Relentless Pursuit

Todd Wagner // Nov 20, 2018

We all have something in common; the desire to be pursued. We love hearing stories of reckless, illogical, relentless love. What if the very thing you’ve always wanted you already have? In this message, we look to the book of Hosea to see a glimpse of God’s love for us, but specifically for you.

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Hello, Porch friends. How are we doing? It is awesome to be here. My name is Todd. I get to hang out here at Watermark and drop in on The Porch every now and then. It is awesome to be with you and all of our friends who are dropping in online and are hanging out some other places. We are glad you're here. We just finished this Fantasy series about relationships, so what I want to do is tie in a little bit to that series. We talked about the fantasy guy, the fantasy girl, the fantasy relationship, all that different stuff.

I'm going to talk to you about something that I think will drive you into this weekend, which is one of my favorite weekends of the year, with a real heart of gratitude. I love this weekend because there's not a lot you have to do to get ready for it other than maybe find some folks to hang out with and find some food to take in. There's no shopping, no hustling, no getting around, but there is, honestly, something about holiday seasons that can make it hard for some of us.

We're like, "Man, I just want to share my life and especially my holidays." This time when family gets together… Some of you may not feel like you have family that are close, and you certainly, in our Porch community at this stage of life, often don't have somebody who has slid a ring on your finger and said, "I'm choosing you," that fantasy idea.

I can remember. It wasn't that long ago for me. There were only maybe four times a year that were hard for me to be single. One of them was spring when the azaleas were blooming and the birds were chirping and the weather was nice. Everybody kind of crawls out of their cave. They've been hibernating, and you see all of the couples at the park having a great time together and riding bikes and exercising together. Spring was hard.

The other time I can remember was summer. Summer was hard, because everybody goes to the lake. They get to go to the Fourth of July party and lay a blanket out and lie next to somebody and watch fireworks and go, "This reminds me of my heart right there." Just explosions in the sky. Fall was hard. Fall was tough. You know, sweater weather. Where I was from it got kind of cool. I was really skinny, so I could wear like four layers of clothing and look like a man. It was just awesome.

We could go out there together. We could hang out. We could be together and just snuggle by a little fire. Winter was hard, because it's Christmas. All of the Hallmark movies were on, and you're like, "Oh, is there ever going to be…? Like I could be, you know… And not a movie, but me, and Christmas gifts under the tree and mistletoe." Other than those four times of the year it was easy being single for me.

We all have this fantasy, because we have this idea that if we just got into a relationship it would be awesome, and really, honestly, the mindset of what that relationship would be like, specifically the pursuit. Isn't that what you really want? We all know relationships are hard, but, man, when people are pursuing you and it's fresh and new and they're just consumed with the thought of being with you…

What I want to talk to you about tonight is the fantasy pursuit. Girls, I know our world sells this dream. I don't care if a dragon has locked you up in a castle, Fiona, there's this guy, and he's not an ogre; he's a stud, and he's coming after you and is going to rescue you from the dragon and the castle and loneliness. He'll go through hell to come to you. That's kind of every little girl's fantasy.

Every guy wants to be pursued in the way that Fiona dreams about this gallant stud who she would respect and long to give herself to and share herself with. The fantasy pursuit. It's out there, and it's a bit embedded in all of us, because all of us, let's be honest, are just a little insecure, maybe a lot. We're all kind of thinking, "Am I really worth loving? Am I really worth pursuing?"

[AMBER Alert sound] If alarms would go off that I've been lost and somebody wants to find me. Tragically, that means there's an AMBER Alert. How ironic that that just happened. When a kid is lost, separated from those who want to provide and care for them, we let the whole world know, and we want to come after you.

Don't you have that fantasy? I still do. I've been married for almost 30 years, and I want my wife to pursue me, not just go, "Yeah, I'm your wife. Of course we sleep together." No, I want my wife to want and long for me. In fact, a guy named Martin Luther who lived a long time ago said a man should love his wife in such a way that she hates to see him leave, and a woman should love her husband in such a way that he knows she can't wait till he gets home.

What he's describing there is that we all, even when we're married, want to be pursued, not just tolerated. There's this idea of being pursued in general that is innate to who we are. All of us are kind of like, "I don't know. I don't know if I'll ever find somebody who really wants to run after me, who chooses me."

I started thinking about this this week a little bit. I thought about all of the love songs that are out there. You know, in the 80s, Randy Travis: "My love is deeper than the holler." All of these songs that talk about this love. You know, Blake Shelton: "I'll be your honey bee." "They're this to my that, and we're going to be this to that. I'll just do whatever I have to to get to you."

I started thinking about great classic movie scenes. Are y'all fans of The Last of the Mohicans? Oh man, come on. Do you remember this scene of Hawkeye and Cora? It is when they're hanging out right then. He has fallen in love with her. She has given her heart to him, and they're being chased by the whole British army. They're at this place where they're kind of in a cave behind a waterfall, and they're unable to protect themselves anymore.

