Hosea chapter one. Dr. Thomas Holmes was a researcher at the University of Washington. And he researched human stress. He came up with an interesting way of measuring stress.
According to Holmes, he gave life change units, he called them, to different life experiences. For instance, the death of one's spouse would incur 100 life change units. The divorce of a spouse would be 73 life change units. A pregnancy would give you 40 life change units. A redecorating, remodeling your home, 25. And Christmas, 12. Not surprising. It can be stressful.
Now, this is all according to human reasoning, but the idea is that if you get, if you incur 300 or more of these life change units in any given year, 12-month period, you're in for some health risk, perhaps even a nervous breakdown. Well, we wonder about Hosea and all that God called him to go through.
Marrying a girl that he loved, but telling him in advance, she's going to leave you after you have three children. In fact, she's going to become a harlot. Not only that, Hosea, but you're going to need to bring her back, pay the price of a slave, and love her again. All told by God in advance to Hosea.
The Lord Jesus said a house that is divided cannot stand. Hosea's House was divided because Hosea's wife's heart, the heart of Gomer, was divided. Divided between loving her husband and her children and the other paramours, the other lovers that she went after, as this book will show us.
Now, we understand that the book of Hosea is an object lesson. It's a pageant, so to speak. Hosea was to play the part of God. Gomer was to play the part of Israel, who would go after other lovers like Israel would go after other gods and worship other gods.
Prophets were pretty special people. It wasn't easy being a prophet. First of all, you had to be 100% accurate, or you were liable to death. You could be killed if you'd make a false prophecy. But not only that, but the kind of hardships that they went through.
You see, prophets were sort of like spiritual radios. They were receivers and transmitters. They had to receive the message accurately from God and then distribute the message, transmit the message accurately from God to the people.
Sometimes the prophets would give a proclamation, a strong exaltation to the people to be right, to get right with God, or to turn back to God. At other times, the prophet's message would be prediction. Predicting a near event or a far off futuristic event.
Yet at other times, it wasn't a proclamation. It wasn't necessarily a prediction. It was demonstration. They were to act out in their own life as an object lesson the mind and the heart of God with His people. Isaiah had to do that, somewhat. For three years, the Bible says that he was to go around barefoot and naked as a sign. I'm glad God didn't call me to be that kind of a prophet.
Ezekiel had to scribble on a tablet and depict the city of Jerusalem, then lay siege to it as people watched him. Jeremiah was to put on a yoke. And all of these people acted it out. And so Hosea was to act out God's love for his people, and his wife would act out Israel's unfaithfulness to God.
As pastor Chuck said, we're now in the minor prophets. Don't let that term confuse you. They're not minor because they're less important than the prophets we have just read or because they're less intense or because they're somehow inferior to the other prophets.
When it says minor prophets, it's because of the length of their prophecy. Sometimes it was the length of their ministry. Not in Hosea's case. He prophesied 50 or 60 years. But it was the brevity of his book. It's a shorter book, and these 12 shorter books are called the minor prophets.
Hosea, just to frame now, historically, the context. Hosea was a contemporary of two other prophets who prophesied in Judah. Now remember, at this time, the kingdom is split. It is divided. The northern 10 tribes, sometimes called Ephraim, because that was the largest tribe. And the two southern tribes, often called Judah because of the largest, most significant tribe that inhabited Jerusalem and Judea.
While Hosea was preaching up north in Israel, Isaiah and Micah were preaching similar messages to Judah, though Judah will last longer as a nation before her captivity than Israel. And so the word of the Lord that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. And in the days of Jeroboam, the son of Jehoash, the King of Israel. For 120 years, there was a united monarchy, under David and then Solomon. Excuse me. Saul, and then David, and then Solomon. 120 years of it, each occupying the throne for 40 years.
When Solomon was the king over this united monarchy, Solomon was quite a politician. And it was the power and the politics that got the better of him. He started marrying foreign women who introduced him to other gods. His heart started turning away from the God of Israel, the one that made Israel unique, and started turning toward many of the other gods and goddesses that so many of his wives were into.
He also overtaxed the people quite heavily. When he died, his son was worse, in that he told the people of Israel, he said, look. My Father scourged you with whips. I'm going to scourge you or beat you with scorpions. My little finger will be heavier than my father's ways. If you think you had it bad under Solomon, you're going to have it really bad under me.
Now, he was young and an insecure leader. And instead of winning the hearts of the people and getting the peoples of Israel and Judah to love him, he was harsh with them. Because he rejected the counsel of his father and his father's counselors and listened to the young men that were around him, saying, forget what these old guys are saying. This is a new day. This is a new kingdom, man. Show yourself strong.
At that point, the kingdom that was now weakened began to split. And Jeroboam took the 10 tribes and went to the north, setting up a pagan worship system, and the kingdom was divided between North and South. And so we see kingdoms of Judah and Israel. The kingdom once united is now divided.
It's interesting that Hosea, a prophet to Israel in the north, is dating his prophecy not by the kings, necessarily, of the north, but first by the kings down south. The kings of Judah. Four of them are mentioned. Only one, King Jeroboam, that is Jeroboam II, the king of Israel is mentioned.
Why does he date by the four kings of Judah? Primarily because he, as God's prophet, knew that God's plan and future for the nation centered around the throne of David, and that's where the promises of God would be fulfilled under the lineage of King David. It says, of course, in that verse, and in the days of Jeroboam, the son of Jehoash, the King of Israel. This is not Jeroboam I, this is Jeroboam the son of Jehoash, Jeroboam II.
Some of you may recall the opening words of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, "It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times." And that could describe also what is going on in Israel. On one hand, it was the best of times, outwardly. Israel was prosperous. The borders had expanded. There was a sense of national security that was stronger then than ever before.
