Summary: A lesson on the love of God displayed in the life of Hosea.
The God of Hosea
By the discipline of cruel events, God taught Hosea much concerning the nature and character of Israel’s God. Because of Hosea’s faith and obedience to God, he was granted insight into the deep spiritual need of his generation and was endowed with a divine message for that hour and for the present.
Hosea was the prophet of the decline, death, and fall of northern Israel. The worship of God had given way to mere ritual. It was a time of moral degeneracy and spiritual adultery. With their lips the people worshipped God, and with their harts they loved idols. Flagrant immorality, irreverence for the sacred, unfaithfulness, thievery, and drunkenness were the order of the day.
When God wants a specific task performed, he chooses an instrument appropriate to the task. God found in the prophet Hosea a man for the hour. God told him, “God, take to yourself and adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness” (Hosea 1:2). Hosea was obedient to this command.
The record of the prophet’s experience in chapters 1 and 3 has been exposed to a wide variety of interpretations. Some take the passage simply to be a literary device to illustrate a great truth. However, most Old Testament scholars believe that Hosea was directed to marry a woman given to idolatry that was often associated with immorality. At first she was an unchaste woman only in a spiritual sense. She bore to her husband three children, to whom symbolic names were given. Eventually idolatry brought forth its natural fruit, and Hosea’s wife became an unchaste woman in a very real sense. Whether she then deserted her husband or was divorced by him is not definitely stated. At any rate, in obedience to the divine command, Hosea recovered his unfaithful wife and restored her to his home.
The first of Hosea’s children was named Jezreel, symbolizing the overthrow of the dynasty of Israel’s ruling king. The second was names Lo-ruhamah, announcing that God would have no mercy on Israel. The third was named Lo-ammi, symbolizing the utter destruction of Israel. These names have prophetic significance for conditions existing in Israel as Hosea saw them. This period of preparation was not to be completed until the events of chapter 3 had transpired.
As time went by, Hosea began to notice things that caused him to wonder and worry about Gomer. He had known from the very first that she had tendencies toward idolatry. Perhaps he had hoped to win Gomer to Israel’s religion. Before too long, Hosea realized his effort was resulting in failure. The names that were given to the second and third children indicated that the prophet recognized he was not their father.
The Bible does not describe the moment of Gomer’s departure form the household of Hosea. It is impossible to know whether Hosea cast her out of whether she departed on her own accord. Most scholars believe that Gomer departed of her own free will and became a sacred prostitute in one of the pagan temples of Baal. It is impossible for one to imagine the grief, disappointment, and shame that Hosea must have experienced during these days when the wife of his youth was “beloved of her friends.”
It was while Hosea was groping for a solution to his family problems that insight into the episode began to dawn on his consciousness. He was not the only one who had suffered. He began to see that his experience with Gomer was part of a picture of what had been happening to God and Israel for along time.
God had taken the initiative in establishing a union with Israel. He had delivered them out of Egypt. He had led them into the land that he had designated to be their home. He had shown tender love for Israel and had expected a pure, undivided affection from them. The bond between them was a close and tender as the bond of wedlock.
Israel had been unfaithful to her Maker and spiritual Husband. Israel had sought others lovers and found them in the Canaanite worship of Baal. God had been forsaken by the people on whom he had showered the abundance of his divine love. Consequently, the people were guilty of spiritual adultery. Out of his personal experience, Hosea begins to understand how the unfaithfulness of Israel affected the heart of God.
In spite of Gomer’s infidelity and shameful ways of living, Hosea discovered in hs heart a continuing love for her and came to interpret this love as the clear command of God to win back his wife to better ways. We read how Hosea went to the slave market, to which Gomer had descended, and purchased her in order that he might redeem her from the depths of infamy into which she had fallen. He dealt with Gomer as he knew God wanted to deal with Israel.