Hosea: The Covenant Love of God (Part 1)

I began a six week sermon series on the book of Hosea this past Sunday. I will be sharing thoughts on the book of Hosea with six different blog posts. Here is Part 1: The Covenant Love of God.

Hosea 1:1-11

1 The word of the LORD that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. 2 When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.” 3 So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

4 And the LORD said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5 And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”

6 She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, j“Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. 7 But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”

8 When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. 9 And the LORD said, “Call his name Not My People,2 for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”

10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And sin the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” 11 And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.

Historical background

  • Author: Hosea (perhaps had a scribe help him)
  • Date: Approximately 750 BC
  • State of affairs for Israel at the time of Hosea:
    • Hosea ministered about 200 years after the division of Israel. The divide tookdivided_kingdom_of_israel_and_judah1 place approximately 930 BC and it was a division between north and south Israel. The ten northern tribes made up Israel or sometimes called Ephraim. The two southern tribes were Judah and Benjamin and they formed the nation of Judah.
    • Hosea’s ministry took place when the northern kingdom of Israel was once again prospering and doing very well economically. The problem was that they were far from God. The people were focused on their money, their comforts, and they became very immoral. Does it sound like another country that you know of?
  • In order to understand the book of Hosea it is important to understand that Israel was in a covenant relationship with God. In Exodus 19:5 we read this, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine.”

Main Points

We are in grave danger of forgetting that we are part of a divine love story

There is a danger that we face today. We can study and jump from bible study to bible study and actually forget that our Christian faith is all about a love story. God has gone to great lengths to be in a personal, intimate relationship with us. He wants much more than for us to be learning about him, he wants us to grow when it comes to experiencing and loving him.

Did God really tell Hosea, a prophet, to marry an immoral woman?

In verse 2 God makes it really clear, Hosea is to marry a whore to be his wife. It is meant to be shocking! It is meant to make us sit up and wonder ‘what in the world is going on?’ There is no doubt that Gomer was a sexually immoral woman before she married Hosea. She might have even served as a temple prostitute in a local cult religion. So the answer is, yes, God did command his prophet, Hosea, to marry an immoral woman.

What was the point of telling Hosea to marry Gomer?

Hosea 1:2 gives us the reason God tells Hosea to marry Gomer. “…for the land commits whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” God is using the marriage between Hosea and Gomer to reveal that Israel had committed spiritual adultery against him. God’s people were being unfaithful regarding their covenant relationship with God. What do we learn from this?

1- God is revealing that there are consequences for our sin. This is not a popular teaching in our enlightened, progressive culture today. Hosea and Gomer have three children and they are given very strange names (Jezreel=judgment, Lo-Ruhamah=no mercy and Lo-Ammi=not my people). What God is doing through the naming of these three children is telling the nation of Israel, telling you and me, that to continue in sin will bring pain and suffering. God was warning his people but they would not repent. 30 years after these three children were born God raised up the violent nation of Assyria to bring absolute devastation to the people of Israel.

2- Certainly we learn that God’s heart is absolutely broken over the fact that his people pursue other lovers. Think for a moment how you would feel if your spouse was continually unfaithful to you?

3- We also learn that God’s love knows no boundaries. Hosea in many ways reminds me of the story of the prodigal son in the gospels. The younger son has left his father and lives a blatantly rebellious, immoral life. Yet at the end of the story we find that the father is running towards his son because his great grace and love. This gives us sinners great hope to know that we are loved like this. Plus, it motivates us to love people like Gomer in our everyday life. We love the misfits and sinners in our culture because we too have received God’s amazing grace.

We are Gomer

We might be tempted to shake our head at Gomer and secretly wonder how she could be so immoral. If that is as far as we get when it comes to thinking about Gomer we have missed the point of the story. In this story Hosea represents Jesus and Gomer represents the church (you and me). Go ahead and say it, ‘I am Gomer’. I know it is true in my life. In a million different ways I pursue other priorities, passions, and make God second in my life. Spiritual adultery is something we are all guilty of. Spiritual adultery is not just something we do or an act that we commit. First and foremost spiritual adultery happens when we love something, or someone, more than we love Christ.

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What do you talk about?
  • What do you think about the most?
  • What are you known for by the people that know you best?
  • What worries you or makes you anxious?

The answers to these questions may go a long way revealing false loves (idols) in our life.

A better love is available to us

This chapter ends with good news. In verse 11 we read this, “And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered  together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.”

Hosea is prophesying that there will be ‘one head’ in the future. This is a reference to the fact that Jesus Christ will one day, approximately 750 years later, arrive on earth. Jesus, our Messiah, was prophesied of old and one of his many names was Immanuel (God is with us). Jesus is the fulfillment of these two verses, and Jesus is the one to whom you and I can have a deep, intimate, loving relationship.

*The video and sermon outline came from Irving Bible Church. The sermon(s) I preach are mine!

