God’s Yearning Love

| | Hosea 11:-14

→ Click to view the Sermon Outline

Proverbs 13:24 - He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.

Proverbs 19:18 - Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death.

Proverbs 22:15 - Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.

4 examples of the depth of God’s love

I. Evidenced by the Way He Initiated the Relationship

Hosea 11:8 - How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart is turned over within Me, all My compassions are kindled.

A. Called them out of bondage

Hosea 11:1 - When Israel was a youth I loved him…

Deuteronomy 7:7-8 - The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

B. He related to them as a Father to a son

Hosea 11:1 - …and out of Egypt I called My son.

C. Tolerated their childish foolishness

v. 2 - But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me.  They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images.

D. In Christ, He loves us in a similar fashion

John 15:16 - You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

“I must confess that I never would have been saved if I could have helped it. As long as ever I could, I rebelled, and revolted, and struggled against God. When He would have me pray, I would not pray, and when He would have me listen to the sound of the ministry, I would not. And when I heard, and the tear rolled down my cheek, I wiped it away and defied Him to melt my soul. But long before I began with Christ, He began with me.” (C. H. Spurgeon)

Acts 16:31 - …Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…

II. Evidenced by the Way He Provided for His Children

A. Taught them to walk

Hosea 11:3 - Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in My arms…

B. Healed them

Hosea 11:3 - …but they did not know that I healed them.

Exodus 15:26 - And He said, “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer.”

C. Led them with kindness and love

Hosea 11:4 - I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love…

Psalm 145:8-9 - The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works.

D. Freed them from slavery

Hosea 11:4 - And I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws; and I bent down and fed them.

3 John 4 - I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.

III. Evidenced by the Way He Restrains His Discipline

Hosea 11:8 - How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart is turned over within Me, all My compassions are kindled.

A. The just consequences are distressing even to Him

B. He will not give them everything they deserve

IV. Evidenced by His Focus of Our Future Hope

A. The day when they/we will follow the Lord

Hosea 14:1-3  - Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously, that we may present the fruit of our lips. Assyria will not save us, we will not ride on horses; nor will we say again, ‘Our god,’ to the work of our hands; for in You the orphan finds mercy.”

B. The possibility of loving a life of wisdom and discernment

Hosea 14:9 - Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them.  For the ways of the Lord are right, and the righteous will walk in them, but transgressors will stumble in them.

Manuscript

You know, one of the decisions that every parent has to make is whether he or she will ever use corporal punishment with their children. I know that's a controversial subject in this culture and because we have so much child abuse because we have so many other forms of irresponsible and angry and out-of-control parenting, that some have taken the position that they will never use corporal punishment in any way, shape, or form ever. Now my mama did not come to that conclusion, but some in this culture have for sure. Well, for us, I hope you would stand in line with this, we believe in looking to the word of God for direction and guidance and wisdom in all areas of life. Wow, certainly for the challenging task of parenting our children. You wouldn't want to do that without the wisdom of God, would you? Absolutely not. Well, when you open the pages of God's sufficient word, we find our question answered clearly and repeatedly. In places like Proverbs 13:24, "He who withholds his rod hates his son," that's pretty clear, "But he who loves him disciplines him diligently." Or here's one Proverbs 19:18, "Discipline your son while there is hope, And do not desire his death." In other words, if you don't do the first, you might be tempted to do the second. Or this Proverbs 22:15, "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him." I remember years ago in a counseling, training dinner we were having and Doc Smith was sitting there at the table, me and some of the younger counselors were there, he was trying to straighten us out about something and I said, "Doc, you have to just forgive us because we're so young. Foolishness is bound up in the heart of us children." He said, "Well, if that's the problem then let's use the biblical cure." Don't go down that trail with Doc Smith. And that's just a sampling of what the word, you remember that Doc, that's just a sampling of what the word of God says on this subject.

