(James 2:14-17)”My brothers, what good is it for someone to say that he has faith if his actions do not prove it? Can that faith save him? Suppose there are brothers or sisters who need clothes and don’t have enough to eat. What good is there in your saying to them, ‘God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!’ – if you don’t give them the necessities of life? So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions than it is dead.
It becomes quite clear that we must act out our faith. Isn’t it worth trying! To you there may come the same wonderful changes that have come to other men and women all down through the years.
Your life may be guided by Christ… Your problems may be solved by His wisdom… Your weakness may be burned into strength by His help… Your struggles may become – victories by His grace… Your sorrows may be turned into joy by His comfort.
And you too, may have that fellowship with the risen Christ. Indeed, you will not believe the fact of the Resurrection for yourself until the living Christ lives in your own heart. When you have in your own life that sense of His nearness and His power – ah, then, you too will know!
Hosea Book Overview
The dominant faith of Israel during Hosea’s time was not Mosaic Judaism but a mixture of the worship of Yahweh and the local polytheistic Baal religions. Israel was prosperous and complacent under Jeroboam II, but after his death, and a succession of six kings in 30 years, life became increasingly insecure and the nation’s weakened. Israel stubbornly sought help from other nations instead of from the Lord.
|793 b.c.||Jeroboam II becomes king of Israel
|760||Amos becomes a prophet
|753||Hosea becomes a prophet; King Zechariah of Israel is killed|
|752||King Shallum of Israel is killed
|743||Tiglath-Pileser III invades Israel|
|742||Micah becomes a prophet to Judah|
|740||Isaiah becomes a prophet to Judah
|722||Israel (northern kingdom) falls
|715||Hosea’s ministry ends|
|served as a prophet to Israel (the northern kingdom) from 753-715 b.c.|
|Climate of the times||Israel’s last six kings were especially wicked; they promoted heavy taxes, oppression of the poor, idol worship, and total disregard for God. Israel was subjected to Assyria and was forced to pay tribute, which depleted its few remaining resources.|
|Main message||The people of Israel had sinned against God, as an adulterous woman sins against her husband. Judgment was sure to come for living in total disregard for God and fellow humans. Israel fell to Assyria in 722 b.c.|
|Importance of message||When we sin, we sever our relationship with God, breaking our commitment to him. While all must answer to God for their sins, those who seek God’s forgiveness are spared eternal judgment.|
|Contemporary prophets||Jonah (793-753 b.c.), Amos (760-750 b.c.), Micah (742-687 b.c.), Isaiah (740-681 b.c.)|
Hosea highlights the parallels between his relationship with Gomer and God’s relationship with the nation of Israel. Although the people made a covenant with the one true God, they went after false gods. In the same way, Hosea married Gomer, knowing ahead of time that she would leave him. Hosea tenderly dealt with his wife in spite of her sin. And God was merciful toward the people of Israel despite their sins. God has not changed; he is still merciful and forgiving.
|Purpose:||To illustrate God’s love for his sinful people|
|Author:||Hosea son of Beeri (“Hosea” means “salvation”)|
|To Whom Written:||Israel (the northern kingdom) and God’s people everywhere|
|Date Written:||Approximately 715 b.c., recording events from about 753-715 b.c.|
|Setting:||Hosea began his ministry during the end of the prosperous but morally declining reign of Jeroboam II of Israel (the upper classes were doing well, but they were oppressing the poor). He prophesied until shortly after the fall of Samaria in 722 b.c.|
|Key Verse:||“Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go and get your wife again. Bring her back to you and love her, even though she loves adultery. For the Lord still loves Israel even though the people have turned to other gods, offering them choice gifts’” (3:1).|
|Key People:||Hosea, Gomer, their children|
|Key Places:||The northern kingdom (Israel), Samaria, Ephraim|
|Special Features:||Hosea employs many images from daily life: God is depicted as husband, father, lion, leopard, bear, dew, rain, moth, and others; Israel is pictured as wife, sick person, vine, grapes, early fruit, olive tree, woman in childbirth, oven, morning mist, chaff, and smoke, to name a few.|
“It’s only puppy love,” adults used to say, commenting on your early love life. You wanted to shout back, “No! This is the real thing!” And it was real for you, the puppy. But soon you forgot that love and moved on to another.
A few years later in high school, you found another and were head-over-heels-in-love and going steady. You pledged devotion to each other- emotions and sexual attraction pulled you two together. And when the breakup occurred, you thought you would die… but you didn’t. In fact, you survived to experience several other relationships, some pretty serious. Through each experience you learned a bit more about love – true love.
