By Colleen Donahue
There are twelve short books at the end of the Old Testament called "The Minor Prophets" that are often skipped over. The word "minor" makes them sound unimportant, but it refers only to their length. All the books are relatively short but they each contain powerful messages that have a strange familiarity with life as we know it today.
Hosea ministered for 60-70 years in the Northern Kingdom of Israel ending with their captivity to Babylon. He prophesied at a time when prosperity, moral laxity, corrupt government, wide class distinctions, and ritualistic worship was the order of the day.
Hosea's writing is circular as it goes back and forth between judgement and mercy. God feels the pain of conflict between what he wants to do for Israel and what He has to do because of their sin. Hosea shares in this conflict because he is married to an adulterous wife. Hosea's life becomes an object lesson to the nation of Israel, for Israel herself has been like an adulterous wife -- unfaithful to God.
Adultery and prostitution are the ugly pictures that Hosea uses to describe Israel at this time. On the surface they seem to have a good life but they are rotting from the inside out. It is the same picture we see today in the western world. It is the same picture that we are seeing in our individual lives. Is there a way to stop the rot? Or must it run its course? I believe we'll find the answers as we listen to.......
HOSEA-Part 1 - WAKE UP!
I. BACKGROUND TO HOSEA'S TIME
It will help us to briefly review Israel's history to appreciate the times in which the prophet delivered his message. After the reign of Solomon, Israel divided into two kingdoms. The Northern Kingdom, called Israel, had ten tribes with its capital at Samaria. Israel was ruled by nine dynasties, all of them wicked.
Judah became the southern kingdom made up of two tribes. Her capital was Jerusalem. Judah was ruled by one dynasty, which contained a mixture of good and bad kings. Judah wavered between backsliding and revival according to the spiritual state of the king. In the end, Judah degenerated into following a form of religion without the heart.
Assyria took Israel captive and 135 years later Judah became the prisoner of Babylon. The ministries of the minor prophets, such as Hosea, began almost 100 years before the captivity started.
Day 1- Our story opens with a command from God to Hosea.
Hosea 1: 1-2
Day 2- God's command to Hosea had to have been hard--probably against his own heart wishes. It would be both a private and a public scandal. How is his obedience recorded?
Day 3- This marriage to Gomer and the children that followed was to be an object lesson to God's people. What clear message did God want to get across?
Hosea 1: 2b, 4-9
Day 4- Has God ever asked something of you that was hard and didn't make sense? Our obedience to God can't be based on our common sense. Why?
I Corinthians 1: 20, 25
II. GOD'S LOVE TO THOSE THAT HAVE BEEN UNFAITHFUL
Day 5- Gomer had left Hosea first for pleasure, and then for material things that she thought her lovers could provide for her.
Day 6-A person pursuing this life style goes in only one direction -- DOWN! Gomer sank lower and lower until she came to a time when her "lovers" couldn't take care of her.
Hosea 2: 6-7
Day 7- When Gomer first ran away she was far from miserable. Unknown to her, Hosea was intervening so that she wouldn't lack necessities.
Can you see how the entire story is designed to show the nature of God's love towards those that have been unfaithful to Him? The love of God is a pursuing and a faithful love. When Gomer failed to see the hand of God in her provisions then the next step was for God to begin to withhold even these things from her.
Day 8- Notice the word "THEREFORE" in chapter 2 verses 6,9,14. Each refers to something God does when we refuse to come back to Him.
A. He will hedge up Gomer's path with thornbushes to keep her from the evil she deserves.
B. God begins to remove the provisions that she enjoys.
Hosea 2: 9-13
C. God gives hope and extends His grace by uniting with us and taking our troubles to Himself.
Day 9- We were all in fellowship with God once....in Adam.....But, we have ALL gone our own way and can be described as Jezreel, ("God sows") , "not pitied" and "not God's people" (Hosea 1:4,6,9). This is the story of all who have been saved. Now we may be called "planted", "pitied" and "people of God".
In ancient times there were 3 ways that a person could become a slave: by birth, through conquest, and through debt. Gomer had become a slave through debt.
Day 10- Hosea is again commanded to love his adulterous wife as a symbol of God's love for Israel but first he needs to buy her back. Notice that when Hosea bought his wife she was now his property. He sought no vengeance and only claimed from her the love that was now his right.
Hosea 3: 1-3
Day 11- We are each like Gomer in that we have become slaves to sin and the world wants to keep us slaves. But when all seemed hopeless, God stepped into the marketplace of sin to buy us back. He has done this through His Son Jesus Christ.
John 3:16-18 / John 8:34-36 / Romans 6:22/ Ephesians 2:1-9
Day 12- Notice, as with the example of Hosea, that it is ....
A. Christ that seeks us out.
Isaiah 65:1 / Luke 19:10
B. Christ's love that buys us back --ie. redeems us.
John 10: 11, 15, 17-18
C. Christ that clothes us in His own robes of righteousness.
D. And Christ that wants to live with us.
Colossians 1:27/ I John 3:24 / Revelations 3:20
Day 13-Yes, Christ has bought us for Himself but there is a command we need to obey to enjoy this new beginning. Read again Hosea 3:3. We are to live with Christ a life that is not continually sinning against Him.