So, we've taught over the years that corporal punishment should be a small, but important part of the overall parenting process. In shorthand, we've tried to summarize it like this: play a lot. In other words, spend time enjoying your children and building the relationship positively and then teach a lot. Even in the very early months and years, begin teaching truth from the word of God on all subjects including the reality of sin and the need for a Savior and Lord. Teach a lot. Praise a lot. Now look for opportunities to commend them for the things they are doing that are right. And pray a lot. This task takes the wisdom of Solomon for sure. Use cause and effect a lot. And just like the Lord does with us, provide rewards for good choices and consequences for bad ones so the child learns personal responsibility and accountability and on those rare times when corporal punishment is necessary because the child has rejected the benefit and the direction of everything we just mentioned, do it carefully. Do it slowly. Do it in a controlled fashion and do it thoroughly so you don't have to do it very often. Well, ultimately we believe all that because of our allegiance to the word of God.

Now I realize some of you probably don't like what I said already. "Man, I haven't been in this church five minutes and I don't like that guy." One of my elderly loved ones asked me when our oldest daughter Bethany was just a couple of years old, if we ever used corporal punishment. In fact it really wasn't a question. She said, "Now Stevie, you don't ever spank Bethany, do you?" And I went through that entire discussion I just rehearsed with you. I was very careful to try to begin and end the discussion with the word of God and the gospel. This person claimed to be a Christian, surely appealing to the word would help. I'll never forget her response. She said when I was done, "Well okay, but you don't ever spank Bethany do you?" It's as if everything from the Scripture went in one ear and right out the other because it didn't fit her particular frame of reference.

Well, if a child doesn't experience and then learn the benefit of a disciplined lifestyle, that person is in for a rude awakening when they enter the world of adulthood. Just try saying to your boss for example, "You know, I don't like the restrictiveness of having to come to work every day. It just feels too disciplined to me or having to work a set number of hours or accomplish set amount of tasks. A lot of these, I just don't really feel like coming in. It feels legalistic to me. I need to be true to myself." Is there any question about what that boss will say to that employee? Yes, some version of, "Your services are no longer needed here. I'll call security to help escort you out of the building," is what's going to happen to that hot mess.

So as hard as it is used to reach this conclusion that many of us came to the point of agreeing with and submitting to the word of God, that "he who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently." But and there is a significant, it plays in that logic for us. Any of us who ever have raised children would probably say, "Doing that was some of the hardest parenting work we ever had to do." There's a fair amount truth in that old parents' yarn, "This is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you." It's not entirely accurate, I know that, but experienced parents understand where that came from, right? I mean it tears you apart as a parent because your love yearns for them to walk on the path where that kind of correction would never be needed again. It just breaks your heart that you have to be the instrument of discipline in that particular situation. And I would suggest to you this morning, that when you feel that way, you're being very much like our God.

With that in mind, please open your Bible this morning to the book of Hosea, chapter 11. Hosea, chapter 11, that's on page 645 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you. So Hosea, chapter 11, or page 645 of the front section of the Bible, the Old Testament under the chair in front you. We're going to be completing our study today of the book of Hosea and surely one of the most unusual books in the entire Bible, huh? And we're going to be referencing these chapters as "God's yearning love." It's so marvelous, that this unusual book ends in this particular way. You see, just like Hosea yearned for the repentance of his unfaithful wife, God yearns for the repentance of his unfaithful people. And mark it down, even when he has to mete out discipline because he is just and you would want a God who is just, would you not? He takes absolutely no pleasure in having to discipline his children.

Now, I want to suggest to you today is a very, very important Sunday because for us today signals the unofficial end of summer. You might say, "I didn't see that on my calendar." Well, it ought to be there and many of us have enjoyed vacations, haven't we? Absolutely. We've been all over the place. I've been following you on Facebook. You've been all over the place and that's great. You've had all sorts of special events. We've also had a number of marvelous outreach opportunities as a church family. God has blessed them tremendously, but now it's back to school, right? Back to school. I reminded a couple of my neighborhood kids about that yesterday. They were not praising Jesus about it at all. But now it's back to school and back to church. So we're asking the Lord to help us accomplish much as a group of men and women this fall. People who want to serve the Lord and make a difference with the time and the resources he has entrusted to us. That's why we're spending so much time talking about fall readiness.

