Love Endures All Things
October 14, 2018
I had a great uncle, and we called him “Uncle Obie” and my aunt’s name was Winnie. Uncle Obie and Winnie. I used to love them. They lived and grew up in the Virginia area, specifically Martinsville, Virginia. As a kid we would drive to Martinsville a couple of times a year and I would love going there and sitting in the living room floor at my Uncle Obie’s and Winnie’s. I remember this as though it happened yesterday. The dude was like a used car salesman, but he made a lot of money off of stocks.
As a kid I would sit there at the feet of Uncle Obie and I would hear these elaborate stories that he would tell. They were incredible stories. I mean my mind would just go off and as a kid I would be like, “Oh cool! Tell me that story about… Tell me this story again and tell me about that time when you…” I would ask him to tell me these stories as a kid. Legend has it that my Uncle Obie loved his car. He drove a Cadillac when I was a little kid. He’d pull up in that thing, and get Winnie out of it, man. He was a big tobacco person, leaf tobacco. He would have a wad of leaf tobacco in his mouth, just constantly dipping as I was a kid growing up.
But he loved Winnie his wife. I mean he loved her. I would ask him to tell me this story, and this is one of the stories that I wanted to hear over and over again, about how he got his wife Winnie. I don't know when they met. I can't remember that, but I know that he knew her when he was in high school. He loved this girl and the moment that his eyes became fixed on Winnie, it was over. It was over. My Uncle Obie, man, he was so fixed on Winnie. Then he knew that he wanted to be with this girl for the rest of his life. He always got what he wanted.
Legend has it that he bootlegged moonshine throughout the western Virginia area. No kidding. When he died, he had a glass of moonshine next to his bed that I think he would smell every morning.
So he had his eyes fixed on this girl. He would tell me the story and I don't know if the story is true. I don't know how elaborate it was, but in my mind I like to think that this story is true. One day he saw Winnie at the convenience store in Martinsville, Virginia, and he said, “Today’s the day. This girl is going to be mine.” When he was fixed on her, he was fixed. And his love was extravagant for Winnie and I kid you not, here's the story. This is how it went. He saw one of the convenience stores and he rode up in his Buick. He gets out of his Buick, walks in the convenience store, grabs Winnie's boyfriend, pulls him outside. Winnie comes running. He beats the snot out of her boyfriend, and then he says, “Winnie, get in the Buick with me. You're coming home.” And they got married! They got married and they were with each other over fifty years of marriage. That’s a man, right there! I know he loved Winnie. He cherished this woman and I know that because when Winnie passed away and she passed away at a young age, man, it absolutely affected my uncle. But when he became fixed on Winnie, Winnie could never do anything to take away his love. He had enduring love for my Aunt Winnie. It's amazing.
This word “fixed” kind of hit me. When we become fixed on something, it grapples, it consumes our emotions and it consumes a lot of what we have. This word enduring love has an incredible, incredible connection with this word “fixed.” I'm going to take a word from the Bible. You know, Shannon has been talking with us about agape, a love, an unconditional love, and what that means. I kind of want to steal this word a little bit from Ephesians. It is out of the book of Ephesians, and it's one of my favorite words in the New Testament. A word that Paul uses for endurance when he uses this word. It means this, the Greek meaning of that word out of the book of Ephesians means a spirit that is not passive, meaning a spirit that is not idle. It's not standing by, but it is a spirit that is actively overcoming. And this morning as we talk about this word. Enduring agape, enduring love and enduring unconditional love. I want you to think of it as a spirit that is actively overcoming and it's overcoming with love because that love has become fixed on you. So we are going to be this morning in the Old Testament. If anybody ever tells you that the Old Testament is boring, or that it's irrelevant, that’s simply not true. This story has incredible murmurings and foreshadows the Gospel. It points directly to Jesus and you can't make it up. So let me pray and we're going to jump right into the book of Hosea this morning.
Lord, thank you that you love us. Thank you that you are after us. Thank you, God, that you are fixed on us, like Uncle Obie was fixed on Winnie, God, you are coming after us. You are coming after us. Lord, we love you. We thank you and we pray this in the name of Christ. Amen.
