The study of Hosea has led me to pray for spiritual revival in my own soul. I believe I need that very much. I pray God will reveal to me the many ways in which my heart is yet divided. I desire for my heart to be whole. I pray for God to expose idols and to lead me into deep sorrow over my own sin so that I will repent of those hidden sins and return to God in absolute fullness. Only through such repentance will I live each moment of my life in the joy of the Lord and in the joy of Him who loves me so. I want to experience a God-centered life, the kind of life the psalmist speaks of in Psalm 16,
11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
God’s message through His Prophet Hosea has also led me to pray for spiritual revival in Jesus’ church and specifically at Bethany Baptist Church. I believe we are in much need of the fresh work of God’s Spirit so that we would constantly be in awe of His power at work in our midst, so that we would sacrificially love one another, so that we would fruitfully advance His name by locking arms together.
This world is without God and it seems to be growing darker by the day. God’s church must be revived if there is to be any hope for our future. Think of what might happen if a spiritual revival came to our soul. Our fears and our anxious thoughts would be quieted. Our despairing thoughts would be filled with hope. Our bitter anger toward those who would hurt you would be changed to sweet compassion and mercy. Our grumbling would become thanksgiving. Our critical spirit would be changed to joy. Our frustrations would be replaced with patience and endurance. Many of our broken relationships would be reconciled. Our unsaved friends would be eternally impacted by our life. Our children would learn true faith in worship. Our marriages would have Jesus at the center, making all things new. We would live each day with eternal purpose and meaning. We would have a large number thanking each of us for the encouragement we bring to them toward the Lord. We would make our church a more loving and joyful family. We would not be worn down by guilt and sin habits. We would see God clearer and worship Him with more enthusiasm. We would anticipate God’s active hand involved in our life everyday. Every aspect of our lives would glorify God and enjoy Him. Do you not long to live such a life?
I invite you to pray with me for spiritual revival. I also invite each of us to take action toward that end by feeding each of our soul’s upon God’s Word each day. We need to let God’s Truth enter into our heart as we open up Scripture and listen to what God would have to say, for God loves to speak to us about His Son, about His plan, about His person. No revival can come to each of us apart from direct and disciplined meditation upon God’s Word. Faith comes through hearing and hearing comes through the Word of Christ. We listen to God speak to us through Scripture and as we listen are heart is committed to obey Him and then God revives each of us. God loves to revive His people when we are humble before Him. Isaiah 57 tells us,
15a For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place…”
God is way up there! But, then God says,
15b “…and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
What is it that precedes God sending a revival to a person and to a church? Clearly the Nation of Israel missed the prerequisites in Hosea’s day. We remember from Chapter 6, they thought God was about to send them a revival,
1 “Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.”
They believe in a little while a revival will come simply because they asked for it to come, but they ask very superficially. They believed in their own sincerity and they believed in their own faith. They thought for certain God was going to send to them a revival, but they were mistaken. God gives to then His response a little later on to their superficial prayer,
4 “What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away.”
He is not going to send a revival to a heart that is superficially asking for one. Disaster is the condition of one who is mistaken about one’s own soul. That is where they are and that is where they are living. I believe this devastating condition to be the norm in the church today as much as it was in the day of Hosea.
What is it that precedes God sending a revival to a person or to a church? This is where our text helps us so greatly. Chapters 11 and 12 of Hosea become the most precious chapters in this book to me. They teach us two foundation stones that must be laid before a revival will come to us.
The first foundation stone for spiritual revival is: Spiritual revival rests upon our knowing the greatness of God’s love. Until we know who much God loves us we will not be revived because it is God’s love that draws us to Him.
In this study we will consider Foundation Number One: Spiritual revival rests upon our knowing the greatness of God’s love. The psalmist sets this link between spiritual revival and personal knowledge of God’s love for us in Psalm 85,
6 Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? 7 Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.
The psalmist is longing for a spiritual revival and he knows apart from a spiritual revival there is no real joy, there is only artificial joy. This is a request that God will reveal how much He loves them because that is the link to spiritual revival. The Apostle Paul says the same thing in his prayer for the church in Ephesus,
Ephesians 3:14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
The Holy Spirit’s renewing work in our soul is a work that empowers us to comprehend, with all the saints, the love of God, a love that surpasses knowledge. That is why we cannot obtain it on our own. We need God’s Spirit at work empowering us to comprehend that love or we will never know it. Knowing the love of God is a work of His grace. If we are not God-willing and gracious to let Him show us the enduring, infinite, and unconditional love He has for His own people, no one will ever be revived. Yet, the Holy Spirit loves to reveal God’s love to us.
