I love the story of Hosea. Incredulously, this Middle Eastern man is told by God, “Go. Marry a prostitute. Your life is now an object lesson for Israel. They are whoring on every hillside trying to get from Baal what only I can give. I still am here, waiting for them. Now you, Hosea, go pursue a wife who is sexually defiled. She needs a husband, whether she knows it or not. So too, Israel needs my covenant, whether they remember or not.”
Talk about a tall order. In Jewish culture, righteous living was how you showed off your excellence to the Lord, your devotion and quite frankly, your status. Hosea, named “Deliverer” at birth, embraced the pain of social rejection for his choice to marry a prostitute. He married Gomer, named “Completion” by her family, whose life was far from perfect, given the brutality of the sex trade in any context.
Their heavenly arranged marriage bore fruit. Hosea and Gomer had a son. Instead of the parents naming their child, the Lord said, “He shall be called Jezreel, “God will sow”, for I am sowing justice. The kingdom of Israel, your nation, is about to cease.”
The couple had another child, a girl, named Loruhama, “No Mercy”, followed by a son, named Loammi, “Not My People”, again, named by the Lord, as a sign to Israel of their current reality. Israel’s pursuit of everything but God was reaping a irrevocable gap as God judged the nation for their intense idolatry of Baal, Astoreth and Molech, while they forsook monogamous faith in the One True Living God.
For decades, Israel had forsaken God, choosing a “name only “marriage, as they sought every other idol option; temple prostitution and child sacrifice was normative to the culture. Despite their adultery, reality was coming to Israel as God warned the nation:
“Rename your brothers ‘God’s Somebody.’ Rename your sisters ‘All Mercy. Haul your mother into court. Accuse her! She’s no longer my wife. I’m no longer her husband. Tell her to quit dressing like a whore, displaying her breasts for sale. She said, ‘I’m off to see my lovers! They’ll wine and dine me, Dress and caress me, perfume and adorn me!’ But I’ll fix her…She’ll go on the hunt for her lovers but not bring down a single one. She’ll look high and low but won’t find a one. Then she’ll say, ‘I’m going back to my husband, the one I started out with. That was a better life by far than this one.’ She didn’t know that it was I all along who wined and dined and adorned her, That I was the one who dressed her up in the big-city fashions and jewelry that she wasted on wild Baal-orgies…. Party time is over. I’m calling a halt to the whole business, her wild weekends and unholy holidays…I’ll make her pay for her indulgence in promiscuous religion– all that sensuous Baal worship And all the promiscuous sex that went with it, stalking her lovers, dressed to kill, And not a thought for me.”(Hos 2:1 -8,10 MSG)
Brutal. As a married woman, I sure wouldn’t be pursuing my husband if he was choosing adultery as his normal. I would be separating. But here is God, who had chosen Israel, a nation of slaves in Egypt and established holy covenant with her, reaching over and over to the nation who thinks Baal (aka Satan) as their best option. God protected,prospered, sheltered and loved Israel despite their lack of loyalty. Though Israel had forsaken God, the Lord was far from finished with His covenant. He planned to redeem Israel, by force if necessary:
And now, here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to start all over again. I’m taking her back out into the wilderness where we had our first date, and I’ll court her. I’ll give her bouquets of roses. I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope. She’ll respond like she did as a young girl, those days when she was fresh out of Egypt. “At that time”–this is GOD’s Message still– “you’ll address me, ‘Dear husband!’ Never again will you address me, ‘My slave-master!’ I’ll wash your mouth out with soap, get rid of all the dirty false-god names, not so much as a whisper of those names again. (2: 14-17 MSG)
How many of us would run to our husband or wife, after they slept with hundreds of others, and say, I am going to court you and woo you and bring you back into relationship? Yet that was exactly what God was planning. Unconditional fierce agape love is God’s normal.
Just as the children were impacted by their parents’ choices, so the land of Israel was also polluted by Israel’s sin, defiled by bloodshed, sexual sin and child sacrifice. God grieved the impact of wicked Israel on its land. Only God could bring the redemption required. Yet Israel had no volition to turn back to Him:
At the same time I’ll make a peace treaty between you and wild animals and birds and reptiles, And get rid of all weapons of war. Think of it! Safe from beasts and bullies! And then I’ll marry you for good–forever! I’ll marry you true and proper, in love and tenderness. Yes, I’ll marry you and neither leave you nor let you go. You’ll know me, GOD, for who I really am. “On the very same day, I’ll answer”–this is GOD’s Message– “I’ll answer the sky, sky will answer earth, Earth will answer grain and wine and olive oil, and they’ll all answer Jezreel. I’ll plant her in the good earth. I’ll have mercy on No-Mercy. I’ll say to Nobody, ‘You’re my dear Somebody,’ and he’ll say ‘You’re my God!'” (Hos 2: 18-23 MSG)
Redemption affects every aspect of life. God sows life and the land receives and the people shift into excellence as beloved of God. Redemption came from a blood soaked cross by a Sinless Son, foreshadowed by Hosea’s example of holy embracing defiled with fierce unwavering intent, love come down.
Hosea served for fifty years as a prophet to his nation. He lived in grief as he witnessed the slow decline of his nation’s shift far away from God. Decades later, the Assyrian army invaded Israel and scattered the people, dispersing Jews to countless nations, a people no more, without mercy, though Judah was spared.
Where was God’s promised redemption? Paul the apostle, preeminent Pharisee convert, ached and grieved for Israel to turn to Christ years later. He references Hosea as he celebrates the God’s big picture for humanity in Romans:
As He also says in Hosea, “I will call those not My people, My people; and those not beloved, Beloved.” And it shall be, in the place where it was said to them. “You are not My people; there they shall be called sons of the living God.” (Roman 9: 25-26, NKJV).
God redeemed us to be His very own children through His One and Only Son. The culmination of Hosea’s story, the movement from judgement and reality to mercy and relationship, came through the cross of Christ, as He atoned for all sin, the perfect Deliverer, with fierce love for us, His Bride. The story continues with each choice, as by faith in Christ Jesus, we are sons of God. Galatians 3:26.
Let’s pray: Father, shine Your light and hold it steady until we see what You want us to see, that we may live true before You, as Your beloved children. Lord Jesus, what love, that You chose to die, that You became sin for us, that we would be righteous before our God! Holy Spirit, search us and know us and lead us into all truth. May we live in holy awe of what You have done, O God, Love come down, that You offered mercy and adoption as Your children, when we lived in abject sin. What holy love! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
This Week’s Reading: Hosea 1-14
Next Week’s Bible Reading: Joel 1 – Amos 9
- What part do you see yourself in the story of Hosea?
- How do you feel when God hauls Israel into court? Do you resist? Do you cringe?
- Can you talk to God about how you feel about Him as righteous Judge?
- Do you know God as Your fiercely loving Father? If not, ask for revelation of this truth by the Holy Spirit.
- How does the Big Picture of Redemption affect you? Do you play an active or passive role in your relationship with God, with others? How do you partner with God with redemption?