Husband to a Harlot

Posted: August 13, 2015 in Hosea, Route 66

Route 66: Hosea, “Husband to a Harlot”

Some people are downright difficult to love.  They rub the wrong way, they lie to your face, do things behind your back, and frankly act more like an enemy than a friend.  That’s bad enough in interpersonal relationships, but what if that person was your spouse?  At that point, things would truly be bad.  Couples have been divorced for as much, and it’s a tragedy in the sight of God.

But what about God Himself – can He get divorced?  That’s the subject of the Book of Hosea.  Whereas in the NT, it is the Church who is described as the Bride of Christ (and we still await the marriage supper of the Lamb!), in the OT, it is Israel who is the beloved spouse of God.  God “wed” her through the various covenants, particularly the Mosaic covenant laid out in the Book of Deuteronomy, and Israel was supposed to enjoy this special relationship she had with God.  God promised immense blessings to His beloved if she simply walked with God in faithfulness and worship.

Sadly, that was not to be.  As the Bible clearly records, Israel was adulterous against her Holy Husband, and her adultery was shown in her idolatry.  When Israel gave herself over to the Baals and other false gods of the land, she committed spiritual harlotry against the Lord God of the Universe.  In His grace, He had picked her out from among the nations, and in return, she spit in His face.  Her sin had to be dealt with, and God did it.  Just as God brought her out of the nations, He cast her back among the nations – in a sense, divorcing Himself from His people.

Thankfully, that was not to be the end.  God most definitely judged His people, but He also promised to bring them back.  We’ve seen a partial fulfillment of that when the Jews returned to the land of promise after Babylon – another partial fulfillment when Israel became a nation in 1948 – and there is yet to be a total fulfillment of it when all of the Hebrew people finally recognize Jesus as Lord.  God gave much discipline, but He also gives much more grace!

The Book of Hosea begins the section in the Bible known as the “Minor Prophets.”  There are 12 Minor Prophets, and they conclude the canonical books of the OT: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.  Don’t let the classification fool you – “minor” doesn’t refer to importance, but to length.  Unlike the previous prophets, these collections are far shorter.  Gone are the 66 chapters of Isaiah, 52 chapters of Jeremiah, etc.  Hosea is actually the longest of the Minor Prophets, and it’s only 14 chapters in length (Zechariah is the 2nd longest, and it’s also 14 chapters).  That said, the message of the Minor Prophets is of major importance to those people to whom it was originally given!  It’s just more focused.  Whereas the major prophets might be considered as shotgun blasts, spreading beyond Israel & Judah to all the nations of the world, the minor prophets are more like rifles – focused in on one particular area at a time.  Sometimes it refers to the Jews – other times the Samaritans – there are even some Gentile nations to whom the prophets wrote.  But it’s all the word of God, and He called all people everywhere to pay close attention to His word.

As to Hosea himself, he was primarily a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel/Samaria.  Most scholars believe that he was raised within the northern kingdom & began his ministry there, fleeing south once it fell to the Assyrian Empire.  He does write a bit about the southern kingdom of Judah, but the main part of his message is directed to the north.  If anything, what God says through Hosea to the north is supposed to serve as a stern warning to the people of the south.  The northern kingdom was going to be judged for its many sins of idolatry, and if the south wasn’t careful, they would fall into the same fate.

Hosea lived during the years of the tail end of the northern kingdom (as becomes plain in 1:1), and God called him to a truly unique ministry.  Although God often uses prophets in sorts of visual parables (as with Isaiah & Ezekiel), hardly any was used visually to the extent that God used Hosea.  For this prophet, God called him to a marriage that mirrored the relationship He Himself had with Israel: an adulterous one.  Israel had been repeatedly unfaithful to the covenant commitment they had made to God (as outlined in Deuteronomy), and now God was calling them to the carpet.  In a sense, He filed charges of divorce against His bride, and disowned her.  Yet hope was not lost, for God would call them back again, and personally redeem them out of their sinfulness.  What God planned to do with Israel, God called Hosea to walk out personally.  (No one ever said ministry was easy!)

