The Auction Table
August 21-22, 2010
Let’s talk about romance! Who wants to talk about romance? Anybody here? Do we have any romance going on here? Remain standing just for a second; I want to ask you a question. How many of you are for Team Edward? Lift your hand. Team Edward. How about Team Jacob? And how many here don’t care? Thank you very much. Please be seated.
The Twilight series. This series of movies and books has caught the world by storm. I hate to confess this; I have to turn in my man-card. But my daughters have drug me…I mean taken me to all 3, that’s right 3 of these movies. And to be frank with you, I’ve enjoyed them. They’re really interesting, because you’ve got Edward and Jacob fighting over Bella. They are fighting for her love. They’re pursuing her. They’re wooing her. And it’s all about love.
We love love. A lot of us have fallen in love with falling in love. We’ve romanticized romance. And it’s in all the novels and movies and television shows. There’s channels dedicated to romance, to just love stories. And I think it’s great that we are a very romantic society.
Have you ever thought about some of the movies that are out there? This is just my opinion; I’ve studied movies for a while. I’ve been married for 28 years and I have three daughters. And I’ve attended my share of “chic flicks.” Chic flicks are interesting, because they are movies for women, for the most part. And if you’ll notice in the whole movie game, more and more movies have a romance in them. Because the research reveals that when it comes down to who makes the decision over what movie to see when you’re with your girl, the girl always makes the movie decision. You can go ahead and clap. You know I’m right. Yeah, in the balcony, I see you guys saying, “This guy is right! This man is preaching truth!”
In chic flicks, the guys act like women. Sensitive. Vulnerable. In touch with their emotions. They’re houses are usually decorated like you’ve never seen any houses decorated before. Many times they have a lot of money. They’re ripped; chiseled features. They cook the five star meals. They are into long walks on the beach. Cuddling by the fireplace. Again! In chic flicks, men act like women. Its fantasy; complete and total fantasy.
Now go to a guy’s movie. How do the girls act? Girls act like guys. They’re beautiful; incredible figures. They’re aggressive. They’re tough. They like sports. They’ll fight. And they’re always pursuing the guys. They’re aggressive. Fantasy! It’s not real.
I would argue that our infatuation over romance; our romance over romance; our whole issue with falling in love with falling in love, is a God thing. I would argue that God is a God of romance. I would submit to you that this book, the Holy Bible, is the greatest romance novel ever written. And over the next several sessions; or if you’re watching this by television or podcast or iTunes or whatever; over the next several sessions, or the next several shows or installements, we’re going to unpack what romance is all about. We’re going to look at the reality of romance.
But I’m here to tell you that all of this romance stuff is really good. But what if I said that the romance that we read about, that we see; that we watch is really an illustration of God? What if I told you that the reason we have a desire to see this unfold is because it’s a mirror of a greater desire to know and to respond to our romantic God? Hmm.
Well today I want to talk to you about one aspect of romance. And I want you to get this down and hold this and think about this and pray about this and consider this. I want to talk to you about the pursuit. The pursuit. Because whenever you discuss romance, you’ve got to talk about the pursuit. And that’s one of the things in all of these romantic movies and novels and things that we watch that is always present. It’s always in effect—pursuit. You’ve got the connection. There’s kind of chaos and connection between the man and the woman. Then you’ve got the pursuit. And then, the choice. At the end of the book or the show or the movies; right before the credits role, you have what? The choice. They either respond or not. And then usually we have this feeling of: “They lived happily ever after…” We’re made for a happy ending.
Again, I would say to you that God is a God of the pursuit. He is our pursuing lover. We’re connected with him; we’re made in his image. He pursues us. He’s after us. He’s wooing us, romancing us—you could say that. We have a choice. We either respond to that. Or we don’t. If we respond to it, we live happily ever after. If we don’t, well, it’s a tragedy.
To understand romance, we have to understand some of the elements of romance in the Bible. We have to understand this thing called pursuit. I want to tell you a story about someone in the Bible and this is a story that is tragic. It’s a story that’s true. But also, it’s a story that is tremendous! The ending is unbelievable. And when I talk to you about this, it’s going to shock some of you that God is even in the middle of it, because it’s pretty racy. So here it goes.
