Do you know what the book of Hosea is about? Have you ever read it? I know its after Psalms and before the New Testament so not many people touch those books in between. Maybe the end of Isaiah because it’s not too bad, definitely not Jeremiah because that book is intense, but Hosea? The Old Testament prophets seem to be a secret weapon that many people are unaware of–
there’s REALLY good stuff in those books and they almost never get quoted or read!
For example, I went to Africa in 2008 and at one church I got to preach a message to a ton of people–I happened to use the verse that sounds like this: “The Lord your God is a mighty Savior who is in the midst of you. He rejoices over you with singing. He will quiet you with His love and make no mention of your past sins.” Doesn’t that sound awesome?! Like something in Psalms or a popular book! Nope. Zephaniah 3:17. Who knew that was even a book? Someone on my team gave me a high five after my message just because I used that verse… in the far away, deep, dark corners of the untouched books of the Bible… hmm…
Anyway, the reason that is surprising to me is because many of those prophets and their books are INCREDIBLE!! Like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea and others, they didn’t just preach the messages of judgement/repentance God sent them to give to Israel. Over and over you’ll see God telling them to BECOME the message. He says, “Go & do this… I’ll give you as a sign to Israel.” They would act out stuff in the natural that was happening in the spiritual that God had to show Israel in an in-your-face kind of way because Israel wasn’t getting it–so He had to send people who would BE the message instead of just say it. We’re definitely called to do the same. After all, Jesus associated with “sinners,” so we’re probably not excused either.
I want to highlight Hosea because it hits my heart hard with revelation whenever I read it–it makes me think of myself and others who I know that seem to be in this book–and because Hosea had one of the most intense messages to live out. God commanded Hosea to go find a prostitute and marry her, so He could show Israel how they were acting unfaithful to Him and how He was faithful to them like a husband. Ouch. Not the most glamorous job God ever handed out. At one point of the story, after Hosea has a family with his wife, Gomer, she returned to her old ways and went back to being a prostitute, and he literally had to buy her back for the price of a slave! His wife! She left him and their kids (possibly other people’s kids that Hosea was raising), to go back to what he saved her out of! Crazy!
Yet we, like Israel, often find ourselves playing the part of Gomer. The harlot, prostitute, & unfaithful to her husband. That old hymn that says “bind my wandering heart to Thee”– pretty much my life. I’m not saying this to be doom and gloom–that’s not what the book/life of Hosea is about. Much like the story of the Prodigal Son isn’t really about the son. I think it’s really about the Good Father, or in Hosea’s case, the Faithful Husband. God is emphasizing how she keeps running away from Him, only to point out that He’s trying to win and draw her back! He IS the faithful husband that no matter how many times/how far we run, He will always be there with open arms waiting. Just like He’s done with Israel for thousands of years.
Look at these verses: Hosea 2:5-7 &14-15
5 For their mother has played the harlot; she who conceived them has done shamefully, for she said, I will go after my lovers that give me my food and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my refreshing drinks.
6 Therefore, behold, I [the Lord God] will hedge up her way [even yours, O Israel] with thorns; and I will build a wall against her that she shall not find her paths.
7 And she shall follow after her lovers but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them [inquiring for and requiring them], but shall not find them. Then shall she say, Let me go and return to my first husband, for then was it better with me than now.
14 Therefore, behold, I will allure her [Israel] and bring her into the wilderness, and I will speak tenderly and to her heart.
15 There I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor [troubling] to be for her a door of hope and expectation. And she shall sing there and respond as in the days of her youth and as at the time when she came up out of the land of Egypt.
Incredible. She runs after her lovers, takes the gifts God gave her out of love and uses them as offerings to her idols, and totally cheats on God with everything else, and He still loves her. IN KINDNESS, He makes it difficult for her to run after those other ones, so she’s forced to come to Him, nothing else is working. She realizes that where she is at is worse than when she was with Him—she didn’t realize it before He hedged her in. This passage is huge because no matter how close to God or far away from Him you think you are, we all do this. Our “lovers” that we run to can be actual prostitution, other sin, or it can be something simple as drowning ourselves in busyness & work… or ministry… Not to step on toes or anything but you should talk to Jesus about what you’re running to besides Him, even in the deepest parts of your heart or tendencies you rely on more than Him. What grips & owns your heart more than Jesus does? Is He your first love?
We can make it waaaay more complicated than it needs to be, but it’s SO simple. Just return. The bolded sentence above is what I always feel super strongly when I read this passage–He will hedge us in, make stuff not work like it used to, and send things to make us turn back to Him–just because He wants us home. He knows He’s the best One out there for us. Like in the Prodigal Son story in Luke 15–He just wants us to “come to our senses” and return. He doesn’t ask questions when we get there. He doesn’t ask where we’ve been or why it took us so long. He just says, “I’m glad you’re back. Here, let me make it all new again.”
I encourage you to read Hosea, or at least the first two chapters. If you don’t do that, I’d just ask Him to search your heart for anything that has your heart more than Him. He will hedge up our ways until we come back, He loves us too much not to.
Jesus, contend with anything in us that hinders love, let us return to You as our First Love.