Testing God’s Patience.

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.” 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, 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.” – Hosea 1:2-5 ESV

Talk about a tough assignment. Hosea had been chosen by God to be his mouthpiece to the ten northern tribes of Israel. Being a prophet of God was a hard enough job without the special added task that Hosea was given by God. God instructed Hosea to “take for yourself a wife of whoredom.” This poses all kinds of ethical questions. Would God really command His prophet to marry a prostitute and, by doing so, defile himself? God had warned concerning the Levitical priests, “They shall not marry a prostitute or a woman who has been defiled, neither shall they marry a woman divorced from her husband, for the priest is holy to his God” (Leviticus 21:7 ESV). It seems unlikely that God would ask one of His prophets to violate the same command He had given to priests. So it would see that God was speaking prophetically about what was going to happen between Hosea and his future wife. This interpretation seems to make the most sense and would parallel the experience between God and the people of Israel. When Hosea married Gomer, she would initially be faithful, just as Israel had been to God, but in time she would sell herself like a prostitute, proving unfaithful to Hosea. God was going to use Hosea’s family as a visual illustration of the blatant unfaithfulness of the people of Israel, as is clear by his words to Hosea: “for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.”

Can you imagine the impact these words had on Hosea when he heard them? And yet, amazing, we read of no dissent or disagreement from Hosea. In fact, the text reads, “So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son” (Hosea 1:3 ESV). Knowing what he knew, Hosea still obeyed God. Hosea and Gomer were blessed by the birth of a son, but as God had warned, he would be a child of whoredom. What this most likely means is that when Gomer eventually turned to prostitution, her children would be recognized as children of a prostitute. Their character would be questioned because of their mother’s immoral actions. Just as generations of Israelites were saddled with the legacy left by their ancestors – a legacy of immorality and unfaithfulness to God.

God commanded Hosea to name his new son, Jezreel, which means, “God sows.” It refers to the scattering of seed by a farmer. But the real significance of the boy’s name would be linked to the Valley of Jezreel, where God said He was going “to punish King Jehu’s dynasty to avenge the murders he committed at Jezreel. In fact, I will bring an end to Israel’s independence. I will break its military power in the Jezreel Valley” (Hosea 1:4-5 NLT). It was years earlier, in the Valley of Jezreel, that Jehu, the newly anointed king of Israel murdered the reigning king, Joram. But not only that, he took the life of Ahaziah, the king of Judah. Jehu would go on a killing spree, taking the life of Jezebel, and slaughtering the 42 family members of King Ahaziah. He also wiped out any of the prophets of Baal that were left after Elijah’s encounter with them on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18). Jehu seemed to enjoy his killing spree and saw himself as acting on behalf of God. But God made it clear to Hosea that He was going to avenge the slaughter committed by Jehu in the Valley of Jezreel. He was going to bring an end to the dynasty of Jehu in Israel. It would occur some years later when Shallum murdered Zechariah, a descendant of Jehu, and made himself king of Israel. 

So what’s the point of all this? God takes sin seriously. He will not tolerate the sins of those who even believe they are acting on His behalf. Jehu thought he was doing God a favor by wiping out Jezebel and the prophets of Baal, but he overstepped his authority. He made himself judge, jury and executioner, and he would answer to God for his actions.

The incredible thing about this passage is that Hosea was going to have to watch as his wife and children became visual illustrations of God’s indictment of the people of Israel for their unfaithfulness. But as we will soon discover, they would also prove to be living examples of God’s steadfast love and forgiveness. Hosea would be allowed to play the part of God in the life of his rebellious wife. This real-life scenario would have a dramatic impact on those who watched God’s prophet wrestle with the unrequited love of his unfaithful wife. But he would persevere. He would patiently reach out to her and love her, in spite of her. Just as God had done for years with the people of Israel.

But there would be a limit to God’s patience. He would not tolerate Israel’s unfaithfulness forever. And in 733 B.C., the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pilesar would destroy Israel and take the people into captivity, never to return. In the meantime, God was calling His people to return to Him. He used the prophets to warn them of the danger to come. He begged them to give up their idolatry and return to Him, just as Hosea would beg his wife to return to him and remain faithful. God is loving. He is kind. He is patient. But He is also holy and will not tolerate unfaithfulness forever. The judgment and justice of God are not to be taken lightly. He sent His Son into the world to provide salvation. But there are those who reject His offer and spurn His attempt to love them through the redemptive death of His Son. The day is coming when the offer will be removed and the opportunity to be saved is no more. The apostle Paul would have everyone come to grips with the incredible kindness and patience of God, so that they would not refuse His offer of salvation.

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will judge everyone according to what they have done. He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness. – Romans 2:4-8 NLT


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