Hosea 1:1 The word of the Lord that came to Hosea son of Beeri.
The prophet Hosea served the northern kingdom of Israel for at least thirty-eight years, until it was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BC. Israel abandoned God for idols, and was characterized by materialism, immorality and injustice. God was deeply offended, and related to Israel like a broken-hearted lover.
Hosea 1:2 When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, Go, marry a promiscuous woman.
Ordinarily, a prophet would want to marry a godly woman, and raise godly offspring. But Hosea was living in a time of national apostasy, and God wanted to illustrate what it was like to be married to Israel. So God gave Hosea the unusual command to marry a promiscuous woman.
Hosea 1:3 So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
Hosea was probably delighted to have a son, and surely wanted the best for him. Perhaps he thought of names like Elijah (meaning The Lord is my God), or Elisha (meaning God is salvation). Then the Lord said to Hosea, Call him Jezreel (Hosea 1:4), which means God scatters. In this way the prophet’s son would reinforce the prophet’s message. The nation of Israel would soon be scattered.
Hosea 1:6 Gomer conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. Then the Lord said to Hosea, Call her Lo-Ruhamah (which means not loved), for I will no longer show love to Israel, that I should at all forgive them.
It must have been difficult for Hosea and Gomer to name their little girl, not loved. But Israel had sinned against God so profoundly that God was threatening to remove his love from them. God is loving by nature, but if we reject his love to the end, we will become unloved.
Hosea 1:8-9 After she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, Gomer had another son. Then the Lord said, Call him Lo-Ammi (which means not my people), for you are not my people, and I am not your God.
Israel strained their relationship with God to the breaking point by turning their backs on him. If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God (Hebrews 10:26-27), says Hebrews. God is a real person, and our relationship with him should never be neglected.
Hosea 3:1-2 The Lord said to me, Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. . . . So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley.
Gomer had moved away from home, and left her family behind. She apparently sold herself to another man as a sexual slave. But at God’s command, Hosea paid the price to get her back. The biblical word for this is redemption, and it reminds us of what Jesus did for us. [W]e have redemption through his blood (Ephesians 1:7), wrote Paul.
Hosea paid an enormous price to redeem his wife, and God’s love for sinners is so great that he paid the highest possible price for us. Like Hosea looking for Gomer, God comes looking for us, in order to bring us home. Nothing we have ever done can keep us away from God, if we are willing to return. This is good news for all who have wandered away.
Hosea 4:6 [M]y people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.
Israel’s memory was short, and because the priests were no longer teaching Scripture, true religion had nearly vanished. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests (Hosea 4:6b), said God.
Like the nation of Israel, churches are seldom stronger than their knowledge of God’s word. That is why Paul told Timothy to Preach the word . . . . For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:2-4).
Here’s the problem: unless a preacher can gather a crowd, that is also willing to pay, he will soon be out of a job. But God’s word is highly demanding, so ministers often do what they can to make it more agreeable. They might emphasize the positive, leave out the difficult parts, or preach something else entirely. This is how churches drift away from the truth.
The solution to this problem is twofold. First, preachers must proclaim God’s word, without compromise, in a loving and helpful way. Second, believers must support the church with their presence and their gifts. The prophet’s words are just as true today as they were back then: God’s people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Unless we are committed to knowing God’s word, our future will be like Israel’s.
Reflection and Review
Why did God tell Hosea to marry a promiscuous woman?
How is God like a frustrated lover?
Why is it hard to be a faithful minister?