Hosea the Prophet
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Our purpose in this lesson is mainly to become familiar with the book of Hosea because I am not sure that many of us are as familiar with this book as we ought to be. It is a very short book, relatively speaking—only 14 chapters—and I would suggest that you perhaps make time to read this book several times through while we are in this discussion. You will get so much more out of what we say if you are very familiar with this portion of the Word.

I would make another suggestion and that is if you read it in the King James version, read it in one of the revised translations as well because there are some passages in the King James version which I refer to as unhappy translations. It does not mean they are mistaken, but it does mean that some of the language is archaic enough that you cannot get the full import of what the Holy Spirit of God had in mind unless you have some additional help. We will be calling your attention to these things as we go along, but I am thinking at the moment of your private, individual reading which I cannot urge you strongly enough to do.

I would like for us to study the book of Hosea by first noticing the prophet himself. Hosea is his name and if you recognize the prophet before you look at the prophecy, I think that you will be able to get more out of the book. If you are familiar with the book, you are probably saying, “What can we say about him? I've read the book of Hosea, and I find practically nothing about this prophet. So how can you say very much about him?”

Let's begin by suggesting something to you about his name—Hosea Azure. Do you realize that Hosea in the Hebrew actually comes from the same root word as the word Joshua ? Do you recognize that the word Joshua is the Old Testament name for Jesus? Do you realize that that indicates that Hosea was named by parents who believed in the coming Deliverer, that he was named by parents who believed in the coming Savior?

As I have pointed out to you any number of times, individuals in the Old Testament were not named for Aunt Martha or Uncle Jim; they were named because of the belief of their parents and what seemed particularly pertinent at that particular time. Certainly the ministry in which Hosea was engaged indicates that he was wisely named because he was the deliverer for Israel as far as proclaiming the message of deliverance was concerned.

Hosea's Heritage

The reference to his parents brings to mind something that might be said about his heritage. I am a firm believer that no individual can be stronger than the heritage with which he is born into this world. I am quite aware of the fact that we could spend a great deal of time arguing about the effectiveness of heredity and the effectiveness of environment. I would not want to rule out one and keep the other. I would suggest that we think of both environment and heredity which I sum up in the one word heritage . I will say to you that you can be no stronger, save by the grace of God in rare exceptions, than the heritage which has been left you. That is the reason that in our series of messages on child training I suggested to you that the place to begin to train your child is with great-grandfather because children are affected even down to the third generation by what has come before.

When it is a heritage such as Hosea had, there is nothing for us to be greatly concerned about because an individual raised in a heritage such as this will do what is expected of him. Oh, yes, I am taking into account what Satan is able to do, but I am remembering that the individual, as Timothy, who learned the Word of God at his grandmother's knee, was made wise unto salvation. Though there may be some skirmishes lost, the battle ultimately will be won.

An Atmosphere of Dedication

As I think of the heritage of Hosea, I am going to suggest to you that it was an atmosphere of dedication. He was raised in a home that had for its atmosphere one of dedication to a task which had assigned. Why do I say that? Notice Hosea, chapter 1, verse 1:

Hosea 1

1The word of the LORD that came unto 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.

Notice the father's name: Beeri . Beeri translated means “the well of Jehovah.” This may not seem particularly significant to you but if you keep in mind that the well of Jehovah signified a place of refreshment for weary travelers, you will realize why I say there was an atmosphere of dedication. The home of Beeri was a place to which people could come and find refreshment of soul because the home was dedicated to God and everything that God wanted and everything that God desired. I would suggest to you that the dedication of Hosea's home worked itself into the very fiber of his being so that he became a dedicated soul as well. That is brought to my attention by a simple statement that is found in verse 2:

Hosea 1

2The beginning of the word of the LORD by Hosea. And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD.

You may say as you look at that verse with me, “I see nothing there about how this could work itself into the fiber of Hosea.” That is the reason I suggested that it would be helpful for you from time to time to read some other translation than the King James . The one that I refer to here—there are many—happens to be Phillips for Prophets . I call to your attention Hosea, chapter 1, verse 2: “While Hosea was waiting the word of the Lord came to him saying, ‘Go marry a faithless woman and have children from her unfaithfulness, for the land commits wholesale prostitution in forsaking the LORD'.”

At the moment, we are particularly interested in the first phrase of the verse, “while Hosea was waiting.” You see, God didn't just suddenly without any indication at all speak to Hosea. Hosea, dedicated to the task to which he had been assigned, was waiting for the Lord to speak. Most of us go off half-cocked. We have an idea that something is so. We know that it has to be true, and we don't think to consult God about it. Then heartbreak comes; disappointment and distress come. I suggest that you develop this attitude that Hosea had of waiting on God. While you wait for Him, in due season, He will speak to you. This atmosphere of dedication in which Hosea was raised permeated the very fiber of his being.