But it was also the worst of times because in that strength and expansion, Israel started becoming arrogant, thinking, we're something. Look what we have attained. And even though they had an outward form of worship, it was mingled with the worship of other gods.
It was the best of times economically and perhaps socially. It was the worst of times spiritually, during this time that Jeroboam II ruled. When the Lord began to speak by Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, go take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, for the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the Lord.
A concept that begins back in Genesis is fleshed out throughout the writings of the Old Testament. It's the idea of spiritual adultery. It's when God's people call to love, uniquely and only, the Lord God and have no other gods before or besides Him, in a sense, goes out on God and goes looking for other gods to worship. And because they were entertaining and looking to other worship systems, God calls this spiritual flirtation, or even worse, spiritual adultery. You see, God was the only true God and demanded a total and complete submission to Him.
The nation of Israel would soon go into captivity. Hosea will predict it, and Hosea, with his own eyes, will see it, the Northern Kingdom, in 722 BC by the Assyrians. Before that happens, as is always the case, God sends His prophets to warn.
Look around you. Look at your materialism. Look how you've left the Lord and what you're following now. It's interesting. There was a man named Alexander Solzhenitsyn from Russia who was a writer, philosopher. He became a born again Christian. He was very critical of his own country, his motherland, Russia.
And if you're familiar at all with his work, The Gulag Archipelago, he sharply denounces the Russian ideals. Yet in a sense, he became a prophet to the United States when he visited here a few times and went to some of our institutions, like Harvard, in 1978, and said, you in the West have exalted your technological advancements. You have worshiped at the altar of materialism, and you are spiritually become unstable. Very true. Very prophetic.
The prophet Hosea was saying much the same thing to that Northern Kingdom of Israel. Well, God tells him to do this. Allows him to love and then to marry Gomer. That's the wife of Hosea. But telling him in advance what's going to happen.
So he went verse three and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. And the Lord said to him, call his name Jezreel, which means God sows or God scatters, like one would sow seed and scatter it. For in a little while, I will avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel and the House of Jehu and bring an end to the kingdom of the House of Israel. It shall come to pass in that day that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.
Hosea, I want you to do something very difficult. Go ahead and marry Gomer. You love her. But understand something. You're going to have children. She's going to leave you for other men.
You're going to have children, and I'm going to tell you what to name them, because all of this is a pageant of how I have dealt and will deal with my people. And all of the names of your children will mean something very, very significant. So he was to play the part of the Lord, and Gomer was to play the part of Israel.
It's interesting that some commentators will object to Hosea. It's always fun to read different commentators. The Bible throws an awful lot of light on the words of the commentators, often not the other way around. Some don't believe that Hosea is a literal story, but an allegory.
And I find it interesting that one of them is John Calvin, who didn't believe that Hosea was an actual story. Because, he said, God, being a God of love, would never command one of his children to do something like this. This kind of a difficult act of obedience. To marry somebody who would leave him and become a harlot.
Now, I've got to tell you something. It's a shallow theology that says God will always bring you into places where you feel good and happy and all smiles all the time and no difficulties. When Paul wrote the book of Philippians, and he said, that I might know him-- and get this-- and the fellowship of His sufferings, as well as the power of His Resurrection. Being made conformable, even unto His death.
Hosea would feel, in a sense, what God felt when His people of Israel left him. And in that sense, he would be brought closer to the Lord in that unusual but intimate type of fellowship, the fellowship of God's sufferings. God told him to do it. I take it literally. And he did it.
So verse three, Gomer bore him a son. Verse four, the Lord said call his name Jezreel, for in a little while, I will avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel and the house of Jehu and bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.
The first born is one of three children. The name means scattered. Now, I don't know for sure, but perhaps when Hosea heard the first name of the child, he didn't quite understand. Or maybe he thought God made a mistake.
You see, the name Israel and the name Jezreel are spelt almost identical in Hebrew and sound very similar phonetically. [SPEAKING HEBREW]. They sound and look very similar. And it is a play on words, phonetically.
Jezreel means scattered to the wind. I'm going to take Israel and [HEBREW] them. Scatter them to the wind. I'm going to take my people and sow them and scatter them, and the wind will be the Assyrians, who did come down in 722 BC under Shalmaneser, and Hosea, who predicted it, did see it.
Call his name Jezreel. In a little while, I will avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel on the House of Jehu and bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. Now, you have to go back in history, when there was a king on the throne of the Northern Kingdom called Ahab. Mr. Wicked. His wife, Mrs. Wicked, Jezebel, really worse than he was.
Well, one of the stories is that there was a guy in the Valley of Ezrelon, south of Mount Carmel, where the valley of Jezreel is, who had a vineyard. His name was Naboth. And Ahab sort of threw a tantrum. I want that field, and I want it bad!
So he offered a deal, a land exchange for it. He wanted to buy it from Naboth. Naboth refused. Ahab, the king, went home, and told his wife, Jezebel, pouting, I don't know what to do. He wouldn't take the deal. So she advised him, kill him, and then seize it. Take it for yourself. So he did it.
When he did, God pronounced doom and vengeance that would come upon the house of Ahab and his progeny, his descendants, in the valley of Jezreel. Now, sometime later, when Ahab was out to battle with King Jehoshaphat of Judah, the king, King Ahab, was killed in a very interesting manner. A "random"-- in quotes-- arrow from a soldier hit King Ahab between the flaps of his armor, and it killed him.
Really, it was a smart bomb from the Lord. God directed that arrow, and boom! Right into him, and he died. Jehu came in on the scene and took over and came to the city where Jezebel was, and said, is there anybody for me? Because she was up in a window, and a couple of guys showed their faces, and he said, throw her down. They threw her down. Her blood splattered on the ground.
