I just finished a study on the book and the prophet Hosea. What a story. It is not one that I would have expected to find within the bible, never mind in the Old Testament. It is a story that shows the depth of God’s love and the excruciating pain He experiences at the hand of those He has chosen to love. God’s holy people were not faithful, they went to whomever they thought would be the one who would offer the most. They never truly saw God for who He was. He is everything good and remarkable, He is absolute good! God owns everything good. No one or nothing else can offer anything that is not God’s to give. To say that someone or something else has or is more is a twisted hallucination, a child’s imaginary game. It is not truth if anyone says that there is more offered by anything other than God.
The Old Testament book Hosea begins with God asking His prophet Hosea to marry an unfaithful woman, a prostitute. What an unusual request. Why does God want a spokesman of His to do that? It is through this relationship that God shows His people’s unfaithfulness. God used this as an illustration of how His people acted like prostitutes by turning away from God and worshiped other things, idols.
Many times Hosea’s wife Gomer, went back to the life of prostitution and promiscuity because she thought her other lovers had more to offer her than her husband did. Every time God told Hosea to woo her back, to take her back as his wife. After a little while she would see that her life might be better with Hosea, but then she would forget how good she had it and take off again. God kept telling Hosea to take her back and love her no matter what. Through this relationship, God was teaching Hosea, and ultimately everyone who reads this book, that God always wants to accept us, forgive us and love us anyway. Even if we are unfaithful and selfish.
Children conceived in this marriage had been given names that were hard to bear. Hosea’s first son was named Jezreel (not a bad name to bear), it was a prophesy of destruction and punishment for the reigning king and his dynasty that was the hard part. The name Jezreel means God plants. King Jehu committed many murders at the valley of Jezreel, I believe it was Jehu that killed 70 men from the previous king’s family, these men were beheaded and stacked up in this valley. There was many military battles fought in the Jezreel valley, there was a lot of death dealt in this valley. Hosea’s daughter’s name was Lo-ruhamah which means “not loved”. This name was a way to show that because of the deep pain that God experienced because of the unfaithfulness of His chosen people, He would no longer show them love or forgive them. Hosea’s second son was named Lo-ammi, which meant “not my people”, because they chased after other idols or desires. Luckily God is all about mercy and love, these children who bore these hard names, were eventually given new names. Jezreel, gained a new prophesy, when God said that He would again plant His people in His land. Lo-ruhamah’s name changed to Ruhamah which meant, the ones I love. Lo-ammi’s name was changed to Ammi, which means my people.
God shows us through this family that God wants to love us, He wants to forgive us, He wants to show mercy and grace. It also shows that He is holy. That He cannot accept sin or unfaithfulness, that He deserves far more, He deserves unwavering faithfulness and absolute devotion. It shows that we were created to love Him completely, and to be in an intimate relationship with God.
Hosea 6:1–7:2 (MSG)
1-3 “Come on, let’s go back to God.
He hurt us, but he’ll heal us.
He hit us hard,
but he’ll put us right again.
In a couple of days we’ll feel better.
By the third day he’ll have made us brand-new,
Alive and on our feet,
fit to face him.
We’re ready to study God,
eager for God-knowledge.
As sure as dawn breaks,
so sure is his daily arrival.
He comes as rain comes,
as spring rain refreshing the ground.”
4-7 “What am I to do with you, Ephraim?
What do I make of you, Judah?
Your declarations of love last no longer
than morning mist and predawn dew.
That’s why I use prophets to shake you to attention,
why my words cut you to the quick:
To wake you up to my judgment
blazing like light.
I’m after love that lasts, not more religion.
I want you to know God, not go to more prayer meetings.
God through this story, points out that the love that was given to him, did not last, it was only given to Him on a whim, any breath of wind and it was dried up and gone. God did not trust His people’s love, and He had every reason not to. They proved that He was right, daily. They might turn back to Him, but it would never last. God says that He is after a love that lasts. He doesn’t want religion and rules, but love. He wants to be loved, not because they have been told that they have to love Him and have to perform some rituals to show their love. How would we feel about someone who professed to love us, but it didn’t go deeper than the words spoken, that it was not in the heart of a person, but only in the mind. Would we accept that kind of love, empty, only words? No, it would be awful, especially if your heart was deeply in love with them. It would break your heart every time you looked into the eyes of the one who professes love, but they are only empty words. We can tell when someone is speaking the truth, when we are really loved, and when someone is faking. When someone is saying words because they feel obligated, we know it. Well this was God’s predicament. His people’s words were empty, their hearts were deadened to Him, to His love. God’s heart ached. He wanted to love them, but they rejected His love time after time. God’s people professed their love to manmade gods, and other luxuries and riches. They didn’t see that it was God who was blessing them with those gifts. So God felt He had to withhold those blessings to draw His people back to Him. He wanted His people to see that these other manmade gods had nothing to offer them. That only, He the living God, the only God that was real, their Creator, could give them their needs and desires. It was only He who could fill up their emptiness. God through this story shows how ready He is to restore everything back to His people the moment they turn around to go back to Him.