Hawkeye is just sitting there looking at Cora, and he knows he has to make a decision. He knows if he stays there they're going to kill him in front of her, which will break her heart. He can't defend them in any way, so he just grabs her. He looks at her and goes, "Stay alive! You hear me? You survive! You stay alive! I will find you! No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you!" Then he just runs through this wall of water and dives into the darkness.

It's like, "Man! What a stud!" If you're Cora you're like, "Ohhh!" I'm just telling you, that's one of those things. It's this fantasy moment. I'm like, "I want to be Hawkeye." I think I'd want to be Cora if Hawkeye would say that to me. Who doesn't want to be loved like that? I started to look out there, and I came across this story about great love stories. Here's one. Just for a little bit more. I'm just setting the stage here.

There's this girl. Jessica Sharman is her name. Here's a picture of Jessica and her, at the time, fiancé when they were in love. Jessica her whole life had had epileptic seizures. She never suffered much from the seizures other than the actual seizure itself, but one time they were out on a date and they were on a train, and when they got off the train her eyes rolled back in her head and all of her limbs went limp.

Richard just kind of took her, and he immediately dialed her parents' number and said, "What do I do? What do I do?" and they just went, "Do this. Calm down. Call 911 if she doesn't come out of it quickly." He did, and the parents raced there. It wasn't far from their home. They got there, and Jessica didn't recognize her parents, certainly didn't recognize Richard. Jessica didn't even recognize pictures of herself.

She had what a neurologist said was seizure-induced amnesia, which is very, very rare. She forgot her whole family and certainly forgot Richard, but Richard pursued her. Richard wooed her again. The parents invited Richard over once she started to get well. She said, "I was scared to death when they left me alone with him." He starts to take her out to places and say, "Hey, we used to do this together." He just won her heart.

She said, "I don't remember the first time I fell in love with Richard, but I remember the second time." You're like, "Dude, that's a movie. That's The Vow." That's what you're saying. "That's Rachel McAdams. That's Channing Tatum." No, actually that's a different deal. That was a true story. That was a couple named Kim and Krickitt Carpenter. That was their story. They wrote it into a book that they made into a movie.

Either way, I'm like, "I want to be pursued like that. I want a guy who will fall in love and I'll forget him and he'll pursue me again because his vow was that he's going to love me." Here's a really sweet one. True story. This is a dad. He ran a fruit stand in Sichuan, China. One day he turned around in his fruit stand. His little daughter was 3 years old, and in the crowd she was swept up. He panicked. He could not find his 3-year-old.

There are no details whether she was abducted or what happened, but he just panicked. In the chaos and the crowd that was in that marketplace he lost his 3-year-old. For 24 years he looked for her, never could find her. He eventually quit his job selling fruit and drove a taxi so that everybody who got in his taxi he could give them a card. "This is my daughter. She was 3. I lost her. I don't know what relationships you have, but would you just tell somebody if they've ever adopted a daughter or did this that they would find her."

Over 17,000 different contacts were made. He drove with signs of his daughter all around his taxi. After 24 years a woman heard this, and she wrote him and said, "I think I might be your daughter." They got a DNA test. It was his daughter. He found her after 24 years. Amazing story of a loving father seeking a daughter before AMBER Alerts.

Last one. This one is kind of tragic. This is a gal… Her name is Iris Samaniego, and that's her cat Diego. Look at how happy she is. She was fortunate enough to lose her cat, and she looked for her cat for two years, and then she found her. Look at how upset she is when she finds her cat. She's bawling. That's a tragic story. The girl thought she finally lost her cat, and dadgum cat found its way home. That one grabs me.

We all have this fantasy pursuit, that somebody would care for us. I'm going to tell you a story. This is one of those messages, guys, that I can't pray enough that you'll believe it's true. I don't know if part of your story is that there's ever going to be another individual who pursues you. I just don't know. I really don't, but I want to tell you something. I know that if somebody pursues you and you haven't understood the love I'm about to be talking about and the radical pursuit that's here, it won't matter, because you're going to mess it up.

Until you know how radically loved you are and how radically valuable you are, all that's going to happen with people who pursue you is, in your neediness and the imperfection of one human to love another human, you're going to mess that relationship up and you're going to go into an epileptic sin seizure and you're going to forget how much you were sure this person would make you happy, because there is no person who can love you the way you need to be loved except a person who has themselves been forgiven much so they love much.

We talked a lot about this in different parts of that little Fantasy series. What I want to share with you tonight is a true story, and it's a radical story. It's almost an offensive story when you understand what God asked a human to do in order to illustrate his zealousness and his love for guys like me and gals like you and guys like you.

