Calvary Road Baptist Church

“UNGRATEFUL IGNORANCE OF GOD’S PROVIDENCE”

Hosea 2.8

 

My text for this morning’s message from God’s Word is Hosea 2.8. When you find that verse, I invite you to stand with me for the reading of God’s Word:

 

“For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal.”

 

Hosea’s is the first of what are called the Minor Prophets in the Old Testament, owing to its inclusion with those prophetical books that are smaller in size than Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. Written after the civil war that divided the nation into the Kingdom of Israel to the north and the Kingdom of Judah to the south, Hosea was a prophet to the northern kingdom in the shadow of the threatening Assyrian empire. The first four chapters of Hosea are given over to God’s use of the prophet Hosea and his unfaithful and immoral wife Gomer as symbolic representations of God as husband figure, and the unfaithful and immoral people of the Kingdom of Israel likened to an adulterous wife. Gomer’s adulteries replicate Israel’s idolatries, and Hosea’s broken heart provides insight into God’s heartache over His wayward people. Our text is lifted from a passage in which God describes the folly of Israel’s misinterpretation of and failure to respond properly to her blessings. Again, our text reads,

 

“For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal.”

 

Note with me Israel’s folly before I make general application of what is recorded for us in their history:

 

First, OBSERVE ISRAEL’S PROSPERITY

 

The Kingdom of Israel was comprised of the ten tribes that revolted against Solomon’s son and heir, Rehoboam.[1] Rallying to Jeroboam, who became Israel’s king, the people were easily led in their material prosperity into idolatry.[2] I wonder what other nations have wandered from God whilst enjoying unparalleled prosperity.

Despite their spiritual rebellion against God as evidenced by their degradation into idolatry, Israel nevertheless enjoyed astonishing material prosperity and became a very wealthy kingdom despite its relatively small size. Surrounding perennial powers were weak at that time, and Israel’s economy flourished. Relations with the Phoenicians to the West on the Mediterranean coast were strengthened and eventually an Israelite king named Ahab married a Sidonian princess named Jezebel, after which he

 

“did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.”[3]

 

What striking parallels to modern times are these. If we didn’t know any better, we would say that people of all ages behave in essentially the same way because we have the same nature. Oh, wait! We do have the same nature.

 

Next, RECOGNIZE GOD’S PROVIDENCE

 

Little did Israel realize that the corn, wine, and oil, that were produced and sold for gold and silver were providentially provided to them by God, Himself:

 

“For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold.”

 

While we can recognize God’s Providence from afar, the Jewish people in Israel at the time were blind to God’s blessings to them up close. They continued to work the land according to centuries-old practices put in place by adherence to the Law of Moses while forgetting that their prosperity surpassed those of the surrounding nations precisely because of the practices originally put in place in compliance with God’s prescriptions. They employed farming practices called for by the Law of Moses that were routinely ignored by Gentiles. They planted trees and restricted the cutting of trees, unlike the practices of Gentile and later Arab invaders that transformed formerly productive farmlands into deserts throughout the Middle East and in North Africa.[4] They practiced personal hygiene that reduced illnesses and extended life spans.[5] And they built dwellings with safety provisions as demanded by the Law that would not be implemented elsewhere for thousands of years, thereby reducing accidental injuries and deaths.[6] These things and many more greatly added to their overall prosperity.

Through it all, they failed to recognize God’s providential blessings in the form of practices they took for granted, rainfall that they failed to attribute to the God of Israel, and relief from foreign invaders that meant resources were not during that time diverted for national defense. This, my friends, was God’s Providence.

 

Third, OBSERVE ISRAEL’S IDOLATRY

 

Rather than gratitude toward their covenant God, the God of Israel, the God who made a promise to father Abraham, the God who delivered them from Egyptian slavery into the Promised Land, the God who gave them the Law of Moses and prosperity that was envied by surrounding nations, they attributed their many blessings to the false god Baal:

 

“For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal.”

