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The Prophet and the Prostitute (Hosea 1)

Hosea-Relentless-blog(This is the chapter 1 from an upcoming book being written called: “Unrelenting Love: The Book of Hosea”)

by Pastor Matthew Black, 7/15/2015, 10:00pm

“He loved us not because we are lovable, but because He is love.”  – C. S. Lewis

Have you ever been unfaithful to God? Have you ever backslidden as a believer in Christ? Do you ever feel like a failure? In Hosea 1, we see how the Lord disciplines every one of His children. He will not let us continue in sin. His love is relentless, and He always comes after His straying child.

The believer in Jesus Christ is constantly growing. We are not in any way sinless, but we ought to be sinning less. If you find yourself not sinning less, then chastening is coming your way. God will do what it takes to bring you to your knees not because He is cruel, but because He is the most tender compassionate Being in the universe. He wants you to be what He saved you to be. He wants you to confront sin in your life.


Mention the word ‘perestroika’ in Russia today, and you will be greeted with cynicism. The reason is quite obvious. In his book, then Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev made frequent reference to the credibility gap between words and deeds. He insisted that people did not want political slogans that failed to square with reality.

‘Perestroika’ means, “The unity of words and deeds,” and on that basis Gorbachev attempted to reform the Soviet system. It was a noble aim, but for the Russian people, its failure was painfully evident. The unity between political promises and social reality was a myth; therein, bringing the downfall of Gorbachev’s administration.[1]

Every day we watch inconsistency lived out before us on the world’s stage. We hear people say one thing; and, then, watch people do another thing. All sorts of promises are given, but not many promises are kept. That is how corporate ladders are climbed, positions are gained, and elections are won.

The sad reality is that the same is at times true of the lives of many struggling Christians. There are times in our lives when because we are not confronting sin urgently and honestly in our lives, that the Word of God seems to lose its power, and the voice of the Holy Spirit seems dull and distant.

I want to urge you as you study the book of Hosea to confront problems in your life head on. A small area of stubbornness in your life right now may one day ruin your marriage. It may cause you to dry up spiritually. It may lead you to other sins. We need to stay tender and humble daily before the Lord.

The Story of Hosea and Gomer

The book of Hosea is a story of the amazing love of God for us. It is also a salvation story. Hosea was asked by God to marry a woman who would prove to be unfaithful to him later on. He was to use his marriage as an object lesson for Israel because they were deep into sin and far, far away from God. Hosea was to play the part of God. His wife, Gomer would play the part of God’s people.

Gomer bore him three children. God named his first child, a son, Jezreel which means ‘cast away’. His second child, a daughter, God named her Lo-Ruhamah which means ‘not pitied or not loved’. For his third child, another son, God named him Lo-Ammi which means ‘not my people’ (Hosea 1:2-9)

Through the three children’s names, God warned Israel the He would cast them away and be scattered. He would no longer have mercy upon them and no longer show them love.

However, in spite of Israel’s rebelliousness, there would come a time when God would restore them (Hos. 1:10). Instead of casting them away, God would plant them. He would have mercy on them and love them and call them ‘children of the living God’. Why? Because God promised Abraham, to “multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore” (Gen. 22:17).

God’s Hesed

We see this covenant love of God played out in Hosea’s marriage. In spite of Gomer’s unfaithfulness, Hosea continued to care and provide for her to the extent that he went to buy her back from the slave market (Hos. 3:1-2). The Hebrew word for God’s covenant love is ‘hesed’.

Walter Kaiser comments: “In no prophet is the love of God more clearly demarcated and illustrated than in Hosea. His marital experience was the key to both his ministry and his theology. It was the picture of the holiness of God righteously standing firm while the heart of God tenderly loved that which was utterly abhorrent.”[2]

Hesed refers to a life long love based on a covenantal relationship. It is a steadfast, rock-solid faithfulness that endures to eternity. It is also a love that is so enduring that it persists beyond any sin or betrayal to mend brokenness and graciously extend forgiveness. It speaks of a completely undeserved kindness and generosity done by a person who is in a position of power. Hesed is a love which cannot let you go – it is God’s pursuing love for you and me.

