The rest of Hosea’s book is a collection of sermons delivered up to the point of Israel’s deportation.
Without, perhaps, realizing he was having a prophetic vision of the Lord Jesus Christ, Hosea urged the people,
“Come, let us return to the Lord;Hosea 6:1-3 (NRSV)
for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us;
he has struck down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him.
Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord;
his appearing is as sure as the dawn;
he will come to us like the showers,
like the spring rains that water the earth.”
It’s possible Hosea never had a chance to organize his writings, and that’s why they don’t seem to follow a particular story line.
However, there are four main themes found in these chapters:
- God’s indictment of Israel’s willful ignorance and sin
- God’s impending chastisement of His people
- God’s yearning and tender love for Israel
- God’s future restoration of His people, following their repentance
God’s ultimate purpose, all through Hosea, was to show His desire for Israel, to purify His beloved and unite His people to Himself for all eternity.
Throughout his sermons, Hosea counted off all the ways Israel lacked knowledge of God. “There is no faithfulness or loyalty, and no knowledge of God in the land,” one of his first sermons announced. After all he had been through, Hosea knew from his own pain of rejection and loneliness, how deeply this grieved God.
It wasn’t just a rejection of intellectual knowledge, of God’s word and law. Israel had resolutely refused the experiential knowledge of God. Centuries later, the apostle Paul would speak of the very same thing, writing,
For though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.
Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity,
to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions.
Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done.
They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.Romans 1:21-32 (NRSV)
Later, in this same letter, Paul would explain how “creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
In fact, Paul would continue, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now.” Agony akin to labor pains, agony born out of its great suffering, groaning under the burden of humanity’s sin.
It is an eerie echo of the words Hosea would pen nearly six centuries before Paul was even born,
Swearing, lying, and murder,Hosea 4:2-3 (NRSV)
and stealing and adultery break out;
bloodshed follows bloodshed.
Therefore the land mourns,
and all who live in it languish;
together with the wild animals
and the birds of the air,
even the fish of the sea are perishing.
People knew God perfectly well, but they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him. They traded the glory of God Who holds the whole world in His hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand. Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God let them run loose.
And then all hell broke loose, rampant evil. They made life hell on earth.
God condemned ignorance, idolatry, and insincerity.
Ignorance: The people would not repent because they refused to acknowledge they had sinned. Their “ignorance” was actually a willful rejection of God’s will and word.
Idolatry: Moral depravity, rape of the land, corrupt leadership, personal emptiness, national degeneracy, the people wanted happiness, not holiness, a change of circumstances, not a change of character. They shed tears of sorrow over suffering, not tears of repentance over sins.
Even as I write this, the Spirit is prompting me to ask myself: what is wrong in my life right now that I keep asking for God to change the circumstances? Is it possible that God is calling me to change my character instead, in the way I approach my life and review and evaluate my circumstances?
Do I think that a change of place, or a change of circumstances is what I really need to be happy? Or can a change of my character enable me to experience contentment in every circumstance?
Insincerity: The fact is, God is holy and will not allow His people to enjoy sin or substitutes for very long. God allowed consequences for Israel’s sin, but like Gomer, Israel only pretended to repent, as Hosea quoted God’s lament over them, “What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes away early.”
What they really did was presume on God’s kindness, with a sense of entitlement, they took it for granted that God would come through for them yet again, just like He always had. Hosea, again in God’s voice, wrote, “But they do not consider that I remember all their wickedness. Now their deeds surround them, they are before my face.”
Like I did, when I was reading Hosea’s sermons, you might be furiously leafing through your New Testament, looking for all those glorious promises of forgiveness and grace. You might be sputtering, “But, what about God saying He forgets our sin?
“What about that, huh?
“And what about our sins being cast into the sea? Was that just a lie?
“And when God said He would remove our sins from us as far as the east is from the west? What was that? An empty promise?
Hang onto that thought, it’s an important one (Next Friday: Nature of Repentance)
Pollution / Image courtesy Pexels.com