Hosea: The Broken Hearted Prophet
Minor Prophets Series #5
I doubt that any of the prophets felt the impact of Israel's faithlessness and apostasy from God any more than did Hosea. Probably none identified more closely with the sorrow God endures whenever His people turn their backs on Him and consort with idols. Out of all the prophets, Hosea was especially prepared to announce God's hurt over the people's disloyalty. God had prepared him. It was rough on Hosea. It was a job that somebody had to do. Because of following God's instructions, Hosea's heart would be broken and he would be publicly humiliated. He would suffer deeply, and in his emotional trauma illustrate to Israel what they were doing unto God. God went to great lengths to turn Israel around. If they won't listen to Hosea and wake up, then they are probably unreachable. God was exceedingly patient with His people.
And that's another point to Hosea. Not only had God been wrongfully and spitefully treated by His disloyal people, but He is also abundantly merciful and forgiving. They do not deserve it, but He is offering them opportunity to return. He will care for them again if they will return. It does not have to be over...yet. Consider then the message of Hosea and the way God prepared Hosea for his task.
BACKGROUND AND PREPARATION
"When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, 'Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry, and have children of harlotry, for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord.' So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son." (HOSEA 1:2,3). Hosea prophesied about 750 B.C to the nation of Israel, the northern nation of the divided kingdom and the more faithless of the two. It was during the reign of Jeroboam II that Hosea was called by God to be a prophet. He foretold of the destruction of Israel and the captivity of the people. Jeroboam II was the last strong king of Israel. He is followed by a series of short reigning kings who had the habit of barely sitting down on the throne before they were assassinated by someone who wanted to be next in line.
The Lord gave Hosea some startling instructions that would have a profound effect on his life and the anguish of his heartfelt sorrow would expose of the treachery of the people's idolatry and wickedness. God commanded that Hosea marry a young lady with no moral or spiritual upbringing. Hosea wasn't to look for one of the few godly women left in the land, but one with little interest in serving God or being a good and loyal wife. Hosea searched and found such a wife in Gomer. He evidently found her to be very attractive and developed strong feelings for her. Hosea's training had begun.
THE POINT OF GOD'S COMMAND
"Contend with your mother...For their mother played the harlot; She who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, 'I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.' (HOSEA 2:1;5). Gomer had rejected her husband's love and care and had chased after lovers who thrilled her and promised her things. She thought that they would supply her with all that Hosea had, and perhaps more. The fact is that they cared nothing for her, not really. All she had came from Hosea. He refused to continue to support her in her unfaithfulness. Soon she would be without anything and then perhaps realize her transgression.
The symbols are vivid: God was using Hosea's sorrow over his unfaithful wife as an illustration of His peoples' unfaithfulness to Him. It had been Jehovah who had blessed the people and rewarded them with security and increased their productivity and wealth. But they had turned their backs on Him and opted to serve idols who could do nothing for them. They attributed their past successes to the idols and not unto God. God, therefore, was going to withdraw His divine protection and blessing and Israel would be left empty. The Lord said, "For she does not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the new wine, and the oil, and lavished upon her silver and gold, which they used for Baal. Therefore, I will take back my grain at harvest time..." (HOSEA 2:8,9).
Nations always suffer for their ungodly ways. Ours does too. How can we, today, as a nation expect to sing "God Bless America" and then be so obstinate and faithless, partaking in the very same kinds of things that Israel did? Without God's blessing, the good in our nation cannot last.
"And I will punish her for the days of the Baals when she used to offer sacrifices to them...' For the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land, because their is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land. There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery...My people consult their wooden idol, and their diviner's wand informs them..." (HOSEA 2:13; 4:1-2; 12). The moral climate of Israel sounds much like our own today. Even in the texts we listed above there are five of the ten commandments which were being trodden underfoot on a regular basis. Sin had become the norm and nobody could trust anybody. There had grown a mutual disrespect, resentment and distrust of one another. All this would ultimately lead to desolation.
The evil started at the very top as well. The king of Israel ruled from the city of Samaria. The government itself had become so corrupt and self serving that a dark cloud hung over the land. "The iniquity of Ephraim is uncovered, and the evil deeds of Samaria, for they deal falsely...And they do not consider it in their hearts that I remember all their evil deeds...with their wickedness they make the king glad..." HOSEA 7:1-3).
CONSEQUENCES OF APOSTASY
"My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge..." (HOSEA 4:6). Where will all this lead. Certainly the corrupt nation laughed off Hosea's warning. His efforts were no doubt the butt of the jester's jokes as performed his routine before the king and his court. Warnings of serious danger do no good if they go unheeded.
Various figures of speech are employed by Hosea to describe God's sorrowful anger and the coming judgment. "How long will they be incapable of innocence?...For they sow the wind and they reap the whirlwind" (HOSEA 8:5,7). It seems as if Israel should occasionally have a good day. But instead it is as though they are incapable of anything but the worst behavior. They seem bent on self destruction, sowing the wind that will one day produce the whirlwind that will take it all away.
In describing Assyria to the east as an "east wind", the prophet announces that it will invade Israel and will plunder the treasury of every precious article (HOSEA 13:15,16). The Lord asks, "It is your destruction, O Israel, That you are against Me, against your help. Where is now your king that he may save you in all your cities, and your judges of whom you requested...I gave you a king in My anger and took him away in My wrath." (HOSEA 13:9-11). The same could be said concerning our own godless politicians, judges and entertainers. They speak loudly now of things God despises, but where will they be when our cities disintegrate into complete ruin? Are we not also turning against our Help and will it not also result in our destruction to do so?
AS ALWAYS, THERE IS HOPE
"Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity." (HOSEA 14:1). Gomer finally returned to Hosea and he was instructed to take her back (HOSEA 3:1-5). This was an illustration of God's attitude toward those who would repent.
Also, as is the case with most of the prophets, there direct references to the coming Messiah and the blessing of all peoples through Him. God would one day make of faithful Jews and Gentiles a new, spiritual Israel. This was fulfilled in Christ and His church (ROMANS 9:25,26; I PETER 2:10). "...and it will come about that, in that place where it is said to them, 'You are not My people,' it will be said to them, 'You are the sons of the living God." (HOSEA 1:10).
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 4.5; May 1997