Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Minior Prophets - HOSEA

Hosea is the first one that is listed in the order of the Bible, the Table of Contents. But historically, this is not the first one that appears on the scene. The historical sequence is different, but we will take them as they appear in your Bible, so the first one is Hosea.

For those of you who were here on Sunday, you may remember that my sermon was titled, “Second Hand Jesus.” The title refers to those people who would know ABOUT Jesus, but not know Jesus personally. Hosea deals with much the same issue – people who know about God, but are not personally involved with God.

Hosea’s day is a prosperous and peaceful time. The nation is religious, but only on the surface.
I run into so many community leaders and I read about so many politicians who seem religious outside, but they never go to church and they seem to have no real faith – and I know that is hard to judge and discern, but I think we are all aware of that situation in our present times.
Hosea lived in such a time. Outwardly the people are pro-religion, but there is no substance to that talk.
And God calls Hosea to do something absolutely crazy.
Anyone know what Hosea was asked to do?


Hosea 1
1 The word of the LORD that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam son of Jehoash[a] king of Israel:
2 When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the LORD.” 3 So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

This is crazy! Who in the world would marry a woman like this? In fact, some scholars interpret the Hebrew text to mean that Gomer was a prostitute. The marriage between faithful Hosea and unfaithful Gomer becomes a reflection of the relationship between faithful God and unfaithful nation. Some people even believe that Hosea was not a real, flesh and blood historical figure, but a parable. That doesn’t really matter – John Calvin said that whether it is a parable or history, the teachable truths are still the same.

So Hosea, either as a parable or in history, marries Gomer, and they have a child. In verse 4 through 10 we find out the names of three children.

They don’t get names like Frank or Bob or Maryanne: They get names that would result in years of therapy.

The oldest child is named Jezreel – which is a lot like naming a child, “World Trade Center Twin Towers,” or Aushchwitz, Chenobyl or Hiroshima.

Jezreel was a beautiful place, or had been at one time. But the beauty of that place had been marred by extreme violence and assassinations, mass murders.

The next child was named No Mercy.

The next child was named “Not my people.

What a hopeless situation!
But Hosea is a word of hope.

Throughout the book, you will find that there is a definite cycle – doom and hope, doom and hope, doom and hope.

Or to put it another way, the cycle is faithless people, reconciliation; faithless, reconciliation.
Hosea is written by a man who has a vivid imagination. He sees the relationship between humanity and God in everything around him.

First, in marriage, as a husband dealing with an unfaithful wife, but we’ll get to that later.

How many of you have grown fruit or vegetables. You know how you feel about that first harvest? Corn, tomato, blackberry – you can’t wait for it, you are excited and you pick it and you savor it. That is how God savors his people:

Hosea 9:10
New King James Version (NKJV)
10 “ I found Israel
Like grapes in the wilderness;
I saw your fathers
As the firstfruits on the fig tree in its first season.
But they went to Baal Peor,
And separated themselves to that shame;
They became an abomination like the thing they loved.

Another example of how Hosea describes the relationship between God and people is that of a bird owner with a dove.

Hosea 7:11
“Ephraim is like a dove,
easily deceived and senseless—
now calling to Egypt,
now turning to Assyria.

Time and again the people seem to be unwise – or idiotic to put it frankly.
When I was a kid, one of my friends would say, “You don’t have the sense God gave a dead horse.” But in Hosea, God says this about people:

Hosea 13:13
New International Version (NIV)
13 Pains as of a woman in childbirth come to him,
but he is a child without wisdom; when the time arrives,
he doesn’t have the sense to come out of the womb.

Have you ever heard of half baked ideas? Then hear this...

Hosea 7:8
New International Version (NIV)
8 “Ephraim mixes with the nations; Ephraim is a flat loaf not turned over. (Half baked)


On the other hand, God knows that the people do not hold God in high esteem.

Hosea 5:12
New International Version (NIV)
12 I am like a moth to Ephraim,
like rot to the people of Judah.

But throughout all of these illustrations, there is a constant set of themes.

Doom and gloom, to hope.

God’s love, anger and pain.

The people’s rejection of God, lack of good sense, and coming back to God, and falling away again.
One prominent relationship comparison is that of the parent and child. How many of you have children? No matter how good your children were, there are times when you probably wanted to sell your child to the zoo. Or maybe you wanted to go to the zoo.

