Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Great Sermon Experiment, nearing the end

We're two weeks from the end. August 12th will be the last in the Great Sermon Experiment series. Thanks to those of you who have been faithfully responding over the summer months.

Texts for August 5, 2007
Tenth Sunday After Pentecost

Psalm 85
Hosea 11:1-11

Any Lit professor would be glad to receive these passages for a creative writing assignment. Both are beautiful poetry, dripping with words of love, nature, kissing, parental affection. And yet both carry darker images of rebellion, anger, and wrath. What we essentially have is an Old Testament picture of grace - in spite of Israel's rebellion, God still loves them and will restore them.

What image jumps out at you? There are a lot here - lover, friend, parent, judge. Which speaks to you?

Hosea shows us God's thought process at work ("I'm going to punish you. . .no wait! I can't! I love you too much!") What do we learn about God as he carries on this conversation with himself?

Vs. 9 of the Hosea passage almost seems backward. "Because I am God, not man, I won't carry out my anger against you." Wouldn't we usually expect it the other way? That humans are prone to let each other off the hook, but God has to judge our sin? What is God saying here about himself, as opposed to humans?


Shad Gates said...

I liked your point, drawing out the wording “because I am God and not man…” Amen! The God of perfect justice also hates to carry it out. He truly loves us, even in our sin.
At the same time, I deeply believe that God is willing to take us to the lowest low to teach us and grow us and draw us back even closer to himself. While he agonizes over our suffering he also, in his wisdom, realizes that there is something even better to be obtained from the hard things.
The person I hear speaking through the Hosea text is definitely a loving father.
I’m reminded of the first 12 verses of Hebrews chapter 12 where the writer reminds his audience of the same things that Solomon reminded his son and probably David reminded Solomon:
"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."
My dad was a strong disciplinarian and yet he himself had strong character and ultimately I deeply respected him for teaching us some of life’s hardest lessons while we were still children instead of letting us behave as we wished and having to learn the hard lessons as adults where the consequences are much more severe. At the same time, my dad always had a way of expressing his love that solidified our relationship and made it special to my sister’s and me.
Kristin and I just watched a cute movie called “The Adventures of Ociee Nash.” It’s a sweet story about a little girl who’s mother had died and she was left on the farm with her father and two brothers. When the father had to make a tough decision to send Ociee to her Aunt’s to stay for a while and learn how to be a lady, it made him sick. He knew it would be a good choice for her, but she felt hurt and abandoned. A father’s wisdom is almost always misunderstood by the child, but nevertheless it is a blessing to faithfully follow.
God doesn’t always teach through discipline. As a matter of fact, he prefers to first try teaching through blessings. It’s only when our hearts stray away during the blessings that he has to turn to less than desirable circumstances. Remember when God said to David through the prophet Nathan, “Would I not have given you even more blessings had these not been enough?” Even though this is a perfect example of the discipline God brings to David for acting incorrectly, David is really a great example of one who turned to God and relied upon him even in the good times.
Another example is Kristin’s grandma Hester. We were just commenting today on how calm and gentle she is. As we were talking about this, I was remembering the stories that she and grandpa Hester had told us before he died last year. Grandpa Hester was about 16 years old when the terrible famine during the Great Depression became so burdensome to his family that he decided to jump on the rail train in Texas and ride west to look for work. After he and grandma were married they joined together in a ministry to the Indians and lived in poverty most of their lives. But, they remained faithful to the Lord, they saw miracle upon miracle of provision for their family and they were content and happy all their lives. The character displayed in their lives is rich and deep and it’s because of the hardship they endured. Romans 5 speaks of this : “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
The real difference between God and humans here is that God does all things for the good of those who love him. He is not just trying to put us in our place, but he cares about our eternity and he wants us to spend it with him. This is why I think the closest relationship I can compare is that of a parent and a child. If humans experience this kind of compassionate love and yet the mixture of emotions knowing that wisdom calls for discipline it’s got to be in parenthood. I am looking forward to experiencing this myself someday but for now I’ll just admire my parents all the more and thank God for all his wonderful love and grace.

Linda Anderson said...

At the risk of sounding too simple, here goes: regarding Psalm 85 - Like children, we don't enjoy the consequences of our sin. Also, like children, we can be assured that after the ordeal our loving Father gathers us in open arms and we move on, lesson learned - we hope! From Hosea - As a parent, I remember the heart pain of having to discipline a child, especially for the same offense repeated over and over. But, because we love them, we suffer and do so they will grow well. I see in these passages a Father's love--something that was lacking in my childhood that has been so wonderfully and completely restored in my Heavenly Father.

Cleaver said...

Psalm 85 touches me very dearly. The theme fulfills the presence of God in our daily lives. As I have mentioned before we need only to look at His beauty that abounds befor us. God restores us with His unfailing love and forgiveness. It is important to note though that he will show us the way and we must manouver thru.
Our god is an awsome God, all powerful, when he roars like a lion do we retreat and hide or do we seek him out?