“Family Matters” was a sermon preached by Pastor John Valentine in conjunction with our worship gathering on November 12, 2023 — the 24th Sunday after Pentecost. The text upon which it was/is based is Hosea 11:1-9. Please note that — due to an electronic hiccup — our Facebook recording cut out mid-sermon. To access a copy of this week’s worship bulletin, click here: Worship Order 20231112
Pentecost 24 (NL2) John B. Valentine
Hosea 11:1-9 November 12, 2023
Well ... well ... well! What do we have here today?
It’s the Book of the Prophet Hosea!
I obviously don’t expect that you to know this ... but Hosea is one of my favorite books in the whole of the Bible.
Maybe if for no other reason that the fact that Hosea is memorably weird!
Hosea is a prophet and a preacher ...
That is .... he’s been tasked by God with preaching an important message to God’s people ... a message that they NEED to hear.
But rather than just getting up in the pulpit and speaking God’s truth to God people ... Hosea bends over backwards ... doing anything and everything he can ... to get the people fo God to listen.
I mean ... imagine this.
In the opening verses of Hosea ... the first thing that happens is that Hosea is called on by God to marry a prostitute
And so Hosea goes off and marries a woman named Gomer ... a hooker by trade ... a hooker who is unwilling to give up her day job just because she got married!
All to make the point that he ... Hosea ... knows something about what it means to have an unfaithful life partner ... even as God has an unfaithful life-partner in the people who claim to be the people of God!
Then again ... Hosea had three kids with Gomer ... and he names them “Jezreel” ... and “Lo-ruhamah” ... and “Lo-ammi”.
Which doesn’t seem all that bad ... unless you know Hebrew ... in which case you realize that Hosea names his kids the equivalent of “Iran” ... “Not pitied” ... and “Not my people”.
Now .. Granted ... it is not exactly a kindly ... fatherly ... loving thing to do ... to name your kids like that ... but those names ... Hosea insists ... are descriptors of what is in store for the people of God if they don’t clean up their act.
• They’re going to experience Jezreel ... being shipped off to a place of disorientation and alienation ...
• They’re going to experience Lo-ruhamah ... life without God’s pity ... and
• If they keep it up ... they’re going to become Lo-ammi ... not God’s people anymore.
And then ... when the story gets to rolling ...
The Book of Hosea presents the predicament God’s people are in as a case in court ... in which:
• God is the plaintiff ... and
• God’s children are the defendants ... and
• Hosea’s ‘sermon’ ... as it were ... is the case God builds against God’s people.
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Anyhow ... before we dive into the text ... I’m feeling like I need to take a little poll.
For ... you see ... Hosea .. Chapter 11 ... uses some very specific imagery to talk about the relationship between God and God’s people ...
And if we can’t relate to that imagery ... we’re going to have a hard time relating to what Hosea is trying to say.
There are FOUR specific life situations ... four specific FAMILY situations ... that Hosea refers to in this text.
And I need to know if you can relate to Hosea’s metaphors.
The first of those situations has to do with being a young child ... and starting to grow ... and learning to walk ... or being the parent of a young child who looks to you for everything.
Can any of you relate to being a young child ... or to being the parent of a young child?
Seriously ... let’s see a show of hands ... just to make sure you’re still with me!
Now ... on to situation number two.
Can any of you relate to being a REBELLIOUS child? You know ... not wanting to listen to your mom or dad? Spurning their advice? Thinking that you know more than they do? (Maybe I should just ask how many of you have ever been “teenagers”?)
Come on ... get your hand up if you have ever been a rebellious child ... which is probably like “everyone in the room except Bethany”!
Okay ... now on to number three. Here’s an easy one!
How many of you can relate to being the parent of a rebellious child? (Why do you laugh?)
Have any of you ever had to consume that nasty pottage of emotions that comes with being the parent of a rebellious child?
Wherein thoughts of everything from apprehension and consternation ... to frustration and aggravation ... to isolation and incarceration ... boil up inside your head?
And finally ... number four ...
Here’s one I’m not able to raise my own hand on ... how many of you would say that you know something of the experience and emotion of being the parent of a wayward child who has found his or her way back home?
