Have you ever read the Minor Prophets, those twelve books of prophecy that are tucked away at the end of the Old Testament? Oftentimes, they are my favorite place to linger in the Bible. But I think the name Minor Prophets is a little misleading because, when you take the time to read what they have to say, you discover they have some major truths to tell and major lessons to teach -- and not just to the Jewish people who were the original recipients.
I see this as being especially true of the very first Minor Prophet, Hosea. Hosea is extra special because he did not just speak his prophecy to the people or just write it down. He lived it. And his experiences touch my heart because they tell of God's love. Sometimes we think of God as being so far beyond us that we don’t consider that He may have feelings. We always hear that “God is love”. But we need to remember that if God is love, it means God loves. In fact, the Bible says God loves us. The prophecy of Hosea, through Hosea’s life, illustrates the depth of what that means.
Hosea’s story begins when God tells him to go and marry a harlot (prostitute) named Gomer. Hosea obeyed God, He married Gomer, and they had three children together. But then Gomer left Hosea and went back to her old way of life. She degraded and debased herself until she reached the absolute lowest place any woman possibly could. She reminds me in a way of the prodigal son who ended up living and eating with the pigs before he came to his senses and went back home to his father (Luke 15:11-22). But Gomer didn’t go back home - not until God told Hosea to go find her - in her misery, filth, and poverty - and take her back home. And Hosea did.
Are you getting the picture? Hosea’s life was a picture of God and His love relationship with His people, Israel. God called them to be His people and He made them a nation. He gave them a land flowing with milk and honey, and was with them always. But Israel was a harlot, just like Gomer. They chased after the gods of the pagan nations. They made their own gods of wood and bronze and gold and worshiped them instead of worshiping the one and only true God who had created the heavens and the earth. Not only that, He had created them and chosen them to be His special people out of all the other peoples on the earth. He loved them and gave them laws to follow so they could fellowship with Him and live happy and productive lives. But they turned their backs on Him because they wanted to be like the pagan nations that surrounded them. So they worshiped the pagan gods and lived lives of sin. How ungrateful can you get? Well, we just might know a bit about that.
God has blessed every person on this planet with the beauty and comfort of majestic mountains, verdant valleys, and amber waves of grain. He has given us oceans and rivers and gurgling brooks. He sends the rains in their season and winds to cool us on summer evenings. The sun rises every morning to give light and warmth to our days and the moon and stars sparkle in the night skies. God has given us life itself! But how many people on our planet even acknowledge these things? And its worse for those of us who know Him and have been blessed with His Word and His calling to be His. How often do we ignore Him and go after our own worldly pursuits and break His heart as the Israelites did?
The prophecy of Hosea is about the sins of Israel and the extent to which God called Hosea to go to point out and illustrate those sins to them. But even more, the prophecy of Hosea is about the love of God and the anguish it causes Him when His people reject His love, disdain His laws, and embrace the sins of the world. The most beautiful thing about the prophecy of Hosea is the last chapter where we learn that in spite of Israel’s sin and God’s hurt and wrath, He never stops loving His people and promises to restore them in the end. God’s love is faithful in spite of our unfaithfulness. God’s love never fails even when we fail God.
The first time I read Hosea and saw the enduring power of God’s love in the face of His people’s sin, my conscience led me re-examine my life, because I don’t want to be like the Israelites who took God for granted, disrespected His laws, and made themselves comfortable in the pagan world. So I asked myself, does my heart follow after my maker or things that are made? Do I live the life of a secular person and then turn to God when when things go wrong and expect Him to be there for me? Is God my treasure? Do I spend quality time with Him, in His Word, or do I fritter away my time on worldly “treasures” that tempt me to fill my day -- things like Facebook, Twitter, movies, politics, gossip with the girls or hanging out with the guys at the gym or bar? What is your favorite pastime? How much time do you spend seeking and listening to God?
Thank you, Hosea, for waking me up to see what my unfaithfulness does to the heart of God and how it undermines and brings me down to be a Gomer. Thank you Hosea, for your example of faithfulness to God even though your faithfulness to God fashioned your whole life in a way that brought you hurt and heartache. I want to remember your testimony always and I want it to make me a more thoughtful and intentional person.
Like Hosea, God made me and called me for a purpose and I want that very purpose to be fulfilled in my life. He made and called you too and has a particular purpose for you. I hope you will take twenty minutes from your day to read the Book of Hosea with a heart open to God and open to hear what He is saying to you through Hosea’s story. God loves you faithfully, and if you love Him you must be faithful too.
I have been involved in Disciplers since 1987, as a discussion leader, teacher, writer, and now as director. I am profoundly committed to the stewardship of this ministry which God has entrusted to me for a time. God’s word is the chief joy of my life. I cherish my personal time in the word, and I am filled with gratitude to be able to share His word with you, my fellow disciples in Christ.