I want to tell you real quick what enduring love does not do. Enduring love, this active love, this spirit of being active and overcoming love, it does not retaliate. It does not write people off. It does not get revenge, and I think a very important piece of overcoming, of enduring love is that it's not cold. And even greater than that, is that it's not ending. And so as I work through this morning, here's what I want you to think about. I don't know what the reasons are in you. You may have legitimate reasons and I'm not here to entertain that, or I'm not here to press the play button again on those reasons as to why you've determined that you're no longer going to pursue someone or continue your love with someone. But I'm going to leave this up to God and to the Spirit to speak to you directly this morning about enduring love. But I think for some of us in this room, we've pressed the pause button and we've ended enduring love with people in our life. We've ended it. We've ended love. Enduring love does not end. It doesn't leave people hopeless. I want you to understand that we don't ignore sin. We don't ignore the pain and hurt that we’ve confronted with an attitude that our love has not been withdrawn because honestly, man, if we are on the receiving end of love, that's probably our biggest fear, that we don't want love to be withdrawn from us.
So I want you to think about who is it that you've withdrawn. Who have I withdrawn my love from this morning? God is saying “It's not over, man, it's not done.” So here we go. In the book of Hosea, and I'm going to read in chapter one and start in verse two. I’m going to break this down as we go through. I think there's some important things in this text that I'm going to highlight. So let's start in verse two. Here we go. “When the Lord God first began speaking to Israel through Hosea, He said to them, ‘Go and marry a prostitute. So that some of her children will be conceived in prostitution. This will illustrate how Israel has acted like a prostitute by turning against the Lord and worshiping other gods.’”
So a little bit of backstory here on the nation of Israel. God brings them out of the exodus and He brings them into the Promise Land and He sets them up in a land flowing with milk and honey. God makes a covenant with them that they are going to be an incredibly huge nation, as many people as sand on the seashore, countless. God is going to make their name great and they're going to glorify God. They are going to be a beautiful representation of God to the world, and through their community, and their love for each other, and their genuine commitment and fellowship and sharing to each other, the nation of Israel is going to reflect just how beautiful and attractive God is. It is going to bring people into the family, which is still our role today. What happened is they began to worship pagan gods, and they began to serve themselves and to do a lot of unfortunate serious things with each other and against the Lord.
So this word prostitution has a double meaning here. When God tells Hosea that you're going to marry a prostitute, it has a double meaning. The first meaning of the word definitely means someone who is after illicit sex or illicit lust for material gain or for financial gain. It's the meaning that most of us in this room know. It's for the seeking of pleasure. Then the second meaning is equally important in this text as anywhere else. It also is a religious act of prostitution. Simply put, the nation of Israel is prostituting or engaging in prostitution with other gods and other idols, manmade images against God. So there's a double meaning here. Not only is it prostitution like we know, but it's also religious prostitution. And in their case they were prostituting with bells which you read often in the Old Testament. So we have prostitution.
Another thing that we have going on is, and it is in some translations, not in the NLT, but in the NIV specifically, If you have that in front of you, you also notice that the word land is in that. I think it's actually in verse two. The word land and the reason why God speaks of Israel as the land is because God wants the nation of Israel to remember that I gave you this land in which you live as a covenant. That you would honor me on this land, that you would worship me. I’m reminding you of the Covenant that I made with Abraham to make you into a great nation in this land. This land today is modern day Israel. It’s a gorgeous land and so God makes this promise. He’s reminding them in this text that when you go and you tell Israel what I'm about to do, you remind them and He uses that word land. We just kind of read over it, but they knew exactly what God is referring to when He speaks of the land there. He's reminding them.
So here's how it rolls out. Starting in verse three, Hosea married Gomer and at this point we don't know if she's engaged in prostitution. As a matter of fact, just in all the studies that I've read on this, I don't think there's any theologians or commentary writers that actually believed that Gomer was involved in prostitution at the time of her marriage. Actually they likely had a formal marriage the way any Jewish female and male would have, or any Hebrew up until this point. So we don't know if she was engaged in prostitution, but we do know that at least maybe two of the three kids that are spoken of here were birthed out of prostitution.
“So Hosea marries Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim and she became pregnant and she gave birth to a son and the Lord said, ‘Name the child Jezreel for I'm about to punish King Jehu’s dynasty to avenge the murders he committed at Jezreel. In fact, I will bring an end to Israel's independence and I'll break its military power in the Jezeel valley.”
Jehu is who He's speaking of here. Jehu was a royal general who became a king over Israel. At some point as king and his authority in his reign, he took what God called him to do and he began to disobey God. He used his authority and his power to basically kill anybody that he wanted to, anybody that was against him, anybody that he didn't like. He began to operate out of the will of God, out of the authority of God. This definitely frustrated and displeased God.