Let’s take a look at Hosea 11. This is the voice of God speaking, and you tell me, is this anger or pain that you hear in these words?

Hosea 11
God’s Love for Israel
1 “When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
2 But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me. They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.
3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms; but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.
4 I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them.
5 “Will they not return to Egypt
and will not Assyria rule over them
because they refuse to repent?
6 A sword will flash in their cities;
it will devour their false prophets
and put an end to their plans.
7 My people are determined to turn from me.
Even though they call me God Most High,
I will by no means exalt them.
8 “How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?
How can I make you like Zeboyim? (Note: Admah and Zeboyim? These are cities of the plain that were caught up in the destruction when Sodom and Gomorah were destroyed)

My heart is changed within me;
all my compassion is aroused.
9 I will not carry out my fierce anger,
nor will I devastate Ephraim again.
For I am God, and not a man—
the Holy One among you.
I will not come against their cities.
10 They will follow the LORD;
he will roar like a lion. When he roars,
his children will come trembling from the west.

So what did you hear? Anger or pain?

Let’s stop here and take a look at what is happening in this time in history.

The times are peaceful and prosperous, but what most people don’t know is that all of that is over.

Have you ever seen the movie, the Titanic? Moments after the ship hits the ice burg, a group of men begin to play soccer with the large pieces of ice that feel onto the ship. They are already dead, but they don’t know it. That part of that movie is based on history.

As a nation, we’ve sometimes entered the worst times in our history, oblivious for a while of how bad things have already become.

In Hosea’s time, Assyria is a country that is gathering momentum. They are right over the horizon.

The people of the promised land formed a nation – Israel.

At first they were led by Judges, but not be specific Kings. The first king was Saul, who started his rule in 1020 BC. The next was David.

Then came Solomon.

But under the son of Solomon, a King named Rehoboam, the country split into two kingdoms.

North and South, Israel in the North and Judah in the South. That split happened in 930 BC.

Hosea tells us in verse one when he ministered.

1:1 The word of the LORD that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel:

Which means we can pin Hosea down to 750 to 722 BC – remember, these are Before Christ years, so the numbers go in reverse – 722 being later than 750. In that same period, what is happening of significance in the world?

Tiglath-Pileser III.

He ruled Assyria from 745–727 BC. Basically the same time frame as Hosea’s ministry.

Tiglath-Pileser III seized the Assyrian throne during a civil war and killed the royal family. He made sweeping changes to the Assyrian government, considerably improving its efficiency and security. Assyrian forces became a standing army. Tiglath-Pileser III subjected Babylonia to tribute, severely punished and conquered many nations.

Later in his reign, Tiglath-Pileser III assumed total control of Babylonia.

Tiglath-Pileser III discouraged revolts against Assyrian rule, with the use of forced deportations of thousands of people all over the empire. He is considered to be one of the most successful military commanders in world history, conquering most of the world known to the Assyrians before his death.

The common person in Hosea’s country doesn’t really see this as a threat.

Does anyone remember how Seattle Washington celebrated the millennium on January 1, 2000?

They did nothing. All public celebrations were cancelled because of a terrorist threat. Many people were furious and asked, “Who in the world is this Osama bin Ladin?” He was unknown to most of us, but the very next year, everyone knew of bin Ladin and of September 11, 2001.

Hosea sees Assyria coming over the horizon. He knows what is in store for this country.

Was Hosea a real person? We don’t know. From the very beginning of Christianity, many people have thought that Hosea was a parable, not a history.

Does it matter? John Calvin said it doesn’t. If it is a parable, the teachable truth is not changed at all than if it is a history.

There are two main parts of Hosea:
Chapters 1-3 tell of the marriage of Hosea with Gomer,
Chapters 4-14 presents the oracles of Hosea in which the prophet continues to speak on the themes of sin, judgment, redemption.

Let’s take a closer look at that first section, Chapters 1-3.

1 The word of the LORD that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel:
2 When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the LORD.” 3 So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

Remember what happens next? We read a few moments ago about how Gomer has three children, who may or may not have been biologically Hosea’s children. And they are given these terrible names.


The oldest child is named Jezreel – which is a lot like naming a child, Aushchwitz.

The next child was named No Mercy.

The next child was named “Not my people.


