Here are some sad statistics: of the 4.1 million babies
born in the US in 2005, more than 1.5 were brought into the
world by unmarried couples, so this means that around 40% of
those born were born out of wedlock!
One reason for this is that many couples have decided
to live together rather than committing to marriage: the
number of such couples rose from 200,000 in 1970 to 1.7
million in 2005 (Larson-Elshof)!
Isn't it sad that “mom, dad, and the kids” is
becoming a lost social structure in our land?
The prophet Hosea had a difficult family life as
prophet Hosea has been described with these words: "Hosea is
the sobbing of a heart that has been broken because of a
love that has been lost" (Hill).
"He suffered severely, but in each pang of suffering,
he came to know the infinite heart of God more clearly"
Someone made this remark about the book: "... no OT
book contains such extraordinary insight into the love of
This morning we want to look at three areas: some background
materials for Hosea, a quick overview of the book, and then
some important truths for us from this book.
Hosea's name means "salvation" or "deliverance".
About all we know about Hosea is that his father's
name is Beeri, and from the kings he lists, the dates of his
ministry would be between 785 to 725 BC.
He was a contemporary of the prophets Isaiah, Micah,
and Amos. While
Isaiah and Micah were prophets to Judah, Amos and Hosea were
prophets to the 10 northern tribes called Israel.
Politically, the times were very turbulent.
Of the six kings in Israel after Jeroboam II, only
one died a natural death while the rest were assassinated
armies of Assyrian invaded Israel in 730, and Samaria, the
capital of Israel, was eventually conquered in 722, shortly
after Hosea's work ended.
Socially, it was a period of great corruption and
We find the picture of a nation that is decaying (Hailey).
Someone used these words to describe the scene:
"Dissolution, decay, and death were all around [Hosea].
Anarchy, chaos, feuds, and broken covenants were
visible on every side . . . there was laxness and looseness
in personal behavior.
The rulers set poor examples for the people. . . .
The courts were corrupt. . . . Conspiracies and plots were
common. . . . Literal bloodshed, highway robbery, murder,
and organized vice were visible on every hand with the
priests often leading the way of gangs.
Family life had gone to pieces since the marriage vow
had been lost" (Yates).
Doesn't that sound a lot like many of the headlines
in our newspapers?
Religiously, idolatry was rampant, and the Israelites gave
Jehovah only lip service (Hill).
"The people [had adopted] two systems of false
religion: the calf worship [from Egypt] introduced by
Jeroboam I, and [the] Baal worship [imported] by Ahab and
was completely foreign to the revealed religion of the Lord
The children were not taught about God, and they did
not know the law of God (Hill).
"Worship was cold, formal, and professional ..."
(Yates), and there was fornication, even at the Lord's
Children were often sacrificed to the false gods by throwing
them on the hot arms of an idols, often called "passing
through the fire" in the Old Testament.
The Jews thought that all was well as they sat in the
shadow of a raging volcano of God's indignation.
The covenant had been broken, and the God who had
established them had been forsaken.
It must have been a heart-rending situation for Hosea
as he denounced spiritual ignorance, pride, instability,
worldliness, corruption, backsliding, and the rampant,
widespread, all-consuming idolatry, especially to an
audience who would not listen (Yates).
One writer noted: "These were trying years of political
conniving and intrigue, of anarchy and rebellion, of
treachery and murder.
God was completely left out of the people's thinking.
The prophet's task was to turn the thinking of the
people back to God, but they were too deeply steeped in
their idolatry to heed his warning.
They had passed the point of no return; they refused
to hear" (Hailey).
Hosea's style is unusual.
One person has described it in this way: "The first
three chapters have a certain unity, focusing as they do on
the marriage and family life of Hosea.
But, for the most part, the remainder of the book is
a collection of different sayings from different periods of
the prophet's life and ministry, and as such it is not easy
to understand fully at first reading. . . . But for all the
difficulty in reading this little book, certain dominant
themes and insights emerge which are of lasting religious
Hosea's tone can be hard-hitting and biting as well
as being tender and gracious.
Let's take a moment to survey the book, as we concentrate on
God's longsuffering for Israel (seen in a living parable)
God's lawsuit against Israel (4-7)
God's first lash against Israel—dispersion
God's love for Israel (11)
God's second lash against Israel—damnation
God's third lash against Israel—destruction
God's loyalty for Israel (14)
The first part of the book talks about God's long-suffering,
and it does this through a living parable.