Date-wise, this backs us up chronologically from the last several prophets in the OT.  Isaiah lived during the fall of the northern kingdom & prophesied the fall of the southern one.  Jeremiah lived prior to & after the fall of the southern kingdom to Babylon.  Ezekiel wrote at the beginning of the captivity, and Daniel wrote all the way through the captivity.  Hosea takes us back to the early days of Isaiah.  The terms Israel & Samaria are virtually interchangeable (though Hosea typically refers to them as Ephraim – a synonym for the northern tribes), and the last son of the dynasty of Jehu was on the tail end of his reign.  Jehu was the man God used to bring judgment upon the infamous King Ahab & Queen Jezebel, but because of Jehu’s own tendency towards idolatry, God promised him that his sons would sit on the throne of Israel only to the 4th generation (2 Kings 10:29-31).  That final son was Jeroboam II, who was extremely successful in the eyes of the world, having reigned 41 years (2 Kings 14:23), and expanded the territory of Israel.  Yet he was also an idolater (just like his namesake), and God started to bring His word of judgment through men like Hosea.

Once Jeroboam II died, there was a quick succession of kings as men grappled for power & assassinated one another, until finally the king of Assyria conquered the last king of Israel (whose name was Hoshea) & carried the people off as captives (2 Kings 17).  As would later be the case with Judah & Babylon, none of this took place because of military strategy or political intrigue; it was because Israel repeatedly provoked God to anger.  2 Kings 17:13–14, "(13) Yet the Lord testified against Israel and against Judah, by all of His prophets, every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets.” (14) Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God."  Hosea was one of these prophets.  God loved His people, and He had warned His people, but they were stubborn in their rebellion against them.  As a result, they paid a terrible price & one that was completely unnecessary.

All of this begs the question: “Why does this matter to Christians today?”  After all, if this was a specific word to a specific people, and the specific sentence has already been carried out – what difference does it make to the NT Gentile Church?  It means much!

First of all (and this is the case with all of the OT prophets), this is the word of God.  If it was important enough for God to have recorded in writing, then it’s important enough for God’s people through the ages to read it.  After all, there were many prophets who never wrote a single word.  When God had something written, that means it has value to all His people at all times, no matter what the original situation may have been.

Second, Hosea is surprising in how often he is quoted within the NT.  Matthew refers to Hosea as Jesus fulfills prophecy in coming out of Egypt (Mt 2:15, Hos 11:1) – Luke shows Jesus referring to Hosea when describing the Tribulation & people crying out for the mountains to call on them (Lk 23:30, Hos 10:8) – Paul refers to Hosea when writing of God’s unfailing love for Israel as His people (Rom 9:25-26, Hos 1:10,2:23) – and more.  Hosea himself also quotes the OT repeatedly, particularly the book of Deuteronomy, showing how the people fully earned the consequences of breaking the covenant.  So this is truly a Biblical book in how it looks both backwards & forwards through the Scripture.

Third (and perhaps most importantly), Hosea paints the picture of an incredibly merciful covenant-keeping God.  Although there are times that it seems that God no longer desires to have anything to do with Israel ever again, He eventually shows His compassionate mercy.  God would discipline His people severely, but He didn’t want to.  He wanted them restored, and He holds out the promise that He would do exactly that.

Broadly speaking, the book breaks down into two major sections: the first dealing with the prophet & his personal life with his wife & family, and the second being a series of oracles given primarily to the northern kingdom.

  • The Parable of the Prophet (1-3)
  • The Word of the Prophet (4-14)

Within both of these sections are repeating cycles of judgment and mercy.  The book constantly alternates between the two ideas, on one hand sounding as if God is forever casting away His people, while on the other hand God graciously invites them back.  Keep in mind this isn’t God being wishy-washy; it’s God being vehement.  He is vehement in His judgment AND His mercy.  His judgment is righteous, and thorough enough to deal with the seriousness of sin.  At the same time, the mercy of God is grand as His desire for healing and reconciliation is clearly seen.  God neither ignores sin nor obsesses over it.  Instead, God deals with sin.  He addresses it directly for what it is, and then gives the cleansing that is required for it.  (And in a nutshell, THAT is the gospel!)

The Parable of the Prophet
Introduction (1:1)
As is the norm throughout the prophets, the writer Hosea is introduced as one who received the word of the Lord, and the time period in which he served is listed (which we’ve already mentioned).  What makes Hosea’s background so interesting is that although he is a prophet of the north & for the north, the majority of the kings he lists are from the south.  Jeroboam II is the only Samaritan king listed, with no mention of the slew of kings that followed him all the way to Assyrian captivity.  Instead, Hosea writes of “Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” (1:1)  Perhaps this is an indication that once things began to look bad, Hosea fled to the south – perhaps it’s an indication that although this word was given specifically for Israel, God wanted the people of Judah to pay close attention.  Yes, Israel/Samaria would suffer, but Judah still had time to repent.  It was not to be wasted!

