We Are All Sick with Sin, But Cured by Christ!
Lord Jesus, I confess my many sins. Forgive me. Restore to me the joy of the salvation You have given me. Use the Gospel in Word and Sacrament this morning to strengthen the faith of all who are gathered here so that we may go forward into the week renewed and with a fresh zeal to live for You and serve you in all that we do. Amen.
The Law of God cannot save sinners. It only condemns us because we have broken it and continue to do so daily. Yet, there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ because Jesus was put "under the law," kept it for us, died for the sins we commit, and rose again to life. There is no other solution to sin and death; but it is a complete solution and through Jesus we live, now, spiritually and will be raised to live physically with Him forever in heaven!
As the time drew nearer for His death, Jesus continued to show His disciples what He would suffer in Jerusalem. Two of the disciples asked for special honor (not really knowing for what they were asking) which displeased the other disciples. The request and displeasure both flowed out of attitudes centered on self. Jesus instructed the disciples with His example. Jesus did not come to be served (selfishness), but to serve (self-lessness) and give His life a ransom for sins.
Text: Hosea 5:13-6:3
"When Ephraim saw his sickness, And Judah saw his wound, Then Ephraim went to Assyria and sent to King Jareb; Yet he cannot cure you, Nor heal you of your wound. For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear them and go away; I will take them away, and no one shall rescue. I will return again to My place Till they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me."
Come, and let us return to the Lord; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight. Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, Like the latter and former rain to the earth.
In Christ Jesus, the only "doctor" who can cure our souls, dear fellow redeemed:
What might your reaction be if I tell you that I, your unmarried pastor, am engaged to be married to…A PROSTITUTE! Would you wonder why? Would you expect the Deacons to discuss this matter in their next meeting…or perhaps even call a special meeting immediately following the service? Would word slowly ooze around town through the gossip channels about "THAT" pastor at "THAT" church downtown together with all of rumor’s usual embellishments? How would YOU feel about the announcement?
The prophet Hosea was not serving a congregation as such, but he was serving the nation of Israel (the northern 10 tribes) as a mouthpiece for God—bringing God’s Word to them. Unlike a Christian congregation, the majority of Hosea’s audience was not coming to hear what God would say through the prophet. Rather, they were telling God’s prophets to be quiet and not speak His Word.
So the settings of a New Testament pastor in Mankato and that of an Old Testament prophet in Israel are quite different; and yet when Hosea took a prostitute named Gomer as his wife, it surely was remarkable news . Even more remarkable, perhaps, was that God had specifically commanded Hosea to take a “wife of harlotry” (Hosea 1:2). But the story doesn’t end there.
Gomer gave birth to a son and God told Hosea to name the son “Jezreel” because He would bring judgment upon Israel and her sins in the valley of Jezreel. Then Gomer gave birth to a daughter. God told Hosea to name her, “Lo-Ruhamah” which means "no mercy," because God would no longer have mercy upon the rebellious house of Israel. Then another son came. Again God gave Hosea the name for the child. This son would be named “Lo-Ammi” meaning, "not My people," because Israel who had turned away from God would no longer be His people. Later, Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea. Yet, even though she was loved by another man and had proven herself to again be an adulteress, God told Hosea to restore her and love her as his wife.
All of this was a dramatic message to the people of Israel not only through the words Hosea preached, but through his life itself. In the prophet’s life, the people of Israel were represented by Gomer, and Hosea was a picture of God. The people of Israel like an adulteress and unfaithful wife had gone after all sorts of false gods, false hopes, and self-reliance. They were not faithful to their "husband," the true God. The result was a new generation—"children of harlotry" – who continued to follow after false gods and would face God’s judgment. However, like the forgiving husband, Hosea, who would call back his wife and love her; God would after His judgment, restore the people of Israel, bring them forgiveness, and love them as His people once again.
