Several years ago, at a conference in Eastbourne, East Sussex, England a young brother asked me a rather daunting question. Have you ever been disappointed with God? As Christian’s called to serve in the 21st century, it can be extremely easy to get discouraged. With faithful, fervent gospel preaching, few enter the kingdom. Through the ministry of God’s Word many Christians hear teaching on baptism but never obey! Others read the command, “This do in remembrance of me…” and never do it! Believers, aware of the new commandment, “Love one another…” sadly fall short! Disappointed with God? Every believer can say… NO!Discouraged? Most of us might say… YES! Is there an answer? The book of Hosea unfolds one of the greatest love stories in the Bible. Hosea’s love for Gomer is truly remarkable, but the love of God for Israel goes beyond all understanding. A nation loved by God… a nation that disappointed God… a nation that deserved God’s judgment… a nation still loved by God… a nation soon to be restored by God and to God! Recalling the manifestation of God’s love for us in the giving of His Only Son… perhaps like Israel we too have disappointed God! Remember the distinction… confess our sins… do not feed on failure! Instead of looking within we look up in wonder and worship… God loves us still! May the language of our hearts be… “Thanks, be unto God for His unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15).
Some background details for the setting and study of Hosea: In the opening of Hosea (1:1) we have mention of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, Kings of Judah. Also note the reference to Jeroboam the son of Joash, King of Israel. As mentioned in previous notes this makes Amos and Hosea contemporaries in their ministry, although Hosea’s lasted much longer. In the opening chapter of their respective books, both are linked with Uzziah King of Judah and Jeroboam King of Israel. The last six kings of Israel after Jeroboam were: Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah and Hoshea (2 Kings 15:8-31; 17:6). Between them they reigned about 40 years. It is interesting that none of these are mentioned in Hosea, seeing his ministry continued to Hezekiah king of Judah and the time of Israel’s Captivity. Note the kings mentioned in Isaiah and Micah… they both being prophets to Judah!
The message of Hosea is primarily to Israel. Has Hosea any prophetic utterance against Gentile nations as in Amos? Just to ease us into a study of the 14 chapters we will look first at the references to Judah. Read them through. Israel then is likened too… and I have given a sample from the book. Again, read them through. Can you find any more? As to the soon coming judgment we have what Israel will be like. Finally, we have what God will be like to Israel. Not now their help, but an executer of judgment! Remember the first three chapters are the key to the book. In the reading of the references that I have given, get a feel for the book, and I will give various outlines for further study in Part 2.
What God thinks of Judah…
Mercy upon the house of Judah (1:7).
Judah and Israel under one head… United (1:11).
Let not Judah offend… Warning (4:15).
Warning unheeded meant Judgment… Judah also shall fall (5:5). The Princes of Judah are like them that remove the bound or landmark (5:10). God will be to them as rottenness (5:12). Judah saw the wound, perceived their weakness (5:13). God will be to them as a young lion… to tear (5:14).
“O Judah, what shall I do unto thee…” (6:4). Despair at their Departure. Their goodness, kindness, quickly gone, like morning cloud, early dew. The “Also, O Judah…” (6:11), is a link to what went before, meaning the harvest is a Harvest of Judgment. What they have sown they will reap but over 100 years later than Israel.
Judah, multiplied cities. False Hope! Fire of judgment against them (8:14).
The context here seems to be judgment, not threshing out the corn, the relatively easy task, but Judah Plowing and Jacob (Israel) breaking the clods (10:11). Whole nation swept away!
Returning here to the sin of Israel, we are reminded that Judah still Ruleth (KJV), walketh (JND), with God (11:12). In the NASB the word ruleth is translated Unruly! However, it is also translated Dominion in Genesis 27:40, so ruleth seems to be the most appropriate word here.
God has a controversy with Judah although ruling, with some good kings, whereas Israel had none! Nevertheless, they too had departed and Forsaken the Commandments of the Lord (12:2).
What Israel is likened to… Backsliding heifer (4:16). Stubborn, “throws off her yolk, and turns backward instead of going forward” (Unger's Commentary on the Old Testament, Merrill F. Unger). Morning cloud (6:4). Goodness, (loyalty NASB), promising, but soon goes away. Disappointment! An oven heated (7:4). Adulterers, unfaithful, an unseen working... but seen by God! The fire of evil… leavened. Heart like an oven (7:6). Plotting in the heart… lying in wait... sleeping in the night…ready to be ignited in the morning. Hot as an oven (7:7). Full of lust, treachery, fulfilling their evil desire. Cake not turned (7:8). “Neither bread nor dough” (John Gill's Exposition on the Entire Bible). Not fit for eating, soon to be discarded. Captivity! Silly dove (7:11). Fluttering between two, Egypt and Assyria. Anywhere for help but to God. Deceitful bow (7:16). Israel unreliable… undependable. A wild ass by himself (8:9). Untamed… obstinate… self-willed… with disastrous alliances. Grapes in the wilderness (9:10). How God found them at first… but! They became like those that they loved. An empty vine (10:1). Bringing forth fruit… for himself. Luxuriant vine… but no fruit for the Lord of the vineyard. Heifer that is taught (10:11-13).
A work they loved doing... v 11. Treading out the corn.
The work they would be doing… v 11. Plowing… laborious task.
The work they should be doing… v 12. Sowing… righteousness. Reaping… mercy. Breaking the fallow ground. Seeking the Lord.
The work they had been doing… v 13. Plowed wickedness. Reaped iniquity. Eaten the fruit of lies.
(The four headings in the above paragraph by John Riddle, The Minor Prophets: Precious Seed Publications). A merchant or a Canaanite (12:7). Deceitful… thinking that none would discover his evil and treachery.
What Israel will be like… “Therefore they shall be as the Morning Cloud, and as the Early Dew that passeth away, as the Chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the Smoke out of the chimney” (13:3). This fourfold graphic illustration is suggestive: Assyrian captivity for Israel and no return, unlike Judah returning from Babylon (Ezra 2:1). Nationalised Idolatry at Bethel and Dan was the reason for the severity of their judgment. This was introduced by Israel’s first king, Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the man who made Israel to sin (1 Kings 12:25-33). However, the restoration of the Whole Nation, all 12 tribes, awaits the day still to come when, “Behold a King shall reign in righteousness…” (Isaiah 32:1). There will be no lost tribes and no failure in the Divine purpose.
What God will be like to Israel… “Therefore I will be unto them as a Lion: as a Leopard by the way will I observe them: I will meet them as a Bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart, and there will I devour them like a Lion: the Wild Beast shall tear them” (13:7-8). Again, we have another fourfold description of God’s judgment against them. This is the One who said, “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in Me is thine help” (13:9). God could also say, “… they have forsaken Me the fountain of living waters…” (Jeremiah 2:13). There is indeed a very poignant gospel application for today! God, who is a Saviour God, rejected by the individual, will be their judge in a day to come. Presently He loves the World and still delights to bless. Is it any wonder that Paul could say, “Brethren my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved” (Romans 10:1)? Let this be our prayer for those who are in our homes and around us in our communities! Hosea… GOD IS LOVE!