There are 17 prophetic books in the Old Testament—five major prophets and twelve minor prophets. These twelve minor prophet books are no less important than the major prophets (like Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.), they are merely shorter and their scope is more focused. We will read several minor prophets this year and Hosea is one of those books. Hosea takes place during the middle of the eighth century BC. This date would make Hosea, the author, a contemporary of the prophets Isaiah and Micah. Like all prophets that we read about in the Old Testament, Hosea was given a message by God and it was his role to declare (and we’ll see in his case, live out) this message to those around him.
So, why should we read the book of Hosea? What unfolds over the next fourteen chapters shows us just how applicable scripture is to our lives today. A pattern unfolds throughout this book of sin, repentance, redemption, and restoration. As Hosea is writing this book, Israel had turned away from Yahweh to worship Baal, a Canaanite fertility god. As expected, God was none too pleased with Israel’s actions and decided to use Hosea to get that message across. God wants full devotion to Him and Him alone, but the Israelites had been unfaithful. Without repentance, judgment would come their way. But if Israel repented, a beautiful redemption story could be written. The same is true for us today.
Each day as you open your Bible, take good notes. Read closely and carefully, paying special attention to the sequence of events that are unfolding before you. Try to visualize what’s going on in each chapter. That’s the fun of reading these Old Testament stories! Get to know these characters, both major and minor. What does each chapter in this book teach you about God’s character? What does it teach you about humanity? What were the implications for each chapter’s original audience? What are the implications for you today? These are the questions we’ll be seeking to answer over these next couple of weeks as we journey through Hosea together.
Read 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:
Hosea’s Wife and Children
2 When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” 3 So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
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.”
6 Gomer conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call her Lo-Ruhamah (which means “not loved”), for I will no longer show love to Israel, that I should at all forgive them. 7 Yet I will show love to Judah; and I will save them—not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but I, the Lord their God, will save them.”
8 After she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, Gomer had another son. 9 Then the Lord said, “Call him Lo-Ammi (which means “not my people”), for you are not my people, and I am not your God.
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 ‘children of the living God.’ 11 The people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together; they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.
Two themes quickly present themselves as we begin our reading of Hosea: the willingness of Hosea to be a living, breathing example of God’s love, and the faithfulness of God to restore Israel and continue to bless them despite their rebellion. Hosea was both called to marry a woman who would ruin his reputation and standing, as well as give his children names symbolic of the Israelites’ sin. That’s a tall request by God. We aren’t given much information as to Hosea’s reaction (if he was reluctant, if he begged God for a different way, etc.), but he was obedient and willing to give people, both in his present and in the future, a human depiction of a love that seems reckless.
Through these two overlapping themes, we see one consistent truth quickly emerge: Even when we are faithless, God is still faithful to seek us out and restore us. He leaves the 99 to seek out the one (even if the one doesn’t deserve it). We will find as we read through this book that God’s character and purpose is always to heal and save. In our own lives, sometimes that will look very different than we would like or expect, but Hosea gives us a beautiful picture of God’s desire to relentlessly pursue and save us.
While Hosea was called to name his children after the Israelites’ rebellious character, his own name means “salvation” and was from the same Hebrew word as the name for Jesus (Hoshea). In his writings, Hosea will remind us that salvation comes from faithfully following the Lord and turning away from our sin. Hosea also gives us a picture of how our sin feels to God—like the victim of an adulterous marriage. As one commentary puts it, God put Hosea in the place where he feels what God feels—and it doesn’t feel good.
Just as Hosea’s wife will return time and time again to her sinful patterns, we do the same. We create idols of our status, our kids, our achievements. We fall into habits of gossip, excessive drinking, judgment, and impatience. It’s easy to imagine what Hosea felt in his marriage, but it’s more difficult to imagine that we make God feel the same way. Whatever our struggle is, and no matter how many times our actions break His heart, God promises to seek us out for restoration just as He sought out the Israelites.
In verse 11, God proclaims that the civil war between Judah and Israel will one day be erased. In Ephesians 2, Scripture explains how Jesus Christ came to be our peace and end all hostility, unifying all of Israel, Judah, and even Gentiles to form His church. The promise of unity and redemption was not just a promise for that time—it is a promise to all of God’s people, including us. Our God is reckless in His pursuit and love for us. He will always seek to restore His children to Himself.
- To what sinful patterns do you find yourself returning?
- How have you seen God continually chasing after you, seeking to restore you to Himself?
- Is there anything God is calling you to do that requires difficult obedience? Have you obeyed?
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