Children of the Prophet (Hosea 3:1-5) – Lesson #1 of 3 from Hosea
“Children of the Prophet”
Lesson #1 of 3 from Hosea
If I were a prophet in the OT, I might make a sermon out of the names of my daughters. I might say, “Jewell - means that you all are precious to God, as jewels.” Or, “Ana - means that you will receive the grace of God,” since “Ana and Hannah” both come from the Hebrew word for grace. We’re going to study a prophet, a minor prophet, who had children named by God as a lesson, a message, to the children of Israel. Each year I focus on one of the dozen minor prophets just to help us understand these books, to encourage all of us to read these books, and to see why their message is still relevant for us today. Hosea and the other “minor” prophets are called “minor” because they are smaller, shorter, than the “major” prophets; that’s the only reason they are called that.
Israel had one job throughout the OT. Have you seen some of these memes on Facebook where someone messed up a very simple task? Israel had one job - stay faithful to God. That’s all. It was so important for Israel to stay faithful to God because they needed to accept Jesus Christ when He came into the world and become His followers, become Christians, and then continue sharing the message about Jesus Christ to the rest of the world. That’s why it was so important for Israel to stay faithful to God. One job. But they couldn’t do it.
Israel could not do it because they - like us - had a tendency to put their trust in someone else besides God and His written word in the Law of Moses. Let me ask you this… How do you know you are right with God? How do you know that God is pleased with how you are living? Different people across the country would answer that differently.
Some might say, “I know I’m right with God because I try to do what the pastor preaches I should do.”
Others would say, “I know I’m right with God because I try to do what the priest tells me to do.”
Yet others would say, “I know I’m right with God because things are going so well for me. I’ve got good health. My income is steady. I’ve been blessed beyond my expectations. That’s how I know that God is pleased with me.”
But none of those are accurate! We are going to see with Hosea that there is only one way to know if we are right with God, if God is pleased with us, and that’s if we are obedient to His commands. It is just that simple. And that’s our one job! Stay faithful to Jesus Christ and obey His commandments. Let’s not mess that up!
Let’s begin a study of Hosea…
HOSEA THE MAN:
Hosea is the author of this book but he is not mentioned outside the book. What little we know about him, and it is a little more than we know about most other prophets, is only found in this book. He is married; his wife’s name is Gomer (vs 3; only mentioned here in the OT). Gomer is a prostitute. We do not know if she was a prostitute when Hosea married her which would be really weird, or if she turned to prostitution after Hosea married her. But, Hosea and Gomer have three children, two boys and a girl. Hosea’s family becomes an object lesson for the nation of Israel. It would be like me basing a sermon or a series of sermons on the name “Jewell,” that God’s people are precious, “jewells,” in the sight of God. Or, “Ana’s,” name means, “grace” or “favored.” Hosea’s family were walking sermons from the God of heaven.
Hosea tells us when he preached during the days of the kings of Judah: Uzziah (792-740 B. C.), Jotham (750-731), Ahaz (735-715) and finally Hezekiah (715-686). It was during the reign of Ahaz that the northern tribes of Israel were carried into exile by the Assyrians, in 722 B. C. So, Hosea lived to see that.
Hosea also preached during the reigns of several kings of Israel. He mentions just one - Jeroboam (II). He reigned from 793-753. There were other Israelite kings who reigned but, for some reason, Jeroboam II is the only one mentioned by Hosea. There were six kings that followed Jeroboam and the king in Israel who reigned when Israel was carried into captivity by Assyria was named Hoshea (הוֹשֵׁעַ), the same name as the prophet (הוֹשֵׁעַ).
Between Jeroboam II and Hoshea, there was a change in rulers and dynasties with all the instability that comes with it. Zechariah (6 mos), Shallum (one month), Menahem (10 years), Pekahiah (2 years), Pekah (20 years), Hoshea (9 years). Four of these were murdered in office; one was captured in battle. The dismemberment of Israel began in 735 B. C. and the capital of God’s people in the north, Samaria, finally fell to Assyria in 722 B. C.
