Offbeat #10 - Hosea

Throughout the Bible, God asked various people to do some challenging things, but no command from God seems quite as jarring as the command he gave to the prophet Hosea, “Go and marry a promiscuous women.” The KJV and ESV are less gentle in their wording. They have God saying that Hosea needs to go and marry a whore. Wow…. What on earth?
In the cases of many of the biblical prophets, it wasn’t just their words that was to be a message, but their lives and actions were to be symbolic of God’s message to the people. That was the case for Hosea. God’s reasoning for his command to Hosea is that, “for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” Hosea’s relationship to his promiscuous wife is a symbol of God’s relationship to his unfaithful people. What we see next in Hosea’s story is the consequences of unfaithfulness. Hosea’s wife Gomer has three children named, “Jezreel” (a named that symbolized punishment), “No Mercy” (for God would have no mercy on Israel), and “Not My People” (because, in a sense, the people were divorced from God).
Yet, despite these dire proclamations, in the very next chapter (Hosea 2), God declares that he will have mercy, that he will woo his wandering bride back to him and enter with her into a relationship of faithfulness if they will repent and return to him. To symbolize God’s disposition of mercy toward his people, God issues another command to Hosea, ““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, though they turn to other gods” (Hosea 3:1). God’s love isn’t affected by our unfaithfulness. He pursues after us, just as Hosea pursued his wayward wife.
The rest of the book of Hosea serves two purposes. First, to warn Israel against their unfaithfulness and the consequences that will ensue if they persist. Second, to lovingly and with longing call Israel to repentance, that they might enter into relationship with God once again.
Hosea’s graphic representation of God’s relationship with his unfaithful people puts some flesh and bones on the idea of God’s love for us. Our God is a jealous God. He is unwilling to share us with other loves. And, there are consequences for those that run from him. Namely, that we lose his active influence in our lives, and if we persist in unfaithfulness there will be no mercy extended. Yet, he will not close the door on us either. He longs to woo us back to himself when we wander, ready and willing to accept us back if we will repent. His desire is to forgive and restore us to a faithful relationship with him.

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