Gems in Hosea
Our evening lesson is from Hosea, focusing primarily on the first three chapters. Because this book is too large to cover in one sermon, and yet Hosea is full of many memorable messages, I thought it fitting to include a list of a few passages to study from Hosea and a brief explanation of what they mean. I hope you find these as helpful as I did.
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (Hosea 4:6). This passage is specifically directed at the priests, who were given the responsibility to teach the Law to God’s people but apparently failed to do so. Instead, the priest followed the people’s example of idolatry and wickedness: “And it will be, like people, like priest” (Hos. 4:9). Israel reached a point when God’s word was actually “regarded as a strange thing” (Hos. 8:12). For us who are priests under the new covenant (1 Pet. 2:9), may it never be said of us that we are destroyed because we have failed to do our duty to not only learn God’s ways but teach them.
“For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). This is one of the most memorable passages in this book, perhaps because Jesus quotes it twice to the Pharisees (Matt. 9:13; 12:7). Hosea learns the hurt and betrayal of unfaithfulness in marriage, which symbolizes the unfaithfulness of Israel to God. Just as we expect exclusive loyalty in marriage, so God expects exclusive loyalty to him He does not like competition. Though Israel often confessed its love for God through sacrifices and worship, it was clear that their affections lay elsewhere: “For your loyalty is like a morning cloud and like the dew which goes away early” (Hos. 6:4). Is our loyalty steadfast or wavering?
“For they sow the wind and they reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7). Israel’s wickedness had destructive consequences, and it should not surprise us when our sinful actions come back to hurt us in ways we never imagined or expected. Later in his prophecy, Hosea returns to this imagery when he says, “Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD until He comes to rain righteousness on you” (Hos. 10:12). To sow and reap goodness, we must plow the rows in our hearts, removing the thorns and stones which would otherwise prevent the fruit from bearing. Such a simple principle hardly needs more explanation: we will reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7-8).
“I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from them” (Hosea 14:4). This is a beautiful statement from God’s own mouth of His desire to accept and forgive penitent sinners. Hosea’s message is one of forgiveness after judgment. Sometimes when we have reaped the fruits of wickedness, we do not expect God to love us any longer, yet He promises that He will do so freely if we return to Him with genuine repentance. Apostasy is not something we look lightly upon—and neither does God; but His grace promises a “welcome home” for the prodigal son (Luke 15). What comfort this ought to give us when we are the ones who have rebelled against God and we fear whether or not God will receive us back! “Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us” (Hos. 6:1).
“Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, and the righteous will walk in them, but transgressors will stumble in them” (Hosea 14:9). If find it remarkable that these are the last words found in Hosea. They are an invitation to ponder on and understand everything that has been previously written. Hosea’s message can be summarized in one word: grace. There is encouragement here that if we understand God’s way properly and walk in his grace faithfully we will not stumble. Yet, there is also warning that if we fail to do so we will stumble in that same grace of the Lord. Let us never abuse or presume upon God’s grace as license to commit evil, but rather understand it as the very motivation to remain loyal to God alone.