Today we begin a new series in the Bible, turning back to the Old Testament. Last year's Malachi I found was more than a blessing, it was a challenge as well, and was a real book for learning, which of course one may expect from the Bible! This year we are turning to Hosea, a book that is depressing in content, is incredibly strong at times in its language and admonition, some would call harsh, but a book where the golden thread of grace shines so brightly, and the love of God is so evident that the parts the world would see as harsh, are actually God's justness, righteous anger and mercy. All of the Bible is for us, and every book has lessons for us today. As the Psalmist writes:
Your hands have made me and fashioned me; Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments. Those who fear You will be glad when they see me, because I have hoped in Your word. I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. Let, I pray, Your merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to Your word to Your servant. (119:73-76)
Hosea is filled with judgements, contrasted with merciful kindness; lessons for us in a very Laodicean church age and as with the Psalmist, we must pray for understanding of its application to the Christian, so that we may learn. Let us pray.
If we start with who and when, Hosea opens with a brief who, and when for our knowledge: Hosea the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. This spans somewhere between 791 and 687 BC depending on which commentary or historian you read. It matters not, and is not that edifying to argue the exact dates. But around 700 BC, Hosea was prophesying. Also depending on who one reads, the length of prophesy covered is about 60 years. Certainly, as we read this book we will see different epochs of his life as related to his wife. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary notes that the word Hosea means 'Salvation'. Stedman tells us that the name can also be translated as Joseph, or Joshua, and we know that the name Jesus is one step further on, in meaning: 'God saves'.
I will be frank at this point, the book is challenging, it calls the situation brutally as it is in Israel. This is not a book for those who like soft and cuddly, nor a book for those who cannot face the real God, the God who hates sin at any level, as this book really talks to the heart about this hatred of sin. Yet it is a book that shows us that no matter how bad, (and by the time we finish it we will know the depravity of man at his worst), God never gives up on His children, and his covenant stands as it did with Abraham and Moses, inferring that this covenant still stands for the people of Israel today. On this point, I need to provide a warning to those of you who reach for commentaries to assist you in the study of this book. I have done just that, but commentaries are few, and not a lot is written. They may also contain error, as I have found, and this is main stream error that you must be aware of, and value the commentary accordingly. The error is on the point of Israel of today, and God's ongoing and everlasting covenant that He has with them.
On this, therefore, it is important to note also that when the apostle Paul calls Christians "God's chosen people" (or, as it literally says, "God's elect" as in Romans 8:33), he does not mean that the church has replaced Israel! Israel are "God's chosen people", but on a different plane and for a different purpose than Christians. The promises to Israel are very material: they include a land and a kingdom on the earth. We believe that the prophecies of the prophets, so beautifully expressed by Isaiah, Amos, Hosea and others, will be fulfilled in a coming day, which Paul describes in chapter 11 of Romans. God yet has a future for his earthly people. They are still his chosen people, and the covenant with them remains – Hosea will show us this clearly. The Church though is chosen for a different purpose by Jesus Christ. Our promises are spiritual. We are "blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ." (Ephesians 1:3) The church, therefore, has to do with heaven, not earth. We deal with the invisible realms of reality and not the visible kingdoms around us.
So, to clarify, this phrase does not mean that the church has become the "new Israel." That term is never found in Scripture. It is an unbiblical concept but a widespread error across Christendom. We are chosen, and we are 'holy'. Holy is a word that means to be separate and distinct. We are intended to be different. Christians are to live differently than the world around lives. We do not run after the crowd and follow its fashions and value systems. We are expected to be different because we are Christs, He dwells in us. We as Christians share a different kind of life. Why is this important? Hosea contains lessons for the Christian, but it is not written to the Christian. The grammatical position is very important, and as such needs to be applied carefully. Most main stream Christians do not hold this position, and in fact, I would suspect that most have no idea what that means. I give you two very good reasons why the promise to Israel stands today as much as it stood in Hosea's day.
