The book of Hosea is full of a kind of beauty that will take our breath away…if we will let it.
I’m taking Chapter 1 today, solo, just to set the scene, then 2 & 3 together next week and then a couple more posts to cover the remaining 12 chapters. Boom!
- Remember in verse 1, crucially, the context has been set like some kind of historical GPS for us. (More detail here).
- Then verse two begins the first of two prose/narrative sections that act as book ends on the more poetic middle of the book that we’ll come to in another post.
- We’re assured straight away that this is the LORD speaking – as though we needed reminding – bringing to mind 2 Timothy 3:16 that “…all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful…”. This is Hosea speaking but it is the Lord of all creation who is speaking through Him.
In order to speak prophetically to a Nation and to achieve redemption and righteousness for them, God invades, exposes and demands the masculinity of Hosea’s ego, his social and spiritual reputation, his lineage, his peace, his joy, his sanity, his sexual satisfaction and purity and, most ultimately, the emotional bed of his heart.
- God commands Hosea to take the ‘harlot’ Gomer (an active Prostitute in the pagan Canaanite temple of Baal) to be his beloved wife – the unholy incongruity of the union of God’s prophetic mouth piece (Hosea) and the sexual activities of this pagan temple (Gomer) is meant to be disgustingly, sacrilegiously and painfully palpable to us.
- God orchestrates this to flesh out what has happened in the Nation of Israel – namely that the adulterous people of Israel have betrayed their God, the glorious covenant He made with them, and prostituted themselves with other gods. Not to put too fine a point on it, Israel haven’t even done this secretly; they have flagrantly betrayed their Beloved in full view of the other Nations. God is a laughing stock.
- If we slow down and allow what’s unfolding to wash over us, back and forth, what we discover is that God’s heart is churning. This is depicted in the churning heart of Hosea…and, hopefully, the reader. We’re not to view God as some kind of emotionally unstable Deity (because emotion is often portrayed in a negative way and God as emotion-less), but rather as a God who perfectly feels, a God who intricately cares and a God who steadfastly loves. What does it say in James 4:5?
Or do you think Scripture says without reason that He jealously longs for the Spirit he has caused to dwell in us? (This certainly isn’t sinful jealousy)
- In one sense, it is as though Hosea is only a vessel through whom God can communicate with Israel rather than God dealing with Hosea like He deals, personally, with you and I. (It’s important to imagine the personal cost to Hosea that God’s oracle to Israel must have had, but not at the expense of imagining the cost to God Himself as His people flout the holy covenant).
- Israel’s abject guilt and the absolute centre of the heart of God is projected through the most intimate details of Hosea’s personal life, (symbolised in his bedroom and marital bed). In order to speak prophetically to a Nation and to achieve redemption and righteousness for them, God invades, exposes and demands the masculinity of Hosea’s ego, his social and spiritual reputation, his lineage, his peace, his joy, his sanity, his sexual satisfaction and purity and, most ultimately, the emotional bed of his heart.
- As though this wasn’t costly enough, (the exposing of Hosea’s bedroom, ego and heart), God then exposes the family dinner table:
- Hosea’s family, his very children, are defined in terms of their Mother’s adultery. This is significant. Wasn’t Gomer’s guilt her own fault as a result of her own corrupt character? Surely these children are innocent?! No. God makes it clear that the treachery and betrayal of the marital covenant between Yahweh and Israel has generational reach, like a inter-generational gangrene. (We need to also remember and see the cross of Christ within our peripheral vision, here).
- Gomer gives Hosea and Gomer three children – two boys and a girl – whose names are like prophetic flags of doom flying over their household together: Jezreel, Lo-Ruhamah, Lo-Ammi. (Check out the text for yourself as to their meaning as the book unfolds and God’s grace explodes).
- Next is the most beautiful word in the entire chapter and, arguably, the whole book, or, even the whole Bible!
Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore…
- The prophesied judgment of God’s people is seasoned with a grace that is supposed to bring us to our knees in awe of Who God really is. If we read this and think, ‘that’s good, that’s nice, isn’t God great…’ then we totally miss the heart-churning-power and depth of what’s occurring in these pages.
- This is where imagination is so important. Put yourselves in Hosea’s shoes, yes, but also put yourself in God’s shoes. Remember we are to empathise with God – He’s inviting us to do that – and His heart is wrecked.
- Despite pain, embarrassment, betrayal, the worst a human can do, His grace pours out in breath-taking ways as we progress through the rest of the book. The grace of God is so scandalous that, even within the same chapter that diagnoses Israel’s depravity, the Abrahamic promises from Genesis reverberate around the home of Hosea and the Nation of Israel.
We’re Going to Dive Straight into Chapters 2 and 3 next week!
What do you think?