Tag Archives: Hosea

Words of Death and Life

The Old Testament prophets were poets and strong words were their tools. The prophet Hosea used offensive language to stir up the people and to call them back to God. The graphic words were to be a shock to the community in hope that they would repent.

Hosea and Gomer by Artist Cody F. Miller

In the first chapter, Hosea was directed by God to marry an unconventional wife.

The Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” (Hosea 1:2)

His chosen wife, Gomer, may have been a temple prostitute from one of the fertility cults or a simple street prostitute of the city. She bore children to Hosea to whom Hosea gave symbolic names, No-Pity and Not-My-Children, demonstrating God’s strong disfavor with the fickle people of Israel. Afterwards Hosea spoke an extremely harsh word to the people.

Plead with your mother, plead— for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband— that she put away her whoring from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts, or I will strip her naked and expose her as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and turn her into a parched land, and kill her with thirst. Upon her children also I will have no pity, because they are children of whoredom.

God was angry with Israel’s infatuation with other religions. Instead of being a shining beacon of the Lord God for other nations, they had embraced the gods of other nations, forsaking their unique covenant with God. They had become like a spouse caught in adultery.

The harsh violent language of Hosea can be a shock to our spiritual sensibilities. How can God speak in such cruel severe words?

Perhaps the words are so harsh, because the people’s hearts were so hard. Or perhaps they are so cruel because our hearts are so hard. The words of the prophet “killed” the people (including us the reader), so that God can create a new heart, a new life: a kind of resurrection.

Therefore I will now allure her and speak tenderly to her, . . . I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. (Hosea 2:14,19)

Finally the Lord declared, “I will have pity on No-Pity, and I will say to Not-My-Children, ‘You are my people’” (Hosea 2:23). I cling to these words of hope and restoration.

Lord Jesus, the Word of God, you absorbed our sin in your death on the cross. Speak to us again the Word of Life.

The Prophet’s Profit

The prophetic books have always been a challenge to me as a preacher and pastor. I prefer to work with narrative portions of the Bible: stories that make a point about God and humanity. The Biblical prophets rarely tell stories (the prophet Jesus being the exception). Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Micah and others tend to use poetic language of metaphor and direct speech. The language is often harsh and demanding. Law seems to prevail over gospel; God’s judgment over God’s mercy.

Do not rejoice, O Israel! Do not exult as other nations do; for you have played the whore, departing from your God. You have loved a prostitute’s pay on all threshing floors. Threshing floor and wine vat shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail them. They shall not remain in the land of the Lord; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and in Assyria they shall eat unclean food. (Hosea 9:1-3)

Yet this is God’s Word and needs our faithful attention. Like a good doctor, the prophet gives a proper diagnoses of our spiritual condition. The prophet does not sugar-coat the news, but rather forcefully calls for the repentance of God’s people. The prophet shows us our sinful arrogance and calls us back to God’s ways. It is our disloyalty to God and God’s ways that causes the judgment. It is our mistreatment of our neighbor that causes God’s to be angry.

 Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.  Take words with you and return to the Lord; say to him, “Take away all guilt; accept that which is good, and we will offer the fruit of our lips.   (Hosea 14:1-2)

The prophets announce God’s mercy and tenderness. God’s love permeates even the judgment.  The prophet Hosea proclaims God’s grace towards us in a poem that reminds of the paradise garden of Eden in Genesis 2.

I will heal their disloyalty; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them.  I will be like the dew to Israel. . .   They shall again live beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden; they shall blossom like the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

The prophets can still speak God’s Word of life for us. Are we willing to listen?

Lord Jesus, you have the words of eternal life. Open our hearts to hear them.