Summary: For Hosea, theology wasn’t merely theoretical, it was life-changing. So should it be for you and me.
When John Claypool was pastor of Crescent Heights Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, he underwent significant personal tragedy—including having a beloved daughter diagnosed with leukemia. Throughout the turmoil and torture of losing his, as I recall, 10-year-old daughter, Claypool kept his faith and preached incredibly powerful sermons that changed the lives of thousands of people (including me). He said that the only truly powerful preaching was confessional preaching. If the pastor/preacher wasn’t sharing something he or she [I know not everyone reading this message is comfortable with the idea of women in the pulpit, but when they are in the pulpit, the same counsel should apply—I’m not attempting to address this issue, but merely be true to Claypool’s insight.] has personally experienced and how he or she has been affected by God’s Word, the message isn’t going to have enough power.
The experience of the 8th century prophet, Hosea, rather affirms Claypool’s idea of “confessional preaching.” It was as God dealt with the anguish and betrayal Hosea was experiencing that Hosea began to understand something of what G. Campbell Morgan called “The Heart and Holiness of God.” Today, I wish to share my translation of the text with you and suggest what it might have to say when we are hurt by rebellion in our own families. As usual, I remind you that my translation is neither infallible nor superior to any other translation, but that when we read a new translation we are more open to what God might show us. Let’s read the first three verses together:
v. 1 The word of the Lord (Yahweh—He who causes to be, He who is, He who will be) which happened to Hosea (“He caused to be saved”), the son of Beeri (“My well” or simply, “Well”) in the days of Uzziah (“Yah is my strength”), Jotham (“He is perfect” or “Yah is perfect”), Ahaz (“He grasps”) and Hezekiah (“Yahweh caused to be strong” or “Yahweh made obstinate”), Kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam (“He sues for the people”), son of Joash (“He gives” or “Yahweh gives”), King of Israel.
v. 2 The beginning of the word of the Lord (Yahweh) to Hosea--and the Lord (Yahweh) proceeded to say to Hosea, “Go, take for yourself a wife of fornication and children of promiscuity, BECAUSE the land has committed fornication away from the Lord.”
v. 3 And he [Hosea] proceeded to go and subsequently he took Gomer (“end or completion”), the daughter of Dibalayim (“fig cakes”) and subsequently, she conceived and then, she delivered a son for him.
It was a chaotic time in the southern kingdom, but everything seemed prosperous and stable in the northern kingdom. While those Judeans in the southern kingdom of Judah were struggling under the less than triumphant trio of successors to the great Uzziah, we have only one king, a very strong king named Jeroboam II, described as the King of Israel. Yet, it is not to the troubled kingdom that Hosea is sent to prophesy. Rather, it is to the stable and prosperous kingdom that God sends the prophet. I want to suggest a lesson for us in that realization, but before we get there, let’s consider the names involved in this section.
Hosea’s message is intended to prepare us for the gospel, the freeing “good news,” as we can see in his name, meaning “He causes to be saved” (a variant of Joshua and Jesus). His father is named, “My well” (perhaps, merely “Well” or “Spring”). He is the provision from which comes survival in a desert land, and he is also the sire of the prophet God intends to use.
Hosea does not prophesy to Uzziah, the king who (in spite of contracting leprosy) was described in II Kings 15 as one who did right in God’s eyes (as well as led a successful military campaign against the Philistines, secured the King’s Highway caravan route, refortified the citadel of Zion, and brought great economic prosperity to Judah). He does not prophesy to Jotham, Judah’s king who brought about several military successes and a solid building program. He doesn’t even prophesy to Ahaz, the king whose very name means that he was self-centered and self-aggrandizing, the king who put a Syrian altar to Baal in God’s own temple (II Kings 16:11). And we don’t see him prophesying to Hezekiah, the king who started out with religious reform and military reconstruction but ended up paying tribute to the Assyrians, facing terminal illness, and experiencing God’s deliverance. Of course, Isaiah prophesied to Hezekiah. God fits the vessel to the task.
Hosea does prophesy in the kingdom of Jeroboam II. His name indicates someone who goes to bat legally and socially for all of the people. In today’s political terms, he was a populist. But being a populist has a heavy-duty price tag! To be a populist means that you need a majority behind you to be successful. To be a populist means that you have to build a consensus. To be successful in building a consensus, you must take a stand on one or two basic issues—not the whole spectrum of issues. What does that mean? It means that populists have to sell out their integrity with regard to some issues in order to focus on a few.