Who does not love a love story? We are drawn to them as humans. This is why so many books, tv shows, and movies are made regarding love stories. The Hallmark Channel just had a month of movies that are all love stories at Christmas time. We love a good love story. The book of Hosea is God’s love story. It is a book that reveals the heart of God. What God is going to do is unique. He is going to tell his love story for people through a prophet named Hosea. Hosea is the last prophet to proclaim God to the northern nation, called Israel (750-725 BC). God is willing to use his prophets in strange ways to make visual teaching points to his people. God made Isaiah have his rear end hang out so that the people would see that this is how they will go into captivity: naked. God told Jeremiah not to marry. God told Ezekiel to not weep when his wife died and to lie on his side for a year to teach the people a message. God is going to use Hosea to teach a message of love to the people of Israel, but it is going to be a strange, yet amazing love story.
The Strange Command (1:1-2)
God’s first message to Hosea is to go and marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her. Some translations read that she would be a wife of harlotry or a prostitute. But we should not think of her being a professional prostitute or a temple prostitute because a different Hebrew word is used for those people. We will see that she receives gifts for her services but she is not a professional prostitute. She is just promiscuous. Just imagine this command being given to you. You are going to marry someone who sleeps around and he or she is going to continue to sleep around after you are married so that you will have “children of whoredom.” You get married knowing that your spouse is not going to be faithful to you. Why would God tell Hosea to do this? The rest of verse 2 explains the reason. “The land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” Israel is guilty of being unfaithful to the Lord. Hosea is going to be a picture of what God is experiencing in his relationship with Israel.
This picture tells us much about how God feels about our sins. Turning away from the Lord is as heart breaking and covenant breaking as a spouse that commits adultery against you. Turning from God into our sins is adultery to him. It is painful and devastating to him.
The Strange Children (1:3-9)
Hosea does what the Lord says and marries a woman named Gomer. Hosea and Gomer have a son named Jezreel. The child’s name means “God will scatter.” This can be a positive or negative but the explanation shows that this is a negative. God is going to punish the house of Jehu and put an end to Israel. Interestingly, the city of Jezreel is where Jehu slaughtered Ahab’s house and established his own dynasty, which was God’s judgment for Ahab’s wickedness. However, Jehu failed to walk in God’s ways (2 Kings 10:30-31). Therefore, judgment was going to come. The military power and strength of Israel will be shattered (1:5).
Verse 6 says that Gomer conceived again. It is worth noting that in verse 3 the text tells us that a son was born to Hosea. But in verse 6 the text merely says that Gomer conceived and bore a daughter. We are left to wonder if this is Hosea’s child. Perhaps even Hosea was left to wonder if this daughter was his since he is married to a promiscuous woman. The Lord says that this daughter’s name is to be No Mercy. No more mercy would be given to Israel to forgive them. Israel has run out of God’s mercy and God will no longer forgive them. Mercy is still available to the southern nation, Judah (1:7), but not for Israel. It is time for judgment, not mercy.
Finally, Gomer conceives and bears a son and his name is Not My People. It seems evident that this child is not Hosea’s child but a child of whoredom as God declared. The message is clear. Israel is no longer God’s people and he is no longer their God. You are completely disowned. You do not belong to God anymore and cannot call him your God. As each child is born we see an underscoring of the truth that mercy is over and judgment is coming against Israel for its wickedness. It sounds like it is over for Israel.
The Strange Promise (1:10-2:1)
But look at what God says in verse 10. The promise God made to Abraham will be remembered. God made a promise to Abraham that his offspring would be innumerable. God says that this promise is still going to happen even though Israel will be judged. Further, a reversal is going to happen. In the place where God declared them to no longer be his people, they will be called children of the living God. The children of Israel and Judah will be gathered together under one head and they will go up from the land, which is a picture of a new exodus, as if coming out of Egypt again. Then the beautiful words are declared: “You are my people” and “You have received mercy.” Further, the positive use of Jezreel is declared. The scattering can also referring to scattering seed. So a great reversal will happen.
