BIBLE SURVEY – HOSEA (Part II)
Love is Loyal
Love is not true love unless it is loyal, exclusive and faithful. The English word betrothed seeks to encapsulate the Hebrew word used in Hosea to describe Covenant Faithful Love. God rescued the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt. He provided for them, protected them and blessed them. In response, Israel was required to joyfully respond to God’s commands, delighting in His Law and worshipping God in grateful devotion.
The School of Suffering
God prepared Hosea for his extraordinary ministry, as he went through the trauma of a marriage to an unfaithful woman. Jeremiah was instructed to never marry so that he could learn how God grieved being rejected by Israel. Ezekiel was instructed that when his wife died, he was not to weep for her, just as God would not weep for the judgment that was to come upon Judah.
Disciplined, Deprived, Disowned
Hosea and Gomer had 3 children, at least one of which was not Hosea’s. Their first child born, Jezreel (God sows it), was a rebellious, unruly child who needed discipline. The second child, a girl, Lo-Ruhamah (Not pitied), was a deprived child, who did not receive love from her mother. The third child was a boy, Lo-Ammi (Not My People). Hosea was not the father and this boy was disowned. Disciplined, deprived, and disowned. These children’s names summarised how God was dealing with the people of Israel.
Rebuked, Redeemed, Restored
Hosea’s wife was rebuked, redeemed and restored. Hosea was faithful to his wife, even when she was faithless to him. He was firm with her, bringing her back home, but not sharing the bed with her, representing the period of discipline in the Exile, that God was going to put the Israelites through. Hosea was feared, as Gomer learned what it meant to respect and tremble before him with a healthy fear. So too God is faithful, firm and to be feared.
Seven Deadly Sins of Israel
- Ignorance – “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” The people chose to remain ignorant. They did not want to know about God.
- Ingratitude – Despite all God’s gracious provisions they remained unthankful.
- Immorality – Pursuing fertility cults, consorting with prostitutes and indulging in drunken orgies, Israel chose to copy the immorality of the surrounding nations.
- Idolatry – The fertility cults, materialism and idols of the Canaanites were integrated into the daily life and worship of the people of Israel.
- Infidelity – The people had become unfaithful in their marriages, as well as unfaithful to their Covenant God.
- Independence – “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft” and the people had chosen their own leaders and rejected the line of David, which God had set over them.
- Intrigue – Gossip, alliances with pagan nations and disloyalty towards one another characterised daily life.
Half-Baked and Half-Hearted
In Chapter 7, Hosea uses a variety of images to describe the character of Israel. Their evil passions were like a heated oven. They were like an upturned cake getting burned on one side, inedible. Ruined and rotten. Their half-heartedness made them useless. Israel flutters like a dove trapped in a net, turning to Egypt one moment and to Assyria the next, but never to God. Israel keeps faith with no one.
The Guilty Parties
Hosea identifies four groups of people responsible for the apostasy of Israel:
- The prophets – False prophets who tickled peoples ears with what they were itching to hear were plentiful.
- The priests – who should have been reminding the people of the Law of God had abdicated their responsibilities and were as degenerate as the pagans.
- The princes – were corrupt and irresponsible.
- The profiteers – were making serious money out of exploiting the poor, manipulating the markets, charging interest and corrupting society.
Barrenness, Bloodshed, Banishment
God warns that the consequences of disobedience and rebellion would be barrenness, bloodshed and banishment. There would be many miscarriages and much infertility. Their numbers would decline. Foreigners would be allowed to attack and kill many of them and they would be banished and exiled from the land.
A Time of Turmoil
Disaster and judgement seemed remote when Hosea began his 50 year prophetic ministry. But by 732 Damascus had fallen to the Assyrians and by 722, Samaria, the capital of Israel, fell and the people were exiled from the land. Hosea was the son of Beeri (1:1). Hosea prophesied during the reigns of kings Uzziah (790-739 B.C.), Jotham (750-731 B.C.), Ahaz (735-715 B.C.) and Hezekiah (715-686 B.C.) in Judah, and Jeroboam II (793-753 B.C.) in Israel. His long career spanned the last six kings of Israel from Zechariah (753-752 B.C.) to Hoshea (732-722 B.C.). The overthrow of Zechariah (the last king of the dynasty of Jehu), in 752 B.C. is depicted as yet future (1:4).
(To be continued tomorrow)