God promised Abraham:
I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Genesis 12:2-3) And Moses: The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, and will say, 'Destroy! Then Israel shall dwell in safety, the fountain of Jacob alone, in a land of grain and new wine; His heavens shall also drop dew. (Deuteronomy 33:28)
And Joel, also a prophet wrote:
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; and My people shall never be put to shame. Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the Lord your God and there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame. (Joel 2:26-27)
What we see in these three scriptures is God promising the people long term promises. None are fulfilled. If God has transferred that promise to the Church, He has lied to Israel with misleading promises, to these three prophets (a prophet is a mouth piece of God) and others of the Old Testament. This is blasphemy – to accuse God of lying for He never lies, and His Word stands. Believing in the transfer of covenant is more than dangerous ground; it rocks the very foundation of our beliefs – that of a God who is not only loving, just and gracious, but whose Word is a rock that never will change. Second, amongst other important factors, this whole concept destroys the purpose of the Old Testament, in that with this false doctrine there are no sound 'types', there are no remnant of Israel, Revelation 2:27 for example has no meaning ("He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels'), and how can 2 Timothy 4:1 be applied? (I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom).
This topic in itself is large, a brief paragraph cannot do the folly of the modern church justice, but it is something to be aware of, and as I have noted, one of the mainstream commentaries I read goes completely down this pathway, and misinterprets Hosea in many areas. Frederick Blair tells us: The Church is not the subject of prophecy; it is given the light of prophecy, so that it will know what is coming upon the world when God rises up in judgment to remove from His sight those whom He judges, and bring His earthly people into full blessing. The Church belongs to heaven; it is the body of Christ while He is seated there. I think this explains this error very well. However, from the Bible we read God's own explanation:
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
"The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins." Romans 11:26
What can Hosea tell us then? How do we look at the book? What can we take home? First, it is worthwhile noting that despite that fact that the book has been carved up into sections, and we will hear about each portion over the next few months, this is a book that requires study, for without study, the Word of God will be just a token of what He has actually provided. One must read the book looking at the layers that God has provided. It is like the land. There is a surface view, then the soil, then the bedrock. As when looking at a cross section of earth, after a bulldozer has dug deeply into it exposing what lies underneath, there are subtle layers also through the cross section. So too has Hosea, though to be honest, so too has the Bible as a whole. Therefore when we read this book, we must pray the Holy Spirit open our eyes to the hidden depths.
As an example, we can see clearly the story of a prophet, over a period of some five to six decades, and the relationship he has with his wife, and God's direction within that relationship in order to show the people of the day His own story with them, His people. Another layer is the relationship Israel is having with God, or the lack of it, the current state in Hosea's time, morally, and socially. Then there are some prophetic words, looking to beyond today, to times still yet to come (or were as I typed these words!). Then there are some pictures, including of Christ and His coming. These are woven in and about, and within Hosea, there are no easy clues to the meaning of each passage and where it fits in the small picture of then, or the great picture of later, or just a statement of fact without any other real meaning. I give you an example: The following is a statement of fact:
My people ask counsel from their wooden idols, and their staff informs them. (4:12)
The following requires some thought:
"Though you, Israel, play the harlot, let not Judah offend. Do not come up to Gilgal, nor go up to Beth Aven (4:15)
There is an immediate fact – Israel playing the harlot, but there are deeper meanings related to Judah; why not go to Gilgal? Nor Beth Aven? What is this to do specifically with playing the harlot? These are passages that will require greater prayer, greater reliance on God for an answer and understanding.
The Covenant as mentioned already is important in this story as it is one of the key accusations against Israel. One commentator referencing Kaiser notes that though there is no clear agreement in how or even if Hosea structured this book in any way, there are no clear dividers neatly partitioning the book into themes although there are three main themes.
1) Knowing God – the relationship that builds knowledge was lacking in Israel.
2) Love towards God – God still loved Israel and Judah as He promised in His covenant with them.
3) Faithfulness: Israel's & Judah's lack of faithfulness to God, although God's faithfulness to them was expressed in His covenant to them; clearly visible in the Old Testament's historical record.
In other areas of Hosea We see a destruction of Israel being prophesied, yet God returns to His covenant with them regarding salvation, and promises new covenant. For God, what He promised was what He did, and His wrath was bound up in the failure of Israel to keep, learn, teach, meditate on His Word – the knowledge of God as found in Scripture, and their faithlessness in love and being His children, His special people – they made deals, pacts and alliances with everyone else, and the religions of those surrounding them.
If we go back to these three, as a taster for later sermons we can see the knowledge issue being clearly articulated in 4:6:
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.
