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Sermon 7/28/19

Many of y’all have told me that you sometimes get just as much from the children’s sermon as you do the “regular” sermon, so we’re going to start with a bit of a children’s message. Get in your best kid mindset.

Do you know what this is? (corn husk) Would you eat this exactly as is? (I’m always amazed, actually, thinking about how humans learned centuries ago to heat things so they taste good.) No, you don’t eat it exactly as is - you have to take off the husk. I don’t know of any place in the world that eats corn husks (I even looked it up and found a “PSA” about unwrapping tamales before eating them.)

The point being: the entirety of the corn stalk is needed. Without the husk, I don’t know that the corn cob would be protected enough to grow. But this husk, this covering, is just part of the presentation - we appreciate it for what it does and then we put it aside. We take in, we eat, what’s on the inside. The “meat” of it, if you will.

This is what we need to do with many metaphors. (A metaphor to explain metaphors - how nice, right?) This, I believe is what we need to do with a good portion of today’s Scripture.

We need to appreciate the entirety of the presentation - and then know what to put aside.

This selection from Hosea is another presentation of God’s relationship with the people of Israel. Similar to many other Hebrew Scriptures, particularly the prophets, it shows the people turning from God’s ways and God sending a message through a prophet about changing their ways or they will have consequences. Those consequences range from destruction of land to not hearing God’s voice. And then, there’s a message of restoration, reminding the people that they can find hope in God’s message and, eventually, in the teachings of Jesus.

That cycle and story is presented in so many different ways throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. Each presentation is a little different and we can learn wisdom from those particularities.

In this passage, there are two particularly troubling points:

First, Hosea’s wife, Gomer. Depending on the translation of the Bible, she is described as a prostitute, a whore, a promiscuous woman. Yet, she has no voice in this text. Wouldn’t you love to hear what Gomer has to say?

A lot of speculation is made about Gomer - whether she was a temple worker or unfaithful only after marrying Hosea and many other possibilities. No matter what the exact situation - or even if the marriage was only a metaphor! - this story reminds us that many biblical stories don’t include the voices of everyone involved. It can be a reminder to us in all the stories and situations we hear about in our lives - from close friends/family to the global community - that it is important to listen to all the voices.

On one hand, the “tenderness of the metaphors of love and marriage and family...leads us to understand the magnitude of what is happening in God’s relationship with Israel” in ways that normally would not convey that message. (Christian Resource Institute, The Voice) On the other hand, if given too much authority, the metaphor can be harmful.

Blake Couey (, speaking to the fact that Gomer doesn’t have a voice in this passage, points out: “Hosea 1 employs a literary motif that biblical scholars call the “prophetic marriage metaphor” (see also Isaiah 1; Jeremiah 2-4; Ezekiel 16, 23). This metaphor represents God as a husband and God’s people as an unfaithful wife. It criticizes the worship of other deities as spiritual adultery, while emphasizing God’s mercy in restoring the broken relationship. The metaphor assumes a hierarchical view of marriage, in which the husband has considerable power over the wife.”

I think this part - the part where God has Hosea marry an unfaithful wife - is the husk that needs to be placed aside. If we try to “eat” this husk and take it in, then it could promote “harmful views of women by associating maleness with God and femaleness with sin” or endorse “domestic violence; the cycle of harsh punishment followed by tender reconciliation.” (Couey)

As stated on the podcast Pulpit Fiction, this Scripture is about Israel’s unfaithfulness to following and worshipping God, not about prescribed gender roles or damning women.

I was grateful for this past Monday’s Progressive Pints because we talked about the “Old Testament” God and whether we needed to study these difficult passages as Christians. One participant pointed out that so many Christ-followers don’t have access or encouragement to think critically through Scripture.

When you hear Scriptures such as today, please think through them. If anyone tries to tell you any specific Scripture endorses domestic violence, adultery, slavery, or any other oppressive act, please don’t believe them! Go back to the scripture they reference, do research, and believe that you or anyone else do not warrant being abused or oppressed!

PSA: If you are in or were in a relationship where you were made to feel unfaithfulness on the part of your spouse was your fault or somehow inherent in the relationship, do not listen to those false statements. Speak with a counselor who can help you to know that. God is not male or female. Sin is not directly connected to maleness or femaleness. It is not in God’s plan for anyone to be cheated on.

We’re going to put that corn husk aside now and talk about a kernel of this Scripture that hit me hard. (Remember all good metaphors fall apart at some point!)

The second piece of this Scripture that stood out to me was the verse which says “ I want you to name him Not My People, because these people aren’t Mine anymore, and I am not their God.” WHAT?! I thought a major point of the Hebrew Scriptures was that God DIDN’T disown the people.

So, a couple thoughts. While I don’t always support anthropomorphizing God - assigning human emotions to the Divine - this moment does make me think of a parent perhaps who sees their young child eating dirt or their teenager about to do some action that clearly proves their frontal cortex of the brain isn’t fully developed. I’ve heard many parents admit they have thought “that is not my child!”

The situation that Hosea is addressing is more serious - he’s not addressing someone about to jump onto a trampoline from a roof. He’s addressing idolatry and lying and murder and stealing. However, couldn’t we see God witnessing the people forsaking all the Lord has taught them and “thinking” “those are not my people...that is not what I taught them.”

The statement of “they are not my people” highlights, though, the need for hope and restoration. Richard Nysse ( points out, “There is death and there is re-creation.” The last part of this Scripture says, ‘But things won’t always be this way. Someday there’ll be so many people in Israel that they’ll be like the grains of sand at the seashore—too many to count! It shall turn out that in the very place where it was said to them, “You are not My people,” they will be called “Children of the living God.” ’

This cycle is all a part of the framework of the entire book of Hosea. It is a familiar cycle: naming the sins of the people, affirming God’s grace, stating the hope for newness and restoration, calling to repentance the people. (Christian Resource Institute/The Voice) God may look at the waywardness of the Lord’s people and “think” “those are not my people,” yet, God also shows the Israelites - and us - there is always a way to restoration and hope.

This story, in its entirety, is helpful in recognizing that we are connected with God - we are in relationship with God. Relationships are sometimes tricky and they’re always hard work to maintain in a healthy state. However, they are worth it.

May you experience God’s loving faithfulness in whatever comes your way this week.

Scripture: Hosea1:2-10

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