Discover one of the most emotional books in the Bible. It is a love story – the prophet Hosea’s personal but painful love story. The prophet’s love story points to another, more tragic love story…
Some TIPS on How to Read
“Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods…” (Hosea 3:1, NIV)
Hosea’s marriage to an adulterous wife was to illustrate the relationship between Yahweh and His people. Israel, the Northern Kingdom (also referred to as “Ephraim”), initially experiences peace and prosperity during the rule of King Jeroboam II. However, its affluence rapidly declined following his death.
Its citizens’ futile efforts in seeking help from idols and other nations rather than the LORD eventually led to the nations’ completely destructions by Assyria (2 Kings 14:23 – 18:16). It was in such a setting that Hosea passionately expressed God’s word to His people: proclaiming their sins and its resulting judgment yet declaring Yahweh’s unfailing love and promises of restoration to them.
Note the striking metaphors which the prophet uses to describe Yahweh (e.g. Lion, husband, refreshing dew, etc) as well as Israel (e.g. adulterous wife, half-baked bread, heated oven, etc).
Names of certain places used in this book may sound foreign to us, but to Hosea’s hearers, many of these places had connotations of specific events that had taken place throughout their history, such places served as symbolic reminders for the people.
‘Leave NO WORD Unturned’
You may find it helpful to read through the entire book in one sitting (it will take about 45-60 minutes) to grasp the big picture of what was happening in Israel at that time and what the Lord’s response towards them was, as is evident through the work of His prophet, Hosea.
Then, you can dig deeper by reading the book again and reflecting on it in chunks as suggested below:
Ch 1:1 – 2:1
Ch 2:2 – 23
Ch 6 – 7
Ch 9: 1 – 9
Ch 9:10 – 17
Ch 11: 1 – 11
Ch 11: 12 – Ch 12
As you read through the book, try to capture the intensity of Israel’s unfaithfulness, and in contrast, God’s unfailing love.
In what ways does ‘the WORD OF THE LORD that came to Hosea” resound in me, the Church and our nation today?
As I read the book of Hosea, I can’t help but notice such ironies; yet upon reflecting I find them so true even today.
Sacrificing that which is valuable, embracing that which is worthless
“They offer human sacrifice and kiss the calf-idols” (13:2)
Israel has fallen deep into idolatry to the point of offering human sacrifices, including their own children. They willingly melt their silver and gold, delicately craft its images, and mourn when these idols were destroyed and taken away into exile.
Yet, they constantly steal, lie and cheat for silver and gold, mercilessly murder, apathetically respond to the wasting creation, while being unrepentant to the LORD’s call (4:1-3).
How similar it is today – we often lose sight of the value of a fellow human being, of creation. We diligently pursue fleeting riches, ambitions and reputation in place of a secured relationship with God and what He counts as valuable.
Seeking deliverance from that which enslaved in the first place
It has been generations since the exodus from Egypt. Despite the LORD’s frequent reminders (12:9, 13:4), the people has forgotten their Redeemer and how they have been rescued from slavery and oppression. Now, instead of turning to the LORD Who has done so much for them (11:1-4), they run to Egypt and Assyria, nations who once had and will continue to place them in bondage and suffering.
How often it is, that we forget His redemption work in our lives; to desire the “old life” and its bondage that we have been rescued from?
Delivered to be consecrated, pursuing desires that desecrated
Israel was chosen as the LORD’s special people, called to be set apart to reflect Who He is to the other nations. Instead of embracing this special blessing, they sought after the idolatrous practices of the other nations, incorporating them into theirs. Their covenant relationship with Yahweh was no longer exclusive.
How often do I compromise my relationship with God, just to satisfy my selfish desires?
Unfailing love as a response to unfaithfulness
“Israel has forgotten…does not acknowledge…does not return….does not know Me…” were constant charges God had against His people. Yet the LORD never gave up, desiring their repentance and return to Him as His people, promising them hope in Who He is.
Can we recall an experience when we were deserted, back-stabbed; where our loving intentions were abused, taken for granted and used against us? So often our response is retaliation. Or subtly rejoicing in the other’s suffering – “you deserved it”.
How different it is, in how the LORD responded. I can only but catch a glimpse as to how the LORD ached in love for His people’s return. Even as His justice is carried forth in inevitable judgment, He desires that the people, stripped of their misplaced securities and ‘lovers’, will finally come to their senses.