God Has Been Good to You
November 23, 2003
New Hope Baptist Church
There is a little word that is used quite often, both in the English and the Greek language. It is quite simply not thought of often in our everyday speech. It can be used as a conjunction, a preposition or an adverb. Most often the word to which I refer is used to show exception to an aforementioned thought.
Today, as we explore the reasons for being thankful and the goodness of our God, today as we look at Hosea and Peter and ourselves, and see the love of the Father towards us; as we reminisce past failures towards God and His constant faithfulness towards us; as we postulate our tomorrows through dark colored glasses, yet be reminded of His plan of a glorious future; as we remind our children of the chicken & dumplings we had to eat made with chicken feet while setting our tables today with the whole chicken, the high part of the hog and the choicest beef, cornbread dressing and collard greens; as we look back at the muck and the mire that we stepped from, and picture the long white robe we’ll wear in glory as we walk around singing “How I Got Over”, I can only title this message with that little word, But….
It has been said that big things come in small packages, however where this word is concerned, the all-important things is not the smallness of the package, but the One who has sends the package.
Naturally, at this time of the year, people begin to remember things to be thankful for. Not just Christians, but people with no object of their thankfulness, are thankful.
The sad thing is that the Christian’s gratitude lists seems to have fallen in line with the worlds’: cars, clothes, shelter, jobs, food, and the list goes on. There is nothing wrong about being thankful for these things, these needful and necessary things. However, the object of our thankfulness should be God.
Today, I would like to redirect our thoughts from the “things” that we have been blessed with to the God that has given the blessings. I don’t know about you, but when I stop and think about it, I am just amazed that a God like ours can so love a person like me. The question is begged; just what is our God like? Not what we have made Him to be, but what is He really like?
You see, I don’t much fancy the idiom that He’s a right now God. That just seems to place Him in a bottle that we expect Him to emerge from whenever we rub it the right way. A right now God seems to allude to the misconception that we are the determiners of His actions and not the other way around. When you say He’s a right now God, it seems that we set Him up and dare Him to disappoint us. When you call Him a right now God, it just seems to me that we have initiated a role reversal. I don’t postulate today that you should call Him a right now God, but I can suggest a few other adjectives that just might accommodate His Person. You see, I know Him and can recommend Him as:
An all right God – sometimes, as situations determine, He’s right now, sometimes, He wait a minute, and sometimes, He’s just plain no; but whenever He acts and however He acts and whatever He does, it’s all right.
There are three other ways that we want to see God today:
(Faithful and forgiving God) in Hosea
(Interceding High Priest) in Hebrews
(Constant Visionary and Protector) in Luke
I. Faithful and Forgiving God –
He is a faithful, forgiving God in spite of a faithless, adulterous people. The book of Hosea dramatically portrays our God as having a constant and persistent love towards His people.
God had consistently provided for His people, but they refused to see what He had done, and they showed no interest in thanking Him. You see ungratefulness is a common human fault. For example, when was the last time you thanked your parents for caring for you? Oh, your childhood might not have been like you thought it should have been, however, you made it and now it’s your turn with your kids. When did you personally thank your pastor for the service he gives to the church? Or, your child’s teacher for the care taken with each day’s activities, instead of focusing on the one time the teacher admonished the child for disrespect or misbehavior? Or, your heavenly Father for his guidance and all of His blessings, rather than pouting over His correction and disciplines?
Background synopsis of Hosea:
It was a time of material prosperity and spiritual bankruptcy under Jeroboam II. Judgment seemed remote, but by 732 b.c. Damascus had fallen to the Assyrians and by 722 Samaria, the capital of Israel, fell and the people were deported.
This is a book that illustrates God’s steadfast love for Israel in spite of her continued unfaithfulness. He assigns Hosea a huge task and uses his situation as an object lesson to illustrate just how the nation of Israel behaved toward her God in ignorance and indifference; and how devoted her God was to His love and desire for her.
