The Big Book–Cover to Cover: Hosea

Michael teaches an overview on the book of Hosea.

In this short book, God warns and convicts His people of their idolatry through the story of a man instructed to retrieve his unfaithful wife again and again.

Though judgment and destruction are sure, salvation will come. Join us as we examine God’s faithfulness to His faithless people in order to bring them to restoration.

Show Notes

Hosea is called by God to prophesy during Israel’s last hours, just as Jeremiah would be called years later to prophesy to the crumbling kingdom of Judah. Hosea’s personal tragedy becomes an intense illustration of Israel’s national tragedy. It is a story of one-sided to love and faithfulness—between a prophet and his faithless wife (Hosea and Gomer) and Jehovah and His faithless people. Just as Gomer is married to Hosea, Israel is betrothed to God. In both cases the bride plays the harlot and runs after other lovers. But unconditional love keeps seeking even when it is spurned. In Hosea’s case, that means buying back his wife from the slave market; for Israel it means purifying punishment followed by restoration to the Land of Promise.”(1.)

General Observations

  • Hosea essentially means “Salvation”
  • Hosea’s ministry spans ~45 years
  • Considered a minor prophet because of the brevity of his writing compared to Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.
    “Minor” doesn’t apply to significance.
  • Hosea is a contemporary of Amos, Isaiah, and Micah.
  • God’s warnings and promises were clear, unchanged, and still in place:
    • Deuteronomy 28 – blessing and cursing
    • Deuteronomy 30 – future restoration
  • Israel commits idolatry with Baal, the fertility god.

Hosea vividly describes Israel’s immorality, spiritual and physical; and will use Hosea’s wife Gomer who plays the harlot, to compare Israel who has played the harlot with Baal.

It’s hard for us in our Western minds to equate idolatry and adultery, but these are very closely connected in our Bible. When we worship idols and turn from God, we are committing adultery against our God. The language feels heightened, but spiritual idolatry is just like physical adultery.

Major Themes

  • Disobedience brings judgment.
  • They will learn the hard way:
    • Judgment is sure. Destruction is sure. Salvation will come.

They wouldn’t see the salvation come in their lifetime, but it is sure.

Hosea’s prophetic ministry begins toward the end of a period of military strength and prosperity in both kingdoms of Judah and Israel.

When things are going well we’re most vulnerable to temptation, and that’s when self-reliance and sin enter.

Five judgement cycles or parallels:

Judgment     Salvation
1:2-9.                 1:10-2:1
2:2-13                2:14-3:5
4:1-5:14             5:15-6:3
6:4-11:7             11:8-11
11:12-13:16       14:1-9

