Hosea – Week One
In our study of minor prophets, we’ve discussed Amos. A Southern boy was sent to the Northern Kingdom to tell them God was displeased with them, and judgment is coming. The message Amos was given to deliver was not an easy one. It was filled with harsh accusations and scary threats. It certainly wouldn’t have been comfortable carrying out that assignment, but Amos, an Israelite, was sent to speak to his fellow Israelites.
Last week we finished up a couple of weeks of study on Jonah. Jonah’s mission was a bit tougher than Amos’. Jonah was sent to enemy territory by God to predict their destruction. He was concerned for his safety and he was extremely hesitant, to say the least, to encroach on enemy soil and tell them they would be destroyed within a matter of weeks. And then, when revival took place, he was sorely disappointed when God extended mercy and didn’t annihilate them.
After Jonah and during Amos’ time serving as a prophet of God, Hosea is called. And Hosea’s mission is, well, a whole lot more gut-wrenching and painful to study.
God had given a proclamation for Amos to deliver; He had Jonah to make a prediction of doom, but now God’s going to ask Hosea to surrender his all in order to live out his life as a living example of God’s love.
When we think of great love stories in literature, we think of Romeo and Juliet and basically any two characters in a Nicholas Sparks’ novel. Movies have given us Rose and Jack from The Titanic, and Scarlett and Rhett from Gone With the Wind. In the music world, we have Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash as well as Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. Even cartoons have provided #relationshipgoals with Minnie and Mickey Mouse as well as Popeye and Olive Oyl.
When compiling a list of great and powerful love stories, Hosea and Gomer don’t usually make the list because theirs is not a relationship that anyone would desire. Their marriage was not ideal; their connection was broken; their romance was not exclusive. And the kicker to it all is that it’s what God wanted to happen.
Hosea 1:2 NIV “When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.”
Other translations will phrase this as “When the Lord first spoke through Hosea…”. This gives us an indication that this was the first time Hosea hears directly from God and he’s told to marry a prostitute, a harlot, a wife of whoredom, a wife inclined to infidelity, or a promiscuous woman. It makes no difference what translation you use; it doesn’t sound any better.
Betrayal in any relationship is devastating. The vast majority of people do not willingly enter into a healthy relationship, especially not a marriage, fully expecting their partner to cheat on them. Traditional wedding vows are proclamations of promised fidelity. “To have and to hold”, for example, is a phrase often used in vows. “To “have” your spouse is to say that person is intimately, exclusively yours. The word “hold” is a vow to maintain affection and tenderness and to cherish each other and the relationship you share.”[i]
“Forsaking all others” is another common phrase. “This is a clear statement that intimate relations with anyone else are not part of the equation.” “In forsaking all others, we are also committing to not just be there for that person but to support them in whatever needs they may have. To make this person come first. To always put this person before other’s needs.”[ii]
There are many scriptures comparing God’s relationship with us to marriage. One example from the Old Testament is found in:
Isaiah 62:5 GNT “Like a young man taking a virgin as his bride,
He who formed you will marry you.
As a groom is delighted with his bride,
So your God will delight in you.”
An example from the New Testament is found in 2 Corinthians 11:2 HCSB “For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, because I have promised you in marriage to one husband—to present a pure virgin to Christ.”
I’m sure all of us have attended our fair share of weddings in which a marriage is defined as a covenant. Likewise, God made a covenant with the Israelites. “The New Oxford Dictionary of English defines the theological use of covenant as “an agreement which brings about a relationship of commitment between God and his people.” God made a covenant with the Israelites back in Exodus and the Israelites agreed to enter into it with God.
Exodus 19:3 MSG “3-6 As Moses went up to meet God, God called down to him from the mountain: “Speak to the House of Jacob, tell the People of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to Egypt and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to me. If you will listen obediently to what I say and keep my covenant, out of all peoples you’ll be my special treasure. The whole Earth is mine to choose from, but you’re special: a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.’
“This is what I want you to tell the People of Israel.”
7 Moses came back and called the elders of Israel together and set before them all these words which God had commanded him.
8 The people were unanimous in their response: “Everything God says, we will do.” Moses took the people’s answer back to God.”
A covenant was made.
There’s a famous hymn that we’ve all sung throughout our lives. It was written by a man named Judson Wheeler Van de Venter. The lyrics are, I’m sure, very familiar to you.
“All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
Chorus: I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessèd Saviour,
I surrender all.
All to Jesus I surrender;
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.”
