Devotions in Hosea
Hosea is a story of marital brokenness and redeeming love. On one level it is a story about a married couple, Hosea and his unfaithful wife, Gomer. Yet the marriage of Hosea and Gomer is much more; it is a parable of God’s relationship with his people.
Often we read these passages in the Old Testament and we are horrified at the despicable morality of people like Gomer. We are even shocked by the continual spiritual adultery of Israel in light of God’s persistent grace. As we are swept into the narrative of the story something begins to swell deep within our souls, a cry for justice. “Shouldn’t Hosea abandon Gomer?” “Shouldn’t Israel be cast from God’s presence?”
But something different happens. Hosea pursues his wife like God allures His people. In 3:1-5 Hosea reflects the relentless love of God by purchasing his estranged and adulterous wife off the slave block and restoring their relationship. What a breath-taking picture of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
According to the Bible all people are sinful, rebellious and adulterers. We don’t deserve God’s mercy. Like Gomer and Israel, it would be just for God to crush us in judgment. But what does God do? God pursues us and makes us “His people” and shows us His mercy.
Like Hosea did for Gomer, God pays the price to redeem us by crushing Christ on the cross. He judges our sin and restores us to Himself through Jesus’ death and resurrection. This is the magnificent scope of our redeemer’s love. We were all once spiritual prostitutes, but by the grace of God we have been declared His beautiful bride.
May our hearts melt with love in response to the gospel. In light of the gospel may all of our adulterous affairs lose their attractive power. Our faithlessness is not enough to exhaust God’s faithfulness in pursuing us as His bride. That’s good news.
We have all either engaged in or witnessed destructive behavior. Most of us are pretty logical people, right? If something is destructive to us – why do it? I can think of two reasons. First, that behavior seems to meet some deeper need or satisfy us in some way. Two, one either doesn’t know it’s harmful or ignores its harm in pursuit of what it promises. Behind all destructive behavior is idolatry. And just changing the behavior won’t stop the idolatry. While our idolatry may be revealed in our behavior, its root is found in our hearts.
As Tim Keller says, an idol is anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give what only God can give. Consider all the things the Lord accuses Israel of in Hosea 4. Pretty bad, huh? But remember that like Israel we also “play the [prostitute]” by turning to other things besides God to have our needs met.
Sure, we may not sacrifice animals on the tops of mountains. But, we will sacrifice our lives, family, and 10,000 other things to the gods of success, comfort, and power. Yet we are never satisfied. The folly and emptiness of idol worship points us to the satisfaction found in the one true God.
False gods are not able to satisfy, but God is able to fill the deepest holes of our hearts with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our success is found in Christ’s victory. Our comfort is found in His promises. And, our power comes from His Spirit who gives us perception and understanding. All of these riches were purchased on the cross and sealed in the resurrection of Jesus. He took our shame and exchanged it for His glory. Though we have sinned, through His blood we are found not guilty. In His love we are not left wanting.
Sadly there are many people who attend our churches that claim to be Christians, but whose lives prove otherwise. According to author David Kinnaman, one of the primary perceptions of Christians among outsiders is that we are hypocrites. They say Christians pretend to be something unreal, conveying a polished image that is not accurate. Recall the words of Jesus in Luke 6:44: you will know a tree by its fruit. Based on Hosea’s extensive list of Israel’s idolatry, politics, and false worship in chapter 8, one would conclude that Israel did not know and love their God. But interestingly enough, despite the fruit of their lives, Israel still claimed to be the people of God with their lips. However, because of the hypocrisy their sacrifices to God were made in vain.
Hosea is clear in chapters 9-10 that God will punish the unrepentant. Because of Israel’s rash ingratitude they will be as a root dried up and bear no fruit. But even in judgment God’s salvation is extended to those who repentantly seek Him. This is the heart of the Good News. There is one who succeeds in righteousness where Israel and we fail. His name is Jesus. Unlike us, and unlike Israel, Jesus was truly righteous and His sacrifice for sin was accepted before God.
Without Christ we are all like the root dried up, bearing no fruit. But Jesus is the true vine, and those who abide in Him bear much fruit. Bearing fruit requires pruning, accepting discipline from the Lord as grace. A hypocrite is a “Christian” who sins and doesn’t admit it. A Christian is a saint who still sins, repents, and continually clings to Christ’s perfect righteousness. This is gospel discipline.