Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hosea 2: 1-7

Israel's Unfaithfulness Condemned
1Say to your brothers, "Ammi," and to your sisters, "Ruhamah."
2"Contend with your mother, contend,
For she is not my wife, and I am not her husband;
And let her put away her harlotry from her face
And her adultery from between her breasts,
3Or I will strip her naked
And expose her as on the day when she was born
I will also make her like a wilderness,
Make her like desert land
And slay her with thirst.
4"Also, I will have no compassion on her children,
Because they are children of harlotry.
5"For their mother has played the harlot;
She who conceived them has acted shamefully
For she said, 'I will go after my lovers,
Who give me my bread and my water,
My wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.'
6"Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns,
And I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths.
7"She will pursue her lovers, but she will not overtake them;
And she will seek them, but will not find them
Then she will say, 'I will go back to my first husband,
For it was better for me then than now!'

Israel's portrayal, through Gomer, as a harlot opens Chapter 2 of Hosea. Speaking to the Israelites, God calls upon the children of Israel to "contend with your mother." The Hebrew word used here for 'contend' means to "grapple, wrangle or hold a controversy." [Strong's] God is challenging His people to see their harlotry in their betrayal of Him. Yes, they would always belong to the nation of Israel, to be children (Ammi, "My people," and Ruhamah, "She has obtained compassion") of their mother, but they needed to grapple with the overall stance taken by the nation--a stance of opposition against the Almighty.

For now, God is saying, "She is not my wife." (vs 2) Not so long as she chooses to be a harlot. And if she does not turn from her ways, God will smite her as a wilderness with famine. Do you remember this cross-reference we recently took apart in Amos? A time will come in which the word of the Lord will not be heard in Israel, even their thirst for the word will be slayed (vs 3):

"'Behold, days are coming,' declares the Lord GOD,
'When I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,
But rather for hearing the words of the LORD.
People will stagger from sea to sea
And from the north even to the east;
They will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD,
But they will not find it.
In that day the beautiful virgins
And the young men will faint from thirst.'"
--Amos 8:11-13

Verse 5 demonstrates the complete waywardness of the prostitute nation as it seeks "its lovers" for all of its needs, forsaking God. This was a time of Israel's life in which it was enjoying immense prosperity and the hands of its kings and was being filled spiritually by idol worship. "I get what I want from those with whom I have a relationship," in other words, and that relationship was not with God!

As we read verse 6, we see the actions that God is going to take with Israel--to "hedge her up" and "build walls to block her paths." I just love the richness of the picture of the hedge (see above), with this thorny variety being commonly found in Israel. The word itself, in Hebrew, is equally descriptive--"to entwine; shut in for formation, protection or restraint." [Strong's] Israel needed reformation, protection from its evils and restraint in making the poor choices that they were making.

God entwines us for our own good, so that we can see Him more clearly. Sounds like an oxymoron! Scripture has many examples: "He has walled up my way so that I cannot pass, and He has put darkness on my paths." (Job 19:8) He has walled me in so that I cannot go out; He has made my chain heavy." (Jeremiah quoted in Lamentations, 3:7). What about beautiful Psalm 139 (verse 5): "You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me." God truly does not want us wandering on our own, living off the relationships we make with other people as if there is not a place for Him. So, when we stray, He has His means of keeping us contained and under His control. Praises!

Verse 7 is an early mention of the recognition Israel needs to have. She will be thwarted in her steps. Not as a result of her mistakes, but as a result of the loving God who wants to take her back. Not surprisingly, Luke 15, which contains the story of the prodigal son, is mentioned in my study Bible as a cross-reference.

'I will go back to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now!' (vs 7)

"'I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight....' But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.... For this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.'"
--Luke 15: 18, 20, 24 (excerpts)

But before there can be celebration, the prodigal harlot must be humbled.

A harlot's due.... 'Til next Wednesday!

* * *

Next week: Hosea 2: 8-13

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hosea 1: 6-11

6Then she conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. And the LORD said to him, "Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I would ever forgive them.

7"But I will have compassion on the house of Judah and deliver them by the LORD their God, and will not deliver them by bow, sword, battle, horses or horsemen."

8When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and gave birth to a son.

9And the LORD said, "Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God."

10Yet the number of the sons of Israel
Will be like the sand of the sea,
Which cannot be measured or numbered;
And in the place
Where it is said to them,
"You are not My people,"
It will be said to them,
"You are the sons of the living God."
11And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together,
And they will appoint for themselves one leader,
And they will go up from the land,
For great will be the day of Jezreel.

The remainder of Hosea, Chapter 1, introduces us to Gomer's two other children. As we learned with Jezreel's name, God had plans in the naming of these two siblings.