Like most hymns, there is a story behind the lyrics. Van de Venter became a Christian at the age of 17. He graduated with a degree in art which he loved and was very good at plus he was proficient in music, as well. He began to struggle with either going into the ministry or becoming an artist. The struggle went on for several years until, as he puts it, he “surrendered all.” He went to become a great influence for many, including Rev. Billy Graham.[iii] Van de Venter surrendered his self-chosen journey of the arts and followed God’s journey for him.
When singing the hymn, I Surrender All, I will often hesitate to sing because I know that I am not always willing to surrender all. I should after all that He’s done for me, but the truth is, we all have some things we’re not willing to give up. That’s how it was for the Israelites. They had entered into a covenant with God proclaiming they would surrender all to Him. But then as time went on and life went on, “all” seemed to be excessive. They didn’t want to surrender their entire being to Him. Specifically, their infidelity was prominent when it came to idolatry. They tried to push God to the side while they worshipped, sacrificed to, and called on pagan gods. The Israelites did not stay committed to God in their relationship. And God used Hosea to live a real-life demonstration of the unfaithfulness of the Israelites as well as the unfaithfulness of Christians today.
Interestingly, Hosea’s name means “cause to be saved”[iv] or “salvation”[v]. Jesus’ name in Hebrew is Yeshua which means “the Lord is salvation”.[vi]
Just from the names alone, we know that God’s appointment of Hosea to this mission is no accident. Hosea would minister to the Israelites for about 50 years total, but it’s this marriage that God calls him to enter that is probably the greatest surrender that Hosea will give.
Hosea marries a woman by the name of Gomer. It isn’t clear as to if Gomer was a woman of ill reputation at the time he married her or if she became promiscuous after the marriage. What is clear is that Hosea knew before he married Gomer that she would not be faithful to him. God also knew that the Israelites, as well as you and me, would also not always be faithful to Him.
In the next few verses, we are told that three children are born to Gomer. The verse that tells of the first child is worded in a way that alludes to the fact that Hosea was the biological father.
Hosea 1:3 NKJV “So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.”
The firstborn, a son, is named by God and the name given is Jezreel. The name means “God sows” or “God scatters.” There was no coincidence in this name. The name was used as a prediction of what would come. You may notice that the names Jezreel and Israel sound very similar so you can see and hear the parallel God is making between Hosea’s family and the Israelites. Some thirty years later, the Assyrians will come into Israel (Northern Kingdom), capture the Israelites, and scatter them throughout the land. The Assyrian’s main purpose in doing this was to weaken the united strength of the Israelites’ militarily as well as economically. And God allowed it to happen because the Israelites had failed to keep their covenant with Him. The town of Jezreel was known for its bloody battles involving the Israelites. And the bloodshed was directly traced back to the unfaithfulness of God’s people. The kings that they begged for were all evil and unrighteous. From King Jeroboam to King Hoshea, not one of them was loyal to God.
Gomer becomes pregnant again and scripture suggests that Hosea was not the biological father. The scripture tells us that “Gomer became pregnant and gave birth.” The second child, a daughter, is born. Hosea 1:6 NLT “And the Lord said to Hosea, “Name your daughter Lo-ruhamah—‘Not loved’—for I will no longer show love to the people of Israel or forgive them.”
What a sad name to give to a child. How heartbreaking it must have been for Hosea to give such a name to this little baby girl.
Hosea 1:8 NLT “After Gomer had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she again became pregnant and gave birth to a second son. 9 And the Lord said, “Name him Lo-ammi—‘Not my people’—for Israel is not my people, and I am not their God.”
“It is interesting verse 8 mentions that it was not until Gomer had weaned Lo-ruhamah that she conceived and gave birth to a third child.” “In their culture, a mother typically took three years to wean her child.” “Mentioning this information about the timing of his third child’s birth could be a way of emphasizing the ongoing nature of Israel’s infidelity to the Lord and the durative nature of Hosea’s ministry and prophecies concerning Israel. Even in His messages of judgment, God was displaying His patience with Israel.”[vii]
Here’s where it is hard to comprehend Hosea’s surrender. Not only did Hosea willingly enter into a one-sided committed marriage, but his children are given names that have horrible and ominous names. “God scatters.” “Not loved.” And “Not Mine”. As Hosea deals with an unfaithful wife, he’s looking into the eyes of these precious babies that are forced to live a life labeled with names that tell of an impending judgment. Hosea’s surrender to God not only involved his marriage but now also involved his children. His entire family is a living example of the infidelity that Israel continually committed against God.
But God gives a morsel of hope at the end of chapter 1. Hosea 1:10 ICB “10 “But the people of Israel will become like the grains of sand of the sea. You cannot measure or count them. Now it is said to Israel, ‘You are not my people.’ But later they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ 11 Then the people of Judah and Israel will be joined together again. They will choose one leader for themselves. And again they will grow in their land.”
