Messiah Lutheran Church :: GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD! WE'VE GOT IT MADE!

GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD! WE'VE GOT IT MADE!

Dear thankful Christian friends,

            Is it easy to give thanks this year, or not?  The answer is relative to what you have endured or are enduring.  Economically, things are better but some business people I have talked to said that the economy is not humming.  In 64 years of life I can say that there have been a lot of ups and downs throughout.  The 1970’s was quite a decade.  I was in school until 1977.  There was the war in Viet Nam that never seemed to end.  Over 58,000 of our soldiers died in that war.  Violent protests occurred every.  In the 70’s we had a president that resigned in disgrace.  During the latter part of the decade, interest rates went through the roof.  They were in the high teens.  No one could afford to build or buy a house.  Iran took hostages from our embassy and held them for 444 days.

            We have a few but not many in our congregation who remember the Great Depression.  Unemployment was around 25% or better.  But as bad as it was in the United States, other nations suffered far greater.  We at least were able to have food lines.  Some nations couldn’t supply that.   

            Tonight we go back in time to Israel 730 years before Christ.  Hosea was their prophet.  He was living at one those times too when people were wondering if they had anything to be thankful about.  By inspiration of the Holy Spirit he urges Israel and he urges us to “Give Thanks to the LORD!  We Have it Good!”  1)  We have a faithful God; 2) We have him as a friend who supplies our needs; 3) We have a fantastic status.

            Sennacharib, King of Assyria had invaded Hosea’s country of Israel, the northern kingdom.  But there was a double whammy.  Not only was there the invasion, but a drought had destroyed the crops and the harvest didn’t look good at all.  That which didn’t shrivel was eaten by the locusts and other critters.  Times were tough.

            The trouble didn’t stop there for Hosea.  He was like a stranger in a foreign land.  The northern Kingdom of Israel that Hosea called home had split from their southern brothers in the south in Judah.  The split was even worse.  Israel had also split from the LORD . The worship of Baal and Asherah took the place of going to worship in Jerusalem at the LORD’s temple.    

            Hosea’s life was in turmoil too.  God commanded him to marry a woman by the name of Gomer.  Her name wasn’t nearly as bad as her reputation.  She was a woman of ill-repute.  She had trouble staying at home at night.  The LORD wanted Hosea to be a picture of him and his relationship to Israel.  When Gomer strayed, Hosea was to receive her back.  When Israel strayed, he wanted Israel to know he would accept Israel back.     

            The LORD was showing Israel his faithful love.  He didn’t give up on Israel, even though Israel preferred the company of Baal and Asherah over the LORD.  Because the Lord was faithful, the LORD sent Hosea to preach and invite them to repent.  There was no question that God would accept them back. 

Since the Word of God doesn’t return to the LORD empty, I am sure that when we get to heaven, we are going to run into people to whom Hosea preached, listened and believed.  Just as sure there will be people in hell who are kicking themselves for not giving Hosea their ear. 

            While our nation might be struggling, there is plenty for which to give thanks. The Word of God is ready and available.  We have it.  There is no greater blessing.    

            Think of the promises that are in the Word.  Hosea was to be the faithful husband no matter what.  He was a picture of the LORD who faithful no matter what. It was not the LORD who moved away from Israel, Israel moved away from him.  “I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD.”  This verse is so packed with promises that it ought to put a smile in your face and bring about thanks in your heart.  We have it good, people. 

            The Scripture often illustrates the church as Jesus’ bride and he is the Bridegroom.  While recently a poll was taken that stated that 40% of Americans think that marriage is on the way out and outdated.  40% of Americans have a lot of explaining to do to the LORD.  When we think of our relationship with him, he states it in terms of a marriage covenant.  Three times he says, “I will betroth you.”  I will pledge you to me forever.”    

Even humans are not asked to remain with our spouses forever.  The covenant ends at the death of either - “’Til death do us part.” On the other hand, the LORD’S covenant to each of us who are part of his church is a commitment for the long run, the very long run.  It’s forever.  We get to share his house forever.    

For his elect “the forever” not only goes into eternity but started from eternity when he foreknew and chose us to be his holy people.  What a difference that makes when we as individuals go on our spiritual roller coasters with short highs and long lows, when we have our doubts and our faith is hot and cold. The LORD is not like that. He is committed to us forever.      

I have seen couples married for more years than many live on this earth.  Alzheimer’s hits one, but the other remains faithful.  I have seen the faithful spouse travel to the nursing home every day even when the patient’s mind is gone and doesn’t even know that person who comes to visit daily and has spent fifty or sixty years together with him or her.  The LORD remains faithful and the promise of forgiveness won by Jesus is not taken away.  The unfaithful can only push the LORD’S love away.    