  • Ultimately, that’s a major reason for all of the judgments that are listed in our Bibles.  It’s not so that people can point their fingers at God & talk about how “harsh” the God of the OT is.  It’s so that people can read these words & think of God’s mercy & grace!  What others learned harshly, we have the opportunity to learn easily.  God gives others ample opportunity and warning to repent…we ought to take the time available to us!

Cycle 1:
The Condemned Family (1:2-9, J)
The prophet has been introduced, but this is where we are introduced to his family.  The big debate here is not so much regarding Hosea, but his wife Gomer.  (Not exactly the most popular name!)  Did God call Hosea to marry a woman who was already engaged in prostitution, or a woman who had a tendency towards prostitution?  Did she already have children, who Hosea took as his own, or was she childless when Hosea married her?  Technically, the text could go either way, so there’s no real way of knowing.  Some object to the thought of God specifically telling Hosea to marry someone who had already engaged in prostitution, under the guise that God would never tell a prophet to defile himself in that way.  Yet isn’t that what God did with us?  We were certainly not pure when God reached out to us in grace!  We had defiled ourselves in all kinds of ways, before God mercifully took us to Himself.  It was no different with Abraham.  Abraham was an idolater prior to becoming a worshipper of the Living God.  We might not be able to determine what exactly the case was between Hosea & Gomer, but there isn’t a specific reason why God would not have commanded him to marry a prostitute.  He personally set the example.

Of course Israel was at that moment engaged in spiritual harlotry (1:2), and that was the picture God was painting.  Hosea was to do with Gomer what God did with Israel.

This went beyond the two of them & into the children they had together.  There are three listed: a boy named Jezreel (1:4), a girl named Lo-Ruhamah (1:6), and another boy named Lo-Ammi (1:9).  Each of the names were significant in their own way.

  • Jezreel is the name of the place of judgment.  When Jehu killed Ahab & Jezebel, the place of judgment was a field named Jezreel.  This was a field that Ahab coveted for himself as a garden, and his wife Jezebel had the previous owner murdered for it (1 Kings 21). Elijah prophesied her judgment at that place, and that it came to pass exactly as was foretold. (2 Kings 9:36-37).  The point here is that God was bringing judgment upon Israel.  Just as God had judged the worshippers of Baal in the past (Ahab & Jezebel), so would He judge the worshippers of Baal in the present (the kingdom of Israel/Samaria).
  • Lo-Ruhamah means “no pity/no mercy.”  The judgment that God was proclaiming upon His people would not be removed.  He would show no compassion to them as He allowed them to face the full nature of His judgment.
  • Lo-Ammi means “not my people.”  This is perhaps the worst one of all.  In the covenant God made with Israel, He specifically called them to be His people & He would be their God (Exo 6:7, Lev 26:12).  Now because of their sin, all of that would be reversed.  Hosea 1:9, "Then God said: “Call his name Lo-Ammi, For you are not My people, And I will not be your God."  They would be cast away from God, and their relationship severed.
    • How awful a thought!  It’s one thing to endure consequences of our sin, but to have our relationship with God cut off?  There could be nothing worse!  What do we have when there is no relationship with God?  There is no hope, no forgiveness, no promise.  This world is as good as it’s ever going to get, and then we face a hopeless eternity after death.  It would be better to face the most horrendous consequence now, and still belong to God in eternity than the opposite!  People don’t truly realize how bad a consequence this is.
    • The good news for Christians today is that we are NOT cut off!  We once were not a people of God, but now we’ve been made the people of God (1 Pet 2:10).  This is the grace we have experienced in Jesus!
    • That said, we can still have our present relationship with God hampered when we harbor unconfessed sin.  And there’s no reason for it.  Confess it & be done with it!

The Family Restored (1:10-2:1, M)
Thankfully the mercy of God is quickly offered after the judgment listed here.  Whereas for a time, Israel would not be the people of God, it would not always be that way.  God promised that the population of Israel would still be more than “the sand of the sea” (1:10), and after the judgment was complete, the nation would once again be “My people” (2:1).  God never denies the judgment that is coming, but He promises a day after that judgment.  (That is something still yet to be fulfilled.)