And beginning in verse ten we begin to hear that word of hope:

10 “Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ 11 The people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together; they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel. 2:1“Say of your brothers, ‘My people,’ and of your sisters, ‘My loved one.’

You see this wonderful cycle of sin, judgment, redemption.
Sin – Gomer’s unfaithfulness.
Judgment – these terrible names.
Redemption – the names are reversed “Not my people,” becomes “Children of God.”

Now in the midst of that word of hope – comes some interesting contrasts in Hosea 2:2 and following. They are words about an Angry God.

We probably don’t say enough about God’s anger and wrath. But the Bible does devote an immense amount of material about the judgment and wrath of God. God wants us to be aware that life has consequences, and one consequence of rejecting God is to incur his wrath.

Listen to these words, spoke through Hosea. Imagine he is married to Gomer, unfaithful wife, and he is speaking to the three children, but the words he speaks has a double meaning – Hosea and Gomer on one hand, and the people and God on the other.

2 “Rebuke your mother, rebuke her,
for she is not my wife,
and I am not her husband.
Let her remove the adulterous look from her face
and the unfaithfulness from between her breasts.
3 Otherwise I will strip her naked
and make her as bare as on the day she was born;
I will make her like a desert,
turn her into a parched land,
and slay her with thirst.
4 I will not show my love to her children,
because they are the children of adultery.
5 Their mother has been unfaithful
and has conceived them in disgrace.


But throughout the OT, judgment and hope go hand in hand.


14 “Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
15 There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. (Note: The Valley of Achor was a place with bad memories in Israel, a hopeless place, that Hosea says will become a doorway into hope. Again that cycle of hopelessness - hope. See Joshua 7:25))

There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
16 “In that day,” declares the LORD,
“you will call me ‘my husband’;
you will no longer call me ‘my master.’
17 I will remove the names of the Baals (false gods) from her lips;
no longer will their names be invoked.
18 In that day I will make a covenant for them
with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle
I will abolish from the land,
so that all may lie down in safety.
19 I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
20 I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the LORD.
21 “In that day I will respond,”
declares the LORD—
“I will respond to the skies,
and they will respond to the earth;
22 and the earth will respond to the grain,
the new wine and the olive oil,
and they will respond to Jezreel.
23 I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’;
and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”

So what we see here is an angry God, who reaches out and forgives the unfaithful and brings them back to himself.

That brings us to chapter 3, which seems to be years later. Gomer has again become unfaithful. But the Lord says in 3:1, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites.”

So Hosea goes out and buys Gomer for “fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Can't help but say it - "a homer for Gomer."

A homer and a lethek possibly weighed about 430 pounds

We don’t know who was selling her – maybe it was what we today would call a pimp or a “human trafficker.” But the price is cheap. A slave would sell for twice that. Centuries earlier, Joseph was sold in Genesis for 20 shekels of silver.

Hosea takes her home and tells her:

3 “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.”


Again, this is not just about a man and a woman – this is about God and his people, and verse 4 makes this clear:

4 For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or household gods. 5 Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days.

Hosea 1 through 3 use this imagery of God and the people as being like faithful Hosea in a marriage with unfaithful Gomer.

Beginning in chapter 4 we make a transition from the biography or parable if you prefer to think of Hosea as a fictional sermon illustration, to the oracles of the prophet.

Hosea 4
1 Hear the word of the LORD, you Israelites,
because the LORD has a charge to bring
gainst you who live in the land:
“There is no faithfulness, no love,
no acknowledgment of God in the land.
2 There is only cursing, lying and murder,
stealing and adultery; they break all bounds,
and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

What part of the cycle is that? Part one – sin.

What comes next? Judgment.

Hosea 5
1 “Hear this, you priests!
Pay attention, you Israelites! Listen, royal house!
This judgment is against you:
You have been a snare at Mizpah,
a net spread out on Tabor. (Note - these are two places that had become enticing locations for Baal worship).

2 The rebels are knee-deep in slaughter.
I will discipline all of them.
3 I know all about Ephraim;
Israel is not hidden from me. Ephraim, you have now turned to prostitution;
Israel is corrupt.
4 “Their deeds do not permit them
to return to their God.
A spirit of prostitution is in their heart;
they do not acknowledge the LORD.
5 Israel’s arrogance testifies against them;
the Israelites, even Ephraim, stumble in their sin;
Judah also stumbles with them.
6 When they go with their flocks and herds
to seek the LORD, they will not find him;
he has withdrawn himself from them.
14 For I will be like a lion to Ephraim,
like a great lion to Judah. I will tear them to pieces and go away;
I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them.
15 Then I will return to my lair
until they have borne their guilt
and seek my face— in their misery
they will earnestly seek me.”