When two people get married it is often the custom for the two to get gifts for each other.  I got Judy golf clubs.  The LORD’S brings us gifts that make all the difference in the world. “I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness.”

He gives the bride, his church, righteousness. This is the righteousness that Martin Luther figured out with the Holy Spirit’s help.  It is the righteousness that our perfect God demands but then also supplies by Our  Righteous Substitute, Jesus, whose life was credited to all and appropriated by faith.  There is no need for sleepless nights caused by guilt.  The great exchange has taken place - our iniquities were laid on Jesus and his righteousness is ours.  Thank the LORD! We have it good!

God provides his bride with justice.  The Bridegroom judges.  He makes a decision about his people.  But don’t be afraid.  He has judged his people innocent based on the righteousness he supplies. There is no need to worry and wonder what happens when the great destructive final day comes as a thief in the night.  Your place is reserved in the LORD’S palace.  Anticipate the words that Jesus will say,    “Come inherit the kingdom which has been prepared for you since the foundations of the world.”  Thank you, Jesus.

I will betroth you in love.  The love comes from the lover to the lovee.  The LORD is he one who loves.  We are the ones who don’t deserve it.  We are the Gomer’s, yet Hosea accepted her back.  It must have been difficult for the prophet to do, but he did. God doesn’t have reservations.  Love, perfect love, is his nature.  Thank you, LORD.    

He pledges us his compassion.  A loving father pities and has mercy on his child. Remember that incredible story that Jesus told about the son who wanted his inheritance and go on his own.  To do what?  Sin!  Yet the son came back to where he had it good.  He said he came back to be his father’s servant. His father would not hear of that.  Thank the Lord for such a commitment to us.  We have a faithful God.  

He is also our friend who supplies us in our need.  “In that day I will respond,” declares the LORD—
“I will respond to the skies, and they will respond to the earth; and the earth will respond to the grain, the new wine and the olive oil.”
Remember that Israel not only had to contend with the king of Assyria, they were also contending with a severe drought that was causing food shortages and driving up prices.  The faithful bridegroom, the LORD, not only can do something about it but will do something about it. 

We can talk all we want to the skies and nothing will happen.  The LORD talking to the skies changes things.  When the LORD talks to the heavens there is a domino effect that takes place.  The LORD speaks to the heavens and the heavens respond to the earth, and the earth responds to the grain and new wine from a new crop that supplies what His Bride needs. 

Here we are on the eve of the day of Thanksgiving, and we see the LORD’S hand in our world.  There is food and grain.  There is water.  There is sustenance.  Our refrigerators are not empty.  Our cupboards are stocked.  Our freezers are full.  There is clothes in our closets and money in the bank.  And for the many there has been another year of health.  For those whom it hasn’t, we have the promise that he will make all work for good.  We say, “Give thanks to the LORD!  We have it good.”

Thank the LORD we have a fantastic status.  “And they will respond to Jezreel. I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”
 Hosea’s whole family was used as an object lesson for Israel.  It wasn’t just the relationship between Hosea and his unfaithful wife.  He had three children.  The first was a son Jezreel.  It means ‘I scatter.’ 

There was a double meaning to his name.  The first was not good.  God did indeed scatter Israel because they had turned their backs on him.  Sennacharib conquered Israel and destroyed the capital of Samaria and scattered her people because of her straying. 

Yet for the faithful, ‘Jezreel’ was a positive.  He says, “I will plant her for myself in the land.”  He scatters his Word (remember the parable of The Sower and the Seed) and by the Holy Spirit’s power has taken root in your heart and now you bring forth fruit.       

Hosea had two other children who were also named with names that were not complimentary.  He had a daughter whose name was Lo-Ruhamah.  It means “Not my loved one.”  He also had a son Lo-Ammi.  It meant “not my people.”  They, too, were to be a picture of Israel.  Israel treated the LORD badly.  They rejected the LORD.  Their rejection made them Lo-Ruhamah, “not my loved one.”  Their rejection made them Lo-Ammi, “not my people.” 

But the LORD calls them through Hosea.  He reminds them of his faithfulness.  That faithfulness, contained in the message of the Gospel, melts hearts and changes hearts.  He wanted them to know and he wants us to know that he doesn’t change.  We needed to.  By the Spirit’s power it has happened.  We enjoy a new status.  He says, “I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’” What we deserved is not what we get.  We have a God who has given us new titles, from “Not loved” to “Loved”, from “you are not my people” to “You are my people.”  Yes, give thanks to the LORD!  We’ve got it good! 

  

 

Amen

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