 

This last phrase reveals their devotion to the false god of the Phoenicians, that pagan civilization of Tyre and Sidon fame, Canaanites who lived on the Mediterranean coast and succeeded as seafaring merchant sailors.[7] In other words, the Israelites ignored their own rich history of God’s faithfulness and fidelity to His Word, while looking to the Phoenicians with admiration. Do you know of a country located in North America that has been richly blessed by God, but who ignore their rich heritage of Christian influence while looking with admiration across the Atlantic Ocean to secular European countries?

Why would Israelites ascribe to a false god named Baal their material bounty that actually came from God? It should be no great surprise. After all, while encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai while Moses was receiving the Law from God, did the children of Israel not fashion a golden calf to worship for their deliverance from Egypt?[8] As Solomon noted in his old age, there is nothing new under the sun, and what was done before will be done again. We see it, beloved.

 

Each generation supposes that they are the discoverers of that which is new, that which has never before been seen, that which is an innovation. And while such is certainly true with respect to technological advances, such is decidedly not the case when it comes to human behavior. As alluded to moments ago, Solomon wisely observed in Ecclesiastes 1.9,

 

“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”

 

And toward the end of Ecclesiastes, in 9.11, he writes,

 

“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

 

In these two verses we observe two principles captured by Solomon that have escaped the observations of so many people and were completely ignored by those Jewish people of the Kingdom of Israel: First, there is no new thing under the sun. What has been shall be. That which has been done will be done. In other words, human nature does not change. The way individuals conduct themselves is continual down through the ages and remains untouched by the impact of technological advances. Infant mortality rates are declining, and life spans are increasing, but the people who lived before the discovery of electricity behaved, apart from the superficial things affected by modern conveniences, no differently than you and I do in our modern era. That is principle number one.

Principle number two, from Solomon’s observation that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor the bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill, is that so much of your life and mine are the consequence of factors completely beyond our control or comprehension. To the man with no thought of God, it appears to be coincidence. Granted, we like to credit our successes to our own cleverness, to our own ingenuity, to our own intelligence, and of course to our hard work. But one wonders where Bill Gates would be today if he had been born in Namibia and had not grown up in an attorney’s home and then enrolled at Harvard. One wonders where Warren Buffett would be today had he been born in Mongolia instead of Omaha. Where would Carlos Slim be today had his father not emigrated from the Ottoman Empire region of what is today Lebanon in 1902 to Mexico to avoid conscription into the Turkish army?[9] Where would Army General and later United States Secretary of State Colin Powell be had his parents remained in Jamaica rather than emigrating to the United States and settling in Harlem where he was born, and then raised in South Bronx?[10]

You cross paths with some fellow you knew as a kid and notice what changes seem to have come over him, how that rough-talking and unkempt guy of your youth now appears to be so polished and well-spoken. Do not mistakenly conclude that he is so different than he used to be. After all, one’s manner of speaking and attire are really very superficial to what is substantial and real about any individual. And the well-educated and affluent fellow in a smart suit is really no different than the plain farmer of centuries back who walked all day behind a mule and a plow. There is nothing new under the sun. Not really. The farmer follows his mule all day and the company man follows his boss.

You might argue in your mind that the successful fellow took matters in hand and pulled himself up by his bootstraps to make something of himself by dint of hard work and perseverance. I am not suggesting that the successful careerist does not work hard and apply himself, but that he is not the only one who works hard and applies himself. He is not the only one who seeks to exercise ingenuity and creativity. Remember that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor the bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill. Many who are just as fast, just as strong, just as wise, just as understanding, with as much if not more skill, are nevertheless occupying much more modest stations in life. Don’t be so quick to pat yourself on the back for your accomplishments, or others on the back for their accomplishments. There are other considerations.

