Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Oh for the Love of Hosea

Like any self-respecting blogger, I love to check my stats. Lately I have noticed people visiting my Hosea for Kids post. I love the story of Hosea. It is rich with God's mercy. So I am excited that people may actually be teaching the truth of this story to children.

There is absolutely no reason to get into what a prostitute is to teach the truth of Hosea. All children need to understand is that Hosea's wife left him for someone else, never mind that it may have been 10 or 20 someone else's. This is such a gripping, literal object lesson. As there are so many children of divorce or abandonment today, kids have seen this phenomenon firsthand. It is not difficult for them to understand how Hosea must have felt. They may have seen a parent's hurt as their mom or dad left for someone else. They may have experienced the hurt of a parent simply leaving, abandoning the family. You can bridge from any of this to help them connect with what is happening in the book of Hosea and their own relationship with God.

For those of you who have never conquered this book, the story is simple. Hosea represents God. Hosea's wife, Gomer, represents Israel (or today she would represent an individual Christian or the church, depending how you want to study it). In case you don't know it, Gomer is a prostitute. God tells Hosea to marry her. They marry, have kids, and then she up and leaves to pursue another lover. After awhile, God tells Hosea to go after her. He not only pursues her, he pays a hefty price to buy her back.

You can go back to the original Hosea post to see all the visuals for teaching this. My point here is to encourage you to teach it. The message is powerful. Children are so much more open than adults, and they know what it is like to be hurt. Even just a friend who turns on them hurts. So they get how Hosea felt.

That part is not hard to convey. Then you need to let them understand Hosea represents God, and how much God loves us. He told Hosea to go after Gomer, even after she had left him and was being unfaithful. It is a picture of God's deep, steadfast love for us despite that we turn our backs on him many times. Children need to know how great God's love is for them, especially in a world that lacks stability.

The second lesson from Hosea comes in when you help children to understand that we are Gomer, and to see how Christians can be unfaithful to God. We all KNOW how to be unfaithful, but it is more difficult to recognize it in ourselves.

I remember as a college student someone gave me a track that talked about sin. I had no idea what sin was. I sure knew how to do it, but at the time I had no concept of what the term conveyed. I am convinced if we could clearly see our unfaithfulness, it would go a long way to help us to change.

Unfaithfulness looks like this:
  1. God pursues us and we enter into a covenant relationship with him when we take Jesus as our savior. That relationship is like a marriage relationship in many ways, and so the story of Hosea and Gomer speaks to that relationship. 
  2. When we start to put our desires, our wants, our will in place of what God wants, it breaks our relationship with God. It is like having an idol, or as in Gomer's case, another lover. We may not be worshipping a statue, but we have something that is more important to us than God...ourselves. I can still hear Ravi Zachareus preaching about this message. He quotes from Hosea 4:17 in regard to Israel (Ephraim) "Ephraim is joined to idols, leave him alone." 
  3. When we join ourselves to ourselves (our desires, our goals, our wishes, our dreams, our plans), we might as well be joined to an idol. And that certainly is not what God wishes.
I struggle with this all of the time. The wonderful thing is that God wants us to be close to him even more than we want it, and so he will help us. It is the same issue I taught about in the Acts 19 lesson where the Ephesians were so committed to God, they burned over one million dollars worth of sorcery materials. How do you stay in that committed covenant relationship with God and not go after the idols of self? You use the four anchors for keeping God at the center instead of yourself. You can read about it in Keeping God Central.
In conclusion, the things to drive home from Hosea are
  • God's undying love for us - this is very comforting and stabilizing for youngsters in today's turbulent world
  • What unfaithfulness (idolatry) looks like in a Christian and how that hurts God
    • Strive to stay true to God and don't "leave" him for these other things (our desires, wishes, wants...such as wanting to be popular, wanting to be liked, wanting things and so on). To teach this concept, check out my post, Keeping God at the Center.
    The teaching details are in my original Hosea post.

    Frances Rivers has written a wonderful fictional book based on Hosea called, Redeeming Love. If you need help believing in God's love, this book is a great source for that. It is a historical romance novel set in the 1850s Gold Rush in California. The central character, Angel, is sold into prostitution as a child. Eventually landing in California, a man named Michael Hosea, obeys God's call to marry Angel and from here on in the story unfolds God's love for us through Michael's unconditional love for Angel. Its central theme is the redeeming love of God towards sinners. I highly recommend this book.

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