Those are the four situations ... the four familial situations ... that Hosea talks about here ... and ... as we’re going to discover... those are situations that are faced ... not only by us ... but by God.
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Look at what God ... speaking through Hosea ... says:
When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.
I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.
Do you hear the language of “situation number one” anywhere in there? Of a parent’s care and guidance of a still-young-child?
Who is God there?
THE PARENT OF A YOUNG, YOUNG CHILD.
Did you hear all the ways in which God references that relationship?
In fact ... ten times in just three or four verses ... God owns up to being a loving ... caring ... giving ... nurturing ... teaching ... healing ... forgiving parent ... to we who are his children!
And I’ve got to tell you ... THAT ... no doubt ... IS GOOD NEWS.
Because while it may be true that young children don’t appreciate what their parents and their teachers and all do for them ... it is equally true that young children couldn’t get by without their parents and their teachers any more than we could get by without God.
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But then ... then ... something begins to happen ... that great mystery called ADOLESCENCE!
The hormones begin to kick in ... and you find yourself living with someone ... a teenager ... who thinks you’re a resident of some alien planet.
A number of years ago now ... my beloved picked up a copy of a book about parenting ... and although I’ll confess that I never got around to reading it ... it had the best title I’d ever seen ... hands down:
GET OUT OF MY LIFE ... BUT FIRST COULD YOU TAKE ME AND CHERYL TO THE MALL
Or consider the plight of a pastor I know back East.
• A couple of decades back ... this fellow ... when he was a single young minister ... just out of the seminary ... preached a sermon he entitled “Seven Rules for Raising Children”
• A decade later ... after he’d gotten married ... and moved to a different church ... and had children on his own ... and he revisited that same sermon again ... but this time changed the title to “Seven Suggestions for Raising Children”
• Then again ... a decade after that ... when again he’d moved to a new church and was tempted to preach the old sermon again ... he pulled it out of the file ... and looked it over ... and thought about his oldest child ... now a teenager ... he took that sermon “Seven Rules ... er ... Suggestions ... for Raising Children” ... at which point he threw it in the trash!
Parenting teenagers can be one tough task ... and based on the number of you who confessed to being rebellious teenagers at some point in your life ... and the number of you who admitted being the parent of a rebellious teen somewhere along the line ... you know that.
So look at the words of the second part of that text ... and think about parenting teenagers ... and think about God.
How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel?
What am I supposed to do? Flatten you like Sodom and Gomorrah?
My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; FOR I AM GOD AND NO MORTAL, THE HOLY ONE IN YOUR MIDST, AND I WILL NOT COME IN WRATH.
Who’s the parent?
Who’s the child?
And ... honestly ... what does the parent want to do to the child?
WRING OUR NECKS!
But ... as frustrated as God is ... God won’t give in to God’s anger ... because there’s that heart and that hope of a parent beats inside the heart of heaven ... that love that won’t let go ... that hope that refuses to surrender.
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Any of you remember Michael Phelps ... the swimmer?
Sports Illustrated ran an article a number of years ago about Mister Michael Phelps ...
Not the usual athletic / heroic stuff... but rather an article detailing his battle with depression and despair ... and the toll that it has taken on his life and his life-relationships.
It seems that ... for a number of years ... Phelps has battled depression ... and ... at the strong encouragement of friends ... he finally made a decision to enter rehab last fall ... to try and get his life back into alignment.
And so it came to pass that ... after being in rehab for a month ... he was to be allowed a ‘family weekend’ ... wherein members of his immediate family could come and visit him.
And Michael was asked to put together a list of names of family members he’d like to invite to join him.
But when it came to the name of his dad ... Michael balked. For apparently the two of them had been estranged for a number of years over Michael’s misbehavior and a number of perceived slights.
And then the article included this line:
“Father and son weren’t communicating at all when Michael put dad Fred on his invitation list for family week. And when Michael saw his father arrive and embraced him, he said to his dad, ‘I didn’t know if you would come.’
To which his father replied, ‘You’re my son. Why wouldn’t I come?’”
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You see ... maybe the point of Hosea 11 about parents and rebellious children in simply this:
Although you may turn your back on God ... God will never, never ever turn God’s back on you!
And isn’t just Good News ... that’s the BEST news of all!