Hosea begins ministry during reign of Jeroboam II - His name means “salvation”
The upper classes were oppressing the poor
Hosea was the prophet to the Northern kingdom, Samaria and Ephraim, and he wept over their sins.
Points from Hosea:
1. Ephraim (which was the first of the 12 tribes to backslide) Denounced:
a. Because of ignorance – the leaders had failed to teach the people the “Shema” – that the Lord is our God; the Lord is One
b. Because of idolatry - They made molten images, idols of silver were made by the craftsmen, and they worshipped them
c. Because of immorality – There was no faithfulness, no kindness, no knowledge of God in the land; only violence everywhere
Israel sowed to the wind, but they reaped the whirlwind. Ephraim was everything that we were before Christ: without hope; ignorant, idolaters; and immoral.
2. Ephraim Desired:
a. In spite of all of this, God still loved her.
b. She was a backsliding heifer
c. A bakers hot oven
d. A half-baked cake
e. A silly dove
f. A crooked bow
g. A broken pot
h. A wandering and lonely wild animal
i. A dried up root
j. An empty vine
God’s desire for His people never dwindled, and one day their faithfulness to Him will be realized.
3. Ephraim Delivered:
a. With disobedience comes discipline
b. With immorality comes judgment
c. With destruction come construction
d. With unfaithfulness comes consequences
e. One day, all of Israel will be redeemed and restored.
Now, we come to the all-encompassing reason that God is the object of our thankfulness:
o His love is tender
o His love is loyal
o God is gracious
o His love is unchanging
o His love is undying
No matter what, God still loves us. There is still hope for those who turn back to God in real repentance; for those who turn to the Lord while the offer is still good. No matter how far you have strayed, God is willing to forgive you.
- See verse 3:2 - Hosea had to buy his own wife back, but she didn’t even cost that much. See, she was no longer worth much to anyone except Hosea, but he loved her just as God loved Israel and us. No matter how low we sink, God is willing to buy us back--to redeem us--to lift us up again.
- 1 Sam. 2:8 says - “He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, and inherit a seat of honor, For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s.
- God is Almighty. He has shown Himself and His love and care for mankind throughout the ages.
II. Interceding High Priest –
Hebrews 7:23-27 confirms our Lord in His present day ministry on our behalf:
As a High Priest, who lives and ever makes intercession for His own
Holy, innocent, undefiled and separate from sinners
He is all you will ever need. His warranty is eternal. His love is secure. His eye is ever on you.
III. Constant Visionary and Protector -
Luke 22:31-32 “Simon, Simon, the devil has requested to have you to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith does not fail. When you have been converted, help your brothers”.
The word “you” here is plural. The Devil had requested to sift all of the disciples, but Peter is spotlighted because he often stepped out front.
1. Simon was far-sighted, but not in a good way.
You see Simon was the Greek name given at his birth. As you know from scripture, he was kind of inconsistent in his actions and application. Simon was just wishy-washy. He was spontaneous, impulsive and instinctive.
o He was up today, down tomorrow
o Cutting off ears on Thursday, and hiding in cowardice on Sunday
o Ready to die for Jesus one minute, denying he knew Him the next hour
2.The Devil was near-sighted
· He had short range vision and only saw Simon the flaky one
o He was restricted in his viewing and did not see the future
o He was “TUFLOS”, blind to the real man
o The Devil wanted Simon, the flaky one for a couple of reasons: 1) He thought that he would be a push over. He thought that after he had sifted him, that he would find chaff and just blow it away. 2) The word used here as demanded means to claim back for oneself. Satan didn’t like the work that Simon was doing for the Lord, and he wanted him back working in his old fields, doing the things that he used to do.
