Recently I’ve been studying through the book of Hosea and God has taught me quite a bit about (in order) himself, his Son Jesus, his people, and myself. This will be the first of quite a few posts involving the main themes and my take-aways from this precious book. Join me in this journey, add your thoughts and comments, and see what God might teach us as we walk through what he would have for us. I’m excited – let’s get started.
Before we get dive into the text itself, let’s go over just a bit of basic background information about the book in general and its author. Hosea was a prophet in Israel who wrote and ministered around latter part of the 8th century B.C. At this time Israel had already split after Solomon’s reign (the last king of the united monarchy), with two tribes in the north (Israel – capital city, Samaria) and the remaining ten tribes in the south (Judah – capital city, Jerusalem). This was a very turbulent time for God’s people – they were engaging in open rebellion against God, and wicked spiritual practices were rampant. In response, God disciplines them for their wickedness and sends the Assyrians to conquer Samaria in the north, but before he does, he sends a very hard, very peculiar rebuke to his people through the life of Hosea, one of his prophets. We’ll pick up the account in Hosea chapter 1.
A Prophet and his Prostitute
The word of the Lord comes to Hosea and tells him to marry a hooker, have kids with her, and love her. There is no condition (‘… as long as she is nice and stays faithful…’), there is no incentive (‘… and I’ll give you all kinds of cash…’), and there is no other comment, save for the reason: that Israel has become a prostitute in following other gods and turning her back on God, her true king. So God wants Hosea to live out an allegory and an object lesson in hopes of illustrating the dire circumstances so that Israel might come to repentance and return to her Lord.
I have to wonder about what is going through Hosea’s mind at this point. Does he question God’s plan? Is he (like so many prophets in the Old Testament) reflecting God’s heart for his people with sorrow and grief? If I were in Hosea’s sandals, I would be a bit scared and anxious at the prospect of marrying a prostitute. I mean, let’s think about it… she’s going to have some serious baggage, possibly any number of diseases, she’ll be a source of ridicule, scorn, and shame for him. This is likely way different than he expected, to say the least. Not having a wife myself, I must say I’d be pretty intimidated and would wrestle with the temptation to follow Jonah’s example more than I’d like to admit. I think a precious grace in Hosea’s situation is that he has an unwavering faith in his God, and he knows why he must walk through this particular type of trial.
You see, God is jealous for his glory, and he loves his people even though they (we) do not love him back. Israel at this point is chasing so many false gods and idols that she is a prostitute who, as God says, is whoring after them. We Christians know at some base level exactly what is going on here, because we do the exact same thing. We may not have temple prostitutes and pagan altars on which we sacrifice goats or other animals, but consider what you sacrifice on the altar of your wants or your ‘rights.’ Consider what you turn your affections, your heart, mind, body, and strength toward. What do you want and what will you sacrifice anything to get? These are the affections of your heart, and they were meant only for God. If you can see that your affections are focused on anything other than God, you have begun to spot the idols in your life. Keep digging and you’ll see sins behind sins – lust and gluttony will fade away and you’ll see pride and self-worship rearing is disgusting head in your life. Laziness, envy, greed – they’re all expressions of a root sin that is fueled by pride. These are what we must put to death by the power of the Spirit if we are to begin walking that road less taken – the precious road of sanctification that choose and even fewer complete. Take that step of faith – begin the process of examining your life and if you’re anything like me you will find sin almost immediately. This is where the process of repentance and our grasp on God’s grace and mercy begin.
I would also be really curious about what Gomer, Hosea’s prostitute wife, thought about this whole arrangement. What might her reaction have been? I’ll be honest – I don’t know any hookers, personally. But I can’t imagine any of them taking too kindly to some holy man coming up to them and asking them to participate in some grandiose object lesson for God’s unrepentant people. Would she be taken aback? Offended, even? Would she see Hosea as a bringer of God’s mercy to rescue and redeem her from her life of sin? Or would she begin to scheme and plan how to take advantage of this man for her own benefit? The reason I wonder with these specific examples is that in my experience these are but some of the reactions that people have toward God when confronted with his marvelous offer of grace in their lives. Some are taken aback and offended at the offer because they don’t know their pitiful state. Some respond with gratitude, humility, and worship at the immense grace that God gives us in himself. And still others see an opportunity to take advantage of God’s gift of grace and run off to engage in even more sin because they have their ‘fire insurance.’
To boil it down to a more personal level, let’s be honest – we’re all Gomers in some manner of speaking. We all live lives of sin and chase the affections of our hearts after some vain object of our own temporary (fleeting) delight. We have all sinned whether we realize it or not. We sin by doing things we shouldn’t, and we sin by not doing things we should. We sin in the dark, and we sin in broad daylight. We sin in crowds of people, and we sin when we’re all alone. Sin is an ever-present reality in every relationship and every marriage, because they both involve people, and people are inherently sinful beings. Now, to be sure, Hosea and Gomer is a bit of an extreme example of a particular kind of sin in a marriage… but honestly, I don’t think I can make the case that my sins cause any less pain, discord, or grief than Gomer’s did with Hosea. So I’m left considering my sin and its effects – and I’m blown away at God’s grace in restraining my sin and redeeming it in spite of its ugliness in my life and my friends’ lives. I praise God for the reconciliation I’ve received, and that I get to participate in that ministry of reconciliation as well.
Meet the Kids
At the close of this first post, let’s finish out the first chapter by meeting the kids, Hosea and Gomer’s offspring. First, we have Jezreel, who serves as a pronouncement of judgment and imminent doom for Israel. Excellent. Next, we have Lo-Ruhama (or ‘no mercy’) who is a further clarification (as if any was needed) that God will have no more mercy or forgiveness for Israel. Even better. And their third child, another bouncing baby boy, they named Lo-Ammi (or ‘not my people’) because God has fully rejected Israel; they are not his, and he is not their God. That’s pretty rough. I can only imagine the ‘have-you-picked-out-a-name-yet’ conversations and embroidered baby blankets with those names on them… goodness. But that’s neither here nor there.
We close this first installment with a precious truth: it isn’t as though God’s grace has failed – there is a bright note to close this dark chapter… a glimmer of hope on the horizon for Hosea’s readers. Even though this is a bleak time for God’s people, his promise is still intact – starting in verse 10, a prophecy of future unity and prosperity is given. Though the wrath of the Lord is coming down on Israel for this time, it will not always be so. The judgments against Israel will come to an end, and he will welcome again those whom he has turned over to discipline. There is a prospect of future repentance, future grace, future communion with God. But we’ll get to that soon – stick with me and we’ll see how it plays out in due time.
Thank you for reading this long first post – and let me know what you think thus far. I’m definitely excited about where we’re headed.