The Shepherd’s Love - Lesson 36
Hosea - Commentary only
“When Israel was a youth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son. The more (My prophets) called them, the more they went from them; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to idols.
"Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in My arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love, and I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws; and I bent down and fed them.
"How can I give you up, 0 Ephraim? How can I surrender you, 0 Israel? My heart is turned over within me...” Hosea 11:1-8
Father, please guide us as we look at these 0ld Testament examples of human failure in the light of Your love, law and might. Purify our hearts and life, precious Lord, as we seek to know You and to follow You with all our heart. Thank You.
Why would God be grieved to the point of agony at the sight of His idolatrous people? Why would He love them (and us today) so much? It is beyond my understanding. Perhaps Hosea's life will help us to understand such love a little better.
The theme of Hosea’s message is God’s steadfast, forgiving, unconditional love for His bride -- no matter how faithless she may be. To illustrate this point God calls His obedient servant, Hosea, to a strange task: marry a harlot named Gomer, remain faithful to her in spite of her unfaithfulness to him, give her freedom to return to harlotry, and finally take her back-- forgiving and restoring her to himself as his precious wife.
Not only did God use Hosea’s marriage to illustrate and emphasize His relationship to Israel, He also gave names to Hosea’s children that illustrated the seriousness of His warnings. Of these names, the only one that brought a grain of hope was Jezreel. Like many other subtle prophesies, it had a double meaning. The most obvious one was the imminent overthrow of the household of Jehu because he had murdered King Ahab’s family.
Remember, Ahab’s reign had been exceedingly wicked and idolatrous, and Jehu had been God’s instrument of judgment. So why would God now punish Jehu? Did the man deserve it?
Yes, He did. While the ruthless Jehu carried out God's immediate plan, he was simply following his own violent inclinations. He didn't trust or know God; he showed no loyalty to the King of kings. He only reveled in the opportunity God had given him to express his own ambitious nature.
The same question might be asked concerning Egypt, Assyria and, ultimately Babylon -- powerful nations that would (centuries later) be harshly judged for their part in the destruction of Israel and Judah. Why would God punish those who carried out His prophesied plan for Israel's judgment and the Babylonian exile?
Looking back through history, some -- like the early Gnostics -- have wondered if the betrayal of Jesus by Judas was excusable. After all, God used it to bring about His ultimate triumph over the power of sin and satan. The answer, of course, is no.
Even though “the Lord made everything for a purpose... even the wicked for the day of doom," (Pr 16:3) -- and although that “day of doom” is essential to God’s plan -- our just God must punish all evil. He must function within the legal boundaries He Himself has established. That why Jesus came to bear our deserved punishment. He fulfilled God's justice on our behalf!
In other words, wickedness must be judged. Therefore Jehu deserved death.
The encouraging aspect of the name Jezreel lies in its literal meaning -- "the seed of God" or "God sows." For God had "sown" the nation Israel; He had planted its people in the land as a precious vineyard. And even though there would be an uprooting and a scattering of what was sown, God was still the husbandman who would care for His produce. He would patiently prune and weed, so that, one day, there would be a bountiful harvest. Death would give way to life, and the seeds of destruction would reap a harvest of righteousness:
“'Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah.... And it will come about that as I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to overthrow, to destroy, and to bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,' declares the Lord.” (Jer. 31:27-28)
God's wayward people did see and hear His warnings -- however dim their sight and hearing might have been! We find their response in chapter six.
“Come let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us.... He will raise us up on the third day that we may live before Him.
"So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.” Hosea 6:1-3
God saw through their hollow and short-lived desire to please Him. Like Gomer, heir hearts were not fully His, and soon their own wicked inclinations would gain rule their lives.
Most men and women want God and His blessings, but few seek to truly "know" God. Even fewer are willing to "count the cost" of discipleship.
And what is that cost? For Israel as for us it means putting all our faith and trust in God alone -- then, by His grace, shutting our heart and eyes to all the lures and idols that surround us. God knows all too well that our self-reliance and rebellion might bring temporary satisfaction, but they close the door to His eternal blessings. Having chosen the world's wide way, few will see His narrow way clearly enough to humble themselves and repent.
It may seem strange that Abraham, an Old Testament patriarch who preceded the cross by over 1900 years, should be God’s example to the Church today. But God holds him up as a model for all time: For “Abraham believed, and it was accounted to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:3)
In fact, the timelessness of God's plan and Covenant is confirmed throughout the Scriptures. Here are just a few brief references to God's glorious eternity -- unbounded by time and space:
"...the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Revelation 13:8
"...the blood of the everlasting covenant...." Hebrews 13:20-21
"..those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life." Revelation 21:26
Yet, we who were joined to Christ by grace -- through faith in the cross -- already share that eternity with Abraham (See Hebrews 11) and others whose "eyes" have been opened to "see" and know Him. As Jesus prayed to His Father, "this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3)
“So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord...,” urged Hosea (6:3). Not just for a moment, impulsively, and then going back to our own agenda as Israel did -- but a continual "pressing on" as Paul wrote in Philippians 3:7-14:
"Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ... that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death...
"Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
God’s love for Israel is unconditional, yet their condition was such that our holy God could not claim them for Himself: “Name him Lo-amini, for you are not My people, and I am not your God,” He told them.
God’s people must be pure and holy as He is, and would do whatever was necessary to bring them to that place where they could be identified with Him -- to the praise of His glory. And so He presented His strategy to Hosea:
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness and speak kindly to her. And I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion, and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the Lord.
“And I will sow her for Myself in the land... And I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people.’ And they will say, ‘Thou art my God.” Hosea 2:14-23
God Himself would deliver Israel. Just as the Israelites were taken through the wilderness years earlier when delivered from Egypt, they would again experience a wilderness where God would take them aside for Himself, away from the distractions of riches and idolatry, a place where they would listen to Him. And it would not be their own doing; God would accomplish it all.
“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord of Hosts.” Zechariah 4:6
‘So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3
SUGGESTED HYMN: Jesus Thy Boundless Love to me
Next: Lesson 37: Rebellion and Repentance
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