HOSEA 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7
In God’s book, the worship of false gods or idols is spiritual adultery. Israel had been joined by covenant to the Lord – analogous to marriage – since they had crossed the Red Sea, but they had begun a series of ‘affairs’ with the foreign gods of the land of Canaan. Of course, God knew in advance that this would happen.
Prophecy is more than words: it is visual and full of actions too. God wants to speak to people who have all kinds of ‘learning styles’ and so he prepares through his faithful prophet Hosea (meaning ‘Salvation’) a multi-media prophetic message for his people Israel (the Northern Kingdom). “Don’t just speak to this rebellious nation, but also marry an unfaithful, promiscuous wife and make sure she bears your children!” God is preparing through Hosea and his new wife a huge visual aid that reflects exactly on God and Israel. If that was not hard enough for poor faithful Hosea, then he had to name his children ‘God scatters’, ‘Not Loved’, and ‘Not My People’. Tough for them in the school playground!
Yet even at the end of chapter one, there is hope. Verses 10 and 11 are quoted in Romans 9:26 and 1 Peter 2:10 as a proof text of the salvation of the Gentiles. And God also goes on to call the nation ‘My People’ and ‘My Loved One’ – the very opposite of Hosea’s children’s names.
The prophetic enactment continues with Gomer’s children being encouraged to rebuke her for her unfaithfulness to Hosea. Similarly, the children of Israel ran after Canaanite gods and offended the Lord greatly. Gomer repents and returns to her husband, but not before she had been punished for her adulteries; Israel will suffer the same consequences too. It demonstrates that God has feelings and that he is so hurt by Israel’s rejection of him and their prostitution towards Canaan’s false gods.
Prophetically, Hosea is asked to show his love to his wife again and to bring her back to his home. In describing this in prophetic terms, we are apt to forget how much this enactment would have hurt Hosea, who was going through real pain resulting from a real relationship that was adulterous. For your wife or husband to continually choose to be intimate with someone other than you, day after day, must be a terrible emotional burden to carry. And the Lord was saying through this that this was how He felt too! Gomer had become a slave because of her prostitution and Hosea was forced to buy her back for a combined price of about 30 shekels – the normal redemption cost to free a slave. That must have added insult to injury!
In Hosea 4, God turns this little real-life prophetic ‘play’ into a prosecution speech against Israel. “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land”. As a result, the Lord brings famine and drought to Israel. “A spirit of prostitution leads them astray”. There is nothing the God can do for them, whilst they are in that mind-set. Chapter 5: the priests and the people are all implicated in this rebellion against God. And so, God will “tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off with no-one to rescue them”.
Then, in chapter 6, Hosea proposes the correct course of action for Israel: “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces, but he will heal us; he has injured us, but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us press on to acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him”. And the Lord seems to respond, like a wounded lover: “What can I do with you Ephraim? What can I do with your, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears”.
The key verse, perhaps of the whole book: “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings”. The Book of Hosea is a prophecy of mercy and grace over a people who were undeserving through and through – just like we are too! Yet Ephraim refuses to repent and turns away the grace that is offered to him. The nation is like a ‘faulty bow’ – always missing the mark! The Lord is so disappointed!