This story is the story of mankind. God loves, but most of us do not love Him in return, or at the very most our love is fickle. Our love is shown and then at the smallest breath of wind, it disappears and we chase something else and we forget God. This is not what God deserves. I know that my heart is like the people about whom this story was told. I am so often distracted from God. I often stray away from the God who loves me and forget to spend time with Him. I profess my love for Him and then I don’t follow it up with a life lived for Him. I live life for myself instead. I live life selfishly. I want to be comfortable, and life lived with God is not always a comfortable life. It is usually a life of risk and sacrifice. Giving up your own selfish desires to meet someone else’s needs. God asks us to be His hands and feet to this hurt and dying world, and that is hard, to take your focus off of yourself and place it on God.
God wants declarations of love that last longer than the moment that they were said. God may ask us to turn away from things that He doesn’t want us to have or do, even things that may seem good, right and innocent. He may want to change our viewpoint and show us the truth from His perspective. Our perspective may be radically different from God’s. That can be hard to accept. He may have other plans for our lives than the plans that we have, they may be completely different. Are we willing to accept that? We have a limited capacity to understand when compared to God’s capacity. He is omniscient and we are not. Are we willing to admit that we might be wrong? This is the love that God deserves. Actually nothing we can do or offer is enough, but this is the very least that He deserves. It is not an easy love, or comfortable way of life. Are we willing? Are we willing to see things God’s way, and admit that we might be wrong? Are we willing to follow God no matter what, and give up, if asked, the plans that we have for ourselves? Are we willing to give up our own comforts for the good of others? This is love, this is how we can show our love for The One who is love. This kind of love is not like the morning mist or predawn dew. This kind of love is not all about feeling, it is intentional. It is the willingness to give up our lives for Him and His purposes.
This kind of love has nothing to do with religion. Religion gets in the way of this kind of love. This kind of love is a way of life, not a bunch or rules or measures to live up to. It is a love that overwhelms and abundant life is found in it. Joy is found in this life, even when circumstances may be devastating. This love deepens as we get to know God, as we love Him and learn about Him, we fall deeper and deeper in love with Him. We swim in His love, it is so much that we cannot reach the bottom, but we can trust this love. God’s love WILL NOT let us down, it will NOT FAIL! It does not disappoint. Human love lets us down often, we can fail at loving each other and even in loving God, but His love does not. Human love is often disappointing, but God’s is so far from that. God wants us to get to know Him. God wants us to study Him, study His ways, to Soak in as much knowledge of Him as we can hold.
God wants us to treat Him like someone you have just fallen in love with, someone who makes your heart skip a beat. Maybe you have experienced this before, with dating, or within the birth of your child. The type of love that I am talking about is exquisite, almost painful in its intensity. It is life-giving and life changing. It is a love that you would give your life for. I have heard it said that in marriage, it takes a lifetime of studying the other half, that you must strive for a doctorate in the other person. It is a lifelong pursuit of knowledge about that other person, that is what love should look like within marriage. It should excite you to discover new things that make them happy, find out what makes them tick, to be able to show them that you are paying attention to them, this is intentional love. The same goes with your child. It is your job to discover who God made them to be and encourage them in that direction, not what you want but what He wants for them. To encourage their bents, even if it is not what you want. It is your job, to gain a PhD on each of your children. This is not easy, but it is so worth it for you and for them. There is great joy in discovering something new about your loved ones. The same goes for God, there is great joy in getting to know your Maker intimately. There is no greater life pursuit. It may be hard, but there is no better life that this. The adventure is real, incredible, beautiful and scary all at the same time. I have had many tastes of these emotions in this life, however, I find that I am like a predawn dew, I have a hard time sustaining a love like this, I get distracted so easily by the newest thing, whatever that may be. I get so lazy, I just want comfort, I don’t really want to put effort into it. Crazy huh, I know the truth and yet, I am like the people who Hosea was to prophesy to.
My whole life will be about striving to love God the way He deserves. I want to love Him like that, but I don’t act like it. God, strengthen my resolve, my faith, my capacity to love, and my knowledge of you. I do love you and I want to love you more. Help me with that. Turn my heart toward you and hedge me in, help me not to stray to the left or to the right. Help me God. I do not want to be a morning mist or predawn dew kind of woman. I don’t want to just go through the motions. I need help and I know it.