The Gospel According to Hosea

The Gospel According to Hosea

The Gospel According to Hosea.

If the biblical world was a classroom, God’s prophets were the visual aids. As the Lord’s mouthpieces, they were often called upon to be symbols of His messages. Since they were instructed to be dramatic illustrations of the word of the Lord, the people not only heard the word, they literally saw the word. So prophets were often asked to make spectacles of themselves. Sometimes they went from being mouthpieces to megaphones in their actions. They were held up for ridicule, mockery and rejection. Because prophets were obedient to a fairly unpredictable God, they were often dismissed as cranks and eccentrics and not taken seriously. Prophets were often instructed to be living object lessons, so they had to learn how to swallow their pride and embrace public humiliation. Sometimes prophets did things that should be glossed over in Sunday School if not totally ignored. At times we have to wince when we read of a prophet’s antics, and we want to file it under “Do not try this at home.” We can often take a light-hearted approach to their street theater. In such cases we can take to heart G. K. Chesterton’s words, “He who has the Faith has the fun.” But other times their performance art is not mere comic relief. It is difficult and painful and definitely not fun. All this translates into God’s biblical prophets being spiritual live wires, engaging personalities, and real characters. The prophets may have struggled at times with accepting God’s instructions. But in the end they all settled into being fools for God.

Hosea. Not much is known about the background of the prophet Hosea, except that God chose him for a difficult and seemingly foolish task. God commanded Hosea to be a living parable. Hosea has been called by some a prophet of love. But the parable was not primarily about human love. Hosea was a parable about God’s love and mercy. Unfortunately, God chose a rather unprecedented way to live that parable out. The Lord instructed Hosea to marry a prostitute, just your average street-corner whore. Not only that, but God wanted to see children from their union, and He wanted Hosea to remain faithful to her despite her further sexual adventures. How’s that for an assignment from a holy Lord? Could there be anything more foolish to the public eye than marrying a prostitute, raising a family, and remaining faithful to her? Ever the obedient servant, that’s just what Hosea did. Gomer the prostitute, unsurprisingly, was unfaithful to Hosea, but as instructed, Hosea remained faithful to Gomer. This was indeed a difficult object lesson to act out in reality. Imagine the shame and humiliation. Marrying a common whore was a definitely a fool’s errand.

But what was God’s point in this very visual aid? Why did God put Hosea through this strange marriage? God wanted to teach the Israelites a very important lesson, what turned out to be a gospel lesson in love. The Lord wanted Hosea’s union with Gomer to provide a graphic picture of the relationship between the Lord and His people Israel. The people are unfaithful to me, says the Lord. They are prostituting themselves after other gods. As the Message puts it, “This whole country has become a whorehouse!” (1:2). My chosen people have violated our covenant, our sacred marriage vows. They are uniting themselves with other gods. And yet, and yet. I will pursue my people in faithfulness, because I love them anyway. I will be faithful when my people are at their worst. Hosea is a picture of how I love my people, says the Lord. Hosea forgave Gomer even after she slept with other men after their marriage. And that is a picture of how I will forgive my chosen people even after their wayward unfaithfulness. I will take them back into my love. “And it shall be, in that day,’ says the Lord, ‘that you will call me, my husband, and no longer call me, my master… I will betroth you to me forever. Yes, I will betroth you to me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord.” (2:16,19,20).

Hosea’s call to repentance in ch. 6 is poignant and points to our life in Christ. “Come, and let us return to the Lord; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up… Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord, His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth… For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (6:1,3,6). Jesus repeated these words about mercy more than once as He underlined the importance of those words in Hosea. (Matt. 9:13, 12:7) .

Yahweh continues to agonize over His chosen people, and seems to come to a decision to be faithful despite their unfaithfulness: “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? My heart churns within me; my sympathy is stirred. I will not execute the fierceness of my anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim. For I am God, and not man, the Holy One in your midst.” (11:8-9).

The story continues. Gomer was sold into sexual slavery, and Hosea in his faithfulness decided to redeem her, to buy her out of that slavery and have her return into his house. What a picture of the gospel of Redemption. We don’t know Gomer’s response to Hosea’s amazing patience and forgiveness. We do know that Hosea goes on in his prophetic role to announce the Lord’s judgment on Israel and Judah. But the final chapter is hopeful for those who repent of their unfaithfulness. “Yahweh says, ‘Then I will heal you of your faithlessness; my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone foreverWho is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them.” (14:4,9). Hosea was an obedient fool for love. It seems that God is playing the holy fool for love for our sake as well. Jesus on the Cross, The holy fool of love to redeem our very souls.

Are there other gods we lust after instead of keeping our vows with our spiritual spouse? Other gods like, Power and Influence? Money and Things? Ego and Self? Success and Fame? Sex and Identity? Praise be to God, who is faithful to us even when we, like Gomer, are unfaithful to Him. Great is His faithfulness.