The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” —Hosea 3:1
Overview of Hosea
The opening verse of the book tells us that Hosea ministered “during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel”. This is from around 760 to 715 BC. Israel had been torn into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. The northern kingdom of Israel (whom Hosea chiefly spoke to) is at peace and is prosperous, but the mighty Assyria in the east is a potential threat. As we read further, we discover that all is not right. The people have forgotten God and turned to Baal, a local fertility god who promised bumper harvests. God has sent Hosea to warn His people and to woo them back to Him.
More prominently than any other book in the Old Testament, Hosea shows us that God loves His people as passionately and as jealously as a devoted husband loves his wife. The prophet not only says this, but also lives it; he learns how God feels towards His unfaithful people through the tragedy of his own struggling marriage.
Like the other prophets, Hosea begins his book by telling us when he spoke God’s Word to the nation (v.1). The background to this book is found in 2 Kings 14–20. While this is a period of political stability and material prosperity, it is also a time of gross idolatry. The powerful Assyrian empire is also steadily expanding towards the borders of Israel.
By this stage, in the middle of the eighth century BC, the kingdom has been torn in two. Both Hosea and Amos begin their ministry to Israel, the northern kingdom, at about the same time.
Nothing can prepare you for the shock of verse 2. God commands Hosea to go and marry literally “a wife of whoredom”, a prostitute. Can God really be saying this? Adultery was listed as a prohibition in the Ten Commandments. It was disgraceful and demanded God’s judgement. Yet here is God’s own messenger being told by Him to marry an immoral woman. Why?
Notice the reason—“because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD” (v.2). In other words, the pain that Hosea would feel as he tries to love a woman who is continually unfaithful is a picture of the pain God feels in trying to love a people who continually go after other “lovers” or gods.
Have you ever thought about how God feels towards you? We say a lot about what God thinks and what He says, but Hosea is going to show us God’s feelings. God feels passionately about His people. When the New Testament talks about Christ purchasing the church to be His bride, it has a close parallel with the theme of Hosea. God loves us deeply, and every time we flirt with sin or replace God with something or someone else, we hurt the One we are bound to.
So, Hosea is a love story.
In obedience, Hosea marries Gomer (v.3). He is called by God not just to deliver a message, but also to live that message out in his own family life. He will know the pain and heartache of loving but receiving no love in return.
May this story rekindle your love and commitment to the One who loves you. Heavenly Father, as I read this love story, please rekindle my love for you and my commitment to you. In Christ, who loved and gave himself for me, amen.Heavenly Father, as I read this love story, please rekindle my love for you and my commitment to you. In Christ, who loved and gave himself for me, amen.
What does it say about God’s Word that Hosea not only has to deliver it, but also has to live it out in his own family life? What does this teach us about the Gospel?
What important lesson does Hosea (and, through him, the nation) have to learn about God’s relationship to His people? Why do we need to learn this too?