Hosea and Jesus

Having finished Hosea yesterday, this is sort of a catch-up Friday. So if you’re behind, it’s a good chance to finish your Hosea readings by the end of the weekend.

But if you’re up-to-date, let’s reflect a bit on what we learned from Hosea, and how it relates to the New Testament presentation of Jesus. And this is one where you’re going to do the bulk of the work.

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Hosea 14

We’ve made it to the final chapter of Hosea. So let’s recap the big picture of what we’ve seen so far:

Israel (the northern kingdom) has been persistently rebellious against God – chasing after other gods (to provide food) and other nations (to provide security), rather than trusting God. You know, the one who led them into the promised land full of food – giving them tasty desert snacks along the way – and who fought their battles for them. So God is about to hand them over to the consequences of their actions: drought (let’s see how Ba’al goes at providing for you) and conquering armies (how’s that whole Assyrian alliance going?)

Although these consequences will last for some time (many centuries of exile, as it turned out), there are also brief glimpses of hope. Despite being a spurned husband, God will go back out to the wilderness, where it all began, and romance Israel back to himself (ch2), reuniting Israel and Judah in the process. Despite being a rejected parent, God won’t completely give up on his wayward son, bringing him back from exile (ch11).

But still, you have to ask: when God does this, will it be any different next time around? Will his wife still cheat on him? Will his son still rebel?

To address this problem, Hosea uses another image of God, drawn from agriculture, in chapter 14. A chapter in which the good news of God’s saving activity shines through.

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Hosea 13

We’re nearly finished our series through Hosea. (And this is the last of the gloom-and-doom negative chapters; tomorrow’s is much brighter!) And this chapter, in big picture terms, is more of the same. So we won’t spend a long time on each verse. I’ll just provide a few notes to give us an idea of the gist of each section. We’ve returned again to the theme of idolatry – and God’s anger at it.

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Hosea 12:7-14

Yesterday, Hosea used the story of the patriarch Jacob to describe the people of Israel in his own day. Jacob sought to deceive and manipulate, rather than wait on God. He suffered the consequences (estrangement from his brother and exile away from the land). But still he encountered God, struggled with him, and was restored.

Israel are in the same position, trying to get ahead their own way (deceitful exploitation of others, and unwise alliances with foreign tyrants) rather than waiting on God. They will experience the consequences; in particular, exile. Yet in the midst of this struggle, Hosea urged them to seek God (like Jacob did).

Today, the indictment of Israel’s deception continues.

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Hosea 11:12-12:6

We finished last week’s look at Hosea 4-11 on a positive note: God, depicted as a loving parent, unable to completely reject his rebellious son (despite the fact that he deserves it). Chapter 11 ended with the promise of restoration:

Hosea 11:11 They will come from Egypt, trembling like sparrows, from Assyria, fluttering like doves. I will settle them in their homes,” declares the Lord.

Beginning with chapter 12, however, Hosea resumes his negative tone. This begins the third major section of the book, which we’ll study all this week. Here, he describes Israel’s rebellion using the imagery of their ancestor, Jacob. In effect, he’s telling the people of Israel: you’re acting just like your dad.

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Hosea 11

In most families, it takes a fair bit for parents to kick their kids out of home. (For my dad, the standing threat was he’d kick me out if I got an earring. I never got to test if he was serious, because I’m not into unnecessary pain. Or earrings, for that matter. In my teens, I once wore a stick-on one to church on April Fool’s day; he spent the morning edging around the church trying to tackle me to remove it, while I was being shielded by all the twenty-something guys who thought it was great fun. He also would use me and my sister in sermon illustrations, so this is part of the enduring payback. The thing is, had he not mentioned it, I wouldn’t have even thought about wearing an earring – which means I can trot this story out in connection with Rom 7:7-8, too. But back to Hosea.)

In Hosea 11, we have God depicted as a conflicted parent – one who has every right to kick his wayward son, Israel out of home, who’s had far more than his ears pierced, tattooed himself with the names of most of the local prostitutes (see Hosea 5), and stolen from the family multiple times to feed his growing addiction to methamphetamine, which causes him to be a dangerously bad influence on his impressionable younger brother, Judah (Hos 4:15). As a parent, God is torn, simultaneously feeling love and anger, compassion and rejection. What will he choose to do? Will he kick Israel out? And if so, will it be for good?

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Hosea 8-10

My wife is a primary school teacher. One of the less pleasant parts of her job is having to discipline children who have misbehaved. And over the past generation, the discipline options for teachers have (rightly, in most cases) become far more limited. So teachers have to be more creative than just sending children to the deputy for six of the best.

One of my wife’s favoured approaches – which I’ve witnessed first hand when we were youth leaders together, and think should be banned under the Geneva Convention – is the Excruciatingly Long Lecture About Exactly What It Is You Did And Why It’s Wrong. She brings it out particularly in cases where a student has done something to hurt another student, as her way of standing up for justice and fairness. It’s effective because it stops students muttering a perfunctory and insincere “sorry” (like Israel did back in chapter 6) and avoiding having to face the full reality and consequences of their actions.

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Hosea 7

Yesterday in Hosea 6, we saw how Israel’s shallow, presumptuous “repentance” was unacceptable to God. Today, the accusations continue, moving to the political realm.

But first, we get another difficult-to-understand section, in which God seems to be saying that his people’s sin is so great it’s getting in the way of him restoring them:

Hosea 6:11 – 7:2 “Also for you, Judah, a harvest is appointed, whenever I would restore the fortunes of my people. Whenever I would heal Israel, the sins of Ephraim are exposed and the crimes of Samaria revealed. They practice deceit, thieves break into houses, bandits rob in the streets; but they do not realize that I remember all their evil deeds. Their sins engulf them; they are always before me.

The accusations then continue. This time they seem to be about the political instability, commenting on the constant cycle of assassinations that dominated the history of the northern kingdom. (See 2 Kings 15, which lists how Zechariah, Shallum, Pekahiah, Pekah, Kevin, Julia, Kevin, and Tony were assassinated.):

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Hosea 6

Yesterday, we left Israel accused of idolatry – worshipping the Canaanite fertility gods and goddesses – largely because they had been led astray by the priests. After two chapters of strong words, it ended with this frightening image – along with a tinge of hope:

Hosea 5:14-15 For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah. I will tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them. Then I will return to my lair until they have borne their guilt and seek my face—in their misery they will earnestly seek me.

So is this what happens? Does Israel earnestly seek God in repentance?

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Hosea 4-5

We’re going to pick up the pace a bit in our reading through Hosea. (We took our time with the first three chapters last week: we saw the contrast between Israel’s unfaithfulness and God’s undeserved love that sets out to win back his wife, depicted in the real-life object lesson of Hosea and Gomer.) The next few chapters are reasonably repetitive – and there’s a reason for that, which we’ll see. They focus on Israel’s spiritual adultery (chapters 4 & 5), her lack of repentance (chapters 6 & 7), and the certainty and totality of God’s coming judgement (chapters 8 to 10). So we’ll work through these quickly over three days – with a little less comment than usual – before slowing down again when we hit chapter 11.

The case for the prosecution

This chapter is often described as a “prophetic lawsuit,” in which Hosea delivers God’s opening statements for the prosecution. It begins with the announcement that God is bringing formal charges against Israel:

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