"The Holy God Who Doesn’t Punish Sin" Hosea 11:8-9

The testimony of Scripture is overwhelming in its statements of God’s holiness. For the Hebrew, the way to emphasize something was to repeat it. In the New Testament, we read of Jesus saying, “Verily, Verily,…” and we know that He is drawing special attention to what he is about to say. The Bible never says that God is “Love, love, love”; “Eternal, eternal, eternal”; or “Mercy, mercy, mercy”. It only records the angels of God, that continuously worship God in heaven, as saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty” (Rev. 4:8; Isa. 6:3).

In his classic book The Existence and Attributes of God, Stephen Charnock noted God’s holiness “is the crown of all His attributes, the life of all His decrees, the brightness of all His actions. Nothing is decreed by Him, nothing is acted by Him, but what is worthy of the dignity, and becoming the honour, of this attribute” (p. 452). The holiness of the Lord is awesome, fearful, and majestic. David wrote, “Holy and reverend is His name” (Ps. 111:9). In her song of thanksgiving Hannah prayed, “There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.” (1 Sam. 2:2) Moses and the sons of Israel said of God, “Who is like thee, glorious in holiness,” (Ex. 15:11).

What does it mean to be holy? Charles Hodge explains:

This is a general term for the moral excellence of God…. Holiness, on the one hand, implies entire freedom from moral evil and, on the other, absolute moral perfection. Freedom from impurity is the primary idea of the word (Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, 150-151).

Simply put, God is without sin. He doesn’t conform to some holy standard – He is the standard. He never does anything wrong. There are no degrees to His holiness, for He is perfectly holy.

God is holy! This truth causes the greatest of all problems for God. How shall God forgive and pardon the sinner and remain holy? This is our greatest problem. He is holy; we are unholy. It is our unholiness that separates us from Our holy God. Because He is holy He cannot even look upon our sin, much less provide a home for us to live forever with Him.

This is why it comes as such a shock to read Hosea 11:9 which speaks of a God who is Holy, but does not punish sin! Let’s read from Hosea 11:8-9.

“How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboiim? My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred. 9 I will not execute the fierceness of My anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim. For I am God, and not man, The Holy One in your midst; And I will not come with terror.

The words of these verses come as a shock since almost everything in Hosea up to this point has emphasized God’s judgment against Israel’s idolatrous acts of spiritual adultery.

The contrast is between God’s destruction of the cities of the plain in Genesis 19 (Sodom and Gomorrah). Both Admah and Zeboiim are mentioned in Genesis 14 as allies of Sodom and Gomorrah in the war in which Lot was taken captive (when Uncle Abraham had to come and rescue him).

At the end of verse 9, God says that he will, literally, “not enter into the city” (KJV) which many translations rightly understand to mean that He will not come with “terror” (NKJV) or “wrath” (ESV). Again the contrast is with the cities of the plain which God did enter with terror and wrath in Genesis 19.

But it is the reason which God gives for why He will not “execute the fierceness of His anger,” “destroy Ephraim,” or “come with terror” which really caused this text to grab my attention.

How can the fact that God is God and not man be a reason why He doesn’t judge Israel. Matthew Henry helps somewhat when he writes,

If they had offended a man like themselves, he would not, he could not have borne it; his passion would have overpowered his compassion, and he would have executed the fierceness of his anger; but I am God, and not man. He is Lord of his anger, whereas men’s anger commonly lords it over them. If an earthly prince were in such a strait between justice and mercy, he would be at a loss how to compromise the matter between them; but he who is God, and not man, knows how to find out an expedient to secure the honour of his justice and yet advance the honour of his mercy.

John Piper also has wonderfully summarized God’s solution in this way:

The wisdom of God has devised a way for the love of God to satisfy the wrath of God without compromising the justice of God.

No place is this solution clearer than in Romans 3:21-26. The solution to the predicament of God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness is found in the fact that 2,000 years ago, God became man and “dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14). The Holy One came into our midst. He lived a perfect sinless life for 30+ years before going to the cross and bearing all of God’s wrath for the sins of all who would ever trust in Him.

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

The word propitiation refers to the satisfaction of the wrath of God. Some no longer want to talk about the wrath of God, but it is taught in Scripture (Rom. 1:18) and the good news is that God has satisfied His own wrath “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation”. By the way, every religion has a doctrine of propitiation. But all other religions teach that man must propitiate God (satisfy God’s wrath). Instead, this verse (v. 25) teaches that God has propitiated Himself (satisfied His own wrath). How? Through the death of Christ Jesus! “In His blood”

Leviticus 17:11 states,

For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.

So the word “propitiation” means the satisfaction of God’s wrath. The Greek word used here is the same word used in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) to refer to the “mercy seat.” The “mercy seat” was the covering to the ark of the covenant that was found in the holy of holies of the tabernacle in the wilderness and later the temple in Jerusalem. This was the place where once a year on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would enter with the blood of an animal and sprinkle that blood on the mercy seat. This was done to symbolize God’s wrath toward Israel’s sin being satisfied. Therefore in Romans 3:25 what we see is that Jesus Christ is set forth by God to be our mercy seat, the place where God’s wrath was finally and fully satisfied!

On Him Almighty vengeance fell,
That would have sunk a world to hell.
He bore it for a chosen race,
And thus becomes our Hiding Place.

This is how sinful human beings can be forgiven by a Holy God! The death of Jesus Christ!

The second half of v. 25 and v. 26 show that Christ’s death not only allows sinful humans to be justified, it also allows a holy God to forgive sin and remain just. You say, “I don’t see the problem.” Here’s the problem. If a judge allows a convicted criminal to go free without paying a fine or serving a day in jail, you would say that that judge is unjust. What if God allowed sin to go unpunished? Then God would be unjust. But the cross enables God to forgive our sins and remain just, because He still punished sin. Where? On Jesus!

I will not fear Your judgment
For me no wrath I dread
For it was spent on Jesus
Poured out upon His head
When Satan’s accusations
Make my poor heart afraid
I hear my King declaring
“Father, that debt is paid!”
“Jesus, My Only Hope” by Mark Altrogge.

In other words, the reason why God could remain Holy while not utterly destroying Israel is that there was coming a day in which He would destroy His only begotten Son! The reason that God could remain Holy and not rain fire and brimstone down on the cities of Israel was that on the cross of Calvary the Father would rain down all His wrath toward the sins of the elect upon His own Son!

