Summary: God’s shocking visual aid
The preacher and the prostitute
(Part 1 of a series of 3)
We live in a world where images are important. As every school teacher will tell you, if you can combine a visual aid with your own words, you will get your message across to the children much better. It is just the same for adults. We respond to images. We respond to visual aids. And if you can combine a visual aid with sex, then you’re on to a surefire winner. Because there is no doubt that sex sells. Whether it’s the moderately sanitised version used by ‘The Sun’ on page three, or the more extreme stories told in ‘The News of the World’, it certainly grabs people’s attention.
The man presenting the visual aid - the prophet
And that is just where our study of the book of Hosea begins. It begins not with the story of the actress and the Bishop, but a very real visual aid about the prophet and the prostitute. Hosea, the man after whom this book is named, was a prophet. He lived in the northern part Israel in about the eighth century BC. The role of a prophet is to bring God’s word to any situation to any people. And that word or message can take all sorts of different forms. That message can be words spoken by a prophet standing on a street corner. But it can also be the visual aid that the prophet uses to illustrate God’s message. It can speak about the present just as much as looking forward to the future. It can reflect on the past just as much is it can speak to the here and now. And Hosea’s job was to bring the word of God, the message of God to the people of Israel and Judah living about two thousand eight hundred years ago. So the man presenting the visual aid is Hosea.
The shocking visual aid
Now the way that Hosea was to bring God’s word into that situation was by means of a very direct visual aid. He was told to go and get married. Perhaps that in itself was not too bad. However, what he was told to do was to go and marry a prostitute. I am a great believer in visual aids. I once took a chainsaw into church to try and get a message across. But Hosea’s visual aid is of a completely different nature. He was told to marry a prostitute. What on earth is this all about? Well, just try to imagine the situation. To avoid embarrassment, imagine that I am Hosea. And imagine that one day, I came into church and introduced to you my new wife. Imagine that she was quite obviously a prostitute, a streetwalker, a hooker. Indeed quite probably a prostitute that you knew. You would be shocked, you would be appalled, you would be offended. All of a sudden, the issues of the sex industry, the issues of sexual abuse, the issues of prostitution would no longer be at a safe distance from you, but would be right in your face. You would be forced to take notice. Your attention would have been grabbed.
And that it is what Hosea was commanded to do. V2. He was commanded to marry a prostitute to grab his nation’s attention. He was commanded to marry a streetwalker to bring God’s message to his people. He was commanded to marry a hooker because that was the way that God needed to speak to his wayward people.
Now let’s go back to your imagination again. Imagine that my new wife, the prostitute, has children. And imagine the first one as red hair, the second one has dark skin and curly hair, and the third one is a beautiful coffee colour. And imagine what you would think. Imagine the gossip. Imagine the conversations around the town. You would be shocked. Every day, the promiscuous actions of the prostitute would be right in your face. You would be forced to take notice.
And that’s just the situation of Hosea. Not only was he commanded to marry a prostitute to grab his nation’s attention, not only was he commanded to marry a prostitute as a very direct visual aid to God’s people, but the visual aid was reinforced time and again, with children resulting from the promiscuously and with names which were highly provocative.
The message of the visual aid
So what was this all about? Was it just a quick stunt to grab the people’s attention? No, it was no quick stunt. But it was a very direct reflection of the situation. It was a very direct illustration of the situation. For God was saying through this image, through this visual aid, that his people had prostituted themselves. V2. The GNB is very weak here. The Jerusalem Bible has it ‘Go, marry a whore, and get children with a whore, for the country itself has become nothing but a whore by abandoning Yahweh (the Lord).’ And this message is reiterated time and again. Ch2:13 – ‘she went after her lovers and forgot me.’