Guest Speaker Jeff Louie shares with us the story of Hosea and how he had to look past a short term view of his life and towards the bigger picture God has for all of us.
It’s always great to be at Cornerstone. I hadn’t been a full-time pastor for about seven years. I help plant a church in Milpitas and this is the closest thing to having a regular pulpit. I’ll be here next month. I always look forward to greeting and meeting old friends. I like to update people on what I’m doing. I realize I can’t do that with my wife or children. They get really bored and think of me as weird. But with Cornerstone, I can do it and get away with it. The summer version of Jeff 2016; if you notice, I’m trimmer. I give thanks to Weight Watchers and the point system. It’s been very, very good. I feel very healthy. I suffer with an autoimmune disorder like Lupus. I’m about 97, 98% over it now through managing my sleep, diet, stress, and things like that. I’m 60, but 60 is the new 40. Everyone knows that. So, I’m actually 40 in dog years, but 60 in human years.
When you get to be my age, it’s all about grandchildren. I have four grandchildren. I have two daughters, two sons-in-law, and four grandchildren. My grandchildren are six years and three months. That’s the oldest one. Then I have a granddaughter three years and four months. I don’t really care about the months. I have a third grandson who’s eight months. Okay, that one’s special because he looks like a mini-me. It’s a mini-me. There’s a mini-me, and then there’s the new one, two-month-old, Hazel. My oldest daughter has three older ones, and my younger daughter has a new baby, maybe 10 weeks old now, Hazel. I have to tell you when we were having kids and had our daughters, the name thing is really big. I have to be honest. I love the name, Hazel. It didn’t make the list naming our daughters. It’s an older school name, and what’s old comes back in fashion.
I love the name, Hazel. That’s just cool. About a week ago, we came back from a family vacation. It was a large family gathering. Some of my wife’s family, extended friends, as well as my wife and I, wanted our two daughters to come but one had a medical emergency. One daughter and the three grandchildren came. We were at a beach having a lot of fun. One of the highlights, besides just relaxing, chilling out, and having dinner with everybody, is that some of the older people were playing this game on their cellphone. They said the game just came out. I said, “What are you talking about?” It’s Pokemon GO. They’re doing this the whole time. They’re walking around doing this, Pokemon Go. I said, “It’s a free app. I might as well download it.” I downloaded it and I said to my six-year-old grandson, Elias, “Let’s go catch Pokemon on the beach.” He said, “Sure, sure. Let’s catch Pokemon.” I’m carrying it and he said “Oh, here’s one right there.” He flicked it. We’re walking around and we run out of Pokeballs. The Pokeballs are not unlimited. They want you to buy them, which is how they make money. If you are patient, you get them for free. We had a lot of fun.
The great highlight of the summer though is when I came here on Saturday to preach. I couldn’t believe Cornerstone Church is a Pokemon stop. I couldn’t believe it. Pinch me. Am I dreaming? Then there’s one, Roll the Tortilla right there. You don’t even have to leave this sanctuary. In this message, if you do it discreetly, every five minutes you could load up with 50 free Pokeballs while I’m preaching. God has blessed this church. I feel like taking my phone out and adding some Pokeballs right now, but I’m won’t. I’ll do it in my mind. You know before I leave, I’m going to do that. I always like to joke around because I think you need to have a joyous spirit. There are many things to give thanks for. Think everything you must give thanks for. It’s my grandchildren, Pokemon, iPhone, and my health for me. What’s very interesting with all the joy that I’ve experienced in a short time is that there is situational joy. Recently, I’ve been burdened by what has been going on in this world and in society. In emailing or texting Pastor Terry, I told him I’m burdened. He texted me back, saying he’s burdened too. What’s happening?
It’s not that this is the worst time in human history. We’re not dying by plague. We don’t have marauding countries invading and abducting us. We’re not being eaten by dinosaurs. There’s just something happening. There’s a tension and a feeling of unrest that’s occurring. It’s not as bad as some people paint it and not as good as some people wish it to be. Some of the hurt is occurring in the urban and city arena. I grew up in New York City and lived there for 21 years. I lived in Chicago for six. I don’t know if you keep up with Midwest news. Midwest is like, “What is that? Who cares about that?” In Chicago, it has become a killing field. Murders and people being shot, it’s incredible what’s happening. You have two different types of urban situations. One, places are decaying. In places like New York City and San Francisco, there’s this gentrification boom going on.
