the Church. Instead we trust in the words of Our Lord and Savior- “that a day shall come when we shall be with him in Paradise.”
In fact- if one is looking at the Lord’s Prayer- the Hardest Words to pray in there are the words “your will be done”
Let me tell you something this morning, that some of you might consider surprising and I hope I don’t offend anyone with what I’m about to say .
I’ll often encounter people in hospital rooms that want prayers said for healing. Such requests make me really nervous. In fact, I won’t pray for individual healing. The reason being such action might not be God’s will.
The last thing I want to promote is the belief that if Prayers go unanswered God isn’t good or loving. We can make sense of God’s will. Every event that causes us to question or wonder in this life “must be interpreted by the Cross of Christ”.
There will be a time in each of our lives that we’re no longer healed physically. Hopefully I don’t shock anyone in this room as I proclaim “We will all die”.
A day will come whether this week or 75 Years from now that we will breathe our last breath. Granted it’s a lot easier to make sense of this being God’s will in the case of a blind, deaf, sickly 110 Year Old man than in the case of the young child.
Consider God works in this world in ways that might not make sense even to us. The Lord might be calling the young child home to a place far better than anything this world can offer. The Lord might also be working in such situations to bring people to repentance as they come to terms with the weakness of human existence.
For example, people are way more likely to listen to the impact of the Gospel at a funeral than a wedding, since it’s a those moments that issues of faith are hitting the closest to home.
God’s reasoning isn’t always going to be clear, yet proof of God’s love has been clearly made known through Jesus death and resurrection.
And this is how we know that God answers our prayers.
Not by always giving us what we want, but in giving us something much better.
This might not always be easy to understand in this life, for it is in the Cross that we have a promise that God will lose his own life to save ours. It is because of the Cross that we should have no doubts that God will always do what’s best for ourselves and our loved ones.
Pastor Stew Carlson
These are all Sunday sermon's written by Pastor Stew.