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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

TOMS: Hosea 1-4

For an introduction to this series, click here.

Oct. 29, 2006

Hosea is another strange prophetic book. I'm certainly not the most qualified person to speak on them, but I'm here, and I need to wrap my mind around these things somehow.

God tells Hosea to do a very strange thing: to go find a prostitute and marry her. Think about that for a second... OK. That sounds crazy, and it was. This is certainly not the ideal life course for most people, but that's the point. Hosea finds a woman of the night, marries her, and stays with her for several years.

When they have children, God tells him to give them awful names, at least the second and third: No Mercy and Not My People. Most translations soften the blow in English by approximating what their names sounded like in Hebrew into English letters, but to the people living around Hosea, those were not merely interesting sounds. They mean No Mercy and Not My People. God was telling the Jews that they were about to be destroyed in a very blatant way.

Then the prostitute, Gomer, leaves Hosea and goes back to her pimp, but she ends up on the slave market. God tells Hosea to go buy her back to be his wife as a sign that one day God would redeem Israel from its rejected state. Yes, this a strange story, one that even today makes us uncomfortable. I don't exactly recall making paper cut-outs of Hosea, Gomer and her pimp in kiddie Sunday School.

God's prophets were often forced to become very painful and public object lessons for His people, and Hosea is one of the most extreme examples. It's hard for me not to think of Michael Card's song "The Prophet" when I read through these books. (See the video below.) It's an attempt on his part to try to make sense of some of the strange things God told the prophets to do. He wrote, "I am the prophet and I smolder and burn. I scream and cry and wonder why you never seem to learn. To hear with your own ears, with your own eyes to see. I am the prophet, won't you listen to me?"

In an unrelated note, it is very important to note that the prophets are not in chronological order. Daniel and Ezekiel prophesy in the midst of the captivity of Judah, but Hosea is prophesying in Israel, the northern kingdom, possibly 300 years before Daniel and Ezekiel. Hosea was not writing to people who knew what it meant for God to forsake them. He was writing to people who had heard multiple warnings but had no idea what forsaking God would cost them.

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