Isn’t it amazing how the symbol of the cross has become a recognized symbol “worldwide”? Even the non-Christian sees the symbol of the cross—and recognizes it for what it is! The non-Christian may recognize the symbol and know it is symbolic of Christianity but only the Christian can see the true symbolism.
We see the vertical beam of the cross and it reminds us of the love God has for us and we see the horizontal beam and it reminds us of the love that we are to share with all mankind.
The most important symbolism that I want us to concentrate on today when we look at the cross is to see the Lord standing with His arms wide-open because the cross represents Christ’s open invitation to each one of us to come to Him. That is what the cross is saying loud and clear: “COME”. Some people are being invited to “come” for the first time and some are being invited to "come back" from straying from His Presence. That is what Resurrection Sunday is all about, the outstretched arms of Jesus, extending a love that is beyond our ability to comprehend!
For our Easter Bible Study, I want us to look at the book of Hosea and the story of a prophet in the Old Testament who understood about that kind of love. I want us to look at his life because it represents the Resurrection Love that God offers through the Resurrected Life of Jesus!
Hosea lived about the last 40 years of the Northern Kingdom. As a child, he may possibly have known Jonah. He would probably have prophesied during the reign of Hezekiah and Jeroboam II.
The Book of Hosea is About Four Things:
Hosea, a Picture of God's Continuous Love for All Men
Hosea is not only a picture of God’s love for Israel, it is also a picture of His continuous love for all men. Most scholars believe that Hosea’s wife, Gomer, was not a prostitute before he took her as his wife. She probably just became unfaithful after her marriage, and her children followed her example because it is a picture of Israel. And Israel became unfaithful after God chose her and her descendants followed in the same pattern of unfaithfulness.
Gomer was always running after other men, just like Israel ran after other gods! Even though Hosea knew what Gomer would be like, this still grieved the heart of Hosea, because he loved his wife very much… just as God loved His people with a deep abiding love. So often we fail to realize that when we sin, it devastates the heart of God. For God to compare Israel’s unfaithfulness to the hurt that a man would go through when his wife spurned his love and committed adultery, even after he had been nothing but loving and true to her, it lets you know the hurt that God endured even though He knew that we would be unfaithful.
Hosea’s unfaithful wife is symbolically intended for Israel. This entire passage is based on the parallel between God’s relationship to Israel and Hosea’s relationship to Gomer. When it speaks about the mother, symbolically it is talking about Israel as a nation and the children are individual Israelites. The Israelites (the children) were being urged to call for their nation to return to being faithful to their God. The statement spoken by Hosea that “she is not my wife” implies that he had disowned his wife just like God had disowned Israel.
Consequences of Her Sinful Ways
Israel was told the consequences of her sinful ways if she didn’t change. She would be stripped naked. Israel, time and again ignored what God had done and she worshipped idols and gave them credit for all her blessings! We have done the same thing in our nation. God pours out blessings on us and yet we spurn His love and follow after our own desires and give ourselves and everyone else credit for our good success.
God tried to block Israel’s pathway with thorn bushes to wall her in and keep her from her lovers by telling her to have nothing to do with the pagan nations. But even though Israel’s path was blocked she still chased after her lovers. Just like Gomer got tired of pursuing her lovers and not being able to have them, she decides that she is better off with Hosea. In the same way, Israel would at times decide that she was better off when she was following God than when she chased after foreign gods. And time after time God would take her back.
Hosea 2:8 tells us the reason for Israel’s unfaithfulness: The people did not recognize God as the source of their benefits including their grain, wine, oil, silver and gold. As a result of Israel’s idolatry she was punished by having her grain taken away when it ripened, and the wine was taken away. Because of their sin, the people would lack food and clothing. It likely was withheld from “lack of rain”.
Verse 10, Israel’s lovers would come to despise her, not wanting to have dealings with one so distressed. No one would “snatch” her from God’s control both because they would not care to and because God would not permit it. In verse 11, Israel would no longer enjoy her celebrations and festivals—Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles
God’s Continuing Love
God then reveals something about His nature in a very unique way. These three verses are the pivotal part of the book of Hosea, Chapter 3:1-3. God tells His servant to take back his unfaithful wife. This verse makes it very plain that the reason for God’s difficult command to Hosea is that in taking Gomer back Hosea would be illustrating God’s continuing love for Israel who had turned to “other gods” and had lusted after raisin cakes, representative of the idolatrous worship of the Israelites.
