“Read More” to pursue answers from the Prophet Hosea.
Draw me into your Presence, and fill me with your Holy Spirit
That I might know you as my Father, and manifest the image of Christ
In this world, and the world to come. Amen.
This may be the first conventional prophetic book I’ve blogged about (Daniel being rather more narrative). As intimated by the opening verse, the focus is primarily on what God says, rather than what the prophet does. Though he’s dated by both kingdoms, the focus of his ministry is latter, Israel (the northern ten tribes).
And what a ministry it is!
The beginning of the word of the LORD by Hosea. And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, [departing] from the LORD.
Yow! Of all the crazy prophetic commands, this is in a class all by itself. It is so shocking that many commentators assume it was meant metaphorically, as some sort of allegorical statement.
I don’t buy it. Of course God is trying to make a statement, but that’s not all. As best I understand it — speaking from costly experience! — the role of a prophet is to manifest the heart and mind of God into a broken situation. It is not merely a matter of words, but of power — God’s power, as revealed when our heart is in line with his.
It is like a dream I had a few weeks ago, where I was being eulogized at some sort of retirement ceremony. As I got up and thanked the speakers, I pleaded with them not to remember me for my accomplishments, for “the wheels of history will grind them to dust soon enough.” Rather, my hope is that they would remember that “they had been loved by an extraordinary love.” [Or something like that; I woke up immediately after, but couldn't quite capture the grandeur of how it was phrased in the dream].
Whether or not people will ever feel that way about me, I sincerely believe that a prime purpose of God putting Hosea through this scandalous situation was to teach him exactly how painful — and glorious! — it was to love like Him.
We don’t know if or how long Hosea argued with God about this, but we do know he obeyed:
So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; which conceived, and bare him a son.
I wonder what Diblaim thought of all this! Was it a great honor, or did it simply highlight his shame? Was he filled with foreboding about what might go wrong? Especially when he heard about his grandson’s name:
And the LORD said unto him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little [while], and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel. And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.
This is bizarre on several levels. Jezreel is basically Har Megiddo; yeah, as in Armageddon — an eponym for cataclysmic battle. In this context, though, it apparently refers to the blood shed by the house of Ahab; so why is Jehu — who destroyed Ahab’s family on God’s command — being held accountable?
The way I see it, the only moral justification Jehu had for killing Ahab was a desire to build a righteous kingdom. Given how Jehu’s descendants fell away from that ideal, it not only made them culpable for their violence against Ahab, it made them inherit Ahab’s guilt. That is, to judge someone is to assert that your righteousness is greater than theirs, and capable of absorbing their guilt — and expiating it through acts of punishment and penance. Judge wrongly, and that guilt remains.
In other words, every attempt to correct the evil of previous kings had merely caused it to compound, and God had finally had enough:
Ouch. Though there is a silver lining, of sorts:
But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.
I find it intriguing that God is sparing Judah — but as an act of mercy, not justice. Also, He’s very clear that He is the source of their salvation, not their own strength. I wonder if the problem with Israel is that they are so far gone they can’t even recognize mercy. :-(
Double-ouch. Why pile on the insults? Well, that isn’t quite the end of the story:
Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, [that] in the place where it was said unto them, Ye [are] not my people, [there] it shall be said unto them, [Ye are] the sons of the living God.
Whoa! Talk about a dramatic reversal. From this perspective, Loammi isn’t so much a curse as a painful recognition of current reality, in order to pave the way for repentance and restoration — to usher in a new reality.
Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great [shall be] the day of Jezreel.
Wow. To think that Jezreel could go from a being a place of shame and blood to a celebration of God’s goodness; it boggles the mind. To be sure, the Israelites had to go through hell and become Samaritans — a people disowned by God — before they could discover their true King. But through the brokenness and pain, Hosea gives us a glimpse of the hopeful future.
Even though he is not yet done paying for it…
God, there are no words to express the shame and horror Hosea must’ve felt at your command. Yet, I dare to hope that he found a way to love his tainted wife, and find joy with her and their children — as a reflection of your love for us. For truly, we are no more deserving of love than Gomer, yet you love us anyway. On this Valentine’s Day, let us drink deeply of your never-ending love, and share it freely with each other. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.
About the Title:
Today’s title is a backward compliment to the famous musical.