Lo-ruhamah is the daughter, and the meaning of her name is summed up in verse 6--"...for I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel." It is hard to imagine our most merciful God as saying He no longer has compassion. But we know, most recently, from our study of Amos, that the prophets have been called into action because of the severity of the sin nature of Israel. That God would name the prophet's daughter Lo-ruhamah is not something easily glossed over.

Judah, however would continue to receive God's compassion in this time--and mighty arm! Note the wording in verse 7: "I will...deliver them by the LORD their God and will not delivery them by...." God was going to bat for Judah and its king, Hezekiah, to protect them from an assault by the Assyrians in 701 B.C. [What a slap in the face that must have been for Israel, having been defeated by the Assyrians in 722 B.C.!] Enjoy the fullness of the text as you read it from II Kings:

'Then this shall be the sign for you: you will eat this year what grows of itself, in the second year what springs from the same, and in the third year sow, reap, plant vineyards, and eat their fruit. The surviving remnant of the house of Judah will again take root downward and bear fruit upward.'

'For out of Jerusalem will go forth a remnant, and out of Mount Zion survivors. The zeal of the LORD will perform this. Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, 'He will not come to this city or shoot an arrow there; and he will not come before it with a shield or throw up a siege ramp against it. By the way that he came, by the same he will return, and he shall not come to this city,' declares the LORD. 'For I will defend this city to save it for My own sake and for My servant David's sake.'

Then it happened that night that the angel of the LORD went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead."

--II Kings 19:29-35 (italics mine)

In verse 9, we are introduced to younger brother, Lo-ammi, which means "not my people." Again, it seems unfathomable for God to declare His people not His people. The language is strong! Israel needed to change. Israel needed to bow down and remember God. I have to wonder what people thought when they got their birth announcements. It makes for quite a trio when you put them all together: remembering bloodshed and punishment; without compassion; not My people. For a prophet of "salvation", that must have been quite a burden!

But, even as God pronounces His thoughts concerning Israel, He quickly shifts His focus in verse 10, to say that after this time, there will be a time of blessing, and there will be a people who are His people. Lest discerning Israelites feared that the covenant made with Abraham was no longer valid, God clears that up. The number of the sons of Israel will be like "the sand on the sea."

"Indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies."

--Genesis 22:17 (God speaking to Abraham)

In the place in which God speaks through Hosea, God will, once again, make Himself known. And Israel, Lo-ammi, will then be called "sons of the living God." There is a future of promise fulfilled awaiting Israel, but not in the time of Hosea nor in the time of Paul, who quoted the prophet in Chapter 9 of Romans:

"What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.


--Romans 9:22-26

Verse 11 continues with what was to come in the end times--the restoration of Israel and the coming of One who will rule over all. As was alluded to last week, "great is the day of Jezreel" when Christ will be Lord on Earth, destroying the armies of Satan at Har-Magedon.

Chapter 2, "Israel's Unfaithfulness Condemned" begins.... 'Til next Wednesday!

* * *

Next week: Hosea 2: 1-7

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hosea 1: 1-5

Hosea's Wife and Children
1The word of the LORD which came to Hosea the son of Beeri, during the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.

2When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, "Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD."

3So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

4And the LORD said to him, "Name him Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.

5"On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel."

I'm so excited to be starting this book with you today! If you have read writing on my family blog, you know that I am a huge fan of analogies--reading them, creating them, etc. That God would see fit to use a couple's life as a real-life analogy for part of the story of Israel just has me fascinated and riveted. I hope you will agree, and that you will see and understand better the life of Israel at this point through the eyes of a relationship that is all-too-common in our contemporary society.

Hosea opens with when the word of the Lord came upon him and during the reigns of which kings he prophesied. Most commentary suggests that Hosea is a native of Israel (perhaps, Samaria). His knowledge of nation is noteworthy, and that he prophesies during the reigns of northern and southern kingdom kings is also.

"...Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry...." vs. 2

Nothing like starting off with some issues in interpretation. The NASB translation says, "When the Lord first spoke through Hosea...." telling the reader of when God called upon Hosea. Did God really tell Hosea to take, to marry, a prostitute? Jewish translators tend to think of the book of Hosea as completely allegorical. There is not a literal 'wife of harlotry', only the wayward state of Israel that is being referred. Though God has mysterious and unique plans, it would not seem in His character to create a relationship that He abhors, just to illustrate His point to Israel.

My study Bible suggests that the language has nothing in it to say this wasn't the relationship. But, when did Hosea take Gomer? It seems most plausible to me, having now read some commentary, that Hosea had married Gomer prior to his calling by God. At some point, however, she does become the 'wife of harlotry', and God is commanding Hosea to take her back.