It is this ministry of the prophet Hosea which we observe in part this morning. The prophet’s words are a message to sinners WARNING of sin and false hope; and they are a message of healing through the Savior who was still coming at Hosea’s time, but now has come and accomplished salvation for us. WE ARE SICK WITH SIN, BUT CURED BY CHRIST! There are I. Worthless "cures’ but there is also II. True healing; and there isIII. Effective prevention.
Through the prophet God said, “When Ephraim saw his sickness, And Judah saw his wound, Then Ephraim went to Assyria and sent to King Jareb; Yet he cannot cure you, Nor heal you of your wound.” [v.13]
Ephraim was one of the 10 northern tribes which we know as the kingdom of Israel after the nation was split into two following Solomon’s death. In Hosea, "Ephraim" is used as a designation for the 10 northern tribes, the nation of Israel. Ephraim, Israel, was wounded and filled with sickness and sores. The people of Israel were in spiritual sickness and had spiritual sores and wounds that were festering from within and without. From within the people were being plagued by their own sinfulness which had taken them to false gods and into the pursuit of all that is evil. From without it was the attacks of the neighboring nations which God allowed to rise up against Israel as judgement upon her.
While Hosea’s ministry was largely to the 10 northern tribes, at the same time, Isaiah was ministering to the 2 southern tribes which we know as the nation of Judah. Isaiah wrote much the same words to the people in Judah, “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints. From the sole of the foot even to the head, There is no soundness in it, But wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; They have not been closed or bound up, Or soothed with ointment” (Isaiah 1:5-6).
Raw flesh rotting away is the picture God places upon the people that were once "His People." It was the spiritual state of the nation. Everything was a mess! The people thought in their minds that they were doing "OK," but God knew differently. He knew they had turned away and followed their own solutions. MAN’S solution is always to look to himself.
When Israel was troubled by another nation, they went to yet another nation seeking help. As Hosea said, Ephraim went to Assyria, BUT "he cannot cure you nor heal you of your wound."
In the history of Israel we find that king Pul of Assyria came against Israel and Menahem, the King of Israel, gave Pul a thousand talents of silver to bribe him into leaving. “Menahem exacted the money from Israel, from all the very wealthy, from each man fifty shekels of silver, to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria turned back, and did not stay there in the land…" Another time, Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Israel and Hoshea, Israel’s king, became Assyria’s vassal and paid tribute money. (cf: 2 Kings 15:19-20, 17:3). There are still other examples of the same thing throughout the unfaithful years in Israel’s history. At times, Israel would align themselves with one nation to go to war against another, even though God had forbidden them to enter into treaties with the heathen nations around them and instead to rely upon Him for their deliverance.
Once someone (or a nation, in the case of Israel) has that spiritual sickness, once he has turned away from the comfort and confidence of the true God, he starts looking for his own solutions. This is exactly what Ephraim—Israel did! To the human "solutions" God says, "they cannot help you." Again Isaiah speaking similarly said, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, And rely on horses, Who trust in chariots because they are many, And in horsemen because they are very strong, But who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, Nor seek the Lord!” (Isaiah 31:1).
As Israel fell away from the true God and started pursuing false gods, they had new "lovers." They were unfaithful to their "husband," the true God and were committing spiritual adultery. The people turned to these new places of "affection and love" rather than to God, hoping to find help…hoping to find a cure for their wound. Each time they would try a "new lover," each time they would try a new "cure," again and again, God’s Word still stood the same: "HE CANNOT CURE YOU!!"
Wherever Israel might turn, if it was not to the true God, they would find no help. The prophet, Jeremiah, says much the same as Isaiah and Hosea, “For thus says the Lord: ‘Your affliction is incurable, Your wound is severe. There is no one to plead your cause, That you may be bound up; You have no healing medicines. All your lovers have forgotten you; They do not seek you; For I have wounded you with the wound of an enemy, With the chastisement of a cruel one, For the multitude of your iniquities, Because your sins have increased. Why do you cry about your affliction? Your sorrow is incurable. Because of the multitude of your iniquities, Because your sins have increased, I have done these things to you.” (Jeremiah 30:12-15).
