Today we start reading the Book of Hosea. Some have called The Book of Hosea the second greatest story in the Bible, the first being the story of the Christ event. This is the story of Yahweh, the covenant-keeping God of Israel, and His relentless love for His wayward bride.
Hosea had a unique mission. It was not enough for him to preach the story; he was to live it. He was to be a Living Sermon to Israel. God is relentless in His love for His covenant partner. His love for Israel is a specimen example of His love for those of every tribe and tongue He was given to redeem.
The people of Israel failed to see their history of infidelity. They could not imagine that one day they would be conquered by the Assyrians and scattered. But this is the truth. Israel had a history of going after other lovers. For years she had experienced God’s mercy. Now she would experience God’s wrath. But even in wrath, God was remembering mercy.
God remains faithful and steadfast in his love because that is Who He is.
Deuteronomy 7:7-8 7 “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
The Book of Hosea reminds us that as believers we are called to embody the message that we preach. We are to love as He loves. We are to forgive as we have been forgiven.
1 John 4:19 19 We love, because He first loved us.
Yahweh first loved Israel. He first loved us, and while we were yet dead in our sins, Christ died for us. It is this kind of love that Hosea was called to demonstrate to his wayward wife.
Notice how the scroll begins. These are messages from the Lord to Hosea, who in turn is to convey a message to the nation. Hosea is prophesying during the same period as Isaiah. He is addressing the same kings of Judah (Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah) but also one of the kings of the northern kingdom of Israel, Jeroboam, the son of Joash.
Chapter 1 is written looking back upon Hosea’s experience. Hosea was told to marry Gomer. It is likely that she is a chaste virgin at the time, but after they are wed, she proves to be unfaithful.
Hosea’s personal life will be a living sermon on the love of God for a covenant partner who proves to be unfaithful. This is a reminder that, when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances, we are to remain true to the message we are called to preach. We are to convey the truth of God’s love.
Hosea was called to experience the depth of pain one suffers when there is betrayal in what is meant to be the most intimate and precious of relationships that we can experience on earth. Hosea’s pain demonstrates that sin is more than the breaking of God’s law, it is the breaking of God’s heart.
The one he loved and wed in faith proves to be unfaithful.
Hosea is called to act out the story of God being betrayed by Israel.
God chose Israel. He called her, redeemed her, brought her out of her bondage in Egypt and took her as His bride to the promised land. He entered into covenant with her and proved to be faithful to her. Yet she turned away to idols. This began long before Hosea was born. We see this as early in Israel’s history as when Solomon took to himself foreign wives and began to worship their false gods.
In Hosea’s lifetime he witnessed the non-stop rule of evil kings of Israel and the murder, immorality, and idolatry of their households.
Gomer is guilty of adultery. Like Yahweh, Hosea maintains his love for his unfaithful bride. She bears Hosea’s son, whom the Lord names ‘Jezreel’, meaning ‘May the Almighty sow’ or ‘May the Almighty scatter’.
Bible interpreters debate whether Gomer was a prostitute before Hosea married her (I personally don’t think so).
The Book of Hosea contrasts the fidelity of Yahweh with His unfaithful bride, Israel. She betrays his love by following after the Baals.
At the time of Jeroboam II in Israel, the land is enjoying prosperity, and the people are attributing their success to Baal. They believe that this pagan fertility god has given them the grain, the new wine and the oil (Hosea 2:5, 8, 12-13).
The naming of Hosea’s firstborn child, ‘Jezreel’ is a prophecy of the coming judgment upon the throne of Israel. Nothing could have looked less likely in the days of Jeroboam II than the overthrow of Israel. But a time was coming when God could withhold judgment no longer. The strength of Israel would be broken on the classic battlefield of Jezreel (Esdraelon that we often identify as Megiddo).
Hosea 1:4-5 4 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. 5 “On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.”
Through the prophet Elijah, God had told Jehu to put to death the household of the wicked King Ahab whose wife, Jezebel, had instigated the murder of Nabal, the Jezreelite, and turned the hearts of Israel to the worship of Baal (the Phoenician sun god and center of the fertility cult). Jehu also destroyed the prophets of Baal (2 Kings 10:18-28). The Lord commended him for this (2 Kings 10:30), but Jehu himself did not turn from the idolatry that was set in place by Jeroboam I, the worship of golden calves at Bethel and Dan.
