This fits with last week’s readings, but I thought it’d be worth writing about.
Hosea is a startling story. It is unique in what the prophet is called to do, not just say. He is to marry a whore, and his relationship of faithfulness to an adulterous spouse parallels that of God’s love for his adulterous people. And that still applies to us now, to his church. It reminds me of a song by Derek Webb called “Wedding Dress.” He writes about the church’s tendency to look for something more than Christ, to find satisfaction outside of him. But this is a propesterous idea given that Christ has given us all we need. He even gave his very life.
Listen to the song below:
If you want to hear his explanation for the song, you can find it here. I’d mention this as some context–he doesn’t write and sing about the church and its sin as some third party observer. He acknowledges that he is a part of it and he is sinful, too. He doesn’t speak in condemnation of the church, but in rebuke that comes from love. We must still love the things that God loves, including the church, but that then leads us not to accept such faults, but to work for its restoration.
That is what the prophets do, as well. They love God’s people and because of such love they desire greatly for their repentence.*
*Jonah is a bit odd here since he is a prophet to a people he doesn’t love, but that’s a problem that we’ll talk about next week.
How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.
God speaks of his judgment at the faithlessness of his people, but shows his great mercy and compassion in these words. God is unlike us. We hold grudges and find it near impossible to forgive. We seek revenge and pour out hostility on those who reject us. God is not like us for he will never give up on his people.
We should have great comfort and security in God’s stubborn love for us.
Our focus passage for the week takes a look at the connection between Hosea and the book of 1 Peter, but if you are not following along with those, here’s a short summary. Peter quotes lines from the prophet when he is addressing the believers–both Jew and Gentile. He makes the bold assertion that they are now part of the people of God, brought in by his mercy to the family of faith, not based on blood, but on their being chosen in Christ. When he writes that those who were once not God’s people and who did not receive mercy are now God’s people and have received mercy, Peter is grafting believer’s into the history of Israel, assigning to them the words that had been first used to speak of God’s people in Hosea.
Especially for those Gentiles who had been kept at a distance before Christ came, this would have been an overwhelming affirmation of their place within the Kingdom of God. They are made to be God’s people and have been chosen to be a royal priesthood so that they may all declare the praises of God, who has saved us from the darkness (v9). To be brought in from the darkness into the light, to be made a people who were once not a people, to be called priests who were once pagans, is a great reversal and a humbling work of God for which he is to receive all praise.
We begin a whole new genre this week with our first Minor Prophet. We read Hosea, which is tied for most chapters along with Zechariah at 14. I find refreshing my memory with some brief introductions is always helpful with these books of the Bible, which brings me to why I like study Bibles.
Being a pastor it is my job to keep Christian publishers in work by buying lots of Bibles. I have a great number in my possession that have either been bought by or for me over the years. I have several translations, sizes, and even languages. When I was a student I really valued portability because I lived out of my bag and always wanted to have a Bible with me without having to carry around so many extra pounds. I mentioned earlier in the year that the Bible I’m mainly using for our Year in the Bible is one that has sizable borders for taking notes. Beyond that I’ve really enjoyed my old, trusty NIV Study Bible. If you don’t have some version of a study Bible, I highly recommend it.
These are the ones that include all sorts of notes on the text with cross references and commentary, they provide cultural and contextual notes, and they even include pictures and diagrams. And as I mentioned earlier, they give introductions to each book of the Bible.
So take this as a plug for getting your own study Bible. Here is an introduction taken from the NIV Study Bible, published on Biblica.com, to give you A) helpful information as we start Hosea and B) a preview of what you get with study Bibles: