H OSEA IS A PROPHET, and prophets often do strange things. Jeremiah walked through the streets with an ox yoke around his neck symbolizing the yoke of captivity that Babylon will put on Judah. Hosea demonstrates God’s disappointment and coming judgment through his marriage to Gomer, an adulterous woman. It is symbolic of God’s relationship with adulterous Israel.
God loved Israel and saved her from Egyptian slavery. God loved Israel and helped her through the wilderness. Israel rejected God’s love and rebelled against God in the desert. God loved Israel and planted her in the promised land. Israel rejected God’s love and rebelled against God in the beautiful new homeland.
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IT’S AN ILLNESS that still inflicts God’s adopted sons and daughters. When God’s people need God’s help, we quickly pray to God for it. We sometimes make promises to be more faithful to God if God just gives us a job or restores our health.
Yet, like Israel, as soon as God gives us what we beg for, we turn away from the Lord again. Rejecting God’s love.
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HOSEA MARRIES marries an “adulterous woman.” God’s people are adulterous, loving other gods. Together they have a child, named Jezreel. Jezreel is a city; former King Jehu lived there. At first he opposed the worship of Baal, the Canaanite fertility god, but eventually promoted it. Gomer has a second child, (interestingly, we’re not told that Hosea is the father). Her name is Lo-Ruhamah. God is withdrawing compassion. God will no longer show Israel mercy.
A third child comes along. Hosea names him “Lo-Ammi.” God will no longer view Israel as his people. Through centuries of unfaithfulness and disobedience, God had remained extraordinarily patient with Israel. Now God will abandon Israel and her enemies will destroy her.
There is a terrifying progression to Hosea’s children’s names. The first announces a future without a king. The second points to a future without God’s compassion. The third announces a future without God.
Hosea’s marriage is symbolic of Israel turning away from God, her divine husband. God gave her so much but she continually gave herself to other gods, other lovers.
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MANY OF US ASSUME we’re self-sufficient and don’t need the living God. However, we completely rely on the Lord for every good thing. You and I couldn’t, in fact, draw even one more breath unless God was somehow giving it to us. God is the generous giver of every good thing we have.
There are no Baal worshipers among us, but there are plenty of people devoted to other things, or people. Dividing allegiance. Time. Power. Government. Possessions. Decadent excess. Sex. Hosea would recognize what is happening among us, and he would not be pleased. Through the ancient words of Hosea, God continues to speak. God will withdraw his love and leave us to our own devices.
But immediately, bad news is followed by good news. The news does not cancel the consequences. Grace is not cheap. Judgment comes. Israel is destroyed in 722 BCE. God does not want to punish, but to restore, because God is gracious, merciful, and loving.
Names will be changed. “Not my people” will be called ‘“My people.” “Not loved” will become “My loved one.” And he people of Judah and Israel will come together; a new king will come and great will be the day of Jezreel.
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IT IS GOD’S LOVING DESIRE to restore us. It’s the reason that Jesus came and was born. It is God’s grace, mercy and love that brings Jesus into the world and into our lives. People from all over the world have received God’s covenant of grace through their faith in Jesus Christ. But even now the fulfillment of God’s promises remains incomplete. We still await our final salvation. So God’s word through Hosea still looks toward the future God has planned for his people.
In the meantime, however, remember that your name announces something similar to Hosea’s children’s. The name that God has graciously given all of us: “Christian.”
By giving God’s children that name God pronounces judgment on the world’s ways of doing things. By naming us Christians, God reminds our world that God rejects hatred, violence, oppression and injustice. By naming you and me after God’s Son, God insists salvation comes only through Jesus Christ.
Go and live into that name.
Thanks be to God.