Hosea will be a contemporary of Isaiah, Amos, and Micah. Thus, Hosea preached for apparently about 30 years. During this period of time, Israel was known for her “opulence, prosperity, opportunism, and scheming.” The reigns of Uzziah as well as Jeroboam II rivaled David and Solomon for prosperity. Israel was proud; they were arrogant. They decided that economic prosperity meant God was pleased with them, regardless of how they were living.
Although Hosea only mentions one king from the northern Israel, it seems that his preaching was directed primarily at northern Israel. “Ephraim” is a reference to the largest tribe in the northern tribes. “Samaria,” the capital of the northern tribes.
So, it seems that Hosea directs his preaching primarily to the northern tribes of Israel but, perhaps knowing that Israel was going to be exiled, he also prepares his message so that it will be relevant to the southern tribes of Judah. I am suggesting to you this morning that Hosea’s message is also relevant for us today, in 21st century America!
CHAPTER 1 - HOSEA’S FAMILY:
The marriage and first son (1:2-5): Gomer is described as a “wife of harlotry.” The word “harlotry” or “prostitutions” is plural and it denotes a sexually immoral woman, not exactly the same imagery of a prostitute we would have in twenty-first century America but she would accept payment for her services. The word “harlotry” is a key theme in this book.
As offensive as this command is, Hosea’s marriage to Gomer is clearly intended to be an object lesson, a parable, for the people of Israel. The land “commits flagrant harlotry,” which is identified as “forsaking the Lord.” Here “harlotry” used in a spiritual sense. The verb here “commits flagrant [inf. abs.] prostitution” is used twelve times in Hosea. Israel was trusting some one, any one, besides the God of heaven! To God, that’s adultery.
The first child born to Hosea and Gomer was a little boy whom God commanded Hosea to name “Jezreel.” “Jezreel” is a play on a Hebrew verb that can mean “to sow” in a positive way or in a negative way, “to scatter.” It will have both a negative connotation, God will “scatter” Israel from her land, and a positive connotation, God will “sow” blessings when Israel repents and returns to Him.
Jehu was a king of Israel (841-814 B. C.) whose story is told in 2 Kings 9-10. Jehu nearly single-handedly, exterminated the worshippers of Baal, including the entire house of wicked King Ahab. God blessed King Jehu by promising in 10:30 that Jehu’s descendants would sit on the throne of Israel until the fourth generation. The problem with Jehu, though, is that he did not worship Jehovah God exclusively. 2 Kings 10:29-31 tells us that Jehu followed in the sins of Jeroboam I (931-910), worshiping the golden calves at Dan and Bethel. It was during the reign of King Jehu that God promised and then began cutting off portions of Israel through intermittent invasions by foreign peoples.
So God’s command to Hosea was to have a son by Gomer and name him “Jezreel,” an object lesson that God was going to sow destruction, punishment on the house of King Jehu. God promises here in verse 4 that He will put an end to the “house of Israel.” Indeed, it will be within Hosea’s lifetime.
The daughter (1:6-7): The daughter was to carry the name “Lo-Ruhamah” which means “no compassion.” God was fed up with Israel and her prostitution. Why would anyone call a daughter that? To teach Israel that God’s compassion was running out with their behavior. It is interesting that the Hebrew text at the end of verse 6 says “I will indeed [inf. abs.] forgive them.” It seems what we have here is the cry of the broken heart of a husband. Verse 7 is certainly positive. Salvation will not come through military might or through treaties made with foreign nations as King Ahaz did with Assyria against Aram / Syria. Salvation will come through Israel repenting and God graciously forgiving her.
