Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | April 3, 2011

Sermon on Hosea 5:15-6:3

God Can Not Be Mocked

Lessons:  Hosea 5:15-6:3, Romans 8:1-10, Matthew 20:17-28

Hymns (from Christian Worship): 113, 104, 390, 126, 401

Downloadable version

In the Name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt.  And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.”  “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.  After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.  Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Something incredible happens at the beginning of the liturgy.  Holy and merciful Father, I confess that I am by nature sinful…. What is this except doing what God asks in Hosea today?  I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt (Hosea 5:15). I have done what is evil and failed to do what is good.  For this I deserve your punishment both now and in eternity. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me (5:15). Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Why do you do this?  What does it mean?  What impact does it have upon you?  Are these words that divide the Lutheran service from the community church service?  “Why are you such gloomy gusses?”  Are they some sort of imprimatur that sanctifies the rest of the service?  “Ok, we’ve confessed, now we’re free to relax and have some fun.”  Or, are they just words you’ve learned, words you’ve memorized, words your lips speak without much thought? “Can’t we just get to the sermon and get this over with?”

And what about the words that follow, announced by the pastor by the authority of Christ:  God, our heavenly Father, has been merciful to us and has given His only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Therefore, as a called servant of Christ, I forgive you all your sins. Isn’t this what Israel said in Hosea?  Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.  After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth (6:1-3).

Why does the pastor say this?  What does it mean?  What impact does it have upon you?  Are these words just what naturally follows “I’m sorry”?  “It’s okay.”  Are these words your lucky rabbit’s foot?  “I’m good to go for another week.”  Or, are they just words you’ve learned, words you’ve memorized, words your ears hear without much thought?  “Good, great, what’s next?”

Or are these words perhaps the most important in the liturgy? Here is the moment of truth – will God tear me up or heal me?  Will God injure me or bind up my wounds?  You need to know, because there’s a huge difference, isn’t there?  You hear Israel’s conclusion:  “God has left us; He has abandoned us!  Let’s go back to Him.  He’ll take care of us, as sure as the spring rains come!”  Sounds good.  And it’s true.  Time and time again throughout the Old Testament the LORD said, “If you fall away from me, if I punish you for your sins, and you return to me, I will return to you.”  If that’s the case, then why did the LORD respond by saying, What can I do with you, Ephraim?  What can I do with you, Judah?  Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears.  Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth; my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.  For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings (Hosea 6:4-6).

It is because the LORD knew Israel’s heart.  Later He says, They do not cry out to me from their hearts, but wail upon their beds (7:14). The Israelites were really good at tearing their clothes and putting ashes upon their heads.  They were experts at saying, “I’m soooooo  soooooorrrryyy!”  They knew how to cry.  But something was missing?  Their hearts.  During the time of the judges, the Holy Spirit said that after deliverance, Israel returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers….  They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways (Judges 2:18-19). Jeremiah reported the Lord’s words to Judah:  Why should I forgive you?  Your children have forsaken me and sworn by gods that are not gods.  I supplied all their needs yet they committed adultery and thronged to the house of prostitutes (5:7). And Asaph wrote about the Israelites grumbling in the desert:  Then they would flatter him with their mouths, lying to him with their tongues (Psalm 78:36). What does this mean?  Pay attention to the LORD’s words through Hosea:  I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. Combine that with what Nehemiah said to newly returned exiles later:  Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands…’ (Nehemiah 1:8-9a).

Israel wanted absolution without confession.  They made the Lord a forgiveness PEZ dispenser: push the button, get the candy.  They didn’t admit guilt.  They didn’t confess their hatred of God that led to God’s hatred of them.  They didn’t want to change their behavior and actually obey.  Israel and Judah’s history proves it.  Read 2 Kings.  King after king did evil in the sight of the LORD (and the people too).  Even good kings didn’t remove high places where false worship took place.  “We’re sorry,” but not sorry enough to change behavior.  They sinned boldly, knowing that God desires to forgive.  So they give Him lots to forgive.

As Paul says, Do not be deceived:  God cannot be mocked (Galatians 6:7). Until you admit your guilt, until you turn to the Lord, the tearing and wounding won’t end.  There is no absolution without confession.  There is no absolution until you understand that God hates you and your sins because you hated God first by committing those sins.  God is not pleased by mechanical repetition of magical formulas.  It’s not good enough to say the words.  God doesn’t desire many sacrifices.  Do not mock God on Sunday by piling on more guilt during the week, as if you’ve been freed to do that by being absolved on Sunday and receiving the Sacrament.  Your Baptism hasn’t freed you to sin all the more.  It frees you to return to the LORD and obey His commands.  Until that is your life, God says, I will go back to my place (Hosea 5:15). God abandons the sinner to his sins.  He is that thief who beat, robbed, and left a man for dead on the way to Jericho.

Dead.  That’s what you are.  Dead in sins.  Chief and first of sinners.  Beaten.  Robbed.  Empty.  Like Paul.  Like David.  And like David, perhaps, you cry out, How long, O LORD?  Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me (Psalm 13:1)? No more.  Admit your guilt.  Seek His face.  Earnestly seek Him.  You’ve been told.  You have seen.  And now hear, know:  God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them (2 Cor. 5:19). God wants nothing more than for the terror-stricken sinner to cry out, to beg, to plead, Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner! This is the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word, convicting, condemning, judging.  So that God, in Christ, can acquit.  So that God can do what Israel said He’d do:  He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.  After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence (Hosea 6:1-2). Come, return to this LORD!  Acknowledge this LORD!  As surely as the sun rises, He appears and says, The Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law.  They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified.  On the third day he will be raised to life (Matthew 20:18-19). He comes and drinks the cup we were meant to drink, the greatest becomes the least, for the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).

God is the thief, tearing, wounding, injuring.  But He is also the Samaritan, healing and binding the wounds.  He kills.  But He revives.  He gives us life in His presence, by showing us the sins that are our downfall, but also the forgiveness that is our salvation.  Christ took those sins into His grave and announced, as He did through Hosea, 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 (Hosea 13:14)? The plague of death is my sin, my guilt.  That’s the law at work in your body, waging war against the law of your mind, making you a prisoner of the law of sin.  What wretched men you are!  Who will rescue you from this body of death?  Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 7:25)! It is then, and only then, that the words of Paul are moved from the category of cheap grace, crocodile tears, and empty I’m sorry’s into the healing, binding words of the Gospel:  There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2). That’s the glory of Hosea’s untilThen I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. …trusting in my Savior Jesus Christ, I say:  Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. In the words of Christ, I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God (Luke 18:14). Because, on the third day, He restored Christ to life:  Whoever believes in Him will live, even though He dies (John 11:25), because the LORD will revive us…he will restore us, that we may live in His presence (Hosea 6:2). Not just words.  Not just routine.  But death and life.  Death to my old Adam through Christ.  Life, new life, won for me by Christ!  Amen.

 

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