Hosea 1:1-11 The God who takes the Initiative

 

Let us Pray

 

What’s the most common question a three year old will ask you?

 

Tonight I want you to keep that three year olds question in your mind as we begin looking at the book of Hosea – Why?

 

You may want to add other questions – like Who is Hosea? Or Where is the book of Hosea? (It starts on page 900 of the bibles in the chairs)  - and we can look at those questions as well – some of them are answered on the sheet you should have received as you came in - but lets stick with ‘why’ for now.

 

Why Hosea?

 

Now you can ask this question in a number of ways.  See which one you might identify with

 

Why Not?  Hosea is a book of the bible – why not study it together – after all, it’s there.

 

Why Bother?  Okay – so Hosea is in the Bible – but it’s also in the Old Testament.  It’s not well known, and, frankly it doesn’t seem to make a great deal of sense – what does it mean for us today?

 

Why Bother with Hosea?

 

Now I won’t ask for a show of hands on the why not and why bother.   

 

But if you were in the Why Bother camp, hopefully we can look together and see some reasons to look at Hosea – some reasons more than just the fact that it is there.

 

So lets look at Hosea together  - as I said it’s on page 900 of the bibles in the chairs – as we seek to get to grips with why we should bother with Hosea.

 

1. We meet with our God (v1) …

 

Hosea 1:1 The word of the LORD that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel:

 

Now Hosea 1 verse 1 is one of those names verses.  Full of people you probably haven’t heard of, with names that to our ears sometimes can sound a little comical.

 

But the verse serves to tell us when Hosea was around – and the answer is around 750 years before Christ was born, when Israel and Judah were still around, and still had kings – the kings listed in this verse.

 

(Reference sheet)

 

And of course, there is a name in this verse which should be more familiar to us – the LORD. 

 

Capital letters with the word Lord in the Old Testament means that the word translated here is YAHWEH. 

 

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  The God who revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush, who rescued his people out of Egypt, who brought them to the promised land, who gave them kings, and created a great nation.

 

The Lord who makes promises and keeps them – our Lord, Jesus Christ.

 

In Hosea, we meet with our God – we hear him speak to his prophet, and we can learn from what he says, yes even nearly 3000 years after Hosea was alive.

 

As the New Testament tells us:

 

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

 

All scripture – the New and the Old Testaments.

 

We can learn from what the Lord says to his prophet Hosea, so long ago.

 

So what happens as we meet with our God?

 

2. …And we’re challenged by His Word (v2-3)

 

God’s word speaks to us today, and God’s word challenges us.

 

We’re thinking tonight about the God who takes the initiative, and here in verse 2 we see God taking an initiative – and one that we might find surprising.

 

Hosea 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 first thing Hosea receives as a prophet is not some words of prediction – but a command for action.

 

a. The challenge of Gomer

 

Go and get married – to an adulterous wife.  Go and get married – to a woman known for her promiscuity – her fornication – to a loose woman – to a prostitute.   And take on her children – although they are not yours – and care for and love her, and them.

 

What a thing to ask!  Even today, even in our culture where we take adultery for granted and treat fornication and promiscuity as normal parts of growing up, we’re still inconsistent enough I think to find this an unpleasant task.  No-one likes a bad reputation – no-one likes to be made a fool of.

 

Why does God command his prophet to do this?  Because he wants Hosea to be a picture of the relationship between God and his people Israel.  Look at the second half of verse 2.

 

The land – that is the people – are guilty of vilest adultery – why?  Because they have departed from the LORD  - they no longer worship God.

 

Gomer, Hosea’s wife is like Israel – she is unfaithful to God.  She is not a lovely blushing bride dressed in white on her wedding day – she is unlovely

 

She is not a fair maiden who you know will be carried of by her knight in shining armour.  She is no Cinderella, no Snow White.

 

Gomer is a picture, for Israel and for us, of the unfaithfulness of Israel.  It showed them, and us, that Israel was God’s  - promised to God, and married to her Lord – but she was unfaithful – she turned away to other gods, and followed after them.  She fornicated with other gods.

 

Gomer was a challenge to Israel – and she is also a challenge for us.