The good news is that although you and I deserve to experience God’s wrath for our sins, God poured out His wrath on His own Son that we might be spared!

Hosea 11:9 makes absolutely no sense without the cross! Neither does 1 John 1:9 which states that:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

It makes absolutely no sense how God can be both “faithful and just to forgive us our sins,” if Christ did not die on the cross of Calvary to bear our punishment. Otherwise, for God to be “faithful and just” would mean that He must punish our sins! But because Christ has already borne the punishment for our sins, God would be unfaithful and unjust to punish us for our sins! God will not punish the same sins twice! Therefore, He is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins” because Christ died!

There is coming a day of judgment. The only ones who will be spared on that day are those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as the place where God fully and finally satisfied His own anger toward their sin. God will be holy and just! He will punish sin! In God’s universe there is no such thing as an unpunished sin. The question is whether you will bear you own sin forever in hell? or, Will you acknowledge that Jesus Christ bore your punishment for you already?

"Out of Egypt Have I Called My Son": A Biblical Theology of Sonship

In Hosea’s sermon recorded in chapter 11, the familiar themes of God’s judgment, the need for repentance and hope of restoration are found. But additionally there is in this text a window into the larger story of God’s plan of redemption.

There are certain texts of Scripture which provide portals into this grand story of the Bible. Such a text is Hosea 11:1. Here we are given a glimpse into the larger story of whi;ch the story of Hosea is a part. The clue to this is that the inspired writer Matthew wrote in his gospel in 2:15 that when Jesus was carried by his parents to Egypt for his safety as an infant, his subsequent return out of Egypt fulfills Hosea 11:1. In Matthew 2:15, Matthew provides not only a model for interpreting Hosea 11:1, but the entire Old Testament.

Matthew interprets Hosea in the same way that Hosea interprets the Exodus. In Hosea, Israel is going back to Egypt in judgment (which typifies the impending captivity in Assyria), but a future day of restoration is coming: a new Exodus. As Matthew looks back at the Exodus through Hosea, he says that new exodus has come with the coming of Christ!

In this morning’s message I would like to offer a biblical theology of sonship. This could be understood as falling under “The Bible is the story of a special people.” in my sermon series on the story of the Bible.

I. Adam – God’s Son through Physical Creation, Genesis 1:26-27.
In Genesis 1:26-27, man is said to have been created in the image of God.

Genesis 1:26-27 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

For this reason, Luke is able to call Adam “the son of God” in his genealogy of Jesus found in Luke 3:38. Likewise, all human beings share in this image of God and can be called the sons of God in that sense. There is a truth in the universal Fatherhood of God which the liberals often speak of, but it is only a partial truth (therefore an untruth). God is the Father of all men through creation, but that won’t get anyone to heaven. You must become the sons of God through the new birth in order to go to heaven!

The fact that all mankind can be considered the sons of God gives the apostle Paul common ground upon which to speak in his sermon to the Greek philosophers at Mar’s Hill in Acts 17. There he said:

Acts 17:28-29 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.

Paul elsewhere clearly states that mankind bears the image of Adam who bore the image of God, albeit imperfectly.

1 Corinthians 15:49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.

For this reason James appeals to the image of God that remains in man post-fall in James 3:8-9 by saying that we should not curse men “who have been made in the similitude of God.”

II. Israel – God’s Son through National Election, Exodus 4:22.
But there is another sense in which Scripture speaks of this idea of sonship. In Exodus 4, Jehovah God is sending Moses back to Egypt to lead His people out of bondage and into the land of promise. God tells Moses to tell Pharaoh in vv. 22 and 23:

‘Thus says the LORD: “Israel is My son, My firstborn. 23 “So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn.”

This is no doubt what Hosea has in mind in Hosea 11:1 when he says, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son.” Israel, God’s firstborn son, was called out of Egypt at the Exodus.

But not only is the nation of Israel corporately spoken of as God’s son, but King David himself is promised that he would have a descendant who would be called “son” by God in 2 Samuel 7:12-14,

When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 “He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 “I will be his Father, and he shall be My son.

And Isaiah raises the ante by saying that this “son” will be virgin born and called “God with us”!

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

This “Child”, this “Son” is nothing less than the “mighty God,” the ruler whose kingdom will never end!

Isaiah 9:6-7 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

III. Jesus – God’s Son through Eternal Generation, Matthew 2:15.
Jesus is qualified to be called the son of God by virtue of his human birth. The genealogies of Matthew and Luke serve to show that Jesus is the son of David, Abraham and Adam. He is the descendant of Adam and therefore the son of God by physical creation as the only true man who ever lived. He is the descendent of Abraham and therefore the son of God through national election as the true seed of Abraham. He is the descendant of David and therefore heir to the throne of Israel and the title promised to David’s seed as son!

I believe that Matthew 2:15 is one of the hinges upon which the whole story of the Bible turns. This text ties together the theme of sonship found in both testaments. There Matthew writes:

Matthew 2:14-15 When he [Joseph] arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

Commentators on both Hosea and Matthew agree:

Not surprisingly the infant Christ, who summed up in His person all that Israel was called to be, was likewise threatened and delivered; and although the details differed, the early pattern was re-enacted in its essentials, ending with God’s Son restore to God’s land to fulfil the task marked out for Him (Derek Kidner, Hosea, 101-102).

Just as God brought the nation of Israel to inaugurate his original covenant with them, so again God is bringing the Messiah, who fulfills the hopes of Israel, out of Israel, out of Egypt as he is about to inaugurate his new covenant (Craig Blomberg, Matthew in NAC, 67).

Note the parallels between Jesus’ life and Israel’s experience in Matthew 1-7.
• A wicked ruler
• Murdered infants
• Sojourn in Egypt
• Departure from Egypt
• Baptism Jordan River / Passing through Red Sea
• Temptation in Wilderness
• Sermon on Mount (New Covenant) / Mount Sinai (Old Covenant)

But if Israel failed in the Wilderness to obey the demands of the Old Covenant, Jesus succeeded. As D.A. Carson has noted:

In fact, Jesus is often presented in the New Testament as the antitype of Israel; that is, the true and perfect Israel who does not fail. If Israel is likened to a vine that produces disgusting fruit (Isa. 5), Jesus is the true vine who brings forth good fruit (John 15). If Israel wandered in the wilderness 40 years and was frequently disobedient in the course of many trials and temptations, Jesus was sorely tempted in the wilderness for 40 days, but was perfectly obedient (Matt. 4:1-11). Israel in the Old Testament is the Lord’s son (Exod. 4:22, 23; Jer. 31:9); but Jesus, Himself a son of Israel, indeed a son of David, was supremely the Son of God; and therefore He re-enacted or recapitulated something of the history of the “son” (the nation of Israel) whose very existence pointed forward to Him (D.A. Carson, God With Us: Themes from Matthew, 18).