There's a book in your Bible called Hosea. If you have a Bible, turn to the book of Hosea. Hosea literally means salvation. That's what the name Hosea means. It means there is going to be this overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love poured out on you that will turn into the one thing you desperately want in your insecurity and uncertainty, informed by the self-knowledge of your imperfection. You just wonder, "Is there anybody who can save me from the loneliness of my brokenness?"

Obviously, you guys aren't clueless. You see where this is going. What I'm going to tell you is that the radical pursuit we all really want can only be found in one place. What God did is he took Hosea… He was a prophet. Prophets weren't just people who spoke. Prophets were sometimes folks who revealed an attribute of the characteristic of God that people were unfamiliar with or had lost touch with so they could get their arms around it, often in a very experiential way.

God had his prophets do some really crazy stuff. Go read the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a prophet who was there to tell the people that God wasn't kidding when he said there was going to be a consequence of them putting him off and ignoring him. The way he established the discipline they were going to be under was he asked Ezekiel basically to go through a melodrama, which had him cooking his food over dung and lying on his side in a public square for about a year and a half.

You're kind of like, "What kind of God would ask a guy to do that just to get a message through?" That is a God who is serious about the message getting through to people. He was willing to ask guys to do pretty amazing things to get that message through. Now here's one that is one of the most shocking in all the Scripture. The guy's name, Hosea, means salvation. Hosea was a prophet to the nation of Israel.

I want to give you a little bit of a context of who the nation of Israel was. They were people who were in bondage. They were people who were just like everybody else, and God chose to reveal himself uniquely through a relationship that he would pursue with certain humans that would eventually make the rest of the world take notice of the unique way these people were loved.

You need to know this. These people happened to be what we call today the Jewish people. You kind of go, "Why were the Jewish people chosen?" The answer is just because God chose to use them. He didn't love them more than anybody else. He just said, "I'm going to especially use you, and in my love for you that I pour out on you, it's going to make other people go, 'What is going on with you, people?'"

The Jews were to answer, "Nothing is going on with us. We're just like you. We're just as rebellious and just as lost and just as desperate and just as insecure, but we're not trying to figure out how to work toward this God we don't really know and understand. God has revealed himself to us and shown us how we can know him. Even though we ourselves are not worthy of being pursued, God has pursued us and rescued us. We're no longer slaves to the best ideas of men; we're now set free by the revelation of God. Look at what he has done for us. He's not our God; he is the God. Come and know him."

What's really interesting is that you're going to find out that when God rescues people he never does that through performance, through the law. The law was given to the Jewish people to show them that this God who is pursuing them is a holy God. "You're not a very holy people, which is why you're constantly in trouble, because you left the God who is kind, who is a loving Father. When you leave a loving Father you get a hateful one. When you leave the God who is life you're going to get death, and when you leave the God who is light you're going to get darkness."

God is just bringing the light and the love back to the world by loving Abraham and his descendants. What's interesting is Moses gave the law, but Moses couldn't lead the people into the place of promise. It was actually another guy. His name was Joshua. Joshua's name has the name Hosea in it except the first part of it. Jehovah Yeshua, Joshua, the Lord saves.

Do you know what's really interesting? There's another guy who has the name Yeshua, but not in Hebrew. In Greek his name is Jesus. That is the Greek Yeshua. That's the Greek name for the Lord saves. You're going to see that ultimately what Joshua was a picture of, the one who can deliver you by grace into the place of promise… It's who Jesus was. What Hosea is a picture of, Jesus is the one who accomplishes it.

What is the story of Hosea? Let me remind you, because in it you're going to see that there is a fantasy pursuit of you and me that is almost offensive. It's interesting. It won't surprise you that the way we're going to close this message is by singing a song that right now is, I think, helpful to all of our hearts. We would sing it a lot. Just the reckless love of God. Some people go, "Is that theologically correct that you would sing a song…? God doesn't do anything reckless. He's not a God of confusion. Should you sing a song that God is reckless?"

Here's the deal. Here's what you need to know. I think it's a fair question. It's a good question. I'm glad you care about words, whoever you are asking that, but we're speaking here anthropomorphically. We're speaking here in a way that is understandable to men. The love I'm about to describe to you is a love that seems really unreasonable, and to us it seems really, really reckless. It seems overwhelmingly impossible, but if it's true, woe to us who are flippant about its offer.

Here's the story of Hosea. Hosea was a prophet, as I said, and God came to him during a time when the nation of Israel had hardened its heart again and again and again and again against the God who had been so gracious to Israel again and again and again and again. This really bothered God, because God wanted Israel to be the nation through which other people would see the kindness and goodness of God.

