Hosea – Week Two
Last week, we left with heartbroken Hosea who had to purchase his wife Gomer off the auction block. Hosea, as we discussed, was chosen by God to actually live out the painful example of a one-sided relationship. We don’t hear any more about Gomer. Her written story ends in chapter 3 with her being redeemed by Hosea. But Hosea, the man whose wife was unfaithful and publicly lived a life of promiscuity was then given the mission of delivering God’s message to the unfaithful and promiscuous Israelites.
In thinking of the prophets we’ve recently discussed, Amos was told to GO TO the Northern Kingdom. Jonah was told to GO TO Nineveh. Both left their hometowns to deliver messages of harsh accusations and warnings. But Hosea was told to stay in his hometown and GO MARRY a prostitute. After he does so, Hosea is given a message to deliver to his neighbors, priests, and the people with whom he possibly interacted on a frequent basis. Keep in mind as we read the words Hosea is given to speak, he stands as a man who has been humiliated, and devastated in his own hometown but is still obedient to the Lord. His wife’s betrayal and promiscuity along with his humiliation, his devastation, as well as his act of forgiveness would surely have been the town’s favorite bit of gossip.
Hosea 4:1 ERV “People of Israel, listen to the Lord’s message. The Lord has something to say against those who live in this land: “The people in this land are not honest or loyal. They don’t really know God. 2 They are always cursing, lying, killing, stealing, and committing adultery. They murder one person after another.”
Those wouldn’t have been easy words for Hosea to speak. Not honest or loyal. That words describe his very own wife. Committing adultery-an epidemic in which his wife participated. And everyone would have known that. But everyone would have also known how Hosea exercised forgiveness towards Gomer and paid a price to release her from captivity.
Hosea 5:2 ICB “You have done many bad things.
So I will punish you all.
3 I know all about Israel.
What they have done is not hidden from me.
They all act like prostitutes.
Israel has made itself unclean.”
Hosea 5:7 ICB “They have not been true to the Lord.
Their children do not belong to him.
So their false worship
will destroy them and their land.”
How Hosea must have felt delivering these words. We can only imagine because we’re never told how Hosea feels. We’re only told that he obeyed God. He was a good man, apparently, one of the few good men of the day, and yet, God called on him to live a symbolic life of suffering, humiliation, and heartbreak. Sometimes, that’s the way it is. We are commissioned by God to go through periods of suffering so that we can be used for His purpose. Those times are often thought of in terms of how WE FEEL or FELT about them rather than how we obeyed God and served His purpose.
1 Peter 4:1-2 TLB “Since Christ suffered and underwent pain, you must have the same attitude he did; you must be ready to suffer, too. For remember, when your body suffers, sin loses its power, 2 and you won’t be spending the rest of your life chasing after evil desires but will be anxious to do the will of God.”
Hosea’s home life, struggles, and heartbreak would have given a deeper meaning to the words he was given to speak. He could certainly identify with what God was saying and I can imagine that he spoke with passion and sincerity based on his own personal experiences. The betrayal and disloyalty are followed by forgiveness and redemption. Hosea’s genuineness causes his listeners to respond.
Hosea 6:1 ICB “Come, let us return to the Lord;
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him.
3 Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.”
It would seem that the message got through to them. They pledge to return to the Lord which indicates that they once had a close relationship with Him. You can’t return to a place in which you’ve never been. They vowed to return to the Lord with confidence that He will heal them, revive them, and refresh them. But there’s something missing. There is no repentance, there is no shame or guilt in what they’ve done. There’s no asking God to forgive them. In essence, there’s no sincerity in their vow. And God knows it. He addressed both the Northern Kingdom (referred to as Ephraim) and the Southern Kingdom (named Judah).
Hosea 6:4 MEV “What shall I do to you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do to you, O Judah?”
If you ever had a parent say to you, “What am I going to do with you?!” you knew they were at the end of their patience with you. Those were not good words to hear from a person in authority.
Hosea 6:4b“Your faithfulness is like a morning cloud,
and like the early dew it goes away.
5 Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets.