So the wraps are coming off a new teaching series on Sunday mornings on the great epistle of 1 John, the apostle of love, beginning next Sunday morning. And our Faith Community Institute classes are starting up along with Wednesday night Kids of Faith in the next week and a half or so. Many small groups and ABS are launching new series. The bottom line is, I hope you're thinking strategically. We should, this is the time of year when men and women who don't yet have a church home, are more open than most other times of the year to considering where a relationship with the Lord might fit into their life and family. And we want to capitalize on that, do we not? So this fall is not about, how’s the football team going to do, how many times can I get down to the covered bridge festival, how many caramel apples can I cram into this mug? That's not what we're thinking about, is it? Now you're thinking about how many, right? We're thinking about what we can get done for God. Isn't that what you're thinking about? Absolutely and you would want your pastor to love the fire out of you and help you be most prepared,  wouldn't you?

It's also, didn't hear much there, maybe the folks over at Faith West were shouting, "Yes." It's also, don't you agree, just a logical time for us to evaluate how we're doing so far this year? We've been talking about this theme of Loving Our Neighbors. We've been talking about it for eight months. Isn't this a great time to have a little checkup? You go to the dentist, don't you? For a checkup? Absolutely. You go to the doctor, don't you? And have a checkup? And it's not always pleasant. I went to the dentist a couple of weeks ago and his nurse said, "Hey, we're going to have to some x-rays." I said, "Oh really?" They did the x-rays and they came back a little while later and they announced, "You have two cavities." Can you believe that? Guy my age, two cavities? And I set up a couple of appointments and I have actually had the first cavity appointment. The dentist ran the drill, my mouth is smoking, teeth parts flying everywhere. Maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but it's that or no teeth, right? I'm going for my annual physical. I have one every year. I'm going to get my blood work here in the next week or so. Then I have to go to the doctor. I know what he's going to say. He's going to say, "It's amazing your blood work looks good except your sugar level seems to be a little bit elevated." Any connection you think between those two things? The cavity thing and the sugar level being a little bit elevated? I have this habit, it's almost an idol, in fact, if you look in our freezer right now, there's a big huge from Sam's bag of Nestlé chips. You know what I'm talking about? Chocolate chips? You believe it's of God late at night to grab a handful of those and cram them in your mouth right? Don't you do that? Are you not a Christian? I mean, that's what I do. And so I need my dentist to help me repent. I need my doctor, so those checkups, they are good, are they not?

Yeah well, the same is true spiritually. Spiritual growth does not happen by osmosis. Just like physical health or dental health doesn't just happen. You have to know where you are spiritually. You have to have a plan to get better. You have to have a mechanism in place to work that plan and you have to periodically evaluate where you are. Which is why I am going to help you right now. Think about, we've been talking about it now for eight months, growing and loving our neighbors. We've emphasized that in all sorts of ways, are you seeing progress? There it is. Checkup time. Are you seeing progress especially in these five areas we've been specifically trying to emphasize? Like implementing our soul care initiatives to achieve deeper friendships within our church family? Loving our neighbors that we go to church with. Are seeing progress there friend? Or as individual church members, growing in our ability to build stronger relationships with those who live right around us, our neighbors. Are you seeing, how are you doing at the check up? Or third, as a church family developing our parish mentality to especially serve those who live near our two ministry campuses around Faith West around Faith East. Are we making progress at loving our church's neighbors? Fourth, watching our Faith Community Development Corporation to serve urban neighborhoods with excellence. The city is asking us to help revitalize urban neighborhoods where some of the highest concentrations of poverty in our entire community. They gave us that opportunity. Are we seeing progress at loving our less fortunate neighbors? And then constructing the first phase of our senior living community. We said we were going to do that. Have we done it? I'm asking, could you point to specific steps that you have taken so far this year? Could you? And also this, this is where it can help us today I think, what plans would the Lord want you to make now for the last months of this year to get to an even better place?

