I love being married. My wife and I have a wonderful relationship based on love and trust. I have to tell you that we have a lot of fun together, and our relationship brings a significant amount of joy. I cannot think of anything worse in this life than to find out that my wife had been unfaithful. The pain that would grip my heart would reach down to the very depths of who I am and grip me. My trust would be eroded, and my joy would be quenched.
The Bible uses marriage as an image of how God relates to His people. His people are in a covenant with Him. God loves them, provides for them, and nurtures His people. Yet, so often, His people turn their back on God and seek after other gods. They commit spiritual adultery against a God who loves them deeply. Still, God is faithful and loving to His people in spite of their failures. On the other hand, God will judge His people when they choose to serve other gods and live for something other than His glory.
In Hosea, God gives us a wonderful picture of His love and grace. As a picture to demonstrate God’s love for His people, God calls Hosea to marry a prostitute named Gomer. More than likely, the woman was not a prostitute before they married, but soon after Hosea and Gomer were married, her unfaithfulness to Hosea comes forth. Eventually Gomer left Hosea and ended up on the streets living the life of a whore. Hosea would have been justified to ditch Gomer, and take his family and start again somewhere. But God had a different plan for them. God told Hosea to go find Gomer and buy her back (as a prostitute, she had become a slave).
The book of Hosea uses this life illustration to demonstrate how God continues to reach out to His unfaithful people, and love them in spite of their failures.
Hosea introduces himself in the first verse of the book, “The word of the Lord came to Hosea, the son of Beeri.” Hosea is a name that means salvation, and is a variation of Hebrew name Joshua, and the Greek version which is Jesus. Not a whole lot is known about the man, Hosea, outside of the his prophetic book. From his writing, we do know that Hosea was a person of compassion, but also a spokesman to warn the people about God’s coming judgement.
TIME OF HOSEA
To understand the life situation of Hosea, we first need to understand what happened in the nation of Israel. When the Hebrew people entered the promised land, God told warned them not to intermarry with people from other religions with other gods. But the people never really listened to God. Through His prophets, God continually warns the people that their idolatry is dangerous and that He will only tolerate their rebellion for so long. Idolatry to God is the same as the sin of adultery in marriage. God made His covenant with His people, but they continually turn their back and serve other gods. And often, we are no different. We turn from the true God to serve ourselves and other things around us.
About two hundred thirty years before the time of Hosea, Israel went through a civil war, and the country was divided into two. Two of the twelve tribes remain in the south and follow the kings located in Jerusalem. These people are known as Judah. The other ten tribes joined kings reigning from Samaria, in the northern part of the promised land. The northern tribes are called Israel or Ephraim (these names are used throughout the book to refer to the 10 tribes in the north). While both kingdoms struggle with idolatry, Judah has a softer heart toward God, and a number of their kings repent and lead the nation back to faith in Him. On the other hand, the northern kingdom of Israel constantly remains in a state of idolatry, with some of their kings being the most wicked the nation ever experienced.
Hosea prophecied to the northern kingdom, and his ministry begins during the reign of Jereboam II. During this king’s tenure, the nation experienced political peace and material prosperity, but they were morally wicked. After Jereboam II, the nation declined rapidly, with four of the next six kings being assassinated by their successors. Eventually, God would put an end to this by bringing judgement. Near the end of Hosea’s ministry, the empire of Assyria conquered the northern kingdom, and deported most of the people. The northern ten tribes of Israel disappeared forever as a result of their complete rebellion against God.
Hosea is a book that demonstrates God’s love and patience. Through Hosea, God lovingly warns the people of their need to repent from idolatry and serve the one, true God. But the book also demonstrates God’s judgement. Eventually, God will judge the sin of His people.
KEY THEMES OF HOSEA
As you read Hosea, you fill find some important themes and ideas. Look for them.
(1)The love of God for His people – Hosea begins with an illustration of God’s love, and is full of language that demonstrates His love. Even though His people have turned from Him, He pursues them and demonstrates incredible patience.
(2) The judgement and holiness of God – While God is faithful and patient, eventually God will judge sin and rebellion.
(3) God’s plan for marriage – We live in a culture where about half of all marriages end in divorce. People ditch their spouses for just about any reason. Hosea is a demonstration of God’s ultimate plan for marriage, two people staying together for a lifetime. While the Bible does permit divorce in the case of adultery, Hosea demonstrates God’s best plan by staying with Gomer, even when she is unfaithful. Hosea’s faithfulness is a great model for married couples to follow when they believe they have a good reason to leave.
(4)The remnant – One of the themes we find in this book relates to a group of people that God keeps for Himself. Even though the nation of Israel may rebel, God always had a group of people that served Him and obeyed Him, in spite of the wickedness around Him. God will always raise up a group to be light in the darkness. Sometimes it may be difficult to find people who truly believe in Christ with all of their hearts, but God will always have a remnant.