I have killed them by the words of My mouth,
and My judgments go forth like light.
6 For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice,
and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”
In other translations, that last verse is worded several different ways.
Hosea 6:6 NLT “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.”
Hosea 6:6 NASB “For I desire loyalty rather than sacrifice, And the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
Hosea 6:6 ASV “For I desire goodness, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings.”
Hosea 6:6 GNT “I want your constant love, not your animal sacrifices. I would rather have my people know me than burn offerings to me.”
Hosea 6:6 MSG “I’m after love that lasts, not more religion.
I want you to know God, not go to more prayer meetings.”
“At best, the people of Israel and Judah misunderstood the sacrificial system. Or at worst, they used it as a way to try to manipulate God. The sacrifices were to be outward expressions of an inward reality, expressions of devotion to God.” This doesn’t mean that expressions of worship outlined in the Old Testament were wrong. Rather, the people were using them in the wrong way. For example, going to church, singing worship songs, and giving an offering are good things when done as expressions of love and devotion to the Lord. But doing these things is an affront to God when they are done for selfish, deceitful reasons, when it’s about what we can get from God rather than our expressions of love for Him.”[i]
The Israelites were half-heartedly going through some of the motions, carrying out some of the activities that were expected of them. Sacrificing, giving offerings, and attending religious ceremonies, but that’s where their interaction with God ended. They probably thought they were meeting their requirements; instead, they were missing out on the biggest part of being God’s chosen people. They no longer communicated with God; they didn’t listen for His voice; they didn’t seek His direction, and there was no genuine relationship.
They treated Him like we treat the IRS. We do what we’re supposed to do, and we pay what we’re supposed to pay, but by golly, we look long and hard for loopholes and exemptions to keep us from giving any more than we have to.
The Israelites had gotten to a point where their interactions and their activities involving God became routine and robotic. The same can be said for some of us at times. We attend church on a fairly regular basis, we may read a devotion or even the Bible daily if we’re feeling especially “spiritual”. We tithe. We bless our food. We promise to pray for those in need. We “do” some of what we’re supposed to “do” because we know we’re supposed to. But would you agree that we don’t always have sincerity or a deep-rooted love behind our actions? We may be able to fool some people with our hollowness, but we’ll never fool God.
Hosea 6:6 tells us what God desires and wants from us. He wants mercy, loyalty, goodness, and constant and lasting love rather than our sacrifices. He wants us to invest in knowing Him rather than just bringing Him our offerings. God tries to get us to understand that we have to begin our purpose-driven life starting with a genuine love for Him. Then everything else falls into place as it should.
Many years after Hosea, there’s an exchange that takes place when the Pharisees were attempting to entrap Jesus with tricky questions. We’re all familiar with the question that was posed and the answer that Jesus gave.
Matthew 22:35b TLB “One of them, a lawyer, spoke up: 36 “Sir, which is the most important command in the laws of Moses?”
37 Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.’ 38-39 This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: ‘Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.’ 40 All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets stem from these two laws and are fulfilled if you obey them. Keep only these and you will find that you are obeying all the others.”
Every week, we are given 168 hours. That’s a total of 10,080 minutes. Let’s just assume you get 8 hours of sleep every day. That would leave you with a total of 6,720 minutes or 112 hours from Sunday to Sunday. What percentage of that time are you living for God? I’m not really talking about attending church, reading your Bible, and participating in religious activities such as Bible study groups, etc. although those are important. I’m talking more about the day-to-day routines that we have. Are we being always loyal and faithful to God by demonstrating mercy, goodness, and love toward others?
Hosea was only able to love Gomer, be good to her, and be merciful to her because he first loved God. Knowing God and being obedient to Him was the only way in which Hosea could do what he did. The story of Hosea and Gomer is startling and shocking to us because we have a difficult time understanding that kind of mercy and love and forgiveness. We flex our spiritual connection to God when we are in need, but we certainly let our human side, our sinful self, take the reins when it comes to showing mercy and offering forgiveness to those we deem unworthy.