There was a man who was God’s spokesman to the nation of Israel. I mean, he was the man; God’s anointed and appointed you might say. He was single, I’m sure, handsome. I’m sure he had done pretty well. Well God tells him—and I’m talking about Hosea. Say Hosea with me. “Hosea.” Now say ho-sea. “Ho-sea.”
God told Hosea to marry a hoe. I told you this was going to mess you up.
“What? Ed, come back. Back up. You’re telling me that God, my Holy God who wrote the Holy Bible, told Hosea to marry a hoe?!”
You got it. The Bible talks about it. Hosea and Gomer. It talks about Hosea and Gomer getting together. It talks about Gomer being a ho. Gomer, we would say, a high-priced call girl. Gomer—$20,000 a night. Gomer—we might say—a porn star in today’s culture. That’s what we would say. And you know she was hot! With a name like Gomer, you’ve got to be good looking.
God tells his man, his boy Hosea to hook-up, to marry Gomer. Now notice something. This is a double drama I’m going to explain to you. I want you to be very aware of the fact that this is a romance within a romance. Because on one level you’re talking about this love between a man and a woman. One another level you’re talking about something deeper. Because Hosea represents God. Gomer represents Israel. Hosea represents the Lord Himself, Jehovah. Gomer, are you ready for this? Represents you and me.
So they get married. She gives up the movies. Gives up dancing. Gives up being a high-priced call girl. No more trips to Vegas or Palm Beach or Milan. No, no, no. No more trips. She’s hooked up with God’s man, are you ready for this? Hosea.
Well, she was already the baby-mama to a couple of kids. Hosea adopts them. After a while, they have their own. Now the names of these kids tell you and me a story.
One of the names was “Judgment.” “Hey, Judgment, how are you doing, man?”
Another one was “Not loved.” “Hey, Not Loved, come here and give Daddy a hug!”
Another one’s name was “Not Mine.” “Basket by, Not Mine!”
Then we have Hosea’s name meaning “salvation.”
So you see, just through the names, something crazy is about to happen. Already it’s kind of wild. God’s man marrying this high-priced call girl.
So everything’s going good for a while. But Gomer gets bored. She thinks, “Man, what am I doing with this guy? Going to church? Being a pastor’s wife? I’m tired of it.” So she slips out of the marriage bed and begins to do her thing. Hosea I’m sure saw some of the texts, heard the rumors with her sleeping with these A-listers, the rich and famous. It tore him apart. It devastated him. Then one day, it became a reality. Gomer bolted.
We’ve all gone Gomer. We’ve all committed spiritual adultery. We’ve all chased after other lovers, spiritually speaking. If you don’t think you have, you’re lying to yourself. We all have. Sin is sin. Rebellion is rebellion.
When we run away from God; when we cruise away from him, we end up crashing right into him.
That’s what Gomer did. She said, “I’m out of here.”
Put yourself in Hosea’s situation. Here he comes home; he’s bombarded by all these questions. He’s trying to help the kids with the homework. He finally puts them to bed, walks into his room and he can still smell the scent of her perfume. His love is gone. The girl that God called him to marry is sleeping in other beds.
Picture her cruising through Israel in a black Bentley. Picture her decked out in the latest fashion. Picture her in all of the hot spots. That’s Gomer. “Look at that girl. She’s hot! She’s got it goin’ on! Going to all the parties with all the people. Wow!”
When we cruise away from God, we crash right into him. God loves us enough to pursue us. Hosea still pursued Gomer. Are you ready for that?! When we run away from God, God still pursues us.
Illus: Several years ago, my family and I were hiking. It was in the summer. And you know when you’re hiking; sometimes briars can camouflage themselves in trees and things. Well, I was leading the way, which was scary because I’m directionally challenged. And as I was leading the way, I felt some briars. I had jeans on, and they kind of ripped my jeans and stuck me, and I was bleeding a little bit. And then I looked back and said, “Whoa. Let’s go to the left!” And then, boom! Briars. “Let’s go to the right.” Boom! There were briars. My son, his shirt was so entangled in the briars that he had to strip it off just to untangle his shirt and then put it back on. And so we backed out.
