God sent the prophet Hosea to Israel at a critical point in history before the Assyrians overran the nation. I find the message both incredibly uncomfortable and overwhelmingly reassuring.
The book of Hosea shows the hard truth that my wandering from God amounts to adultery and prostitution. Through the dark night of ugly reality shines this extreme goodness of God like a sudden bonfire: He brings restoration in spite of my unfaithful misery.
Read the commission God gave to His prophet Hosea.
Hosea 1:2-6 (ESV)
When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.” So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
And the LORD said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”
She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all…
This Godly man Hosea was told to marry a prostitute. Immediately after having their first child together, she left her husband and child to go to other men and ended up having children with them. (Gomer bore him a son, but the father of the following children isn’t clear [Kidner].)
How tragic and sorrowful for Hosea!
God describes Israel’s wandering in this way:
For their mother has played the whore;
she who conceived them has acted shamefully.
For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers,
who give me my bread and my water,
my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’
And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals
when she burned offerings to them
and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry,
and went after her lovers
and forgot me, declares the LORD.
God says the people of Israel have sought happiness away from the one true God who loves them. They have fled to self-confidence, aiming to provide their own protections (1:5- “the bow” of Israel). Rather than blessing God for their land of milk and honey, they have looked to others for their daily bread (2:5- bread, water, wool, flax, oil, and drink). They have also strayed into the worship of false gods and greed (2:13).
I tend to minimize the evil of self-confidence in my life and rely on my problem-solving abilities. As a result, I don’t always notice when I have stopped depending on Jesus, the True Vine, for daily sustenance, joy, and fulfillment. Sometimes I attempt to be fulfilled by entertainment for daily rest and satisfaction.
God is saying that relying on yourself, your business affairs, and other forms of fulfillment are as repulsive as leaving a marriage to go to prostitution. This jarring picture is hideously ugly.
But God’s mercy is astounding. In the middle of Israel’s mess and Hosea’s sorrow, our Heavenly Father assures us that He will make everything right.
Hosea 1:7, 10, 2:1 (ESV)
But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”
Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”
Say to your brothers, “You are my people,” and to your sisters, “You have received mercy.”
God knows the full extent of Israel’s sin and announces His plan and power to restore them. In the same way, He knows the complete darkness of my sin even better than I do, and He brings His overwhelming power to save me from that horror. He declares that we will have undeserved reconciliation with our Father. He even explains to Hosea what it will look like as He blocks His people’s way back to evil.
Hosea 2:6-7 (ESV)
Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns,
and I will build a wall against her,
so that she cannot find her paths.
She shall pursue her lovers
but not overtake them,
and she shall seek them
but shall not find them.
Then she shall say,
‘I will go and return to my first husband,
for it was better for me then than now.’
When we turn to Him, God declares us righteous and transforms us. He changes hearts; He controls circumstances. Our loving, all-powerful God can frustrate our plans and take away the happiness that we try to find apart from Him. He is like a rightfully-jealous husband, and He yearns for us to see that He gives true peace.
In the New Testament, Peter quotes the prophet Hosea to help us marvel at God’s mercy:
1 Peter 2:9-10 (ESV)
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
If you have not had a personal encounter with Jesus, will you allow Him to say to you, “You have received mercy”? Will you accept His offer to pay the penalty for your wrongdoing, adopt you, and call you a child of the living God?
Fellow Christian, do you sense what allures your heart away from abiding closely with your true love Jesus? Are you tempted to seek genuine fulfillment and comfort in entertainment, political engagement, parenting, work, or ministry pursuits? Be faithful to your Husband Who has called you and receive the mercy that nothing else and no one else can ever offer.