Intro: How do you respond to an unfaithful mate? I hope that you have not had to personally deal with that question, but the answer would have serious implications for your marriage and your life. What does love require of you? How does love respond?
The O.T. prophet, Hosea, had to answer that question in his own marriage. His book of prophecy, that will be the focus of our study this month, chronicles the tragic side of his marriage to a woman named Gomer. Hosea’s wife, Gomer deserted him and lived the life of a prostitute. But the twist to this story that makes it our story, is that God arranged it all. It is a love story, but not in the typical sense. Hosea is a story of God’s unnatural love.. It is a view of God’s broken heart. How can He still want us? Hosea’s answer – How could He not?
Today’s lesson is an introduction to the prophecy of Hosea.
I. Hosea, the prophet: Who was Hosea? What do we know about the prophet himself? All we know about him comes from this book. What is in a name? Hosea means salvation (Joshua, Jesus – same root)
A. Hosea 1:1 – The word of the Lord that came to Hosea the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. Hosea’s father, Beeri, is not identifiable from Bible sources. There is also no certainty as to Hosea’s occupation, but some suggest he may have been a priest, since he ardently attacks the corruption of the priesthood.
1. Date: The reference to Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah; and Jeroboam, king of Israel help us date the prophecy of Hosea Most place the time of his work at 750-725 B.C. Hosea was possibly a young man when Amos was almost through with his ministry. He was also contemporary with Micah and Isaiah, who were prophesying in Judah.
2. Political and spiritual background to Hosea’s words: Although there was material prosperity in Israel, the conditions of spiritual decline had worsened throughout Amos’ ministry, and as Amos’ predicted, Israel was only a few decades away from complete captivity by the Assyrians. Hosea preached judgment against Israel, and well described the moral corruption of the nation, especially the priesthood. Hosea repeatedly uses a word (13 times) to describe the spiritual status of Israel – harlotry (whoredom). Israel had abandoned their commitment.
II. Hosea’s Message: There were times in the history of God’s revelation when the prophet was unaware of the fulfillment or even meaning of the words he was given to speak. But there was probably no prophet who was more intimately involved with his message than Hosea. He came to know the broken heart of God.
A. God’s unusual request: Hosea 1:2 – When the Lord began to speak by Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea: “Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry And children of harlotry, For the land has committed great harlotry By departing from the Lord.” There were times when God made unusual requests of His prophets in order to provide an object lesson. God told Jeremiah to wear an oxen yoke around his neck to symbolize the coming Babylonian captivity of Judah. God here commands Hosea to take a prostitute as a wife and have children through this union. Why would God command this?
1. God was bringing to life a consistent picture used throughout the Old Testament. In this picture, the Lord is the husband of Israel, and their chronic attraction for idols was like the lust of an adulterer. His people were playing the harlot.
Ezekiel spoke of Jerusalem, “You are an adulterous wife, who takes strangers instead of her husband.” (Ezek 16:32)
Jeremiah said, Surely, as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, So have you dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel,” says the Lord. (Jer 3:20)
By commanding Hosea to take . . . a wife of harlotry, God will put Hosea in the place where he feels what God feels. Boice writes… “We cannot say that God grieves exactly as we grieve, if only because He controls all things and always works them out in accordance with His own good pleasure. Nevertheless, there is a parallel between God’s feelings and ours.”
2. There are several questions that clamor for an answer:
Did Hosea really marry a prostitute named Gomer or is this just an allegory?
Was she a prostitute before Hosea married her, or become one later?
Is the woman of chapter three Gomer, or another woman? There have been 3 popular interpretations of these verses.
a. God required Hosea to marry a woman who was already a practicing prostitute. Although this fits the language used here, it seems contrary to both the character of God’s teaching on marriage, and to the true picture of Israel. The nation was not unfaithful at the time of the covenant of Sinai, but became unfaithful later.
b. This is just an allegory. There was not an actual marriage. This is unlikely. The language depicts a narrative more than an allegory.
c. It seems the best interpretation is that Hosea actually took Gomer as his wife, but she was not unfaithful until after their marriage. God was simply telling Hosea what was going to happen, so as to illustrate the betrayal of Israel, and make known the reason for the command.
d. It seems that the woman whom Hosea buy back is Gomer – tells him to love again a woman
B. Children of Harlotry: Hosea 1:3-9 – So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. 4 Then the Lord said to him: “Call his name Jezreel, For in a little while I will avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu, And bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5 It shall come to pass in that day That I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.” 6 And she conceived again and bore a daughter. Then God said to him: “Call her name Lo-Ruhamah, For I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel, But I will utterly take them away. 7 Yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah, Will save them by the Lord their God, And will not save them by bow, Nor by sword or battle, By horses or horsemen.” 8 Now when she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. 9 Then God said: “Call his name Lo-Ammi, For you are not My people, And I will not be your God.