As far as the analogy, which also supports the view of a sanctified marriage at the beginning, Gomer first represents Israel as the love of God's heart, completely devoted and adoring. With the corrupt nature of Israel's kings during this time and the rampant idol worship (please remember everything we learned in Amos!), Israel had broken God's heart in such a way that it would not be completely repairable. Gomer's forgetting of her first love would bring severe trauma in her relationship with Hosea; likewise, is the relationship between Israel and God.

"...For the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord." (vs 2)

In verse 3, Gomer is mentioned by name as "the daughter of Diblaim." Interestingly, Diblaim in Hebrew means "two cakes." [Strong's] Definitely suggests something about Gomer's line. Gomer has a son, and the Lord pronounces a name upon him: Jezreel, meaning "God will scatter."

The story of Jezreel [the city sharing in the name of Gomer's son] requires us to study a story in II Kings (9-10:28), featuring Jehu, the son of Jehoshaphat. Oh, what a story!! I'm highlighting, here. A servant of the prophet, Elisha, came to Jehu with a flask of oil and God's word to christen him king of Israel:

"'You shall strike the house of Ahab your master, that I may avenge the blood of My servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the LORD, at the hand of Jezebel.'"
--II Kings 9:7

At Jezreel, Jehu would kill King Joram of Israel, the son of Ahab. Azahiah, King of Judah, was also present, but was chased down by Jehu's men and mortally wounded by bow and arrow. Jehu then found Jezebel, and he and his men "threw her down" (vs. 33), and, fulfilling Elijah's prophecy [I Kings 21:23], dogs ate her but for a few bones. Finally, still at Jezreel, 70 of the sons/house of Ahab were beheaded and handed over to Jehu at his command. Thus, the word of God was completely fulfilled--and then some.

"So Jehu killed all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men and his acquaintances and his priests, until he left him without a survivor."
--II Kings 10:11

Jehu didn't stop when he should have. He murdered ALL of Ahab's officials, which was beyond the scope of God's plan. For this reason is the punishment given that is referred to in Hosea 1:4--a precursor event to the "end to the kingdom of the house of Israel" in its exile to Assyria in 722 B.C. Israel would be scattered, thus the prophecy made known through the naming of Gomer's son. God's long-term plan for Israel would involve the valley of Jezreel, at which He would "break the bow"--a flashback to the bow and arrows of Jehu--of the nation. The great battlefield of, in the Hebrew, Har-Magedon, would be fought in the valley. Even in that scattering, a chosen people will remain:

"When I scatter them among the peoples,
They will remember Me in far countries,
And they with their children will live and come back."
--Zechariah 10:9

More children for Gomer, and more messages from God in their naming.... 'Til next Wednesday!

* * *

Next week: Hosea 1: 6-11

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Introduction to Hosea

From Amos, we move to study a prophet who picks up on tail end of the sheep-herder's ministry, but will continue to speak to both Israel and Judah across 45 years. Hosea began his prophesying in 755 B.C., forthtelling God's Word to Israel until its captivity by Assyria in 722. He would continue to speak to the Southern Kingdom, Judah, and would overlap with the prophesying of Isaiah and Micah.

Hosea's name comes from the Hebrew and is a name also given to Joshua and Jesus. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia explains: "The name..., probably meaning 'help,' seems to have been not uncommon, being derived from the auspicious verb from which we have the frequently recurring word 'salvation.' It may be a contraction of a larger form of which the Divine name or its abbreviation formed a part, so as to signify 'God is help,' or 'Help, God.'" Joshua means 'Jehovah is salvation' and we know from Matthew 1 that Joseph is told to name the baby Jesus "...for He will save His people from their sins." (1:21) We know Hosea didn't save God's people from going to captivity, but he wanted to reach them with God's Word to save their souls.

It is amazing the number of kings on the throne in Israel during this time. Hosea's ministry is covered, historically, in the books of II Kings and II Chronicles, so you know much time will be spent putting his prophecy into context with history. Four of those kings serving would be assassinated by their successors. That says a lot right there! The "plot line" of the book is similar to Amos, in that we know Israel is enjoying economic prosperity in a time of spiritual and moral depravity. Let's see how Hosea reflects God's message compared with Amos.

Times in Judah are not good either, lest you think Hosea would have nothing to say after Israel's captivity. There were different problems facing the kings on the throne there as well--from leprosy to Baal worship to making alliances with the wrong nations--making for a very weak nation. But Judah's captivity and the destroying of the Temple will not come until much later, after Hosea's time.

What is very interesting about this book is a major theme that runs through its first half, paralleling Hosea's marriage to the state of Israel at the time of his prophecy. God has worked up something amazing here in a real-life analogy, even though the context for this marriage is very surprising indeed! We have not seen a prophet in this kind of relationship before. And it all begins with Chapter 1 next week!

.... 'Til next Wednesday!

* * *

Next week: Hosea 1:1-5

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).