So that is two parts of the cycle.
Sin.
Judgment,
And what comes next? Redemption. Hope.

We then read a section in chapter 6 that sounds on the surface to be wonderful, healing words:

Hosea 6
1 “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us; he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds.
2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.
3 Let us acknowledge the LORD;
let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth.”



Now don’t those words sound wonderful? But remember, God has been through this over and over and over and over – and he is fed up with the insincere repentance. And this is his response

4 “What can I do with you, Ephraim?
What can I do with you, Judah?
Your love is like the morning mist,
like the early dew that disappears.
5 Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets,
I killed you with the words of my mouth— then my judgments go forth like the sun.

And then in verse 6 comes this wonderful line:

6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

The people may think they have completed the cycle:
Sin, judgment, now redemption – but their repentance is a shallow, meaningless gesture.

Hear what God says, beginning in the last verse of chapter six.
“Whenever I would restore the fortunes of my people,

Hosea 7
1 1 whenever I would heal Israel, the sins of Ephraim are exposed
and the crimes of Samaria revealed.
They practice deceit,
thieves break into houses,
bandits rob in the streets;
2 but they do not realize
that I remember all their evil deeds.
Their sins engulf them;
they are always before me.


Throughout chapters 7, 8, 9, and 10, Hosea is recording the voice of God grieve over His people. They do not repent. They are like Hosea’s wife Gomer. She was unfaithful over and over. Hosea took her back, and Gomer was unfaithful. So in these chapters, God’s voice speaks over and over of the sadness and anger God feels over the unrepentant people.

And then we come to Hosea 11
1 “When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
2 But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.
3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms; but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.
4 I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts
a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them.

5 “Will they not return to Egypt and will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent? 6 A sword will flash in their cities; it will devour their false prophets and put an end to their plans. 7 My people are determined to turn from me. Even though they call me God Most High, I will by no means exalt them.
8 “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboyim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. 9 I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I devastate Ephraim again. For I am God, and not a man— the Holy One among you.


And yet, even as God says such loving things about the people, he keeps going back to the reality of the people’s rejection of Him. And He goes back and forth over this in the next several verses.
You are rebellious, but I love you.
You are rebellious, but I love you.
You are rebellious, but I love you.
You can see an example of this in Hosea 13:3 and 4



3 Therefore they will be like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears, like chaff swirling from a threshing floor, like smoke escaping through a window.
4 “But I have been the LORD your God ever since you came out of Egypt.
Then we come to the last chapter. And we have not yet gotten into that final part of the cycle, redemption.

And we never really get there.
It is left open ended. It’s up to you. What will you do? What will you do?
Hosea 14 is one last plea from God to rebellious people.

Hosea 14
1 Return, Israel, to the LORD your God.
Your sins have been your downfall!
2 Take words with you
and return to the LORD. Say to him:
“Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously,
that we may offer the fruit of our lips.
3 Assyria cannot save us;
we will not mount warhorses.
We will never again say ‘Our gods’
to what our own hands have made,
for in you the fatherless find compassion.”
4 “I will heal their waywardness
and love them freely,
for my anger has turned away from them.
5 I will be like the dew to Israel;
he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon
he will send down his roots;
6 his young shoots will grow.
His splendor will be like an olive tree,
his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.
7 People will dwell again in his shade;
they will flourish like the grain, they will blossom like the vine—
Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon.
8 Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols?
I will answer him and care for him.
I am like a flourishing juniper;
your fruitfulness comes from me.”
9 Who is wise? Let them realize these things.
Who is discerning?
Let them understand.
The ways of the LORD are right;
the righteous walk in them,
but the rebellious stumble in them.

Hosea ends like an old fashioned altar call -- the invitation is there, but then the book comes to an end and we don't know how the nation responded. But the pages of history tells us how it ended. And it does not end well.

The people remained rebellious and the cycle continues -
The people are unfaithful.
The judgment comes.
The people return.
God loves and welcomes us.
The people are unfaithful....

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