Allow me to relate personal anecdotes before further applying what we saw in God’s Word: My father was a sharecropper’s son, a child of the Great Depression in Oklahoma and the panhandle of Texas in the middle of the notorious Dust Bowl. He quit school around fifteen years of age, lived the hobo life riding the rails with an older brother for a couple of years, joined the California National Guard in time to be called to active duty when World War Two began for the United States, and then found himself discharged after the war, unemployed, without a high school diploma, and sitting in the old one room school house back home he had attended before the war, with a fellow veteran and the younger than them both school principal one afternoon. On that occasion, the young college graduate school principal challenged my dad and his high school dropout friend to go to college on the G. I. Bill and make something of themselves, so they both did. That challenge and their response to it changed their lives forever. However, neither guy was so much different than anyone else who did not do what they did, but who remained hard working farmers for the rest of their lives.

Consider now my father-in-law. Was my father-in-law really any different from the other guys born in the same village in Mexico? Not really. He came to the United States while most of the others he knew did not. But who is to say that he did not come because his brothers also came, and not because he had any more initiative or courage than most others? He ended up a loving father with a pretty good job and a good retirement. But was that because he was faster or slower, stronger or weaker, smarter or less smart, than anyone else? Not at all. He had one brother who hammered nails and then became a very successful contractor. His other brother was a tremendously talented athlete, who became a barber.

Lest you wrongly think my dad’s story or my father-in-law’s story are merely tales of random accidents or chance, let me put that wrong notion to rest. Both men are examples of God’s Providence, just like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Carlos Slim, Colin Powell, and you. Lest you go there in your thinking, let me put to rest a common error. God’s Providence does not absolve any human being of personal responsibility but does alter the circumstances in which each of us can demonstrate personal responsibility.

Allow me to provide two definitions of Providence from reference sources looked up before giving you my own definition of Providence. First, Grenz, Guretzki, and Nordling:

 

providence. Although providence is not a biblical term, both the OT and NT set forth an understanding of God’s gracious outworking of the divine purpose in Christ within the created order in human history. The world and humanity are not ruled by chance or by fate but by God, who directs history and creation toward an ultimate goal. Providence therefore refers to God’s superintending activity over human actions and human history, bringing creation to its divinely determined goal.[11]

 

Next, Lewis Sperry Chafer:

 

The Greek word for providence is pronoia, translated thus but one time in Scripture (Acts 24: 2) and then of a Gentile king. The theological term suggests (cf. provide) the directing care of God over things animate and inanimate--embracing things both good and evil--especially over those who are yielded to His will.

Providence is the divine outworking of all decrees, the object being the final manifestation of God’s glory. He directs all things perfectly, no doubt, yet without compelling the human will. He works in man the desire to do His will (Phil. 2:13). The doctrine accordingly is full of comfort. Providence should be distinguished of course from mere preservation.[12]

 

My own very brief definition of Providence is,

 

The unseen hand of the invisible God, working in the lives of men to bring about His purpose in the fulfillment of His divine decrees.

 

What typically happens is that God’s Providence is wildly misinterpreted by people or ignored altogether, just as most people think modern man has evolved, and our behavior patterns are changing from what they used to be, disputing the truthfulness of Ecclesiastes 1.9, and supposing that people exert far more control over their own lives than is really the case, disputing the truthfulness of Ecclesiastes 9.11.

God’s Providence resulted in prosperity for the Kingdom of Israel, in the form of bountiful harvests of corn, wine, and oil that they harvested and sold for silver and gold. They then promptly used their God-given wealth to worship the false god named Baal. Not much has changed these days. There are still those who enjoy great prosperity, which they misunderstand to be the result of their own cleverness or intelligence rather than God’s Providence, and use their prosperity to fund their various forms of idol worship, be it an utterly useless hobby, the worship of money, the worship of themselves, the worship of a false ideology, or who knows what else? This pattern is predictable because there is nothing new under the sun and man’s innate sinfulness will express itself now in much the same fashion it has always expressed itself. But there is a right way to respond to God’s Providence. It is to understand that

 

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,”

 

James 1.17.

