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God's Dealings With Hosea

R. E. A. Retallick

In the Psalms we read, "Jehovah trieth the righteous" (Ps. 11: 5, J.N.D. Trans.) and when we consider the persons whom He chose to carry out His plans we see that, to quote Job's words, He "doeth great things past finding out" (Job 9: 10). For example, God promised Abraham that he would be the father of myriads of people and yet he and Sarah had to wait until they were old before they had a son. David was anointed in his youth by Samuel but for many years he was pursued by Saul. Jeremiah, called by God from his youth to testify to kings, was imprisoned and even dropped into a pit and on one occasion his whole prophecy was torn up and thrown on the fire.

Hosea was also a faithful man but he had to experience terrible problems in his family life. He had to act as a living parable for the Jewish nation that had turned away from God. First he had to marry a worthless woman and then beget children whose names would be a constant reminder of the corruption and wickedness of his people. We can imagine how difficult this must have been for him but he faithfully carried out his commission. He might have reacted as Peter did when he received a vision of various creatures that he regarded as unclean. When he was told, "Rise, Peter; kill, and eat," as a pious Jew he said, "Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean." We know the divine answer: "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common." We do not read that Hosea questioned his commission. It was enough for him that it was the word of the Lord. Nevertheless it must have been a difficult task to carry out.

The name of the firstborn was significant: "God scatters." The ungodly northern kingdom was doomed. When next a daughter was born God told Hosea to give her the name of Lo-ruhamah, which means "not having obtained mercy." The Lord explained the meaning of this name: as far as the northern kingdom was concerned: He could no longer show mercy. As we know, the Jews of the northern kingdom were eventually swept out of their land by the Assyrians and completely lost their identity. Nevertheless, the faithful God never lost sight of His people and to Hosea He revealed His eventual purpose for them. When a second son was born God told Hosea to give him the name of Lo-ammi which means "not My people." It would have been disastrous for the nation if God had left them in that state. But Hosea was given a message from God, who is a God of mercy, and the promise was given to these undeserving people: "Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea."

In the second chapter of Hosea's prophecy we read the message that was to be brought to these ungrateful people. It must have been hard for Hosea to tell the people that God would have to discipline His own nation but they were unfaithful and disobedient. Because He loved them He did not want them to follow the behaviour of the surrounding nations. He reminded them that He had brought them up out of Egypt and even now He was ready to forgive them for their idolatry and renew His covenant with them. The valley of Achor ("trouble") would become a door of hope. God would remove all the idols that had been so damaging to their spiritual life and have mercy upon them.

In Hosea 3 the prophet was reminded of his unfaithful wife and told to take her back again. It is pointed out that this wife's behaviour was just that which the nation of Israel had done to their God. They would have to learn their lessons by bitter experience. "The children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image" but eventually they would return to the Lord their God.

The final appeal to this nation is given in the last chapter of Hosea's prophecy: "O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God... say unto Him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously." From God's side the prophet could give them a message of hope: "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely."

We do not know if Hosea himself saw the effect of his solemn warnings and entreaties. The final fulfilment of his prophecy is yet to come and the restoration of Israel will be glorious. Meanwhile we are able to see something of the love that God still has for His earthly people. We know that the day is coming when our blessed Lord, who was rejected by His earthly people when He was here on earth, will be recognised as King of kings and Lord of lords. Israel shall be restored, the nations shall recognise Israel's supremacy, and the earth will at last enjoy peace. Meanwhile, since the Jewish nation cast out and crucified their divine Deliverer, God's messengers are scattered throughout the world and day by day thousands of Jews and Gentiles hear the good news and are added to the favoured company, the assembly of the Living God.