Cycle 2:
Israel’s Adultery (2:2-13, J)
There will be several times in the Book of Hosea where God lays out the various divorce charges against Israel, and the first is seen here.  Because of her harlotries, Israel is no longer seen by God as His wife, nor is He her husband (2:2).  God even says He “will not have mercy on her children, for they are the children of harlotry.” (2:4)  Obviously God had an ultimate plan for mercy, but in the immediate time there would be an unmerciful judgment.  Israel’s sins were too great, and God’s plan was to deal with them thoroughly.  Just as Hosea might cast his unfaithful wife back to her lovers, so God promised to do with Israel, allowing her to be humiliated as He would “uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers,” (2:10).  Her joy would cease as she took in the full consequences of her actions.  She had forgotten the Lord (2:13), and a price was to be paid.

God’s Mercy & Calling (2:14-23, M)
Again, there is good news for Israel.  Just as God would cast her out to her lovers, God would gently “allure her” back (2:14).  He promised to bring her to a place of blessing.  So much so in fact, that their relationship in that day would once again be as husband & wife (2:16).  Far better than master/servant is the marriage relationship, and that’s what God promised to give once again to His people.  Israel would be betrothed to Him forever (2:19), and they would know His blessings (grain, wine, oil – 2:22).  Even the curses of the children’s names would be reversed: Hosea 2:23, "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!’ ”"

  • How awesome is the love of God!  How incredible is His grace!  They (like WE) deserved the utter worst that God could dish out, but once the judgment was done, it was done.  Guess what the good news is for us at the cross?  The judgment is done!  As Jesus proclaimed, “It is finished!”

Redeeming the Adulteress (3:1-5, M)
All that God promised was commanded to be acted out by Hosea.  This kind of unconditional forgiving love was to be demonstrated by the prophet as he bought back his own wife out of fornication (most likely prostitution).  Hosea did so, probably paying the typical price for a slave (15 shekels of silver + other goods).  From where he bought her, we don’t know.  She could have become a temple prostitute for Baal worship, or she may have been taken by another Israelite.  Either way, her former husband redeemed her & called her to a sacred commitment.

So too, God promised to redeem His people after many years of desolation.  But there would come a time they would seek the Lord in true worship and devotion, even serving “David their king” in the “latter days.” (3:5)  Keep in mind God is referring to the northern kingdom here…they hadn’t served a king of the Davidic line since the days of Solomon.  If they would serve David as king, who would they serve?  Jesus!  This is a promise from God of the moment when Israel comes to faith – something which Paul describes in his letter to the Romans.  After even quoting Hosea in regards to the mercy God would show Israel in making them His people (Rom 9:25-26), Paul later writes specifically of this moment: Romans 11:25–26a, "(25) For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. (26) And so all Israel will be saved…"  One day, the nation of Israel will be saved!  They will recognize Jesus to be the Son of David & the rightful King of Israel – they will give their loyalty and worship to Him, and they will know the fullness of faith.  What a glorious day that will be!

  • And when does God give the promise?  In the middle of His judgment.  There is much grace to be found even in the judgment of God!

The Word of the Prophet
This section contains the bulk of the writing, whereas the 1st 3 chapters set the scene & the biography.

Cycle 3:
The Charges Against Israel (4:1-10, J)
Charges for divorce had been made earlier in Ch 2, and God brings out a new listing here.  Idolatry was a huge problem (and would still be addressed in more detail), but it wasn’t the only problem.  There was injustice, violence, and contention among God’s people.  They had a “lack of knowledge” of the word of God (4:6), and had forgotten God’s law.  From the priests to the laypeople, everyone had “ceased obeying the Lord.” (4:10)

  • What happens when a people stop reading the Bible?  Sin, rebellion, and eventually destruction.  It’s always a downwards-cycle.

Idolatry equals Harlotry (4:11-19, J)
The spiritual adultery of Israel took many forms.  Some of it was drunkenness & sexual perversion (4:11), some was straight-up idol worship (4:12).  They expected a piece of wood to listen to them, rather than the Living God.  Over & over again, idol worship is described in terms of marital unfaithfulness or prostitution.  “Harlot/harlotry/adultery” is used 11 times in these few verses.  There’s little question as to how God sees it!

We need to ask ourselves if we truly see idolatry in the same way.  Do we realize how serious a sin it is?  Obviously few western Evangelicals bow down to wooden statues as is common in Eastern religions – but there can be no question we have our own versions of idols.  Some worship their sports teams, pushing the worship of God to the back while they worship the Cowboys or Rangers.  Some worship their technology, obsessed with the latest gadgets or spending far more time on Facebook than they’d even consider in prayer or Bible study.  None of that is said in condemnation or judgment, but we need to realize it’s just a fact.  There is room for all kinds of things in our lives, including sports, social media, leisure, career, etc., but any time God gets pushed out of the way we have a problem.  It’s good to have priorities, but our love of God needs to be at the top.  When it isn’t (or when He isn’t on the list at all), we need to take a hard look at ourselves and see if we’re engaging in idol worship.  It’s adultery, and it’s sinful.