If the people who knew God best were the most indifferent toward him, God was going to say, "Look. We can't have this keep going on." So he is going to show Israel how much he loves them, and he wants a guy who can preach to them out of a sense of the love of God, so he tells Hosea, "Hosea, I'm going to have you go love a woman, and her name is Gomer." Now listen. That's not even the ugliest part about her. If there was a Tinder back in that day, even then you'd go, "I don't care what she looks like. What did you say her name was? Gomer?"

What's interesting is if you look up the word gomer in our dictionary today, it means only two things in slang. There's a military slang, and the word in military slang for gomer is stupid. If you're a gomer, you are an incompetent colleague, usually a young trainee. That's why, by the way, if you guys ever watch TV Land (and I highly recommend that you tune into that every now and then), you'll watch about a guy named Gomer Pyle.

Have you ever seen Gomer Pyle? A couple of you guys. Good. He's called Gomer because he's a plebe, a trainee who just can't get anything right, and he drives Sergeant Carter mad. Gomer Pyle, an incompetent colleague. In the medical term, a gomer is a really troublesome patient. No matter how much you try and care for them… Usually an elderly person who just fights you, like, "Don't stab me!" You're like, "Dude, I'm trying to help you. I don't want to stab you."

A gomer is what medical doctors would call somebody… Like, "Who's got the gomer in room 305? Go check their blood pressure." You know what you're walking into in that room. It's going to raise your blood pressure when you get in there. It comes from… This is amazing, how much Bible language has made its way into our culture. It comes from this story.

So who is Gomer? Gomer is somebody God calls this prophet to love. He tells Hosea from the very beginning, "I just want to tell you she's going to be a harlot, and she's going to give you children, and the children aren't going to be yours, and you're not going to have to have a DNA test to figure it out.

This woman is not going to be faithful to you. She's going to break your heart. I'm going to show you what it feels like to have a lover who is unfaithful so that in your brokenness you can speak to people about how my heart is broken. Hosea, I want you to love her anyway. I want you to pursue her anyway."

You might be going, "What kind of God would ask somebody to do that?" Let me make it really clear. God spends the entire Scripture making sure that you're not going to have to live Hosea's life. God doesn't want any of us to be yoked to anybody less than somebody who has been loved the way Hosea loves Gomer. Don't go marry a Gomer to show the sacrificial love of Christ.

Just know this. Even if you marry a person who knows the love of God, there are going to be times you're going to feel like you're dying to yourself to stay committed to them and keep pursuing them, because all of us are broken. None of us are perfect. God is telling you, "Hey, you want to marry somebody who's already well married to me, somebody who already has been forgiven much so they can love much, who's received grace so they can extend grace." That's your fantasy mate.

Watch this story. Here we go. Chapter 1, verse 2: "When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, 'Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry…'" Let me say again you never see that command anywhere else in Scripture. Missionary dating is not a good idea. If you might want to go, "I'm going to be a modern-day prophet. I'm going to go find the most unwholesome guy or girl I can, and I'm going to train them…"

I would just tell you you may as well get you a lion cub and raise it and enjoy the lion cub years, because eventually that thing is going to grow up and eat you. You'll get a lot of attention early on while you're parading your little puppy around. "Woo! You with a cub? Man!" But that cub is going to eat you. He tells Hosea, "You go marry that lion cub, and you have children of harlotry with her."

"'…for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord.' So he went and took Gomer…and she conceived and bore him a son. And the ** Lord **** said to him, 'Name him Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.'"**

Let me give you a little biblical background right here. He says, "I want you to name the first child Jezreel." Let's go down a little bit farther. When you get to verse 6 it says, "Then she conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. And the Lord said to [Hosea] , 'Name her Lo-ruhamah…'" Jezreel was a place. I'm going to tell you what the place Jezreel was in a second. Lo-ruhamah means specifically not given to compassion or no pity. How would you like…? "What's your name?"

"No pity."

"What's your mom's name?"



A little bit farther down you'll see in verse 9 there's a third child who comes. It's a boy. His name is Lo-ammi. Ammi is like amigo, friend. Ammi in Hebrew means friend; lo means no, so, "no friend." That's a tough name. Watch the names of these kids. God says, "Jezreel." Jezreel is a place in Israel's history where some of the greatest abominations happen at the height of their rebellion.

It would be like having a Chinaman name their kid "Tiananmen Square" or a German say, "Call your kid Auschwitz." No German wants to name their kid "Auschwitz," because they're like, "Man, what we did at Auschwitz, what we're responsible for at Treblinka… We don't even want to remember that." God says, "Well, I remember it. I have not forgotten what happened in Jezreel, so there will be no pity, because you are not my people."

So the offspring of the unfaithfulness of the God who saves with the one who leaves him is "I see your wicked deeds. I will have no pity on you for your wicked deeds. I've begged you through many, many prophets who told you that I was loving and good, but now I'm going to…" God is a God who because he loves Israel and there's no other option he says, "I'm going to let you experience what you're choosing."