Then he goes to Sumeria. Now, he sent a letter to the leaders of Sumeria, capital of the Northern Kingdom, and said this. I know that in your city, you have 70 of the sons of King Ahab. Take any one of them, put him on the throne, and I'm going to come to town, and you assemble an army and fight me. Because you're going down.
They said, hey, nobody on the throne will be able to amass an army and command loyalty and be able to defeat this guy. So they sent a letter of surrender. Hey, do whatever you want. Tell us what to do, and we'll comply.
So he said, all right. If you're really loyal, take the 70 sons of Ahab and cut off their heads, and put their heads in baskets, and deliver the baskets to me in Jezreel. They did it. It was a bloody, gruesome act. Yes, in one sense, Jehu who was the rod of punishment used by the Lord in avenging Naboth on the House of Ahab.
But the manner in which he did it and the arrogance of heart demanded a retribution now. The Lord said, that's not the way to do it. I'm going to avenge, he says, on the House of Jehu in the valley of Jezreel.
Now, Jeroboam II, he's the King in Israel, was of the House of Jehu. And he is the last King that occupies that Northern throne when the Assyrians come in. And by the Assyrians, God will bring vengeance upon Jehu. And she conceived and bore again, and bore a daughter. So this is child number two that Hosea and Gomer have.
And God said to him, call her name Lo-ruhamah, or no mercy. Unpitied or unloved. For I will no longer have mercy on the House of Israel, but I will utterly take them away. Yet I will have mercy on the House of Judah. Will save them by the Lord, their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword or battle, or by horses or horsemen.
It would be a tough name to walk around with, wouldn't it? What's your name? Unloved. Unpitied. No Mercy. In the very next verse, however, verse seven, is a word that offers a glimmer of hope. Look at it. It's the word, yet.
It is a glimmer of hope for the Southern kingdom of Judah. When God says, yet I will have mercy on the House of Judah. So God is saying, no mercy for the North, but I will protect and be merciful and spare Judah. And it was so. For 136 more years, Judah went unscathed in terms of captivity. Though the Assyrians did surround her twice, 713 BC and 710 BC, they were driven away both times.
First time that they came to the city of Jerusalem, Hezekiah was the King down in Judah. The Assyrians had conquered most of Judah and were moving in on Jerusalem. As the king, Sennacherib was approaching Jerusalem and ready to overtake it and mount up siegeworks against the city.
News from a battle on another front, from Lachish, came to his ears, and he had to stop that advancement and go take care of business in Lachish. But he came back in 710 BC and was very threatening. At this time, Hezekiah, King of Judah, called upon his buddy, the man of God, Isaiah.
Isaiah, buddy, you've got to come, man. You've got to pray for us. We have this threatening letter. What will we do? And Isaiah said, hey, trust in the Lord. If you trust in the Lord, He'll be your strong tower.
And the scripture records that in one night, 185,000 Assyrians were destroyed by God. And so they left Jerusalem. Jerusalem stayed in that peaceful state till 586 BC when the Babylonians came in. But I will have mercy on the House of Judah.
Now, when she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, that's about a two to three year time period. That's how long it took Hebrew mothers to wean their babies in those days. She conceived and bore a son. So she's had a son and a daughter, and now another son. God said, call her name Lo-ammi, which means, not mine, or not my people. For you are not my people, and I will not be your God.
Now, you notice the little word Lo in between both-- or at the beginning of both of those names, Lo-ruhamah and Lo-ammi? That simply means "no" in Hebrew. It's the way Hebrews take a word and change it to a negative just by putting the word "lo" or "no" in front of it. And so if a Jewish person wants to say now, do it now, they'll say [HEBREW]. If they want to say not now, lo [HEBREW]. It they want to say my people, ammi. Not my people, lo-ammi.
So there's this negative prefix that changes the whole meaning of the word. Now, that's important because God will drop that when he says, I will be merciful to you once again. So child number three, Lo-ammi. Not mine. Not my people.
When a baby is born-- now, forgive me for being honest. But when a baby is born, they're not that beautiful. Now, they become beautiful. But when a baby is newly born, and there's blood, and there's slime, I'm sure it would be easy for Hosea to look and say, not mine. I can go with this name, not mine. That's not mine.
But again, this was a pageant. This was part of the message God was getting across. The people of God, God would show no mercy to. And God is saying, I'm not going to be your God. You're not going to be my people.
Which poses a puzzle. For God to talk to His covenant people and say, hey, you're not my people now. Paul asked the question in Romans 11, has God cast away His people? God forbid.
So if God hasn't cast away His people, how does He here say, you're not my people? Because God made a covenant with Abraham that basically said, no matter what you do, I'll always be your God. You'll always be my people.
So we have sort of a quandary. We have a dilemma. And the answer is found in the relationship between the covenants of God. God made a covenant with Abraham that was an unconditional covenant. Not based upon Abraham's performance, but based upon God's faithfulness. I'm going to give you this land. Period. End of story. It's an unconditional covenant.
It's unilateral, not bilateral. I'm going to do it. I'll perform it. But then God made a covenant with Moses for the people of Israel, the covenant of the law. That was a conditional covenant. If you do this, I'll do that. You obey me, you'll stay in the land. If you disobey me, it won't rain, and I'll boot you out of the land.
You say, is God being contradictory? Not at all. God's being sovereign. This is how it works. God makes an unconditional covenant with Abraham as to having and owning, possessing the land. God makes a conditional covenant with Moses so that the tenure of the people in the land is conditional.
