Reading the Prophets in the Old Testament can become a very painful place if you are looking for hope and the sentimentalism of a God of love and mercy. As I began studies in Hosea I was quickly reminded at how the love of God can get lost in the muck and mire of His judgments upon a nation steeped in idolatry. Chapter after chapter reverberates with the message that God is ticked at the nation of Israel that had bowed its knee to Baal. Verse after verse, like a dripping faucet warns of the wrath of God where He says in essence, “Because you have done that I will do this.” Is there anything in this little book that gives hope?
Hosea was a northern prophet where he spent anywhere from 30 to 50 years preaching to a nation that only had a short time to live. In fact, at the close of Hosea’s ministry Assyria invaded Israel and deported most of them and then intermarried with the rest to dilute any vestiges of Israel’s monotheism. They became the Samaritans of the New Testament so despised by the Jews and were considered to be half-breeds and were called “the dogs.”
Hosea’s Israel can be described as Charles Dickens did in “The Tale of Two Cities” - It was the best of times…it was the worst of times. They had a booming economy, a powerful army and had secured many of the lands around them. But, they had a deadly flaw – they sought to merge their faith in Yahweh with the religions of their neighbors who worshipped Baal, the nature god who promised them good crops, bountiful food supplies and material prosperity. Israel bought into that lie and eventually melted into the slime of idolatry.
In order to preach his message Hosea was ordered to become a living sermon illustration of God’s infinite love by marrying a whore named Gomer. This woman would devastate Hosea’s life over and over again by rejecting his love and returning to her role as a sacred prostitute. She and Hosea conceived one child together while she and other men conceived two others. The names she gave them serves as a backdrop to the rest of the book, a son named “God will judge,” a daughter named, “no mercy,” and a son named “not my people. ” Now that can be very depressing!
Loose living abounded. We read of drunkenness (7:3-7), armed robbery, adultery and murder. The leadership of the nation was corrupt (4:1-2; 5:1-2; 6:6, 9; 7:1, 6-7). The underlying cause of all of this was corrupt religion. People worshipped the Baals. This meant sexual deviance cloaked in the worship of Yahweh. They consulted spirits (4:12) and imbibed drugs. The people must repent and turn to God (6:1-6), said Hosea, and live in mercy and righteousness (6:6). But they will never do so voluntarily. They must be chastised and then there will be a way of their returning and finding salvation (2:16; 3:5; 14).
The age was characterized by violent crime, religious compromise and hypocrisy, ungodly alliances with heathen nations, open acceptance of sexual sin that called evil good and good evil, social injustice, political division and selfish arrogance that marked them as a nation in love with idolatry, Social injustice where the faithful were the persecuted ones.
Can you see the parallels to our own nation today? How have we allowed the pagan culture around us via spiritual osmosis to slip into our churches? This is a warning to believers today. We must never allow the teachings of the Bible to pass through our minds without allowing them to change our lives. Otherwise, if we permit these teachings to hit against our hearts but not to change our lives, we develop spiritual calluses. The end would be as inevitable as Israel's. Our enemy — Satan — would soon sweep into our lives and entangle us in the chains of this world. As was true for Israel, we have a way of escape. It is through repentance and the applying of God's Word to our lives.
There is so much more to this little book that is rich with repeated judgment warnings, but even greater is the powerful description of God’s broken heart and unending love for His people.
In His grip,
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