You know what this romance novel (the Bible) tells me? That when I run from God, God barricades me with briars. He warns us.
“Well, prove it.” Well, God did in the Holy Bible, in this text, in this story to you and me.
Hosea 2:6-7, “Therefore I will block her path with thorn bushes. I will wall her in so she can’t find her way. She will chase after other lovers but will not catch them. She’ll look for them but not find them.”
What does sin do? What does rebellion do? It rips us. And sometimes in our lives we begin to run from God, and we feel the scratch of sin. We begin to bleed a little bit from rebellion. And we say, “Wow. I can’t go to the left. I can’t go to the right. I’ll just back out and go God’s way.” Sometimes we do that.
Other times, we go totally Gomer. And we say, “I don’t give a flyin’ flip about the briars. I’m going to crash right through them.” And we run through the briars. And as we’re running through the briars, we get all chopped up; it rips us, and we go over the ledge.
God has barricaded you and me with briars because he loves us. And what’s so ironic is, in our “independence,” we think that we’re going to get freedom; in our “independence” away from God, doing our own thing the way Gomer wanted to do, we think we’re going to really find “IT.” Yet, in our independene away from God, we end up being dependent on our desires!
“I’m going to do what I want to do sexually.”
And then you go from bed to bed, and the thrills and the chills of it. But after a while, your desires rule you!
“I’m going to do what I want to do financially. I’m going to do what I want to do relationally.”
And after a while, that pride, that ego, that lust rules your world. It rules my world. We become, as Jesus said in John 8, a slave to sin. A slave to sin.
Illus: I talked to a friend of mine just a few weeks ago. And he told me, “Ed, I’ve been high every day of my life from the time I was 14 until I was 32.”
“Every single day?!” I said.
He said, “Every single day. Smoking weed ruled my world. Looking back, I’m asking, ‘How much time did I waste? How many things did I miss? How many opportunities?’”
Again, in his independence he thought he was the man. He ended up being dependent on the substance and it ruled his life.
That’s what happened to Gomer. You cruise away from God; you’ll crash right into him. Sin does what? Sin rips. Sin is unusual. Because sin takes you farther than you want to go, keeps you longer than you want to stay and it will cost you more than you want to pay. Some of the time? No. Ultimately, all of the time.
Yes sin rips us. But check it out. Sin strips. Remember my son E.J.? He had to strip?
You know what Gomer did? Yeah, she was all that when she was stripping in the gentlemen’s clubs. God, though, stripped away everything in her life. It’s interesting. She would strip for other men; God ended up stripping her of all of her stuff.
God loves you and me enough that when we run away from him, he ruthlessly removes resources. He removes them. And if you keep reading in the book of Hosea 2:2-3, “Let her remove the adulterous look from her face and the unfaithfulness from between her breasts. Otherwise I will strip her naked and make her as bare as on the day she was born.”
Check out Hosea 2:9-13, “Therefore I will take away my grain when it ripens, and my new wine when it is ready. I will take back my wool and my linen, intended to cover her nakedness. So now I will expose her lewdness before the eyes of her lovers….”
It goes on and on and on. God, being a God of love does not want us to waste our worship. He doesn’t want us to waste our time, our energy. He’s a pursuing lover, just like Hosea was. He barricades us with briars. He ruthlessly removes our resources. What does sin do? It rips and strips.
Let’s press the fast forward. Let’s maybe press the fast forward, I don’t know, five or ten years in Gomer’s life. She begins to get some miles on her, you know what I’m saying? Her belly had all the stretch marks from having the kids. And the wrinkles. And her hair is turning all grey. And she just didn’t have the look anymore. She had to downsize from a Bentley to a Bonneville; from Bonneville (no disrespect to a Bonneville) to a bomb. And now, all of a sudden, she doesn’t have a car to drive. No Masseratti chariots. Nothing. No man will even touch her anymore. She’s ugly. She doesn’t look that good anymore. Beauty is fleeting. It really is. Just ask Gomer.