And this is how it works. God brings them into the land, they disobey. God kicks them out of the land with the full intention of bringing them back, because He made a promise to Abraham. God has not cast away His people, but while they disobey Him, if they do it enough, God says, fine. Then I'll kick you out of the land of inheritance until you cry out to me. And when you cry out to me, and you turn, I'll be faithful to bring you back into the land which I promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
So God says, you're not my people, but you'll watch. God promises that He'll make them His people once again. Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, you are not my people, there it shall be said to them, you are the sons of the living God.
Now, notice that word again in verse 10. Because God just said, you're not my people. But here it is again, yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea. You see? There is that tiny ray of mercy flooding even in the midst of their sin and their unfaithfulness to God. Just when you think there is no hope. Just when the story looks bleak, the hero rides in on the white horse, and that glimmer of grace and mercy, yet. Yet.
It's been said that big doors swing on small hinges. And big doors of hope swing on the small hinges of just a word, sometimes. A promise of God.
Actually, it's not unlike our conversion. When Paul describes the way we were before we came to Christ, before God was gracious and merciful to us, he says, you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you once walked, according to the course of this world, the prince of the power of the air that now works in the children of disobedience.
You are, by nature, the children of lust, the children of the flesh. You are by nature the children of wrath, even as others. You obey the lust of the flesh. By nature, the children of wrath.
But God, who is rich in His mercy. You see, now the whole story changes with that but God. You were dead on arrival. No hope. Miserable. But God.
A similar instance is in Romans 5. Paul says, very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man. Though for a good man, someone might dare to die, but God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Actually, that's the testimony of every one of us Christians.
We can all say that. I was going my own way, making my own decisions, lost, but God. That glimmer of hope. That glimmer of grace. Here it is again in verse 10. Judgment is coming, but the judgment will only be temporary. God will make the children of Israel, in number, like the sand of the sea.
Beginning in verse 10, really there's five great blessings that God promises to Israel. Notice them with me. The number of the children of Israel will be as the sand of the sea. That's national increase. Which cannot be measured or numbered. It shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, you are not my people. There it shall be said, you are sons of the living God. That's national conversion.
Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together. That's national reunion. Remember Ezekiel 37, the two sticks that became one in his hand. One represented the Northern kingdom of Israel, the other stick represented the Southern kingdom of Judah. And God predicted a regathering of all of those tribes back into one.
And appoint for themselves one head. National leadership. And they shall come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel. And we have to take chapter 2, verse 1 into account. It's really part of the same message.
Say to your brethren, my people, and to your sisters, mercy is shown. That's national restoration. So after years of scattering, after years of suffering, after years of persecution, after years of obliteration, in some cases, of whole peoples, whole masses of Jewish people, God predicts mercy will come. And He says, great will be the day of Jezreel.
For you see, in the future, the anti-Christ will amass his forces on that great battlefield, the Field of Ezdralon, the Valley of Armageddon. Part of that is the Valley of Jezreel. And will march in unison with these kings toward Jerusalem, at which point, Jesus Christ, the one head, will come back, destroy the armies, set His foot on the Mount of Olives, and rule and reign in righteousness upon the earth.
He'll lay claim to it. So say to your brethren, my people-- and to your sisters, mercy is shown. So the concept of mercy is great in these chapters, as is the concept of grace, as you'll see in the next few chapters. Mercy is related to two other concepts, and it's important to understand all three of them. Justice, that's getting what you deserve. Mercy, that's not getting what you deserve. And grace, of course, is getting what you don't deserve.
Let's say you have a heavy foot when you drive. And let's just say, on the way to church tonight, you didn't want to be late, so you were driving over the speed limit. You were going 50 miles an hour in a 25.
And if the police pulled you over and said, you know, I clocked you going 50. Speed limit is 25. Yes, officer. I understand. Well, I'm going to have to give you a ticket. And he writes you a ticket, you deserved it. That's justice.
Now, if the officer said, you were going 50 in a 25. You deserve a ticket, but I'm just going to warn you, slow down. I'm not going to give you what you deserve. That's mercy. And you go, whew. Thank you, Lord. You're so good!
But imagine what it would be like if the police officer said, you were going 50 in a 25 and writes you the ticket, hands it to you, and then takes it back and says, I'll pay for it. Now, by the way, ain't never going to happen. OK? So get that out of your mind in the real world.
But it did happen with God and you. You see, the best way to understand all three is at the cross. For at the cross, justice was meted out because God put all of the sin of humanity on Jesus Christ. He bore the sin of the world.
So He felt the brunt of it, justice. Because of that act of justice, mercy could be extended. That is, instead of getting punishment, that's withdrawn now. Instead of hell, that's withdrawn. You don't get what you deserve.
But then also grace was poured out. He will give you what you don't deserve. Coming down to this earth, paying the ticket with His own blood and then granting you heaven. Imagine if the police said, here. I'll pay the ticket. Here. Here's the keys to my car and my home.
You'd say, now wait a minute. This is crazy. I don't deserve that. That's the whole point of grace, as we'll see as we move on to Hosea chapter 2. Now, verse one of Hosea 2 belongs to chapter 1, say to your brethren, my people, and to your sisters, mercy is shown. That belongs to the first chapter.
The chapter divisions in the Bible are not inspired. They came years later. And sometimes I think the guys who put the numbers in there made mistakes in their arrangement, and this is one of them. I think chapter 2 really should begin with verse two, because the thought of verse one of chapter 2 belongs to the previous chapter.
Now, just notice this quickly. In verse one of chapter 2, that negative prefix, lo, is dropped. Right? Say to my people, ruhamah and ammi, you are my people.