Note also the theme of sonship in Matthew 3:17-4:4.

Grame Goldsworthy has likewise noted:

Jesus is looked upon as both the ideal Adam and the ideal Israel-that is, He is the people of God, the Seed of Abraham to whom all promises were made (see Gal. 3:16). Jesus as the Son of Adam (Son of man) accomplishes that which Adam failed to do; and likewise, as the true Israel, He does what Israel failed to do. Thus the temptation narratives show the reversal of Satan’s conquest of Adam in the garden and of Israel in the wilderness.

If Jesus is the true people of God, the true Adam and the true Israel, all the prophecies concerning the restoration of Israel to be the people of God must have their fulfillment in Him.
(From an online article titled “The Kingdom of God and the Old Testament“)

But there is much more to Jesus’ sonship than merely physical descent from Adam, Abraham and David. Jesus is the eternally begotten Son of God. The eternal second person of the Trinity. He did not become the Son of God at Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. He has been the Son of God throughout all eternity. What I’m saying is that there was never a time when the Son was not!

The reason this is difficult for us to comprehend is because our human experience is quite different. Human fathers always precede their sons in time. But the Heavenly Father has eternally begotten His Son! The testimony of Scripture is clear:

John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

Likewise, the “I Am” statements of the Gospel of John are Jesus’ own declarations of His own eternal self-existence. Most clearly Jesus’ response to the Pharisees in John 8:58 declares “Before Abraham was, I am.” This is the contrast between the Son of God and all humans. Humans were, but Jesus is!

In Malachi 3:6 the Father declares, “For I am the LORD, I do not change.” and the inspired author of Hebrews likewise declares of the Son in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” The Son is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father!

IV. Believer’s – God’s Sons through Spiritual Regeneration, John 1:12-13.
The wonder of wonders is that we, the fallen sons of Adam, can be called the sons of God! Not in the same sense in which the 2nd Person of the Trinity is the Son of God, but in relationship with Him we become heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ!

Galatians 3:26-29 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 4:4-7 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

1 John 3:1-2 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

John 1:12-13 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

How do you know if you are one of God’s children? The evidence according to John 1:12 and 13 is reception of Him and belief in His name (which is the totality of His Person and Work). Have you received Him? Have you believed in His Name?

Divine Warnings are a Divine Mercy

Sow for yourselves righteousness;
Reap in mercy;
Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the LORD,
Till He comes and rains righteousness on you. Hosea 10:12

This is the only command of Hosea’s message to the nation of Israel in chapter 10. It is a divine imperative to repentance. Israel has “plowed wickedness and reaped iniquity” (v. 13). Now they are being called upon to “sow . . . righteousness” that they might “reap in mercy.” This is nothing less than a call to repentance! This call to repentance is also expressed as a command to “Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD, til He comes and rains righteousness on you.” Fallow ground refers to a once plowed field which has set untended for some time. The ground has now hardened and is in need of being re-plowed. It is the image of a farmer who has plowed a field in view of planting a crop, but for whatever reason the field is left untended for a number of years and will have to be broken up again before anything can be planted in it.

I think two categories need to hear Hosea’s command in this text: the youth and the adults.
  • Young People! Break up your fallow ground now while your hearts are still relatively tender, not yet hardened by sin. The wisest man who ever lived wrote in Ecclessiastes 12 to remember your Creator in the days of your youth!
  • Older Adults! Your hearts are fallow! Many seasons have come and gone and your hearts are growing harder each year. Repent now before its too late!
Divine warnings are a mercy because they urge us to repent in order to escape God’s judgment. This is nowhere seen more clearly than in the story of Jonah going to preach judgment to Ninevah. He did not even mention the possibility of pardon, but the warning served its function in producing repentance and God’s judgment was averted.

The irony of history is that wicked Assyria (for Ninevah was the capitol city of Assyria) repented at the preaching of Jonah, but religious Israel refused to repent at the preaching of Hosea! If Israel would have repented, she would have reaped mercy (as did Assyria). But they did not and destruction was their destiny.

Today, you stand where both Assyria and Israel stood! Repent and you will be spared! Sow righteousness! Reap in mercy!

During the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe vaults in churches were used to store gunpowder. But churches also featured steeples or bell towers making them especially susceptible to lightning strikes. You don’t have to be a scientist to know that this is a deadly combination! In 1769 in Brescia, Italy a lightning strike, fire and gunpowder explosion killed 3,000 people. A similar lightning strike and explosion happened on the island of Rhodes in 1856 and killed 4,000 (see WORLD Magazine article by Marvin Olasky “Pride and Fall” from August 5, 2006) .

Looking back its easy to be amazed at the folly of this practice from the 18th and 19th centuries. We are way to smart today in the 21st century to do anything like that, or are we? May I suggest that those living unrepentant lives are living much more dangerously! But we foolishly think that because the lightning hasn’t struck yet, that it never will. But be sure, it will! It is appointed to man, once to die and after this the judgment! You will reap what you sow! Then it will be too late. It will be harvest time!

The Second Greatest Love Story Ever (Exposition of Hosea 3:1-5)

The story of Hosea’s love for Gomer is second only to the story which it illustrates: the story of Yahweh’s love for the nation of Israel! But to say that this is a love story raises the question of the defintion of love. So, what is love?

Most people today have been influenced by Hollywood and Nashville to believe that love is either only erotic or romantic. But genuine love is not merely a feeling or physical attration. Though, thankfully, love can include those things, but love must be more than this baser elements.

We use the word “love” so flippantly today. It used to describe everything from our favorite food to our lifelong companion. Love surely doesn’t mean the same thing in all of these situations. But real love is on display in this chapter in the story of Hosea’s love for Gomer which is itself a reflection of God’s love for Israel. This love is shown in chapter 3 to be a reclaiming love, a redeeming love, a renewing love and a restoring love.

