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

 

A Message of Love.

The word of the Lord that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. – Hosea 1:1 ESV

Amos was a prophet. As such, he was a spokesman for God. He acts as God’s voice, so-to-speak, proclaiming God’s pending judgment against the people of Israel for their rebellion against His law. Amos prophesied during the time of the two kingdoms. After Solomon, the son of David, had ended his reign by worshiping the idols of his many wives, God split the kingdom in two. Ten tribes would form the nation of Israel to the north and two tribes would remain in the south, forming the nation of Judah. From that point forward there would be two different kings over the two separate nations, and there would be constant animosity between the tribes. Amos would prophesy during the reign of Jeroboam II, the king of Israel. During that same time, the southern kingdom of Judah would have four different kings: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.

When God called Hosea to begin his ministry, the nation of Israel was experiencing a time of prosperity. The book of 2 Kings records, “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Judah’s King Amaziah, son of Joash, Jeroboam son of Joash became king over Israel. He reigned for forty-one years in Samaria” (2 Kings 14:23 ESV). Samaria was the capital of the northern kingdom. We’re told that Jeroboam II “restored the border of Israel from Lebo Hamath in the north to the sea of the Arabah in the south, in accordance with the word of the Lord God of Israel announced through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher” (2 Kings 14:25 ESV). As king, he experienced great “military success in restoring Israelite control over Damascus and Hamath” (2 Kings 14:28 ESV). But there was a sinister side to King Jeroboam. “He did evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not repudiate the sinful ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat who encouraged Israel to sin” (2 Kings 14:24 ESV). In other words, he followed in the footsteps of his namesake, King Jeroboam I.

Jeroboam I, the first king of the northern kingdom, had been placed there by God. While Solomon was still on the thrown over the as-yet-undivided nation of Israel, God sent his prophet, Ahijah, to Jeroboam with news. God had instructed Ahijah to take his new cloak and tear it into 12 pieces, representing the 12 tribes of Israel. He gave ten of the pieces to Jeroboam, saying, “Take ten of these pieces, for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: ‘I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon, and I will give ten of the tribes to you!…For Solomon has abandoned me and worshiped Ashtoreth, the goddess fo the Sidonians; Chemosh, the god of Moab; and Molech, the god of the Ammonites. He has not followed my ways and done what is pleasing in my sight. He has not obeyed my decrees and regulations as David his father did” (1 Kings 11:31-33 NLT). God went on to tell Jeroboam, “And I will place you on the throne of Israel, and you will rule over all that your heart desires. If you listen to what I tell you and follow my ways and do whatever I consider to be right, and if you obey my decrees and commands, as my servant David did, then I will always be with you. I will establish an enduring dynasty for you as I did for David, and I will give Israel to you. Because of Solomon’s sin I will punish the descendants of David—though not forever” (1 Kings 11:37-39 NLT).

Jeroboam I, having heard the word of God through His prophet, would arrogantly use his new-found power as king of the northern tribes to do what he wanted to do. Fearing that the ten tribes would eventually rebel against him, Jeroboam came up with a plan to prevent them from having to return to Jerusalem, located in the heart of Israel to the south. He feared that if they returned there each year to offer sacrifices to Yahweh, they would eventually turn on him. So he had two golden calves made and set them up in Bethel and Dan, telling the people of Israel, “It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt!” (1 Kings 12:28 NLT). He went on to ordain his own priests and establish his own religious festivals.

There was a long line of kings to rule of Israel after Jeroboam I died. And all of them share the same sad legacy. They all “did what was evil in the Lord’s sight” (2 Kings 14:24 NLT). Of Jeroboam II, it is said, “He refused to turn from the sins that Jeroboam son of Nebat had led Israel to commit” (2 Kings 14:24 NLT). So it was into that context that Hosea was called by God to prophesy. Years of sin, rebellion and apostasy had long hardened the hearts of the people. Generations of idol worship had caused them to forget Yahweh. But in the midst of all of this, God would bring his message regarding the sins of the people of Israel, the coming judgment, the means of salvation, and His steadfast love. And He would choose to do it through Hosea, this simple servant who would be required to model the faithful love of God through his own life. Hosea would have the distinct privilege and unbelievable burden to demonstrate in real life what the love of God looks like. The story of Hosea is one of spiritual adultery and unfaithfulness, but also of Godly love and forgiveness. Hosea would have the unenviable position of having to experience what God does every time His people spurn His love and reject His appeals to return to Him in repentance. This book is a call to spiritual fidelity and faithfulness. It is a warning against taking God’s mercy and grace for granted.