The birth of the second son (1:8-11): Three years or so after Lo-Ruhama was weaned, Gomer gave birth to her third child, the second son, whom Hosea named “Lo-ammi,” “Not my people.” Why? Because Israel, in her idolatry, was “not God’s people” and He was “not their God.” This reverses the language of God at Mount Sinai in Exo 6:7.
But on the heels of that negative statement, God returns and reiterates His promise that the number of the sons of Israel would be like the sand of the sea! Yes, at some point, to those who are called “Not My people,” they will be called “sons of the living God.”
Although the separation of northern Israel and southern Judah will have the feeling of permanence after the Assyrian exile in 722 B. C., in verse 11, God promises that the two will be together one day and they will have one leader. At that point, the “day of Jezreel,” the day of God sowing blessings will be a great day! Hosea will identify that leader in 3:5 as King David, the only reference to David in Hosea’s preaching. “David” is a reference to the son of David, which refers to the Messiah, who, of course, is Jesus Christ.
So, people would ask Hosea about his wife, or about his children (“Why did you name your kids that?”) and he would have an opportunity to share with them God’s word.
CHAPTER 2 - LACK OF TRUST / OBEDIENCE WILL BE PUNISHED:
Punishment for harlotry (2:1-7): We see God sowing blessings again as He changes the name of the children from “Not my people” to “My people” and “Not compassion” to “Compassion.” But if that change is to become a reality, there must be a change of behavior. There must be repentance.
In verse 3, in threatening to expose Gomer’s nakedness, God is saying that He will expose Israel’s weaknesses to her neighbor’s around her. He will also make her fruitless and thirsty. She will be vulnerable. God will have no compassion on those who are the product of spiritual adultery (vs 4).
In verses 5-6, Hosea portrays the “payment” that Gomer received (aka Israel), from her “lovers:” bread, water, wool, flax, oil, drink. Those were supposedly given through worship to Baal. God wants Israel to understand that it is He who has given her these blessings (vs 8). It is like a frustrated parent who holds both sides of the child’s face so that he/she must look into the parent’s eyes. God must get her attention! He wants her to return to Him, her first husband (vs 7).
Israel does not know God (2:8-13): This section begins with God saying, “She does not know that it was I” and ends in verse 13 with the expression: “she forgot Me.” Israel did not realize it was God who had given them all those blessings mentioned in verse 5, not Baal! But, they used those blessings to serve Baal or to justify serving Baal!
So, God will remove those blessings (vs 9) and expose Israel to the raw brutality of idol worship (vs 10). But when you worship idols, you lose the gaiety that comes with faithfulness to God (vs 11). All of these were celebrations commanded by God. But if they weren’t worshipping scripturally, then they were not worshipping at all! God would bring an end to the whole charade.
Punishment will include losing the bounty of the land (vs 12). Remember in the parable of the talents that the Master took away the talent from the man who had refused to use it faithfully? Israel will be punished for worshiping the “Baals” and sacrificing to them and dressing to appear as a pagan worshiper. The people were, no doubt, sincere. But they were blind. It is easy to get caught up in the external trappings of success and forget that we need to look for a “thus says the Lord.” Whom are we going to trust and obey?
“She forgot Me” (vs 13).
Israel will be restored (2:14-23): Verse 14 pictures God leading Israel into the wilderness like He did out of the Egyptian slavery, in order to begin a new relationship with her. At that point (vs 16), they will call God “My husband” (Ishi) rather than “My Master” (Baali). There will be no mixing religions. God will remove “Baal” from their mouths.
God will, in fact, marry them based on eternal, spiritual principles of: righteousness, justice, lovingkindness, compassion, faithfulness (vss 19-20). “Then, [they] will know the Lord.”
When Israel responds to God in repentance, God will respond to Israel with blessings, as He had promised in the Law. So, verse 23 is a play on the name “Jezreel,” God will “sow” blessings. It is a play on the name “Ruhamah,” God will have compassion. And, it is a play on the name “Ammi,” God will change those “not His people,” into “His people.” This specific text is used by Paul in Romans 9:25 and applied to the Gentiles. When Israel left God and became Gentiles, spiritually speaking, then it opened the door for God to bring Gentiles into His people and not through the Law of Moses.