The Apostle Paul writes to the church in Rome,
5:5 …and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
One of the most important works of the Holy Spirit’s work in a believer’s life is the pouring out of God’s love so that we might understand God’s love. The principle we learn is that a deep personal knowledge of God’s deep love is a prerequisite for spiritual joy and for spiritual vigor. We cannot manufacture a revival. We do not have a revival simply because we desire it. We must be loved by God into it. If we wish for a revival to come into our heart we must seek the work of the Holy Spirit in our life to make known to us, through our own heart, God’s immeasurable love.
Hosea understands this truth very well and that is why he begins our text the way he does. The dominant theme of Chapters 1 through 10 have been themes of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God and of God’s righteous response of judgment which will come upon them.
Yet, in our text, it is as though we are turning a corner. There is a new melody line that appears within this message. We find these sweet notes of God’s sovereign, irresistible, persevering, conquering love for His own people. These notes become the dominant theme in this song. Chapters 11 and 12, thrust us sweetly against the loving heart of God. The Gospel truth we learn is: any healthy relationship with God is grounded upon God’s sovereign love for His own. A personal relationship with God never begins with us or our deciding to seek after God and then working hard to attain His acceptance. This never, ever happens because the Bible tells us no one seeks after God, not even one.
A personal relationship with God always begins with God sovereignly setting His love upon a people for no other reason than that He wills to do that. If you and I wish to have a right relationship with God, do not consider, first, what we can do for God. That is not the path. We must consider, first, the way God loves us in the manner in which He proves His love for us. That will overwhelm us with His salvation.
Hosea has been using the metaphor of marriage between a faithful husband and an unfaithful spouse to describe God’s love for us throughout this Book. Now, Hosea changes the metaphor and it becomes one of a father’s love for a wayward son. Hosea will reveal a past and a present and a future to God’s love. He wants the reader to consider the ways God has demonstrated His love for His own.
There are three ways in our text God demonstrates His love for His own. First, God’s love is demonstrated through His saving mercies in our past,
1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.
I cannot do justice to the tenderness expressed toward Israel in Verse 1. God references the misery Israel experienced when she was enslaved in Egypt. She was abused, oppressed, exploited, and molested. God sent His love upon this people: out of Egypt, out of bondage, God called His Son. God demonstrated His love to Egypt by redeeming them out of slavery. He set His love upon them, first, in Abraham. That love is faithful, it is covenant, and it is commitment and it calls this people out of slavery in Egypt. Hosea is bringing up the history of His love for this people as He calls them to return to Him.
In Verse 1 we have the language of a father who adopts a people for his own pleasure, a father who tenderly cares for his son, not because of natural bonds of affection, but because of the sovereign will to love his son, to love his people, to love Israel, a people who were powerless, hopeless, and useless because they were enslaved. They were the lowest of all people.
The three words important in Verse 1 are: I loved him. Notice God does not tell us why He loved this people. Earlier, in Deuteronomy, God denies all the reasons that are typical for love,
7:6 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
God did not choose them because they were impressive as a Nation nor because what they could do as a Nation for God. God set His love upon this people because He loved them. God loves Israel because God chooses to love Israel.
God teaches us He does not love Israel because of anything beautiful or valuable or useful or good within the Nation. God’s love for Israel is not a response to the worth of this people. God’s love is a response to His own nature. God treasures a nation that has no objective value, but when God loves this pitiful nation, the Nation becomes eternally valuable.
Friends, the self-esteem teachers have it all upside down. God does not love us because we are so beautiful, so valuable, or so good. God loves us because He chooses to set His love upon us. The glory of God’s love does not point to our value. The glory of God’s love points to the glory of God’ own loving nature. When God sets His electing love upon us, we become eternally valuable because God eternally loves us and what joy there is in living out that reality.
