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.”
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. – Hosea 1:6-11 ESV
After eventually giving birth to Jezreel, Hosea’s first son, Gomer would go on to conceive and bear two additional children to Hosea – a daughter who Hosea was instructed to name, “No Mercy” and a second son who was to be called “Not My People.” The girl’s name would literally be, “She Is Not Loved.” Now to get the full impact of what is going on here, you have to imagine Hosea calling out the names of his children on a daily basis, just as you and I do within our own families. Every time Hosea wanted to get the attention of one of his children or to introduce them to someone, he would be reminded of the tenuous status between the people of Israel and their God. Neighbors, family members and friends would also receive a not-so-subtle or appreciated nudge as to the spiritual state of the nation. The real sufferers in this context would have been the children themselves, whose very name would be like badges of dishonor their entire lives. What parent in their right mind would want to invite a kid named “No Mercy” or “Not My People” to their child’s birthday party?
But as usual, God’s purposes went far deeper than the personal sufferings of either Hosea or his children. God would making a divine statement about His dissatisfaction with His people. Their actions against Him were unacceptable and His judgment on them was going to be unavoidable. Things had gotten so bad in the northern kingdom of Israel that God was forced to conclude, “I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all” (Hosea 1:6 ESV). And even scarier than that was His sobering pronouncement, “for you are not my people, and I am not your God” (Hosea 1:9 ESV). God was going to give them over to their own rebellious desires. He was going to bring judgment for their unrepentant actions against Him.
God was in no way breaking His covenant promises with Israel. He was simply telling them that the relationship they had enjoyed with Him up until that time was about to radically change. His provision, protection and power would be removed. They had come to believe that their relative success as a nation was due to their status as the children of God, but now God was warning them that that was all about to change – radically. God, who is holy and righteous, cannot turn a blind eye to sin. He cannot simply tolerate or overlook the rebellion of those whom He has called His own. He was going to give the Israelites over to the natural inclinations of their hearts. They didn’t want to serve and obey Him, so He would make it possible for them to come out from under His rule and reign, and experience the “freedom” they so desperately craved.
And yet, God tells Hosea that at the same time, “I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God” (Hosea 1:7 ESV). When the history of the two divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah are examined closely, it is evident that both were guilty of unfaithfulness, but the southern kingdom of Judah has within its less-than-ideal historical chronology a few bright moments when a king would come to the surface who would serve God and lead the people in a renewed obedience to Him. These kings were few and far between, but they provide a marked contrast to the long line of rulers over the northern kingdom of who each, “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (1 Kings 16:25 ESV). It is important to remember that God had promised King David that He would establish his kingdom forever. “Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for all time, and your throne will be secure forever” (2 Samuel 7:16 NLT). God also told Solomon, David’s son, “I will establish the throne of your dynasty over Israel forever. For I made this promise to your father, David: ‘One of your descendants will always sit on the throne of Israel’” (1 Kings 9:5 NLT). So a major part of God’s promise to show mercy on the southern kingdom of Judah was in order to keep His promise to David. It was not that Judah was more faithful than Israel, but that God was faithful to fulfill all that He had promised. The southern kingdom of Judah was named after one of the two tribes from which it was comprised. And it was to be through the tribe of Judah, David’s tribe, that the Messiah would come. The prophet, Micah, had predicted, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past” (Micah 5:2 NLT).
In the midst of all the gloom and doom of this passage is found a small, but highly significant word: “Yet.” God tells Hosea, “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’” (Hosea 1:11 ESV). In spite of all that God had said regarding His removal of His mercy and His rejection of the nation of Israel as His children, He was not done. His anger would not be long-lasting and His rejection would not be permanent. They may have proved unfaithful, but He would not be. The day was coming when His judgment would be unleashed on them in the form of the Assyrian army. But there was also a day coming when God would restore the entire nation of Israel – all twelve tribes – to their rightful place as His children. “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” (Hosea 1:11 ESV).
Too often we read passages like this one and focus solely on the judgment of God. But in doing so we miss out on the real message of His faithfulness. We fail to remember the rest of the story. God is not done yet. The redemptive story He is writing is far from finished. His faithfulness is beyond question and His steadfast, unfailing commitment to His promises is unshakeable. Israel would fail God, but He would not fail Israel. Even the southern tribe of Judah would end up falling under God’s wrath for their rebellion, but He would not abandon them forever. Why? Because He is the faithful, covenant-keeping God.