So often I will meet people who talk about God as if God saps all of the enjoyment out of life. Why would I follow God? There's no fun in that. There's no joy in that. They figure that somehow God wants to consign them to a boring, insipid life. Boy, they don't know the God that I know.
No. It's just the opposite. Jesus said, I've come that you might have life and have it to the full, more abundantly. It was their sin that caused God to put the negative prefix in the word mercy and my people. Lo ammi. Lo-ruhamah. It was their sin that brought the negative. It was God's redemption that dropped the negative and gave them the positive.
That's how God works. He turns that negative situation around. Bring charges-- verse two-- against your mother. Bring charges, for she is not my wife, nor am I her husband. Let her put away her harlotries from her sight and her adulteries from between her breasts, lest I strip her naked and expose her as in the day she was born and make her like a wilderness and set her like dry land and slay her with thirst.
What a shock it must have been for Hosea to come home one night only to find Lo-ammi over in the corner crying and Jezreel and Lo-ruhamah staring out the window, looking on. What happened? Mom's gone. As he investigated it further, finding out that his wife, their mother, has left the home. She has gone out, and she's gone out with another man.
And even though God told him it would happen, he's in shock. His heart is broken. And he's feeling that brokenness of heart that God would feel over His people, Israel, that He wanted to have a intimate, loving covenant with. But they didn't want anything to do with Him.
The ancient Greeks believed that one of the characteristics of the gods is that they were incapable of feeling. The word they used to describe it was apatheia, apathy. Without pathos, without feeling. And they saw that as a notable trait for our gods, to be without feeling at all. They don't care what happens to humanity.
And so you read the Greek mythology, and it's all over the place. There's the story that Zeus, the chief god, found out that Prometheus us gave a gift to mankind because he pitied them. He gave them the gift of fire to warm themselves. When Zeus found out, he took Prometheus, chained him to a rock in the Adriatic Sea, and commanded vultures to pick out his liver. Because he didn't exhibit apatheia.
What a different God is the God of the Bible. Jeremiah portrays Him as Jeremiah weeps over the sin of His people and says, I remember the days of your espousal. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. And at one point, he said, if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.
You see, Jesus weeping over this Jerusalem, you see God weeping over His people. Broken-hearted, caring, concerned. God cares for you. God is concerned for you. God isn't aloof and detached from you. He cares for you.
I will not have mercy on her children, for they are the children of harlotry, for their mother has played the harlot. Let me just pause here for a moment. It is a mistake to confuse Israel as the wife of Jehovah and the church as the bride of Christ. Two entirely different things.
We are espoused to Christ, as the Bible says, a chaste virgin. This is not the depiction here. This is the unfaithful wife of Jehovah, and it is a mistake in your thinking, in your theology and eschatology to try to blend the church and Israel together. Even the metaphors are different. You can't do that. Two entirely different entities and sets of promises.
For their mother-- verse five-- has played the harlot. She who conceived them has behaved shamefully, for she said, I will go after my lovers who give me my bread and my water, my wool, my linen, my oil, and my drink. Now we are told why Gomer left Hosea, for materialism. For the money. For the gifts that she thought her lovers would give her.
Maybe her husband, Hosea, wasn't bringing in enough money. And so she went out and had a tryst with some other fellow who laden her with gifts. Showered her with money and with jewels. It's always a mistake when you confuse cost with value. It was all about cost to her. And she was willing to forsake the value of a husband's love for the cost of a few gifts that her lovers would give her.
Now, beginning in verse six, you're going to read a word that's repeated in verse six, verse nine, and verse fourteen. It's the word "therefore." And you know, there's a rule in the Bible, whenever there is a therefore, you find out what it's there for. It always relates to what is previously written.
Here the word "therefore" sets out God's action in response to their attitude toward Him. What God says He will do if His people refuse to come back. There will be consequences.
Therefore, behold. I will hedge up your way with thorns and wall her in so that she cannot find her paths. So first of all, God says He's going to make things difficult for Israel, to obstruct them from attaining the evil that they're desiring. She will chase her lovers but not overtake them. Yes, she will seek them but not find them. And then one will say, I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better for me than now.
God says, first of all, I'm going to put roadblocks in between you and the worship of these other gods, these other systems. I'm going to make it hard for you because I know that in your pursuit of anyone else other than me, it will eventually destroy you. So because I love you, I want to make it hard for you to get to those idols.
What if you're a parent of, say, a 13-year-old boy or girl who, whenever you would leave your keys on the counter in the kitchen, decided, I'm taking the car. And they go out for a joy ride. And you tell them not to do it, and then you leave the keys on there again, and they go out again. This time they get into a wreck, but they're spared.
You're not going to leave the keys, if you're at all smart or loving, on the counter again. You're going to make it hard for them to get to them. You're going to hide them. You're going to protect your children. God says, you're destroying yourselves. I'm going to make it difficult.
Verse eight. For she did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for bail. Ah. We're understanding something now. All of the blessings God bestowed upon Israel, they attributed those blessings to Baal and to the other gods that they were worshipping.
Now, every time that Gomer went out on Hosea-- and she was a harlot-- every time she would go out, and she would enter a relationship with another man, and then another and another, each time she went lower and lower and lower. Worse and worse and worse. She would go out, the lover would give her gifts, jewels, in exchange for the physical love of that moment.
After a while, however, this lover sort of figured Gomer out. That her love was a shallow love. She was in it only for the materialism. So no doubt, he would let her go, and she would find somebody else and then somebody else, till eventually, she ends up in the slum of the city because Hosea is called to go to the slave market and buy her back in Chapter 3.