Remember Isaiah 54:10: “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love (hesed) for you will not be shaken.”

The gospel of Hosea is this: No matter what we do, no matter how sinful we are, God pursues us, romances us, stalks us, and stakes us out in a radical grace based in Himself. When we run away from Him, God still pursues us.

God pursues us because He does not want ‘anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’ (2 Peter 3:9)

As we look back on our lives and how we came to salvation, many of us would have sensed the feeling that God pursued us. And just as God pursues us, we are compelled to pursue others too.

God’s Love Not Based on Behavior

God does not love you or hear you because you are good. There is none good. God loves you because He wants to magnify His mercy. He does not love you because you are good. He loves you because He is good!

God promised that if Israel obeyed him, they would be blessed, but if they rebelled, they would be taken by other nations. That is exactly what happened. They broke God’s commandments and broke their fellowship with God.

In spite of your disobedience, God loves sinners! You cannot imagine or comprehend how much God loves undeserving sinners. God draws undeserving sinners! This is the message of Hosea.

My brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He has always had you in His mind. He has always loved you. His hands prove it.

Charles Wesley wrote a hymn about this verse:

Arise, my soul, arise. Shake off thy guilty fears.
The bleeding sacrifice In my behalf appears.
Before the throne my Surety stands,
Before the throne my Surety stands;
My name is written on His hands.

God’s Relentless Love

Early in my ministry I did a marriage vow renewal ceremony for nine elderly couples. Several of the couples were married more than sixty years. Some of the couples couldn’t hold hands any more. One of the couples, the man couldn’t say “I do,” but everyone in that room said it for him. One of the couples, the man had a stroke, and the lady was still very mobile and attractive, but she did not forsake him. What a joy to see that! It’s rare in our country.

Marriage is a picture of God’s love for His church. Christ will never leave His bride. God’s love is relentless. That’s what we are going to find out in the book of Hosea and in today’s message.

Marriage: God’s Love Story for Us

But marriage is a picture of something greater than us. It’s about the greatest love story ever: God’s love for us. The Bible story is that God vows to never leave you – whether you are rich or poor, whether you are sick or healthy – He promises to love you and care for you unconditionally. His love is unrelenting in His love to undeserving sinners.

As C. S. Lewis put it: “No sooner do we believe that God loves us than there is an impulse to believe that He does so, not because He is Love, but because we are intrinsically lovable. The pagans obeyed this impulse unabashed; a good man was ‘dear to the gods’ because he was good. We, being better taught, resort to subterfuge. Far be it from us to think that we have virtues for which God could love us. But then, how magnificently we have repented! As Bunyan says, describing his first and illusory conversion, ‘I thought there was no man in England that pleased God better than I.’ Beaten out of this, we next offer our own humility to God’s admiration. Surely He’ll like that? Or if not that, our clear-sighted and humble recognition that we still lack humility. Thus, depth beneath depth and subtlety within subtlety, there remains some lingering idea of our own, our very own attractiveness. It is easy to acknowledge, but almost impossible to realize for long, that we are mirrors whose brightness, if we are bright, is wholly derived from the sun that shines upon us. Surely we must have a little – however little – native luminosity? Surely we can’t be quite creatures?”[3]

An Extreme Case of Unrelenting Love: Hosea

I want to show you an extreme case of unrelenting love in Hosea. Hosea is a tiny little book. You can read it in its entirety in just a few minutes. There are fourteen short chapters, autobiographically written by a prophet called Hosea married to a prostitute named Gomer. He was living in the late 700s before Christ. He is preaching to Northern Israel that is about to be devastated and carried away by the Assyrian Kingdom.

Gomer the Harlot

Hosea and his wife Gomer had three children, but tragedy struck that home even before the children came. For some unexplainable reason deep within the confines of Gomer’s fallen heart, Gomer decided to thwart that love, and seduced by the allurements of the night life she walked out of her home and started to sell herself in harlotry.

