Clouds and then Sunshine (Part One)

Hosea 1:4-2:1

Our passage is like a day that begins with thick, dark clouds. A storm is brewing, and skies put an ominous feeling into one’s heart. Far off, you can hear the low roll of thunder, and you sense that now is the time to prepare for the storm! In our previous posts we looked at the opening words of this prophetic message. God reveals his message through the symbolic actions of his prophet and then through revelation by word. Hosea was to marry a sexually immoral woman to show how Israel herself had been unfaithful to the Lord, who loves his people. The storm clouds were beginning to rise.

Now the scene is darker. Clouds fill the sky with the naming of Gomer’s children. The first son is clearly said to be Hosea’s, but the others may have been the offspring of Gomer’s adulterous adventures. As each child is named the storm draws nearer. Will there be any escape from it? Is there any ray of light amid such darkness?

We hear symbolic names for Hosea’s children (1:4-9). The Lord names all of the children to warn Israel of judgment that would soon come, if Israel did not repent.

Jezreel (1:4-5) was the first child. God’s message is that we must do God’s work in God’s way. The child’s name recalls the atrocities of Jehu (2 Ki 9-10). This would be like naming a child Andersonville, Dachau or My Lai to cite just three notorious examples. God had appointed Jehu as his executioner (2 Kings 9:6-10). And so Jehu went to Jezreel and put Joram, Ahaziah, and Jezebel to death. But in the process, Jehu used deceit and brutality to carry out God’s commission. His heart was not right with God, though he did what the Lord righteously willed to be done (cf. 2 Kings 10:6-31). He was not working for the Lord in the Lord’s way.

Jehu was like the Assyrians (Is 10:5-7); he was just like an ax used to cut down a broken tree, but he paid no attention to the desires of the owner in cutting the tree down. We must always do God’s work in God’s way. It is necessary to renounce the ways of deception, coercion, and manipulation. It does no good to get someone to make a decision, if they lack any heart for God in his or her decision. In fact, it compounds their problem before the Lord.

The reversal of a name’s significance. Jezreel had been the birthplace of Gideon’s greatest victory (Judges 6:33-7:21). Think of Saratoga or Gettysburg or Normandy in our history. But now it becomes the sign of Israel’s complete military defeat by the Assyrians. The military power of the northern kingdom was destroyed forever.

The second child was Lo-Ruhamah, which means “not loved” (1:6-7).  God’s message is that he is not merciful to the unrepentant. The people of the northern kingdom had walked for centuries in the ways of Jeroboam I, and also they had turned to Baal worship and astrology (2 Kings 17:16-17). Therefore, God announced that he would no longer be merciful to Israel. They had been living like God did not care about what they did. The name of this girl would show that God did care and would judge them for their guilt. Hosea’s message is a wake-up call to those who assume God doesn’t judge the guilty.

However, God would continue to have mercy on Judah, the southern kingdom. While Israel fell to the Assyrians, God would protect Judah without human help (2 Kings 19:35-36). God is very able to deliver his people. Israel’s fall was not due to any lack of power on God’s part. This is true today. The sovereign God is still able to turn the hearts of people to himself, and yes, he is doing that today! Jesus still saves sinners.

How concerned are you about God’s mercies? Are you crying out to him for mercy? We have not yet prayed as we should!

Grace and peace, David