Love in Hosea
God commissions Hosea, the son of Beeri, to prophesy to the northern kingdom of Israel (Hosea 1:1). He encapsulates his work in the fourteen chapters that we have by the book that bears his name to set forth the love of God for His people [in fact, “love” is one of the key words in this book of prophetic literature]. Yet, one of the strange qualities of this book is the parabolic symbolism shown in God commending Hosea to marry “a wife of whoredoms” (Hosea 1:2) to symbolize the relationship of God with His people. Consider a whole host of lessons that we may learn from this book of prophecy.
In Hosea, we see that the love of God is balanced with His justice and His holiness. It is interesting to note that in Jonah, we see the love of God misunderstood in relationship to the Gentile people, seen in the attitude of Jonah toward the Assyrians. Yet, in Hosea, we see the love of God misunderstood in thinking that the love of God ignored sin. Mark it down—the love of God cannot compromise with sin! One may have heard of the expression, “Love is blind,” but the love of God is definitely not so! He loved Israel, but He was not blind to their sins and iniquities, which is a lesson that we need to emphasize today. Why is it that good, religious people think that a loving God will save everybody? Such individuals have not studied this book in the Old Testament. God’s love was seeking Israel to turn back and return from the idolatry that they chose. The fact that the love of God is always acting in a “right” (righteous) manner (cf. Hosea 14:9) indicates that it cannot compromise with sin.
In Hosea, we see the relationship between the love of God and salvation. The prophet’s name, “Hosea” (“Hoshea” [also “Joshua” and “Jesus”—all related in the Hebrew]) means “salvation.” A careful study of this book will underscore why this is so. Moreover, this is what the entireNew Testament sets forth—the relationship between the love of God and His salvation of humanity (John 3:16; cf. Luke 15; 1 John 4:8-10).
In Hosea, we see what happens when humanity does not appreciate the love of God. The trouble with the northern kingdom is that they did not appreciate the love of God, and because of this, they walked in their own ways, followed their own will, worshipped idols while trying to follow God simultaneously and created the problems that finally led them to the Assyrian captivity. Moreover, the love of God is grieving whenever we spurn, despise and reject Him. How would you imagine the heart of Hosea felt when his wife left him and was guilty of prostitution? Can we not read this book and sense the grief of heart? For all who are married, we can only imagine the great grief experienced should our spouse become unfaithful. This is a perfect picture of how the love of God grieves whenever we turn away from Him and fail to appreciate His love.
In Hosea, we learn that when man spurns the love of God, it brings about discipline and judgment. The nation will go into captivity, just as the prophets (Hosea included) will prophesy. They did not go into captivity because God decided that He did not love them anymore; the love of God did not change! Because they did not appreciate the love of God and spurned His mighty love, nothing was left for them but judgment. Unfortunately, this is still true. When people despise, spurn and reject the love of God today (turning their back on Jesus), nothing is left but judgment. How sad to consider that because of our free-will, our response to His love (or lack thereof, depending on how we look at it) may tie His anthropomorphic hands as far as blessing us is concerned. Yet, out of the discipline of His love through the captivity, some would return in penitence to God and respond to His love! Thus, the love of God disciplines a nation as a means of trying to get them to repent and return.
In Hosea, we learn that we abuse the love of God when we are ignorant of the character, nature and being of God. One of the core problems addressed in this prophetic Old Testament book is that they did not understand God—they were woefully lacking in knowledge (Hosea 4:6). Knowledge of God does not simply mean that we know some facts about God, but it is a knowledge that has an impact upon the way that we live. Many people know many things about God, but it does not affect their lives. Thus, they do not really know God. The Bible is a book to help us know God—His character, nature, being, characteristics, majesty, holiness, power and such like. Unless this knowledge has an impact upon the way we live, then we are no different than the Israelites—we really do not know God (cf. John 17:3). His love (and our understanding of this loving, supernatural Being) is intended to transform our lives. Through his love, Hosea sought for Gomer to transform her life from a life of prostitution to one of purity and righteous living, and this is what the love of God seeks to do—transform our lives and encourage us to appreciate things that are high and holy.
In Hosea, we learn that the love of God is His first appeal to man, but it is also His last appeal to man. God lets man know that He loves him. Yet, when man spurns this great offer of love, then His final appeal is to inform man again that He loves him. In fact, the book of Hosea is the final appeal to Israel of the love of God. His first appeal of love to Israel was demonstrated by God in delivering them from Egyptian bondage. Thus, his first and last appeal to sinful humanity is always His great, overflowing love!
In Hosea, we see that the love of God is free: “I will love them freely” (Hosea 14:4); it cannot be bought. Nevertheless, the fact that His love is free does not mean that it is unconditional, for there is a great deal of difference in something being free and something being unconditional. This is one of the great problems over which the religious world has stumbled. The denominational community thinks that because the love of God is free, then man does not have any responsibility towards his salvation, which leads to the basis of their doctrine of justification by faith alone, teaching that grace excludes even works of faith. However, when Hosea sets forth the fact that the love of God is free, this does not exclude works that are expressions of faith and conditions of salvation. He loves us because of who He is, not because of who we are!
In Hosea, we see that the love of God is forgiving (Hosea 2:14-20; 3:2-3). Yet, once again, this forgiving love of God is conditional. The great love of God never forgives unconditionally!
In Hosea, we see the tender qualities of the love of God. Think about a man whose heart goes out in love to his wife who has thrown herself away so far until she has sold herself. Out of a heart filled with love, this husband goes down and buys her back (a beautiful picture of redemption, is it not?) as a common slave. Oh, the love of God is so tender. We see such further demonstrated when David talks about the tender mercies of God (cf. Ps. 32:10; 51:1). We do not ever need to forget this! It does not matter how far we may have sunk in the miry pit of sin, whenever we abhor sin and return to God, there will always be tender mercy awaiting us (cf. Luke 15:22-24).
Therefore, the book of Hosea is a beautiful picture of the love of God toward the northern kingdom of Israel, symbolized in Hosea and his relationship to Gomer. May we learn these valuable lessons between Christ and His bride, the church (Eph. 5:22-33), who loved her with all of His heart, longs for her purity and return from iniquity.