Today you chuckle at youthful infatuation and have to bite your tongue to avoid saying something about puppy love. Over the years, you have learned that real love – true love – is more than emotions, sex, fun, dating, and feeling good. Real lov e – lasting love – involvers giving, serving, listening, and being there. At the foundation lays commitment: the solid decision to stick with that person through everything – no matter what.
The book of Hosea is a love story involving a very unlikely couple: Hosea, the profit of God, and Gomer a prostitute. Hosea marries Gomer, even though he knows that she will be unfaithful to him. And when she is …. Well. I’ll let you read for yourself.
This profound book, however, holds a deeper love swtory – God’s love for his peopled, mirrored by this very human couple. As you r4ead, look fror traces ofr yourself in Gomer and her actions. And watch God, through Hosea, display true love.
Groomsmen stand at attention as the music swells and the bride begins her long walk down the aisle, arm in arm with her father. The smiling, but nervous, husband-to-be follows every step, his eyes brimming with love. Then happy tears are shed, vows stated, and families merged. A wedding is a joyous celebration of love. It is the holy mystery of two becoming one, of beginning life together, and of commitment. Marriage is ordained by God and illustrates his relationship with his people. Thus, there is perhaps no greater tragedy than the violation of those sacred vows.
God told Hosea to find a wife and revealed to him ahead of time that she would be unfaithful to him. Although she would bear many children, some of these offspring would be fathered by others. In obedience to God, Hosea married Gomer. His relationship with her, her adultery, and their children became living, prophetic examples to Israel.
The book of Hosea is a love story—real, tragic, and true. Transcending the tale of young man and wife, it tells of God’s love for his people and the response of his “bride.” A covenant had been made, and God had been faithful. His love was steadfast, and his commitment unbroken. But Israel, like Gomer, was adulterous and unfaithful, spurning God’s love and turning instead to false gods. Then after warning of judgment, God reaffirmed his love and offered reconciliation. His love and mercy were overflowing, but justice would be served.
The book begins with God’s marriage instructions to Hosea. After Hosea’s marriage, children were born, and each given a name signifying a divine message (chapter 1). Then, as predicted, Gomer left Hosea to pursue her lusts (chapter 2). But Hosea (whose name means “salvation”) found her, redeemed her, and brought her home again, fully reconciled (chapter 3). Images of God’s love, judgment, grace, and mercy were woven into their relationship. Next, God outlined his case against the people of Israel: Their sins would ultimately cause their destruction (chapters 4; 6; 7; 12) and would rouse his anger, resulting in punishment (chapters 5; 8–10; 12–13). But even in the midst of Israel’s immorality, God was merciful and offered hope, expressing his infinite love for his people (chapter 11) and the fact that their repentance would bring about blessing (chapter 14).
The book of Hosea dramatically portrays our God’s constant and persistent love. As you read this book, watch the prophet submit himself willingly to his Lord’s direction; grieve with him over the unfaithfulness of his wife and his people; and hear the clear warning of judgment. Then reaffirm your commitment to being God’s person, faithful in your love and true to your vows.
|A. Hosea’s Wayward Wife (1:1–3:5)||Hosea was commanded by God to marry a woman who would be unfaithful to him and would cause him many heartaches. Just as Gomer lost interest in Hosea and ran after other lovers, we, too, can easily lose appreciation for our special relationship with God and pursue dreams and goals that do not include him. When we compromise our Christian life-styles and adopt the ways of the world, we are being unfaithful.|
|B. God’s Wayward People (4:1–14:9)
1. Israel’s sinfulness
2. Israel’s punishment
3. God’s love for Israel
|God wanted the people in the northern kingdom to turn from their sin and return to worshiping him alone, but they persisted in their wickedness. Throughout the book, Israel is described as ignorant of God, with no desire to please him. Israel did not understand God at all, just as Gomer did not understand Hosea. Like a loving husband or patient father, God wants people to know him and to turn to him daily.|
|The Nation’s Sin||Just as Hosea’s wife, Gomer, was unfaithful to him, so the nation of Israel had been unfaithful to God. Israel’s idolatry was like adultery. They sought illicit relationships with Assyria and Egypt in pursuit of military might, and they mixed Baal worship with the worship of God.||Like Gomer, we can chase after other loves—love of power, pleasure, money, or recognition. The temptations in this world can be very seductive. Are we loyal to God, remaining completely faithful, or have other loves taken his rightful place?|
|God’s Judgment||Hosea solemnly warned Judah against following Israel’s example. Because Judah broke the covenant, turned away from God, and forgot her Maker, she experienced a devastating invasion and exile. Sin has terrible consequences.||Disaster surely follows ingratitude toward God and rebellion. The Lord is our only true refuge. If we harden our heart against him, there is no safety or security anywhere else. We cannot escape God’s judgment.|
|God’s Love||Just as Hosea went after his unfaithful wife to bring her back, so the Lord pursues us with his love. His love is tender, loyal, unchanging, and undying. No matter what, God still loves us.||Have you forgotten God and become disloyal to him? Don’t let prosperity diminish your love for him or let success blind you to your need for his love.|
|Restoration||Although God will discipline his people for sin, he encourages and restores those who have repented. True repentance opens the way to a new beginning. God forgives and restores.||There is still hope for those who turn back to God. No loyalty, achievement, or honor can be compared to loving him. Turn to the Lord while the offer is still good. No matter how far you have strayed, God is willing to forgive you.|
Hosea’s language relies heavily upon the covenant stipulations of blessings and curses. While reciting the case against Israel and the consequential curses she will face, Hosea interjects God’s promise ultimately to restore her to the land and to himself in covenant faithfulness.