Preaching by Day, Searching by Night

Many an evening this prophet who would be seen by people in the day preaching God’s Word, would be seen in the streets at night in his beloved city looking for Gomer. At times we can imagine he’d be standing outside the brothel, just waiting for a moment to talk with her, to express his love to her, and to win her back. In the prophet Hosea’s home, God display’s His love for us in such extraordinary terms. And if you will give me your attention I want to take you through three profoundly moving truths. I promise you if we understand these truths it will be the most revolutionary thing in your life because from these truths, everything we know about love is defined.

Isn’t it ironic 2000 years after the coming of Christ, the Bible has been translated into thousands of languages, movies have been made about the life of Christ, and yet the world still is divided and does not seem to have a clue about the love of Christ?

But go back to this parsonage, and consider these three truths as they unfold. The first truth is this:

1. God’s Love is Undeserving, 1:1-2

Here we learn about the man, Hosea… What we find is that he is relentless in his love to an undeserving wife. That love is really the story of the entire Bible. The Bible is God’s love story to us, undeserving and unfaithful sinners.

Hosea 1:2, “When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.”

A Man Named “Salvation” (Hosea)

Hosea was one of only two writing prophets who ministered to the northern kingdom of Israel (Amos was the other). During the same time period Isaiah and Micah prophesied to the southern kingdom of Judah.

Northern Kingdom Prosperous

At the beginning of Hosea’s ministry, the northern kingdom were quite prosperous under the reign of Jeroboam II. But though things appeared to be calm on the surface, underneath the torrents of the kingdom’s destruction were swirling. The nation had forsaken the Lord. Though they retained allegiance to the Lord with their lips, their hearts were far from Him.

Canaanite Baal and Asherah Worship

They had begun to mingle elements of the Canaanites’ fertility religion with the Lord worship by engaging in sexual rites and drunken orgies which were thought to secure the giving of rain and the fertility of the land for their crops, and even the fertility of their women in childbirth. During these days of political and religious upheaval there prophesied a man whose very name means “salvation.” His name was a glimmer of hope in the midst of a message of destruction.

Why Would a Holy Man Love a Dirty Woman?

We find this truth as we observe Hosea looking for his wife whose broken her bond of commitment to him. Somebody probably stands in the street and says, “We love you, we respect you, we honor you. You’re a man of integrity. But we do have a question for you. How can a holy man of God like you be in love with a filthy adulterous harlot like that?” And Hosea says – “I’m really glad you asked, and I have an answer for you. Now I’m beginning to wonder how a holy God like that could love such an adulterous nation like us.” Hosea raises that question in his own mind.

Someone wisely said, “So often our disappointment from foiled plans is only the hidden love of God in action saving us from greater destruction to ourselves.” [Anonymous]

 Why Israel? A Look at the Heart of God

Hosea takes a microscopic look at the heart of God. Go back across the centuries. When God was looking for a nation through which He would reveal Himself, why did He not go to Greece?

GREECE was the land of philosophers. Most scholars today will tell that most of western thought today is merely footnotes to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle –all from Greece, the cradle of western philosophy. But He didn’t go to Greece.

Why didn’t God go to ROME? That glorious city that was not built in a day with the majesty of the Caesars and the brilliance of the Roman Senate. And they had the mightiest military power in all of the ancient world! But God didn’t go to Rome.

Why didn’t God go to BABYLON, who built its magnificent palaces of splendor? Babylon was renowned because of many architectural wonders and their botanical gardens encased in their cities. But God didn’t go to Babylon.

Abraham of Ur

God did not seek out the philosophical greatness of Greece, or the military might of Rome, or the architectural wonders of Babylon. He chose to call Abraham of Ur of the Chaldeans, who be the father of a little tiny nation.

The love of God is undeserving. One thing we see clearly is that Israel’s history is never really good. It is usually between bad and worse!

Israel did not deserve the love of God. Israel had no respect from the nations, but she did have the unrelenting God of love. Israel would be laughed at by Greece, abused by Rome and enslaved by Babylon!

The Apple of My Eye

And while they would later be enslaved in Babylon, God says to that tiny nation, “…he who touches you touches the apple of my eye” (Zech. 2:8).