You see, Hosea's personal family life becomes a
living parable of God's love for the Israelites.
God tells Hosea to marry a wife of harlotry.
We can see the downhill progression in Hosea's
marriage to Gomer through the names that God tells Hosea to
give his children.
The first, a son, is to be called Jezreel, which
literally means "God will sow."
In reality, God is not ready to sow, He is ready to
reap for he tells Hosea that He is ready to bring the
kingdom of Israel to an end in the Valley of Jezreel
next child was a girl, and her name was Lo-Ruhamah, which
mean "no mercy" or "not pitied".
God explains that He is no longer going to have mercy
on Israel but will let them be taken into captivity (1:6).
The third child is a boy, and his name is Lo-Ammi,
which means "Not my people" or "No kin of mine".
And God explains in verse 8: "For you are not my
people, and I will not be your God."
God is disclaiming the Israelites and saying that
He will no longer be this corrupt nation's God.
With this name too, Hosea probably realizes that this
child was not his, but it was fathered by someone else.
His wife Gomer continues to play the harlot, and one
wonders what Hosea had to suffer through as he worked daily
with his own three children.
Then we see that God tells Hosea to continue to live
with this woman.
Let's notice God's words and their application in
chapter 3: "Then the Lord said to me, 'Go again, love a
woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery,
just like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel,
who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the
pagans.' So I
bought her for myself for 15 shekels of silver, and one and
one-half homers of barley.
And I said to her, 'You shall stay with me many days;
you shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man—so,
too, will I be toward you.'
For the children of Israel shall abide many days
without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar,
without ephod and teraphim.
Afterward the children of Israel shall return and
seek the Lord their God and David their king.
They shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the
latter days." Even
though Gomer had sold out on Hosea, Hosea had not sold out
her. He goes to
the marketplace where she was going to sell herself into
slavery and buys her.
"As Hosea's love for Gomer is great enough to take
her back, so God's love for a sinning, idolatrous,
adulterous Israel is great enough to allow them to come back
to Him" (CH).
God is indeed long-suffering (as we see through the living
parable of Hosea's family)!
Chapters 4-7 begin by saying that the Lord has a
charge, or an accusation, or a lawsuit against Israel, and
Hosea goes into great detail about the sins of Israel:
dealing treacherously with God, moving boundary markers,
putting their trust in other nations' armies rather than in
God, speaking curses, and above all, practicing idolatry,
with its emphasis on public sex.
Hosea called it spiritual adultery, and the word
"harlotry" is found about 15 times in this book!
The next section introduces some of God's discipline
towards Israel, so this is why it's called the first lash
That punishment will be the scattering or the dispersion of
the Israelites among the Assyrians.
Chapter 8:8-9 says that the Israelites will live
among the Gentiles in Assyria, and 10:5-6 states that the
famous calf god of Samaria will now be carried off to
Assyria. In the
next section, which contained our reading this morning, we
see how God's love is described in a very interesting way,
which we'll look at more closely in a few minutes.
In the next section, the second lash of God's
punishment is seen in His damnation of Israel.
A comparison is made in this chapter to Jacob, and
for awhile Jacob had to live in exile (to avoid his brother
God continued to be with Jacob, but God will not be kind to
Israel any longer for He has been provoked to anger, and His
damnation now rests upon the nation (12:14).
In the next section, God's third lash of destruction
Notice the graphic words of 13:16: "Samaria is held
guilty, for she has rebelled against her God.
They shall fall by the sword, their infants shall be
dashed in pieces, and their women with child ripped open."
But despite all the lashings and foreign gods,
just like despite all Gomer's lovers, God will one day
restore Israel, just as Hosea bought back Gomer.
We see His loyalty for Israel in the final chapter.
God's steadfast love and His faithfulness will cause
a remnant from Israel to be restored!
So we see that this book too, just like Micah,
alternates between God's wrath and God's mercy.
Now let's quickly look at six important truths from this
great book and listen as Hosea preaches to us as well.
The first truth is that when we give up on God's
Word, wickedness prevails.
Notice what 4:1-2 states:
"There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in
the land. By
swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing
adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed upon
The accusation of God against Israel is that
there is no truth, no mercy, and no knowledge of God in the
has shown that only God's Word has proven effective in
curbing a nation's sins and creating a moral society.
Someone has observed: "... Either God's truth is
received, obeyed, and honored, or immorality, shame, and
debauchery are the inevitable alternative" (Coffman).
Without a knowledge of God, how can we be merciful?