A wound that cannot be cured…a sickness that leads to eternal death—that is the sickness which Israel had and they would NEVER find a cure apart from Christ!
The reason Assyria and all the other nations could be of no assistance was because God was bringing judgment upon Israel and no one could overcome God (the very reason Israel had always been victorious when they were faithful to the true God). God said through the prophet, “I will be like a lion to Ephraim (ten northern tribes), and like a young lion to the house of Judah (2 southern tribes). I, even I, will tear them and go away; I will take them away, and no one shall rescue. I will return again to My place Till they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.” [vv.14-15]
This people of Israel who had once been called "the people of God," this people who once had promised their faithfulness to God forever, the people to whom God had said "I will be Your God and you will be my people" (Exodus 19:1ff) the people whom He had brought safely through the wilderness and to whom He had given the Promised Land of Canaan—these people were now prey being torn by the lion of judgement. There was NO WAY they could escape from the judgement of the true God. There was nothing anyone could do. In themselves and their allies Israel would find no escape, no cure for the sickness.
We also are sick with sin. Through Christ we have the cure, but of ourselves sin still festers in us as well. “Out of the heart proceed evil thought…” and every other manner of sin (cf: Matthew 15:19). So within us we have a sore, a wound, a disease that if left "unchecked" will continue to grow and fester and create a sickness to encompass us completely.
Perhaps our wound is a simmering anger and temper that with which we are personally sick. The anger just sits there and then it grows because nothing is done and it builds and builds until finally, the sinful thoughts lash out in sinful actions.
Perhaps it is greed – a little too much affection for this life and the things in it. That greed sits in our hearts and grows, the desires grow greater, and so does the sickness of being drawn to the things of this world instead of the things of Christ. The apostle John warns, “Do not love the world or the things in the world, if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
Perhaps it’s a simmering, growing discontent with authority that God has placed over us. Perhaps we grow disgruntled and really don’t want to listen anymore to those whom God has placed in authority. We feel we are outgrowing those things of God and those whom He places on the earth as His representatives. It grows…it simmers…it festers…and the sickness begins to consume.
Martin Luther in writing a sermon on this text, made the comment, “The punishment we feel but rarely do we feel the guilt” [WLS # 3699] If we experience some sort of consequence because of our sin, we understand that sin pretty well. BUT do we really stop to think about the GUILT of the sin that lies within us? Do we fully comprehend that sickness growing in us, for which there is no human cure?
People will try to find human cures and so they do run off after all sorts of things—manmade cures of every sort; but just like the Israelites God says to all who would attempt to find a solution in this way: “He cannot cure you, Nor heal you of your wound.”
We need to examine ourselves and recognize the guilt that lies within us. If we doubt the severity of that guilt, we need only look to the cross to see what it cost the Son of God to pay that debt.
Sin lies within each of us. Don’t pursue worthless cures of this life. There is a healing cure in Christ.
Even in the words of judgment which God spoke to the people, He gave a ray of hope for He said, "…they will seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.” [v.15] In all of the words God gave to the people through the Old Testament prophets, even in the messages of sternest rebuke against their sins, God always also gave the Gospel promise. In the midst of judgment God gave the "good news" that the Savior would come and bring deliverance from sin. It was news to give hope to the faithful few in Israel. It was news to give hope to those who had turned away from God but would come back in repentance.
It was just this type of return in repentance which the prophet urged when He said, “Come, and let us return to the Lord; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight.” [vv.1-2]
Not too far in the future, Israel would be carried away in captivity never to return. Judah would be carried into captivity for 70 years, and then they would return to the land so the Savior could be born in Bethlehem as promised. Then in 70 A.D., Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Romans and final judgment would then also be brought upon the people of Judah.
