Hosea: The Prophet and the Prostitute (Part 1)

“He loved us not because we are lovable, but because He is love” (C. S. Lewis)

Have you ever been unfaithful to God? Have you ever backslidden as a believer in Christ? Do you ever feel like a failure? In Hosea 1, we see how the Lord disciplines every one of His children. He will not let us continue in sin. His love is relentless, and He always comes after His straying child.

The believer in Jesus Christ is constantly growing. We are not in any way sinless, but we ought to be sinning less. If you find yourself not sinning less, then chastening is coming your way. God will do what it takes to bring you to your knees not because He is cruel, but because He is the most tender compassionate Being in the universe. He wants you to be what He saved you to be. He wants you to confront sin in your life.

Mention the word perestroika in Russia today, and you will be greeted with cynicism. The reason is clear. In his book, then Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev made frequent reference to the credibility gap between words and deeds. He insisted that people did not want political slogans that failed to square with reality.

Perestroika means “the unity of words and deeds,” and on that basis Gorbachev attempted to reform the Soviet system. It was a noble aim, but for the Russian people, its failure was painfully evident. The unity between political promises and social reality was a myth, resulting in the downfall of Gorbachev’s administration (“Faith in the Face of Danger,” Jonathan Lamb, 110).

Every day we watch inconsistency lived out before us on the world’s stage. We hear people say one thing and, then, watch them do another thing. All sorts of promises are given, but not many promises are kept. That is how corporate ladders are climbed, positions are gained, and elections are won.

Sadly, the same is true at times of the lives of many struggling Christians. There are times in our lives when, because we are not confronting our sin urgently and honestly, the Word of God seems to lose its power, and the voice of the Holy Spirit seems dull and distant.

I want to urge you as you study the book of Hosea to confront problems in your life head on. A small area of stubbornness in your life right now may one day ruin your marriage. It may cause you to dry up spiritually. It may lead you to other sins. We need to stay tender and humble daily before the Lord.

The Story of Hosea and Gomer

The book of Hosea is a story of the amazing love of God for us. It is also a salvation story. Hosea was asked by God to marry a woman who would prove to be unfaithful to him later on. He was to use his marriage as an object lesson for Israel because they were deep into sin and far, far away from God. Hosea was to play the part of God. Hosea’s wife, Gomer, would play the part of God’s people.

Gomer bore him three children. God named Hosea’s first child, a son, Jezreel—which means “cast away.” His second child, a daughter, God named Lo-Ruhamah—which means “not pitied or not loved.” God named Hosea’s third child, another son, Lo-Ammi—“not my people” (Hosea 1:2-9)

Through the three children’s names, God warned Israel the He would cast them away and they would be scattered. He would no longer have mercy upon them and no longer show them love. However, in spite of Israel’s rebelliousness, there would come a time when God would restore them (Hos. 1:10). Instead of casting them away, God would plant them. He would have mercy on them and love them and call them “children of the living God.” Why? Because God promised Abraham, to “multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore” (Gen. 22:17).

God’s Hesed

We see this covenant love of God played out in Hosea’s marriage. In spite of Gomer’s unfaithfulness, Hosea continued to care and provide for her to the extent that he went to buy her back from the slave market (Hos. 3:1-2). The Hebrew word for God’s covenant love is hesed.

In Toward an Old Testament Theology, Walter Kaiser comments:

In no prophet is the love of God more clearly demarcated and illustrated than in Hosea. His marital experience was the key to both his ministry and his theology. It was the picture of the holiness of God righteously standing firm while the heart of God tenderly loved that which was utterly abhorrent (197).

Hesed refers to a life long love based on a covenantal relationship. It is a steadfast, rock-solid faithfulness that endures to eternity. It is also a love that is so enduring that it persists beyond any sin or betrayal to mend brokenness and graciously extend forgiveness. It speaks of a completely undeserved kindness and generosity done by a person who is in a position of power. Hesed is a love which cannot let you go—it is God’s pursuing love for you and me. Kaiser renders the word as “loyal love,” incorporating the concept of covenantal love, which in the case of Hosea seems especially appropriate.

Remember Isaiah 54:10: “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love [hesed] for you will not be shaken.”

The gospel of Hosea is this: No matter what we do, no matter how sinful we are, God pursues us, romances us, stalks us, and stakes us out in a radical grace based in Himself. When we run away from Him, God still pursues us.

God pursues us because He does not want “anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

As we look back on our lives and how we came to salvation, many of us would have sensed the feeling that God pursued us. And just as God pursues us, we are compelled to pursue others too.

God’s Love Not Based on Behavior

God does not love you or hear you because you are good. There is none good. God loves you because He wants to magnify His mercy. He loves you because He is good!

God promised that if Israel obeyed Him, they would be blessed, but if they rebelled, they would be taken by other nations. That is exactly what happened. They broke God’s commandments and broke their fellowship with God.

In spite of our disobedience, God loves sinners! We cannot imagine or comprehend how much God loves undeserving sinners. God draws undeserving sinners! This is the message of Hosea.

My brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He has always had us in His mind. He has always loved us. His hands prove it.

Charles Wesley’s hymn is fitting:

Arise, my soul, arise. Shake off thy guilty fears.
The bleeding sacrifice In my behalf appears.
Before the throne my Surety stands,
Before the throne my Surety stands;
My name is written on His hands.

Matt Black Bio


Matt Black is originally from Oak Forest, Illinois  though he spent much of his growing up years in Ponchatoula, Louisiana.  He studied theology and Spanish for his undergrad and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Reformed Theological Seminary. He is a candidate for certification with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). He and his wife Jill have three daughters and two sons.

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There are 2 Comments

TylerR's picture

Editor

Hosea is a wonderful book. I preached through it in about 20 sermons last year. It's interesting is that all most folks know about Hosea (assuming they know it even exists) is the account of he and Gomer. That's over by ch. 3. There are 10 other chapters in that book! 

It's probably my favorite book in the Minor Prophets. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

One interesting thing to me about Hosea is that the language of the first few chapters is almost deliberately vague over whether Gomer's children #2 and #3--Lo-ammi and lo-Ruhamah--are actually Hosea's too.  I'm a firm "I don't know" in the answer to that question.

It also strikes me, per Tyler's comment, that the last ten chapters really build on the episode with Gomer--something like "now that I've got your attention, I want to let you know that this is really about your behavior, not hers" a la Nathan.  And it's a wonderful way of emphasizing the fact that sexual morality is not just a matter of law-keeping, but that God uses it as a picture for our fidelity to Him.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

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