Let me tell you, some of you guys are still in this world. You're kind of creating your Jezreel. You're still doing things that you're going to go, "I'm not really proud of what I'm doing, but I think I'm getting away with it." Israel thought they got away with their Jezreel, and God said, "You don't get away with that." There's a Scripture I quote a lot to my friends. In Ecclesiastes 8:11 it says, "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of…men among them are given fully to do evil."

Israel had their Jezreel, and then they had another scene, and then they had their Dan, they had their Bethel. Let me tell you a little bit about what's going on in Israel at the time. He is the God who saves. God is the God who values people, but what they did is they "Canaanized" the nation of Israel.

Here's the story. When God called them out of bondage to an oppressor and set them free because he heard their cry and was going to show his power by delivering them and revealing who he was to them, he took Israel out and said, "I'm going to use you to go into Canaan," which is a land that we today would primarily know as where modern-day Israel is. It's what's west of the Jordan River right there up against the Mediterranean Sea.

He basically said, "You're going to go in there, and there are some nations there that time is up for them, and there's judgment that's going to come to them. I've been trying to reach them, but they won't listen, so it's time for judgment to come upon them." They were supposed to go in and be God's instrument of judgment on the Canaanite people. The Canaanite people were practicing some pretty awful stuff.

What happened is Israel didn't do what God asked them to do. They left some of those people there, and then eventually they go, "Some of these gals aren't that bad-looking," and they started to intermarry with them. They adopted some of their culture. So instead of being this people who were redeemed to live in relationship with this God who had rescued them, they became basically like the rest of the world. God wasn't their King. They had their own kings, and they sought their own way.

In the Scripture you'll every now and then run across this character called Baal. Baal is just the Canaanite word for lord. Here's what Baal worship was. Baal was the god of the skies. Remember, when you don't know who God is you have to figure out how to relate to God, so you might create some story, some mythology. The Greeks did it. The Romans adopted most of the Greek mythology.

The Jews didn't make up stories because God wrote himself into their story in history. You can go back and look. There is no Mount Olympus. There is no Zeus. There is no Apollo. Everybody knows those are stories by creative writers. But there are characters that are in your Bible all throughout recorded history.

What God is saying is "In the midst of history I'm going to show you who I am. I'm going to reveal myself in the context of your story. You're going to see my story." History is God's story in the context of humankind. In the story it says that as God is revealing himself he wants to deliver people from having to make up who he is. That's why God says, "This is who I am. I'm the creator God. There isn't some Baal out there. There's not a Zeus."

But this was Baal worship. Are you ready? Baal worship was a part of what's called the Canaanite fertility worship cults. They would believe Baal, the god of the sky, had his consort, or his concubine, who was Anat, who was the goddess of the earth. What they believed was that they needed the god of the sky and the god of the earth to relate so they could produce children that then they could eat. So when it rained, that was Baal copulating, and his semen would fall onto the earth and would have relations with Anat and it would bring forth children (crops).

Then because they ate Baal and Anat's children they felt like, "This is what we have to do. The way we worship Baal is we have temples that are Baal temples and Anat temples, and we will have temple prostitutes. We need to go and sleep with these prophetesses and these temple prostitutes, and then they will give birth to children, and then we'll take those children and sacrifice them to Baal. We give them their children, Baal brings his semen the next season, and the earth is repopulated again with his children, and we eat them, and on and on and on we go."

That's pretty rough. God says, "That story is not going to roll with me." He reveals where crops come from. He reveals who he is. He says, "We're going to put a stop to this" in his grace. Israel adopted that practice.

He goes on. Verse 10: "Yet the number of the sons of Israel will be like the sand of the sea…""I'm going to populate them. There are going to be a lot of them." "…which cannot be measured or numbered; and in the place where it is said to them, 'You are not My people,' it will be said to them, 'You are the sons of the living God.'" What he's going to start to do here is anticipate the kindness that will someday come. "I'm not going to eradicate you."

"And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together…" There will be a national reunion. "…and they will appoint for themselves one leader…" There's going to one day be a national leader. "…and they will go up from the land…" It says there's going to be a battle in a Jezreel. He says to Hosea in chapter 2, verse 1, "Say to your brothers, 'Ammi [my friends] …'"

Remember, this is a guy who has married a woman who is going to give herself away, and he's never really sure that the children are his children. In fact, God says, "They're not going to be your children, because your wife is going to be continually unfaithful to you, but you go to your people and tell them, 'My friends,' and to your sisters, 'Pitied ones.'" Those of you who are suffering because you're living like pagans, living apart from God, who are not happy and are discontent and feel trouble looming over you.

