LOVE STORIES SERMON SERIES
MARCH 1, 1998
His head was spinning. His heart felt like it was going to beat out of his chest as his eyes welled up with tears, tears of anger and anguish. A sick feeling permeated his entire being as he looked at the expressions on the faces of his children and heard their muffled sobs. His worst nightmare had become a reality. His wife, the love of his life, had bolted. She had left. Yes, he had heard rumors that she’d been seen with other men, but he thought it was just talk.
That evening he tried to prepare dinner the best he could, alone. He assisted the children with their homework and tried to answer their poignant question. “When is Mommy coming back?” It was hard. It was the most difficult thing that he had ever done in his life.
That night he got ready for bed and he noted the empty closet. He could still smell the faint scent of her perfume. Then he said to God, “God, why me? Why do I have to go through this?” And so begins a love story of epic proportions, a love story like none other, the account of Hosea and Gomer.
Hosea was a prophet of God. It was his task, every day, to be a spokesman for the Lord to the nation of Israel. Gomer, his wife, was the most beautiful lady in the land. With a name like Gomer you have got to be good looking. And speaking of Gomer, I have fond memories of lying back on the shag carpet in the family room when I was a kid watching rerun after rerun of Gomer Pyle, USMC. Do you remember Gomer Pyle? What a great show. Gomer changed when he fell in love with a tone-deaf, wannabe night club singer named, Louanne Pouvey. You remember Louanne, don’t you? Gomer when he saw her was smitten. With his limited vocabulary, the only thing that Gomer could say when he talked about his love for Louanne was Shazam. I am not sure what Shazam means but when I think about the love between Hosea and Gomer, I have to think about the word Shazam. It is otherworldly, one of a kind.
As we talk about this story from the Old Testament, I want you to realize what is going on. In fact, we need to pull back the curtains really far because there is a double drama taking place in this scenario. The first drama is being played out with Hosea and Gomer. It is their love story which is real and tragic. The second drama represents God’s love and God’s concern for His people. It represents God’s feelings for you and me. So, as we go through this, remember that it is both the love story between a man and a woman as well as what their love and their feelings represent, God’s love for His people.
The premise of this account is something that hits us in an important area as we stand at the brink of the 21st century. Here is the premise. Running from God will always run you right into Him. That is what happened with Gomer. Gomer ran from Hosea, she ran from God. Can’t you kind of picture her, this high-priced call girl, tooling around Samaria in a black Benz, waving to everybody? She would be thinking to herself that she had the world by the tail. That’s what was going on in Gomer’s life. She was running from God. But when you run from God, you end up running right into God.
Gomer is so contemporary. We have all run from God. Every person hearing my voice has experienced running from God at some time in their life. And when you run from God, you think that you can outdistance Him. You think that you can shake Him. You run for awhile and look to the left and He is not there. You look to the right and He is not there. You look up and He is not there. You look down and He is not there. You say, “I’ve done it. I have gotten away from God.” But then you feel that gentle touch on your arm and it is God saying, “Where are you running to my child?” Then we break free and run again. We run from God.
It reminds me of what happened ten years ago. I began a ministry for NBA players in our church gymnasium. I had played some college ball with a few of the players who were on the Rockets team. Oftentimes, we would have fifteen to twenty NBA all-stars playing on the court and then participating in a Bible study I led. Now and then they would invite me to play with them. I ran the gym, so they had to. One day I found myself in a curious situation. I was playing one on one with Clyde Drexler. Clyde is old now, but then he was incredible. He still is in the NBA, but back then he was something to behold. I had the ball. I will never forget what happened. I faked left and dribbled right and went up. And Clyde went way up. I am talking about, he kept going up and up and up. I had just become ordained in the ministry and this was an ordination type shot. I switched the ball to my left hand and threw it up, Clyde missed it, the ball kissed off the glass through the net. String music. Some of Clyde’s teammates were watching and they began to trash talk him. “Clyde, you are letting this little preacher boy use you up!” Just for a nanosecond I had delusions of leaving the ministry and going into the NBA. Quickly, though, I was brought back to reality because it was my ball again and Clyde began to guard me. He began to play defense on me. I tried my best moves to shake him. I tried the rocker step. I tried the head fake. I tried the spin move, the crossover. I couldn’t get away from him. I couldn’t even get a shot off. It was pathetic. That’s the way it is with God. We try our best moves against Him. We try the rocker step. We try the head fake. We try the spin move, the crossover dribble. We can’t shake Him. He is right there. He is omnipresent. And He pursues us with this irrational, otherworldly kind of love. Even though we run from Him, even though we try to outdistance ourselves from Him, God is a God who loves us to such a degree, at such a deep level, that He is always there. And that was the case with Gomer. Even though she was into prostitution, even though she moved from one man to another, even though she was an expensive call girl, God still pursued her. Hosea still pursued her.