So God told Hosea, “I want you to name your first son Jezreel because I'm about to avenge Israel for what they've been doing in my name.” So he has a second son. So at first He cast judgment on the nation of Israel through Jezreel, and then she has a second son. “Soon Gomer became pregnant again and gave birth to a daughter. And the Lord said to Hosea, ‘Name your daughter Lo-ruhama, which means ‘not loved,’ for I will no longer show love to the people of Israel or forgive them. But I will show love to the people of Judah, and free them from their enemies, not with weapons and armies or horses and charioteers, but by my power as the Lord their God.” Lo-ruhama, not loved. So God moves in to cast judgment, but then God makes a shift. He makes a sharp change in His attitude toward His people whose identity is built on His compassion, His tenderness, His commitment, and is willing to forgive and God removes love.
How many of you who've walked into this room this morning, how many of you feel as though God has removed His love from your life? No, I'm not saying this is everybody in here. It can be a tenth of us in here, but for whatever reason, for the patterns that you've developed, for a thorn in your side that you can't seem to crucify, how you’ve treated other people, you’ve walked away. You were ignoring God in His pursuit of us. How many of us in this room feel as though God has said, “You know what? No longer, my love for you. No love, anymore.” He's removed His grace, His mercy, because He's just done with us. I wonder how many of us fit into that category. So He tells to the nation of Israel, He says, “No more, not my love number.”
“So after Gomer weaned Lo-ruhama, she became pregnant. She gave birth to a second son.” Again, we don't know for sure, but it's probably correct that both these kids were born out of prostitution, these last two. She gives birth to a second son and the Lord said, “Name him Lo-ammi, which means ‘not my people,’ for Israel is not my people, and I am not their God.’" So the whole story climaxes right here. Not only does God remove His love from them, but now God has completely separated Himself. His presence has been removed. “Not my people” signals a total change in God's relationship to Israel. The disobedience of a nation has effectively reversed the covenant that God made with Abraham. The son's name not only described how Israel had behaved, but also declared God's response of separating Himself from them.
So not only are there some of us in this room who feel as though God is removing His love from you, but there's the real possibility that there are even some of us in this room that feel as though God is completely removed from our life. His presence has gone. I mean, I'm not asking you to raise your hand, but is that you? Is that me? Dysfunction in the camp. Sin In the camp. That would be incredibly tragic if the story ended. If we closed the Bible and said, “That's it. Have a great day people.”
But it takes an interesting turn in verse ten. “Yet the time will come when Israel's people will be like the sands of the seashore and then at the place where they were told, ‘You are not my people.’ It will be said, ‘You are the children of the living God.’” Why? Because Yahweh was fixed on Israel. Guess what? He's fixed on Gomer. He's fixed on Gomer. This salvation speech here in verse ten is an initial glimmer of hope. The tone changes. Yahweh whose commands are dominated by signs of destruction and separation in two through nine, they are no longer His words. Hosea’s prophetic voice becomes prominent in the theme in verse ten. It turns positive with salvation, not judgement as the intended message. Why? Because the Creator of the world has His eyes fixed on a nation and a person and the Creator of the world has His eyes fixed on you. I don't know that you got that. Through Jesus!
Hosea 3 displays that out in an incredibly beautiful way. So Gomer has gone into prostitution at this point. She has left the house, man. She is out. She is gone and we don't know the exact reasons. We have ideas. Maybe it's because Hosea has completely enamored himself into the preaching and calling on the nation of Israel to repent. But, dude, she is out of the house and she is gone. And this is a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful story. It happens here in verse one. Then the Lord says to Hosea, “Go and love your wife again. Even though she commits adultery with another lover.” He says to Hosea, “Go and love your wife again.” Those two words, “go, love.” Go love is the salvation message. Go love is the fixed. Go love is the enduring love. It's the hupomone, which is the spirit that is actively overcoming with unconditional love. It's love. It's 1 John 4:17, “Let us not love with words, but let us love by what we do.” It's action. It's not passive. Go love.
Are you loving the person that you're thinking about this morning? Are you loving the withdrawing love that we've had for one another for an enemy, for a coworker, for your husband or your wife, your child, your children? I think about somebody often when I think about enduring love. Somebody who’s in our student ministry, who needs to experience this kind of enduring love. Regardless of how many mistakes they’ve made, regardless of where they've been, where their story is, or where it has been, I see where their story has the ability to go. Why? Because when your love is fixed on somebody, you in some spiritual way, man, when your human love connects with the divine love of the Creator, you can't help but have enduring love. Your love and His love compared and partnered and meshed together endure, no matter the story. It endures! Are you with me?