Jesus would quote Hosea in the book of Matthew. Matthew 9:9 ICB “9 When Jesus was leaving, he saw a man named Matthew. Matthew was sitting in the tax office. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew stood up and followed Jesus.
10 Jesus had dinner at Matthew’s house. Many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with Jesus and his followers. 11 The Pharisees saw this and asked Jesus’ followers, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
12 Jesus heard the Pharisees ask this. So he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor. Only the sick need a doctor. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I want faithful love more than I want animal sacrifices.’ I did not come to invite good people. I came to invite sinners.”
Being faithful and obedient to God requires us to show love, mercy, goodness, and forgiveness to others. Without that, our sacrifices, our offerings to Him don’t mean very much. Matthew 5:23 NLT “23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”
I was in third grade. It was Valentine’s Day. We were about to open our exchanged Valentine’s Day cards that were in our boxes that we had all made with construction paper, scented markers, and Elmer’s glue. Sugar cookies and Kool-Aid in little Dixie cups sat on the table. And then it happened. He walked up to me, handed me a small jewelry box, and just smiled. I was shocked. I hadn’t expected this. I nervously took the box and opened it to find a dainty gold necklace. I was beside myself. I couldn’t wait to put the necklace on. It only took a moment for me as that little girl to envision the 8 or 9-year-old boy standing in front of her as a groom waiting at the altar. He was red-headed and had the cutest grin. In my mind, in that moment, I was fully prepared to commit myself to him for life. This gift of a gold necklace was the most meaningful gift I had ever received.
I put the necklace on, with the help of our teacher. He had walked away after I had opened it and was gathered with a couple of other boys who were all trying to cram entire sugar cookies into their mouths.
We went outside for recess some time later. I shyly made my way to who I now considered to be “my future husband” and told him how beautiful and special I thought the necklace was. He gave me that precious grin, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “Sure. My mom made me give it to you.” And then he took off running towards the monkey bars. I stood there, tears welling up in my eyes as my heart began to break.
The gold necklace wasn’t a sincere gift. It wasn’t something he wanted to give me; but rather it was something his mother told him to do. Suddenly, the necklace wasn’t as pretty and it certainly wasn’t special because there had been no affection behind it.
Our third-grade romance didn’t exist. It was an illusion. Even though he had gifted me with a sweet token on a special day, it meant nothing. As far as he was concerned, he was simply the delivery boy.
It’s funny how all these years later, I can still remember how hurt, disappointed, and betrayed I felt standing there on the playground. The gift that I treasured for such a short period of time was meaningless. He gave it to me only because he was told to do so and that stripped away any feelings of endearment that I may have felt toward him.
I don’t know if you’ve shared a similar experience of receiving an insincere, thoughtless gift but it’s not a good feeling even if you’re in the 3rd grade. It’s especially hurtful when it comes from someone you care about or love.
I hadn’t thought of that story in many, many years but it came flooding back as if it had happened just yesterday. I thought of all the times I’ve given my tithes or made a special offering, the hours I’ve spent studying for the lesson or doing Bible study homework. I thought of the activities or deeds I’ve done because I thought that’s what God would want from me. But then I couldn’t help but think of the times when I was “doing” for God but doing it without thoughtfulness or sincerity. And I cringe when I think of the times I’ve done things in order to make amends with God to try to manipulate Him.
Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea. She betrayed him. She hurt him. She most likely lied to him. She took advantage of him. She was deserving of being left on that auction block, stripped and naked, humiliated and abandoned, but Hosea was able to love her, redeem her, and forgive her because He knew God and he loved God faithfully.
Is there a Gomer in your life? Someone who has betrayed you or hurt you? Someone who has taken advantage of you and who is most unworthy of your attention, your love, and your forgiveness?
God wants you to really know Him, and to genuinely love Him. The result of that will be like Hosea’s. You’ll be able to show mercy, goodness, and forgiveness far beyond what you can imagine.
“People may not read the Bible, but they’ll read the Christian!”Unknown
So, what will your story read like this week?
[i] Experience the Bible, T.J. Betts, Liz Sherrer