God was faithful. He brought His people back just as He promised. God sent the Savior to restore! After He has stricken, after He has torn, He does lift up, He does heal. He takes our sins away. God’s Word is a powerful two edged sword. It cuts to wound us. It cuts to make us realize that guilt of our sin, but then He also heals and brings health—spiritual health in place of sickness. In Deuteronomy, God says, “‘Now see that I, even I, am He, And there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal…(Deuteronomy 32:39)
The prophet Hosea cried out to the people: "COME! Let us RETURN to the LORD!" God’s Word through the prophet speaks to each of you and to me each day: "COME! RETURN to the LORD! You have gone astray. You have sinned. Look at your life and see that this is true and understand your guilt, but COME confessing your sins! COME acknowledging your failures! COME to the wealth of forgiveness offered through the Son of God, Jesus, our Savior! By God’s grace, His Gospel, and our Savior’s leading, we come to Jesus and find TRUE HEALING.
The communicants will soon come to receive Christ’s body and blood. To come to the Lord’s Table not confessing your sins, not realizing the guilt and sickness that lies within your hearts, is to come unprepared. But to have examined our lives, to see the sin which we have committed, and to humbly confess those sins and plead, "Lord, I have sinned, forgive me!" To come believing that you are receiving the body and blood of Christ that takes away ALL of your sin is to come prepared and you will BE HEALED! It is to come sick and without a human cure, and to leave restored and healthy through the salvation that is yours through Christ.
The old saying is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We who have been cured through Christ Jesus still face this sickness in the world and in our own flesh; but there is effective preventative medicine. Hosea wrote, “Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, Like the latter and former rain to the earth.” [6:3]
“Let us PURSUE the knowledge of the Lord…” —THERE is the prevention. The prevention is PURSUING the truth of God’s Word…PURSUING! Not sitting back and taking it as it comes. Not sitting back and getting around to it whenever there’s time. Not sitting back and letting someone bring it to me all the time. Hosea speaks of PURSUING! Like a man in a chariot going to battle when he knows the victory is his, we can PURSUE the knowledge and truth of God’s Word, PURSUE going into God’s Word to dig and to find that truth. If we don’t PURSUE the truth and the knowledge of the Lord, the SICKNESS WILL PURSUE us and may very well overcome us.
We who have such a rich treasure of God’s Word, have been healed and know what its like to be spiritually healthy, also have the temptation to become spiritually lazy—doing nothing about our spiritual health. This neglect leads to death. We have prevention through the work of the Holy Spirit in God’s Word. We have the prevention to stave off the attacks of the Devil, to keep the sickness far from our souls. In Isaiah we hear the prophecy, “Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3) … THERE is prevention. THERE is JOY! THERE is STRENGTH.
Old Testament history has encouragement for us to pursue the knowledge of the Lord. In the days of Joshua, the people of Israel were faithful. Joshua made the stirring speech before he died in which he said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!" (Joshua 24:15)—We will pursue the knowledge of the Lord. The people all agreed, "YES! So will we!" But we hear in the book of Judges, “The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord which He had done for Israel…When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:7-10). After Joshua and the elders died, the next generation did not maintain prevention. They became lazy. They didn’t PURSUE the knowledge of the Lord and they fell away.
This history stands as a warning to us. We ARE STILL infected with sin. Our Savior has the cure. PURSUE the knowledge and salvation of the Lord to maintain the cure and prevent further infection.
With the pursuit of the Lord’s knowledge, the Lord promises success, “His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, Like the latter and former rain to the earth.” Two rains are most important to any crop in the field—the first rain which causes the seed to germinate and grow, and the second rain which fills the grain and brings the crop to maturity and harvest. Like two rains coming upon a field to bring it to full harvest, God promises to come to us. He promises His grace and every blessing. He is the one who has cured us…He washes those sins away and He will strengthen us as we pursue the knowledge of the Lord.
We are sick with sin, but we are cured by Christ and everlasting life awaits us at the end of our God-strengthened pursuit. Amen.
—Pastor Wayne C. Eichstadt