Then the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the LORD for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.” 2 So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley. 3 And I said to her, “You shall stay with me many days; you shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man–so, too, will I be toward you.” 4 For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim. 5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They shall fear the LORD and His goodness in the latter days.

I. Reclaiming Love, v. 1
In verse one we see that God’s love for the nation of Israel is a reclaiming love. The LORD commands Hosea to “Go again” and “love a woman” who “is committing adultery”. This, He says, is what my love for adulterous Israel looks like!

Notice that the word “love” or a derivation thereof is used four times in this verse. Three of these four times the word “love” has a different connotation. The only time when the meaning is shared is Hosea’s love for Gomer and Yahweh’s love for Israel. In the first instance, Hosea is commanded to love his adulterous wife. In this case, the verb love means to persistently pursue. It probably does not mean to feel fond of or be physically attracted to, but to actively show love in reclaiming an adulterous wife from a life of sin. This is the same kind of love that Yahweh has for the children of Israel who are also adulterous in their pursuit of false gods.

In the second instance, Gomer is said to be loved by a lover. Here the meaning is no doubt an erotic or sexual love. This is clarified in the next phrase as this action is described as adultery.

In the final instance, the children of Israel are said to “love” the raisin cakes of the pagans. There is a different here in some translations. The Hebrew text simply says that they loved the grapes. Some interpret this as a reference to grapes that have been turned into wine. Most, however, believe this to be a reference to dried grapes “raisins” that have been pressed together into cakes. These “raisin cakes” were often used in pagan worship.

Now we see the depth of the folly of Israel’s idolatry. They have forsaken the persistent, pursuing, faithful love of their rightful husband to commit spiritual adultery with a false god and love for Little Debbies©! What a contrast! God loves Israel with an everlasting active love, but Israel loves “raisin cakes”! This is the folly that Jeremiah speaks of in Jeremiah 2:11-13,

Has a nation changed its gods, Which are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory For what does not profit. 12 Be astonished, O heavens, at this, And be horribly afraid; Be very desolate,” says the LORD. 13 “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns — broken cisterns that can hold no water.

What folly!!! Forsaking the eternal God of glory for that which “does not profit”! Yet, this is what Israel did! And, it is exactly what you and I do! When we allow our “love” for anything replace our love for God Himself! Yet God’s love sought them out!!! God’s love is faithful!!!

II. Redeeming Love, v. 2.
Not only is God’s love for His people a reclaiming love, it is also a redeeming love! Not many details are given here, but from what is stated we can assume that Gomer has become a slave!

There were three main ways in which one could become a slave in that day: by conquest, birth or debt. You were either enslaved as a defeated enemy, born to parents who were slaves, or you had become so indebted that you were sold as a slave to pay off your debts. This final way is the way in which Gomer had become a slave. This is how low she has fallen. From being the wife of a prophet of God to being sold as a common slave at an auction.

Gomer’s sin had truly taken her further than she wanted to go, cost her more than she wanted to pay, and kept her longer than she wanted to stay! She now found herself up for auction on a slave market. We can surmise this based upon the word that is used for “bought” is a word that is used for haggling over a price or bidding. We can also assume that Gomer was being bought at a slave auction by the price that was paid. In Exodus 21:32, the price of a slave is set at 30 shekels of silver. Here the price is 15 shekels of silver with the rest of the price being made up in grain (a homer and a half of barley). This would probably have equaled the worth of 15 shekels of silver. But the price given indicates that Hosea may have given everything to purchase his wife back. He bids all his shekels of silver, then all his barley. Everything of value that he has is given in order to redeem his wayward wife. Can you hear the bidding? After the bidding reaches 15 shekels of silver, I can imagine Hosea in desperation to obey God’s command to again love his adulterous wife, cries out with a price that ends the bidding: “Fifteen shekels and a homer and a half of barley!” “Going once, going twice, . . . Sold!”

What a beautiful picture we see here of Christ’s redemption of sinners. You and I were as low as we could go. We were on that slave market of sin, but Jesus Christ gave His all to redeem us. He didn’t pay 15 shekels and a homer and a half of barley, but His own precious and costly blood! As Peter says in 1 Peter 1:18-19,

Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

This is redeeming love that has been shown to us in Christ (John 3:16 and Romans 5:8)! 1 John 3:16 says, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.”

III. Renewing Love, vv. 3-4.
In these verses we see that Yahweh’s love for Israel is not only a reclaiming and redeeming love, it is also a renewing love.

Verse three records what Hosea told Gomer after redeeming her from the slave market. He essentially says that she will live with him in the same house, but they will not resume their intimate relationship immediately. Instead there will be a period of “many days” of purity. This is a time of celibacy. It is not to last forever, but for “many days”. Afterwards, we can assume, normal relations between Hosea and Gomer as husband and wife would resume. This seems a little too personal for us to be talking about, doesn’t it? Well, more is going on here than the private love life of Hosea and Gomer. Verse four explains the significance of the period of abstinence from the marital bed of Hosea and Gomer.

This period of marital celibacy, like everything else in Hosea’s marriage, is used by God to illustrate His relationship with the children of Israel. The children of Israel will also experience a period characterized by a lack of intimacy. Verse four states that they will be for “many days” without proper rulers “king or prince”, without proper worship “sacrifice” or “ephod”, and without improper worship, i.e. idolatry “sacred pillar” or “teraphim”. This is a proper description of Israel’s history. Without leadership (there has not been a king since before Christ), without priesthood (there has not been a priesthood or sacrificial system since the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70), and without idolatry (for all Israel’s rejection of Jesus Christ, they have not fallen back into idolatry). This is the period in Israel’s history described by the apostle Paul in Romans 11:25 in these words:

For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

But yet there is hope! In verse four we see that this period is for “many days” not eternity and in Romans 11:25 we see that this blindness has happened “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” In other words, things will change one day. This is because God’s love is not only a reclaiming, redeeming and renewing love, it is also a restoring love!

