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Hosea: The Prophet of Unconditional Love

I’ve  now embarked on a study of the minor prophets, via the many of these books that S. Lewis Johnson taught (he taught all except Nahum and Zephaniah).  First is the book of Hosea, and a series that SLJ did in 1984, shortly after finishing his 88 message series through the gospel of John.

Hosea is the prophet of unconditional love.  Other prophets had their unique characteristics:  Jeremiah was more of a theologian, while Hosea was a poet.  Hosea was a “home missionary,” from the northern kingdom and sent to prophesy to the northern kingdom.  Amos was a contemporary of Hosea, also preaching to the northern kingdom — though he was from Judah.  S. Lewis Johnson often refers to Amos’ prophecies, which relate to and expand on the same ideas presented in Hosea.

A simple outline of Hosea includes two parts.  Hosea 1 – 3 is a biography of the prophet, which is used as a pedagogical lesson to the nation of Israel, showing the loyal love of God and the faithless apostasy of the covenant people.  Hosea 4 – 14 is application of that biography, and includes many homilies.

Concerning the nature of Hosea’s marriage to Gomer:  the likely understanding here, as that which best makes sense in analogy with God and Israel, is that when Hosea married Gomer, she was outwardly pure, with no actual record (yet) of sexual immorality.  Yet Gomer was inwardly inclined, one with a wandering eye, to unfaithfulness, and would (during the marriage) manifest her harlotry.

From Hosea’s marriage we can learn how God sees our wandering nature, expressed in the strong language of adultery.  Spiritual adultery comes when we love the world more than we love God.  The way to fulfillment of ourselves, and our truest expression of ourselves, comes in obeying God.

Hosea 4 is a great chapter that  points out the importance of theology.  S. Lewis Johnson here observes that,

We are saved by theology; the truths that are expressed as theological truths, when they are brought home to us by the Holy Spirit and salvation results, it is due to that which is represented by these spiritual truths.  So, we should never take the position that what we’re interested in is life and not doctrine.  There is no good life without doctrine.

Concerning God’s relationship to Israel:  God never divorced the nation Israel, as a whole.  God certainly did cast off particular generations, as indicated in Hosea 2 — and again for the generation of Jesus’ day — but the overall covenants and promises still stand.  Paul, in Romans 9 and elsewhere, speaks of Israel still having the covenants and the promises.  As Alexander MacLaren (a name often mentioned by S. Lewis Johnson) pointed out in reference to Hosea, why would God abandon a people and say He’s given up on them, while He is still sending them a prophet and calling them to repent?

Hosea 4:17 is a verse commonly misapplied to say that God abandoned Israel.  See, for example, the MacArthur Study Bible note here:   “This was an expression of God’s wrath of abadonment.  When sinners reject Him and are bent on fulfilling their wicked purposes, God removes restraining grace and turns them over to the results of their own perverse choices.  This kind of wrath is that written about in Romans 1:18-32.”

But read the verse in its context, starting with verse 15 — which addresses Judah:  “Though you commit adultery, O Israel, let not Judah become guilty.”  The warning is to Judah, to separate and not get mixed up in and involved with Israel’s idolatry.  The passage can also be applied to us as believers today, as a message concerning proper biblical separation.

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