My daughters love the Bay area. They both went to school in Southern California. When they got married, one of them decided that they would eventually come back up to the Bay area. The other wants to come to the Bay area. It’s because this is a great place to be. You have great weather. It gets a little hot in East Bay now, but it’s great weather. You have a great sports team. You got Durant now, so it’s good now. It’s a very robust economy with innovation and high tech. This is the capital of the world for innovation and high tech. What concerns me and it’s a burden. It’s not a burden for me because I moved to the Bay area in 1990. When I moved to the Bay area in 1990, I said, “Well, who wants to live here? It’s ridiculously high priced in 1990” You’d say what are you talking about? 1990 is bargain basement clearance slashed prices. My burden is what’s happening as I teach. Students pay high tuition and live work here. I said, “How do they balance their life? How do they pay their bills?”
If you came here because you have a technical skill that is very valued in the Bay, the chances are you will be paid well and enjoy all the things in life here. You may be taking the Google bus, or whatever. I love Google. But, I also know that for a good portion of the Bay, they do not have lucrative jobs. You might be an older person who is being pushed out by the high price of living here. It’s insane. I see a greater divide between the wealthy and poor here. That bothers me. It really does. It’s more than just the city. I think nationally, there’s a lot of news going on in all sorts of things. The greatest thing is racial tension. You’d ask, “Well, what are you?” If you didn’t know, I’m Asian. We’re the odd group out in ethnic tension. I tell people we’re like fish under the surf. We’re there but you don’t see us. I’m very concerned because there are things happening in cities with innocent people and policemen being shot. Yesterday in Oakland, a female police officer was shot at. She wasn’t hit, but they’re looking for the person who shot at her. You might say, “Oh, that’s Oakland. Who cares about Oakland.” No, you don’t want that. We’re the Bay area. Baton Rouge, Dallas, Minnesota, that orderly in north Florida, and Ferguson, there’s a lot of tension. Not only that, we have international tension too.
Right before this service began, I went out, checked my email, got some free Pokeballs, I just want to tell you that. I’m not stupid. You have to use your time wisely. I was checking the news. I’m a big news junkie. There was another terrorist act in Stuttgart, Germany today. That’s shooting in Munich? Oh, that’s yesterday’s news. Another shooting today in Stuttgart. You’ve got Stuttgart, Munich, Nice, and Paris. In the United States, you’ve got Orlando. It’s not the worst time in the world, but I’m burdened. With all the advancements and good things we have in society, ugly things rear its head because of a systemic problem with humankind. We need something bigger and greater to help us. It’s better than it used to be, but it’s something we can’t shake. Every so often in the analysis of human history, it’ll rear its head.
The person we will study today is Hosea. That’s a prophet that Pastor Terry introduced. Hosea was called to do a very unusual thing during a very interesting glitch in human history. When the largest segment of God’s original ancient people, Israel, separated, left the fold, abdicated their faith, and followed their own calling. It was very upsetting to God. It was for this situation that this prophet is told to do something very extraordinary because God called him to do something that is terrible. What God was calling him to do was doomed to failure. But it was to reveal the heart of God in the situation of mankind, to reveal the full plan and the picture of God in this world.
We’re going to deal with this passage on many levels. I don’t want you to apply everything to your life, but there’ll probably be one thing that will touch a nerve. Allow the spirit of God to touch that nerve. I give you warning. We’re going to Hosea 1 and read the first nine verses. When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry, for the land commits flagrant harlotry forsaking the Lord.” Hosea took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim. “She conceived and bore him a son. The Lord said to him, Name him Jezreel, for yet a little while, I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. On that day, I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.”
Watch the word Jezreel. Jezreel was a city and place of one of the great military-political takeover atrocities in the history of the Northern kingdom. It’s not a good place. It’s a place of atrocity, something we don’t want to remember. It was brutal and violent. Jezreel was son number one. Verse six, “then she conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. The Lord said to him, “Name her Lo-Ruhamah, for I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel that I should ever forgive them. But, I will have compassion on the house of Judah” That’s the group that did not defect from God, “And, deliver them by the Lord their God, and will not deliver them by the bow, sword, battle horses, or horsemen.” The second child, Lo-Ruhamah’s name is not making your top 10 list of women names in any generation.