Some interpreters say that when the Lord says in Hosea 1:4, “I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel” that he was referring to the fact that Jehu went beyond God’s orders in that he also shed the blood of King Ahaziah of Judah the king of Judah.
Others believe that ‘the house of Jehu’ refers to the nation of Israel as a whole and that the ‘bloodshed of Jezreel’ refers to the sins of the nation, displayed in the selfish, murderous, covetous, immoral, idolatrous hearts of Ahab and Jezebel who killed Naboth and his sons in order to obtain the ground of Jezreel and further the worship of Baal. (2 Kings 9:26).
Gomer bears two more children, but Hosea is not their father. They are children of their mother’s whoredom. The Lord tells him to name the daughter ‘Lo-ruhamah’, meaning ‘not beloved’ or ‘unpitied’ (Romans 9:25; 1 Peter 2:10). This is a prophecy that points out that the special favor of protection God had previously given them against their enemies was now going to be removed. The Assyrians would indeed defeat Israel at Jezreel, but Judah would be spared. The Assyrians would trample Samaria, but when they came hammering at the gates of Jerusalem, they were overthrown, not by Hezekiah’s army, but by the supernatural intervention of God’s merciful hand.
The next child is named ‘Lo-ammi’, meaning, ‘not my people’. The Lord was prophesying that because Israel was denying that He was the father of their blessings, He would make a statement that He was no longer responsible for providing paternal protection.
Verse 10 keeps the big picture in mind. Although God is taking this disciplinary stance against Israel, He has their best interests at heart and plans to eventually cleanse, forgive and restore them.
He is talking about the same people whom He once named, ‘not pitied’ and ‘not my people’:
Hosea 1:10-11 10 Yet the number of the sons of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, 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.” 11 And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, and they will appoint for themselves one leader, and they will go up from the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.
In Chapter 1, people might have asked Hosea: “What do you see in Gomer? Why don’t you divorce her?” Likewise, angels looking in on our stories might ask of the Lord: “What does He see in them? Why doesn’t he make an end of the human race and be done with them?”
But His love does not let us go!
In Chapter 2 we realize that although the children have been given these unfortunate names, Hosea does not treat them that way. He calls them Ruhamah- ‘pitied’, ‘loved’ and ‘Ammi’ ‘my people’. This is how he as a parent would want them to address each other.
Once they are grown children, Hosea will them to speak to their mother, from whom he is estranged. He wants them to rebuke her, in hopes that she will repent (Hosea 2:2).
However, the state of Israel is so bad that now Gomer is running after her lovers who now elude her. Hosea hopes that she will come to her senses, like the prodigal son when he realizes that eating pig’s food is not the life he was dreaming of (Luke 15:14-17).
Hosea 2:7b7 Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now!’
The Lord, out of love, promises to discipline her (Hosea 2:8-13) in order to restore her to Himself (Hosea 2:14). He promises to make the Valley of Achor (a place of troubling judgement); a door of hope (a place for realizing God’s mercy). For the discipline of the Lord is not for destruction, but for instruction.
The picture of a restored Israel is similar to the kingdom of our Lord in the millennium (Hosea 2:16-23).
In chapter 3, Hosea is given instructions as to how to redeem his wayward wife. He is to love her, look beyond her faults and his own hurt, and pay the price to buy her back (Hosea 3:2). What a picture of the love of our heavenly bridegroom who paid the price for our redemption by shedding His blood at Calvary! (Hosea 3:2). Then one day, when Israel looks upon Him and realizes that He is the One who purchased her with His nail pierced hands (Zechariah 12:10) God will fulfill His promise:
Hosea 2:19-20 19 “I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion, 20 And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD.
Once again, we encounter the crystal clarity of the Apostle John’s writings. He speaks in no uncertain times. First, he will make a positive statement, and then he will clarify it by distinguishing it from the negative. For example, he writes, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all”.
He expresses truth in clear, absolute terms. This is what a Christian is, and this is what a Christian is not. This is what a Christian has, and this is what a non-Christian has not.
1 John 5:11-12 11 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.
A person who is genuinely born of God, will love God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. A person who is born of God will love the church. A person who is genuinely born of God will want to keep the commandments and not find them burdensome (5:3). They have new desires and a new direction. They have a new ‘pattern’ of behavior although they don’t yet have ‘perfection’ of behavior.
A person who is genuinely born of God will realize that they no longer belong to the world system for they have been delivered out of it and have overcome it, not by their own works but by faith in the gospel (1 John 5:4-5).
