Hosea must have had the patience of Job. He lived in Israel when the whole nation had completely turned away from the Lord and had turned to other gods, reveling in the practices of the world. This lesson uses extensive comparisons, called similitudes to compare the behavior of Israel with other things to try to show them how the Lord felt about His relationship with His people.
Hosea was commanded by the Lord to give a visual demonstration of how He felt about what was happening between Him and His people. In those days people could be bought and sold, like any other possession. He was commanded to go buy a whore and marry her. The first child of their union was a son named Jezreel. The Lord gave Hosea specific prophecies about what would happen to Israel before Jezreel reached certain ages. The next child’s name meant “Not having obtained mercy.” Hosea 1:6
6 And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And God said unto him, Call her name Lo-ruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away.
The third child was a boy named Lo-ammi or not my people. With the birth of each child the Lord made a point, to the northern kingdom especially, that they were bringing upon themselves irreparable harm by their behavior.
God and Covenants
Sometimes it is easy to forget the reason why God did not just toss Israel aside and find himself someone else to work with. Israel was a pain in the neck. They were constantly unfaithful. They broke every covenant they ever made with God, and deliberately chose not to exercise any faith in the one being who had brought them up out of slavery to a life of freedom and dignity. This lesson is all about similitudes or comparisons, and the covenant between God and His people makes for some great comparisons.
When Jehovah covenanted with Israel to be their God they were supposed to perform certain things in return. They were to obey Him and worship Him only, and keep his commandments. They broke their promises not just once or twice, but over, and over, and over again. How God views this relationship is graphically shown in many places in the Old Testament, but is very clearly demonstrated in the marriage between Hosea and Gomer, his wife.
Hosea is the faithful God. Gomer is Israel who has gone off whoring after every other partner she can find. She attributes all her riches and worldly goods to these other lovers, but the Lord tells Hosea that He will take all her worldly goods away from her and hedge up her way so she cannot go anywhere or do anything. Gomer represents Israel’s insistence that it was their false gods who gave them this or gave them that. They refused to acknowledge the Lord’s hand in what they were blessed with.
The common thread throughout all the chapters of Hosea is God’s constancy in the covenants He has made with his people. It is a clear demonstration that God does not abandon us, it is we who abandon Him. The children of Israel are made to suffer the natural consequences of their behavior, but the Lord offers them His protection again and again, if they will but turn to him and keep his commandments. His mercy can only be extended to them when they are faithful to their covenants. As long as they run off after every new fad and practice, He cannot help them. In the case of Hosea, the Lord was telling the people that the Assyrians were about to come in and wipe them out. The Lord said He would destroy the kingdom of Israel because of their disobedience. They could not rely on God’s protection from this invading army because they had long ago abandoned their God.
The relationship between God and His people really is, and always has been treated by Him as a marriage arrangement. He has always referred to his people as his bride, and him as the bridegroom. All these millennia God has remained faithful to the promises he made to Abraham and the other prophets. It has always been Israel who has sought other partners. So the Lord makes it clear in these chapters that even though they will suffer for their sins, the day will come in the future when He will gather them back together as a people. In that day they will no longer call him master, but husband. They will be faithful to him as he has always been to Israel.
I learned two things from this lesson.
1. The Lord is ultimately faithful to His chosen people. We have messed up more times than can be adequately recorded in the anals of history, yet we have not been cast off for another. The Lord has let us suffer for our sins, as a people, but the hand of mercy has always been extended, just waiting for us to reach for it. His patience is never ending.
2. If we were as patient in our own relationships with those around us, whether in our marriage or the family, with neighbors or with strangers, think what an amazing world this would be. We tend to try for a while, but if they don’t respond we just walk away. The Lord never walks away. His love and desire for our happiness never wavers, never diminishes, and never falters. It is constant, and everlasting. If we had a little bit more of His tenacity and patience, just think of how many more people would ultimately be pulled back into the nets of spiritual and family safety. We would have a lot more joy if we could but learn to emulate the Lord’s perseverance in believing the best in others.