Many people feel that if they are doing exactly what God wants them to do, if they are obeying Him in every respect, they will have no problems. So often I am asked by individuals, “Why did this have to happen? I am doing the best I know how to do. I am in the will of God for the first time and now this thing had to happen. Why did it have to happen? I don't understand why God would let this happen to me. I am as dedicated, consecrated, yielded as I know how to be. Why did it have to happen?”

An Atmosphere of Difficulty

This may be somewhat of a surprise to you, but I would like to suggest another word that you should always couple with the word dedication and that is the word difficulty . I would suggest to you that Hosea was reared not only in an atmosphere of dedication, but he was raised as well in an atmosphere of difficulty. He knew what it was to deal with difficult things. He was raised on a farm and his work wasn't easy. He ran up against many obstinate things, and in so doing he was reminded when he began to preach to the nation of Israel of their obstinacy in the face of God's will and purpose. This is how we learn some of the things about the life of the prophet—just references he made to spiritual problems which were drawn from the life that he had lived.

Turn, please, to chapter 4 of the book of Hosea for a moment and notice verse 16:

Hosea 4

16For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the LORD will feed them as a lamb in a large place.

When Hosea was preaching his heart out, so to speak, declaring the message of God, they were not interested. They didn't care what God thought. It didn't matter to them. They were going to have their own way and do as they pleased. As Hosea dealt with them, he said, “This reminds me of some of the obstinacy that I ran into back on the farm.”

People are a lot like animals, you know. Oh yes, we are animalistic in our nature if not for the grace of God. But in other ways, we are a lot like animals. Phillips catches the meaning of this verse when he says: “Israel is as obstinate as a stubborn heifer. How can the Lord feed them now? Like lambs in a broad meadow.”

I am not a farmer nor a rancher. I often say that I was grown before I knew that milk bottles were not a cow's nest. So I don't want you to think that anything I am saying is indicative of my knowledge related to the farm and the ranch. All I can say is what I know secondhand, but I have been told about obstinate heifers. Once while visiting a ranch, I had an illustration of an obstinate steer that was practically impossible to move.

Isn't it a strange thing that Hosea, with his spiritual enlightenment, could look into the lives of the people to whom he ministered and say: “This isn't too hard for me because I have been trained in difficult things. I have dealt with obstinate heifers and I can deal with obstinate people.”?

I ask this question to provoke your thinking: Could it be that I am speaking to individuals who are as obstinate with God as this obstinate heifer—stubborn, willful, going to have your own way no matter what happens? Beloved, Hosea said that God would love to feed you like a lamb in a broad meadow, but He can't because you are so obstinate. My, the relief that comes when obstinacy ceases, the relief that comes when individuals decide to quit fighting and yield to the Lord. His way is the best way.

I said that Hosea was reared in an atmosphere of difficulty and I have given you one illustration. I would like to call to your attention yet another. Turn to chapter 8 of the book of Hosea and notice what is recorded in verse 7:

Hosea 8

7For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk; the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.

Glance at chapter 13, and notice verse 15:

Hosea 13

15Though he be fruitful among his brethren, an east wind shall come, the wind of the LORD shall come up from the wilderness, and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up: he shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels.

Is there anything quite so disappointing, is there anything quite so disturbing as the disappointment of the harvest? You sow the seed, you cultivate, you nourish, you look forward to the harvest and at harvest time nothing is developed; it is nothing but the stalk. Or, perhaps you go a bit further and you go through all the processes and the grain begins to ripen and you stand and look with thanksgiving in your heart on the field that is ripe unto the harvest and you say to yourself, “This is going to be a plenteous harvest. There is so much to be thankful for.” Were you in the locality where Hosea was, the east wind might suddenly come and the harvest would be no more because the crops would be flat on the ground. This is disappointing.

Why am I saying this to you, Beloved? Because I want you to realize what Hosea realized, that with the dedication there comes the difficulty. You may have planted the seed. You may have earnestly tried to take care of it. You may have been looking forward to the reaping of the harvest. You may have been sure that the harvest was going to come and then suddenly the east wind arose. Oh, you didn't expect the east wind. If you did, you would have done something about it if you could. But it came unexpectedly and now there is no harvest. Beloved, be prepared for it because it can come. If you are reared in an atmosphere of dedication coupled with an atmosphere of difficulty, you will be able to stand the storm when the storm actually approaches.

The Lesson of Gentleness

I talked with an individual the other day who is a very hard individual, a very bitter individual. We were discussing the cause of his bitterness, the cause of his hardheartedness. He said, “The reason I am bitter is the way I was reared. I had such a difficult time. I faced difficulties on every hand and it embittered me. I can't get over the bitterness.”