IV. Restoring Love, v. 5.
“Afterward . . .”! The children of Israel will be restored by the love of God. Not necessarily as a political entity, but as the people of God engrafted together into the one tree of Romans 11 together with Gentiles. There will be a restoration. This is described in Romans 11:25-32,

For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. (26) And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: (27) For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. (28) As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. (29) For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. (30) For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: (31) Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. (32) For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

This is also described by the LORD Himself through the prophet Zechariah in Zechariah 12:10 as follows:

And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.

This will happen at the return of Christ, when Israel sees their Messiah in all of His resurrected glory returning in the clouds. Then every living Jew will believe and be united together with all believers (Jews and Gentiles) throughout history in the body of Christ. A few verses later in Zechariah 13:1 we are told:

In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.

This is the fountain described by the hymn writer William Cowper as “a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.” This is what all who have ever believed have experienced and it is what Israel will one day experience when their Messiah appears to them again in all His glory!

No wonder Paul concludes his meditation on this event with the doxology of Romans 11:33-36:

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! (34) For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? (35) Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? (36) For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

What is our response to the reclaiming, redeeming, renewing and restoring love of Yahweh? There are two main responses that we should have:

The first response should be a recognition that our allegiances doubly belong to the God who has created and redeemed us! We belong to Him twice! He made us and bought us back! As Isaac Watts wrote: “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all!!!”

The second response should be anticipation for the day when Christ returns. Turmoil in the Middle East will end. It could be today when Christ appears and vanquishes all His enemies, restores His people and establishes His everlasting kingdom! What a thrill to know that God’s love will be triumphant over all!

An Unfaithful Wife and Mother (Exposition of Hosea 2:2-23)

Our culture today has glamorized adultery and prostitution on both the big and small screen. Most movies or television shows that deal with the subject manipulate the audience into identifying with the poor, misunderstood individual who is forced by circumstances, an abusive spouse or an uncontrollable passion to commit adultery. In many cases, the sin has been so glorified that the viewer in the end is rooting for the illicit relationship to take place! What a different picture we find in the book of Hosea. Here we see sin as it really is, in all its ugliness! There is no glamorization of adultery and prostitution in these pages. Instead we see what the movies rarely show: the dreadful consequences of sin.

In chapter 1, we saw the story of the prophet and the prostitute (the man, the marriage and the message). In chapter 2, the scene shifts from the personal story of Hosea and Gomer to the national story of Yahweh and Israel. Israel is both an unfaithful wife and mother! Here we realize that the story of Hosea and Gomer is given to illustrate the story of God and the nation of Israel.

In this chapter, there is both a record of Yahweh’s rejection of rebellious Israel (vv. 2-13) and the promise of a restoration of a redeemed people (vv. 14-23).

“Bring charges against your mother, bring charges; For she is not My wife, nor am I her Husband! Let her put away her harlotries from her sight, And her adulteries from between her breasts; 3 Lest I strip her naked And expose her, as in the day she was born, And make her like a wilderness, And set her like a dry land, And slay her with thirst. 4 “I will not have mercy on her children, For they are the children of harlotry. 5 For their mother has played the harlot; She who conceived them has behaved shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, Who give me my bread and my water, My wool and my linen, My oil and my drink.’ 6 ” Therefore, behold, I will hedge up your way with thorns, And wall her in, So that she cannot find her paths. 7 She will chase her lovers, But not overtake them; Yes, she will seek them, but not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, For then it was better for me than now.’ 8 For she did not know That I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, And multiplied her silver and gold — Which they prepared for Baal. 9 ” Therefore I will return and take away My grain in its time And My new wine in its season, And will take back My wool and My linen, Given to cover her nakedness. 10 Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, And no one shall deliver her from My hand. 11 I will also cause all her mirth to cease, Her feast days, Her New Moons, Her Sabbaths — All her appointed feasts. 12 “And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, Of which she has said, ‘These are my wages that my lovers have given me.’ So I will make them a forest, And the beasts of the field shall eat them. 13 I will punish her For the days of the Baals to which she burned incense. She decked herself with her earrings and jewelry, And went after her lovers; But Me she forgot,” says the LORD. 14 ” Therefore, behold, I will allure her, Will bring her into the wilderness, And speak comfort to her. 15 I will give her her vineyards from there, And the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; She shall sing there, As in the days of her youth, As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt. 16 “And it shall be, in that day,” Says the LORD, “That you will call Me ‘My Husband,’ And no longer call Me ‘My Master,’ 17 For I will take from her mouth the names of the Baals, And they shall be remembered by their name no more. 18 In that day I will make a covenant for them With the beasts of the field, With the birds of the air, And with the creeping things of the ground. Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth, To make them lie down safely. 19 “I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me In righteousness and justice, In lovingkindness and mercy; 20 I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, And you shall know the LORD. 21 ” It shall come to pass in that day That I will answer,” says the LORD; “I will answer the heavens, And they shall answer the earth. 22 The earth shall answer With grain, With new wine, And with oil; They shall answer Jezreel. 23 Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; Then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they shall say, ‘You are my God!’ ”

I. Yahweh’s Rejection of a Rebellious People, vv. 1-13.
In verse 2, God institutes legal proceedings against adulterous Israel. He calls upon the children to bring the charges against their mother, His wife. The distinction between the mother and the children is a distinction between Israel as an institution and as individuals. The mother is the nation as a whole. The children are the individuals in that nation. Here God is calling upon individuals within Israel to rise up in denouncing the adulterous ways of the nation as a whole. In a similar way, Christ calls for individuals within the church of Laodicea to open the door and have communion with Him in spite of their lukewarm church (see Revelation 3:20)!

The language of the verse echoes the language of official divorce proceedings of the ancient world. In the Old Testament, Yahweh is often portrayed as the husband of Israel. This relationship was established at Mt. Sinai with the giving of the Law of the Old Covenant. In a passage describing the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:32, the LORD refers to this marriage covenant (which Israel had broken). The New Covenant, He declares, will not be:

according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD.

In Jeremiah 3:8, the actual dreaded word divorce is used:

Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also.

The reason for this divorce is clear. Israel violated the marriage covenant by committing spiritual adultery with false gods. This is the message of God through the prophet Hosea.

These verses convey a view of marriage and divorce which are echoed by Jesus in the New Testament. In Jesus teaching on marriage and divorce, divorce is strictly forbidden except in the case of sexual immorality (see Matthew 5:32 and 19:8). Hosea 2 establishes that Yahweh has sufficient ground for divorcing adulterous Israel.

What has Israel done to require this severe action by God?