So what is she going to do now? You know what she does? You know what this girl does? She says, “I’m just going to sell myself as a slave.”
Right before she does that though, something totally loving happens. Love is not just a noun; love is a verb. Love always pursues.
God says, “Hosea, I want you to bless Gomer.”
Hosea probably says, “What? I’m not going to bless her. I mean, she’s been messing around. Now, there might be one or two guys who will mess with her, but that’s about it.’
“Bless her,” God says.
So, Hosea knew the street corners. He knew the red light district. He knew where she hung out. And he looked and saw this crack house on the corner and said, “Oh, there she is.”
Can’t you feel the conflict? I mean, on one side he loves his wife. On the other, he just hates what she’s doing and hates her lovers, especially these few guys that are still just barely messing with her.
So he calls one of them over. “Hey, man, come here.” And Hosea begrudgingly gives this guy some money and some stuff and food and says, “Give this to my wife.”
The guy says, “You mean that old whore that no one will touch?”
Yeah. That’s my wife Gomer.”
So this guy walks over and gives this stuff to Gomer. And this dude takes the credit for it!
How many times have we been blessed, have we had opportunities, and we thank everybody and everything else except God? We forget the source; we forget that God, like Hosea, is watching us. And God is the one who gave us the creativity, the athletic ability, the mind, the heart, the drive to do what we’re doing right now. And we’re thanking everybody and everything else, but God!
Well, finally, again, it’s just not working for this girl. Gomer’s washed up, used up. She’s got a bunch of miles on her. Read about the ancient auctions. They would strip you naked. Sin rips and sin strips. Here this woman, this old woman now, who’d been mauled and abused and used by all these men, standing there, naked. The auctioneer is trying to auction her off. Not for sex anymore. Just as a slave. So people are bidding.
But Hosea left home and said, “Guys,” talking to his kids, “I’m going to buy your momma back.” Hosea shows up at the auction. People are bidding. And the bid is up to 12 pieces of silver. That was it! I mean, an average slave would go for 30 pieces of silver. Jesus was betrayed for 30 pieces of sliver. You mean Gomer could only get that?
The gavel was about to fall. And then Hosea said, “15 pieces of silver!” And the auctioneer says, “Sold!”
Hosea comes down and they lock eyes. What was going on when they were locking eyes? I’ll tell you what was going on. Forgiveness. Pursuit. Love. Grace. Mercy. That’s what was going on.
When you’ve committed spiritual adultery; when I’ve committed spiritual adultery, we’re standing on the auction block. Pride, ego and all the resources have ripped us and stripped us; you think the hammer is getting ready to fall. You think God is going to throw down some fire and brimstone! God grips us with grace, with his unconditional love. He’s a pursuing lover. He’s sought us and bought us.
Here’s something about sin. Sin ultimately leads to some bad stuff. It starts out great. Gomer—whew!—black Bentley, all of the rich and famous; going from place to place, making all the money, the jewelry, the watches, the bling. It starts off good. That’s why sin is fun. I’m not lying to you; it’s fun. Don’t think it’s not fun. It’s fun. That’s why we want to do it. But it gets funky. It’ll fail you every time.
Let’s skip over to Hosea 2:14-15. Now this blew me away. It says, “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.”
“What? Valley of Achor? I’ve read that before. What does that mean? I’m thinking, ‘Okay, Valley of Achor.’”
Well, it’s very important to understand this, those here who read Scripture and who are Bible students. The first time something is mentioned in Scripture, it’s key. Because the other times it’s mentioned always refer back to the first time it’s mentioned.
The Valley of Achor. Say “Achor” with me. “Achor.” Achor means “trouble.” That’s what it means.
Joshua 7. The Israelites had just won one battle. They were fighting the little hick town of Ai. No problem. Little Ai, they can’t bring anything. Well, Ai humiliates the Israelites. Their commander, Joshua, is wondering, “What happened?! We can’t let these little guys, these punks beat us up!”