22 Of My Favorite Quotes From “Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work With God’s Work” -Tim Keller

  • During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music. I feel this has been granted through his grace. ALL PRAISE TO GOD…This album is a humble offering to him. An attempt to say “THANK YOU GOD” through our work, even as we do in our hearts and with our tongues. May He help and strengthen all men in every good endeavor. P.9-quoting John Coltrane
  • The book of Genesis  leaves us with a striking truth-work was part of paradise. P. 36
  • According to the Bible, we don’t merely need the money from work to survive; we need the work itself to survive and to live fully human lives. P. 38
  • So author Dorothy Sayers could write, “What is the Christian understanding of work?…It is that work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties…the medium in which he offers himself to God.” P. 38
  • Work has dignity because it is something that God does and because we do it in God’s place, as his representatives. P. 49
  • The current economic era has given us fresh impulses and new ways to stigmatize work such as farming and caring for children-jobs that are supposedly not “knowledge” jobs and therefore do not pay very well. But in Genesis we see God as a gardener, and in the New Testament, we see him as a carpenter. No task is too small a vessel to hold the immense dignity of work given by God. P. 49
  • All work has dignity because it reflects God’s image in us, and also because the material creation we are called to care for is good. P. 51
  • In 1 Corinthians chapter 7, Paul counsels readers that when they become Christians it is unnecessary to change what they are currently doing in life-their marital status, job, or social station-in order to live their lives before God in a way that pleases him. In verse 17, Paul directs, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.” Here Paul uses two religiously freighted words to describe ordinary work. Elsewhere, Paul has spoken of God calling people into a saving relationship with him, and assigning them spiritual gifts to do ministry and build up the Christian community (Romans 12:3 and 2 Corinthians 10:13). Paul uses these same two words here when he says that every Christian should remain in the work God has “assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” Yet Paul is not referring in this case to church ministries, but to common social and economic tasks- “secular jobs”, we might say-and naming them God’s callings and assignments. P. 65-66
  • Christians should be aware of this revolutionary understanding of the purpose of their work in the world. We are not to choose jobs and conduct our work to fulfill ourselves and accrue power, for being called by God to do something is empowering enough. We are to see work as a way of service to God and our neighbor, and so we should both choose and conduct our work in accordance with that purpose. The question regarding our choice of work is no longer, “What will make me the most money and give me the most status?” The question must now be “How with my existing abilities and opportunities, can I be of greatest service to other people, knowing what I do of God’s will and of human need?” P. 67
  • It is pure invention [fiction] that Pope, bishops, priests, and monks are called the “spiritual estate” while princes, lords, artisans, and farmers are called the temporal estate.” This is indeed a piece of deceit and hypocrisy. Yet no one need be intimidated by it, and that for this reason: all Christians are truly of the spiritual estate, and there is no difference among them except by office…We are all consecrated priests by baptism, as St. Peter says: “You are a royal priesthood and a priestly realm” (1 Pet.2:9). P.69-quoting Martin Luther
  • The church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours and to come to church on Sundays. What the church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables. P. 76-77-quoting Dorothy Sayers
  • Research into the properties of the atom become the basis for the atomic bomb. In other words, work, even when it bears fruit, is always painful, often miscarries, and sometimes kills us. P. 89
  • Just because you cannot realize your highest aspirations in work does not mean that you have chosen wrongly, or are not called to your profession, or that you should spend your life looking for the perfect career that is devoid of frustration. You should expect to be regularly frustrated in your work even though you may be in exactly the right vocation. P. 94
  • Brooks’s first point is that so many college students do not choose work that actually fits their abilities, talents, and capacities, but rather choose work that fits within their limited imagination of how they can boost their own self-image. P. 108
  • Without the gospel of Jesus, we will have to toil not for the joy of serving others, nor the satisfaction of a job well done, but to make a name for ourselves. P. 112
  • “In the long term I think being a preacher, missionary, or leading a Bible study group in many ways is easier. There is a certain spiritual glamour in doing it, and what we should be doing each day is easier to discern more black and white, not so gray. It is often hard to get Christians to see that God is willing not just to use men and women in ministry, but in law, in medicine, in business, in the arts. This is the great shortfall today. P. 119-quoting Dick Lucas
  • Yale philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff observes that modern culture defines the happy life as a life that is “going well”-full of experiential pleasure-while to the ancients, the happy life meant the life that is lived well, with character, courage, humility, love, and justice. P. 149
  • While from the outside there might not be immediately noticeable differences  between a well-run company reflecting a gospel world-view and one reflecting primarily the world-story of the marketplace, inside the differences could be very noticeable. The gospel-centered business would have a discernible vision for serving the customer in a unique way, a lack of adversarial relationships and exploitation, and extremely strong emphasis on excellence and product quality, and an ethical environment that goes “all the way down” to the bottom of the organizational chart and to all the realities of daily behavior, even when high ethics mean a loss of margin. In the business animated by the gospel worldview, profit is simply one of many important bottom lines. P. 168
  • So when we say that Christians work from a gospel worldview, it does not mean that they are constantly speaking about Christian teaching in their work. Some people think of the gospel as something we are principally to “look at” in our work. This would mean that Christian musicians should play Christian music, Christian writers should write stories about conversion, and Christian businessmen and-women should work for companies that make Christian-themed products and services for Christian customers. Yes, some Christians in those fields would do well to do those things, but it is a mistake to think that the Christian worldview is operating only when we are doing such overtly Christian activities. Instead, think of the gospel as a set of glasses through which you “look” at everything else in the world. Christian artists, when they do this faithfully, will not be completely beholden either to profit or to naked self-expression; and they will tell the widest variety of stories. Christians in business will see profit as one of only several bottom lines; and they will work passionately for any kind of enterprise that serves the common good. The Christian writer can constantly be showing  the destructiveness of making something besides God into the central thing, even without mentioning God directly. P. 179-180
  • God is creator of the world, and our work mirrors his creative work when we create culture that conforms to his will and vision for human beings-when it matches up with the biblical story-line. P. 184
  • But indeed, as Bible scholar Bruce Waltke points out, the Bible says that the very definition of righteous people is that they disadvantage themselves to advantage others, while “the wicked…are willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves.” P. 203
  • Without something bigger than yourself to work for, then all of your work energy is actually fueled by one of the other six deadly sins. You may work exceptionally hard because of envy to get ahead of somebody, or because of pride to prove yourself, or because of greed or even gluttony for pleasure. P. 230