3. God is future-sighted
God has a way of heightening us. He does not look at us as we are, but only as what we will be. He sees the finished product. When the Lord said that He had prayed for Peter, He did not mean in the same way that we pray for others or ourselves. He did not pray with an hope so attitude. He did not pray just to hear himself talking. He did not pray with a wait and see attitude. The word used for prayed here is used with another word attached to it: hina. It gives the idea that the Lord prayed in order that whatever He prayed for will come to pass. It was a certainty; A sure thing. The idea is that because He prayed, since He prayed, His petition was a sure thing. He prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail. Oh, He knew that Peter would stumble because He predicted that in the following verses. But He prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail. That all that he knew about the gospel, that his confidence in the knowledge that he had about the gospel, the confidence that would cause him to produce good works, that it would not fail. He knew that Peter would stumble; but He also knew that He would become one of the most prolific writers of the N/T and preacher of the Gospel.
o The Lord prayed for Peter and He is praying for you.
o He is our High Priest, and He ever makes intercession for us.
o He keeps us at the center of His attention with a spotlight shining.
o He renamed Simon, Peter, because he had prayed for him and knew the great leader that he would become.
We can be thankful today because of a little word in the English language and in the Greek. The little contraction called “but”.
- The Devil has asked to sift you like wheat, Simon, but…
- You are gonna deny me Peter, but….
- You’re gonna run and hide, Peter, but…
- You might have sinned this morning, but…
- Your life might be in shambles right now, but…
- Your job might have let you go, but…
- Your children might be lost, but…
- The doctor might shrug his shoulders, but….
- Your pockets might be empty, but….
- Subjects may be hard in school, and people say you aren’t gonna make it, but….
- Because of your past, in the world you have a bad reputation, but….
- You might not be able to say like my grandson - that your day is super fine, but….
- You might not know just what tomorrow will bring, but….
- You might be down on yourself because you just keep messing up, but…
I’ve prayed for you, “That your faith does not fail you” not your saving faith, but the knowledge of the truth of God’s love and mercy and grace; your confidence in His Word; your confidence in the His will for your life. Whatever you do, whatever your circumstances, whatever your situation, just don’t forget Who I Am! Don’t forget what I’ve done for you! Don’t forget to trust Me! Don’t forget to thank Me! Because I am your High Priest, I know the plans that I have for you, I can see way down the road, where you and others have put question marks and periods, I have already said but… Things may look good for you today, however tomorrow you may need to remember that I have already said, but…
The Lord is praying for you. Hebrews says that He is our Great High Priest who ever makes intercession for us. Because he is praying, things are gonna change. Things are gonna improve. No matter what you have been through, He says its gonna be converted. No matter what people call you, God calls you blessed, the beloved by God, a holy people, the children of the Most High King. “Have been converted” means when you have turned around, repented, got your game together, got your priorities right. When you turn around and seek me, I will be waiting and I will receive you and forgive you and bless you.
No matter what you did yesterday, His mercies are new every morning. He is worthy to be praised, not for the things He gives, but just because of whom He is! He wants you to thank Him for what He has already done, even though you may not see it yet.
Hosea 14:8-9 “O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like a luxuriant cypress; From Me comes your fruit. Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them.
When our will is weak, when our thinking is confused, and when our conscience is burdened with a load of guilt, we must remember that God cares for us continually; his compassion never fails. When friends and family desert us, when coworkers misunderstand us, and when we are tired of being good, God’s compassion ever fails. When we can’t see the way or seem to hear God’s voice, and when we lack courage to go on, God’s compassion never fails. When our shortcomings and our awareness of our sins overcome us, God’s compassion never fails.
But people who insist on following their own direction without God’s guidance are “like darkness; they do not know over what they stumble” (Proverbs 4:19). If you are lost, you can find the way by turning from your sin and following God. You can join all of us who will recall the good of the Lord during this thanksgiving season and every day of our lives. You too can identify with the songwriter in saying:
I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
The Master of the sea, he heard my despairing cry,
And from the waters lifted me, now, safe am I.
You see, it was --
Love lifted me, love lifted me,
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me.