He says you're going to say to them, "Contend with your mother, contend…" In other words, don't be the children of the offspring of a false understanding of reality. Plead with your people to not have that kind of mother. "…and let her put away her harlotry from her face and her adultery from between her breasts…" He says, "If you keep doing this, I will strip her naked. I'm going to expose your wickedness." "…expose her as on the day when she was born."

He goes on and describes these things. Verse 5: "For their mother has played the harlot; she who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said…" Watch what she says. Gomer says, "Are you kidding me? Things aren't bad. Why would you not want to do what I do?" "I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink."

Gomer is basically saying to Hosea, "Why would I come back to you, and why would you tell them that my choices are bad? I'm out there tripping around with all of these guys, and these guys are taking me on five-star vacations. They're giving me all kinds of money. I'm wearing mink, I'm wearing jewels, because I'm giving them what they want."

Here's what's really interesting that God is about to show. God is saying while Gomer thinks she's prospering and getting these things because she's recklessly offering herself out to the ways of the world, you're going to find out that it's God who's allowing some of that blessing, but he's about to stop it, because he wants Gomer to see that's no life at all.

I just want to insert right here it is a fact, girls… I'm going to talk to the girls for a second. It's a fact, girls, that by giving yourself away… I made a note to myself here as I was thinking about this. When you're the kind of girl who will go out and share whatever you have to offer others and you give of yourself…you show certain things and share certain things…you're going to get the attention of certain guys, and you're going to look around and go, "Why do these guys keep going after that girl?"

If you want to get a guy by showing and shopping and sharing your flesh, you're going to get a guy, but I'm going to tell you, beware, because you are going to get buyers who want what you're selling. If you get a guy who is buying your selling and showing and sharing your flesh, you're going to lose him for the exact same reason. There's going to one day be a better-looking Gomer than you, and there's going to be a different trophy Gomer he's going to run to. If you want to get a guy and attract a guy with that, don't be surprised when you lose a guy for that.

There's an old country western song that says… It's a song basically about one woman singing to the other woman who took her husband away. She's saying, "But you don't know. We're just kind of soul mates. We love each other. He deserves a woman who loves him the way I'm telling him I love him." The girl over here says, "You're right. If you want a man who will take a ring off his hand and tell you that forever he'll be true, you're right; he deserves you. You deserve each other."

I'm always surprised when people who move into a relationship through infidelity are surprised when that relationship ends in infidelity. I'm always surprised when people who move into a relationship that is defined by two people doing what they think is right and feels good to them and the world encourages them, "Of course. Go ahead. Why not? Why wouldn't you?" and God is saying, "I wouldn't go into that relationship with those kinds of people who do what seems right to them, but in the end it leads to death," are surprised when that relationship dissolves and ends up like it shouldn't.

I'm always surprised when people who marry people who are committed to harlotry are shocked when they have a harlot's relationship. God says, "I don't want you to have that kind of relationship," but that's not really the story right here. The story right here is watch God in the person of Hosea.

In chapter 2, verse 6, it says, "Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns…" This is God speaking. "…and I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths [that she used to pursue her lovers] ." What God is going to say is, "Gomer, it's time. I've loved you by pursuing you, but now I'm going to let you get what you want, and I'm going to make it hard for you to find your lovers."

"She will pursue her lovers, but she will not overtake them…" In other words, she won't find any more lovers. "…she will seek them, but will not find them." They will move on. They'll find another younger, better-looking Gomer, and she will say, "Okay, I'm going to go back to my first husband then, for it was better for me than now." What God is going to do is basically make her get sick and tired of being sick and tired so she maybe will return. This is what God says. Watch this in verse 8. "For she [Gomer] does not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the new wine and the oil…"

Here's what God had Hosea do. Those guys were out there using his wife of harlotry, and they didn't really care about her. Hosea would go up and say, "Hey, you know that woman you sleep with? You know that girl you're shacking up with? That's my wife. She doesn't want to come home with me because she thinks she's having a big time with you. Here's some flax. Here's some wine. Here's some oil. I want you to give her more than she's asking. I want you to shower her with gifts, because I love her and I care for her."

The whole while he would still go to her and say, "Sweetie, come home." She'd say, "Why would I come home? I have everything I want." She doesn't know it's her God, Hosea, her husband who's giving that to her. I'll just tell you this. Some of the pleasure you're experiencing right now, even in your sin… You're using God's gifts in a God-forbidden way, but because you're benefiting from the gift and are not experiencing the consequences of the forbidding, you kind of think, "Well, there is no God. There's no consequence to this. Sex feels good. I'm enjoying it. The world tells me it's okay." Yet deep in your soul you're like, "I don't know if this is really okay."

God is the one providing the pleasure. God created your body for pleasure, but he didn't create your body to have pleasure for a moment and then a big whiplash of guilt, a big whiplash of insecurity. Eventually, that party is going to be over. Now watch. Hosea, chapter 3. Some people say this is probably the most powerful chapter in your entire Bible. You need to know something. Gomer isn't just this woman we should look at and go, "What is wrong with her?" Gomer is me. Gomer is us.