So each time she goes lower and lower and lower. Now, Gomer did the evil. She committed adultery. She walked away from the marriage. It would be very easy for Hosea to say, hey, serves her right. She's a slave. She's in the slums. Great. She has it coming to her. But God won't let him do that.
Imagine this scene. Hosea searches through town to find his wife, can't find her. Eventually, he's told she's in the slums. He goes down, searches through several quarters, and finally finds the man who is her lover. Excuse me, are you the man who is with Gomer, the daughter of the Diblaim?
Yeah, what's it to you? Who are you? I'm her husband. The guy would react, whoa, he's come to beat me up. And he backs up. And then Hosea puts out his hand and says, here. Here are some supplies. I want you to take care of her. I want to make sure that my wife doesn't starve to death. That she has all that is necessary for her sustenance. And tell her that I'm providing for her.
But the man would take the gifts and walk in and say, Gomer, look what I got for you. And she would say, oh, honey, you're so sweet. You always shower me with gifts, when it was her husband that was providing, and she attributed it all to these other men. As Israel was attributing the blessings God had given to the false gods Baal, et cetera.
Now, put yourself in Hosea's sandals. What kind of a love could a husband have for a wife that treated him and the kids repeatedly like that? For him to provide for her while she is in that situation? It's hard to understand it. It's absolutely unfathomable, and that's why it's a perfect demonstration of God's love.
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the children of God. By His mercy, by His grace. A note here. We are reading from what testament? The Old Testament. Were reading about the God of the Old Testament.
Ever heard people say the God of the Old Testament is so harsh and unloving, while the God of the New Testament is so loving. Listen to the God of the Old Testament, showering mercy and gifts and love upon His people. Therefore-- here's the second move-- I will return and take away my grain in its time. And my new wine in its season. I will take back my wool and linen, given to cover her nakedness. Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall deliver her from my hand.
Because she was unresponsive to the blessings of God, God's second move is to remove the blessings. I will also cause her mirth or her happiness, her partying to cease. Her feast days, her new moons, her sabbaths, and her appointed feasts, and I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, of which she said, these are my wages that my lovers have given me.
So I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them. I will punish her for the days of the bales to which she burned incense. She decked herself with her earrings and jewelry and went after her lovers, but me she forgot, says the Lord.
Now, there comes a point at which if God were to continue to pour out His blessings in that former manner, while Israel was giving credit to these foreign gods, it would make things worse. It would enable her sin. So there comes a point where impatience-- God's patience is over.
And God says, I have to move to phase two. I am now going to remove the blessing. Why? So that in your misery, you'll think back to how good you had it when you followed the Lord. Remember from whence you have fallen, Jesus says to the Church of Ephesus. Repent and do thy first works again.
A similar story would be the story of the prodigal son. Boy goes to dad, Dad, I'm leaving the home. I'd like my inheritance early. He goes out, spends it all on riotous living. Eventually, life gets so bad, that he's at the lowest possible level, not only feeding the pigs, but eating pig food. Eating the pods that he fed to the swine.
And then in that miserable condition, he thinks back. Oh, my father's house. Even the slaves in my father's house had it better than this. I'm going to rise up and go to my father. That was the intent of this response from the Lord to the children of Israel's attitude in not turning to Him.
Now, verse 14 is that final therefore. It's another segue into a prediction. But this one is the most unusual of all and the greatest blessing of all. Therefore, behold! I will allure her. Will bring her into the wilderness and speak comfort to her.
So after exposing her shame, now God says, inferring that they are going to turn when the blessing is withheld, which they did, eventually. Now I'm going to speak peace and grace and mercy to comfort her. I will give her vineyards from there and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope.
She shall sing there as in the days of her youth. As in the days when she came up from the land of Egypt. Just when we expect the hammer to fall and the most severe judgment to come upon them, just when we expect Hosea to say, honey, I want to lure you. Come out to the wilderness, because when you're out there, I'm going to beat you to a pulp for all that you've done. God says no. I'm going to lure Israel to the wilderness and speak comfort to her and restore to her the vineyards and the blessings as in the days of her youth.
Now the Valley of Achor that's mentioned here, it's mentioned three times in the Bible. Achor means trouble or troubling. It's the valley of trouble. And you may recall back in Joshua chapter 7, the children of Israel had marched around the city of Jericho when it fell, and the spoils of war were to be wholly dedicated to the Lord, but there was a fellow by the name of Achan who took the spoils to enjoy himself.
And they went into the Second Battle of Ai, or sometimes pronounce A-I. And they were defeated. And it was discovered that Achan had this conspiracy going of stealing the spoils for himself. And it was called the Valley of Achor because they said, you have troubled us, and you have troubled yourself. And they stoned him to death and called it the valley of Achor.
It's a valley right outside of Jericho. It was named the valley of trouble after Achan. He was stoned to death. And do you recall what is the method of punishment in the Old Testament for adultery? It's the same. Stoning to death. There in that very valley, that very incident that brought the stoning of a family, I'm going to make that valley of trouble a door of hope, not giving to them what they deserve, but again, mercy and grace that is extended.
I read this, and I can't help but think of Romans 5, where sin abounded, grace did abound much more. Or when sin reached its high water mark, grace overflowed. Listen, you cannot erect a dam of sin so tall, so massive, that God's grace can't overflow it.
Oh, but Skip, you don't know what I've done. You don't know where I've been. I don't need to know. God knows, and God is willing to extend mercy from whatever valley of Achor you've been in. Could be a door of hope. Could be a whole new relationship, and beginning tonight, if you allow Him to.
It shall be in that day, says the Lord, that you will call me "my husband," [HEBREW] in Hebrew. And no longer call me my master, Ba ali. for I will take from her mouth the names of the bales, and they shall be remembered by their name no more. Now, let me quickly unpack the meaning of this.