God Against His People (5:1-15, J)
God speaks directly to all levels of His people: the priests, the nation, and the king – and He declares them to be judged (5:1).  God tells them that He knew their sin (it couldn’t be hidden), and that their harlotry and pride would be judged. (5:4)  Because of this, God withdrew from them & even said He would come against them as an enemy in battle.  He would be like a fierce lion against both Ephraim and Judah (5:14) because both of them had fallen into idolatry.

The People’s Call to Repentance (6:1-3, M)
The wonderful thing about the message of mercy here is that it doesn’t so much come from the Lord, as it does the people.  God (through Hosea) looks forward to a time when the hearts of the people will turn back to God, and they themselves will cry out to one another to repent.  A true heart change will come to them, and whereas they were earlier destroyed for a lack of knowledge, now they would “pursue the knowledge of the LORD.” (6:3)

  • Repentance is a beautiful thing!

Cycle 4:
The Stubbornness of Israel (6:4-7:10, J)
God speaks as if He’s almost at a loss as to what to do.  Every time the people turned back to Him, it was fleeting, like a morning cloud (6:4).  It wasn’t as if God had been unclear with them.  Pure ritualistic worship wouldn’t suffice.  Hosea 6:6, "For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings."  Yet like Saul of old, it was only the superficial stuff the people offered the Lord.  They repeatedly engaged in their sin & were committed to their lewdness (6:9).

The Disloyalty of Israel (7:11-16, J)
God had offered to heal them, but He was ignored (7:1-2).  None of Israel’s leaders called upon Him in worship (7:7).  None of the people returned to Him in truth (7:10).  Instead, they turned to other nations for their help: Egypt & Assyria (7:11).  Here they were, a people supposedly in a covenant with Almighty God, and they never bothered to give themselves over to God according to the terms of the covenant as they agreed to.  They never even bothered to ask Him for help!  So because they had fled from God (7:13), God determined to discipline them & give them over to derision (7:15-16).

  • How sad is it when people who claim to worship God never even call upon His name?  How slow we need to be in pointing our fingers at Israel!  So many purported Christians do the same.  They’ve prayed their prayer of salvation & filled out a response card at a revival or crusade, but never once acted like they actually belonged to the Lord.  They believe themselves to be a Christian, but never behave as if they are in a relationship with Christ.  Like Israel of old, they prove themselves to be a different people entirely!

The Idolatry of Israel (8:1-14, J)
God again turns His attention to Israel’s idolatry, showing how every aspect of Israel was different than God’s intent.  They neither used God’s kings, nor God’s way of worship. (8:4)  From the outset of the northern kingdom, the people of Israel worshipped a golden calf commissioned by Jeroboam I, and God calls them to the carpet on it here.  Their “calf is rejected,” (8:5) as it was nothing but idolatry.  It would be broken into pieces. (8:6)

What would come in its stead?  Judgment. Hosea 8:7a, "They sow the wind, And reap the whirlwind. …"   There would be no escape from what was to come.  God would “remember their iniquity & punish their sins,” (8:13) returning them to slavery as they once experienced in Egypt.  Why?  Because they had “forgotten their Maker” (8:14).  Again, when a nation forgets God, the road to slavery is sure!

The Judgment of Israel (9:1-17, J)
God had listed out the charges, and how He launches into the verdict.  They were guilty, having played the harlot (9:1).  They would be removed from the land & defiled (9:3).  The days of punishment had come (9:7), and it was over.  God would drive them out of the land (9:15) & they would wander among the nations (9:17).

The Destruction of Israel (10:1-15, J)
This is a description of the horrors of war, brought in by the Assyrian armies.  When God allowed the enemy to come, they came with all of their fury.  The golden idol in which they trusted would be carried off (10:6) – it was useless anyway.  The time of war would be so bad that people would cry out to the mountains to cover them & fall on them. (10:8)  Not only did Jesus quote this in His description of the Tribulation, so did John in the book of Revelation (6th seal – Rev 6:16).  What Hosea described as yet to happen to Israel with Assyria was just a small glimpse of what is still to come during the days of the Great Tribulation.  (The good news there, is that we have been warned!)