Psalm 119 tells us how God values those who study His Word, the law, the statutes. We saw in Malachi the problem with knowledge being missing:
"For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. But you have departed from the way (2:7-8a)
We see the love issue, not only being found in this strange marriage story that appears in the first four chapters, but mentioned time and time again, either as being missing, or directly:
"O Ephraim, what shall I do to you? O Judah, what shall I do to you? For your faithfulness (goodness, loving kindness) is like a morning cloud, and like the early dew it goes away. (6:4)
And love is dissipated:
Ephraim has hired lovers… (8:9)
We see their lack of faithfulness to God is major cause of their inability to worship God and sacrifice, yet they could worship the Baal's.
But Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and shall eat unclean things in Assyria. They shall not offer wine offerings to the Lord, nor shall their sacrifices be pleasing to Him. (9:3-4) or Ephraim has encircled Me with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit; but Judah still walks with God, even with the Holy One who is faithful. (11:12)
God had clearly set out His standards for sacrifice as found time and again in the Pentateuch; He gave his expectations more than once, and had Moses instil the right way into them, yet they had gone after other gods and worshiped wood and stone.
These three big ticket items for Hosea are probably at the core of the church today as big ticket items in the here and now. We cannot say that we have learned much from thousands of years of the documented failed relationships of people with God, or people with their false gods. Fickleness, wandering, changing the truth to fit what we want, diluting down our Christianity to parts we like, and so on are clear cut sins of the modern 'believer'. Probably worse than this is the number of Christians who promulgate a wrong doctrine, knowing their thinking is clearly different to others, putting aside all else they may believe in that is doctrinally sound, and destroy the faith of others, when they have should have the knowledge and truth to build others up, and bring people to Christ. It is worthy to see what God promised the Israelites in terms of their faithlessness. Further, we see clearly how His Word matches exactly what happened to Israel. Surely this is sobering stuff, and enough to bring us around to revival for living the Word as God has He has written it?
We have a different covenant, and a different set of standards as given us in the New Testament. The tenants of these standards are though, the same. God is sovereign, He is head, Jesus Christ is our Saviour and Lord, He is King, His Word as told to us stands. Here is an example:
Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart(1 Peter 1:22).
We are to love one another fervently. Fervently is a pretty strong word, it means that the love must be visible, others must be able to see it, it will take effort, it will take practice and intentional application, it happens all the time. Peter also says that it comes from a pure heart. What is a pure heart? A heart that bears no grudges, holds no root of bitterness, has no residual anger or offense; in fact is emptied of self, and filled with love that can be poured out onto God's people at any time, to those who need God in total abandon. Hosea was told the following:
Then the Lord said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery (3:1).
Hosea had to love his wife who had prostituted herself, living with other men, having multiple affairs. That is the type of love God expects of us. We are to embrace the sinner and bring them back to repentance. In fact, Hosea had to buy back his wife. God expects us to uphold 1 Peter 1:22 just as firmly, and live it just as fervently as Hosea had to with his wayward, defiled wife. That is the standard of God. Hosea will show us why, and we won't like God's reasons. There is nothing in the book about justice for us (the attitude of "life isn't fair!"), nor is there anything in the book about balanced relationships – we are to give one hundred percent, even if the expected return is zero. Hosea was given a job by God to do, and it was not the type of job any of us would embrace. But God asked the impossible – go marry a woman who you will see in the arms of another, her most intimate self exposed to everyone else but you Hosea, and when she is completely defiled, you will take her back and love her. And while you are at it, here are the words you are to speak to my children - Israel. They are not pretty words either!
Hosea is going to teach us about separateness from the world.
Ephraim has mixed himself amongst the peoples; Ephraim is a cake unturned. Aliens have devoured his strength but he does not know it (7:8-9)
We can learn much from these words. The church seems to believe that it has to constantly reinvent itself to attract the world to its doors, so we have adopted the world's music, a program that is snappy, sharp, meeting the three second attention span of the average human looking for excitement and self-indulgence. We have cut out mention of hell, accepted homosexuality, turn our eyes away from fornication before marriage, and created a structure of church worker and audience. But as we see here in Hosea, the strength of the church in doing its work – preaching the gospel, is the same as Ephraim's was – devoured. We have misinterpreted and misapplied:
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law… (1 Corinthians 9:19-20)
Paul never left the standards of God at the door as todays compromising church does. Paul did it as he explains:
Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you. (1 Corinthians 9:23)
But immediately went on to say:
Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
Unless we are one hundred percent for God, doing it His way, without compromise, we will dilute ourselves into useless servants for God; much like cordial in a poor family being shared between 9 kids on a hot summer's day – the lukewarm, weak cordial may seems like a good thing, but it never tastes as it should.