Friends, this final section of the book of Hosea, it can really help us. It can really help us. Now remember the setting: this is just prior to the conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel which is sometimes called Ephraim in Scripture at the hands of the evil nation of Assyria. What that means, you see I didn't get all that, here's what that means: God's people are about to be significantly disciplined. That's what's about to happen. God's people are about to be significantly disciplined because of their unfaithfulness, their disobedience and their idolatry, but the Lord wanted them and the Lord wants us to know that he still loved them. So much so, that he instructs one of his prophets to marry a prostitute. Seriously? Yes. God instructs one of his own prophets to marry a prostitute and then continue to love her and continue to provide for her even while she is straying from the covenant she made. And as I said a moment ago, Hosea's love for his unfaithful wife was a living parable of God's love for his unfaithful people. You see, one of the reasons we wanted to study this unusual book at this time of the year is to remind ourselves that that's the way God wants us to love those he's placed around us. You say, "By what standard should we use to evaluate whether we're loving our neighbors?" Oh, oh, the way Hosea loved his honey and the way God loves his people.

With that in mind, follow along please as I read beginning in Hosea 11, verse 1. Remember right on the cusp of discipline. God says,

"1 When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son. 2 The more they called them, The more they went from them; They kept sacrificing to the Baals And burning incense to idols. 3 Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in My arms; But they did not know that I healed them. 4 I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love, And I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws; And I bent down and fed them. 5 They will not return to the land of Egypt; But Assyria - he will be their king Because they refused to return to Me. 6 The sword will whirl against their cities, And will demolish their gate bars And consume them because of their counsels. 7 So My people are bent on turning from Me. Though they call them to the One on high, None at all exalts Him. 8 How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart is turned over within Me, All My compassions are kindled. 9 I will not execute My fierce anger; I will not destroy Ephraim again. For I am God and not man," there is some good news, "the Holy One in your midst, And I will not come in wrath."

Now for the sake of time, look over at chapter 14:1, the conclusion of the matter,

1 Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, For you have stumbled because of your iniquity." Now this is to crucial, "2 Take words with you."

Here's how repentance works. Just like you have the prodigal son in your mind if you know that story, who planned what he would say to his father in advance.

"2 Take words with you and return to the LORD. Say to Him, 'Take away all iniquity And receive us graciously, That we may present the fruit of our lips. 3 Assyria will not save us,'" that's repentance. They believed they would. "We will not ride on horses," that's not where our strength is, "Nor will we say again, 'Our god,' To the work of our hands; For in You the orphan finds mercy.' 4 I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from them." Then verse 9, "Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; Whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, And the righteous will walk in them, But transgressors will stumble in them."

I. Evidenced by the Way He Initiated the Relationship

We're talking this morning, friends, about God's yearning love and with the time we have remaining, let's think about four examples of the depth of that love. What a great way for this book to end. Well, part of God's yearning love is evidenced by the way he initiated the relationship. You see, these are not the words of an unloving, angry father. He's not ticked off. He's not out-of-control. If you were paying attention to the word of God you've noticed, this is a very tender section of Scripture. For example, in verse8, "How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim?" You hear this from God on the cusp of discipline, "My heart is turned over within me. All my compassions are kindled." You see, that's the way Hosea felt about his wife and that's the way God feels about his people.

So he essentially reminisces about the relationship. Did you notice that? Like what are these verses? These verses are God the Father reminiscing about the relationship he had with them and he reminds them he's the one who called them out of bondage. He said, "When Israel was a youth I loved him." By the way, why did God make that choice? It goes along with what our worship teams were trying to help us think about this morning. The question is actually answered in Deuteronomy. "The Lord didn't set his love on you Israel, nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people's for you were the fewest of all peoples but because the Lord loved you," that's why, "and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers. The Lord brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery from the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt." And God did this simply because it was consistent with his character to do so. He called them out of bondage. He initiated the relationship.