So she's out. She is gone and in chapter three, verse one through three, God says, “Go and love your wife. This will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel…” Salvation! “Even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them…” Even though they are bent toward a different love and my love for them is not probably going to be receiving anything in any dear time soon, I'm still going to continue to pursue them with an enduring love even though their love is bent towards the false. My love, Christ's love in me toward them. I'm going to continue to love even though I'm not going to receive anything for it.
But it's not about me. Go love, though she commits adultery. This will illustrate verse two. “So I bought her back.” I bought her back. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Jesus bought Gomer back just like he bought us back. So here you have Hosea. He walks into a city into a dark alley where godly people are not supposed to be, and he sees his wife on the auction block. He walks up to his wife, Gomer, and sees her on the auction block. He walks up to the auctioneer and he says, “That's my wife!” And the auctioneer says, “Oh no, she belongs to me!” Hosea says, “What's the price? What's the price?”
Don't you see it? This is what Christ did for you and me. He said, “What's the price?” Jesus paid the price to buy us back. Just like Hosea paid the price to get his wife back, just like God paid the price for Israel through the blood of Jesus Christ. That's enduring love!
There's five things that we can learn from this. His response shows us how costly love can be and how degraded Gomez condition was, and the response to go love. It's not that he went and loved, it's that he bought, he bought, he BOUGHT her. His wife! That doesn't make sense! But it’s the Gospel. When you read this man, when you read this book, when you read this Bible, I go back to what Paul says, “If it's out of my mind, it ain't going to make sense. You’ve just got to trust me.” You can't make this up. That's why it's so amazing because I don't know that it does make sense in our mind because we can't love the way Christ wants us to love on our own. We need Jesus to do it.
So what does enduring love look like? So thinking about the person, whether you have a son that is gone, I don't know if there's an addiction there and they've just kind of ran to it and you're like, “I'm done. I can't do it anymore. I can't. I can't do it anymore. I just can’t." Whether it's a spouse, whether it's an ex-wife or an ex-husband. Whether it's a co-worker. I don't know. A friend. Maybe you're just sick of me. I don't know.
Here's number one. It's constant in all circumstances, even when people are trapped in their own sin. Enduring love is constant. It doesn't end. It doesn't end even until the last breath that you have. You and I are loving, because Christ is loving us until our last breath. It's constant.
Number two, it’s complete. It's a love that often has no return. If you read in this story, the nation of Israel, their love not only is it bent toward idolatry, but it's also a bent toward raisin cakes. You're not going to get much return for your love as you're doing it. As you're loving, as you're enduring loving your kids, and your wife, and your husband, it's opposite of what we're able to do. Christ in us.
The third thing is that it's illustrated when human love and divine love come together in this harmony. It's powerful. It's powerful. You can't do it on your own. We can’t do it on our own, but man, it becomes a thing of power and compassion. When Christ is in us, Galatians 2:20, when we're able to love, because of Christ, we've received His love, we recognize the love of Jesus. Christ bought us, and so we're coming after you. I'm coming after you. So it's a powerful love, a divine, powerful love. That's three.
Number four, it's commitment in action. Committed. I put, consistent, but it's action. He bought. Go. Love. He bought. It's action. It's not lip service.
Number five is strong, meaning it's disciplined. It’s exercising discipline. There’re consequences. It's strong, but it's tender. It's a balance of those two. You may be asking the question, “If I keep forgiving, do I affirm their pattern? If I keep pursuing by letting them get away with whatever they want, is it like putting a seal of approval if I keep forgiving?” Sometimes we say, I just can't take another hit like that. I was talking with somebody earlier who said, “My pain is so much that I'm just protecting myself from hurt.” That's not healthy. It's not free. God is saying, “Don't misunderstand because God hates sin and does not condone it. Perfect righteousness and justice demands that we deal with it. God still loves us. He’s still seeking us and he's calling us to do the same.
You know I loved my Uncle Obie. I loved him. He loved Winnie. Why? Because he was fixed on her. There's no doubt God used this story to show us through Hosea’s being fixed on Gomer that enduring love is possible. Christ in us.
So who do you need to fix your attention on? And if you are fixed, keep loving, keep loving, keep loving. Though it may be hard, though the night may never feel ending, keep loving until the end. Enduring love.
Lord, I pray that over our church this morning that we would have enduring love for each other. That we would have been enduring love, God, with whom you placed on our heart. That we would follow through. That we'd be patient in affliction. That we would endure suffering with joy, so that, God, we can have a “buying” moment. Jesus, thank you for buying us. This refrain in your name. Amen.
If you need somebody to pray with, we’ll be over here for you guys.