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O Love that will not let me go, part 2

January 8, 2007

But before he can speak these words of grace to our hearts in ways that we can hear it, verse 14 says that he must first lead us out into the desert.   The opulence of Samaria will never provide the environment in which Israel’s heart can be won back.  She must go into exile to learn to call on the name of the Lord.  So God will orchestrate circumstances in our lives to get us away from the noise of the world, to separate us from our idols, to get us alone with him, to make us experience afresh our daily dependence upon the manna from heaven.

 

Another reason for the mention of the desert in this verse is that we are to see the New Covenant as a New Exodus.  The history of Israel is being recapitulated, but this time the covenant promises will be kept because this time God will write his laws on our hearts by his Holy Spirit and cause us to walk in his ways. 

 

This mention of a covenant in verse 18, to be elaborated upon in verses 19-20, is this earliest suggestion in the prophets of an idea to be more fully unpacked in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36.  A new covenant, which will be not like the covenant God made with their forefathers when they came out of Egypt.  The first covenant was broken by the forefathers, though I was their husband, says the Lord in Jeremiah 31.  But this covenant will be unbreakable because God will ensure its fulfillment by putting his Spirit in our hearts and causing us to walk in his ways.  Let me read to you of the new covenant from Ezekiel 36 and listen for the restoration preceding repentance that I spoke of earlier.

 

 

Ezekiel 36:22-31   “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came.  23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.  24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land.  25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.  28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.  29 And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you.  30 I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations.  31 Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations.”

But mark this: though restoration is of grace alone and precedes repentance, this doesn’t mean repentance is unnecessary.  Repentance is a necessary result of the grace that renews and restores our relationship with God.  And that is the meaning of the mention of theValley of Achor in Hosea 2:15.  Do you remember the Valley of Achor?  The word Achor means trouble.  And theValley of Achor was the place in Joshua 7 where Achan’s sin was found out and Achan was put to death so that the presence of God would go with the Israelites into battle again.  Isaiah 65.10 also mentions it with similar intent.  There God says he will make the Valley of Achor a resting place for herds.  The point is this.  In the place where you, by the Spirit, put to death the Achan in your life, put to death your besetting sin, there you will find a resting place.  There you will find a door of hope.

 

Jonathan Edwards preached a great sermon on this verse.  After doing this exegesis, he states the doctrine of the text in this way:  God is wont to cause hope and comfort to arise in the soul after trouble and humbling for sin, and according as the troubler is slain and forsaken.

 

 

Listen to Edwards: “The corrupt hearts of men naturally incline to stupidity and senselessness before God comes with the awakening influences of his Spirit.  They are quiet and secure. They have no true comfort and hope, and yet they are quiet; they are at ease. They are in miserable slavery, and yet seek not a remedy. They say, as the children of Israel did in Egypt to Moses, “Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians.” But if God has a design of mercy to them, it is his manner before he bestows true hope and comfort on them, to bring them into trouble, to distress them, and spoil their ease and false quietness, and to rouse them out of their old resting and sleeping places, and to bring them into a wilderness…. Their worldly enjoyments were a sufficient good before; but they are not now. They wander about with wounded hearts, seeking rest, and finding none…. They are like the children of Israel, while Achor troubled them. They go forth against their enemies, and they are smitten down and flee before them. They call on God, but he does not answer, nor seem to regard them. Sometimes they find something in which they take pleasure for a little time, but it soon vanishes away, and leaves them in greater distress than before. And sometimes they are brought to the very borders of despair. Thus they are brought into the wilderness, and into the valley of Achor, or of trouble.  Sin is the trouble or the cause of this trouble. Sin is the disease of the soul, and such a disease as will, if the soul is not benumbed, cause exceeding pain…. Whatever troubles there are for sin, yet if the sin is not slain, it cannot be expected but that there will be trouble still. Before there will be no true comfort…. Persons may seem to lament they have done thus and thus, and weep many tears, and cry out of their sinfulness and wickedness, and yet the life of sin be whole in them. But if so, they never shall receive true comfort. They may refrain from sin; there may be a great reformation, and exact life for a time. Or there may be a total reformation of some particular ways of sin, and yet not true hope; because sin is only restrained; it is not slain. Many men are brought to restrain sin, and to give it slight wounds, who cannot be brought to kill it. Wicked men are loth to kill sin. They have been very good friends to it ever since they have been in the world, and have always treated it as one of their most familiar and best friends…. If ever men come to have a true hope, they must do as the children of Israel did by Achan. Jos. 7:24, 25, 26, “And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan, the son of Zerah, and the silver and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had; and they brought them into the valley of Achor.  And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? The Lord shall trouble thee this day. And all
Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called the
valley of Achor unto this day.” So if ever men come to have any true hope, they must take sin which is the troubler, and all which belongs to it, even that which seems most dear and precious, though it be as choice as Achan’s silver and wedge of gold, and utterly destroy them, and burn them with fire, to be sure to make a thorough end of them, as it were, bury them and raise over them a great heap of stones, to lay a great weight upon them, to make sure of it that they shall never rise more.”

