Third Sun. aft. Pentecost
Our Savior Lutheran Church
Pagosa Springs, Colorado
June 16, 1996
("Almost", It's a sad word in any man's dictionary...It runs herd with "nearly", "next time", "if only" and "just about". Its a word that smacks of missed opportunities, aborted efforts and fumbled chances. It's "honorable mention", "on the bench" and burnt cookies....)
THE PEOPLE OF HOSEA'S ISRAEL "ALMOST" LOVED GOD. (v. 4)
The symptoms of Israel's rebellion were subtle, at first.
Moral complacency slowly began to replace the unyielding Law of God.
A little compromise here, a bit there.
Doubt about what God had commanded became outright rejection.
Moral decline escalated as forbidden intermarriage with unbelievers watered down religious convictions.
A wholesale and frenzied rush to embrace the Canaanite gods of Baal, Asherah, and Ashtoreh possessed the people of God.
Oh, to be sure, trips were still made to the temple...sacrifices during special festivals were made.
Offerings were still provided to the priests of the temple and, on the outside, the forms and ceremonies still looked good, and they kept their Jewish "bases" covered.
But everybody knew that Baal gave the rain and crops and that peace was maintained, not by God, but by alliances with Assyria, Babylon and Egypt...Yes, they almost loved God.
God had certainly done His best to get their attention.
Prophet after prophet had come and gone speaking God's Words of mercy for the repentant and judgment for the unrepentant.
But God's warnings were "almost" heard.
The prophets words were discarded and their blood ran in the streets.
Now with Hosea, God attempts to demonstrate what it is like to be the object of unfaithfulness.
God had ordered Hosea to marry a harlot named Gomer who was constantly unfaithful to Hosea after their marriage.
She had left Hosea to play the harlot with others and yet God commands Hosea to, Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites though they turn to other gods." (3:1)
This is a God who loves when all possibility of loving has rightly ceased!
God loves sinners!
God moves mountains, rearranges history, suspends the laws of nature and gives up some of the attributes of His own divinity to love us and save us.
Man's vain attempts to "almost" love God are like the morning mist.
We are no different from the Israelites.
We too are distracted from God by all that surrounds us.
Materialism points us to earthly toys that will not satisfy.
Hedonism directs our attention to pleasure which will not lead to contentment.
Fatalism points us to despair...the game is rigged!
We insist that we can do it all - love God and the world.
We want God, but we love things.
We desire salvation, but seek gratification of our appetites.
We long for hope, but refuse to believe that God truly loves.
Sometimes as a congregation we can fall into the same kind of trap:
ILLUS: Kenneth Hemphill - lopsided loss while playing football at Wake Forest University. Dad said, "You looked great...in the huddle"
When we sing our hymns, confess our faith, study in class we look great, but when we leave to play the game of life...the temptations of the world with all its distractions - how are we doing?
GOD IS COMPELLED TO LOVE US, BECAUSE HE IS MERCIFUL.
Our hope, our eternal destiny rests on a beautiful, but profound truth: Even though we have been unfaithful to God, He is not unfaithful to us.
Sometimes His faithfulness is seen in rebuke.
He issues His Law and the condemnation that it brings to sinners precisely because He loves us.
He is motivated to save us from ourselves...unbelief, false security.
His fatherly heart would rather exercise mercy than judgment.
He is a desperate Father doing everything He can to get our attention so that we will return to Him, love Him and be saved.
He will not coerce us into heaven...If, finally, we do not want Him, He will permit us the free will to walk away from Him.
His mercy comes to us through faith.
The same free gift of faith that God gave to Abraham, He also gives to us.
We have nothing to do with receiving the gift...It is the work of the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacrament.
God forgives our sins and declares us to be His children. (Gal. 3:26-29)
In our baptism, the power of God's eternal grace has blotted out our sin and guilt.
Baptism forgives sins. (I Peter 3:20b-22)(Acts 22:16)
Baptism is the moment of conversion - God's Act of faithfulness!
This mercy of God is steadfast and eternal.
His mercy preserves us in our faith throughout the days of our lives.
He offers the strengthening nourishment of His Word.
He comes to us again and again with His grace in the Lord's Supper.
When we "almost" love God, He is there to forgive, comfort and, if necessary, rebuke.
He will continue to do everything He can to overcome our pride, our false sense of self-sufficiency and our hunger for ungodly things.
The sacrifice of Christ is totally sufficient to overcome all of our sin, all of our pride and all of our stubborn love for the world.
ILLUS: A veteran from Lexington, KY at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial...I was pinned down, hit in the leg, and this soldier laid over me...shot full of bullets...He knew they were going to kill me.
Jesus, God's Son, knew that Satan was ready to kill us, so He took the bullets, the accusations, the punishment into His own body so that we could be saved.
In spite of our countless, "almosts" before God, He has given us His eternal grace
Because of His grace, we want to worship Him, study His Word and serve His Kingdom!
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