They referred to God in the same category as they referred to the other gods that they served, Baal and Ashtoreth and Yaweh. And they referred to them as ba alim, or baalim, my master. Now, here was the sin of Israel. It's not that they completely rejected Yaweh and had nothing to do with Him, it's that they reduced the unique and only God to the level of other gods.
So they'd go to the temple, or they'd go to some altar and worship, and pay some form of obeisance in a prayer to God Yahweh, but then they would worship under the groves and the trees and the false altars. They were doing it simultaneously. That's known as syncretism.
God is an only and unique, but he's among others. Your God, Jesus, is one of many roads to truth. That's what they did. They reduced God. And God says, you're not going to refer to me in that low level anymore but into that intimate level of my husband. So that wife-husband relationship, God promises will be restored. And that day, I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, with the birds of the air, with the creeping things of the ground. Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth to make them lie down safely.
Now, on your own, you may want to go back later on and read again Isaiah 2, Isaiah 11, and Isaiah 35, which speaks of this covenant that God will make with the earth and change the natural environment, so that the leopard and the lamb will lie down together. So that a child playing in a den of cobras could reach his hand into a snake hole and not be hindered, because the very nature of the animal kingdom is changed.
Can you imagine a child reaching into a snake pit and the snake is safe? The snakes are friendly? And the children are friendly. Hold on, parents. It's coming. It's the Millennium.
I will be betroth you-- verse 19-- to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and justice and loving kindness and mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord. Three times, God says, I will betroth you. The word means to woo or to date or to court like a virgin. That intimacy of early relationship.
It shall come to pass in that day that I will answer, says the Lord. I will answer the heavens, they will answer the earth. The earth shall answer with grain and with new wine and with oil. They shall answer Jezreel. And I will sow her for myself in the earth. I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy, then I will say to those who are not my people, you are my people. And they shall say, you are my God.
So here's the picture of that paragraph. Israel, now sown-- scattered, but now sown in the land, will cry out to the corn, the oil, and the wine. In other words, supply my needs. The corn, the oil, and the wine will cry out to the earth, nourish us. Fruitify us. The earth will cry out to the heavens, water us. The heavens will cry out to God, fill us with rain. And since God is the ultimate first cause, there is no appeal. God will just allow this beautiful chain of command, this natural chain of love through His nature to provide for Israel in that day.
Then the Lord said to me, verse 1, chapter 3, go again and love a woman who is loved by a lover. And committing adultery, like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel, who looked to other gods and loved the raisin cakes of the pagans. These were sacrificial cakes of raisins made for these false gods of the Canaanites that were used.
So I bought for her-- or I bought her for myself. So here's the picture. He's down at the slave market, because he's now buying back his own wife that he has a covenant with. But because of her sin, she is now in a slave market. And he buys her back-- this is redemption-- for 15 shekels of silver, for 1 and 1/2 homers of barley. That's the typical price, the going rate of a female slave. And I said to her, you shall stay with me many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man. So too I will be toward you.
Sometimes a person will say, I'm determined to turn over a new leaf. I'm going to make changes. I see that my life isn't all that it should be before God, so I'm going to change it, and here is my method of change. I promise to do this. I promise to do that. As if you, apart from God, are capable.
Not I need to repent of my sins because I am in abject poverty before God, being poor in spirit, but I'm going to change myself. Our condition before God is much like Gomer's condition when Hosea, her husband, found her in the slave market. Incapable of saving herself. She's a slave. She's not going to stand out there and go, I'm determining to turn over a new leaf and not be a slave anymore. You have no power. Somebody else must act and buy you back. That's redemption.
See, the first step in coming to God is to realize you're a sinner. You're bankrupt before God. You have nothing in and of yourself that merits anything from God. God owes you nothing. God will save you in His mercy and His grace, but this is the condition, that of a slave.
For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim. Afterward, the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David, their King, that is, the dynasty of David, the greater son of David, the Lord, Jesus Christ. And they shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days.
So one of the great prophetic pronouncements in all of the scripture. Because it says many days. Now, usually God is very precise. For instance, God told Abraham, you and your descendants are going to be in a foreign land 430 years. That was Egypt. They came back after 430 years. God was very precise with Jeremiah, and he says that the children of Judah will be in captivity in Babylon for 70 years. Daniel banked on that precision when he was reading the scrolls of Jeremiah, and he prayed that God would bring them back.
But here it's left sort of nebulous. It says, after many days. There'll be many days without a king. Now, we know that each time they were out of the land, God predicted it, and God predicted they would come back. We know that they are back in the land today. They have returned.
But it says there'll be many days without king and without prince. Since the days of King Zedekiah in Judah, there has been no king reigning on the throne of David. There's a kingless throne over in Jerusalem. It's never been sat on since that time. Now, they've returned to the land, but nobody's sitting on that throne.
Israel, according to this, would be without sacrifice. They have been without sacrifice in their temple since 70 AD. Again, they've returned, but there's no priest, there's no ephod, sure there's no teraphim, there's no idolatry, but there's no active priesthood, no sacrifice. So Israel is waiting for that one, that unifier, the Messiah, who will bring north and south together.
You might look at it this way. In Jerusalem, there is a kingless throne. In heaven tonight, there is a throneless king. And when the throneless king meets the kingless throne, that will be glory. That is when the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem, and Jesus will rule and reign as that head from Jerusalem.
Hear the word of the Lord, you children of Israel. Chapter 4 goes quick, because in this chapter, it's a whole different section where the prophet is the lawyer. You might say Hosea is a holy lawyer. I know that sounds like an oxymoron. But he is the lawyer for the prosecution. The prosecution is God, but Hosea is delivering the charge. Here's the reasons for the Assyrian captivity.
