The word literal is complicated. According to one of the first definitions in the dictionary, literal means: “adhering...to the ordinary construction of primary meaning of a term or expression.” In other words, being literal can just mean saying what you mean to say, giving primary importance in the moment to...
[Editorial Note: Colton Tatham also contributed to this article]
Reading Hosea can be a confusing experience. You may wonder, what is this book all about? Why is it in the Bible?
In this article, I want to discuss how you can discover the treasure of Scripture—that is, Jesus Christ—in the book of Hosea. And I want to give you three questions that Hosea answers for our lives today.
Unlocking Hosea: A Living Parable
Hosea is part of that strange section of our bibles known as the Minor Prophets. These little gems can be difficult to interpret, but once unlocked, you find treasure!
The book of Hosea may feel complex, but interpretative help is found when we realize that it is intended to be approached as a living parable.
God loves using parables to convey truth. Consider Jesus and His use of them! A parable is simply a word picture designed to illuminate truth. The word picture runs parallel to the truth the storyteller is trying to convey.
Chapters 1-3 of Hosea present this living parable to us. The painful tale of Hosea and Gomer, a faithful husband and an unfaithful wife. Like any other parable, even a living one, the characters and the storyline point to a greater truth—the relationship between God and his people!
The Greater Truth
The marriage of Hosea the Prophet and Gomer the wayward woman run parallel and point to the covenant relationship between God and his wayward people:
“Go and take yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” (Hosea 1:2)
What is going on here? Well, God’s people, Israel, have been unfaithful. Consider the weight given to the living parable and then to the greater truth. While chapters 1-3 describe Gomer’s unfaithfulness to Hosea, chapters 4-14 describes Israel’s unfaithfulness to God.
Gomer leaves Hosea for other men (plural) and even bears the illegitimate children of her lovers (3:1, 1:6)! And, God uses the story of Hosea and Gomer’s marriage to show that God’s people have done the same to Him:
There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murdering, stealing, and committing adultery. (Hosea 4:1-2)
Israel has been unfaithful and chased after other lovers.
What We Can Learn from Hosea
For us today, I believe Hosea can help give us answers to three big questions.
- What does unfaithfulness look like?
- How does God love us despite our unfaithfulness?
- What does God desire from us in return?
What does unfaithfulness look like?
If you enjoy satire, God employs much of it in the latter part of Hosea to illustrate the unfaithfulness of His people. Chapter 7 is particularly illustrative. God’s wayward people are called a “heated oven” (7:4), “a cake not turned” (7:8), “a dove, silly and without sense” (7:11), and “a treacherous bow” (7:16)
What does this all mean? They are a people burning with passion for half-baked, silly, and useless things.
Fellow Gomers, do you relate? Have you burned with passion for half-baked, silly, and useless things? This is what unfaithfulness looks like.
How does God love us despite our unfaithfulness?
Hosea gave gifts for Gomer. And God gives gifts to his people.
While we want to identify ourselves with Hosea, because of his Christ-like character, it is also helpful for us to think ourselves as Gomer in this parable!
You are probably thinking, “Did he just call me what I think he did?!”
Before you take too much offense, let me explain why being in the same camp as Gomer is a great place to be. Consider the wonderful gifts Gomer receives in this story: betrothal, redemption, and affection! These gifts show us a beautiful picture of God’s love in action.
So he (Hosea) went and took Gomer… (1:3)
Hosea chose Gomer despite her sin. We don’t know about Gomer’s past, but we know that it was against all worldly logic that Hosea, a Prophet, a Man of God, would take her to be his wife.
And this is our story, along with all of God’s people throughout history: God chose us, adopted us as sons and daughters, despite our sin. (John 15:16, Ephesians 1:4-5, Romans 8:29-30, Romans 9:6-21).
So I (Hosea) bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. (3:2)
Hosea entered into a covenant with Gomer. He would maintain his loyalty no matter what. He would go so far as to redeem his wayward wife from slavery!
We too, as God’s people, have been bought at a price. We too have been redeemed from slavery! Christ the True and Greater Husband, our redeemer, paid for our freedom with His blood. (Ephesians 1:7, 1 Cor 6:20, 7:23)
“You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” (3:3)
Hosea reassures Gomer that despite her former sin he will keep his promises. He will love her and be loyal to her.
Christ has redeemed us from horrifying sin. Despite our past his affections for us, as his blood-bought people, run red-hot. (John 15:9-17, Romans 5:8, 8:38-39)
The parable of Hosea and Gomer foreshadows the perfect, redeeming, and passionate love that God in Christ has for all his people throughout history. Rejoice fellow Gomers!
What does God desire from us in return?
Hosea 6:6 answers this for us:
“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
He wants us to know him, and desire him. This is for our good and for our joy, because as new creations our core desires mirror his. Christ alone is what will fulfill us.
So, get to know the one who chose you, redeemed you, and loves you with relentless affection. Love him. This love and knowledge will be what leads you to a life of blessing and obedience unto him.
From the beginning, God’s intention was for us to know and enjoy him, and that has not changed!