We come to the last twelve books of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, the section commonly called The Minor Prophets. But let’s clarify. They are “minor” only in length, not in importance. As I read through these books, I’m still asking the question, “How does this illustrate, prophesy or relate to the Gospel of Jesus Christ?”
We’ve felt compassion for Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, all of them witnessing the destruction of their nation, Judah, and her capital city, Jerusalem. Being a prophet of God is no easy gig, but Hosea faced what is arguably the most difficult challenge of any of the prophets, God told him to marry a prostitute. Was she really a prostitute or did she become one after Hosea married her? There are problems with either answer. At a minimum, God called Hosea to marry a woman who would become a prostitute.
So Hosea married Gomer, who bore him three children. The firstborn, a son, was named Jezreel, meaning “God scatters” or “God sows.” This could be understood positively or negatively “scattered in judgment” or “sowed,” or planted back into the land.
A daughter followed, Lo-Ruhamah, which means “Not Loved,” then another son, Lo-Ammi, meaning “Not My People.” Makes you wonder doesn’t it, if Lo-Ammi was truly Hosea’s son. That’s the sad dysfunctional story of Hosea from chapter 1. But there is more.
In Chapter 3, it is obvious that Gomer had left her family and has become a slave. Has she become a sex slave, sold as a concubine?…. or caught up in human trafficking? We don’t know, but God tells Hosea to show your love to your wife again, which meant he had to purchase her out of slavery, which he did (3:2).
The tragic story of Hosea’s family is the basis for Hosea’s preaching to Israel.
Hosea preached in the northern kingdom of Israel in the mid-8th century BC not too many years before Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BC. It is possible his ministry overlapped with Amos, though most of it was after Amos.
The first hint of Gospel is Hosea’s name. It is from the same Hebrew root as Joshua, which is the same as Jesus, meaning “salvation” or “savior,” “one who saves.” Hosea was betrayed by his wife, but became her savior as he purchased her out of slavery and took her back. In this way, Hosea and Gomer represent God and Israel. God loved Israel, an adulterous wife, who chased after other gods; yet God continually pursued Israel, calling her back to Himself.
Hosea’s message is of necessity a message of God’s judgment, but an appeal to Israel to turn back from false gods and return to the LORD. Note these Gospel nuggets from Hosea.
1:9, 10a – Then the LORD said, “Call him Lo-Ammi, for you are not my people, and I am not your God. Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ 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.
Do you see the reminder of God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 22:15-18) that he will not forget; and one of the numerous promises of God that after He has brought necessary judgment, He will restore? Do you see that God reclaims Israel, calling them “my people?” And “one leader,” literally “one head,” is ultimately fulfilled by Jesus Christ.
2:14-23 – “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. “In that day,” declares the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’ you will no longer call me ‘my master.’ I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips; no longer will their names be invoked. In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety. I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD. “In that day I will respond,” declares the LORD– “I will respond to the skies, and they will respond to the earth; and the earth will respond to the grain, the new wine and oil, and they will respond to Jezreel, I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people, ‘ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God “
Yet in spite of God’s wooing of Israel, she continues to reject Him. God warns. God disciplines. God appeals. God reminds them of His loving rescue in the days of the Exodus.
11:1-11 — “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them. “Will they not return to Egypt and will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent? Swords will flash in their cities, will destroy the bars of their gates and put an end to their plans. My people are determined to turn from me. Even if they call to the Most High, he will by no means exalt them. “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man– the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath. They will follow the LORD; he will roar like a lion. When he roars, his children will come trembling from the west. They will come trembling like birds from Egypt, like doves from Assyria. I will settle them in their homes,” declares the LORD.
God’s love for Israel never wavers, even as He is continually rejected. Note that Hosea 11:1, “out of Egypt I have called my Son,” is said to be fulfilled in Matthew 2:15 as Jesus is taken temporarily to Egypt because of Herod’s effort to kill him.
Hosea 13:14 — “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?
While Israel is still yet unrepentant, God continues to declare His purpose that He will have a people for Himself who will not be ultimately lost, language picked up by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15.
And then one final appeal…
Hosea 14:1-7 — Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the LORD. Say to him: “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips. Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount war-horses. We will never again say ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion.” “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. Men will dwell again in his shade. He will flourish like the grain. He will blossom like a vine, and his fame will be like the wine from Lebanon.
Hosea the man and Hosea’s God, the LORD, are filled with Gospel, words of Good News. But as Israel continued to reject the LORD, these promises would be delayed until coming to fulfillment in the birth, life, and death of Jesus of Nazareth, followed by His resurrection from the dead to give life to all who will repent and believe.
That is the Good News of Hosea – Jesus Saves!