Recognizing that God is good and that He gives good gifts, understand that what God providentially gives to each of us is but a taste of far greater blessings that are offered in the Gospel. God providentially blessed those in Hosea’s day in Israel to provoke their gratitude toward Him and to nourish their thankfulness for His bounty. Sadly, just as they had done on so many previous occasions, and as they had done when they fashioned a golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai, Israel credited Baal with what God had actually done. Of course, that provoked our gracious God, as we see in the verses that follow our text:

 

8      For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal.

9      Therefore will I return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness.

10    And now will I discover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of mine hand.

11    I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.

12    And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, whereof she hath said, These are my rewards that my lovers have given me: and I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them.

13    And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the LORD.

 

We know what eventually happened to Israel. The Assyrians came and overwhelmed them, crushing them with the most powerful army in the world at that time, and replacing the surviving Jewish men with Gentile men from other conquered peoples. The result, of course, were the despised Samaritans of our Lord Jesus Christ’s day. The lesson to learn is that God providentially blessed them with great prosperity to provoke them to gratitude toward Him. However, their sinfulness and spiritual blindness to reality resulted in an opposite reaction from them, leaving the just and righteous God with no alternative but judgment.

How, my friend, does this lesson apply to you? God’s Providence has given you the blessings you enjoy that have led to your present opportunity. Consider that you live in this era rather than in the past, in this country rather than in an impoverished third world nation, with your present state of health and nutrition rather than being overwhelmed by malaria, wearing comfortable attire rather than skimpy threadbare clothing barely covering you up, with a shelter that protects you from the wind and rain, and food sufficient to keep you alive. All totaled up; you have been wonderfully blessed by God with far more than most who have ever lived, and considerably more than most who are presently alive elsewhere in the world.

Why has God blessed you in this way? Before answering, let me caution you against comparing your present situation with those immediately around you. After all, God reserves the right as your Creator and Sustainer to maintain your situation differently than the person next to you, if He so chooses. Therefore, your consideration should be how good you have it compared with how very bad it could have been for you, but for God’s grace and Providence. Now for the answer. Why has God blessed you as He has? You have life, and situation, and a mind that works, and education, and opportunity. Opportunity for what? Opportunity to consider what God has given you as an indication of what good He will give to you with the Gospel. The Gospel, the good news, is that God one day sent His Son to bear our sins as a perfect, sinless Man on the cross of Calvary, to die in our place in payment for our sins, and to rise again in victory over sin and death.

All that God has graciously done for you throughout your life has brought you to this moment so that you might consider what God has done as indication of what God will do should you respond to the Gospel and trust Christ as your Savior. The motive back of God’s Providence is to bring you to an opportunity to consider God’s past blessings in your life, to consider the Gospel truth concerning the Savior, Jesus Christ, and to consider the promise that is made to those who consider both the character of God throughout your life and the opportunity presented by God in the Gospel.

What will you now do with the Gospel opportunity God has providentially brought you to at this time in your life? Will you consider God, consider your sins, consider Christ, and flee to Him with saving faith for salvation full and free? I urge you to do just that rather than demonstrating ungrateful ignorance of God’s Providence.

__________

[1] 1 Kings 12; 2 Chronicles 10

[2] 1 Kings 12.25-33; 2 Chronicles 11.15

[3] 1 Kings 16.30-33

[4] Leviticus 19.23; Deuteronomy 20.19-20; Exodus 3.8, 17; 13.5; 33.3; Leviticus 20.24; Numbers 13.27; 14.8; 16.13-14; Deuteronomy 6.3; 11.9; 26.9, 15; 27.3; 31.20; Joshua 5.6; Jeremiah 11.5; 32.22; Ezekiel 20.6, 15

[5] http://donna-connections.blogspot.com/2009/04/hygiene-hooray-for-law-of-moses.html   1/28/16

[6] Deuteronomy 22.8

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baal 1/28/2016

[8] Exodus 32.1-6

[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlos_Slim 1/28/2016

[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colin_Powell 1/28/2016

[11] Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki & Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), page 97.

[12] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. VII, (Dallas, TX: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948), page 260.

 

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org