In the purposes of God, Hosea’s life was a message to God’s people about the ways God would show love to His people. With Hosea’s life as a reference point, God tells the people He will relate to them like a faithful and loving husband relates to his wife. In particular, God will steadfastly love His people, even though they have become like a wife who strays in her heart and actions. This is how Hosea describes that love, speaking on behalf of God to His people:
“I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the Lord.” (Hosea 2:19-20)
The love of God is undeserved and extravagant. God’s love is beyond our understanding and enduring.
In the midst of those verses there is one little word that I want to give more attention to in this post. It is the word translated as “love” here in Hosea 2:19, and it becomes a theme throughout the prophecies of Hosea. That word is, in Hebrew, hesed. It is one of the most significant words in the Hebrew Bible. Hesed speaks both of the reality of God’s character and the ideal of His people’s character.
It is sometimes translated as ‘love’ or ‘steadfast love’ to convey the persevering love, tender affection, and ongoing care one person has for another.
It is sometimes translated as ‘mercy’ to convey an undeserved kindness or passing over of deserved judgment.
It is sometimes translated as ‘covenant faithfulness’ to convey the loyalty of one partner to another in promises made. Hesed speaks of fulfilling the promises fully in action and attitude.
Hesed is the sort of thing we see in the best of friendships, in the most-enduring marriages, in athletic teams that band together to achieve a goal, in soldiers who stick together through hell and high water, and partnerships in business or non-profits that attain their highest goals while upholding honorable relationships.
In Hosea 2, we’re told that God’s hesed is so great and strong that He will not ultimately forsake His people but will faithfully love them forever and loyally care for them based on the promises of His covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David. Even though Israel is a faltering and weak partner in those promises, God will be faithful. In fact, God is saying that because of Israel’s inability to exhibit hesed, God will pick up the slack, so to speak, and bring it all to fruition because He is a hesed sort of God. He is merciful. He is faithful. He is loving.
God shows us what true love is like, what faithfulness is like, what mercy is like. It begins with Him and it changes Israel – and all of us who encounter God.
Perhaps you know what it is like to be loved with an enduring, tender, faithful love. Perhaps you have had a friend who has stuck with you in difficult times. Perhaps you have had a family member – a daughter or son, a father or mother, a brother or sister, an auntie or uncle – who has been there for you when no one else has. Perhaps you have experienced unwarranted mercy from a colleague at work, a teacher at school, a business partner, or neighbor. All of these experiences of love, mercy, and faithfulness change us. When you have that on your side, it helps you stand up again, get going, and feel supported in whatever may come.
So, too, when we encounter the love, mercy, and faithfulness of God, it changes us. The story of Hosea begins, as we even explored last weekend, with the powerful love of God.
God’s love – his hesed – is so strong for His people that He will do whatever it takes to recapture them with His love. And when we begin with that love, mercy, and faithfulness of God it should change who we are and how we live.
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. (John 1:48a)
The most astonished and revealing question of the first chapter of John’s gospel comes here from Nathanael’s lips. His encounter with Jesus reveals Christ’s knowledge of each person: their background, their identity, their desires, their habits and practices.
Philip finds Nathanael near Bethsaida and tells him about his encounter with Jesus, exclaiming, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45). Nathanael scoffs at this, derisively mocking Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. Philip sustains his wonder, inviting Nathanael to “Come and see” (1:46b).
When Nathanael follows Philip to where Jesus is found, something powerful happens. Jesus names Nathanael and describes him with such great depth and accuracy that Nathanael is shocked and overwhelmed. He responds with such a dramatic shift from his earlier comments that we know a deep chord has been struck within his life: “Then Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel'” (1:49). Jesus promises that the shock Nathanael has experienced in this initial encounter will be surpassed by what he will see in the future.
Nathanael is shocked by Jesus’ knowledge of him into a shocking knowledge of who Jesus is. These two perspectives go together. It is not that our self-knowledge arises merely through pursuit of ourselves – knowing our personality, proclivities, temperament, past, or desires. It is that Jesus the Christ brings us true knowledge of ourselves while concurrently leading us into that which we need more urgently than self-knowledge: knowledge of God in Christ.
May we be like Nathanael today as we allow Jesus to meet with us, speak to us, and reveal both who He is and who we are more clearly.
This past weekend at Eastbrook, we continued our series, “God in the Ruins: The Message of the Minor Prophets,” by looking at the second part of Hosea, chapters 4-14. The challenge of preaching a message on eleven chapters is that you really have to choose which way to go and what to focus on.
Based on the message I delivered the previous week with my wife, Kelly, I focused in on themes of hesed in Hosea. Hesed is a difficult word, appearing five times in Hosea, and is a major theme throughout the Hebrew Bible. Notoriously difficult to translate with precision, hesed has a range of meaning including steadfast love, covenant faithfulness, and mercy based on the context.
You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series on the minor prophets here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities to connect.
On this day celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr., I want to remind us of one of the unparalleled moments in his life and work. While there is much that could be said about MLK as a leader, orator, pastor, and husband, I want to encourage you today to simply read or watch (below) the roughly seventeen-minute “I Have a Dream” speech that King gave over fifty years ago. The vision he articulated transcends his individual life and puts into eloquent words the deepest longings of many people then and now. This speech still rings with power, reminding us that, as he said, “Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning.” We have come so far but we still have so far to go.
