Read: Hosea 1-3
The first of the minor prophets takes us to the tragic time when Israel, the northern kingdom, was about to be swept away into exile by the Assyrians. The kings of southern kingdom were: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. The northern kings: Jeroboam II, Zechariah (not the prophet), Shallum, Pekahiah, Menahem, Pekah and Hoshea.
Hosea is directed to do that which is quite odd, to say the least:
When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” Hosea 1:2
Culturally, even by today’s standards, this is outrageous, but even more so in the 700 BC (ish). Hosea married Gomer and they had children together as husband and wife.
- Their son, Jezreel, is named to remind them of the massacre during the time of Jehu.
- Their daughter is sadly named, Lo-Ruhamah, which means: not loved.
- The next son was named Lo-Ammi: not my people.
My first observation is simple: this was not a quick prophecy! It had to take at least three years to get to this point, so the relationship between Hosea and Gomer is not a simple fling, this is something that takes time. Skipping to chapter 3, we are shown that Gomer continued her promiscuous ways, to the point that some suggest the 2nd and 3rd children were not fathered by Hosea.
The allegory here is pungent for a reason, just about anyone would be repulsed by the notion of an unfaithful spouse, well, anyone reading this blog anyway!
She will chase after her lovers but not catch them;
she will look for them but not find them.
Then she will say,
‘I will go back to my husband as at first,
for then I was better off than now.’
Israel, the northern kingdom, is constantly chasing after idols and gods to please themselves. All of these kings lead the people astray. They have all become prostitutes of whatever desires light their candle for the moment. The sad state of affairs invites an incredibly sad story.
But God’s desire for his people is greater than we can ever fully understand. In the midst of this story, his promise is renewed:
“In that day I will respond,”
declares the Lord—
“I will respond to the skies,
and they will respond to the earth;
and the earth will respond to the grain,
the new wine and the olive oil,
and they will respond to Jezreel.
I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’;
and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”
Though the rulers of the people will continue down their paths of destruction, God will once again show his love for his people. If you thought the story about Hosea marrying a promiscuous woman was crazy, this is crazier still. Why would God do such a thing? For love.
The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” Hosea 3:1
Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.” Hosea 3:3
God’s message is clear and provocative. Time and time again he simply says, “I love you.” Help us, Lord, to embrace the kind of love you’ve shown us over and over again!
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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.