A person who is genuinely born of God believes the truth about Jesus Christ- He is the Son of God (1 John 5:5); He was fully God and fully man. God has given the testimony of Christ in His infallible Word- He is God’s beloved Son (water), the perfect life and atoning death of Christ on the cross as our Substitute (the blood), and the witness of the Spirit (Romans 8:16). “The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
John writes that the believer might have assurance that they are recipients of a deathless life in Christ, and that they have an audience with God in Christ.
1 John 5:14-15 14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.
A person who is genuinely born of God will have a new relationship to sin. He will hate it and want to be free from it and not continue in it. God pledges to help and protect the believer from the work of the evil one.
The last sentence is one that is relevant to all believers throughout time. The heart is an idol making factory. Don’t let anything keep you from vibrant fellowship with the Lord. Identify the idols in your life, anything that may be competing for supremacy in your affections. Dear children- Keep yourself from idols (1 John 5:21).
What about the sin that leads to death? Believers were aware that God sometimes chastises His beloved children. John says it really is not our business to play the role of God. He knows how to deal with His children appropriately and safeguard His flock.
Here is another Song of Ascent, a song of pilgrimage. As these pilgrims were on their way to worship traveling up to Jerusalem, it was good to prepare their hearts for worship by reflecting on God’s work in their own personal lives:
“If the Lord had not… (you can fill in the blanks as you reflect upon His faithfulness).
… been on our side when men attacked us, when their anger flared against us.”
What would have happened if the Lord had not met us in our time of need?
Psalm 124:6-8 6 Blessed be the LORD, Who has not given us to be torn by their teeth. 7 Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper; The snare is broken, and we have escaped. 8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.
Proverbs 29:5-8 5 A man who flatters his neighbor Is spreading a net for his steps. 6 By transgression an evil man is ensnared, but the righteous sings and rejoices. 7 The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor, the wicked does not understand such concern. 8 Scorners set a city aflame, but wise men turn away anger.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS – UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN (ENGLAND, SCOTLAND, WALES) AND NORTHERN IRELAND
- Pray for revival that would breathe life into dying churches and hardened, apathetic hearts.
- Pray for inner-city neighborhoods to be infused with the transforming impact of the gospel.
- Pray for the influx of foreigners to be confronted with a vibrant Christian witness.
A developer of democracy, literature, and science, the influence of the British Empire during the 19th century stretched over one fourth of the earth’s surface. Currently the third largest economy in Europe behind France and Germany, England’s agricultural sector produces roughly 60% of the country’s food needs with less than 2% of the work force. A highly educated nation, almost 100% of the population is literate, and the leading industries include banking, high tech manufacturing, textiles, and other consumer goods. England, along with Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales make up the United Kingdom, which remains a leading trading power and financial center.
Yet not all is well in “Broken Britain”. The strength of the British Empire has decreased significantly in the post-war era with many former colonies claiming their independence. Once plentiful oil and natural gas reserves are on the decline, and the recent global financial crisis has hit the economy especially hard with high consumer debt, declining home prices, and declining industry importance.
The plans to separate from the European Union (Brexit) present the country with more economic uncertainty.
Violent crime, sexually transmitted diseases, prostitution, and gambling addiction rates are high and growing. England is also a major consumer of Southwest Asian heroin and Latin American cocaine and is a center for money laundering.
Even more heartbreaking is the despair and hopelessness felt by the people of England. The homeland of John Wesley, John Wycliffe, and William Tyndale, England was once a thriving center of Christian thought. Today, secularism and Islam are the growing faiths among the population. Many are discouraged and feel cynical about the future. As freedoms of speech and religion are limited, anger towards government figures grows. Distrust is high of politicians and their effectiveness to solve the issues that plague their country. An estimated 59% of the population claim the Christian faith, but that number is decreasing annually. England is in desperate need of a spiritual revival, because the only one who can lift the weight of hopelessness and despondency from England’s shoulders is Christ.
PRAYER: Lord, we are so grateful for Your steadfast love and tender mercy. We have been unfaithful and have sinned against You, yet You have been relentless in Your covenant commitment and have provided at great cost our ransom from our captivity to sin. We thank You for Your Son, who purchased our freedom by giving Himself as our Substitute taking our penalty for sin on the cross. We thank You for His resurrection life that enables us to say no to ungodliness and worldly lusts. You have given us a new life and a new direction to pursue. Help us this day to live a holy life, by giving ourselves wholly to the Holy Spirit’s ministry. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.