If you read it in Hebrew, it actually reads, “You are the little maiden of my eye”. Do you know what that metaphor means? It is so deeply touching. It is like you telling the girl you love, “Come close, come closer, come very close, and look into my eyes, and when you can see that little reflection of yourself in my eyes, you will know that you are my precious maiden!” God takes that boundless, relentless love to a most undeserving group of people and He says to them, “you are that little maiden in my eye, you are the apple of my eye”.

Why has blessed you so abundantly? We enjoy such luxury and comfort. Have you ever asked God: “Why me? Why have you loved me with this kind of an everlasting love?” That’s why the songwriter says:

What language shall I borrow
to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever,
and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
outlive my love to Thee.

2. God’s Love is Urgently Needed, 1:3-9

God’s people were living in prosperity and carnal ease, and God had to awaken them to the need of His love.

Hosea 1:3-9 — “So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. And the LORD said to him, “Call his name Jezreel [REJECTED], for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.” She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.” When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. And the LORD said, “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”

Hosea and Gomer’s Children

The blazing center of the power of Christ’s Gospel is that it transforms us. God wanted to awake Israel to their dire situation, so he essentially tells Gomer to name her children:

  1. Scattered, or Rejected – son
  2. No mercy or Criminal – daughter
  3. Not my people or Illegitimate Child – son

Can you imagine? “Illegitimate child” get over here. “Criminal” get over here. Hey you “Rejected” come here. This is not comical though, because this is God’s solemn and holy judgment. Those who are not transformed are judged. But Israel wasn’t changing because they were comfortable.

Security and Luxury

In the prophecy of Amos we get a picture of the security and luxury in which the people of Israel lived. In the sixth chapter of Amos we read warnings which also describe the affluent lifestyle these people were enjoying. In Amos 6:1 — we read, “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria, the notable men of the first of the nations, to whom the house of Israel comes!”

It was the best of times. Materialism was reigning. Those who were rich and powerful abused the poor by legal manipulation and got richer while the poor got poorer. There seemed to be no end to the prosperity of Israel.

Israel Needed a Wake-up Call!

God’s people were satisfied with their syncretistic worship of Baal and Jehovah. He says to the church at Laodicea, “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent” (Rev. 1:15-19).

However, it was also the worst of times for Israel. The religion of the Israelites became void of any truth and sincerity. We read about that in Amos 5:21-24. Here God rebukes the Israelites, saying, Amos 5:21–24 — “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

The Final Child, a Boy – Not My People

The final child born to Gomer is “Not my People” or “Illegitimate Child.” Now He says: “you are not my people, and I am not your God” (1:9). YHWH had called Abraham – a man justified by faith, who lived by faith. Yet this nation was like a prostitute. She gave herself to her neighbors for the luxuries they could bring. She said that YHWH was her God, but the truth is, she was like an illegitimate child.

Can you imagine when Gomer gave birth? “Hosea, dear, what should we name your new born son?” asked Gomer. Hosea replied, “Call him ‘Not My People’ for he is the son of a prostitute.” And so Israel was acting like a harlot. She was acting as if she had no husband. She was bearing illegitimate fruit. They called themselves believers in the Most High God, and yet they were “high” on the sins and lusts and lies of the world. They considered themselves genuine followers of the Lord, but their life did not match up. Anyone who consistently practices unrighteousness is truly not God’s child, and He is not their God. This was true in Hosea’s day, and it is true in our day.

The Self Deceived

If one great message looms over the book of Hosea, surely is it not this message: that it is amazingly easy for people, even well-instructed and sophisticated people, to think that they are saved; to satisfy themselves that all is right between themselves and God, when they are not and it is not. Israel, when Hosea began his ministry was at peace with itself, confident in its own rightness and its safety, and was utterly unaware that in a few years it was to be obliterated by the wrath of God.

No, it is not enough to say that, according to the Bible, often some in the church think themselves saved when they are not. It would be truer to the Scripture to say that almost always most people in America’s churches who are numbered as church members are, in fact, self-deceived, and are not saved and not right with God.

