As I read the New Testament I find myself constantly flipping back several hundred pages to the Old Testament. The more and more I read the New the more and more I see the Old. With that in mind here are some thoughts on an Old Testament Prophet, Hosea.
The Story of Hosea
Hosea is an interesting book to say the least. It is about a prophet named Hosea who is called by YHWH to marry an unfaithful woman. Sounds like a marriage made in Heaven, right? But this soap opera isn’t simply about a man constantly pursuing an unfaithful bride. This story could be called an “enacted parable”. A parable is a story that demonstrates a specific truth. A parable that is enacted is a story that is lived out in real life. We could say that the life of Hosea and his unfaithful wife Gomer is an object lesson about YHWH and Israel.
The Woman Represents Israel’s Unfaithfulness
I’d like to draw your attention to the first two chapters. Hosea is commissioned to marry an unfaithful wife and have children of unfaithfulness, because “the land” commits unfaithfulness by forsaking YHWH (v. 2-3). Wow, what are great way to enjoy life.
“Hey, Hosea, I’m really going to bless your life. You know what, I have a wonderful plan for you; a life meaningful and full of purpose! I’ve ordained you to marry a woman that is going to run around on you and sleep with other men. Sounds great, eh? Love ya! – The LORD
Well Hosea, being faithful to YHWH married Gomer, the unfaithful woman. But notice why he married her. Verse 2 states, because “the land” is unfaithful. “The land” is a reference to Israel, the people of God. We see a connection between Gomer and Israel and Hosea and YHWH. We have to keep in mind that YHWH made a covenant with Israel. Israel would be His people. He would love them and remain faithful to them and in return Israel would represent YHWH’s glory to the nations. However, Israel was unfaithful. But YWHW remained faithful.
In Verses 4-8 we notice that Hosea and Gomer had children. These children have some pretty strange names that you probably wouldn’t find in a “baby name book”. But notice that these names provide meaning to the overall narrative. The first child was named Jezreel meaning “God sows/scatters”. Without getting into too much background, this simply indicates some sort of judgment that will come upon Israel. The next child was named Lo-ruhama, meaning “No Mercy”. The third child was named No-ammi, meaning “Not my people”. You may ask “why are these names so crazy?”
Well, chapter 2 provides some clarity. Verse 1 states “Say to your brothers, you are my people and to your sisters, you have received mercy”. It is interesting because the children are named “no mercy” and “not my people”. Do you see the irony? The children of Israel have convinced themselves even in the midst of their idolatry that they have received mercy and they are YHWH’s people but Hosea (serving as a parable) says no, you’re not! As the mother of these children are unfaithful, so are the children of Israel are unfaithful.
“Upon her children also I will have no mercy because they are children of unfaithfulness…for she said, I will go after my lovers…She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them and she shall seek them but shall not find them…I will punish her for the feast days of Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the LORD” – Hosea 2:4-5;7;13
YHWH’s Covenant Faithfulness
Pretty depressing isn’t it? This woman (who represents Israel) is completely unfaithful to her husband (who represents YHWH). But hold on! Look at verse 14-15.
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor (meaning trouble) a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt” – Hosea 2:14-15
You notice the language. It is the language of seduction. Also realize that YHWH is the one speaking. He states that He will allure Israel, the unfaithful bride, back to Himself despite of her unfaithfulness. Verse 16 states “And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘my husband’ and no longer will you call me ‘my Baal’.
“And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.” – Hosea 2:19-20
If you think it can’t get any more romantic look at this! The idea being implored here is the Hebrew concept of hesed. Hesed is a word meaning covenant love, loyalty, and unconditional faithfulness. This hesed is used with regard to YHWH’s love for Israel, His covenant people. Please get the image. You have an unfaithful bride (Israel) running around on her husband (YHWH). But the husband has made a covenant with her and in His loyalty and faithfulness He will pursue her regardless of her own unfaithfulness.
“And I will have mercy on ‘No Mercy’, and I will say to ‘Not My People’, You are my people and he shall say ‘You are my God’. –Hosea 2:23
The children of the unfaithful wife will finally receive mercy and will be called God’s people. Not because of their faithfulness but because of His faithfulness!
The New Testament Use of Hosea
Paul in Romans 9:25 quotes Hosea 2:23. In the context Paul is discussing the idea of Israel and God’s mercy. Yet Paul makes an amazing connection. The unfaithful ones in the context are Gentiles. The same God that called Israel ‘my people’ in Hosea is now calling Gentiles ‘my people’. Which must mean that Gentiles become part of the covenant people of God. Not because of something they have done for they were unbelieving in the first place. But solely because of what God has done in and through Jesus Messiah whereby He has demonstrated His covenant faithfulness through the cross and resurrection which is not only for Israel but for world as well. You know what, that includes us.
Implications For Us Today
I’m convinced that the main point is ‘God’s faithfulness over shadows our unfaithfulness’. I know for myself, even in my Christian walk, that I have been unfaithful to Him. I’ve either chosen to seek after idols or other objects instead of God. But the hope I have isn’t in my self-righteousness or faithfulness. My hope is in God’s faithfulness to me.
God is the God who pursues unfaithful people. Left to our own, we would remain unfaithful and never pursue God. But God’s relentless love and consistent pursuing of an unfaithful people is at the heart of the Good News.
As you walk throughout this day and the rest of the week remember that God is faithful even when you are not faithful.
As we read the New Testament we must not forget the Old. Case and point, Hosea in Romans. However, at the same time, Hosea is using ideas and concepts found in Genesis and Exodus. When you read the Bible you are reading ideas that are not isolated but ideas that are completely imbedded within the whole drama of Scripture. The point is you don’t have to be a Biblical scholar to read the Bible rightly. You just have to know the storyline of the Bible.