I truly believe that as we read this book and study the message, we should reach this conclusion: don't call yourself a Christian unless you are willing to follow Christ to the end point of every dot, instruction and standard written in His Book, otherwise, what are we doing? We are misrepresenting God; we say we have Christ within, but act contrary to this, presenting a picture of the supposed Christ within that is a lie. We cannot afford to lose even one verse of the Bible just because it does not suit today's world view, and we need to live it all.
You were bought at a price: do not become the slaves of men. (1 Corinthians 7:23)
If you want to wear robes, have a palace, and follow a pope, don't call yourself a Christian for these are not how Christ wrote for a Christian to live. If you want to believe in evolution directed by God, don't call yourself a Christian, for God's Word tells us something entirely different – creation came because God spoke (Hebrews 11:3). If you cannot love one another without a sense of entitlement or of getting something in return, don't call yourself a Christian; John tells us this so clearly. These may seem harsh statements. We live under grace. We are human; does that not provide some leeway? I agree, we will backslide and not love people sometimes. The real question is this - Is it your way of life, is my normal lifestyle choice Christlike or not, or was my lack of love a just glitch in a Christ filled life, or something that is a habit? Have I put off the old man, and embraced the new, Christ in me, as the norm? How would you as an observer know? Am I like the Laodiceans:
I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish that you were cold or hot. So then, because you are neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth. (Revelations 3:15-16)
Hosea teaches us that embracing Him as well as the world just does not stack up in His scale of justice. If the world does not hate us, perhaps we are glossing over the real Christ within us so others cannot see Him too clearly.
On another plane, the story of Hosea tells us of Israel today. Why is Israel mentioned in every media, nearly every day? Why is there debate and constant attention of Palestine and Israel virtually every day? Why is there some Islamic monument on the site of the old temple which is subject to some great debate? People of the worlds should remember clearly and apply to their politics Zechariah:
For thus says the Lord of hosts: "He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye. For surely I will shake My hand against them, and they shall become spoil for their servants. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me. (Zechariah 2:8-9)
This promise fits today as it does back then, and the judgement is the same. Why do these two subjects – the prophecies of Hosea and that of Zechariah fit together? Hosea not only talks of the sins of Israel, but tells us the consequence of these sins. However, this does not give any country rights to the Israel occupies, including Palestine; not one square metre of it. Israel is not written off by God - in fact, Hosea tells us He will restore the land. Those who believe that the church has taken over the promises of Israel need to reconcile those beliefs with the statement that Israel is the apple of His eye. Remember back to Malachi:
For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. (3:6)
God's promises to the apple of His eye do not change, no matter the trouble they got into after the prophesies of all the prophets failed to change their attitudes and hearts. Israel was dispersed, but a Jew remains a Jew. They were never lost, as Ezekiel reminds us that all tribes are represented after that day.
"Therefore say to the house of Israel, "Thus says the Lord God: "I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name's sake… For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (36:22,24-26)
Hosea reminds Israel today as to why they were scattered. I believe that God is reminding the world today that the land of Israel is still His, no matter the political minds that may think otherwise. The notion of having a dual nation will be reprehensible to God. He has different plans, and those that try to disrupt His plans will always find themselves on God's outer. Have you ever wondered why Israel managed to survive as a nation despite so many surrounding it wanting to annihilate it? How did Israel win the six day war, despite the fact that modern Israel is not set up by God as His nation, in fact Scripture tells us clearly that Israel will come back, first on their own terms, then God will rule through His Son. We read:
What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. Just as it is written: "God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day." (Romans 11:7-8)
I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. (Romans 11:11)
Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, " Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life"? But what does the divine response say to him? "I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. (Romans 11:2-5)
Though Israel today is largely secular, believing Jews live there, a remnant of Jews is faithful to God. This links into Hosea 1:10c-2:1
There it shall be said to them "You are sons of the living God."
Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and appoint for themselves one head; and they shall come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel! Say to your brethren, "My people," And to your sisters, "Mercy is shown."