This judgment was determined for Israel, but it wasn’t God’s desire for Israel.  What did He want?  Humble repentance!  Hosea 10:12, "(12) 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."  This is why God gave the numerous messages of judgment!  It wasn’t because God was mean or vindictive; it’s that He wanted His people to repent.  Being all-knowing, of course God knew that they wouldn’t, but that doesn’t change His desire for them.  His desire was good!  It was their hearts that were wicked & determined towards sin.  And because it was, they would face the full consequences of their sin.

  • How badly we need to remember that we don’t have to sin.  As born-again believers in Jesus Christ, we have been given a new nature, and not a one of us is forced to give into sin.  We have the choice whether or not to follow our Lord Jesus.  Will God discipline us when we fail?  Sure.  As Christians, we don’t lose our salvation, but we can receive discipline.  But we don’t have to fail.  God doesn’t want us to fail.  He wants us to walk in faith!  God never sets His children up to fail.  He wants us to know the victory of triumphing over temptation.  Stay humble – stay repentant.

God’s Love for Israel (11:1-11, M)
After the last several messages of judgment, the reminder of God’s love for His people is badly needed!  He had called them out of Egypt (just as He would call Jesus out of Egypt – Hos 11:1), and gave them every opportunity to walk in relationship with Himself.  His love for them was great!  He didn’t want to turn them over to Assyria, thought it was necessary.  But once it was done, it would be done.  Just as God had come against Israel as a lion, in the future God would be a lion on their behalf (11:10).  He would bring them out of slavery and “let them dwell in their [own] houses,” (11:11).

Cycle 5:
Charges Against Both Kingdoms (12:1-14, J)
Hosea’s focus thus far has been against the northern kingdom of Israel/Samaria, with an occasional mention of Judah.  But now the prophetic attention specifically turns to the south.  Just as God brought charges against Israel, He now brings charges against Judah (12:2).  Just like the other kingdom, they had followed in the footsteps of their forefather Jacob in deceptive dealings, and likewise they were also called upon to repent, “observe mercy & justice & wait on your God continually.” (12:6)  Just as God promised to remove Israel from the land, there is a hint that He would do the same thing with Judah (12:9) – a message upon which Hosea’s contemporary Isaiah would greatly expand.  Both Ephraim & Judah had provoked the Lord to anger, and both would be punished.

The Guilty Verdict (13:1-16, J)
Once more the harlotry of Israel is recorded, as is God’s promised judgment.  Why is it repeated so often?  Because it was necessary!  If the people had repented the 1st time Hosea preached this message, then he wouldn’t have needed to say it again & again.  Yet every time the message of God’s judgment is reiterated is another warning He gives His people & another opportunity He gives them to turn back to Him.  And once more, that was His desire: Hosea 13:4, "(4) “Yet I am the Lord your God Ever since the land of Egypt, And you shall know no God but Me; For there is no savior besides Me."  This is how they were supposed to know & worship God…they just didn’t.

Yet in the midst of this is a glimmer of hope: Hosea 13:14, "(14) “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction! Pity is hidden from My eyes." (Sound familiar?  Paul references this in 1 Cor 15.)  On either side of this verse are clear proclamations of judgment.  There is no question that Israelites/Samaritans would die when the Assyrians came in battle.  And the battle would be horrendous!  But there was something else they could look forward to in the future.  Even though the coming days would be horrible, they could know freedom from death if they but worshipped the Lord in truth.

  • Never forget that we are redeemed from death!  The days we face here might be troublesome…even horrible.  But that’s not the end for us.  The end for us is eternity with our Lord Jesus.  God sends death to the grave, and gives us life in His Son!

The Promise of Healing (14:1-9, M)
The oracles of Hosea end with an invitation.  The people have been judged, and the punishment would be sure in coming.  But God never stopped reaching out to them.  He wanted them to “return to the LORD your God” (14:1), and promised to “heal their backsliding,” (14:4).  He promised to bring them back and revive them – that they would once again grow like a fruitful vine (14:7).  In that day, Ephraim/Israel would no longer even desire idols, wanting nothing to do with them.  Their satisfaction would be found in God…exactly as He wanted all along.

Is our satisfaction found in the Lord, or do we too easily turn to idols?  The words of Hosea may have been written to apostate Israel, but they could just as easily apply to the apostate church.  So many people claim to be Christian, but constantly worship other gods of their own making.  May God help us open our eyes & be aware of His priority in our lives!  May God keep us humble, desiring to seek Him & His righteousness before all else.

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