It is interesting to note that Hosea’s name means, “He [Yahweh] has saved” and is a variation of “Joshua” which in the Greek is translated, Jesus. Hosea will be called on by God to sacrifice everything in order to restore his unfaithful wife. And we must never forget that God sacrificed His greatest treasure, His Son, in order to restore us to a right relationship with Himself.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation – Romans 5:8-9 NLT

Nothing Is Too Hard For God.

Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. You show steadfast love to thousands, but you repay the guilt of fathers to their children after them, O great and mighty God, whose name is the Lord of hosts, great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the children of man, rewarding each one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds. – Jeremiah 32:17-19 ESV

Jeremiah 32:17-25

The armies of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon were besieging the gates of Jerusalem. Everything Jeremiah had been warning the people of Judah would happen is about to take place. The end is in sight. Jeremiah had been placed under arrest by King Zedekiah because he didn’t like the tone or content of his message. It seems that the king thought that by locking Jeremiah up he could alter the inevitable. But God’s will was going to be done. Jeremiah had simply shared the word of the Lord. “Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I am giving this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall capture it; Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him face to face and see him eye to eye. And he shall take Zedekiah to Babylon, and there he shall remain until I visit him, declares the Lord. Though you fight against the Chaldeans, you shall not succeed’” (Jeremiah 32:3-5 ESV).

In the midst of all this chaos and confusion, and with the Babylonians poised to take possession of the land of Judah, Jeremiah received a personal word from the Lord telling him to buy a piece of property. As crazy as it may have sounded, Jeremiah did what the Lord instructed him to do, because God had given him the assurance, “Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land” (Jeremiah 32:15 ESV). Based on the promise of God and in spite of what he knew was about to happen, Jeremiah obeyed. He bought the land and he put the deeds in an earthenware jar and buried it in the ground so that it would last a long time, just as God had instructed him. And then Jeremiah prayed.

Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.” Things may have appeared bleak and despairing from Jeremiah’s perspective, but he knew that God had it all under control. The same God who had created the entire universe would have no problem handling the Babylonian situation. In fact, it was all His doing. He had sent King Nebuchadnezzar and his troops to besiege and conquer the land of Judah, taking the people captive. And He would fulfill His promise to restore them to the land because nothing is too difficult for him. Jeremiah acknowledged that God had shown unbelievable love for and patience toward the people of Judah for generations. But the consistent rebellion of the people and their constant sinning against Him was about to catch up to them. Their stubbornness and insubordination could be traced back all the way to the generation that He had set free from captivity in Egypt. And their propensity for sin had been passed down from one generation to the next until God had deemed it necessary to put an end to it all. But rather than question the wisdom of God, Jeremiah acknowledged His character. “O great and mighty God, whose name is the Lord of hosts, great in counsel and mighty in deed.” He knew God was in the right. From Jeremiah’s perspective, God was all-wise and all-powerful. He was great and mighty. And as the Lord of hosts, He was ultimately in charge of everything and everyone, including Nebuchadnezzar and his troops. Not only that, Jeremiah knew that God’s “eyes are open to all the ways of the children of man, rewarding each one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds.” No matter how unfair things may have appeared to Jeremiah, he knew God was justified in His actions. He was righteous in all His ways.

This simple introduction to Jeremiah’s prayer, when taken in the context of all that was going on, gives us a wonderful reminder to always give greater significance to God’s character than to our circumstances. God never ceases being the Lord of hosts. He is always in control and never lacking in power. Nothing is ever too difficult for Him. We must always balance the knowledge of God’s everlasting love with His divine duty to discipline those He loves. God could not allow the people of Judah to continue to dishonor His name and flaunt their privileged position as His people. Sin always has consequences. But in the midst of it all, Jeremiah kept his eyes focused on God. The eternal, unchanging nature of God was his rock in the middle of the storm. He knew he could count on God to come through in the end and fulfill His promise of future restoration. When everything around us is unstable, we need to rely on the One who is always a rock and firm foundation. When surrounded by uncertainty, we must place our trust in the One who never changes or proves Himself unreliable. Nothing is too hard for Him.