The book of Hosea captivates most people who open it. Although it only includes 14 chapters, Hosea is full of riveting content. You may be astonished when you read what God told the prophet Hosea to do—go marry a prostitute.
Many people, upon finding such a dramatic account, fail to press through their surprise to understand the substance of what this book illustrates. However, God intends for this book to lead us both to ponder his unimaginable kindness, and to realize the ugliness of our sin.
The man Hosea prophesied to the northern kingdom of Israel, during the reign of an awful king, at the height of their rebellion against God. Israel had forsaken their God. They thanked foreign gods for their nation’s prosperity. In Hosea’s words, Israel possessed a “spirit of whoredom” (Hosea 4:12; 5:4).
Just as a wife only has one husband, bound to her by a covenant, and is devoted to him above any other relationship, so we have one God, who has made promises to us in his Word, and to him belongs a devotion that outmatches any other relationship. Our souls, our service, and our commitment belongs to the Lord in a way that it belongs to no one else.
But in Hosea’s words, Israel “exchanged their Glory for something disgraceful… They consult a wooden idol… A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God” (Hosea 4:7, 12 NIV).
In response to his people’s unfaithfulness, God communicates two seemingly polar responses. On the one hand, he promises judgment and shame for such outrageously scandalous behavior (Hosea 2:1-13).
God demonstrated to Israel the heinousness of their sin by equating it with adultery. Cheating in a relationship is reason to leave the relationship. You’ve probably heard countless songs on the radio about one lover leaving another for their unfaithfulness—as they should, we think. Adultery makes us sick, heartbroken, and angry. We understand this to be the worst kind of relational hurt.
On the other hand, God also tenderly communicates his intention to pursue his people, lead them away from their immorality, and heal their spirit so that they can love him back (Hosea 14:4).
God enhanced the impact of his message by telling the prophet Hosea to pursue an adulterous woman, who forsakes Hosea again and again, and uses Hosea’s gifts to woo other lovers. God wanted Israel to see his own love for them illustrated in Hosea’s life. What a wild charge for Hosea!
God keeps pursuing his people and does not give up on the relationship. He says, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her” (Hosea 2:14 ESV).
Have you ever heard of a guy whose wife cheated on him and, instead of reacting in anger, tries to persuade her of his love and affection for her to win her back?
Hosea is that guy, because he was called to be a living picture of God’s love for his people (Hosea 3:1-5). Hosea reveals to us the faithfulness of God. When God’s people have taken off the wedding ring, God keeps his on and keeps his vows.
Hosea’s life is an Old Testament foreshadowing of the ultimate evidence of God’s pursuing, self-sacrificing love displayed through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins.
Hosea’s life is an Old Testament foreshadowing of the ultimate evidence of God’s pursuing, self-sacrificing love displayed through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins. For Hosea to redeem his wife, and faithfully pursue her, he had to pay a price (Hosea 3:2). To redeem his wayward people, the Lord Jesus paid the cost of all her spiritual fornication by his own death and suffering.
God made a way for us to be faithful to him, by atoning for our sins, breaking the power of our wayward heart, and offering to put his own Spirit within us. Jesus Christ offers to buy us back, out of our spiritual prostitution and into a loving union with God.
Have you ever felt like you’ve messed up too much for God to ever accept you? The book of Hosea shows us that God’s love outmatches your worst mistakes, your ugliest sins.
Have you ever believed the lie that God isn’t good? Hosea shows us that God is unfathomably kind to those who deserve it least.
Have you ever wondered what God is like at heart? Hosea exposes to us God’s own emotions—as we hear him express his anger, compassion, and tender affection—so that you might know him better (Hosea 11).
Open Hosea and consider your own devotion to God. Does it outmatch any other commitment in your life? Have you confessed your waywardness and asked for him to receive you back?