The Lord said to Hosea, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes." Raisin cakes were cakes made with a bunch of little seeds in them, and they believed they were an aphrodisiac. It was just a fable, but they believed that because in raisin cakes there would be a lot of little seeds, when you ate them they made your seed more virile. So you would eat raisin cakes before you went to worship Baal. That's the reference here.

"So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver…" If you went back and read your Bible, you would see that a slave was bought for 21 shekels. By the way, I'll insert this in here, because I always am careful with an audience that maybe hasn't been around the Bible for a long time. "What's that thing about the Bible and slavery?" In the Bible there were really only three reasons for slavery, and none of them were ever what you and I think of when we think of slavery. The Bible never, ever, ever endorsed that kind of slavery. People who tortured the text did.

In the Old Testament, slaves were basically nations that had been conquered by another nation that would go to war, as men always will do apart from God, and they will abuse one another and take them. Then you would be a part of a servant nation to another nation or you would live in your nation irresponsibly and would be in what's called debtors' slavery or you could sometimes find somebody you loved so much you'd go, "I'm just going to choose to give myself to you and be a bondservant. I choose to be your slave just because I love you so much."

But never in the Scripture… It was always punishable by death if you took a man and kidnapped him and made him your slave. There's this little thing we do called Real Truth. Real Quick. There's a whole episode in six minutes called What Does the Bible Say About Slavery? I walk you through that. The Kunta Kinte, old South slave trade has forever been an offense to God, and it's an embarrassment to the church that it ever endorsed it. Praise God that true Christians are the ones who eradicated it.

But if you bought a slave, you bought them for… God just kind of wrote in it's 30 shekels of silver. Now you could buy a gored slave, a slave that had been gored by an ox that we're not sure they're going to live. That would go over 15 shekels of silver. The way it worked, when one nation would maraud another nation and they would sell those people it would be 30 shekels, but if there was one who was almost killed in war and you weren't sure they were going to make it, they would be worth 15 shekels.

What they're saying is, "Gomer, you're a gored slave. We're not even sure what you're worth," but that's what he bought her for, and basically a homer and a half of barley, which is animal food. "Then I said to her, 'You shall stay with me for many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you.'" Then he says in verse 4:

"For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar and without ephod or household idols. Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days."

What he's basically going to say is, "And I'll be there. In the way that Hosea kept pursuing Gomer, I'm going to keep pursuing you." Here's the deal. There are some people who die their whole life, always rebelling against God, and they never turn their hearts back home. The discipline is never severe enough that they get sick and tired of being sick and tired. The Scripture is very honest about who those people are.

It says whom the Father loves he disciplines. He reproves his children. If you never really go through that where you never really get sick and tired, never experience enough of the sting of the world because you love the world, and the love of the Father isn't in you… In the Scripture it says, "It's appointed for man to die once, and after this comes judgment."

If there's never a time in your life when you get sick and tired of being a Gomer and you never see the love of God and return back away from the death of your sin and the emptiness of your soul's pursuit and never find your peace with God, then there's going to be a time he'll just give you what you want forever, but here's the thing.

When you die and you leave God, you're not going to go on to one great party with all of your other Gomer friends, because remember, friends are a gift from God. God gives you friends and grace in this life. He gives you sex in this life for the righteous and the unrighteous to enjoy. The rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you don't want anything to do with God, there's going to be a day when he's going to grant you your request.

You don't want the God who is salvation? Then he'll give you a land where there is no salvation, there is no sex, there is no music, there is no friendship, there is no laughter, there is no death, because even death would be a form of rest. All of those things are a gift. Even this. When man first sinned and left God, God immediately put an angel to guard the Tree of Life so Adam and Eve, in their sin, couldn't go and eat of the Tree of Life.

Why? Because God in his grace said, "I don't want you to live in sin forever. I'm going to drive you out of the garden of rest. I'm going to send you out into the world of darkness and cold and isolation and hiding, and I'm going to woo you back to the God you've left, but I'm going to make sure you don't live forever right now, Adam and Eve. I'm going to rescue you from your sin." Hosea the prophet is just a tainted, shadowy picture of the way God pursues you and me.

Let me close with this. This is a never-ending love. I want to read you two things. One is an old theologian's description of Hosea. Let me read this to you. "Who can explain the sanity of [this kind of] love?" This love of God, this infinite love, this sovereign love, love apart from reason. Everybody would have looked at Hosea and went, "Hosea, why are you pursuing a Gomer? Everybody knows she's a harlot." He says, "Because I'm going to redeem her."

"She's like a gored slave."

"I'm going to redeem her, and when I redeem her I'm going to love her."