He went on to say, I related to you as a father to a son, "Out of Egypt I called my Son." One of the most intimate relationships imaginable and yet that's the metaphor that God uses to describe his relationship with his people. That's a yearning kind of love that motivated him to initiate. He also tolerated their childish foolishness. There's different ways to translate verse 2, but perhaps best translated, "The more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and burned incense to images." So yes, there had to be consequences. Again, he's a just God, there had to be consequences. But that certainly wasn't immediate. This isn't the impatient father who quickly slaps his children around so he can get back to watching the football game. By the way if you know your Bible, you know that Christmas is here. And what I mean by that is this same passage figured into the early life of Jesus. Matthew saw this as an analogy of Mary and Joseph taking baby Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod's murderous wrath, "Out of Egypt I called my son."

And the beauty of this is: Christ, he loves you in a very similar way. God's love motivated him to initiate the relationship with you. Do you understand that theologically? Jesus made it very clear in many places like John 15:16, where he said, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and I appointed you that you would go and bear fruit and that your fruit would remain so that whatever you ask of the Father in my name He may give it to you." What I'm saying is: God's love is initiatory in nature. It's a yearning love. It is a wooing love. CH Spurgeon liked to quote from Francis Thompson's poem "The Hound of Heaven." What a great way to think about God, huh? The hound of heaven and here's what Spurgeon said in part, he said, "I must confess that I never would've been saved if I could of helped it. As long as ever I could, I rebelled and I revolted and struggled against God. When he would have me pray, I would not pray. When he would have me listen to the sound of the ministry, I would not. When I heard and a tear rolled down my cheek, I wiped it away and defied him to melt my soul. Long before I began with Christ, he began with me." And friend, if I were going to let the word of God be our guide about the nature of his love and remember ultimately that is a model for our kind of love, we have to understand: yearning love initiates.

You say, "What does that mean then for the people who will hear this message today?" Well, it will have some, maybe many, who are here in our various services who have not yet trusted Christ. I'm glad you're here, but let the word of Hosea help you this morning. This actually explains what you may have been experiencing or it seems like every time you turn around you're running into one of those Christians who are just living for Christ or who is talking to you about the importance of repenting and believing. Run from that person and you run right into another one, into another one and you say, " What is that?" That is the baying of the hound of heaven. That is a demonstration of his initiatory love. Or maybe you can't get the thought of where you'll spend eternity out of your mind and you crank up the music or you open up another bottle and you can't drown it out, "What is that?" The Bible says, here's some great news: God set eternity in your heart. You say, "What? To make me crazy?" No, to motivate you to do something about your eternal destiny while you have an opportunity to do so. That is the baying sound of the hound of heaven. He is after you and rightly so. You say, "Why?" Because he loves you. "Why?" I have no idea. Just like I would have no idea why he would love me. Perhaps your attempts to handle life on your own have come to a crash landing. In fact, you might be here today ticked off at God. At the very time he is trying to love you and as simply as I know how to say it, here are the words that Paul said to the Philippian jailer, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." Friend, if God is initiating that relationship why would you not respond?

Now Christian friend, now let's go to the doctor shall we? Let's go to the dentist. The nurse is saying, "Hey, we need to put some x-rays in there." Okay well, think about those five categories in which we're trying to grow in love this year. How would things be different for you this fall if your love was more initiatory? That's a good question. For example have you cultivated a yearning love for your church family, have you? Loving your neighbor's, how about these neighbors? Is there evidence that you have a yearning and therefore initiatory love with them? Why not put feet to that by planning right now that you are going to faithfully attend worship services this fall in part simply to get to know others in your church family better? Why not plan to join a small group or an ABF for the purposes of learning to love others more? Why not take a step of inviting someone to go out to eat with you, or have them in your home? Decide right now that you're going to be part of church family nights. Let your love be like Hosea's love for his wife and God's love for his people and that it is initiatory.