He discovers somebody, an Israelite, has stolen some stuff. The stuff was supposed to be God’s stuff. But someone has stolen it and hidden it in a tent. They found out it was a dude name Achan. The word Achan means “troubler.” They took Achan out to this area and they stoned him, killed him, and buried him under a pile of rocks. They named the place the Valley of Achor. The word Achor – trouble. The Valley of Trouble.
Now, fast forward. Turn the pages to the book of Hosea. What does sin do? Sin always ushers in trouble. Trouble. It has a tremendous temptation; a tremendous allurement. Yet, it ends up trouble.
So here we have our girl Gomer in trouble on the auction block. And God is saying, “I am going to open a door of hope in the land of trouble.”
That’s what God is doing right now in your life. You’re in trouble right now. You’re in trouble. You know it down deep; you’re in trouble. But this romance novel tells you and me that right now, God is opening a door for you in the Valley of Achor, in the Valley of trouble.
God is a gentleman. He doesn’t kick the door in. He doesn’t force himself on you. He opens the door. He is the pursuing lover. He invites you in.
Have you walked through the door? Hey, Gomers, have you walked through the door? Hey, those here who have committed spiritual adultery; those who have chased after other lovers, have you walked through the door?
Well then we go to Hosea 3:1. And as you read this text, it says, “The LORD said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again…” God is the God of the mulligan; the God of a second chance; the God of grace. He’s the God who romances you and me. The God who has sought us and bought us. The God who is wooing us and romancing us.
“…though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites…” Remember, Hosea is representing God; Gomer the Israelites. Hosea is the Lord; Gomer is you and me. The characters in Scripture are God and you and me.
“…though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.’”
Another weird phrase. Raisin cakes?! Valley of Achor? Raisin cakes?
Do some research on Baal worship. The Israelites were chasing after other gods, lower case “g”. And raisin cakes were connected to Baal worship. Raisin cakes don’t satisfy. Raisin cakes are full of empty calories. Raisin cakes don’t really give you the sustenance needed to live.
Anybody here going after raisin cakes? Anybody at one of our campuses going after raisin cakes? Anybody who is watching this by television going after raisin cakes? Are you going after raisin cakes?
“Oh, raisin cakes! That’s fun. I’ll do that for a while! Raisin cakes. Oh, I’m still empty. I’ll get high every day. I’ll just try it maybe for a month. Raisin cakes. I’ll slip out of the marital bed and pursue this and that. Raisin cakes. I’ll try this and that. Raisin cakes.”
It never satisfies! It always leaves you and me wanting more and more and more and more.
Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.” Don’t be eating raisin cakes. Feed on the bread of life!
Gomer was a raisin cake girl. Gomer—standing on the auction block. What a romantic story. Hosea pursues her, brings her back into the family. And it’s really just a tremendous story of love.
You know what? We’re on the auction block. Have you ever thought of that? You’re on the auction block and so am I. And the world is bidding for us. Power and possessions and pleasure and this buzz and that high. Bidding for us. “Hey, raisin cakes, yeah! Here’s some more! Yeah!”
But right before the gavel falls, a nail-pierced hand is raised in the back. And the auctioneer looks, and it’s the hand of Jesus. And Jesus says, “I bid my blood, precious blood for that one.” And he locks eyes with you and he locks eyes with me. And then the gavel falls. Sold! Paid in full. And Jesus makes his way through the crowd and clamor. He clothes us in his righteousness. He covers our nakedness. He knows about sin and how it rips and strips, but he grips us with his grace. He adopts us into his family. He hooks us in to the body of Christ.
That, my friends, is romance. That is pursuit. You want romance? I do. It starts with God. And then it segues into our dating relationships, students and singles; into our marriages; into everything we’re about. I thank God for his amazing grace that grips us with unconditional, one-of-a-kind love. Aren’t you? That’s some great news, isn’t it? That’s some awesome news. Because we can all identify with Gomer.