It is rather easy to grow up with a naïve idea of God—something like a child’s impression of the adult world—and with a worrying conundrum about His way of doing things. The conundrum is this old one: If God is all-powerful and all-good, why does He not rid the world of evil? (The church too, for that matter?) One of the things that Hosea does for us is to give us, with extraordinary frankness, the other side of that anomaly. God’s side. The child’s idea of his elders is a puzzled one. They make the rules (he says to himself)—there’s power for you! And they have money, whatever they may say—there’s freedom! What couldn’t we do, we children, with all that freedom, all that power? In this book we see things not in these simplistic terms, where situations and people are uncomplicated and power is like a magic wand. Hosea introduces us to a family which is a miniature of our world—or rather, of the most enlightened part of the world of his own day. But it is a problem family, and God compares His situation not to that of an autocrat whose orders nobody dares question, nor of a father who rejoices in an adoring wife and children, but to that of a husband whose wife has left him, and a father whose children are like strangers in his own house and are fast destroying themselves. Where does omnipotence, where do instant solutions come into such a picture? Certainly tame acceptance is no answer to it, but no more are strong-arm tactics—unless one were content to have a slave-wife, and a family simply cowed into conformity. With relationships as subtle and sensitive as these, there are no short cuts to mending them when they go wrong; not even for omnipotence. (If we think that God could somehow wave that wand and solve the problem painlessly if He really gave His mind to it, we have only to recall the cross, that hideous instrument of torture, and the Son’s prayer, ‘My Father, if it be possible…’, for our answer.)But all this may seem somewhat theoretical and remote. So God brought it home to Hosea, at ground level and at painful length, by telling him to do the last thing a responsible prophet might expect. ‘Go and marry a prostitute—because’ (if we may paraphrase it this way) ‘this is exactly what I, the Lord, have married in pledging myself to all of you.’ And Hosea did not gather that he could simply go through a form of marriage, or alternatively that God would find him a prostitute with a heart of gold. He married a shallow, mercenary woman, the kind who might walk out on him the moment it suited her; and they started a family. She bore him a son. After that, she had two more children, who were apparently not his. Then she left him. She had made a fool of him; she had also made a fool of herself, for her new lover turned out to be as useless and heartless as herself, and she was soon his drudge and virtual prisoner. It was rather like the plight of the Prodigal Son. But the story does not end in quite the same way as the well-known parable. In a sense it surpasses it.She makes no move (perhaps none is possible) to come home. It is Hosea, her husband, who goes to find her; and when he does, he not only has to win her back but buy her back, scraping together the price partly in cash and partly in kind. And more: it is not just an act of re-possession, for God had said to him, ‘Go again and love a woman loved by another man, an adulteress, and love her as I, the Lord, love the Israelites although they resort to other gods.’ There is precious little exercise of power in such a story of the ‘eternal triangle’, for power alone would solve nothing. Instead, there is hurt, humiliation, waiting, personal approach and appeal, and, at last, mutual commitment. Cost, too; but mostly the cost of risking rebuff, reopening wounds, working at a difficult relationship and being determined that it shall last and grow. ‘I will allure her,’ says God, ‘… and speak tenderly to her…. And I will betroth you to me for ever.’ And Hosea, for his part, says to his wife Gomer that he is not for sharing, nor is she. ‘You must dwell as mine for many days; you shall not play the harlot, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.’ That is the story of the first three chapters. But when God draws out the large-scale meaning of it, it turns out that the pattern of relationships, between Him, His people and His rivals for their affection, is not so much a triangle as a veritable polygon. In every direction His people have played Him false:
-in religion, with other gods, another cult;
-in politics, with shabby intrigues and dubious patrons;
-in morals, with unbridled sex and violence.”(2.)

Lessons

  • Never minimize “The word of the Lord.” It’s as simple and as hard as asking, what does God say? Your perception and experience cannot overshadow the text. You will never regret erring on the side of the word of the Lord. Never.
  • Never minimize the significance of marriage.
    It’s striking that Scripture begins and ends with a marriage. In-between we have examples, illustrations, and theology of God’s design for marriage. God’s Word instructs us: Hebrews 13:4.
    Hosea juxtaposes God’s ‘marriage’ to Israel and Hosea’s marriage to a harlot. God’s people have chosen to play the harlot, yet He loves, pursues, forgives, and restores.
  • Forgiveness may not remove natural consequences. Hosea 4:6-9.
  • Never minimize the need and opportunity for repentance and seeking after God. Hosea entreated Israel to repent: Hosea 6:1-3.

You and I need to have a very quick repentance process, and we have the confidence of 1 John 1:9.

In sure terms, God judges sin. Our sin may bring devastation, but it is assured that in Christ Jesus, He forgives.

He welcomes us back again and again and again.

Resources

  1. Bruce Wilkinson and Kenneth Boa, Talk Thru the Bible(Nashville: T. Nelson, 1983), 233
  2. Derek Kidner, The Message of Hosea: Love to the Loveless, ed. J. Alec Motyer and Derek Tidball, The Bible Speaks Today (England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1976), 12–13.
Michael Easley

About Michael Easley

Michael is husband to one, dad to four, and host of Michael Easley inContext.



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