You could also join us later this evening at 6:30 PM for the 3rd annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day Celebration sponsored by The Milwaukee Declaration and hosted at Eastbrook Church. We will have a worship service led by multiple churches and pastors as we stand together across racial divides in our city for the goal of racial reconstruction in Milwaukee. Find out more and get connected to this movement at The Milwaukee Declaration Facebook page or web-site.
You have loved us first
with an everlasting love,
showing us what love truly is.
You have shown us great mercy,
preeminently in the gift of Your Son, Jesus Christ,
who lived among us, died on the Cross, rose again,
and now eternally intercedes on our behalf at Your right hand.
You have invited us into loving relationship with You,
both in our daily lives now
and unto eternity as Your bride.
Because of Your hesed –
Your steadfast love, mercy, and faithfulness –
make us people of hesed,
living in love and loving others,
receiving Your mercy and showing mercy,
held in Your faithfulness and living faithfully,
until the day we see You face to face.
All this we pray, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord
to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit
be honor and glory, now and forever.
“The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.
“Pastor Turns Terrorist Hostage Video into Testimony” – “A hostage video released last week by Boko Haram did far more than issue another plea for rescue from a Nigerian Christian. It revealed a modern-day Shadrach. ‘By the grace of God, I will be together with my wife, my children, and my colleagues,’ said Lawan Andimi, a Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN) pastor in the troubled northeastern state of Adamawa. ‘[But] if the opportunity has not been granted, maybe it is the will of God. Be patient, don’t cry, don’t worry. But thank God for everything.’ It is testimony even to his Islamist captors, said Gideon Para-Mallam, the Jos-based Africa ambassador for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students.”
“Can Spirituality Exist Without God? A Growing Number Of Americans Say Yes” – “The global research firm YouGov lists ‘being more spiritual‘ as one of Americans’ top 10 New Year’s resolutions for 2020, and the icon used to illustrate that aspiration is a person meditating — not praying. And more than a quarter of Americans now say they are spiritual, but not religious, according to Pew Research Center. What does it mean to be spiritual outside the confines of religion? For some, both exist side by side. For others, even those who consider themselves atheists or ‘nones,’ the concept of spirituality might feel critically important. They say it has to do with how we interact with others, with living more contemplatively, and with appreciating nature and the natural world.”
“How I learned to curb my tendency to work too much” – Mike Monroe: “The first clue that I was a workaholic was my worsening health. The number on the scale was getting bigger. I started getting aches and pains. But my health wasn’t the only sign. I was checking my work email in church. My friends stopped inviting me to things. I would hear about bachelor parties that not only was I not invited to but I hadn’t even known about. You know you’re a workaholic when you feel scorned, and you think the best way to get back at somebody is to work harder. But once you’re willing to admit that you may have a problem, defeating workaholism—like any ‘-ism’—is a process. Here are the lessons that I’ve learned in my journey to do just that.”
“Songs That Prepare Us for Death” – Mike Cosper: “Saturday, January 15, marked the six-year anniversary of the sinking of The Big Valley, a crab fishing vessel lost in the Bering Sea. Of the seven crew members aboard, only Cache Seel survived. Gary Edwards, Danny Vermeersch, Josias Luna, Carlos Rivera, and Aaron Marrs all died. The bodies of Aaron, Gary, and Josias were lost at sea. Faithful fans of Deadliest Catch may recognize the name of the boat, as its sinking was covered in season one. My connection is much more personal. Aaron Marrs was one of my closest friends….At the time of the boat’s sinking, I was working on a recording project called These Things I Remember. It was our church’s attempt to embrace the language and emotions of the Psalms, exploring themes like confession and lament that were often absent from the praise choruses with which we’d grown up. Aaron’s death gave the project a whole new sense of urgency.”
“States to Trump: We Want Refugees” – “Forty-one states and 86 local governments have filed letters with the federal government telling President Donald Trump and the administration they will continue accepting refugee resettlements in their jurisdictions, according to a list compiled by the Refugee Council USA. Trump signed an executive order in September requiring state and local governments to opt-in to refugee resettlement, an additional layer of bureaucracy that Christian ministries to refugees feared could make it harder to ‘welcome the stranger.’ The deadline was thought to be Christmas Day, but there has been a lot of confusion around that detail. Resettlement organizations, most of which are faith-based, have until January 21 to file the letters with the federal government. In the meantime, Church World Service; Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service; and HIAS (a Jewish-American nonprofit group) are taking the Trump administration to court to stop the executive order.”
“JRR Tolkien’s son Christopher dies aged 95” – “Christopher Tolkien, the son of Lord Of The Rings author JRR Tolkien, has died aged 95, the Tolkien Society has announced. The society, which promotes the life and works of the celebrated writer, released a short statement on Twitter to confirm the news. The statement said: ‘Christopher Tolkien has died at the age of 95. The Tolkien Society sends its deepest condolences to Baillie, Simon, Adam, Rachel and the whole Tolkien family.’ Tolkien, who was born in Leeds in 1924, was the third and youngest son of the revered fantasy author and his wife Edith. He grew up listening to his father’s tales of Bilbo Baggins, which later became the children’s fantasy novel, The Hobbit.”
Music: The War on Drugs, “Pain,” from A Deeper Understanding
[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]