 

How do we think about and feel about the things we do that we know are wrong, about those times when we choose not to follow God’s way, to follow our own way?

 

Perhaps we think about sin like stains.

Now when I put on a clean pair of trousers or a clean shirt, it invariably gets dirty within a few minutes – someone with sticky hands needs a hug, or some other dirt magically attaches itself to me.

 

And I know that it will wash off.  And sometimes, when I know I’m going to do some gardening, I’ll select some dirty clothes to wear, so that I can wipe my hands on my trousers without a care in the world.

 

It’ll wash off.

 

And our sins are washed away in the blood of Christ – we are made clean.

 

But that can make us feel that, if we’re bad, all we need to do is do a wash cycle slightly more often.

 

However, here God tells us that his relationship with his people is like a marriage relationship – that when we do wrong things, when we sin we don’t just get dirty – we are also unfaithful.   Our unfaithfulness to God damages our relationship with him – it makes us secretive – we deceive ourselves about the truth, and pretend that what we’re doing is okay, because we need it  - and we can serve God any time.

 

We need to take sin seriously.  Yes, we are washed in Christ – but we should also be striving to keep our relationship with him pure, and honest, and open.

 

b. The challenge of Hosea

 

There is another challenge here – look at verse 3:

 

Hosea 1:3 So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

 

The challenge to obedience.  Are we going to do the things God wants us to do with our lives, even though they are uncomfortable, or difficult, or challenging, or might cost us.

 

Now we are not Hosea.  But as we read God’s word in the Bible we are still challenged by it, and we should respond to that challenge, as God works in our lives through his word.

 

Now I don’t know where your being challenged by God at the moment to obedience.  It may be in making a decision for the future – or it may be in the way in which we are living now.  Can we be obedient like Hosea?

 

c. The challenge of God’s Grace 

 

These are challenging verses.  We need to take our sin seriously, and our obedience to God seriously.

 

But these verses tell us something else as we’re challenged by his word.

 

They tell us of God’s grace.

 

Hosea marries Gomer.  

 

Gomer does not deserve a faithful husband.  She has shown herself to be unfaithful, and as we’ll see later in Hosea, continues to be unfaithful.  But despite her being unfaithful, Hosea is faithful, and marries her.

 

What a picture of God’s grace.  Hosea comes to Gomer in her unloveliness as God comes to us in our unloveliness – despite our sin, despite our unfaithfulness, despite our disobedience.

 

God is gracious.  He gives us what we do not deserve.

 

(Pause)

 

God’s word challenges us – challenges our complacency and lack of care, challenges us to obedience – and challenges us with God’s amazing grace.

 

But God is not finished taking the initiative yet.  Look on to the rest of chapter 1 of Hosea.

 

3. … As God takes the initiative (v4-11)

 

Hosea has three children with Gomer, and the name of each child shows that God will take the initiative with Israel – and will punish her for unfaithfulness

 

a. In Judgement (v4-9)

 

Look at verses 4 and 5:

 

4 Then the LORD said to Hosea, "Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. 5 In that day I will break Israel's bow in the Valley of Jezreel."

 

Each of Hosea’s children gets a symbolic name, as God deals with Israel.

 

The first is Jezreel.  God will act against Israel in the valley of Jezreel – particularly against Jehu, for a massacre which took place there.

 

Now Jezreel is a valley in Northern Israel, in Galilee.

 

It’s a large flat area in between some large mountains – and the ideal place for a battle.

 

It’s where Gideon defeated the Midianites with 300 men (Judges 6-7)

 

But its also where Naboth was murdered by Jezebel (1 Kings 21:8-14)

 

Where Jehu killed king Joram to become King himself (2 Kings 9:24)

 

And where Jehu massacred Ahab’s followers (2 Kings 10:11)

 

It was a place associated with bloodshed.  And now God says it will be the place where Jehu’s house, his dynasty will come to an end – where Israel’s bow, her military might will be broken.

 

Jehu’s family came to an end in 752 BC when King Zechariah was assassinated.  Israel was destroyed by Assyria in 722 BC.  What Hosea predicted came true – as Israel was broken at Jezreel.

