Hosea lived just before the destruction of Israel in 722 BC. His prophecies were directed to the northern kingdom. During Hosea’s ministry, Israel experienced a period of economic prosperity and growth. As you study the prophets, notice the oscillation between prosperity and recession. This is one period where the northern Kingdom was oblivious to their sins. On the inside of the nation, they had become corrupt, morally decrepit, and adulterous. On the other hand, the people thought they were doing well. The Book of Hosea can be divided into two parts:
- Hosea 1:1-3:5: a description of an adulterous wife and a faithful husband, symbolic of the unfaithfulness of Israel to God through idolatry, and
- Hosea 4:1-14:9: the condemnation of Israel, especially Samaria, for the worship of idols and her eventual restoration.
The major theme Hosea was called to address was that the Israelites had broken their covenant with God. Not only had they given themselves over to idolatry, Hosea writes that they had also “planted wickedness,” “reaped evil,” “eaten the fruit of deception,” and “depended on your own strength” (Hosea 10:13). They had turned to other gods for answers (Hosea 4:12) and other nations for assistance instead of God (Hosea 7:11). Because of this, God chose to intervene, sending Hosea to them with a warning. It would be Hosea’s role to call the people to repentance and extend an invitation to return to their relationship with God. He was to remind them that God was willing and eager to restore their return to a covenant relationship. We will look at Hosea in the context of our society today.
To begin this study is one of the stranger requests that we will hear God make of a prophet. Hosea was commanded to take a wife who would become a prostitute. This was to serve as an example of God’s relationship with Israel. Hosea was to manifest God’s patience and love through his marriage. According to Deuteronomy 22:20, a harlot was supposed to be stoned, not married. This story is found in the opening chapters of the Book of Hosea (Hosea 1:2-3:5). Not only had the people walked away from God, but they had also forgotten Him entirely. They had forgotten God’s faithfulness. They had forgotten the many miracles and how good God had been to them throughout their relationship (Hosea 1:8). They had forgotten His law and instructions. And once separated from God and the knowledge of their love of God, they quickly turned to their own ways, other gods, and other nations (Hosea 8:4) for help. His marriage was to prepare him for teaching the people that only God could satisfy or save them. This is an amazing way to prove a point! The prophet would have to walk the same walk and talk the same talk that God must do with His people. They were undeserving harlots, but God would forgive them and love them still!
(Hosea 7:16)1NIV New International Version Translations – “They do not turn to the Most High; they are like a faulty bow. Their leaders will fall by the sword because of their insolent words. For this they will be ridiculed in the land of Egypt.”
Hosea warned them for almost forty years about their state of spiritual decline leading them to destruction. The people could no longer see the reality of their own demise (Hosea 4:1). Sinful living had them trapped, forgetting their God and His love for them. Hosea writes, “Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not acknowledge the Lord.” (Hosea 5:4). Where is our nation today? Are we walking away from God? Have we forgotten Him? What about God’s Laws, God’s Truth? Where does our nation stand today? Israel had been enslaved by Egypt. God freed them! You would have thought history mattered. Soon, the city of Samaria would be besieged by the Assyrians. Many of the people would be taken into captivity or forcibly deported away from their places of origin. Must that happen to our own nation’s future for us to turn to God?
While God was using prophets like Hosea to minister to the people of Israel in the north, the people of the Southern Kingdom were not immune to idolatry and betrayal either. Judah, the southern kingdom, was known to go through periods of revival. The Northern Kingdom’s spiritual sickness was spreading. It would inevitably infect the nation to its south (Hosea 4:15, Hosea 8:14). The lesson is that sin does not stay hidden. Eventually, sins are exposed (Hosea 2:10). A sin, like a virus, spreads. Things we do in secret hurt those closest to us. Hosea’s marriage was an example of this. Hosea’s adulterous wife hurt more than just herself. It hurt Hosea as well. The same is true for God, who sees and feels the things we do in secret (Hosea 7:2).
Hosea used a personal approach to teach the people about the faithfulness of God. His life would show them God’s character in ways they could understand. He married knowing his spouse, Gomer, would regularly cheat on him. After bearing him three children, she walked away from Hosea to her lovers. Would you stay in such a relationship just to show those around you the true character of God? That was his point. God had proved Himself to be faithful time and time again. Gracious when it was undeserved. God loved them even when they forgot God. Israel (like Gomer) had proven themselves unfaithful, but God (like Hosea) would demonstrate His love for His bride by remaining faithful even when she (Israel) was not. And what is God’s response to those with the hearts of harlots?
(Hosea 11:9) – “I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I devastate Ephraim2 The name Ephraim not only designates a person but also the tribe he started and their inheritance in the Promised Land (Joshua 16:5 – 9). It is Biblically used for a city and part of a mountain range in the heart of Israel. Additionally, a forest, a gate, and a symbolic reference to the northern ten tribes of Israel also use the name. again. For I am God, and not a man—the Holy One among you. I will not come against their cities.”
In Hosea 4-14 is Hosea’s message of warning to the nation of Israel. There you will find a parallel between the three sections describing Hosea’s marriage and the major sections in the ending part of his writings. Hosea alternates between the listing of sins, the pronouncement of judgment, the call to repentance, and the promise of restoration. Since the beginning of time, God’s ungrateful and undeserving creation has been accepting God’s love, grace, and mercy. Yet God’s creation has been unable to refrain from its wickedness. We call Hosea’s writings prophetic because of verses such as Hosea 2:23.
(Hosea 2:23) – “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.’”
We learn that God is to include the Gentiles (non-Jews) as His children as written in Romans 9:25 and 1 Peter 2:10. Gentiles were not originally “God’s people,” but through His mercy and grace, He has provided Jesus Christ, and by faith in Him we are now His people (Romans 11:11-18). As Hosea ends his book, he shows how God’s love once again restores His children as He forgets their sins when they turn back to Him with repentant hearts. This prophetic message of Hosea foretells the coming of Israel’s Messiah 700 years in the future. Hosea is quoted often in the New Testament.
We should not lose sight of how God is dishonored and angered by the actions of His children. How can a child who is given an abundance of love, mercy, and grace treat a Father with so much disrespect? Yet, that is the history of humanity. Look no further than the mirror in front of us to see a reflection of those that Hosea came to warn!
- What would you tell people today who are abandoning God?
- Ideas to Explore: Do you agree that there is a problem? Do you regularly share your testimony regarding your faith in Jesus? If people see you, do they know you love God?
- Do you know what today’s idolatry looks like?
- Ideas to Explore: Sports, entertainment industry, power, wealth, lifestyle, education, how about cell phones and sneakers? What is on your list?
- How tolerant have you become with accepting the sin of our society today?
- Ideas to Explore: Do you pay attention enough to notice sin around you? What is your attitude toward tolerating sins against God’s Truth? What do others think of your faith when they see your actions toward sin?
- How would you warn those around you that the sins of society are a serious thing to correct?
- Ideas to Explore: First is family, what are you telling your family? Next, your closest friends. What about the people you encounter every day?
- Do you believe that we can lose our nation?
- Ideas to Explore: History says it could happen because it has happened many times before. How does that make you feel? Emboldened and willing to help. Overwhelmed and ready to give up. God does not define a position in between!
- 1NIV New International Version Translations
- 2The name Ephraim not only designates a person but also the tribe he started and their inheritance in the Promised Land (Joshua 16:5 – 9). It is Biblically used for a city and part of a mountain range in the heart of Israel. Additionally, a forest, a gate, and a symbolic reference to the northern ten tribes of Israel also use the name.