  • She has committed harlotries and adulteries (vv. 2, 5 and 13).
  • She has attributed her affluence to her lovers (vv. 5 and 12).
  • She has misused Yahweh’s gifts (v. 8).

Let’s look in more detail at each of these charges and perhaps see areas in which we as New Covenant believers also need to repent.

First, Israel committed harlotries and adulteries (vv. 2, 5 and 13). She did this by pursuing Baal, the Canaanite god of fertility. The religion of Baal was both superstitious and sexual. Worshipers believed that Baal was the one who caused their lands and wives to be fertile. Therefore in an attempt to appease this god and cause him to bless their land, they engaged in immoral acts. The Israelites had somehow bought into this religion and forsaken the true God, Yahweh. Thomas McComiskey comments on how this could have begun among the Israelites:

It began, perhaps, with something innocuous as the placing of an image of Baal in a farmer’s field. This is what their Canaanite neighbors did to increase production. It is what people did in this land, and it appeared to work. Gradually the invisible Yahweh lost ground to the baals whom the people could see and handle, whose religion was concerned with the necessities of life more than rigid moral demands. It was the baals, many Israelites came to believe, who fostered their crops and blessed them with children (The Minor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, vol. 1, p. 34).

At its core it was pragmatism, pure and simple. The Israelites pursued what they thought would produce results. Therefore they combined elements of pagan ritual together with divine ordained elements of worship of the true God. The result was a perversion which God declared adulterous and the legitimate grounds of divorce!

I believe that this is one of the great sins of the modern church in America today. In an effort to appear successful, we have bought into the management styles of the world. The question is never: “Is it biblical?” but rather, “Does it work?” I believe the resulting perversion of Biblical Christianity is just as appalling in the eyes of God as ancient Israel’s adulteries!

Second, Israel attributed her affluence to her lovers (vv. 5 and 12). As a result of their perverted view of what caused the land to be plentiful, they began to credit any and all prosperity as gifts from Baal and not Yahweh. They failed to recognize that God alone is the giver of “every good gift and every perfect gift” (James 1:17). They forgot that God would not share His glory. As He declares in Isaiah 42:8,

I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.

I believe that this is a sin that we are often guilty of as individuals. Do we attribute our success to something other than God. Do we keep part of the glory for ourselves? If so, we are guilty of the same kind of sin for which ancient Israel was condemned!

Third, Israel misused Yahweh’s gifts (v. 8). She took God’s gifts and used them to worship Baal! How dreadful is this sin!?! To take the gifts that God has given and use them to commit spiritual adultery with a false god! But sadly, we as New Covenant believers can be guilty of the same kind of sin when in prayer “we ask amiss that we may consume it upon our own lusts” (James 4:3, KJV).That’s why in the very next verse, James calls those who do such, “Adulterers and adulteresses!”(James 4:4). “Why?” asks John Piper,

Because in his mind God is like our husband who is jealous to be our highest delight. If we then try to make prayer a means of getting something we want more than we want him, we are like a wife who asks her husband for money to visit another lover (John Piper, A Godward Life: Book Two, 356).

This is why Piper has written elsewhere in his excellent book on prayer and fasting titled A Hunger for God (entire book available in pdf format here) that:

The greatest adversary of love to God is not His enemies but His gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God Himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable… These are not vices. These are gifts from God. They are your basic meat and potatoes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and collecting and talking. And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God (A Hunger for God, 14-15).

Are you guilty of this sin of misusing God’s gifts as an end instead of as a means to an end? All of God’s gifts should have the end result of the glorification of God! If that is not the case, we are guilty of the same kind of misuse of God’s gifts that triggered his judgment upon ancient Israel!

Notice God’s response to Israel’s adulterous actions! He doesn’t take it sitting down! He actively initiates His divine judgment. Note the “I wills” of this section. These are God’s active responses to Israel’s rebellion.

  • “Lest I strip her naked and expose her, as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst.” v. 3 (leaving her defenseless and helpless)
  • I will not have mercy on her children, for they are the children of harlotry” v. 4
  • “Therefore, behold, I will hedge up your way with thorns, and wall her in, so that she cannot find her paths.” v. 6
  • “Therefore I will return and take away My grain in its time and My new wine in its season, and will take back My wool and My linen, given to cover her nakedness.” v. 9
  • “Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall deliver her from My hand.” v. 10 (exposing her wickedness to her lovers)
  • I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her New Moons, her Sabbaths– all her appointed feasts.” v. 11 (when in Captivity these days would cease)
  • “And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, of which she has said, ‘These are my wages that my lovers have given me.’ So I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them.” v. 12 (removal of national blessings)
  • I will punish her for the days of the Baals to which she burned incense. She decked herself with her earrings and jewelry, and went after her lovers; but Me she forgot,” says the LORD.” v. 13 (the final word)

This is God’s active opposition in judgment upon a nation that has rebelled against Him! This is the God of the Bible. A God who is still holy and still judges sin! He is the One with whom we have to reckon!

II. Yahweh’s Restoration of a Redeemed People, vv. 14-23.
But thankfully, the story of Yahweh and His people does not end in verse 13 else there would be no hope. The same God who initiated the judgment in vv. 2-13 is also the God who initiates restoration in vv. 14-23! Note the “I wills” of verse 14-23:

  • “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her.” v. 14

    This speaks of God romancing Israel and drawing them to Himself. This returning to the wil derness describes a new beginning, a new exodus as God establishes a New Covenant with a New People!

  • I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt. ” v. 15

    Yahweh Himself will prosper the land. The Valley of Achor symbolized God’s holy wrath against sin because it was there that Achan and his entire family were stoned to death for Achan’s sin at Ai (Joshua 7:26). God’s grace will now be so manifest that this place which symbolizes judgment will now become a place of hope!

    Verse 15 also describes Israel responding to God’s grace with a song. This recalls Israel’s song praised God for His redemption that was sung on the other side of the Red Sea after seeing Egypt’s army destroyed. On the banks of that sea, Israel sang (see Exodus 15). But this text also looks forward to the day when a new redeemed humanity sings praise to God at another sea (see Revelation 15). As Martin Luther once said, “A new miracle deserves a new song, thanksgiving, and preaching. The new miracle is that God, through His Son, has parted the real Red, dread Sea and has redeemed us from a real Pharaoh—Satan. This is singing a New Song, that is, the Holy Gospel, and thanking God for it. God help us to do so. Amen.”