Many of us talk more about loving our neighbors than we actually do. What would yearning love look like for your neighbors and your coworkers and will you take the first step? It may be as simple as striking up a conversation about what God is doing in your life. Everybody else talks about what their gods are doing in their life. What's wrong with you talking about what your God is doing in yours? Or inviting them to one of these Faith Community Institute classes. I really appreciate the work that Arvid and our staff has done in putting this tool together that describes all the various ministries that are available this fall. Well, why did we do this? To give you a tool, that's why. To make it easy for you to have yearning love that initiates. Aren't you thankful for that? The question is: is this going to end up in your trash or is this going to end up in your neighbor's hand? And again I say, sometimes it's easy for us to talk about loving our neighbors than to actually put feet to that belief. God's love initiates.

II. Evidenced by the Way He Provided for His Children

Well, what else do we see in the text? It's also evidenced by God's provision. You saw that emphasized many ways in this passage. For example, he's the one who taught them to walk. He said, "Yet it is I who taught Ephraim, Israel, to walk. I took them in my arms." All the way back when he led his people out of Egypt, hundreds of years before, he guided them through cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. He gave them his law to teach them and the prophets to counsel them. He taught them to walk and he healed them. Just like Hosea followed behind his adulterous wife providing for her, God did that for his people and they didn't even know it. They didn't even know it. Harkening back perhaps to this great verse written several hundred years before Exodus 15, he said, "If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer." And now we read in the book of Hosea, God did what he said he would do and now on the cusp even of judgment that has to be meted out, the Father is reminiscing about all the times he provided his love initiated and his love provides.

He also led them with kindness and love. Verse 4, "I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love." Like the Psalmist would later say, "The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and great  in loving kindness. The Lord is good to all. His mercies are over all his works." He freed them from slavery. He said, "I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws. I bent down and I fed them." This theme comes up over and over in the Old Testament about how God marvelously brought his children out of Egypt. What I'm saying, I know I put a lot out there, here's the point: love that truly yearns is on the lookout for opportunities to provide. Hosea did that for his wife. God does that for his people. The question for you and me is, is there evidence that I love others in a way that seeks to provide?

We couldn't possibly be ready for all of these fall ministries without that kind of love, provisional love. I'm so thankful that earlier this year when we had our Serve 14 emphasis, you realize a lot of churches are just canceling children's ministries? You know why? They can't get enough people to serve and what that means is, children go hungry for the word of God. I'm really glad that when we had that Serve 14 emphasis, which is our effort to fill all of our children serving ministry opportunities for the next school year, that so many men and women from this church stepped forward to seize those opportunities. Well, why will there be then hundreds and hundreds of people each week working in the nursery or serving in one of our children or youth ministries on Sundays or Wednesday nights? Why is that? The answer is because they care about young people who are coming to the church with hearts that are hungry for the word of God. And so whatever sacrifice that entails regarding their time or their resources, they want God's word to be richly provided to assist parents in raising their children for God. You see, there's a yearning. This fall is not about how the football team is going to do. This fall not about how many activities I can cram in, etc., etc. Not that those things are bad in their place, but a yearning kind of love initiates and a yearning kind of love provides.

There's a yearning to see children placed their faith and trust in Christ, is there not? There is a yearning to see young people who are going up in this church and in his community, while they are teachable, learning as much from the word of God as they possibly can. I could illustrate that positively from men and women in this church all day long. That's one of the reasons I love serving in the place that I do so that I can serve alongside people like Randy and Heather W. Randy and Heather have faithfully worked in our youth ministry for about a decade. Randy and Heather save up their vacation days throughout the year so that they can go with the teens when they go on their mission trips. Well, there's a fun use of one's vacation days. Let's hang out with the teenagers. That's what Randy and Heather W. think. And you may know that the teens just had a great, we just reported on this at our church family night the other night, I hope you were there, because I can't imagine what more edifying thing you could have been doing with your time than that. That report told about a great mission trip that our teens just recently took . You say, "Where was it to?" Lafayette, that's where they decided. You know, we take mission trips all over the place, there's so much community need right here in Lafayette. Let's just pack a week and half with all sorts of opportunities to serve our community with our teens. It was great. It was absolutely great, but obviously there were some adults that needed to be part of that and Randy and Heather took their vacation days and spent that time with our teen ministry.

