By Dr. Mark Scott
School boys used to say, “Beauty is only skin deep, but ugliness goes all the way to the bone.” When it is spiritual ugliness, it goes deeper still. The minor prophet Hosea experienced spiritual ugliness. Like many of God’s prophets, his life got intertwined with his prophecy.
Last week’s lesson about a most beautiful bride contrasts with this week’s lesson about an unfaithful bride. God can work through beautiful people, but he specializes in redeeming unfaithful people. This lesson holds hope for the unfaithful.
The Marriage of the Unfaithful Bride
Hosea prophesied primarily in the northern kingdom, even though the kings identified in verse 1 were from the southern kingdom. All the kings of Israel (northern tribes) were bad. King Jeroboam was really bad. Ahaz was one of the worst kings of Judah. Jotham was not too bad. Uzziah and Hezekiah were good. This roller coaster of royalty made Hosea’s job even more challenging. But the bigger challenge would be in his own family.
God made the unfaithfulness of his people personal for the prophet. Early in his ministry when the word of the Lord came to him (when he would speak by God’s authority), Hosea received an unusual request. He was told, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her.” One has to wonder what went through Hosea’s mind. But he didn’t have to wonder long. God went on to say, “for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” Hosea got it. His life was to be a sermon illustration on the order of a parable. So Hosea married Gomer (evidently a well-known prostitute). The betrothal and wedding must have been odd for them both.
The Children of the Unfaithful Bride
The children played an important role, and their names really matter to this Hebrew narrative. Gomer conceived and bore him a son. In fact Gomer bore Hosea three children in all, two sons and one daughter. The first son was named Jezreel. His name meant “God sows.” But what God would sow would be judgment and destruction. God would punish Jehu’s house for his ruthless destruction of Ahab’s household as well as special servants of Judah. Take note that Hosea’s prophecies took place during the Assyrian siege of Israel in 722 BC.
Gomer’s daughter would be called Lo (not) Ruhamah (loved). God’s grace is not unending. It does have its limits. God would no longer show love to Israel. He would allow them to be captured. But he would continue, for the time being, to show love for Judah (which Hosea 11 shows). God would even save Judah, but the saving would be done his way—not by military power.
Gomer’s third child was a son who was named Lo (not) Ammi (people). God’s people were not acting like God’s people. The rest of the book shows this. The people were destroyed for lack of knowledge (4:6). They left God in “a spirit of prostitution” (v. 12). Their love for God was as short-lived as the morning dew (6:4). They became as detestable as the gods they loved (9:10). They were bent on turning away from God (11:7).
The names of the children indicated the unfaithfulness of God’s people. But some day the descendents would be called children of the living God (Romans 9:25, 26).
The Future of the Unfaithful Bride
The future of the unfaithful bride is actually quite bright. Hope always springs forth from God. Even though it could be interpreted that Gomer would be unfaithful again (Hosea 3:1-5), Hosea’s love (and God’s) was steady (11:1-12). God remembered his covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12, 15, 17) as evident by the phrase, “The Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore.” People not previously belonging to God would be brought under his loving reign. What is pictured here is God’s new Israel composed of Jews and Gentiles. The people of Israel (northern tribes) would be reunited with the people of Judah (who would experience Babylonian captivity). In other words, by the power of resurrection, God would bring forth his new people. They would have one new leader (Messiah) who would bring them up out of their spiritual exile. With a word play on Jezreel, God would be sowing something other than destruction. He would sow to reap a harvest of righteousness.
The God of Scripture always brings life out of death, order out of chaos, and a bright future out of the most unfaithful circumstances. He always leads with cords of kindness and bands of love (Hosea 11:4).
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College and has held preaching ministries in Missouri, Illinois, and Colorado.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.