  • I will take from her mouth the names of the Baals, and they shall be remembered by their name no more.” v. 17

    Verse 16 sets the context for this verse by declaring that Israel will no more refer to Yahweh by the generic term baali that can mean “husband” or “master”, but by the term ishi which can only mean husband and is never used to refer to the false god Baal. In verse 17, God declares that He will remove the words for Baal completely from Israel’s national vocabulary. Not only will Baal not be worshipped, he will not even be mentioned!

  • “In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, with the birds of the air, and with the creeping things of the ground. Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth, to make them lie down safely.” v. 18

    This will be a great day when the effects of the curse of Genesis 3:17-19 will be completely and finally reversed. This is the moment for which all creation is longing (Romans 8:20-21). Adam’s sin not only effected him and his physical descendants, the entire cosmos was effected! But Christ’s victorious work has reversed the curse and all creation will benefit from it on a renewed earth. This is the same truth as is prophesied in Isaiah 11:6-7, Micah 4:3, Isaiah 2:4 and described in Revelation 21. As Isaac Watts wrote: “Joy to the world the Lord is come! . . . No more let sin and sorrow grow, nor thorns infest the ground! He comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found, far as, far as the curse is found!!!

  • I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the LORD.” vv. 19-20

    Three times in these two verses God promises to “betroth” Israel to Himself forever. This is the promise of a new marriage covenant which is described in more detail in Jeremiah 31:31-34. There, as well as here, the end result is intimate knowledge of the Lord. This New Covenant was purchased by the blood of Christ on the cross of Calvary. Jesus declared that His own blood was the purchase price when in Luke 22:20 at the Last Supper He said of the cup: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” Christ has purchased the blessings of this covenant for all His chosen people among both the Jews and Gentiles!

  • “It shall come to pass in that day that I will answer,” says the LORD; “I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth. The earth shall answer with grain, with new wine, and with oil; they shall answer Jezreel.” vv. 21-22

    Again here we see that this action by God is not merely a national, but a universal event. The earth will be restored and the curse will be reversed!

  • “Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, and I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ and they shall say, ‘You are my God!’” v. 23

    Here we reach the climax of Yahweh’s description of His own restoration of His people. Once again God describes His restoration in terms of a reversal of the names given to Hosea’s three children. Each of those names speak of judgment. But here, just as in Hosea 1:10-2:1, we see that God will reverse these names in mercy. Jezreel which once stood for God’s judgment will now revert to its proper meaning of “God sows” for God will sow His people on the new restored earth. The name Lo-Ruhamah meaning “no mercy” has been changed to simply “mercy” meaning that God will show mercy! The name Lo-Ammi meaning “not my people” has been changed to “my people”. God, in His grace, has fully reversed the effects of sin upon His people and the story ends with God’s grace triumphant over man’s sin! In order to understand exactly who this refers to, we need to look no further than the inspired authors of the New Testament. There both Peter and Paul interpret these verses to refer to the totality of God’s people made up of both Jews and Gentiles. This is no nationalistic prophecy, but a prophecy of the triumph of the gospel in the creation of a redeemed humanity composed of both Jews and Gentiles (see Romans 9:24-26 and 1 Peter 2:9-10).

The Prophet and the Prostitute (Exposition of Hosea 1:1-2:1)

Why would God command one of His prophets to marry a prostitute? What lesson could God possibly teach by commanding this seemingly immoral act? This question is both raised and answered in the pages of the book of Hosea. This book describes the unfailing love of Yahweh for an unfaithful people. On one level, it is a story of a man and his troubled marriage, but on a higher level it is the story of God’s relationship with His Old Covenant people: Israel.

Hosea is the first of 12 books that close the Old Testament commonly called the “Minor Prophets”. To the ancient Hebrew they were known collectively as “The Book of the Twelve.” The reason that they are called “Minor Prophets” is not because their content is inferior to the “Major Prophets” like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, but merely because their books are not as long as the longer “Major Prophets”. The “Minor Prophets” were inspired by the same Holy Spirit as the “Major Prophets” and are equally Scripture. The message of Hosea is no minor one, but a major message with historical (the demise of Israel), theological (status of God’s Covenant with Israel) and practical significance (the dangers of spiritual adultery). So let us examine this text together with the prayer that the same Spirit who inspired this text would now illumine it for our edification.

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. 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.” 3 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. 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! 2:1 Say to your brethren, ‘My people,’ And to your sisters, ‘Mercy is shown.’ Hosea 1:1-2:1

In this text we see something of the man, the marriage and the message of Hosea.

I. The Man, v. 1.
We know much more about the marriage and message of Hosea than we do about the man himself. We do know that he was the son of Beeri (but we don’t know who he was, so that isn’t very helpful). We do, however, know the most important thing about Hosea which is that he was a prophet of Yahweh (signified by the opening words of the book).

We also know quite a bit about the time period in which Hosea prophesied. It is set historically during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah in the southern kingdom of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam II (the son of Joash) in the northern kingdom of Israel (sometimes called Ephraim for the largest of the ten tribes which make up this kingdom). Because we know the dates of the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah, we know that Hosea prophesied in the mid to late 8th century B.C. (approximately 750-725 B.C.).

During Hosea’s life and ministry the kingdom of Israel had already been divided (under Solomon’s son Rehoboam) for nearly 200 years. During these two hundred years, two separate nations with two separate governments existed (thus the two lists of kings in verse 1).
Hosea was one of only two writing prophets who ministered to the northern kingdom of Israel (Amos was the other). During the same time period Isaiah and Micah prophesied to the southern kingdom of Judah.

At the beginning of Hosea’s ministry, the northern kingdom was seemingly prosperous under the stable reign of Jeroboam II. But though things appeared to be calm on the surface, underneath the torrents of the kingdom’s destruction were swirling. The nation had forsaken Yahweh. Though they retained allegiance to Yahweh with their lips, their hearts were far from Him. They had began to mingle elements of the Canaanites’ fertility religion with Yahweh worship by engaging in sexual rites and drunken orgies which were thought to secure the giving of rain and the fertility of the land for their crops.