 

And the picture doesn’t get much brighter.

Look at verse 6:

 

6 Gomer conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. Then the LORD said to Hosea, "Call her Lo-Ruhamah, for I will no longer show love to the house of Israel, that I should at all forgive them.

 

Lo-Ruhamah means No-Pity.  God calls time with this generation of Israel.

 

Like an unfaithful wife or husband who has committed one act of indiscretion too many – enough is finally enough.

 

And verses 8 and 9 underline this separation:

 

8 After she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, Gomer had another son.  9 Then the LORD said, "Call him Lo-Ammi, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.

 

The Israelites, the people who God had chosen, and called to himself, this generation of Israelites has been rejected by God because of their unfaithfulness.

 

The nation will be destroyed.  God will no longer forgive them – and they will be rejected by God, they will no longer be his people.

 

What devastating words for Israel.  You can imagine the devastating message this was to a people who thought that God was with them by right – whatever they did. 

 

But what about us?  Does this touch us?  These events are so long ago.

 

Yes – because it teaches us about the God who takes the initiative.  It teaches us about how seriously God takes sin – how he will act, and will call to account those who reject him.  How he will repay the wrong people have done.

 

There is no doubt here that God Judges.  That he sees, and he acts.  

 

But there is not just judgement here.

 

b. In saving and restoring (v7-11)

 

7 Yet I will show love to the house of Judah; and I will save them-- not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but by the LORD their God."

 

Israel, the Northern kingdom will be destroyed by Assyria.  But the southern kingdom will survive for over a century more.

 

God continues to care for Judah.  They won’t be saved by their efforts – by fighting the attackers of the day – but because God will protect them.

 

There is hope here.  God will continue to protect Judah.

 

And God will save and restore.  Look on to verses 10 and 11:

 

10 "Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God.' 11 The people of Judah and the people of Israel will be reunited, and they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.

 

There will be restoration.

 

Once again the Israelites will be numerous – as was promised to Abraham – as numerous as the sand on the shore.

 

Once again they will be God’s people – sons of the Living God.

 

Once again Judah and Israel will be united – the divisions will be healed, and they will have one leader.

 

They will come up out of the land – they will spring up out of the land.

 

For Great will be the day of JezreelJezreel – the word means God sows – God will sow, and Jezreel will become a place of prosperity and happiness, rather than a place of death and destruction.

 

 

And we know that much of this prophecy was fulfilled before Christ came.   The Israelites did recover from Assyria and Babylon – they were led back to Judah by Ezra and Nehemiah and the Temple was rebuilt, and God was with them.

 

But they never recovered their former glory – and they were never united in the way Hosea says.

 

Because this prophecy was ultimately fulfilled not by a return to the land, but by the coming of Jesus Christ.

 

Look again at these verses.

 

It is the followers of Christ, the true Israel, who are more numerous than the sand on the seashore.  This prophecy applies to us – God will restore his people – and he does that in his Son, Jesus Christ.

 

We’ve seen that Israel was unfaithful, that she was unlovely – and yet in Jesus Christ God loved his people – he sent his son to take on all their - all our – unloveliness and unfaithfulness, to deal with the vilest adultery, so that in him we could be washed clean, so that we can be his bride.

 

We are God’s people – we are sons of the living God – because God has adopted us as his sons, as fellow heirs with Christ of eternal life.

 

And we are united in Christ our leader – our head.

 

 

Why bother with Hosea?  Because it teaches us and encourages us, rebukes us and challenges us.

 

We are challenged to take sin seriously in our lives – to recognise the relationship we have with God in Christ and to value it.

 

We’re challenged to be obedient in our lives, like Hosea.

 

We’re challenged to recognise that God will act in judgement.

 

And we’re encouraged

 

We’re encouraged that we have a God who speaks, and takes the initiative

 

We’re encouraged by God’s grace.  His love for the unlovely, his faithfulness to the unfaithful

 

And most of all we’re encouraged by what God has done for us in Christ - how he has united us in him, and made us his people.

 

So let us live renewed lives in the light of what we have heard Hosea say to us tonight.

 

Let us pray

 

James Hughes

2nd May 2004