The people who deserve wrath will in the future receive mercy. The people who deserve to be cut off from God will be gathered again as God’s people. Not only will they be called his people but they will even be called God’s children. There is an amazing reversal that is coming. Now scour the chapter. Did the people do anything to deserve this reversal? Did the people change for this reversal to come about? Did the people turn back to the Lord and that is why God promised hope for their future? The people will not change. They will not turn back to the Lord. They will be judged for their sins. They are not going to do something that is going to move God to act. God is just going to act because that is who God is. God is doing something for Israel because that is the kind of God he is. God loves his people. God loves the world. God loves every single human. God is going to restore Israel in spite of her sins.
New Testament Hope
Now we can read a chapter like this and be fairly unmoved because we see it simply as a hope to Israel. But what is the relevance for us? What does this mean for us? This passage is quoted and alluded to in a couple of places in the New Testament.
First, the apostle Paul quotes this in Romans 9:25-26. But the apostle does something shocking with the text. Romans 9 is where Paul show that God’s promises have not failed toward Israel. We might be tempted to think that Paul is just going to show that Israel is able to access to God by quoting the text. But the point Paul makes is not that God would merely bring back the “not my people” Israel. Instead, God is going to bring back all peoples who are called “not my people.” Look at Romans 9:22-26. God is able to make known the riches of glory “not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles” (Romans 9:24). God was going to do something and offer to every rebel and every sinner the ability to come to God. Even the Gentiles would be able to enjoy a privileged status with God.
What is the New Testament trying to teach to us by referring to and quoting this scripture? Our sins put us in the same condition before God. We should be scattered and judged. We should not receive any mercy from God. We should not be able to find forgiveness of sins. We should not be God’s people. Yet consider what has happened. We have been chosen by God. It is so easy to forget where we come from in life. It is so easy to think of the way things are now as the way they have always been. It is easy to forget what life was like many years ago. I have to stop and remember how far I have come. When I was in college, April and I were dating and I was so poor that to take her out on a date, we would go to Olive Garden and order the unlimited soup and salad for $3.99 and split it. That was our big outing. Our dates consisted of finding new malls in driving distance and walking around them for the day. For a long time we had no money and we went nowhere. I cannot fully appreciate the blessings I have now unless I remember how little I had physically in the past. The same is true when it comes to appreciating our relationship with God. We cannot appreciate being God’s people until we truly appreciate how much we should never have been called God’s people. We cannot see the privilege we have been given until we see how we should have no opportunity to be forgiven or belong to God at all.
There is only one way that we lose compassion for lost souls and become proud regarding our salvation: by forgetting how we were terrible sinners that God showed mercy toward and forgave. We become like the Pharisee and think that we have been forgiven little, as if we were really not that bad. But this thinking shows that we are blind to our own sinfulness. Being God’s people begins by realizing that I cannot pay for my sins any more than some in the world. We are not better than any one else and our privileges and blessings we enjoy are only by God’s mercy. This is why Hosea makes this proclamation and why Paul and Peter would apply the prophecy to us. We have to see that we are not a people and we are not ones who receive mercy so that when we do receive mercy and do become his people we will be overwhelmed with gratitude and joy.
Finally, God used a marriage picture to see Israel’s relationship with him. Israel was not merely God’s people. The relationship was far more intimate to God. It was a marriage relationship to God, but Israel broke the marriage covenant. We need to see that God pictures our relationship with God as a marriage also. The church is pictured as the bride for Christ in Revelation 19. In Ephesians 5:23-30 the apostle Paul teaches that the image of marriage refers to Christ and the church. Christ has loved us and given up himself for us. We give our lives to him because he wants this intimate relationship with us. You are married to the Lord and this should change how we live. God wanting us in spite of our sinfulness opens our hearts to love him, worship him, serve him, and obey him.