26. To Hosea

“God turned up” Meditations: 26 :  To Hosea

Hos 1:2 When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD.”

The life of a prophet in Old Testament times was often not a comfortable one. They were first and foremost a messenger from God to the nation of Israel. Often they were under the nose of the king in Jerusalem and so when they brought a word it soon came to the ears of the king. Gossip travels fast in any society. Often what they said clashed with the lifestyle of the king and the prophet found himself arrested and imprisoned. Some even were put to death. Isaiah at one point, even went naked .

We know virtually nothing about Hosea. He lived in the northern kingdom of Israel in the tumultuous last years of that kingdom before it was swept away in 772-721BC.  Israel, the northern kingdom had been unfaithful from the start. So here was a kingdom that has given itself over to idolatry instead of following the Lord. Yet, there is at least one man, Hosea, who is open to the Lord.

The Lord turns up and starts speaking to him: When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him……” Again we don’t know how the Lord spoke but the assurance of it being the Lord comes through the very nature of the word to him. In a recent meditation we commented how when the Lord speaks we know it is Him because it cuts right across our own desires or wishes or expectations. That can be no more true than in this word of instruction to Hosea.

In fact we might wonder exactly what Hosea felt and thought about what he believed he was hearing from God? Go and take a wife who is likely to be morally unfaithful? How do you do that? Why should you do that? Well I suppose you look around the local community for a girl who has a dubious reputation, one who is likely to continue in the way she has gone to have gained such a reputation. What a terrible thing to have to do, to win a wife who you know is morally dubious and who is almost certainly going to continue that way after you are married. The outlook is only hurtful!

In passing, I cannot help but note that this is the dilemma of so many young people today. Only recently I was talking to a man in his early forties who was bewailing the fact that he wanted to settle down after a ‘morally flexible life’, but who feared taking a wife from a population that is so often promiscuous. He knew exactly this thing: why should a girl who has jumped from one bed to another settle down and be faithful to him? The ‘free society’ has brought this folly on itself.

So Hosea was obedient and married Gomer: “So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.” (v.3) Not only did she bear him a son but she also bore him a daughter and then another son. Each one of these children Hosea named according to the Lord’s instructions. Now Hebrew names tended to have a secondary meaning and the meaning of these three names pointed to Israel’s unfaithfulness and the Lord’s condemnation. Thus they would be living signposts to the Lord and a reminder to the people of their unfaithfulness.

After this, Gomer clearly commits adultery for later we find, “The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes. “So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.” (Hos 3:1-3) It appears from this that Gomer had not only committed adultery, but had fallen so low as to become a slave, for Hosea has to buy her back. The Lord explains the significance of this: “For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or idol. Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days.” (Hos 3:4,5)

Hosea’s actions are to reveal the depth of God’s love that is still there reaching out to wanton Israel. Indeed there is coming a time when the Israelites (?the northern kingdom) will be without a nation or sacrifices but there will come a time when they will return to the Lord – and He will receive them and bless them. This northern kingdom will be dispersed yet there will be those who will return to the Lord who will be waiting for them. This is an amazing picture that Hosea conveys at God’s instigation, and as we consider what he must have been feeling about being abandoned by his wantond wife, and then having to rescue her from slavery, we might catch something of the pain that the Lord feels when His people abandon Him. Yet in His love He still waits, like the father of the prodigal, to receive His wayward child back. Amazing love!

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4. Promise of Transformation

MEDITATIONS IN ISAIAH – No.4

Isa 1:18 Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool

I have lived long enough to have heard a variety of sermons interpreting this verse in a variety of ways. However, I am going to argue as logically as possible to obtain the simplest possible understanding of its meaning. It starts with the Lord’s invitation to talk out their situation. Very often when we are not in a good place we hide away from the Lord and from other people, just like Adam and Eve did (Gen 3:8), but the Lord takes the initiative, as He so often does, and invites us to talk. It is when we talk that we can come to a place of fresh understanding. The communications slogan, “It’s good to talk,” really does apply when you are hiding away, cowed by the enemy into believing lies about yourself and about God. We also hide away when we feel we will be condemned for our sin, but the Lord’s intent is very different.

He brings two contrasting pictures. The first is of their sin which He describes as scarlet or crimson. The second is the Lord’s intended outcome, what He intends to do with their sin, and their end outcome is simply described as white as snow or as wool, which is also white. Now whatever clever applications we try and see in this, I would simply suggest that this is a picture of total transformation. One minute their sins are like a bright red colour, the next they are pure white. This is a complete transformation. Let’s just see it like that!

Now of course we do tend to use the expression, “Pure as the driven snow” and the whiteness described does suggest purity. What is there to suggest our understanding is correct? Well the first part of the chapter is clearly a negative assessment of Israel’s state and so the next verse comes as a complete surprise in the light of those earlier negatives: If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land.” (1:19). The Lord never blesses sin and so this offer of goodness must accompany the picture of complete transformation. What is it that will bring this transformation? Willingness and obedience! The matter is in their own hands. The Lord intends them good (as He always does), but it is only their sin which stops that happening. Now we shouldn’t see this as some magic formula or even as a means to criticise the Lord. There are those somewhat unthinking people who speak negatively of the Lord in these sort of situations. Look, they say, He just looking for an opportunity to judge them. How silly is that! It is exactly the opposite; He is looking for an opportunity to bless them but their foolish behaviour prevents that.

Now it is not that the Lord is inadequate and cannot bless people, but if they are harming themselves and He won’t force their wills, then it is only going to be bad coming into their lives because they are bringing it on themselves. Consider the godless person who lives a completely promiscuous life, say. This person just happens to express their godlessness in promiscuity. It could have been in a number of ways, but they chose to be promiscuous – and then they caught a sexually transmitted disease. If I jump from an upper storey window I am going to seriously hurt myself. I can’t blame God for not catching me. He would have been speaking to me previously encouraging me not to jump. Thereafter He respects my free will and allows me to make sovereign choices – as harmful as they may be. To talk about Him blessing me when I am having to live with the consequences of my sovereign choices is just plain silly. Remember the willful child I used as an example in the previous meditation? Away from the family home they cannot receive all the goodness of the home. Like the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable he ends up eating with the pigs (Lk 15:16). We really have to take responsibility for our own actions and realise that we reap what we sow (Gal 6:7).

One side of the coin is the blessing the Lord offers us, by living in accordance with His design-laws, so that he can add blessing to us. The other side of the coin, as we have seen, are things going wrong, “but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” (1:20). Why? Is this the Lord being nasty or is it a natural outworking? I suggest first the latter. If they disregard the Lord, then they will be spiritually, morally, socially and militarily weak, and being weak they will become a prey to the surrounding nations. Now the Lord isn’t being ‘nasty’ but sometimes He does bring discipline by either stepping back and allowing the neighbours to invade Israel, or even at times provokes them to invade, but it is always with the intent of turning Israel around and back to the place of blessing. The father who refuses to bail his child is allowing them to feel the full weight of the Law to help them come to their senses. The mother who allows her children to hurt themselves by way of the learning process (without serious danger) is allowing them to learn that we reap what we sow, dangerous things cause harm and are to be avoided. The society that overprotects erodes personal responsibility and we are poorer for it.

These are the lessons that the wise parent knows the child needs to learn, and God is the wisest of all parents! Thus we will find again and again, when Israel stray they get into trouble, but that is how life is in a Fallen World, and this no way detracts from God’s love that will always be there working to bring good to us out of every situation (Rom 8:28). Let’s learn the lessons.