That does happen with some people sometimes, but you know it didn't happen to Hosea. It made him a gentle man, and he needed to be gentle. I do not believe that anybody lived with any greater sorrow in his heart than Hosea lived.

We are going to learn, as we get into the story of the book, how God told him to fall in love and marry a young girl who had been dedicated to the prostitution of the heathen temples. Don't waste my time asking, “Why would God do a thing like that?” You talk with God about that. This is His record. That's what He told Hosea to do, and Hosea did it. He fell deeply in love with her, and they had one child. Then the pull of the old world was too strong for her and she went back into the old world again. She got so low and sunk so far down in that kind of life that she became a slave to one of the priests in the temple and still Hosea loved her.

He loved her so much that God did not have to insist, God only had to suggest that he go get her back. He went down to the temple and he asked the priest how much money it would take to release her from her servitude. The priest named an amount—the price of a slave—and Hosea paid it. He took her back home and they resumed their relationship again. Two more children were born into that union, but Gomer's life was such that Hosea was never sure those two children belonged to him. He was never really sure they were his.

I don't want you men to answer this. I just ask you, do you have that kind of love in your heart? Do you know anybody that you could love that much, that you could do that sort of thing with? Hosea did. And I believe one of the reasons he was able to love was because of the atmosphere of dedication, and in the atmosphere of difficulty he learned the lesson of gentleness. Where do I find that? Turn to Hosea, chapter 11, verse 4, for an illustration from the farm:

Hosea 11

4I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.

The Harness of Love

This is God using the words of Hosea to express his relationship to His people. The King James translation does not catch the full flavor of the farm, and I don't think it gives the beauty that I am trying to get across to you at the moment as I speak to you of the gentleness of Hosea, so I would like to share with you another translation.

Phillips translates the verse: “I led them with gentle encouragement. The harness was a harness of love.” I like that. The harness was a harness of love. Believe me, Friend, if you let God harness you, if you let God harness you and harness your energies and your talents and your abilities, it will be a harness of love.

Husbands, what kind of a harness do you have on your wife? Do you have a harness that sets you up as God Almighty Himself—the vicar of God upon the earth—or do you have a harness of love?

Parents, what kind of a harness do you have on your children? Think now. You can put a harness on them. You can keep a whip by the side of the buggy. You can make them go in the direction they have to go. After all, what can they do? They are in the harness and you have the whip. Have you tried a harness of love? Have you harnessed them with love in such a fashion that they are glad to do what you ask them to do? Are you understanding of their needs and ready to ease their pain?

Look again at verse 4 of chapter 11, as I share further with you:

Hosea 11

4I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.

“I led them with gentle encouragement. Their harness was a harness of love. I treated them like the man who eases the yoke to free the jaws. Yes, I bent down to them and gave them food.”

Once again, I don't want to paint the wrong picture. All I know about the farm and the ranch is what I have been told or read. But I learned something a long time ago: A child or an adult who is cruel to animals will be cruel to people. An individual who is thoughtless of the comfort and the welfare of dumb animals will be as thoughtless of the welfare of those who were created in the image of God.

Do you get this picture? The man harnessed his animals with a harness of love, and one day he noticed that the yoke was galling to his animals. What did he do? Did he forget the dumb animal? No, not at all. He loosed the yoke so his jaw would be set free and then he stooped down and fed the animal. He didn't say, “Oh, it's just a horse, just an ox”—whatever it might have been. “What difference does it make?” He knew what the harness of love was.

I would like to submit to you, Beloved, that Hosea could not have written the book, he could not have treated the wife of his bosom as he treated her if he hadn't learned something about the harness of love. Figuratively speaking, I would suggest that you check your tack room and if there isn't a harness of love, get one in there. Throw away the old galling harness of coercion and try the harness of love and see what happens.

Hosea's Period of History

This is our man Hosea, and this is all I can say about him other than similar things that I might share with you, but I do want to suggest one other thing about this man. We suggested to you his name, his heritage, and I would like to suggest to you a word about his history—that is, the era in which he lived, the period of history which was particularly his.

As I think about his history, I suggest to you that it fell into the mold for which his heritage had prepared him. I suggest to you that the choices of himself and his family were not geared to his own desires; they were not geared to his own wishes. They were geared to the period in which he lived. For example, when it came time for him to name his first child, he didn't say to Gomer, “Gomer, what shall we name this boy?” He said, “God, I know I am here for a purpose, and I know I am in this place for a purpose, and I am sure that You have a purpose and a plan for my children. I want to know what I should name them.” God said, “I want you to name him Jezreel.” “Jezreel? Why Jezreel?” “Because every time people look at this boy, I want them to remember that I am going to bring judgment upon them for the blood of Jezreel.”

