Building a Spiritual Legacy

We’re all familiar with family trees and doing genealogical work. Some of us have perhaps spent more time than others researching our ancestors and where they came from. But, often in doing genealogical research, our knowledge is somewhat limited. Even with a fairly recent family. We know where someone was born and maybe how many kids they had or maybe when they got married…things like that. What gets lost over time so often, though, are the relationships between points on a family tree and the unique life circumstances that shape people. That’s why there is also something called a “genogram”. A genogram is like a family tree, in that it shows you who’s who, but it also gives context to people, their situations and their relationships. Here’s an example of a medical genogram and then a relational genogram. 


This information is helpful in a variety of contexts. It’s always good to know your family medical history. But, also, in the world of psychology and counseling, a genogram can help you get a handle on your family of origin, why they were the way they were, and maybe why you are the way you are. Some genograms, for example, specifically map family trauma. Or a family’s ethnic heritage. And, the point of all of this is for you to learn more about yourself. Maybe in doing so you aspire to chart a new course for your family. Or maybe by understanding the unique context that your parents or grandparents came out of, you’re able to understand them better or you’re able to forgive them for things they did. 


Now, the Bible is full of genealogies, but there are also times when God calls the people to consider not simply who their forefathers were, but to consider what they did. And, such is the case today. Let’s look at Hosea twelve. Hosea wraps up this book of the bible by taking a short journey through history. 


2 The Lord has an indictment against Judah

    and will punish Jacob according to his ways;

    he will repay him according to his deeds.

3 In the womb he took his brother by the heel,

    and in his manhood he strove with God.

4 He strove with the angel and prevailed;

    he wept and sought his favor.

He met God at Bethel,

    and there God spoke with us—

5 the Lord, the God of hosts,

    the Lord is his memorial name:

6 “So you, by the help of your God, return,

    hold fast to love and justice,

    and wait continually for your God.”


If you are new to Hosea, it’s a bit of a strange book in how it is organized. Hosea, the man, is a prophet, which is to say that he has been sent by God to declare God’s words to the kingdom of Israel. At this time the people of Israel are split into two kingdoms. The northern kingdom is called Israel and the southern kingdom called Judah. Hosea is from the northern kingdom, and he is sent by God to the northern kingdom to declare his word. What is different about Hosea, though, is that not only does God call him to preach and proclaim, but he also calls him to live a life that reflects God’s relationship to Israel. And, the way that this works is that God tells him to marry an unfaithful woman, named Gomer, and to have children with her. Hosea does this and then later, after Gomer falls into slavery (perhaps as a result of her promiscuity), Hosea obeys God again and literally goes and buys her back and recommits himself to her. And, God says, “this is me and Israel”. The Israelites are continually unfaithful, and I am continually faithful. 


So, we learned about the story of Hosea and Gomer in the first three chapters of this book. But, then followed chapter after chapter of God simply decrying Israel’s lack of faithfulness. Their worship of other Gods. Their loss of intimate relationship to God. The fact that they put their hope in their wealth and their military might. As a result, all of this judgement would come in the form of the Assyrians who ultimately sweep in and wipe them out, but God is clear that ultimately a redeemer is coming who, just like Hosea, will buy them back out of their slavery. And, we looked ahead to the words of Paul who spoke of Jesus as this redeemer who said to the church in Corinth:


19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.


Today we wrap up the book of Hosea by considering the fact that this unfaithfulness was not unprecedented in the genogram of Israel. In fact, it was kind of par for the course. We’re going to look at two instances that are specifically mentioned here. One is about Jacob, the grandson of Abraham who is renamed “Israel” by God. And, the second will be the Hebrew people who were led by Moses out of Egypt and into the wilderness. The purpose is to show the Lord’s prevailing kindness throughout the ages and the people’s prevailing ingratitude. 


Today, Jacob is known as one of the three patriarchs of Israel. Along with his father, Isaac, and grandfather, Abraham, they form the foundation of the Hebrew people. Jacob, however, was not first in line to such a lineage. In fact, that should have gone to his fraternal twin brother, Esau, because he was born first. However, you may remember how, in the story, Jacob treacherously bought his brother’s birthright from him in a moment of weakness for Esau, and then conspired with his mother to fool his elderly and dying father into giving him his blessing as first born. Now, this story is a bit hard for us to fully grasp because our culture is so different in today’s world. More than likely, if you have already put together a last will and testament, you aren’t leaving everything to your first born son. No, you have probably elected to either pass things on to your spouse or to split things up among all your children. In Jacob’s time, though, the first born son was the one who stood to inherit everything. The first born would have been responsible for taking care of his mother and any other male siblings would be left to fend for themselves. As a first born son myself, I like this arrangement. Jacob, however, wasn’t having it and took steps to remove Esau as the heir. 


This is significant, though, not just because of what Jacob did, but also because the family lived under a covenant with God. A promise that was being handed down from generation to generation. This is a covenant God had made with Abraham to bless his descendants and to make them innumerable and to give them a land that was their own. Jacob had stepped-in and, effectively, changed the whole family line. But, this didn’t alter God’s promise. It’s worth noting, though, that Jacob gets a taste of his own medicine. He falls in love with his cousin, Rachel, and goes to work for her father, Laban, for seven years to earn her hand in marriage. However, when the time comes for Laban to give him Rachel, he tricks Jacob and gives him his other daughter Leah. Jacob is then forced to labor for another seven years for the hand of Rachel. 