Now by this standard, Edwards calls us to examine our hope, our assurance.  He continues, “By this persons may try their hopes and comforts, whether they are of the right kind. If they are such as have arisen after the manner, as is spoken of in the doctrine; if it is a hope which you found in the valley of Achor…whether they have arisen in your souls when humbled for sin, and in the slaying of sin…. If your hope is that which you obtained before this, you obtained it too soon, and had better be without it than with it.

 

 

Next, to keep hypersensitive consciences from despairing over this Edwards writes, “You may reply to this, I see abundance of corruption and wickedness in my heart; and so far is it from being delivered from corruption, that I seem at times to discover more than ever. But whether you see more or less corruption in your heart, is your heart turned against the corruption which you see?”

You won’t ever be sinless in this life, you won’t ever be done mortifying sin in this life, but are you genuinely about the work of slaying the troubler?  If not, your hope is a false hope.   So Edwards concludes with this application: “search and endeavor to find out the troubler…. Joshua spent a great deal of time in prayer when Israel was troubled. He fell upon his face till eventide, complaining to God about his withdrawing from them. But God says to him. Jos. 7:10, 11, “Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?” As much as to say, you had more need to be doing something else, than lie there. “Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant, which I commanded them; for they have even taken of the accursed thing.” And verse 13, “Up, sanctify yourselves.” This teaches you, who are under darkness, and have your hopes darkened, and comforts deadened, what you should do. You must arise and search, and find out the troubler. If you do not do this, it will signify nothing to you to lie crying and complaining to God about your darkness. You have other business which you have more need to do, though prayer should not be left undone. Let me beseech you, therefore, to be thorough in this. You have need to be thorough, for it is an exceedingly difficult thing to find out the accursed thing in such cases. Men’s hearts do like Achan, who hid the accursed thing in the earth in the midst of his tent. Jos. 7:21. He hid it very closely. He did not content himself with hiding it in the most secret place in his tent, but he dug in the ground and buried it in the earth under his feet, that there might be no sign of it above ground. So are men’s deceitful hearts wont to hide the accursed thing which troubles them…. In some respects, it is a great deal easier to find out little sins than greater sins, which causes many to strain at a gnat who swallows a camel.”

 

 

So there’s some exhortations from Edwards to be pursuing the repentance that is a necessary result of the renewing grace of God.  But back to my main point this morning, it is a result of the renewing grace of God.  We need to look to God’s grace and love and kindness to work in our hearts this repentance.  We see more grace now in the promise of Hosea 2:16.  In that day you will call me “My husband” and no longer will you call me “My Baal”  Baal was the name of a false god.  Israel had forgotten Lord Yahweh, but God would work in such a way that it is Baal who is forgotten and the name of the Lord is remembered.  But the word Baal also means “master”  And so the verse means that God does not want to be served as a slave serves a master, he wants to be loved like a husband.  God not only commanded that Israel worship no other gods, he also commanded that they not worship him in the way the nations worship their gods.  In other words, he doesn’t want Israel to change from saying “Hail Baal, Hail Baal, now bless my crops and give me my desires.” to saying “Hail YHWH, Hail YHWH, now bless my crops and give me my desires.”   God wants to be our great desire.  He wants us to love him with all our hearts like a faithful wife loves her husband.

 

 

Here’s how Piper put it in his sermon, “Please take special notice of this, especially you who tend to keep God at arm’s distance from your emotions. According to Hosea 2:16, God does not want you to return to him and say, “Yes, Sir” and set about your duties. He wants you to come into the wilderness, to listen to him speak tenderly and to respond to him, “My husband.” God wants your heart, not just your hands, because if he has your heart he has everything.

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