1 Don’t brag about tomorrow, since you don’t know what the day will bring.
2 Don’t praise yourself; let others do it!
3A stone is heavy and sand is weighty, but the resentment caused by a fool is heavier than both.
4 Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but who can survive the destructiveness of jealousy?
5 An open rebuke is better than hidden love!
6 Wounds from a friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.
7Honey seems tasteless to a person who is full, but even bitter food tastes sweet to the hungry.
8A person who strays from home is like a bird that strays from its nest.
9The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.
10 Never abandon a friend—either yours or your father’s. Then in your time of need, you won’t have to ask your relatives for assistance. It is better to go to a neighbor than to a relative who lives far away.
11 My child,£ how happy I will be if you turn out to be wise! Then I will be able to answer my critics.
12 A prudent person foresees the danger ahead and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.
13 Be sure to get collateral from anyone who guarantees the debt of a stranger. Get a deposit if someone guarantees the debt of an adulterous woman.
14If you shout a pleasant greeting to your neighbor too early in the morning, it will be counted as a curse!
15 A nagging wife is as annoying as the constant dripping on a rainy day. 16Trying to stop her complaints is like trying to stop the wind or hold something with greased hands.
17 As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.
18 Workers who tend a fig tree are allowed to eat its fruit. In the same way, workers who protect their employer’s interests will be rewarded.
19As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the person.
20 Just as Death and Destruction are never satisfied, so human desire is never satisfied.
21 Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.
22 You cannot separate fools from their foolishness, even though you grind them like grain with mortar and pestle.
23 Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds, 24for riches don’t last forever, and the crown might not be secure for the next generation. 25After the hay is harvested, the new crop appears, and the mountain grasses are gathered in, 26your sheep will provide wool for clothing, and your goats will be sold for the price of a field. 27And you will have enough goats’ milk for you, your family, and your servants.
Who would prefer a friend’s wounds to an enemy’s kisses? Anyone who considers the source. A friend who has your best interests at heart may have to give you unpleasant advice at times, but you know it is for your own good. An enemy, by contrast, may whisper sweet words and happily send you on your way to ruin. We tend to hear what we want to hear, even if an enemy is the only one who will say it. A friend’s advice, no matter how painful, is much better.
Proverbs 27:15, 16
Quarrelsome nagging, a steady stream of unwanted advice, is a form of torture. People nag because they think they’re not getting through, but nagging hinders communication more than it helps. When tempted to engage in this destructive habit, stop and examine your motives. Are you more concerned about yourself—getting your way, being right—than about the person you are pretending to help? If you are truly concerned about other people, think of a more effective way to get through to them. Surprise them with words of patience and love, and see what happens.
There is a mental sharpness that comes from being around good people. And a meeting of minds can help people see their ideas with new clarity, refine them, and shape them into brilliant insights. This requires partners who can challenge each other and stimulate thought—people who focus on the idea without involving their egos in the discussion; people who know how to attack the thought and not the thinker. Two friends who bring their ideas together can help each other become sharper.
With all the problems and concerns a leader has, it can be easy to overlook the very people who most deserve attention—faithful employees or volunteers (those who tend the fig trees). The people who stand behind you, who work hard and help you get the job done, deserve to share in your success. Be sure that in all your planning, organizing, and working, you don’t forget the people who are helping you the most.
Praise tests a person, just as high temperatures test metal. How does praise affect you? Do you work to get it? Do you work harder after you’ve gotten it? Your attitude toward praise tells a lot about your character. People of high integrity are not swayed by praise. They are attuned to their inner convictions, and they do what they should whether or not they are praised for it.
Because life is uncertain, we should be all the more diligent in preparing for the future. We should act with foresight, giving responsible attention to our home, our family, and our career. We should be responsible stewards, like a farmer with his lands and herds. Thinking ahead is a duty, not an option, for God’s people.