Verse eight, “then when she weaned Lo-Ruhamah, she conceived and gave birth to a son and the Lord said, ‘Name him Lo-Ammi, for you are not my people and I am not your God.’” The name of the third child was ‘you’re not mine.’ We don’t understand this. You don’t name your kids that way. You only understand it because what God is calling Hosea to do is a reflection of the greater theological undercurrents that are occurring. It’s more than just Hosea, Gomer, and the children. It’s God and us. I’m going to show you a slide. You need to understand it in two or three distinct sections. First, there’s the part that says, “What’s going on?” In narrative. It’s Hosea, Gomer, and the children. It’s real. If you don’t know what’s happening, you won’t understand the larger story because it’s almost like a living parable of what God is trying to teach through this real life. Then, there’s the larger theme of God and a nation who rejected Him. Then there’s the final one, me. Us. How do we fit in? You must always see yourself connecting to one of the targets in there so that you read yourself in the story. I just want to tell you, you’re not God so let’s get rid of that one. You’re one of the other ones. What can we learn?
We’re going to first go with the second group, the overlay of the story where the characters are God and a rejected people. We’re going to see that if we go to the passage, Hosea 1 at the end of verse two, “For the land commits flagrant harlotry forsaking the Lord.” Now, what in the world is it talking about? There are two prophets in the Old Testament that ministered to this group that split off. Two. Hosea and Amos. I always remember it as HA. Hosea, Amos, HA. Those are the two that look at the problem from two different perspectives. Hosea is the one that is going to live and feel it because he’s going to talk about this defection in the most deepest of human relationships we can have. Not work, not government, but family. Nothing is as deep and could be as joyous or painful as family.
Amos, the other one, deals with it by the facts, judicially. Do you want to know what’s wrong with you? I’m going to tell you. You get Hosea and Amos. They’re coming from different perspectives. If you put them together, you pretty much understand what’s happening. What is their issue? There are three issues. Two are found here with Hosea and one is found with Amos. Here, it says they are forsaking God. There’s real idolatry. They were following other gods. That was wrong. There was a second issue besides what we consider religious idolatry. There was political-military idolatry that can be seen at the end of verse seven that we read. God will deliver Judah, not by the bow, sword, battle horses, or horsemen, which these other people put all their hope in. Their hope is all in military might, alliances, and politics. The reason why is because this was a time when there was a rise of superpowers. A superpower was arising by the name of the Assyrians who were a vicious group of people who will annihilate you and make it so you will not exist anymore.
The need to have hope and power was huge during this time. There’s a point of protecting yourself and then putting all your hope into the system of it. The third idolatry that was occurring during this time is not seen in the Prophet Hosea, but in the Prophet Amos. Prophet Amos clearly says what was happening is like the nation of this split-off kingdom was getting prominent and wealthy, they were showing no respect and no regard for the poor. I’m going to paraphrase. He says, “You value the dirt of the poor people’s head more than the poor people themselves as if maybe we can grow a few more veggies from their dandruff.” It is so disgusting, that imagery, but that’s how the prophet of Amos was condemning it. You people, you’re so wealthy, you don’t even care. It’s all about using people to get to where you want to be.
I’ll tell you one word before we get into the Hosea, Gomer, and more personal things is more of the broad national view. The Western world is very much dominated by material gain, success, and power. That dominates us. I love the Bay area. I’d love it more if I could drive a Tesla, but I can’t. I love the vibrancy of the Bay area. I love eating out in the Bay area. I love the food trucks. There’s much to enjoy here. Some of you have been called to work here and you do well. It is very good for your career in a very exciting place. I’m going to be very blunt. As you enjoy the success of the Bay area, don’t you ever look down on the poor. Don’t you dare. Then you face the same idolatry as these people who have forsaken God. Making money their God and king, and not understanding that we are all made in the image of God. Every human being, whether they are as smart or rich as you deserve the dignity of respect and good treatment. Don’t ever value what they can do for you more than you value who they really are.