And then it came time, we have a couple of places in the schedule where we just tried to do some fun things with the teens and one of those fun things, at least for teens, is to go up to Six Flags up on the north side of Chicago. Yeah, an amusement park for kids. There's something fun for your vacation. Randy and Heather drove the teenagers along with the rest of the group up there and they got there and it was really busy, really busy and so they were planning to come home earlier in the evening, but they got back together with the kids at that appointed time and they hadn't really been able to be on many rides because it was so busy and all that kind of stuff and so Randy and Heather say to Pastor Johnny, our pastor of youth ministries, "Listen if you want the kids to stay later so they can have more fun to reward them for all the great work they've been doing. We'll be happy to be the ones who drive everybody back home. We'll rest now. We'll be ready to go. We'll drive them back home even though it's going to be very early in the morning." What's all that? That's yearning love. That's what that is. It's yearning love that is ready to provide, and what was interesting, they had some responsibilities back in the community early that next morning and Randy and Heather along with all the kids were ready and at their post on time.

And I'm so glad for youth workers. I'm so glad for people who serve around this church, who have allowed God to build in them a yearning love that wants to provide. God deliver us from the day that we would ever have to cancel ministries to children who are hungry because we're not willing to serve. I'm so glad we're not in that position. If we're Facebook friends and I am happily Facebook friends with a lot of people from our church and you may have noticed, just a week or so ago somebody tagged me in a post. About three common traits of children who don't leave the church and she said in her post, "We were and are blessed by youth pastors and pastors and teachers and their wives who invested in us and set examples for us and equipped us." And then she said, "I agree that this is not a formula, but it does provide for a good framework." Then she went on to thank me by name, several others by name and if you saw that you might say, "I don't, who is that? Thanking Pastor Viars, who is that? I don't recognize that name." The answer is that's a girl who was in my youth group back when I was in Bible College well over 30 years ago. And she married another young man from the youth group and they are now raising their kids for God. Here's what I'm saying: you will never regret practicing yearning love in Christ's Church. If you say. "I'm not sure I like what the dentist is saying to me right now. I'm not sure I like the doctor's reports." Listen, I'm helping you because Hosea is helping you. You'll never regret practicing yearning love in Christ 's church. In fact, I understand maybe more than ever before what the apostle of love meant in 3 John 4, "I have no greater joy than this, to hear my children walking in the truth."

III. Evidenced by the Way He Restrains His Discipline

Now thirdly, it was evident by the way he restrains his discipline. What we read in verse 8 gives incredible insight into the character of our God and the way he loves us. "How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart is turned over within Me, All My compassions are kindled." The just consequences were distressing even to him. You see, that's what yearning love sounds like. It's what yearning love feels like. There is no selfish delight at all and the consequences that they now had to face, and please make no mistake about this, he's not going to give them everything they deserve. You say, "Admah and Zeboiim. I've never been there." That's because they don't exist. They were sister cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, need I say more? And they were completely annihilated because of their wickedness. You see, that's what the northern kingdom deserved, but God's yearning love restrained the full measure of his wrath. It was just enough to motivate repentance, but no more. You see, he restrained it. And here's the principle: a yearning love always errs on the side of grace. And that doesn't mean that consequences don't sometimes have to be meted out, but you can easily tell the difference between someone doing that out of his hasty, unrestrained anger, and someone doing it as a last resort, with deep and sincere compassion.

