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     Sermons | Passionate worship

    This sermon was preached by the Rev. Keith Cardwell at Swift Presbyterian Church.

    Dec. 8, 2019 | Second Sunday of Advent

    All in the Family
    Hosea 11

     G OD IS THE LOVING HUSBAND. Israel the wayward wife. God loving. Israel rejecting God’s love. We looked at that symbolism last Sunday. That’s just one of a variety of metaphors for God and human beings in Hosea.

    God’s people are compared to a cow (4:16; 10:11), dew (6:4; 13:3), an oven or a cake (7:4–8), a dove (7:11), and an assortment of plants or fruit. (9:13, 16; 10:1; 14:5–7) God is likened to maggots (5:12), a lion and other wild animals (5:14; 13:7–8), and dew (14:5).

     † † † 

    TODAY’S READING DESCRIBES the divine-human relationship in another metaphor. God is the parent and Israel is the beloved child. The opening verse of chapter 11:

    “When Israel was a child, I loved him.”

    God speaks of teaching Ephraim (another name for Israel) to walk.

    “I treated them like those who lift infants to their cheeks; I bent down to them and fed them.”

    Expressions of love, expressions parents and children can identify with.

     † † † 

    YET ISRAEL’S RESPONSE is rebellion. Rather than acknowledging God, they worship other deities, like the foreign god Baal. When a child spurns the parent’s love and affection and necessities time and again, frustration can build.

    God reached out with love and compassion, and Israel chose to go astray, spurning God’s compassion. A similar metaphor is found in the parable we call the “prodigal son.”

    Parents who struggle with raising a child who tests the limits may understand this passage better than those whose child rarely pushes boundaries. Most of us have been and have dealt with children who are less perfect.

     † † † 

    YOU WATCH HELPLESSLY as your children make poor choices that will ultimately harm them. There is often a difficult choice between unconditional but perhaps enabling acceptance, or tough love and ultimatums that might push the child to seek help.

    There is a wrestling as to what to do. Do I cast the child off or keep the child close? Some of you have been there.

     † † † 

    GOD THREATENS abandonment and violent punishment to Israel. That’s the deep pain of a rejected parent. Since the people of God are determined to turn away from God, God isn’t going to lift them up in their time of trial.

    “You made your bed, now lie in it.”

    That will teach them! It’s an upsetting word, but it’s understandable.

    There is a tension between divine anger and divine compassion. Parents understand this.

     † † † 

    GOD ADMITS FEELING TURMOIL at the thought of disowning God’s children. This is not easy decision.

    God is not aloof, distant, detached. God’s relationship with us involves emotional risk. (And Thank God.) We all know, the choice to love is the choice to open yourself to pain. It is no different with God.

    The threat of judgment is repeated throughout Hosea, yet God’s compassion has the final word (Hosea 14:1–8). God cries out:

    “My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.”

     † † † 

    YES, THE NATION is destroyed. Yes, their lives are hard. Yes, there is pain. Yes, there is suffering. Yes, there are consequences of their actions. But ultimately, compassion wins. Mercy triumphs over justice.

    Thanks be to God.

    — Keith Cardwell   

    «God is not aloof, distant, detached. God’s relationship with us involves emotional risk. (And Thank God.) We all know, the choice to love is the choice to open yourself to pain. It is no different with God.»


    ►This is the Word of God for the people of God:

    Hosea 11
    Holy Bible, New International Version

    God’s Love for Israel
    11 “When Israel was a child, I loved him,
        and out of Egypt I called my son.

    2 But the more they were called,
        the more they went away from me.
    They sacrificed to the Baals
        and they burned incense to images.

    3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
        taking them by the arms;
    but they did not realize
        it was I who healed them.

    4 I led them with cords of human kindness,
        with ties of love.
    To them I was like one who lifts
        a little child to the cheek,
        and I bent down to feed them.

    5 “Will they not return to Egypt
        and will not Assyria rule over them
        because they refuse to repent?

    6 A sword will flash in their cities;
        it will devour their false prophets
        and put an end to their plans.

    7 My people are determined to turn from me.
        Even though they call me God Most High,
        I will by no means exalt them.

    8 “How can I give you up, Ephraim?
        How can I hand you over, Israel?
    How can I treat you like Admah?
        How can I make you like Zeboyim?
    My heart is changed within me;
        all my compassion is aroused.

    9 I will not carry out my fierce anger,
        nor will I devastate Ephraim again.
    For I am God, and not a man—
        the Holy One among you.
        I will not come against their cities.

    10 They will follow the LORD;
        he will roar like a lion.
    When he roars,
        his children will come trembling from the west.

    11 They will come from Egypt,
        trembling like sparrows,
        from Assyria, fluttering like doves.
    I will settle them in their homes,”
        declares the L

    Israel’s Sin
    12 Ephraim has surrounded me with lies,
        Israel with deceit.
    And Judah is unruly against God,
        even against the faithful Holy One.

    — This is the Word of the Lord.
    — Thanks be to God.


    a.  Hosea 11:2  Septuagint; Hebrew them
    b.  Hosea 11:12  In Hebrew texts this verse (11:12) is numbered 12:1.

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