That’s huge. I needed to say that. It’s really important. Now, we move from the national realm of God and the nation into this imagery or living parable that God calls Hosea to live out. Hosea is called to marry a woman that is known to be unfaithful, just like it was meant to be. He has three children. I don’t know if you follow it. It is clear that he knows the third child, he’s not the father. The first one, he’s probably the father. The second one, coin flip. But the third one, he knows he’s not the father. Some of you will identify with one of these three characters, Hosea, Gomer, or the children. If you identify yourself with Hosea, then you are the person who’s trying to keep things together. The faithful one, the better person in the relationship. I’m not saying anyone’s perfect. You’re the better person. You’re not the one that is the troublemaker. You’re not the one causing everyone to fail. You’re trying to hold everything together. That’s the Hosea character. From that, we can take it from the bigger picture into the interpersonal personal level. What do you do as someone who’s following God if you are in that situation? Someone around you is causing toxicity. Do you say, “Oh, it’ll never happen.” It’ll happen. In a marriage, girlfriend, or boyfriend. No one will ever stab you in the back at work. They always will, so what do you do?
There are three lessons. The first lesson is that I see that Hosea has a great deal of patience. I see the patience, not because it describes him as a patient person. It’s because he’s enduring this for three children. Serial infidelity, three kids. I don’t know how long. It’s at least three or four years. I would’ve given up the first month, let alone four years. A believer in Christ and someone who follows Christ has a higher degree of what we can endure. We can endure more because we always have the hope of God to rectify things. Jesus talked about it when He said in the Sermon on the Mount, “If someone asked you to go a mile, you go another one, double it. Always an extension of grace. You endure more.” Some of you are the Hosea character. God is calling you. I know it’s a bad situation. Gracious patience and endurance in a bad situation. Go the extra mile.
The second thing that we could learn in Hosea is that he is not blind. Some people go the extra mile and they’re in a dream world. They’re thinking everything’s fine. They are the eternal optimist. One thing I know about Hosea is he’s very patient. He’s going up to child number three, he knows what’s going on, and you know he knows what’s going on by the naming of the children. He is not blind. He comes to a point in the passage in Hosea 2:1, which I didn’t read and I’ll read now. “Say to your brothers, Ammi, and to your sisters, Ruhamah, contend with your mother. Contend for she is not my wife and I am not her husband. Let her put away her harlotry from her face and her adultery from between her breast. He knows what she should do because, from the human side of eternity, patience is not endless. I endured more than anyone would’ve told me I would in New York, but there’s a line. Some of you, if you are the Hosea character, perhaps you endured a long time, but you have to draw a line. You’re too easy.
The third thing the Hosea character understood is in the context of when I try to read myself in the character. I don’t know if it’s a problem. I think it’s a problem, but I do it anyway. I’m not a perfect person. I said if I was Hosea, I’d be really upset at God. You set me up for failure. Who wants a God to set you up for failure? No one wants that. I didn’t sign up to be a believer of Jesus Christ to be set up for failure. This is a terrible thing. I said why in God’s all might does He set me up to be unhappy in my family life? That’s only if you see yourself at the center of the world. As we grow in Christ, we move from ‘myself’ as the center. The plan of God for this world is the center. That’s very important. It is not that Hosea needed to learn a lesson. It is that Hosea needed to understand the heart of God to truly begin to understand what a prophet was all about. He needed to understand God, rather than just words in the Bible.
It is not just him. It is the heart of God. If you think it’s bad, think of God. Hundreds of years of this. Hundreds of thousands of people rejecting Him. Whatever Hosea is experiencing, it is exponentially magnified in the eyes of God. I tell you, as you grow, minister, and serve people, anyone who ministers we’re all gifted if you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, it is more than just telling them what the Bible says or giving people advice. It is to begin to see yourself in the whole program of God. To really understand what He feels, sees, and how His heart breaks for this world. That is why suffering in New Testament is always viewed in a positive light because only in suffering, do you understand the suffering of our Lord, Jesus Christ. No one wants suffering, but we learn of God better. Some of you need to, from the Hosea perspective, have a greater, bigger vision of what God is doing. Know that He has not abandoned me, but perhaps given you a closer view of what He is like and has endured for our sake.