We will talk about that another time. I merely call this to your attention to remind you that the heritage in which Hosea lived provided for the history which was written in relation to the period in which he lived. I would like for you to keep in mind some of these things about the period in which he lived because it is so very similar to the age in which we live.

Glance back at the first verse of the first chapter and notice again that the Spirit of God records that Hosea prophesied, “…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.” When you have time, read the history of these kings in the second book of Kings and the second book of Samuel and you will discover what I have suggested to you—that Hosea lived in a period of time that went from prosperity to poverty. He ran the gauntlet in the sixty years of ministry that he carried on in Israel. He ministered the Word of God to a nation that knew prosperity and, with breaking heart, he ministered the Word of God in a nation that was losing its prosperity and was fast being overtaken with its poverty because of the sad situation in which it found itself from a number of different standpoints—one of them being morally, because the moral declension of Hosea's day was amazing.

Turn with me, please, to chapter 8, verse 10, and notice a statement concerning the moral declension of Israel at this particular time:

Hosea 8

10Yea, though they have hired among the nations, now will I gather them, and they shall sorrow a little for the burden of the king of princes.

This may seem like a strange verse to use in connection with moral declension, but I use it because it represents the fact that Israel at that time was doing exactly what we are doing now. They were ignoring the moral declension within their borders and were hiring the approval of the nations round about by paying tribute and sending gifts and supplementing and subsidizing their neighbors to gain their approval. This particular book could have been written in this decade because the parallels are very much alike. No nation can be considered moral if it is forgetting its obligations at home.

Turn back to chapter 4 for a moment and recognize the depth of that moral declension in that day, for in chapter 4, verses 1 and 2, we read:

Hosea 4

1Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.
2By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.

Because our time is gone, we will not elaborate on those phrases, but they are pregnant with meaning and I would suggest that you think about them as you have time so that you will realize the time in which this man lived.

Another thing that characterized the period in which he lived is what I have been pleased to call unrecognized weakness . Hosea expresses it so very vividly in chapter 7, verse 9:

Hosea 7

9Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not.

Isn't that striking? “Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not.” There are very few people who believe and very many more who know that our enemies are gradually bleeding us of our strength with the purpose of our overthrow. Hosea could express it so very vividly in the last part of that verse by saying, “Yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth it not.”

Some of you are too young to be interested in this and others of you are too old to care, but do you remember when you saw your first gray hair? Do you remember how the very day that you saw it you were thinking about how handsome and virile and full of energy you were? Do you remember how deflated you were when your wife looked up and said, “Honey, no, no, I don't believe it!”? “What is it?” “Well, Honey, I believe that's a gray hair!” Do you remember how deflated you were? There is nothing quite so pathetic as a man whose hair has turned gray acting like a man who doesn't know what gray hairs are. That's exactly the condition of Israel in this particular time. Israel had lost her strength, and was getting more and more gray hairs and was not even conscious of it.

The Primacy of Personal Advantage

The last thing that I want to suggest to you, I refer to as the primacy of personal advantage . They were living in an age when personal advantage meant more to them than national advantage. Does that sound familiar? It does to me. I could give you illustration after illustration in the past few years of men who have proven that their personal advantage meant more to them than the welfare of our beloved nation. Why do I say this about Israel? Turn back to chapter 5, verses 10 and 11:

Hosea 5

10The princes of Judah were like them that remove the bound: therefore I will pour out my wrath upon them like water.
11Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked after the commandment.

If I share with you another translation, I think it will become even more evident that men in that day put personal advantage above national interests. Phillips suggests: “The leaders of Judah have become like common land thieves. I will vent my wrath upon them like a flood. Ephraim is in agony, crushed in judgment because his mind was set on following false gods.”

Think about it. The princes of Judah will become like common land thieves turning money to their own advantage, taking the priceless possessions of Israel and using them for their own welfare and then not caring.

Perhaps I should add one other thing to make the story complete, to put the responsibility where it lies. I ask you to turn to chapter 4 and notice verse 9, where you find this one phrase that, as far as I am concerned, expresses who bore the responsibility. There we read:

Hosea 4

9And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings.

When the spiritual leaders of any nation can speak as the Apostle Paul spoke and said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”, the nation will be in good hands. But when the spiritual leadership of the nation denies its faith in the Book and begins to change the plain teachings of the Word of God and the people become like the priests and the priests become like the people so there is no difference, as we would express it today, between the clergy and the laity, that nation is in a sad state of affairs.

That's why I am concerned about our nation, for I see in our nation many of the things that I see in Israel as portrayed by Hosea. I would to God that there were some Hoseas who had been reared in an atmosphere of dedication, an atmosphere of difficulty, who had enough stern fiber to take a stand, but enough love to be gentle. There might be some hope.


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