A prophet was one who spoke on behalf of God. You might say, the prophet was God’s mouthpiece. The concept is well represented in modern United States politics by way of the president’s press secretary.
The photo above is Josh Earnest, the current press secretary. He is the one who conveys the president’s opinions, reactions, intentions, and the very words of the president if necessary. During the daily press briefing you never assume the press secretary is expressing his own thoughts and ideas. The press secretary is speaking for the president.
Our Old Testament concludes with the prophets. They don’t express their own thoughts or ideas. The prophets speak for God.
Sunday I started a sermon series on what are known as minor prophets. The title “minor” has nothing to do importance or skill level. It is not as if we will be reading the prophets who are stuck on a triple A ballclub hoping to break into the major leagues. The title “minor prophets” is a reference to scope and size. The major prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel – are large writings. Isaiah is 66 chapters long and Jeremiah is 52 chapters long. Not only are they long but they also cover a large scope of topics.
In contrast, the minor prophets are short. They range from 14 chapters to simply one chapter. They are short and they have a limited scope. Some minor prophets have one message and one message only to get across to its audience. They are minor prophets but they have a major message.
First up … Hosea.
Hosea’s prophetic ministry came during a time and place when the people of Israel frequently abandoned God for the false Canaanite god’s of Baal and Asherah. You see references to this trend throughout Hosea. He spoke to people prone to idolatry and unfaithfulness.
What did the LORD desire for Hosea to say to such people?
Well, before the LORD instructed Hosea to speak the LORD instructed Hosea to marry an adulterous wife and start a family.
Breathe deep. That’s a tough one to take in.
The prophets are filled with imagery. If you loose sight of the imagery you will struggle to grasp the message. Many times the prophets not only spoke a message but they embodied the message. This is such an instance. Hosea’s marriage to Gomer is to mirror God’s relationship with the people of Israel. Israel is unfaithful. God is faithful.
Gomer bears a son, and then a daughter, and then another son. Yet, they are given awful names. The children’s names speak of God’s judgment against unfaithfulness.
The people of Israel are unfaithful. God remains faithful. Yet, sin has consequences. The book of Hosea compares sin to adultery in order to demonstrate how destructive it is to a person’s relationship with God. Sin is not a minor mistake that can be overlooked. Sin is a devastating attack to the commitment one makes to God.
The unfortunate names given to Hosea and Gomer’s children begin a trend in the book of Hosea. Throughout the book you will notice cycles. Hosea will speak of punishment followed by restoration. Hosea will speak of punishment followed by love. Hosea will speak of anger followed by repentance. Hosea will speak of despair followed by hope.
In sin we find consequences. In sin we also find the grace of God.
In the midst of unfaithfulness God’s love is unlimited, unearned, undeserved. I would say it’s incomprehensible.
A key verse to see this truth played out:
The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” – Hosea 3:1
Hosea married Gomer in chapter 1 and she bore three children. Yet, in chapter 3 it appears she has returned to her unfaithful ways. If she ever left them.
The LORD once again makes a difficult request but communicates a powerful message. To Hosea: Take her back. Love her. Just as I love my people. Even though they turn to false gods.
*Raisin cakes are offered to Baal in thanksgiving during harvest.
Hosea is obedient and takes her back. But first he pays 15 shekels and some barley for her. Which speaks less of adultery and more of slavery and prostitution.
For the Original Audience:
Hosea is a complete assault on the hearts, minds, and ears of the original hearers. They are portrayed as an unfaithful wife breaking the heart of a faithful spouse.
For the Modern Audience:
Hosea challenges us to examine the nature of our relationship to God.
- Are you faithful or unfaithful?
- Is your relationship authentic or a performance?
- Do you believe your unfaithfulness is a charge as serious as adultery?
- Do you believe your unfaithfulness keeps you from the love of God?
Hosea is God’s love on full display. It is also a forerunner to the message of Jesus Christ. In the New Testament we are told that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
God has a long history of remaining faithful to the unfaithful.
God has a long history of redeeming those deemed unredeemable.
God has a long history of making beauty from ashes.
God has a long history of making broken things whole.
God has a long history of making all things new.