One of the writers I like to read is an old Scottish preacher by the name of Thomas Boston. He had a vivid imagination, and in one of his sermons, he pictured the soul and the body of a believer engaging in conversation after they are reunited in the resurrection....
On Saturday morning in the quiet of our family room, I flipped to a familiar story in the Bible. With coffee in hand, I opened Hosea. Rather, Hosea opened me.
Hosea’s Difficult Story
When God spoke to Hosea, what he said was unimaginable:
“Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” (Hosea 1:2)
So he did. Hosea “went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son” (v. 3). But God’s hard requests didn’t end there:
And the Lord said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.” (v. 4)
We read next that Gomer conceived twice more: She bore a daughter, who the Lord named No Mercy (v. 6), and then a son, who he called Not My People (v. 9).
Perplexed, I thought, Could God have asked anything harder of Hosea?
What Did Hosea Feel?
This account is painfully concise. God spoke and Hosea obeyed, again and again. This conversation met my ears and heart with a tone of searing insensitivity. How could God ask such things of his servant? It left me upset, and I wanted to understand.
My sinful heart interpreted these words in the cold absence of our Father’s love: Marry a prostitute? Name your children after the coming wrath of God? Raise those children in the house of a harlot? This is unkind at best, I thought. The Lord is bidding his servant do his will because he can, because he is Lord – not because he loves him.
But I thought wrong.
We read no description of Hosea’s feelings, no doubts, and no departing from God’s way; Scripture only highlights the trust and obedience of God’s servant. By God’s grace and his sovereign will, all threads of emotion on Hosea’s part evade this passage.
Wouldn’t you love to talk to Hosea about everything unwritten?
- How did God show him kindness when the Word he heard seemed severe?
- How did he find strength to raise these children who were named to represent God’s judgment, while mom lived as a harlot?
- How often did he fill his bed with tears?
Can You Tell Me How It Felt?
In response to these questions, I set my lukewarm cup of coffee on the table and traded it for my pen. I wrote in my journal the questions I would ask Hosea, and they started to rhyme and flow. A poem formed:
Can you tell me how it felt
When you heard the Word of the Lord,
When he asked you to tear your heart in two
And welcome the worst offense?
Did you tremble; did you weep?
How did you obey the Word
To seek a guilty bride?
Where did you see His kindness
In the midst of all your grief?
Your life you lost in the vision of God;
It was not yours to keep.
When you looked in the face of your little boy
And your eyes met with his,
Could you think only of the promise to destroy –
The judgment of your kin?
What did you do when time and again
The Lord met you with a heavy hand?
Did you wrestle with Him as you waited in silence;
How close did you hold his sliver of promise?
I know the story: I know you obeyed.
It’s hard to understand
When you can’t see all that passed on those days.
Does Hosea’s story resonate with you? Has God asked hard things of you, with little explanation behind his asking? How do we persevere in obedience when we don’t understand our circumstances?
How Hosea Dealt With Hard Things
With two promises at the end of this chapter in Hosea, God whispers his faithfulness:
Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel. (vv. 10-11)
God reminds Hosea that he’s not forgotten his promises to Abraham (v. 10) or David (v. 7). Israel will be numbered as the sand, and there will be a kingdom of God’s people with a King on the throne forever (see Genesis 22:17; 2 Samuel 7:12-13).
No, Hosea couldn’t flip through his Bible to Matthew and read the introduction of “Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham,” whose name means “God with us,” and, “he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:1, 21, 23). He couldn’t read about the Man of Sorrows who suffered and died so that that Hosea’s faith – despite deep suffering – might be counted as righteousness (Romans 3:21-26).
Yet Hosea clung to God’s promises and knew he was part of the bigger story. He knew his God was the God of Abraham and the God of David. The promises made to them were promises made to him.
How We Deal With Hard Things
Though we live in a different time, our Lord is Hosea’s Lord. He does not change (Malachi 3:6). We can walk away from this story knowing how Hosea dealt with the hard things God asked of him: He had a promise from the Lord. He could cling to the commitment of God’s faithfulness to his people, though he would not physically witness the coming of its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
What about us? We’ve seen what Hosea never did; we’ve seen God’s promises fulfilled in Christ.
- When God’s Word seems severe to us, we can trust God’s kindness toward us, perfectly displayed in Jesus Christ in his substitutionary death for our sins (Psalm 145:17).
- When we seek strength to endure God-ordained affliction, we can fix our eyes on our enduring Savior who bore the worst affliction for our sake “in his body on the tree” that we might escape the worst affliction that exists: the wrath of God (1 Peter 2:24).
- When tears – not explanation – are all we know (Psalm 42:3), we can take comfort that our brother Jesus weeps with us. He also promises us an eternity with him where sin, suffering, and weeping will be no more. Those who have received mercy will be called God’s people and will be welcomed into his eternal home (Hebrews 4:14-16; John 11:35; Revelation 21:3-4).
Help Me Remember You Go First
Can you tell me how it felt
When you wrote the Word, my Lord,
When you ordained to tear your heart in two,
And welcome the worst offense?
I know you trembled; I know you wept.
Why did you covenant to seek
A guilty bride?
Why did you author this Kindness:
To bear all our grief?
Your life you laid down for the wisdom of God
When it was rightfully yours to keep.
Father, you looked in the face of your only Son
And when your eyes met with his
How could you keep your promise to destroy,
And judge him for our sin?
Lord, how did you live knowing the time and plan;
That the Father would crush you with a heavy hand?
Did you ever wrestle with him as you waited in silence;
That you were the only hope of the promise?
I know the story: O Lord you obeyed!
I think I understand a little more of your grace.
So when I read of your people,
Your prophets, your Word,
And you ask them to do the really absurd
Help me remember you go first in all that you ask,
There’s no test of grief you have not passed,
And your promises will prevail until all are at rest:
Each grain of sand from Abraham to the Church,
Each prophet and son you’ve purchased and rebirthed.