I do not say that that is the case in a living congregation of Christian people, where the Word is believed and Christ is exalted as Savior and Lord; I do not say that it is so in every congregation. But there are certainly some.

 Are You Spiritually Stagnant?

Are you self-contented and satisfied with where you are spiritually? Are you bored spiritually? Are you stagnant? Are you backslidden? These are hard questions. Do you want to know how you can

It is reading the Word of God; its promises, its commandments, its history, its warnings, its encouragements and applying them to our lives. This is something which, we must confess, very often we do not do, even when we are reading the Bible.

3. The Love of God is Unrelenting, 1:8-2:1

God will stop at nothing to reverse your curse. In Hosea 1:9, God gives the greatest curse possible to this people and says, “I am not your God.” Gomer is unreconciled with Hosea, living in harlotry. In Hosea 3:1-2, God commands Hosea to buy Gomer back, and the prophet pays for her life!

Hosea 1:8-2:1, “When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. And the LORD said, ‘Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.’ Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ it shall be said to them, ‘Children of the living God.’ And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel. 2:1 Say to your brothers, ‘You are my people,’ and to your sisters, ‘You have received mercy.’ ”

Jezreel: Scattered Seed

Jezreel not only means Scattered, but it means Seed. So there is a play on the name here. You who are scattered into captivity will be scattered like seed! You will multiply! You will be blessed! So we see a reversal of the curse.

To prove God’s intention in reversing Israel’s curse, He quotes His original promise to Abraham in Genesis 13:16, “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered” (Hos. 1:10). This is the glorious Abrahamic Covenant spoken of in Galatians 3:29. It is there we find that Jesus is the ultimate Seed and that if we are in Him, we get all the good promises God gave His people in the Old Covenant.

Christ Appointed as Head of the Church

We see the words of the curse upon Israel are reversed and words of hope are issued. The hope centers on a Person under whom both Judah and Israel will be united. Who is this Person and what does this promise mean? Christ is appointed as the Head of the church! Christ is directly mentioned here: “they shall appoint for themselves one head” (2:11). This reminds us of many of the glorious New Testament proclamations, like the one in Ephesians 1:22-23, “And he [God] put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

Hosea’s Children Fulfilled in the Church

The ultimate rescue of Hosea’s children, according to the apostles, occurs in the times of the New Testament Church. The inspired authors of the New Testament, saw the play on the names of Hosea’s children as being ultimately fulfilled in Christ and His His Church. Note the following references to Hosea 1 in the NT. There are two.

1 Peter 2:9–10 — “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people [Lo Ammi], but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy [Lo Ruhammah], but now you have received mercy.”

Romans 9:24–26 — “even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people [Lo Ammi] I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved [Lo Ruhammah] I will call ‘beloved.’ ” “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

God’s Beloved Sons and Daughters

We who have come by faith to Christ fulfill the promise of Hosea. We are the beloved sons and daughters of the living God! We were once not His people, but now we God’s beloved children! God stopped at nothing to purchase Israel back. The events of Hosea 1 are actually Gospel promises that come to pass when God, through the Jews, reaches the Gentiles. Both Jews and Gentiles are called by grace through faith to become the true people of God.

Conclusion: We are the Prostitute

What a shocking love story that ultimately points to the greatest love story in God’s Son laying down His life on the cross for an unworthy and unfaithful bride. In the symbolism of Hosea, God is the Prophet and we are the prostitute. In a very real sense I am Gomer and so are you! We are unfaithful people who deserve God’s wrath, not His mercy.

But Jesus has become our Jezreel (Scattered), our Lo Ruhammah, (No Mercy), and our Lo Ammi (Not My People). Christ took our judgment and was cut off from God in order that we might have God’s mercy and be called God’s people!

[1] “Faith in the Face of Danger,” Jonathan Lamb, pg. 110.

[2] Walter Kaiser, Toward an Old Testament Theology. (Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan, 1978) 197 – Kaiser renders the word hesed as “loyal love” which incorporates the concept of covenantal love, which in the case of Hosea seems to be very appropriate.

[3] C. S. Lewis. The Four Loves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Boston, 1971).