CHAPTER 3 - GOD WILL LEAD:
God pleads with Israel as Hosea pleads with Gomer (1-3): Hosea continued to love Gomer, even as she sunk deep into “moral degradation” (Hailey, 145). This is the first time “to commit adultery” is used by Hosea. “Raisin cakes” were dried raisins pressed together and were used in worship to the “queen of heaven” (a reference to the goddess Ashtarte) in Jer 7:18; 44:17-19.
Verse 2 - Thirty pieces of silver was the price of a wounded slave (Exo 21:32). We presume this 15 shekels cancelled out Gomer’s debts. Garrett (in loc) suggests that since the payment was in grain and money perhaps Hosea, himself, was poor and was scraping together what he could find.
Verse 3 - Just as Gomer will go a time without the intimacy of her husband, so Israel will be without her institutions ordained by God while she is in exile in Assyria. Gomer will eventually be restored to the intimacies of her husband; so will Israel.
Israel’s Future (4-5): See 14:4.
Standing stones were places of worship, perhaps where Asherah poles were located, she being the fertility goddess. God will send Israel a new leader, “David their King” - Jesus, the Son of David (Matt. 1:1).
CHAPTER 4 - DON’T TRUST AND FOLLOW ANYONE BUT GOD:
Israel’s sins: Inhumanity (1-3): Their inhumanity results from their lack of knowledge of God’s word, God’s expectations. There was no “faithfulness” - failure to keep their promises, to be dependable: “a life that follows principle rather than expediency,” - no “kindness” - hesed (loyalty), no “knowledge” - of His covenant. To “know” could also carry the connotations of sexual intimacy so that we have a reference to Hosea and Gomer’s relationship in the background. “A people without knowledge of God are a people who have embraced false teaching about God and/or who have no living connection to God” (Garrett).
All of that ignorance leads Israel to violate God’s law; verse 2 includes five of the Ten Commandments: #9, 6, 8, 7, 3. The priests were to teach the law (Lev 10:8-11) and so were prophets. But, they were not teaching and encouraging Israel to obey the law of God. “Knowledge of Jehovah and of His ways is essential to the life of any people” (Hailey, 149). If you want to be right with God, you’ve got to obey Jesus Christ. Pure and simple. Not the pastor, not the priest, not Paul Holland. Jesus Christ. Money in the bank is not a sign that our lives are right with God. God blesses us because He loves us but He does not want us to twist those blessings into an excuse to live the way we want to live.
You see, the fundamental flaw of the Israelites was that they weren’t listening to God’s word, God’s message, God’s law. They were worshipping idols, listening to other people besides prophets sent with God’s message. Verse 12 is a picture of idol worship. Wood was used to carve idols. An ANE Sumerian myth referred to wood as “the flesh of the gods” (Roper, 70). A “diviner’s wand” suggests rhabdomancy whereby the future was told based on how a staff were to fall. Trees (vs 13) in high places offered shade, symbols of fertility, concealment for prostitution. We are not sure if this worship was pure pagan worship or mixing worship.
God laments that Israel was being stubborn and not following God as they should (ver 16). “Ephraim,” a reference to Israel, was “joined” to idols. “Joined” “suggests Israel was ‘charmed’ or ‘spellbound’ by idols. …mesmerized” (Roper, 74).
There have been many times when I have been studying with someone and I’ve showed them the Bible teaches them something different than what they had been taught to believe. But then they’ll say, “Yes, but my pastor explains it differently.” That, family is idolatry. For Christians to act that way, to put man’s word above what the Bible clearly teaches, is spiritual adultery. That’s how Israel was living in the days of Hosea.
Take home message: We should be extremely dedicated to following Christ’s commandments and His only. Anything else is adultery.