Christian, why does God set His love upon us and adopt us into His family? I can tell you, there is nothing in you or in me that provokes such love. This love comes from God’s own eternal, sovereign person and if God loves me and you it is because of something in His immutable nature. If that is true, that it is in God’s immutable nature, that God set His love upon one of His own, one of those who believes in Jesus, what could possibly cause such a one to fall out God’s love? If we did not enter into God’s love through our actions or our own goodness, we cannot exit God’s love through our actions and our badness. Paul tells us that in Romans 8,
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If God loves us because of something we have done, that verse makes no sense. If we can do something to merit God’s love, we can do something to demerit God’s love. Paul is writing that God’s love has nothing to do with anything in us and it only has everything to do with something in God’s own sovereign nature. Because of that, Paul tells us he is more certain about this than anything else and nothing in the present nor nothing in the future will ever change God’s love for him because His love comes from His own immutable, sovereign nature. Is that not awesome? Is there not security in that? Is there not rest in that?
God’s love is not rooted in our changing responses or in our changing ways. How do we know God love each of us? God demonstrated His love for us through His saving mercies in our past. As New Testament believers we have a greater display of God’s love in His past loving actions of mercy than the people in Hosea’s day. They had Egypt and the redemption out of Egypt which is only an illustration, a story, God works in history to lead us and to point us to the greater redemptions found in Jesus. We have the cross of Jesus, a demonstration of love so profound so as to settle this question forever. God demonstrated this love toward us in this,
Romans 5:8b …in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
There is a medieval monk who announced he would be preaching the next Sunday on the subject, “The Love of God.” People arrived to hear the message on this subject. The congregation gathered and the light began to dim in the Sunday evening. The monk lighted a candle and he carried it to the cross. First, he illuminated the crown of thorns. Then he illuminated the nails in the hands and feet. He illuminated the place of the spear. In the hush that fell, he blew out the candle and he left. That was his sermon and that was all he needed. If he could point the people to the cross of Jesus, what other demonstration is there of the love of Christ for us?
Do you ever wonder if God really loves you, truly loves you, personally loves you. I tell you, look to the cross. The argument is settled once and for all right there. God Himself took the suffering required for the punishment of our sins so we would never, ever have to endure it, so that through faith in Jesus the Sin Bearer we could be forgiven once and for all and so that we would know we would never, ever be separated from the love of God, not anything we do in the present and not anything we do in the future, because God paid everything, the entire debt, for our sin, past, present, and future right there on the cross.
If you are not a believer in Jesus, consider the love of God offered to you. Do you not wish to experience His love personally? God tells us to repent of our sins and believe in Jesus and we will enter this love. Confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead and you will be rescued from the life separate from God’s love and you will enter into God’s love. You will be adopted as God’s own child. That is the path into God’s love.
Christian, never, ever move away from the cross. We never mature our self outside of the deep, daily contemplation upon the death of Jesus for us, the accomplished work of Jesus finished for us on the cross.
I realize for much of the church, hymns are out of style and I understand and am completely comfortable with the changes in musical taste, but I believe we often miss something when we do not hold onto the poetry Christians have written over the ages that describe this biblical account of God’s death and the biblical calling of us to enter into the truths of the Gospel. One of the hymns I have sung since I was a little boy is Beneath the Cross of Jesus.
Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.
Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess;
The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.
I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by to know no gain or loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.
The love of God in Christ revives us. I am content to let this world go by when I understand the love of God. If I do not understand the love of God I am looking for some meaning, for some significance, and some of that love. The world says, “Here it is. Enter more deeply into the things of this world and you will finally find it,” but it is never there. It is only when we become completely convinced of God’s love for us in Christ that we enter into such a love that revives our soul.
God’s love is demonstrated to us through His sanctifying grace in our present. In love, God continues the necessary work of sanctification, making us more like Jesus. After He saves us out of slavery to sin, He does not just save us and say, “Okay, now you are on your own,” but God continues to lovingly work to bring us into joyful worship, purposeful living, and into a mature faith. This is a necessary work apart from which we will not be revived and experience this joy.
Our hearts are prone to wander, so we need God’s loving, sanctifying work constantly pressing against our own soul. Without God’s sanctifying work in our life today we would wander into spiritual darkness and disease. Perhaps some of us have because in faith we have not grabbed onto God’s loving, sanctifying work in our life recently. That is what happens to a soul,
2 The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols.
As soon as God rescued His people out of bondage in Egypt, they began to rebel and worshipping around a golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai. They began to grumble against God in the wilderness. The more God loved His people the more His people left Him. God’s love became an excuse for sin instead of a motivation for worship, “God loves us and we do not have to worry about that. Let’s go on in our own pursuits.” They did not understand that life is bound up in His love.