What happens though in our lives when we don’t respond to God’s pursuing love? What happens when we don’t respond to God’s gentle touch? What does God do? Does God throw up His hands and say, “That’s it. I won’t chase any more. I won’t do anything else.” No. God does something. In fact, God does three things when we run from Him and do not respond to His first level of pursuit. I want to spend the lion’s share of this message talking about the three things God does which reveal His deep concern and passion for you and for me. These are played out in the life of Gomer and her live-sick husband, Hosea.
First, God barricades us with briars. Hosea 2:6. “Therefore…” Any time you have God saying therefore, always ask yourself what it is there for, because when God says therefore, it is something that you had better underline and highlight and circle. “Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns and I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths.” God loves you and me enough to make it painful. He loves you and me enough to build a hedge of thorns, to barricade us with briars. He loves us enough to make it difficult, to let us get scratched up a bit. He allows us to go through difficult circumstances so that we will turn back to Him.
The text continues. “She will pursue her lovers but she will not overtake them. She will seek them but will not find them.” Have you ever felt like God has barricaded you in with briars? It happened with Gomer. At first she was tooling around Samaria in the black Benz. Then she begins to scale down a bit as she gets some miles on her, maybe from a Benz to a Bonneville or something. She feels those briars.
My wife and I have a large dog. His name is Apollo. He is an eleven-month-old, massive bullmastiff. He is pushing about 130 pounds. We have tried various ways and methodologies to keep this dog contained. For the most part he is, but when he gets excited he will pretty much go through anything. We tried a normal fence and he went through that. We tried barbed wire. He went through that. Recently, though, we have gotten creative. We purchased a little invisible doggie fence. You bury it and put a collar on the dog which has shock things on it. It is not meant to be cruel. When a dog gets near the electrical current, the collar warns him with a repeated beep and he will then back off. But the other day, big Apollo saw another dog and even though the collar beeped, he just bolted through the electrical charge and kept on going.
That is what we do, don’t we? God has us fenced in and our little collar-type deal begins to warn us not to do something. But like Gomer we bolt right through it and keep going. We don’t pay attention to those barricades. And it causes a lot of turmoil and difficulty. And to show you how relevant these stories are, last night after the Saturday night service when we arrived home, our daughter came to us and said that Apollo had been cut. And sure enough, Apollo had a leg wound which was pretty deep. We got him in the truck and spent the better part of last night at a 24-hour emergency animal clinic, where they repaired the gaping wound. So, be sure to watch out for those fences.
Turn to God when you begin to feel like you are limited, when you hear that warning sign. Turn to God then, don’t wait until you bolt through the electrical charge. Gomer didn’t slow down. She kept going. She began to have some problems. God was still chasing her and loving her. Yet she began to experience some difficulty. And Hosea began to talk to God about the situation.
God probably said, “Hosea, do you know where Gomer is?” And Hosea probably answered, “Yes, Lord, I know where she is and who she is living with.” God told Hosea to go to her and give her some money and some supplies. I also hear God saying that that is what He would do for His children. So Hosea tracked down Gomer’s lover, gave her lover the money and supplies and said, “Please give this to my wife.” Can’t you imagine her lover as Hosea walked off saying to himself, “What a jerk.” And can’t you see Hosea standing in the distance watching the lover pretend that the money and gifts came from him. Can’t you picture Hosea shaking his head in disbelief saying, “Oh, she doesn’t understand the source of her blessings. She doesn’t get who provided this stuff for her. I wish she knew. I wish she understood the source.” Can’t you feel the pain?
How often in all of our lives do we give everybody and everything else credit except God Himself. We credit networking. We credit our ability and our creativity and our education and who we are. Yet, here we have God standing at a distance like Hosea just shaking His head saying, “They don’t get the source. They don’t understand who it was who gave them the blessing, who elevated them to this level, who provided the corner office. They don’t get it.” I ask you are hard question, one I ask myself. Who gets the credit when you are blessed? Who gets the credit? You might say that it’s God, but does He really get the worship, your time and your resources? Does He? God said that Gomer did not know that it was Him who gave her the grain, the new wine, the oil and lavished her with silver and gold. God barricaded Gomer with briars.
But God did something else because Gomer didn’t pay any attention to the briars. God does a second thing when we do not respond to the briar patch. He begins to systematically remove our resources. Gomer scaled down from the Benz to the Bonneville and we are going to discover that soon, she doesn’t have a thing. Hosea 2:9. “Therefore, I will take back my grain at harvest time and my new wine in its season. I will also take away my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness.” Think about it. God barricads us with briars and systematically removes our resources. My mind rushes to that quintessential running man, Jonah. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell the Ninevites about Him. Jonah refused to do it and began to run from God. He thought that he could outdistance and outmaneuver God. He thought that he could give God a head fake, a spin move, a crossover dribble. He went to Joppa and boarded a cruise ship for a Mediterranean vacation. You know what God did? He began to barricade old Jonah with some briars. He caused a storm to hit the sea. And the Bible says that even the crew began to freak out. And you know when old salts get scared, you are in trouble. Jonah told them the reason the storm was caused by God was because he was running from Him. Well they just chunked Jonah overboard.