Now, the point here is that in spite of sin and treachery and scheming, God maintains his promises. God upholds his covenant. There is this whole strange scene where Jacob wrestles with an angel and once again demands to be blessed. And, as the text mentions, he prevails, but he’s never the same again. He comes away with an injury to his hip and a new name, “Israel”. He then goes on to father twelve sons who become the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel. And, in just a few generations, God’s promise to make his descendants as numerous as the sand in the sea is starting to come to fruition. 


So, that is scene one. For scene two, we fast forward four hundred to five hundred years to Egypt. Due to a famine, the entire family of Jacob moved to Egypt, but, within a few generations they have become slaves. And, yet, God’s promise still remains. He raises up Moses and sends him to lead the people out of Egypt and back into the land that God had promised to them, Canaan. Look at chapter thirteen verse four:


4 But I am the Lord your God

    from the land of Egypt;

you know no God but me,

    and besides me there is no savior.

5 It was I who knew you in the wilderness,

    in the land of drought;

6 but when they had grazed, they became full,

    they were filled, and their heart was lifted up;

    therefore they forgot me.


Moses led the people out into the desert and very quickly there was a contingency of some who wanted to return to Egypt. In the desert, there wasn’t much water and there wasn’t any meat. They struggled to be faithful to God during this season. But, ultimately, God brings them through. He blesses them, he gives them land and prosperity. And, what do they do: 


6 but when they had grazed, they became full,

    they were filled, and their heart was lifted up;

    therefore they forgot me.


Isn’t that amazing. In the midst of God’s abundant provision even after seeing miraculous things happen, the Israelites forgot God. And, if you remember from last week, that was Hosea’s primary accusation against Israel in his day, ‘You have forgotten to the point where you no longer have a relationship with him. You still have some religious accoutrements, but you do not know God. Because if you really knew him and had an appreciation for his power and enormity, there is no way that you would be able to worship these other false Gods with a clear conscience. The only explanation is that you don’t know God’. 


And this is where it turns to us. Many of us have dubious genograms as well. Maybe some family members who loved the Lord, maybe some who didn’t, maybe some we don’t talk about at all. All of our lives are filled with the repercussions of sin, just like Israel. And, yet, God remains faithful. Jesus makes it clear that his gospel was not for those who already thought themselves to be well, to be self-sufficient or without need, but rather it was for those who were sick. Those who had great need. For the Israelites, in their seasons of poverty or slavery when they had no means to sustain themselves, they cried out to God. In the seasons of great wealth and power, they tended to forget him. And, listen, we are no different. I think this is precisely why Jesus speaks so negatively about wealth. While we all want to believe that wealth is a great thing, God, who sees everything, sees the deceitfulness of wealth in how it tricks us into embracing self-reliance instead of reliance on God. The same thing is true of power. In a country with seemingly the most powerful military on the planet, it can be easy to just put our trust in that rather than in God. This is why the gospel tends to catch like wildfire in third world settings. It’s not because people are stupid or ignorant, it’s because reliance on God makes the most sense to those who have no other option but to rely on God. 


Consider who Jesus calls “blessed” in the beatitudes:


  • The poor in spirit
  • The meek
  • The persecuted
  • Those who mourn
  • Those who are reviled for his sake


The good news of Jesus makes the most sense to those who have no other hope. When we are people who seemingly have no need, what need do we have of Jesus? What need do we have of a redeemer who will purchase us out of slavery if we don’t think of ourselves as being enslaved? 


How many of you were raised in a family that took care of itself, provided for itself and did not ask other people for help? That’s the American way. But, God stands in opposition to that kind of life because self-sufficiency quickly becomes a pseudo-religious conviction. He does not glory in your supposed ability to take care of yourself. He glories in the one who fully trusts in the Lord. Who sees him as the provider and the sustainer. And, his whole problem with the kingdom of Israel, at that time, was that they were people who, in their minds, had no needs and, thus, had no need of God. Our money will save us. Our military will protect us. We’re good. This, by the way, is why a “health and wealth” gospel is so unbiblical. Here is just one of many instances where the people are wealthy and prosperous and God is completely displeased. And, God says, but you don’t know me. So, what is the answer here? 


6 “So you, by the help of your God, return,

    hold fast to love and justice,

    and wait continually for your God.”


And, Hosea echos these words in his final appeal in chapter fourteen. 


Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,

    for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.

2 Take with you words

    and return to the Lord;

say to him,

    “Take away all iniquity;

accept what is good,

    and we will pay with bulls

    the vows of our lips.

3 Assyria shall not save us;

    we will not ride on horses;

and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’

    to the work of our hands.


It’s more than likely when you think about leaving a legacy for your family, that you think about leaving material things. You think about leaving money or a house or land or something like that will be a financial blessing to future generations. But, how many of us have truly considered the kind of spiritual legacy that we are leaving for our kids and grandkids. Not so that they will remember us as having been uber-spiritual, but, rather, what they will believe to be true of God because of your life and example. Israel was a people that had said “our god” to the work of their hands. In that context, that meant they had literally fashioned objects of worship out of wood. Things they bowed down to. But, the question for us is, how are we saying “our god” to the work of our hands? In other words, in what ways are we making our careers or material things or money or power or success or position or accomplishment our default gods? I think this is a temptation for all of us. 


And the call of Christ is the same as Hosea’s call to Israel. Repent…meaning be different. Be changed. Submit yourself to the only thing that is lasting and that will sustain you long after the money and power and accomplishment are gone. Give yourself to Christ fully. Make Him your hope. Make him your joy. Make him your sustainer and provider. Seek to know him intimately. And imagine the lineage that comes from that kind of trust. 


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