James Montgomery Boice once said that Hosea 3 is the greatest chapter in the whole bible and that the story of Hosea is the second greatest story in the bible. Of course, the greatest message in Scripture is the incarnation, life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The story of Hosea however is a stunning picture of this greatest story. Hosea 1:1 tells us that Hosea was a prophet to Israel for about forty years up until the calamitous last days of the Northern Kingdom when Assyria took them into exile.
The first three chapters of Hosea reveal three dimensions of God’s love.
- THE FORSAKEN LOVER – The ESV translates 1:2 quite literally; go take to yourself a wife of whoredom, and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord. There are many people who quite understandably protest, “it is inconceivable that God would require a prophet to marry a prostitute. Should we not merely regard the episode as an allegory?” No! We must take it literally. Hosea’s marriage is meant to shock us. Hosea’s domestic life you see is intended to serve as a parallel of God’s life with us (2:4, 5, 7, 8). Israel’s sin was a gross act of betrayal to the God who had committed himself to them in love. This is spiritual adultery. We are no better. As James Montgomery Boice says; “we all need to put our hands up and say; “I am Gomer!”
- THE FURIOUS LOVER – In 1:3 we read, so he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. It would appear that the first child was definitely Hosea’s. There is a strong suggestion in vrs 6, 9 that the second and third child were not Hosea’s. Hosea would have been furious with Gomer for her marital unfaithfulness just as God was furious with Israel for forsaking Him. This is very clear from the names of the three children – Jezreel, Lo Ruhamah (not loved) and Lo Ammi (not my people). Jezreel is the name of a place where King Jehu (2 Kings 9&10) massacred all 70 of the royal princes and chopped off their heads and placed them on a pile. To call a child “Jezreel” is tantamount to calling a child “Auschwitz” today. God was furious with his people’s sin as is clear from 5:8; 9:15, 11:5, 6. Shortly after Hosea uttered these words the Assyrians did come and Israel was deported and not heard from again.
- THE FAITHFUL LOVE – Gomer deserved a divorce certificate from Hosea. Israel deserved God’s judgment. For one sin we deserve to be destroyed by God. And yet, God’s love is doggedly persistent. In 11:8, 9 we read, how can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man – the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath. We must now consider why James Montgomery Boice called Hosea 3 the greatest chapter in the bible. At this point Gomer had left Hosea and had sunk lower and lower into sin. She had become a slave and was being sold. James Boice uses his imagination, her clothes are taken off and the men start to bid. “Twelve pieces of silver!” Hosea counters – “thirteen!” “Fourteen pieces of silver!” Hosea bids “fifteen!” The counter comes “fifteen pieces of silver and a homer of barley!” Hosea counters with “fifteen pieces of silver and a homer and lethek of barley.” The auctioneer slams his gavel down “Sold to Hosea for fifteen pieces of silver and a homer and a lethek of barley.” At this point Hosea owned his wife and could do anything to her – even kill her. He doesn’t because Hosea’s love for Gomer is an illustration of God’s love for us. Instead of seeking vengeance he puts clothes on her and leads her away. Then I told her, “you are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you. Does God love us like that? Yes, he does! God steps into the marketplace of sin and buys us out of bondage by the death of His son. In John 3:16 we read for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. We are the slaves on the auction block and the world bids for us. The world bids, fame, wealth, prestige, power – you name it. Then the Lord Jesus Christ places his bid. “What I bid for these poor, hopeless, enslaved sinners is the price of my blood.” The auctioneer who is God the Father says, “sold to my Son for the price of his blood.” As Romans 5:8 says but God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. There are two rivers that flow throughout the OT. The first river is the river of God’s righteous anger at our sin. His wrath must be appeased. Then there is the river of His love which longs to forgive the sinner. These rivers flow and gather momentum and grow equally in strength until finally at the cross they converge. The cross is where we see what God feels about me and my sin. The question is. Will we allow that love to melt our hearts or harden them?