Gomer had gone on with her wayward living in prostitution and degradation and by the time Hosea finds her she has fallen so low that most scholars believe that she was being sold on an auction block like a head of cattle. Can you imagine him standing in the crowd while the auctioneer begins to auction off his wife? Imagine that Hosea hears the men in the crowd standing around, making suggestive remarks while eyeing his wife and getting ready to bid on her. Imagine that Hosea’s face burned with shame, humiliation and disappointment (and all the feelings that you and I would have had at that particular point.) We are made in God’s image! He has the same feelings that we have. Can you imagine the shame, humiliation and disappointment that God has felt when we have gone astray?
We can know that God has felt all of these things because He went to the trouble of painting us this picture in a real-life situation so we could know what was going on in His heart! When the time comes for Hosea’s wife to be auctioned off Hosea reaches down into his pocket and he pulls out enough money to buy her back himself. The price Hosea paid for Gomer was 15 shekels in money and about 10 bushels of barley.
In verse 3 he says, “You will live with me many years.” The Hebrew words translated “many years” points to an indefinite period of time. He is wanting Gomer to know that this time he intends their relationship to last indefinitely. He is requiring her to renounce her adulterous ways. Hosea thinks about the love that he has for his wife, even though she has been so unfaithful to him and hurt him in every conceivable way. He begins thinking to himself, If my love for my wife is so great that I would be willing to buy her back after all she’s done to me just think how much more willing God must be to buy back his unfaithful people.
The entire book of Hosea is about the great love that God has for His children even though we have hurt him deeply. Hosea lived 100’s of years before Jesus so there was no way except through prophecy that he could have known that one day God would buy back His people on the cross of Calvary just like he was buying back his unfaithful wife.
Hosea 6:1-3 Even though God is prophesying to Israel there is a message in this for us too. We are the spiritual Israel! When we turn from God we are torn but God will heal us and bind up our self-inflicted wounds. Then in verse 2, notice how prophetic it is when He says, after two days He will revive us and on the third day He will restore us and allow us to live in His Presence. After Jesus was in the grave for three days, on the third day God did indeed restore us and made a way for us to live in His Presence. The entire theme of Hosea is God’s love, Israel’s rebellion and our rebellion.
God’s Love Never Wavered
Hosea 6:2-3 is what Resurrection Sunday is all about, the fact that God’s love never wavered. ....Let us press on to know the Lord.
The cross demonstrates first of all His great love for each of us. Modern man thinks of himself as so sophisticated but there is still that emptiness in the heart of man that cannot be filled by anything else other than Jesus.
What man wants and what he needs is to fill that empty place inside of himself with the knowledge that there is a God who knows him cares about him and has open arms to receive him.
The Cross is All About God’s Open Arms!
The cross not only symbolizes God’s matchless love—it also represents God’s invitation to everyone. God’s open arms are wide enough for the whole world, the rich—the poor—the evil—as well as the ones that the world would call good.
Regardless of who we are or what we have done—we can respond to the open arms of the cross. That is the story of the prodigal son. The prodigal got to go home and be restored, not because he did anything right, but because of the open arms of his father. Whether we think we are bad or good, the Bible says that we are all prodigals, and the cross at Easter is a demonstration of His love and an invitation for everyone to come but we can’t keep it a secret. If a person really believes in the “good news” he will never be able to keep it to himself. We are to take the message of Easter to a lost and dying world. But we don’t have to be intimidated about being able to do that! God gives us another picture of Himself as the Shepherd and the Shepherd was always ahead of His sheep. We have been called into a hostile world but thank goodness He is the Good Shepherd who goes in front of us. He opens doors that we in our own initiative and ability would never open.
Someone has said that there are two kinds of Christians: those who are thermometers and those who are thermostats. A thermometer simply reads the temperature, but the thermostats control the temperature. Thermometer Christians just reflect the temperature of the time in which they are living but the thermostat Christians controls the temperature. They influence and control the environment around them.
God has demonstrated His love for us. In His hands—His feet—His side we see the evidence of His redeeming love that was willing to pay any price to buy back His children. There was no other death that could have demonstrated the wide-open arms of the savior more vividly than crucifixion on the cross, and no other story could have demonstrated His love any more clearly than the story of Hosea and Gomer.
I want to challenge you to prepare yourself for this Resurrection Sunday when we will again commit ourselves anew to our Lord and Master.
-Peggy Joyce Ruth
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