1. Not only does God arrange the marriage, but He also names the kids, and these names mean something. The names of Gomer’s children depict the denigrating relationship between God and Israel.
a. “Call his name Jezreel“ – The firstborn son. Notice in describing the birth of Gomer’s first child the text says that Gomer bore him a son. This would indicate that Hosea was the father of Jezreel. But the description of the later births is worded differently, suggesting that Hosea came to recognize that he was not the father of the last two children. The name spoke of two things. First, Jezreel means “Scattered,” and Israel would soon be scattered in exile by Assyria. Second, Jezreel refers to the Valley of Jezreel, where Jehu – the founder of the dynasty that put Jeroboam II on the throne – massacred all the descendants of Ahab, thus establishing his throne (2 Kings 10:11). God directed Hosea to name his son Jezreel to confirm His promise to avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel by judging the house of Jehu. God was going to bring the reigning dynasty of Israel to an end.
b. “Call her name Lo-Ruhamah” – The second child born to Gomer was a girl. Again God gives the name. The name Lo-Ruhamah means “No Mercy.” Every time Hosea called his daughter’s name he would be reminded of the coming judgment.
Yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah: The army of Assyria that destroyed Israel also attacked Judah, but they did not conquer them. Instead, God miraculously fought on behalf of Judah against Assyria when the angel of the LORD killed 185,000 soldiers in the camp of Assyria in one night (2 Kings 19:35). Eventually God’s mercy for Judah would also come to an end, and they would be exiled to Babylon.
c. “Call his name Lo-Ammi” The third child is the clincher. The name Lo-Ammi means “Not My People.” It seems obvious that this child is that of another man, not Hosea. Hosea was living the spiritual reality of his people.
“For you are not My people, and I will not be your God” – This is not so much of a sentence or a penalty, as it is a simple stating of fact. It isn’t as if the people really wanted to be the people of God, yet God will not have them. Instead, the people of Israel rejected God, and here the Lord simply recognizes that fact.
C. A Word of Hope. Who among us could ever hold out any hope for this marriage? Could there ever be a restoration? The last verses of chapter one point in that direction. Notice how god uses the names of Gomer’s children to depict the reversal and restoration of the relationship. Hosea 1:10-2:1 – 10 ‘Yet the number of the children of Israel Shall be as the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There it shall be said to them, ‘You are sons of the living God.’ 11 Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel Shall be gathered together, And appoint for themselves one head; And they shall come up out of the land, For great will be the day of Jezreel! 2 Say to your brethren, ‘My people,’ And to your sisters, ‘Mercy is shown.’
1. Yet the number of the children of Israel… Though God has promised judgment, the days of judgment won’t last forever. After judgment, there will come a day of increase and blessing.
2. “Not My people” turns into “You are sons of the living God” God would fulfill the promise of Lo-Ammi (Hosea 1:9), but the judgment would not last forever. One day Israel will return to the LORD, and once again be called sons of the living God.
3. Judah and Israel gathered together under one Head.. the disgrace of this divided house (170 years ago) will be erased one day when true Israel will submit to the rule of their Messiah, Jesus. This began on Pentecost when the apostles preached the resurrection and authority of Christ.
Eph 2:14-17 – 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.
4. “For great will be the day of Jezreel!” The first child of Hosea and Gomer was named Jezreel as a sign of judgment. But God promises a restoration so complete that Jezreel will once again be a name of greatness, not judgment.
5. Say to your brethren, “My people,” and to your sisters, “Mercy is shown”: the restoration will be complete. The child named Jezreel has his name redeemed, and now the next two children (Lo-Ruhamah, “No Mercy” and Lo-Ammi, “Not My People”) have their name redeemed as Israel is once again regarded as “My People” unto the LORD and “Mercy is shown” unto them.
Conclusion: When would this hopeless marriage be saved? How could it happen? This is what we will continue to explore as we investigate the redeeming love of Hosea and His God. Chapter 2 & 3 tell us more about the unfaithfulness of God’s people, and the undying love of God that brings them back. But Peter would have us know that this is our story…
1 Peter 2:6-10 – Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” 7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. 9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.