The nation continued to decline spiritually under Israel’s next six kings (which would be her final six). These final six kings reigned a total of 25 years with 4 of the 6 being assassinated by their usurpers. The final king, Hoshea, tried to secure an alliance with Egypt to gain protection against Assyria. When Assyria learned of Hoshea’s plot, an army was sent to destroy Israel’s capital city of Samaria in 722 B.C. The inhabitants were scattered, never to be returned.

During these days of political and religious upheaval there prophesied a man whose very name means “salvation”. His name was a glimmer of hope in the midst of a message of destruction.

II. The Marriage, vv. 2-3.
Hosea’s prophetic ministry begins with his marriage. In fact, the first thing that he is commanded to do as a prophet of God is to marry. Somehow Hosea’s marriage is to be an important part of his prophetic ministry. This would not be so striking, were it not for the character of the woman whom the LORD commands him to marry. She is to be a harlot! The prophet is to marry a prostitute! What others might continue a disqualification is in Hosea’s case actually his qualification for prophetic ministry. This is so because Hosea’s marriage is to symbolize Yahweh’s relationship with adulterous Israel. Hosea’s painful marriage will be a visible symbol to the nation of Israel of their adultery against their rightful husband, Yahweh.

Amazingly, verse three shows Hosea obeying the Word of the LORD. He marries Gomer. There is some debate about whether or not Gomer was already a prostitute when Hosea married her or if she only became one later. I personally believe she was already a prostitute when Hosea married her. This is the only sense that I can make of a plain reading of the text. All other explanations are only attempts to vindicate God’s command to marry a harlot. Even if God commanded Hosea to marry someone who He knew would later become adulterous, that does not solve the moral problem. I think it is best to take the text as we have it. It is also unclear whether Gomer was a prostitute in the way that we would normally think of one, or a cultic prostitute in the fertility religion of Baal. Though we don’t know for sure, the latter scenario would seemingly illustrate Yahweh’s quarrel with the nation of Israel who had turned to Baal worship for fertility purposes.

But the book of Hosea is not primarily about Hosea and his marriage, it is ultimately about God and His relationship to His covenant people, Israel. Hosea was commanded to marry a prostitute because that is the kind of wife which Israel had become to Yahweh. By combining elements of Baal worship with the elements of Yahweh worship commanded in the Law, Israel was engaging in spiritual adultery – a religious syncretism which by combining true Yahweh worship with idolatry resulted in a perversion which God Himself viewed as spiritual adultery. Here, as we will see in the weeks ahead, there is tons of application to the contemporary American church!

III. The Message, 1:4-2:1.
A simple outline of the book of Hosea would show chapters 1-3 focused on Hosea the man and his marriage with chapters 4-14 containing Hosea’s message. But a preview of the message of chapters 4-14 is contained in the account in chapter 1 of the births of Hosea’s three children. There was no need to buy a baby name book because the LORD commanded Hosea to name his children symbolic names which communicated his displeasure and judgment on the nation of Israel. In these names and their promised reversal we see the two major themes of the prophetic ministry of Hosea as both judgment and hope.

First, in the naming of the children we see the pronouncement of God’s judgment:

The name of the first child was Jezreel which means “God sows or plants”. It is the name of a valley in northern Palestine and a town at the south end of the valley. King Jehu of Israel had killed numerous people in this valley in his ascent to power. In Hosea’s day, the name Jezreel was associated with the bloodshed that had occurred there in much the same way that Pearl Harbour and the World Trade Center are associated with the tragic loss of life which happened there. In commanding Hosea to name his firstborn Jezreel, God is promising to end Jehu’s line (which He does shortly with King Zechariah’s murder) and to end the northern kingdom of Israel (which He does in 722 B.C. with the defeat of Samaria by Assyria). In other words, this was a prophecy of judgment upon the nation of Israel.

The name of the second child was Lo-Ruhamah which literally means “no mercy”. This name serves as another prediction of judgment on the nation of Israel by Assyria. But, here God promises to spare the nation of Judah from the onslaught by Assyria (which He does miraculously as recorded in 2 Kings 19:32-37).

The final child is named Lo-Ammi which literally means “no people”. This is the most severe pronouncement of judgment on the nation of Israel. Here God revokes His statement in Exodus 6:7, “I will take you as My people, and I will be your God.” Now He essentially says, “You will not be my people and I will not be your God.”

But thankfully this denouncement is not God’s last word! In verses 10-11 and 2:1 we see that God also issues a comforting promise of restoration. Here the words of the curse upon Israel are reversed and words of hope are issued. The hope centers on a Person under whom both Judah and Israel will be united. Who is this person and what does this promise mean? This has been a question of no small speculation in the last 150 years. The Mormons see this prophecy as fulfilled in Joseph Smith. In recent years, many Christians have interpreted this text as being fulfilled in the future for the physical nation of Israel united under the kingship of Christ in a future millennium. The inspired authors of the New Testament, however, saw this text as being ultimately fulfilled in Christ in His Church. Note the following:

1 Peter 2:9-10 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.

Romans 9:24-26 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? 25 As He says also in Hosea: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.” 26 “And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.”

I think I prefer the hermeneutic of the apostle Peter and Paul to any others! Their interpretation is the only interpretation that has the seal of inspiration!

In this New Covenant community which Christ has purchased by His blood are both Jews and Gentiles who each do not deserve to receive God’s mercy or to be called God’s people are united together under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. This is both a present and a future reality. In other words, we are now the people of God and we will one day live on a restored planet earth under the reign of Jesus Christ forever.

Even though Israel’s unfaithfulness has resulted in her rejection, God still has a people. This people are the New Covenant people of God made up of both Jews and Gentiles who have trusted in Jesus Christ.

In a very real sense I am Gomer and so are you! We are unfaithful people who deserve God’s wrath, not His mercy. But Jesus has become our Jezreel (place of judgment) in order that we might have God’s mercy and be called God’s people! Believe this good news and receive this mercy today!

New Sermon Series: Hosea

Since I finished the book of Romans last Sunday, I’m planning on beginning a new series in the Minor Prophets starting with the first one listed canonically: Hosea. Do you have any recommendations of good resources for this study. I have the 3 volume Baker set edited by McComiskey, Charles Feinberg’s commentary, James Montgomery Boice’s expositional studies. I also ordered God’s Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery by Raymond C. Ortland, Jr. from the “New Studies in Biblical Theology” series. What other major works on the Minor Prophets do I need?