And I realize around now someone might start connecting the dots here and would say, "You know, Pastor Viars, I'm excited about fall readiness as long as you can ensure me that every person who walks through the door will have their act cleaned up in advance and won't cause any problems around here." Well, even if that was possible, do you realize it would be messed up as soon as you walked through the door behind them. "Did he just insult me, Ethel?" I think maybe. You see, we want everybody in our town to hear a clear presentation of the gospel, do we not? And we want them to have a meaningful interaction with authentic followers of Jesus Christ and we hope to see all sorts of men and women place their faith and trust in Jesus this fall and then bring their baggage right into the front door of the church house and they can sit down right next to the rest of us, as we seek as imperfect people to grow in Christ together. You see my point is, we don't look at those who don't yet know the Lord and think, "I want them to get their full comeuppance right now." No, we want them to hear of Jesus. We want them to trust Christ and then we want them to be part of a growing family of God seeking to grow in him.

IV. Evidenced by His Focus of Our Future Hope

Lastly, this evidenced by his focus on our future home. It's very important to see that even at this tragic time, they're on the cusp of incredible discipline, the prophet is still focused on the day when they and we will follow the Lord. I mention this as we were reading, verses 1-3 are a marvelous example of what true repentance looks like. It sounds like, it feels like, It acts like. "Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, For you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take words with you," that is it. Be careful about what you say. Confess, say the same thing finally about your sin that God does. Say to him, "Take away all iniquity, receive us graciously. I finally recognize Assyria won't save me. I finally recognize that I cannot trust in my horses. I'm not going to say of my idols, they deserve to be my God. Finally I believe in you. The orphan will find mercy and in you he will find mercy alone." You see at several points in this book, God's people have made attempts at shallow superficial repentance, it lacked genuineness, it lacked consistent follow-through. Like all discipline, the goal is repentance and finally God's people will come to a point of repentance. I mentioned church family night a couple of times and at our last church family night, we had a number of people who gave their stories, their testimonies of how they came to be followers of Christ. Many of them talked about where they used to be and how at some point in that process, God used someone to bring them to a point of repentance. Do you realize in many Eastern European countries, former communist countries, that's what they call people who trust Christ, repenters. That's a good way to think about the process.

And so God is focusing on the day, not when the discipline will be done, but when the discipline will have its desired effect finally of genuine repentance. The possibility then of living a life of wisdom and discernment. "Whoever's wise let them understand these things. Whoever is discerning, let him know them." You see, God's yearning love and God's sufficient word can as the Psalmist said, "Make wise the simple." And God's yearning love does not focus on who you are today, it focuses on who you can be in the days ahead. And listen, if you've been washed in the blood of the Lamb, the sacrifice that the prophets ultimately pointed to, if you've been washed in the blood the lamb, who you are and where you'll be in the days ahead is very, very good.

About ten days ago now, we had the memorial service for one of our faithful members Jack V. Jack V. just turned hundred years old earlier this year and this was a picture when he was at our community picnic just a couple of weeks ago. Jack V. still recognized me and we had a great conversation there and Jack V as the Old Testament said, was full of sap and very green. That's what he was. In fact, just a couple of days before Brother V. died, some of the medical professionals who worked at his nursing home asked him, "Jack, how are you doing?" Here's exactly what he said, "I'm doing fine, but I'm looking forward to going to heaven and being with Jesus." That's what the man said. Fully conscious and able to have that word of testimony. By the way, I don't tell you this to criticize others, but it did happen and it tells you where our world is. Some of the medical professionals tried to put him on psychotropic medication after he said that. Thinking he must be delusional for thinking like that. Well, thankfully we were able to intervene but see, that's what happens when God yearns in his love for you. It helps you to rejoice even in your future and that will make you strong enough to die well.

"This world is not my home,

I'm just passing through,

My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue,

The angels beckoned me from heaven's golden shore,

And I can't be at home in this world anymore."

Thank God that his yearning love gives us a great future.

Let's stand together for prayer, shall we?

Father in heaven, Lord, thank you for the opportunity to consider your great love for us. All morning we have been just amazed by it. Lord, help us to consider in this checkup time what we need to be adjusted this fall so that we can love others the way you love us. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.