This is God’s grace at work. Those scattered will be brought back together and multiplied. Those who are unloved will be His loved ones. Those who are currently “not His people” will later become “His people”. We cannot deny that God is a God of second chances.
In chapter 2 of Hosea, God gives a prophetic message to Hosea.
Hosea 2:1 ICB “Plead with your mother.[Israel]
Plead with her because she no longer acts like a wife to me.
And I am not treated like her husband.
Tell her to stop acting like a prostitute.
Tell her to stop behaving like an unfaithful wife.”
Hosea, in his situation, can empathize with the heartbreak that God is feeling. Gomer doesn’t behave like Hosea’s wife. She’s unfaithful and it would seem that she does so publicly. Likewise, Israel fails to behave as God’s bride as she is unfaithful to Him.
In verses 6 through 13 of Hosea 2, God enumerates the tactics he will use to win back her affection and her attention.
He’ll block her road and build a wall around her so she cannot find her way. She won’t be able to catch up to her lovers. She’ll look for them but won’t be able to find them. He’ll take away from her. He’ll allow her nakedness to be seen by others. He’ll put an end to her celebrations. He’ll destroy, He’ll punish and yet, she will forget Him.
Have you experienced a time in your life in which it seemed as if God was blocking or building walls around you? A time in which you frantically searched for what you thought you needed, but nothing satisfied? A period in which you felt vulnerable, depressed, destroyed, and punished? Could it be that He was simply trying to get your attention and for you to return His affections?
“The valley will teach you lessons the mountaintop never could” – Lauren Fortenberry
But God doesn’t stop there. Although He is immensely right in His anger and hurtfulness towards Israel, He doesn’t give up. Hosea 2:14 ERV “So I, the Lord, will speak romantic words to her. I will lead her into the desert and speak tender words.” Hosea 2:19 ERV “ And I will make you my bride forever. I will make you my bride with goodness and justice and with love and mercy. 20 I will make you my faithful bride. Then you will really know the Lord. 21 And at that time I will answer.” This is what the Lord says.
“I will speak to the skies,
and they will give rain to the earth.
22 The earth will produce grain, wine, and oil,
and they will meet Jezreel’s needs.
23 I will sow her many seeds[h] on her land.
To Lo-Ruhamah,[i] I will show mercy.
To Lo-Ammi,[j] I will say, ‘You are my people.’
And they will say to me, ‘You are our God.’”
God uses the names of the children to illustrate His judgment on the unfaithfulness of Israel. But then God promises to woo them, win them back, and He cancels out the negative meaning of their names with promises of provision, mercy, and commitment.
In a clear demonstration of the betrayal of Israel, Gomer has left Hosea and God gives him the direction to get her back.
Hosea 3:1 ICB “The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again. She has had other lovers and has been unfaithful to you. But you must keep on loving her the way the Lord loves the people of Israel. This is true even though the Israelites worship other gods. They love to eat the raisin cakes.”
Hosea, although he is her husband, has to pay the price to get his bride back. You see, it is widely believed that Gomer was enslaved as a prostitute and was on the auction block. Hosea walked up to see his wife, his bride, most likely naked, and displayed to be bid upon. Hosea 3:2 NIV “ So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. 3 Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.”
Hosea paid fifteen pieces of silver plus a large amount of barley. The barley that was given in trade was also worth about fifteen pieces of silver. Fifteen pieces of silver plus the value of the barley which happens to be worth another fifteen pieces of silver equals thirty pieces of silver.
Matthew 26:14 NKJV “Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. 16 So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.”
Jesus was sent to the cross to buy us off the auction block, to cover over the nakedness of our sins with His blood of righteousness. And yet, He was the One who was sold out for thirty pieces of silver. We are the ones in need of His redemptive love because we continue to enslave ourselves to our sinful nature. We, like Gomer, needed a Savior. We needed Jesus to redeem us, to buy us back.
Gomer was Hosea’s wife. She should have been exclusively his. They had a covenant marriage but because she had not been faithful, Hosea had to sacrifice and purchase her back. Likewise, we are created by God and created for a purpose specifically molded for us and we should be exclusively His. The auction has been held and the price was paid to bring us back to Him where we belong.
My heart hurts for Hosea. This was a real man who surrendered all to God in order to demonstrate the unfaithfulness of God’s people and the unrelenting love and mercy God has for them.
Ephesians 1:5 NLT “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”
One of my favorite books is a modern-day story of Hosea and Gomer. It’s called Redeeming Love written by Francine Rivers. It’s only appropriate we end with a quote from her book.
[vii] Explore the Bible, T.J. Betts & Liz Sherrer