Does this ever sound like any of us? I wish this response would never enter into the heart of a New Testament believer, but it does and it is a sad and shameful response, is it not? The more God loves us and demonstrates His love through His spiritual acts of mercy and kindness and His provision upon provision. Yet, we return His kindness with dismissal. That is the reason why repentance is a daily need.
One may believe, “The more I love the more I am dismissed and neglected, contradicted and rebelled against. How might I respond if I were to love a person and the more I love them the more they dismissed me and hurt me? How would I respond? I would say, ‘Fine, I am not going to love such a person anymore. I am not going to go through that pain and grief.’” God is not man and that is why His love is different. God continues to rest His love upon His people in spite of their disobedience and rebellion. He treats His people like a dad would treat a toddler,
3 Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them.
I have had the joy of raising three boys and I remember teaching them to walk. They begin wobbling on their legs and they fall down. Eventually they are strong enough to stand up and hold onto our pinky fingers and we move them along. I knew they would fall in their attempts to walk, but I watched them carefully to see that when they fell they fell onto “soft” places. After they learned to walk, parenting got really interesting. Little children do not know about poisons under the sink, electricity, the laws of gravity, drowning, fire, or a hundred other concerns. They do not know any of these things. One big responsibility of a parent with children of that age is to simply keep them from killing themselves. That is one of the huge responsibilities, because they try to do so every day in a thousand different ways. It is exhausting but it is necessary. Without watchful, protective love children often would die.
Here we have a picture of God’s saving love. Without God’s constant, sanctifying love in the present we would die because there are a thousand dangers we are not aware of. There are poisons and there are laws of the spiritual universe and there are fires and there are waters and dangers. There is everything all around us and without God’s loving arms protecting us and continuing with us everyday we would die spiritually.
The child has no understanding and hardly any appreciation of the parent’s love and care. They do not know their parent’s eyes are constantly on them at the beach. They believe they are free to enjoy the day while the parents can hardly get a restful moment because they are afraid their child is going to run into the water and drown. The children do not know and they are completely oblivious to their parent’s love and care because it is a kind of love that is very subtle, is it not? God love is often subtle and because it is subtle we sometimes wonder whether or not it is there. Beloved, it is there.
God tells us He taught Ephraim to walk and He took them up into His arms and when they fell down and skinned their knees, He was there immediately to grab them up. They did not know it was God who healed them. When they hurt themselves as a result of their rebellion and disobedience they did not know God was there to gather them up to keep them from dying, to keep them from getting an infection.
The big idea is that God loves His people and He cares for them so that we do not have to carry our own burdens on our own shoulders. We have a God who loves us.
Not long ago I was walking through the church and I encountered a mom with her child in a stroller. He was so happy and content and he did not have a care in the world. I commented to Kimberly, “What a life. Wouldn’t it be great to be him?” Kimberly thought being rolled around by someone else was not that great of a deal at that time, but I meant by that that it would be great to have a life in which someone else carries our cares for us. Christian, we do have such a One.
S. Lewis Johnson writes, “If a little child may expect his parents to care for him, how much more we who are the children of the eternal God?…We are the children of God, and if that simple truth were to come home to us, we would drive quite a few Christian psychiatrists and psychologists into another field of endeavor? But, today, because Christians do not recognize this and do not in faith lean upon a heavenly Father in the midst of their trials, it is not surprising that they’re having various types of problems.” How many problems could be solved if we could just simply know the love of God for us?
4 I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them.
What a great word picture that is. It becomes that of a farmer who leads his animals into the field to do work. But, as he leads his animals, he leads them with bands of love. He does not use the chains or ropes of cruelty to conform them with harsh treatment, to drive these animals to do their work for the day. No, that is not the kind of farmer God is. When He wants us to do work in His field, it is always for our good and for our joy. He leads us with bands of love and not with ropes of cruelty. When the animals became weary, God is the One who comes along and eases their yoke and feeds and nourishes them because He cares for them.
How does God motivate His people to respond to them? He motivates our service and our commitment to Him, not by flogging us with the force of the Law and with threats, but He motivates us by drawing us with the bands of His love. We cannot serve God motivated by fear or cold duty. That is not the God we serve. We serve God because He loves us and He is so very kind to us.
When God adopts us into His family He takes off the yoke of The Law so that we might respond to Him and to the grace He shows to us. We do not serve Him out of the fear He will reject us if we do not, but we desire to worship Him and serve Him as a result of His kindness to us.
