Week 29 Devotion
This week we will continue our reading in the historical books of Kings and Chronicles as well as the book of the prophet Isaiah. But we will also be reading the book of the prophet Hosea and so we need to do a bit of introduction for this new book. Hosea was a prophet in northern Israel and he is called to speak on God’s behalf during the reign of the wicked king Jeroboam II. The sin of Jeroboam led to God giving Israel over to the Assyrian army who came and defeated Israel carrying them into captivity (2 Kings 14-17).
Hosea lived through Israel’s downfall and this book is a collection of his prophecies that were written down over a period of 25 years. The first part of Hosea is about his marriage to a woman named Gomer and this relationship is incredibly painful to Hosea. The two get married and they have three children together but along the way Gomer proves unfaithful. She commits adultery over and over again, but God tells Hosea not to abandon his cheating wife.
Hosea is to go after her, to forgive her, to pay all of her debts and then to bring her home and love her. Now, this is a hard story to read but God makes clear that this story is a prophetic symbol of God’s own relationship with Israel. God is the faithful husband who looks on at his adulteress bride, but He doesn’t stop loving and caring for her. In fact, He still pursues her despite her sin.
But why does God do this? It’s not because Israel is worthy of His love but rather it is due to God’s abundant covenant love and compassion for His people. In the end, we learn that God’s covenant love for His people is more powerful than His people’s sin. In chapter 11, we read about the hope that exists for the future. God is a loving father with a rebellious son but the day is coming, in chapter 14, when God will heal His people of their sin and when this happens they will love them fully.
Something to meditate on…
What was so bad about the spiritual situation in Israel that God would give His people over to their enemies? The downfall of Israel as a nation is well underway in our reading this week but it didn’t happen overnight. We’ve been reading for weeks about all the wicked kings that have ruled in Israel or in Judah. Every now and then we read about a king who does what is right in the eyes of the Lord, but overwhelmingly the Kings are wicked men.
But it’s not just the kings who are turning away from God. In 2 Kings 17, we read that the people were just as guilty as their leaders.
2 Kings 17:6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
7 And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods 8 and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had practiced.
This Assyrian Exile is due to the sins of the people. They have turned their back on the covenant they made with God and if we want to know the specifics all we need to do is to read over 2 Kings 17:23. They worshiped in the high places, they built idols of false gods, and they served those idols. They even stopped believing in the Lord (v. 14). They made golden calves and placed them in temples and began to worship them. The spiritual condition of Israel was near complete apostasy.
Now, we know that there is still a remnant of true believers in Israel and the next king is actually one of those few who do what is right in the sight of the Lord. But the thing I want us to think about is the near complete abandonment of God by the people. The Chronicler who is writing this history is seeking to inform a new generation of Israelites. This generation needs to see the failures of the past in the hopes that they will be faithful in their lifetime.
It’s a sad thing when we think back to those who have walked away from the faith and it is a fearful thing to think of what eternity will be for them. But the point of this sad history is to encourage us to remain faithful to God. He wants us to be motivated to pursue a confident relationship with God that is not based on our performance but our trust in God’s grace. He wants us to walk with and worship God alone.
Take some time to meditate on the slow drift away from God that in the end brought Israel to ruin and exile. Meditate on how they went off track (following wicked leaders, abandoning God’s Word, sin, and worldliness). What can you do to guard your heart against the same thing happening in your life?
Something to discuss…
In Hosea, God describes what His people are like and it is not flattering. Gomer is the prophet Hosea’s wife but she prefers the company of other men. She is unfaithful. She is an adulteress.
I can’t begin to imagine what this must have been like for Hosea. To know that your wife isn’t where she should be isn’t doing what she should be doing, while he is home with their two kids. I struggle to find words that would accurately communicate what that must have been like for him.
But through this pain, God wanted to show Hosea something profound about love, and God wants us to learn this lesson as well. Each time Gomer would leave and go after another lover, God sent Hosea to go out and find her. In some cases, he was even required to pay her debts. Then he would bring her home, clean her up and love her again.
Now, the whole story is sad and painful to think about but the story of Hosea and Gomer points beyond itself to the relationship between God and His people. At this point in Israel’s history, they have abandoned their Redeemer. They had stopped loving and worshipping Yahweh and had begun to love and worship the false gods of the pagan nations.
The metaphor is quite striking. Israel abandoned their lover and went in search of another lover. In response, God is going to allow judgment to fall on them in the form of discipline. Israel is going to reap what they have sown.
Hos 10:13 You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your own way
Yet, despite their sin and their much-deserved discipline; God still loves His people. He remembers them as a child. He remembers His love for them and there will come a day when His anger is turned from them. In that day…
Hos 14:7 They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine; their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
What amazing love! God remains faithful even when His people are faithless. God’s steadfast love remains even when our love is directed at another. What amazing grace! Don’t move on too quickly from this truth, that God’s love for us is far greater than our sin. Find someone to discuss this with and marvel together at the goodness of God.
Something to pray about…
At some level the downfall of Israel came about because they failed to take the warnings of God seriously. God warned His people that if they were faithful to the covenant they made with Him, then He would bless them. But if they broke the covenant He was going to discipline them and that is exactly what we have seen happen.
Israel didn’t take God’s Word seriously and I don’t mean God’s Word in a general sense; what I mean is that they acted as though the specific warnings weren’t true. They didn’t think judgment would fall on them. They didn’t think that God would actually give them over to the pagan nations. They didn’t take His Word seriously.
That same problem exists today outside the church and sadly inside the church as well. In Isaiah 13:9-11, God says, “Behold, the day of the Lord comes…” In this passage, God warns the nation of Babylon that the day of judgment will fall upon sinners and on that day no one will be able to stand against God. The wrath of God is coming and our only hope, the world’s only hope, is to humble ourselves before God, repent of our sin against God and trust in Christ to save us from the guilt of our sin.
The final day of God’s judgment is yet to come, but it will come and it is closer today than when we first believed. So let’s pray for our own hearts to remain faithful to the word of God and the truth of the gospel. Pray that we would be faithful as a church to preach the message of the gospel to all. Pray for those friends and family members in your life who don’t have a relationship with Christ.