I John 3:9-10
This is possible because Christ Himself has the power to keep us from evil.
I John 5:18
IV. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A PEOPLE REJECT GOD?
Answer: They begin a downward spiral. Hosea describes this process as.....
Day 14- Moral Depravity
Read a parallel passage in the New Testament of a society on this downward course.
2 Timothy 3:1-5
Day 15- Men and women become more and more concerned only for "self" so that even the environment suffers.
Hosea 4:3 / Isaiah 24:4-6
Day 16- There is a debasement of leadership--particularly religious leadership.
Hosea 4:4-9 / Ezekiel 13: 8-10
(Despite the fact that Israel was in moral decline, the priesthood grew in number. When knowledge of the true God is refused, true religion is replaced by false religion. If the people are corrupt then God will let them have corrupt leaders.)
Day 17- There is personal emptiness.
Hosea 4:10-12 / Isaiah 65:13-14
What more could man want if he had food, sex, wealth, and religion? Yet, apart from true love for God and holy living, men will never be satisfied and instead life will result in frustration.
Day 18- Finally there is ruin on a nationwide scale.
Hosea 4:13-14/ Deuteronomy 28: 15, 20-68
This ruin begins with individuals that won't allow God to be Lord of their life. It then spreads to families resulting in separations, divorce, and abandoned children. Then corruption enters the corporate life of a society -- its business, government, and church institutions. Finally the entire nation is overcome.
Day 19- Although Israel is on a crash course to ruin, Judah is not at that point. There is time to do something. The word to Judah was SEPARATION--- from worldliness, but especially from the false and shallow religion that passes so easily as true. Is this not the same warning that God would give us today?
Hosea 4: 15-19
V. WAKE UP! THE ALARM IS SOUNDING
Day 20- God's judgement on an individual or a nation does not come without plenty of warnings and recognizable signs. Can these same warnings written for the Israelites be for us today?
Hosea 4:1 / 5:1,8 / 6:4-5 / 8:1 / 14:1
Day 21- As humans we have a need to be known and have relationships with others. But, we let ourselves be known only enough to have acceptance from others. Why? Because we have something to hide and are not what we ought to be. We are sinners so we develop defense mechanisms that help us hide from ourselves, from others and from God. Israel had abandoned God for a life of sin. But, while Israel had forgotten God, God had not forgotten her.
Day 22- The fact that God really did know Israel is shown by specifics in this chapter. He knew that she would seek Him but God would not be fooled by it. A true seeking of God always shows up with a changed life. What did God see instead?
Years later Paul would detail those deeds that don't permit a man to return to God. Our refusal to abandon sin will keep us from having a relationship with God.
Day 23- God also knew that the "religiosity" of Israel would not satisfy them. They had lots of sacrifice, high holy days, and festivals but God was not in them and had nothing to do with them.
This all corresponds to much of the religiosity found today. Perhaps emptiness and dissatisfaction is what much of the new liturgicalism is producing today.
"In contradistinction to the liturgical tradition, the new style liturgy is centered not in God's revelation but in man's faith. It is geared to the celebration of the festivity of life instead of the Word made flesh. Its concern is with the search for identity rather than the worship of the living, personal God." (Donald G. Bloesch, The Invaded Church, Waco TX: Work Books, 1975, page 44)
Day 24- God also knew about their hypocrisy. In their worship they voiced confidence in God but practically, in their politics, they were dependent on the godless leaders around them.
Many of us go to church and sing heartily "Oh God our help in ages past" but then go out and act like pagans. We scramble, scheme, and even cheat to get what we want from life. Is this not the same as what Israel was being charged for?
VI. THE WAYS OF GOD WITH SINNERS
Day 25- First, God is like a moth to us. A moth distracts and bothers us at first in a harmless way. But then they can be destructive. Having resisted the fluttering of the moth we find that it has gotten into the things we value and ruined them.
Hosea 5:12 / Psalm 39:11
Day 26- If we don't respond to the "fluttering of the moth", or if we turn the rug over or the couch around to hide the holes, then God is forced to allow trouble to spring upon us unaware. Hosea says He becomes as a lion to us.
Hosea 5:14 / Hosea 13: 7-8 / Job 10:16 / Isaiah 38:13 / Jeremiah 25:36-38
Day 27- But what if we still don't turn to Him? He leaves us. And what a terrible judgment that is to have God leaves us in the depths of our misery and wretchedness.
VII. A MEANINGLESS REPENTANCE
Day 28- Chapter 6 seems to start on a good footing with three verses of repentance.
Day 29- But---what's wrong with this confession? There is acknowledgement of the consequences of sin but NOT the sin causing it. There is also missing the personal relationship with God. The people see God in a mechanical way restoring them. They have depersonalized God. Now read these verses again. Can you see what I have pointed out?
We'll end this study here and begin in the next study to discuss what real repentance is.
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