Congratulations! You made it through the first major prophet, Isaiah. This week, we get to dive into some of the so-called minor prophets. The first one we get to meet is Hosea.
Even though Hosea’s prophecies come after Isaiah in the Bible, his life and ministry actually took place a few generations before Isaiah… Before Israel was destroyed by Assyria. This was a very unsettling and difficult time for Israel, which was in a state of political upheaval, and of deep moral decay. (sound familiar?) Here is how Hosea described it:
Hear the word of the LORD, you Israelites, because the LORD has a charge to bring against you who live in the land:
“There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
Because of this the land dries up, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea are swept away.
But let no one bring a charge, let no one accuse another, for your people are like those who bring charges against a priest. You stumble day and night, and the prophets stumble with you. So I will destroy your mother— my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.
“Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children. The more priests there were, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their glorious God for something disgraceful. They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness. And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds. They will eat but not have enough; they will engage in prostitution but not flourish, because they have deserted the LORD to give themselves to prostitution; old wine and new wine take away their understanding. My people consult a wooden idol, and a diviner’s rod speaks to them.
A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God. They sacrifice on the mountaintops and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar and terebinth, where the shade is pleasant. Therefore your daughters turn to prostitution and your daughters-in-law to adultery.”
God speaks to Israel through Hosea in the midst of the corruption of its kingdom and people. Hosea is ministering to an Israel that had become just like every other nation, doing whatever was right in their own eyes and prostituting themselves to other gods rather than worshiping and following YHWH, their Rescuer, who had led them out of Egypt and made a covenant with them.
Hosea’s job is to call out Israel for her sin, and to live out God’s emotional experience of being cheated on by his people. Hosea’s difficult calling is to marry a “promiscuous woman,” who he knows will cheat on him. In doing so, Hosea shows what it is like to be in a covenant with an unfaithful spouse… Just like God’s experience with Israel.
In this experience, how do you think God used Hosea to illustrate His relationship with His people? How do you think God used this experience to deepen Hosea’s understanding? What does that mean for what God allows you and me to go through?
How do you think Hosea’s contemporaries viewed him?
Read Hosea 11:1-12. What does this chapter show you about the heart of God over Israel?
What is God wrestling with in this chapter?
Is God really that emotional? Does it bother you or comfort you to think about God experiencing heartache, jealousy, and humiliation?
When we interact with God, do we usually do so on such emotional terms, or does your relationship feel calm, cool, and collected?
Hosea’s marriage to this woman wasn’t intended as simply a symbol. God wanted Hosea to actually experience what this felt like for God. Have you ever had an experience where you felt God’s disturbed yet gracious heart toward you and your people? What does that feel like? What does it bring up for us?
I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices.
I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.
God doesn’t just want a legal obligation with us.. He wants a real relationship. This means we can really know him. Have you ever thought about identifying with him on this level of empathy?
So think of it this way… Have you ever been cheated on? Or, have you ever cheated on someone else? Let’s try sitting together as a group in silence for a few minutes (someone time out four minutes for us) and reflect on the felt experience of betrayal. Sitting in silence may seem awkward, so try to not look at each other during this time, and mentally put yourself in the shoes of someone like Hosea whose spouse is cheating on them and try to imagine what it would feel like.
After reflection, discuss how it would feel like to be cheated on.
How do you feel toward the person who cheated?
How do you feel toward a person near you who has been cheated on?
What does it feel like to picture the King of the universe experiencing the humiliating heartache of being cheated on? Are you able to identify with the feelings of the cheater who cheats on God in this sense?
Finish your time together by praying Hosea 6:1-3 aloud together:
Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.