Hear the word of the Lord, you children of Israel, for the Lord brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land. There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land. Imagine saying that about the Holy Land. Now, these are sins of omission. This is what they didn't do. What they failed to perform. No truth, no mercy, no knowledge.
By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint with bloodshed upon bloodshed. In verse 2, 5 of the 10 commandments are summarized as being broken. These are sins of commission. These are the sins they overtly committed.
Therefore, the land will mourn, and everyone who dwells there will waste away with the beast of the field and the birds of the air. Even the fish of the sea will be taken away. Now, let no man contend or rebuke another, for your people are like those who contend with the priests. Therefore, you shall stumble in the day. The prophet also shall stumble with you in the night, and I will destroy your mother.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I will reject you from being priest for me. Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I will forget your children. Now, put that together with verse 1. There is no knowledge of God in the land. My people are destroyed, He says, for lack of knowledge.
You see, the reason that people of the land didn't have the knowledge of God is because the leadership didn't teach it to them. The priesthood, the false prophets, those that were corrupt failed to give them the knowledge of God. Because they didn't have the knowledge of God, they didn't abide by what they would have known to be the will of God. They went into captivity. They were destroyed because they lacked the knowledge of what it would take to avert that danger and please the Lord.
The more they increase, the more they send against me, I will change their glory into shame. They eat up the sin of my people. They set their heart on their iniquity. And it shall be like people, like priests, so I will punish them for their ways and reward them for their deeds. For they shall eat, but not have enough. They shall commit harlotry, but not increase. Because they have ceased obeying the Lord. Harlotry, wine, and new wine enslave the heart.
My people ask counsel from their wooden idols, and their staff informs them. This doesn't mean the people that work for them, this is the staff that was an object that they trusted in like an idol. Although in some cases, certain staffs could misinform you, and it could be bad news.
For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to stray, and they have played the harlot against their God. They offer sacrifices on the mountaintops and burn incense on the hills under oaks, poplars, and terebinths. These were all the shrubs, the trees, that little altars of worship were built.
Because their shade is good, therefore your daughters commit harlotry, and your brides commit adultery. I will not punish your daughters when they commit harlotry, nor your brides when they commit adultery, for the men themselves go apart with harlots and offer sacrifices with a ritual harlot. He's describing now the lewd type of worship of Baal. Therefore, people who do not understand will be trampled.
The people were being destroyed because of lack of knowledge. Leadership was lax. Kings were disobedient. Did you know, in Deuteronomy 17, one of the jobs of the king-- get this-- was to hand write a copy of the law for themselves.
Imagine the discipline to sit down and take a scroll of the Torah and write, letter for letter, by hand, no word processors, no laptops, no secretaries to do the work. You as a King do it yourself. Because in doing so, they would have to study it. It would filter into their heart, into their mind. It would form their world view for how they lead. They stopped doing that.
And so the leadership became corrupt. They didn't have the knowledge of God. And now the people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Therefore, the people who do not understand will be trampled.
Now, finishing out the chapter, the next few verses is a special warning to Judah. OK, you folks down south, to you two tribes, listen up. Watch what's being done up in the 10 northern tribes of Israel. Though you, Israel, play the harlot, let not Judah offend. Do not come up to Gilgal nor go up to Beth-aven. Both cities had become cult worship sites. Nor swear an oath saying, as the Lord lives.
Now, Bethel means the house of God. Beth-aven means the house of wickedness. Bethel had now become Beth-aven. It's the same place, but it's called here the house of wickedness. God calls the house of God now the house of wickedness because of the idolatry.
For Israel is stubborn like a stubborn calf, and now the Lord will let them forage like a lamb in open country. Ephraim, that is the north, the 10 northern tribes, Ephraim is joined to idols. Let him alone. It's one of the saddest verses in all of the Bible. It's similar to Romans. God gave them up to a reprobate mind.
It's sad when God says, I'm giving up. No mercy. I'm giving you over to what you want. To your lewdness. Ephraim has joined idols, let him alone. Their drink is rebellion. They commit harlotry continually. Her rulers dearly love dishonor. The wind has wrapped her up in its wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.
So there you have it. A society that didn't see fit to mind God, and then God will give them an unfit mind to go after these idols. To worship these false gods.
Now, in closing, and I bet you're thinking, boy, I'm glad you said that. There are certain words that pop out, and I just want you to walk away taking note of them. Words like I have betrothed you to myself forever.
Words like my husband and all of the language of relationship. It shows me that God is interested in having a close, intimate relationship with His people, where you can be said to be His people, and He can be your God, and there is that relationship and that response.
It was always God's heart from the beginning that it would be relationship over ritual. Relationship more than religion. That you walk with God. That you love God. That you enjoy God.
First question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. What is the chief end of man? Answer, the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The first pages of the scripture, we find God calling Adam, walking in the garden in the cool of the day. It's as if God set aside every afternoon and evening time to walk with His creation. Walk in fellowship. Converse. Share.
That's what God wants with you, a walk. A relationship. He wants you to enjoy Him. Disobedience will steal the enjoyment. Sin and disobedience adds the low, the negative. It's God who removes it. Let's pray.
Heavenly Father, four great chapters, and a lot of time tonight we have spent studying them. Thank You for the meal in Your word. Thank You once again for Your hungry people.
You said that You are a rewarder of those who diligently seek You. And tonight, as You have done a great work in our own hearts already, we believe you're going to do even greater works as we apply these principles now through prayer. As we turn to You, and as You take the negative, the mourning, and You turn it into the positive, into dancing. Thank You, Father, in Jesus' name. Amen.