Originally posted Dec 23, 2013. Video from June 13, 2018.
The modern family is in trouble. In our homes and neighborhoods we see the pain and suffering involved with child neglect, domestic abuse, absentee fathers, poverty, pornography, adultery, divorce, and “alternative lifestyles.” Family life is hard enough without the effects of these sins. It can be difficult to devote yourself to another person in marriage (Eph 5:22-27); it can be difficult to sacrifice daily to raise godly children (Eph 6:4); and it can be difficult keeping the family’s focus on the Lord (Jos 24:15; 1Co 7:32-35). The Book of Hosea is an inside look at just such a broken family, a family painfully distorted by sin. The children of Israel neglected to keep the law in love, to seek God in true worship, or to take care of the poor, and they ultimately turned from the faithfulness of the Holy One to the whoredom of Baal.
First, we see that sin still affects the saved. Yahweh’s first command to the prophet is shocking: “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD” (1:2 ESV; see our first post for Works Cited). Now, I don’t know about you, but if someone called me or someone I care about a whore, they would certainly get my attention. God’s purpose, however, is not to insult or inflame but to instruct. Isaiah walked naked and barefoot for three years (Isa 20:2-4), Ezekiel baked bread over burning dung (Eze 4:9-13), and Hosea married a known prostitute whom God then compared to his own bride. In each case, God sought to wake Israel up to the reality of their sin.
Jehovah had warned Israel of this possibility from the very beginning of their relationship. Before they entered Canaan God instructed Israel to, “tear down [Canaan’s] altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and . . . whore after their gods” (Exo 34:12-16). But Israel’s faithfulness failed. Hosea therefore casts Israel as a brazen harlot, pointing out that their problems were a result of their own unfaithfulness.
Secondly, sin begets sin. Because Gomer returned to prostitution, her children would reap the consequences. For an ancient Israelite, Jezreel was synonymous with bloodshed. This was the place Ahab and Jezebel murdered Naboth and later paid the price for their sin (1Ki 21; 2Ki 9-10). In the days of Hosea, though, the king of Israel (Jehu) “did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam” (2Ki 10:31) and therefore Hosea promises him the same punishment. Because of his sin, the destruction of his family would extend to “the whole kingdom of the house of Israel,” a fate that “the bow of Israel” could not withstand (Hos 1:4-5; see too ESVSB).
Note too that Gomer’s second and third children are conceived and born without any mention of Hosea (vv. 6, 8). They don’t know who their fathers are. This is made even more evident in the names God gives to them: No Mercy and Not My People. It is impossible to disconnect mercy and membership, forgiveness and family. So as verse 6 reads, “I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all.” Jehovah therefore threatens a terrible fate: “I am not your God” (Hos 1:9; see Lev 26:12).
And finally, sin brings loving discipline. Though Hosea emphasizes coming judgment, the Lord is still the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and remembers his promise to make their “children . . . like the sand of the sea and children of the living God” (Hos 1:10; see Gen 22:16-18; 13:16; 32:12). The prophet thus reminds Israel of her covenant through her ancestors: “In the place is not a geographical reference but a reference to the event when God and his people bonded at Sinai. The Lord will meet Israel at the same place he met with Israel before, i.e., under the same conditions. It is the place of repentance (cf. also Hos. 2:7, 16)” (ESVSB; see too Isa 62:4).
Both because of this restoration to God and to bring it about, Judah and Israel will once more “be gathered together” under “one head” (Hos 1:11). As with many prophecies, this one is fulfilled in three stages:
Let’s face it, though the church is the bride of Christ, we’re not the most devoted wife on the block. Christ, of course, “loved the church and gave himself up for her . . . that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:25-27). But at times, we have refused to turn from our unfaithfulness, accepting instead the ways of this world and therefore its consequences (see Rev 2:21). The truth of this is evident in Paul’s message to Corinth: “For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2Co 11:2-3, emphasis added).
This depth of devotion often alludes us. We have tried to accept Christ but deny his people (Acts 2:36-41, 47; Eph 4:4-6). We have bore him illegitimate children by redefining what it means to be “born again” (John 3:3, 5; Tit 3:4-7; 1Pe 1:23). And we have trampled on his grace by turning back to the sin of our former lives (Heb 2:1-4; 10:29-31). Yet, in his love God stands calling, knocking and waiting for us to return in repentance, to heal our broken family and to be once more the bride of Christ (Mat 11:28-30; Rev 3:19-20).