The Bible says that God caused a great fish to swallow Jonah and that he spend three days in the fish’s belly. Some of you are saying there is no way that could happen, that the story is just a fairy tale. However, I have a documented report of an event that occurred 100 years ago. A man was thrown off a whaling ship and found alive in the belly of a whale several days later. When Jonah was in the belly with the fish slime and digestive juices eating away at his skin, he could feel God systematically removing resources. He began to get right with God. He decided to stop running from God and do what was asked of him. That is what God does. He loves us so much that he builds barricades with briars and systematically removes our resources in certain ways and in certain situations.
Remember the prodigal son? Jesus talked about him. The prodigal son told his dad that he wanted his inheritance at once. The father tried to build barricades of briars around him, yet he bolted. After some time, this Jewish boy found himself in a foreign country fighting pigs for their slop. God had systematically removed his resources. The prodigal came to his senses. Jonah, in the belly of the fish, came to his senses. But Gomer still hasn’t come to her senses. She is still running, still cruising.
I want to tell you something that you need to remember. Any time you seek freedom, and seeking your freedom causes you to break the principles and precepts of God, it will lead to slavery. Sometimes? No. Most of the time? No. All of the time. In our post modern mentality when we say that we must do what is best for ourselves, even if it means turning our backs on what God wants, it will always lead to slavery, slavery to your own desires, your own passions. Many people run around these days believing that they are free. Do you want freedom? Ask Chris Farley about freedom. Ask John Belushi about freedom. Ask Lenny Bias about freedom. Ask Herb Olbane about freedom. This is tough stuff. God loves us enough to barricade us with briars. He loves us enough to systematically remove our resources. And sadly, Gomer is so messed up, has so many miles on her that she can’t even get a man any more. She is in debt. Just to survive, do you know what she did? Gomer planned to sell herself into slavery. Are you ready for this? Here is Gomer, married to the spokesman of God, Hosea, and she is considering auctioning herself off to be sold into slavery.
I mentioned there were three things that God does when we run from Him. We talked about the briars and the removal of resources. Reading this story one might anticipate hell, fire, brimstone, lightning and annihilation and devastation. We think that God will rain that down from heaven. Bad as it is, this does not happen. Gomer decided to be sold into slavery.
I can hear God asking Hosea, “Hosea, do you realize what is happening to your wife? Do you realize that she is going to be on the auction block today? You know what I would do? I would buy her back. I would reinstate her.” Hosea had that kind of love. Can’t you just see Hosea walking out of his home, looking at his children and telling them that he was going to buy their mommy back. Can’t you see the auctioneer with Gomer standing to his left, stripped naked as was the custom. Can’t you just hear the auctioneer begin the bidding and then Hosea bidding 14 pieces of silver for his wife? When the auctioneer hears that, his gavel falls and he says “Sold”. Gomer didn’t know who bid for her from the crowd. The Bible says that he brought Gomer her clothes, covered her nakedness. Can’t you see Gomer looking at him and saying, “Hosea, its you?” At this point Hosea could have killed her. He could have tortured her. He could have abused her. He could have sold her to someone else. He owned her. She was his property. But he didn’t. He reinstated her. He brought her back into the family. You see, Gomer was Hosea’s wife. He had an other-worldly, supernatural, irrational love going on.
That relates to where we are, doesn’t it? That auction block thing is what happens in your life and mine. In a real sense, we are standing on the auction block right now. The auctioneer is saying, “Let’s start the bidding.” And people are bidding for us. The world is bidding for us. Power. Pleasure. Sensuality. Money. Sex. The world is bidding. This bidding is going on in a heated way. But in the back of the crowd, a nail-pierced hand is raised. It is the hand of Jesus. Jesus stands and with words of authority and humility and supernatural power, He says that He has spilled His blood for us, that He has taken care of all of our iniquities on the cross. And when the auctioneer hears that, his gavel falls and he says that no one can pay a higher price than that. Then Jesus walks through the crowd, through all the clamor and all the noise and covers our nakedness with His righteousness. He forgives us. He could sentence us to eternal damnation but, instead, He adopts us into His family. He reinstates us and gives us a home in heaven and a purpose for life like none other. That is the kind of love Jesus has for you and for me even when we run from Him. He barricades with briars. He systematically removes resources. And then, He grips us with His grace, with His unmerited favor. Every time we sin, we commit spiritual adultery before God, Himself. If it is as small as a white lie or as big as robbing a bank, sinning is committing a horrible, heinous act. Sin is sin in the eyes of God. But He loves us so much, He has bought us and wants the best for us. There is only one word that I could come up with in my limited vocabulary to describe it. Shazam. Shazam.