The guy says, "…love exists for its own reasons. Love is not according to logic; love is according to love. Thus it was with Hosea, [because he was showing you that God is love]. The pursuing love of God is the greatest wonder of the spiritual universe. We leave God in the heat of our own self-desire and run from His will because we want so much to have our own way. We get to a crossroads and look back in pride, thinking that we have outdistanced Him.

Just as we are about to congratulate ourselves on our achievement of self-enthronement, we feel a touch on our arm and turn in that direction to find Him there. 'My child,' He says…'I love you; and when I saw you running away from all that is good, I pursued you through a shortcut that love knows well, and awaited you here at the crossroads.' Once we have torn ourselves free from His grasp and rushed off again [through the deepest woods and farthest swamp], we are sure, this time, that we have succeeded in escaping [God and any remembrance of him].

But, once more, the touch of love is on our other sleeve and when we turn quickly we find that He is there, pleading with the eyes of love, and showing Himself once more to be the tender and faithful One, loving to the end. He will always say, 'My child, my name and nature are Love, and I must act according to that which I am. So it is that I have pursued you, to tell you that when you are tired of your running and your wandering, I will be there to draw you to myself once more.'"

When we see this love at work through the heart of Hosea we may wonder if God is really like that. "Is there somebody who loves me that way?" I know what it's like. "God, if you're there and you're that holy, could you ever love me? Do you know what I've done?" He knows exactly what you've done, and he loves you. All you have to do is believe that that love exists in an overwhelming, never-ending, reckless, unspeakably glorious way.

A guy named Eugene Peterson just died. He's most famous for writing this Bible called The Message, which is just a paraphrase. It's Peterson in his own words paraphrasing the Scripture. He was just buried, and when he was buried his son listened to everybody speak about him. Peterson wrote a ton of books, and he wrote the book The Message.

He stood up and said, "It doesn't make any sense to me that you guys talk about all his books and all his different messages." He said, "Let me tell you something. My dad had one message, and one message only, and he whispered it in my heart every night as a child. He would come into my room, and frankly, for the entire 50 years that I've been alive, he kept saying it to me. I remember as a child my dad would walk in my room every night, and he would speak over me, and this was his message."

By the way, this is the message. This is not a rulebook. The Bible is not a rulebook. It's not a list of moral laws you have to follow to be loved. It's a reminder, Gomer, that living the way you're living, even though you think it's working, it's not working because of what you're doing; it's working because God in his grace has not let you come to an end of yourself, and he's keeping you alive.

He's slow toward you, not because he's not able to bring judgment but because he's patient toward you, wishing that you wouldn't perish but come to eternal life. This is a story from in the beginning of man being created to man saying, "I don't think I need you, God. I'm going to live my own way, God," to God pursuing us in a reckless way and then bringing us back. How reckless? This reckless. I'm going to tell you what this book says. When we see the love of God in Hosea, we see this.

"Everything in the Word and in experience shows us that [God is love]. He will give man the trees of the forest [he runs through] and the iron in the ground [that he uses to kill each other]. Then He will give to man the brains to make an axe from the iron to cut down a tree and fashion it into a cross.

He will give man the ability to make a hammer and nails, and when man has the cross and the hammer and nails, the Lord will allow man to take hold of Him [Yeshua, the God who saves] and bring Him to that cross; He will stretch out His hands upon it and allow man to nail Him to that cross, and in so doing will take the sin of the man upon Himself and make it possible for those who have despised and rejected Him to come to Him [through that cross] and know the joy of sins removed [because the wrath of God has been satisfied in the perfect sacrifice only God himself can provide]."

What kind of God does that? The kind of God that Peterson used to stand over his son every night and would say to him, "God loves you. God is on your side. He is coming after you, and he is relentless." I pray as you move into Thanksgiving that you and me, other Gomers who have been wooed back by the kindness of God, like a gored slave redeemed, not just on Thanksgiving but every day, would go, "God, you love me. I can't believe you love me. You're on my side. You're coming after me, and you're relentless."

Father, I pray for my friends, that they would know this fantasy pursuit isn't a fantasy; it's the truth. It's the truth that can pull us out of our sick and tiredness of being sick and tired, this woods we're running through. You fashioned a cross out of that wood. You're not mad at us; you're just sad for us. Lord, I thank you that you bring pain into our lives and emptiness and insecurity and loneliness and all of these things that are not to exist in the human psyche, in the human condition, but you let us have it, because that's what we get when we leave you.

You're not punishing us with these things; you're letting us taste them so we get sick and tired and return to the God who is gracious. So, Lord, help us to be people who accept that grace and to not tell you that we're unlovable but to accept the love that is unspeakable. Would you allow us to believe that you love us, that you're on our side, that you're coming after us? You came after us through Yeshua, the one who saves. Amen.