When you look at the list of sins, how many of them
are violations of the Ten Commandments?
How much truth, mercy, and knowledge of God are in
The philosophical outlook of postmodernism claims that there
is no universal truth; now it's all personal truth shaped by
Someone has noted: "'With the loss of truth, people now seek
faith without boundaries, categories, or definitions"
Mercy has given way to violence.
In 1960, there were 1,900 violent crimes per 100,000
people, but in 2000, that number had increased almost five
fold with 5,700 violent crimes per 100,000!
Where is the knowledge of God in our culture?
A religious school recently gave its incoming
freshman some questions about the Bible. Half of them
did not know that the birth of Christ is found in Matthew's
gospel, half of them did not know the Passover was found in
the book of Exodus, one third of them could not even
identify Matthew as an apostle (Burge).
A writer once said, "Without God, anything is
possible" (Dostoyevsky). When people in our culture lose
their moral compass, we must face the inevitable alternative
of increasing wickedness!
The second truth is that when we embrace the spirit of
harlotry, God will discipline us too!
Look at 5:4-5: "They do not direct their deeds
towards turning to their God, for the spirit of harlotry is
in their midst, and they do not know the Lord.
The pride of Israel testifies to his face; therefore,
Israel and Ephraim stumble in their iniquity; Judah also
stumbles with them" (5:4-5).
The Israelites were not doing their deeds to
please God, but to please themselves.
The appeal of idols was so strong because sexual
pleasures were involved.
The "high places" in the Old Testament were round
raised platforms made of rocks where an idol would be
placed, kind of like a 5 ft. high stage. Then, in
order to promote fertility of the land, a male and female
would come out onto the platform and have public sex as the
worshipers stood around the platform watching them!
The children that were often the results of these
encounters were later offered to the gods and made to pass
through the fire. Idolatry involved much more than just
bowing down before an image. "Knowing God in the
biblical sense means an active and obedient knowledge that
conspicuously conforms to the teaching of God's word"
see that the Israelites became proud in their harlotry, and
"such haughty pride . . . may be tolerated by the God for a
season; but, at last, eternal justice demands that it
[should] be punished" (Coffman).
If God could punish the nation of Israel for their
unfaithfulness, will God also not discipline us as well?
What will happen to a nation where many of its leaders
declare boldly: "God is dead" and then live their lives like
that is true in all their doings?
Does the spirit of harlotry invade our lives as we
pervert ourselves with sexual sins, homosexuality, drug
highs, and often other illegal thrills?
We don't pass our babies through the fire, but how
many fetuses have been passed through abortion clinics
(tragically, it's more than all the service men who have
lost lives in foreign wars)?
Would it be accurate to describe America as a nation
which is “stumbling in its iniquity”?
When God's people embrace the spirit of harlotry, God
will surely discipline us as well!
The third truth is God keeps His word and punishes
Let's read 19:15-17: "Because of the evil of their deeds
I will drive them from My house; I will love them no more.
All their princes are rebellious. Ephraim is
stricken, their root is dried up; they shall bear no fruit.
Yes, were they to bear children, I would kill the
darlings of their womb.
My God will cast them away because they did not obey
Him; and they shall be wanderers among the nations"
Just as Abraham drove Hagar out of his house, so Israel will
be removed from any further participation in the covenant
with God (Coffman).
Hosea laid it all on the line here; the case with
Israel was hopeless, and divine punishment was at hand
had warned the Israelites through Moses in Deuteronomy that
if they were disobedient to His covenant, then punishment
We see that that punishment will be fourfold: barrenness,
warfare, estrangement, and homelessness (Kidner).
Someone has observed: "Likewise, the persistent abuse of
God's love releases eventually the landslide of self-induced
Question: "If the same gross sins and wretched
indifference to the will of God that destroyed the old
Israel is indulged by the New Israel, what will happen to
the church" (Coffman)?
The apostle Peter encourages us in 1 Pt. 1:13ff:
"Therefore gird up the lions of your mind, be sober, and
rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to
you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children,
not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your
ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be
holy in all your conduct, because it is written 'Be holy,
for I am holy.'"
We have been commanded to live obedient and holy
lives; otherwise, God will punish our disobedience as well!
The fourth truth is that God has an enormous heart.
Look at 11:7-9: "My people are bent on backsliding
from Me. Though
they call to the Most Hight, none at all exalt Him.
How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I set you like Zeboiim?
My heart churns with Me, My sympathy is stirred.