Then I will say to those who were not My people, "You are My people" 'And they shall say, "You are my God!" (23)
Hosea therefore needs to be studied in the context of Romans 11, and the prophets found from Isiah to the end of the Old Testament. They all tie together. Reading Hosea will lead us on the pathway of understanding why Israel reached the point of self destruction and dispersal, but always with a remnant remaining. It will give us insight into the apostate Jew of today, yet surviving in Israel despite being surrounded by enemies. Do you not find it fascinating that the Islamic State fighters have not decided to take on Israel to set up their state there? Is it not fascinating that Syria who have been a constant threat against Israel has imploded, and Lebanon does the same from time to time with in-fighting and civil war rather than invading and defeating Israel. We will see from Hosea that God punishes His people, through His means, and sure, many times it was through invasion by others, but it was on His terms and His timeframe. We still live now in His timeframe, and as His Church; we need to take note, and look at the promises to the Church. Hosea will teach us that the letters to the seven churches (Revelation chapters 2 & 3) are not just old letters to long gone churches, but letters that remain promises to churches which meet the criteria, whether one criteria, or many. Laodicea is very real today, as is the dead church, but also the remnant remains, Philadelphia. That is the Church equivalent of the Jewish remnant. They are not the same group, but two separate groups, one of Jews, - God's Chosen, one of Christians – Christ's Bride.
Hosea therefore is a book for learning of God's ways, and applying to our own lives so we as a church do not fall into the same traps and drag the Church into disrepute. William Kelly notes:
'… Hosea indicates his interest in Israel, and the work that God assigned him in reference to the twelve-tribed nationality of His people, when the ruin of Israel was at hand, and that of Judah was ere long to follow. Brief as his handling of his subject is, there is a remarkable completeness in the prophecy; and the moral element is as prominent in the second part, as the dispensational is in the first. The parenthesis of Gentile empire is quite omitted throughout. He is filled with the afflictions and the guilt of Israel as a whole, and, more than any other of the twelve shorter prophets, breaks forth into passionate and renewed grief over the people. The book accordingly abounds, as none other does so much, in the most abrupt transitions, which therefore make the style of Hosea singularly difficult in some respects, and, it may be added too, far more so to us just because of its intensely Jewish character. Not being Jews, we do not come under their character of relationship; but those who are to be called as Jews by and by will understand it well. They, having that position, and being thus called (though through the sense of the deepest sins on their part, at the same time knowing the yearnings of the Spirit of God over them), will enter into, as I believe they will profit by, that which to us presents difficulty because we are not in the same position. In brief – despite not being Jews (as such) learn the lessons, know God, draw ourselves closer to Him, do His will!!
Let us finish with Kelly's summary ending:
True and faithful is the sovereign grace of God. It is not salvation in the meagre sense that the Jews will be screened from deserved destruction. If Jehovah saves, He will do it evermore for earth or heaven in a way that is worthy of Himself. "Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir-tree. From me is thy fruit found." It appears to be a conversation between Ephraim and Jehovah. "Ephraim [shall say], "What have I to do any more with idols?" To this Jehovah answers, "I myself have heard and observed him." Thereon Ephraim replies, "I am like a green fir tree;" to which Jehovah rejoins, "From me is thy fruit found." What a blessed change for Ephraim! and what communion with their God!
The whole of this terse prophecy ends with the searching question of the closing verse — "Who is wise, that he may understand these things? intelligent, that he may know them? for the ways of Jehovah are right, and the transgressors shall stumble thereon." May this wisdom be given to us, that we too may understand Himself and His ways! "He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever;" and this being the desire, he "shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God." "None of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand."
Let us Pray.
 Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Bible+ Olive Tree Bible Software, 5.4.1
 Ray Steadman (1966) Hosea: The Prophet and the Prostitute http://www.raystedman.org/bible-overview/adventuring/hosea-the-prophet-and-the-prostitute accessed 05/07/2015
 http://www.raystedman.org/new-testament/colossians/put-on-the-newRay Stedman "Put on the new" accessed 3 Jan 2017
 F A Bair, An Exposition on Nahum, 1946 (http://www.life-everlasting.net/pages/messages/MinorProphets/An Exposition of Nahum (FA Blair).php) (Accessed 20 Sept 2015)
 Chester, T. (2014) Hosea: The Passion of God, Christian Focus Publications, 2014. p.20
 William Kelly (c.1900) Lectures on the Minor Prophets - Hosea http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/kelly/1Oldtest/hosea.html (assessed 20 Sep 2015)