A healthy church understands Gods motivation for His people. We know the motivation of God is always the bands of love and not the bondage of The Law. So, at Bethany Baptist Church we strive not to motivate any of God’s people out of external pressure or obligation. In our church we have many needs in order to continue to minister to our community and to this church family. For instance, we are constantly in need of nursery workers and children’s church ministers, volunteers to work in AWANA, to go to the Peoria Rescue Mission and South Side Mission and to Trewyn School to have the Good News Club, to have women’s leaders to be involved in Bible studies and MOPS. The list is quite large.
So, how do we go about motivating God’s people into His service? Do we guilt someone into it, to communicate good Christians serve in the nursery and bad Christians do not? Do we twist arms in God’s service telling each individually, “If you really love God you would care for a foster child in your home”? Do we force God’s Law to bring others into commitment, “God’s Law requires a ten percent tithe of every individual believer. God’s Law requires us to care for the poor by (fill in the blank by whatever means to be your favorite method)”?
No, all of these methods are unlike God as we reject them because they are godless and unworthy of Him. We strive not to use them overtly or subtly in our shepherding of the flock. That is our commitment to you. We are fallen and God is not like us. Sometimes we fail, but that is our commitment. We desire to use God’s motivation in all we do.
The third demonstration of God’s love to us is through His secure promises for our future,
5 They shall not return to the land of Egypt, but Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me. 6a The sword shall rage against their cities…7a My people are bent on turning away from me…
The work of their life is in the opposite direction of God.
Have you ever had tires that are out of alignment and are bent. If you let the car steer itself, it will drive into a ditch. That is how we are as a people. Our heart is bent; it is always bent. That is why we need a daily alignment because our heart is always going to drive us toward the ditch if we take our hands off of the wheel. We need to steer and we need God to align us so that we stay on the road that leads to life and out of the ditch that is one of death.
We might expect God to turn away from His people for good. His judgment upon them would be just and right, but He does not,
8 How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
Admah and Zeboiim are two sister cities to Sodom and Gomorrah. When Sodom and Gomorrah were judged they were no more and they were burned to ashes. God wonders how He can do that to a people He loves. He cannot judge them in such as way so as to be through with them,
9a I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim
Your love and my love is fickle and it is changing because we are mutable people, but God is immutable and His love is not like man’s love. In even the best of cases, our love changes.
I love my wife more than any other person on this planet, but I realize that some days I express that love more purely than on other days and I recognize that. I fall short of the measure of Jesus everyday. I am supposed to love my wife the way Christ loves the church, but I fall short of that everyday. I hope I am moving upward in sanctification. During my worst days I fall woefully short and I mourn those day and I hate them. I desire to be like God each day, but my love is mutable because I am a man and I love like man. But, friends, God is always like God because He is God and His love is immutable,
9b I am God…the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.
God is just, but He is also a God of mercy. How is He able to do that? He is able by sending His Son to experience the justice. God cannot allow the guilty to go unpunished. His own Son experienced the punishment that was supposed to be ours so that justice is satisfied and, now, through faith in Jesus He can offer us entrance into an immutable, everlasting, unchanging, conquering love and that is their future,
10 They shall go after the Lord; he will roar like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west; 11 they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria, and I will return them to their homes, declares the Lord.
That is God’s future for Israel. Again, it is still future. This has not happened yet. God has not done that for Israel yet, but He will.
I urge each of you to come to the Prophesy Conference to learn more about that very issue because it is an important issue for us as believers.
Do you desire spiritual revival? The first foundation is that revival rests upon our knowing the greatness of God’s love and the second is to talk about future times. Spiritual revival rests upon our yielding control over to God’s care. Those two foundation stones are lock up in the verse I would have each of you to meditate upon,
Romans 12: 1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
In view of God’s wrath, in view of His righteousness, in view of His justice? No. It is in view of His mercies and His love for us. If we do not have a view of God’s love for us we will never, ever be able to obey Romans 12:1, because it is in view of God’s love that this call is given to us and which rests upon us. I urge each of you, as you have a clear picture of God’s love, in view of His amazing kindness and mercy to you, offer your body to God in whole commitment, offering your whole self to Him as a living sacrifice, and tell Him your life is going to be all about His glory, His Kingdom, and His praise. This is a reasonable, logical act of worship.
 Romans 3:11,12
 Romans 10:9