I will not execute the fierceness of My anger; I will
not again destroy Ephraim.
For I am God, and not man, the Holy One in your
midst; and I will not come with terror" (11:7-9).
"This is one of the
most deeply emotional passages in the book as God's heart is
represented as being heavy within Him" (Hailey).
Notice that we can call on God's name but not exalt
Him as the God over our lives.
Admah and Zeboiim are cities that you probably don't
recognize right off, but they were cities that were
destroyed by God along with two other cities that you might
recognize—Sodom and Gomorrah (Deut. 29:23 tells us this).
You see, Israel had become just as wicked as the
people of those four cities that God destroyed by fire from
heaven. But how
could God give up His chosen people? He knows that
according to the law, He should destroy them completely, but
He has also promised that through the Jews He would send a
Ruler and a King into the world (as we saw in Micah).
God destroys much of Israel, but His promise and
compassion does not allow Him to exterminate it completely.
"Once the wrath has been poured out, Jehovah will have mercy
on [a] remnant" (Hailey).
"My heart churns with Me, My sympathy is stirred."
Our behaviors do affect God deeply!
Someone else has rightly observed: "The entire story
of Israel, the central theme of the Old Testament, is a love
story, but it is not a happy story.
God had loved Israel, did love Israel, and would
continue to love into the years of the future.
But this undying love is never returned by the chosen
people, so that the history of divine love becomes a history
Only one who loves deeply can know the grief of love
perpetually spurned" (Craigie).
Jehovah God has an enormous heart!
The fifth truth is that prosperity can bring a curse.
Let's read 13:6-8: "When they had pasture, they
were filled; they were filled and their heart was exalted;
therefore, they forgot Me.
So I will be like a lion; like a leopard by the road
I will lurk; I will meet them like a bear deprived of her
cub; I will tear open their rib cage, and there I will
devour them like a lion.
The wild beast shall tear them" (13:6-8).
Moses had warned the Israelites that when they
had prospered in the Promised Land, there would be a
tendency for them to forget God.
They would begin thinking that they themselves had
brought about their wealth, and in this way, they would
forget that God was the source of their strength.
Hosea shows us that Moses' prophecy had been
fulfilled in Israel: "In their prosperity, they forgot God"
(Hailey). Do we
have a tendency to think that by our own strength we have
become prosperous, and does our wealth cause us to forget
has rightly noted: "Men may forget other things and retrieve
the blunder, but forgetting God is an irrevocable mistake,
the fatal blunder, the mortal error from which there is no
recovery.. . . Long ago, Israel forgot God, and total and
perpetual ruin was the fruit of it" (Coffman).
If we become proud and forget God, He can turn
against us as well, and our prosperity can bring a curse!
The sixth truth is that God can heal the backslider and is
long-suffering. Look at 14:1-4:
"O Israel, return to the Lord your God, for you
have stumbled because of your iniquity; take words with you,
and return to the Lord.
Say to Him, 'Take away all iniquity, receive us graciously,
for we will offer the sacrifices of our lips.
Assyria will not save us, we will not ride on horses,
nor will we say anymore to the work of our hands, 'You are
our gods.' For
in You, the fatherless finds mercy.'
I will heal their backsliding.
I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away
from him" (14:1-4).
"God continues to love even when divine love has long been
"Against all deserving, the marriage holds"; God is
still faithful to Israel (Kidner)!
Israel, however, must begin her repentance by
admitting her broken loyalty (Kidner).
We see that "true repentance involves abandoning known sin,
and here the double sins of relying on nations and idolatry
are [to be] confessed" (Coffman quoting J. B. Hindley).
Israel is pictured as fully trusting in God once
again, and God is described as loving His people freely
after their repentance, confession, and return to Him!
What a forgiving and long-suffering God we serve!
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as
some count slackness, but is long-suffeing toward us, not
willing that any should perish, but that all should come to
repentance" (2 Pt. 3:9).
What great truths Hosea presents us!
Let's dedicate ourselves to following God's Word!
Let's give up our harlotry and the lie that we are
the source of our wealth!
Let's remember our sins do affect God deeply, and He
will punish us for our disobedience!
Let's repent by confessing our sins and putting our
trust totally in God, knowing that He can heal our
God remains a faithful husband whose heart continues to
churn within Him.
Have you been a faithful bride?
Is your heart churning within you?
Will you return your love for His undying love for
you? Will the
story of your relationship with God end in tragedy too?
Repent of your backsliding right now!