For some of you, you are not the Hosea. For some of you, you are Gomer. I have to be blunt, you’re the chronic problem. You’re the unreliable person. You’re the nail in the tire. You don’t admit it, but you know it, and what you need to do is confess. Sometimes that’s a hard thing to do, to confess and say, “I’m sorry, help me change.” That’s the Gomer character, the woman. Some of you are neither Hosea nor Gomer. You are the children, Jezreel, Lo-ruhamah, and Lo-Ammi. They say, “Who are these people?” I often read myself as a character in the Bible. I say, “What happens if I was Jezreel, Lo-ruhamah, or Lo-Ammi? I’d say to God, “Look, I didn’t ask for this. I’m a byproduct of a lousy marriage. I didn’t ask for this, but I bear the result of it. Gee, thanks, God.”
Gee, thanks, God. Why Lo-ruhamah? Why not the better name, Hazel? If any of you have ever been raised in a family where there was mistrust, great abuse, great neglect, chemical dependency, violence, poverty, you were bullied, made fun of, or beat up, then you bear scars today as an adult that you did not sign up for. I signed up to be six feet tall. I don’t know what happened. I said to myself, “I didn’t sign up to be Chinese. Okay? I didn’t sign up to be Chinese.” With the rise of China, now I sign up to be Chinese. Back then I didn’t sign up to be Chinese. One of them is at you. You know the mark of it. It’s the mark of these three children; violence and I’m unloved. What if that’s you?
There are two verses I want to read. Verse 10 of chapter one, “yet the number of the sons of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which can not be measured or numbered, and in the place where it is said to them, “You are not my people”, it will be said to them, “You are the sons of the living God.” This is right after the naming of the third child, You Are Not Mine.” In a strange way, this will play out in a very unusual way in the history of Israel because the Assyrians will come and literally take the Northern kingdom off the face of the earth. Only to have God, through His mercy, rise up an even greater, more powerful, and a more majestic people. People that were not His because in the defeat will come the mercy and the power of God to recreate, reanimate, reset, and reclaim.
How about Gomer, the wife? Look at chapter two, verses 14 and 15. “Therefore behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness, speak kindly to her. Then I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope. And she will sing there as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.” It’s going to be like we were newlyweds again. All things are passed away. I don’t know if you understand this, but there’s a disconnect in this. You have chronic problems, kids that are unloved, and the father knows the unfaithfulness of his spouse. The children are bearing the violence and no compassion in the family. There’s going to be a day when all that trash is turned into gold, and those who are unloved will be loved. Those who are chronic failures will be restored. It will be only through our Lord, Jesus Christ. The grace that He will usher into us on the night that He was betrayed and bore our penalty on the cross Himself.
There’s a passage I will end with. 1 Peter 2:9-10. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God.” Clear allusion taken from Hosea’s first chapters. “Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” There’s something for everybody in this message. If you’re Hosea, it may be more patience, maybe a line in the sand, or a bigger perspective. Gomer, maybe it’s a confession of the heart. What happens if you’re the children and you seem hopeless? You might even be Gomer and feel hopeless. What you need to understand is the capacity of God to restart your life and bring into your life something that is much more glorious than anything your past could hold you down to. A chosen people, a holy people, a priesthood greater than any of the problems that you can have. The transformation ability of God in real-time is real. If you don’t believe it, you’re looking at a person who has seen it. I see God’s transformation in my life all the time. One of the greatest things about God and Christ is His ability to reclaim, restore, and renew. Some of you need that. Some of you are Hosea. Some of you are Gomer. Some of you are the nation of Israel who put all their hope in money and look down on the poor. Some of you are innocent victims and didn’t sign up for this. We all need the grace of God.
Allow me the grace to pray for you. After the prayer will come a receiving of offering, and then a final song. Let me pray for you. I pray for these, my friends, at Cornerstone. Whatever message that the Prophet Hosea gives, allow it to touch our lives in one specific way, that we have been changed by encountering you. Let the spirit’s words deeply massage our hearts and minds that we may see your grace and stand in dignity, love, and acceptance, chosen, loved, not because of what we are, but because through the grace that is found in Christ, we have received it. I pray this in Jesus. Amen.