Hosea: Forgiving Husband
by Kimberly Sowell
“‘I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD.’” HOSEA 2:19–20
The Tater Tots and frozen chicken patties were sliding around on my baking sheet, and I was just about to slip my newlywed-style meal in the oven when the phone rang. There I stood with dinner in one hand and the phone in the other, laughing lightheartedly at the joke my loved one was playing on me. “Yeah, right. Stop kidding before your wife overhears you say that again,” I said. After a minute or two of his patient persistence, I finally understood that this wasn’t a bad joke. His wife was leaving him. I was speechless. It was my first experience with divorce.
A fractured relationship between a husband and wife is heartbreaking to watch and even more painful to experience, particularly when one spouse has been unfaithful. In the Book of Hosea, God used the image of an unfaithful bride to describe the unfaithfulness of the Hebrew people toward their God. The prophet Hosea carried a heavy burden in this scenario because God asked him not only to be the messenger, but to live out the message as he lived with an unfaithful wife, Gomer. The Book of Hosea is filled with heavy imagery, but in the end, this sordid narrative is a love story between the living God and the Bride of Christ.
Playing the Harlot (Hosea 1–3)
The New Testament contains imagery of Christ as the Bridegroom and the church as His bride (John 3:29). As a Christian woman, perhaps you’ve embraced that role as bride of Christ and all its imagery from Scripture. You can see it in your mind’s eye now: you’re waiting patiently, clean and beautiful, looking out the window with joyous expectation as you wait for Jesus the Bridegroom to return. Your lamp is lit, your white bridal gown is without spot or wrinkle, and you know that Jesus will be as thrilled as you are when you finally meet face-to-face. That’s how we would like to imagine ourselves as the bride of Christ; certainly not as the bride described in Hosea 1–3.
God had made a covenant with His chosen people, and they had broken covenant by committing spiritual adultery. Israel had played the harlot, sinning against God by going after other loves. Despite God’s righteous anger against Israel, He expressed His love and plan of redemption even in these early chapters of Hosea. God painted a beautiful picture of the blessings that would one day come when His people returned to Him.
Majoring on the Minor Prophet
Q1: How is Hosea’s family described in Hosea 1? What is the spiritual significance of each child’s name?
Q2: Read Hosea 2:5. Why was the harlot attracted to these other lovers? How are Christians sometimes deceived into thinking that something or someone besides God is fulfilling their needs?
Q3: Hosea 2:7 reminds us how the world will lure us, use and abuse us, and then abandon us, leaving us to deal with the pain on our own. Read Luke 15:11–32, and compare Hosea 2:7 with the prodigal son’s realization while feeding the swine.
Q4: Examine Hosea 2:13. What is the image in this verse? How is it possible for the bride of Christ to be forgetful of her Bridegroom, Jesus?
Q5: In Hosea 2:14, God lures His people, drawing them away from evil pursuers and returning them to His side. How has God pursued you?
Q6: Compare Joshua 7:19–26 to Hosea 2:15. How did the occurrence of Joshua’s day in the Valley of Achor restore hope to the Israelites?
Q7: When God “betrothes” us to Himself, what does God offer us (2:19–20)? How long is salvation going to last?
Examine Hosea 3 and think about the imagery of the husband reclaiming his bride. How do you see God described here as:
Use Your Imagination
Q11: Try to imagine a wife of Hosea’s time living the adulterous lifestyle that God described in Hosea 1–3. Would she be very different from a modern-day adulterous wife?
Q12: What would you say to an adulterous woman to help her see her choices from her husband’s perspective?
Q13: What would you say to a woman committing spiritual adultery to help her see her choices from God’s perspective? How does this answer compare to your answer to the previous question?
Crime and Punishment (Hosea 4–10)
I have lived in the South for the majority of my life. We Southerners are known for many charming ways as well as our peculiarities, but one particular mannerism of Southern women that I especially value is our appreciation for a word fitly spoken. I have watched many a Southern woman craft each word carefully as she spoke, skillfully navigating her way through a most precarious conversation filled with landmines of gossip, unwholesome words, and potential hurt feelings, and somehow step off on the other side smelling like a Georgia peach. I have studied this craft and tried to make it my own. Proverbs 25:11 (NKJV) teaches, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”
Every word of Scripture has been weighed carefully and fitly spoken by God. No word is too harsh, no assessment askew, no observation misguided, because the Bible contains the very words of God. The words in Hosea are vivid, specific, graphic, and on target as God plainly spoke the truth about what had become of Israel. What shameful garments of truth for the betrothed of God to wear!
One simple yet profound observation God made was this: “‘Israel has rejected what is good’” (8:3). Think about all that is good in God’s eyes. His creation is good, all that He showers down upon us is good, and — most importantly — God is good. Have you rejected anything that God has called good?
Q14: Prosperity had become a stumbling block for Israel (4:7). Read Proverbs 30:8–9. How does wealth deceive? How does your heart respond to the concept of desiring only daily bread in order to avoid the temptations that come with wealth?
Q15: God said, “‘My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge’” (4:6). This deep knowing of God, knowing Him intimately through time spent studying His ways and hearing His voice, was no longer a pursuit of the Israelites. They thought they knew God (8:2), but God was aware that their hearts were pursuing knowledge of other things. What is your greatest pursuit at this moment in your life?
Q16: So many Jews who lived during the days when Jesus walked the earth had the same problem; they did not know the Lord. John 1:10 says, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.” Today we are called to present Christ to a world who does not know Him. Can the world recognize Christ in you?
Q17: Hosea 6:3 (NKJV) encourages, “Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord.” Is there a difference between pursuing the Lord and pursuing knowledge of the Lord? Is there a difference between pursuing the knowledge of the Lord and the knowledge of His Word?
Q18: Judah is mentioned for its instability. The people of Judah had short-lived spurts of faithfulness (6:4). Think about your own walk with Christ. Are you consistent? If not, what types of circumstances tend to lure you away from faithfulness to God?
Q19: God called Ephraim “a cake unturned” (7:8 NKJV). What are the symptoms of being spiritually “half-baked”?
Q20: Hosea 4–10 contains graphic depictions of sin and the wrath of God that would be packed into Israel’s punishment. In the space below, jot down the words or phrases that you find most striking. Pray and spend time pursuing the Lord’s message to you through these words fitly spoken by God.
Read the beginning of this fairytale, and then finish the story.
Once there was a charming prince who lived in a castle nestled in the beautiful hillsides of a land called Promise. His name was Faithful and True. He was the most powerful in all the land because His Father had granted it to Him.
One day the prince descended from his throne on high and entered into the village below to select a bride. There he found the bride he so greatly desired. His heart quickened for her with a love so pure. She was not of noble birth. The prince had nothing to gain from the maiden, but he desired that she would accept him because he knew how greatly he could bless her life. The maiden could never match the comeliness of the prince, but she was beautiful in his sight. He found his would-be bride in a terrible plight, enslaved to a master most cruel and himself very powerful. Yet the slave master was no match for Prince Faithful, and he bought his bride at an unspeakably high price.
When Prince Faithful and his bride began their life together, the relationship began most sweetly as they sat and talked to one another, daily drawing closer in their love. But one day, the prince noticed that his bride had begun to withdraw. She gave him very little of her attention; she had other things to attend to each day. As time progressed, the problem worsened and her affections waned. Some days the prince could see from the look in his bride’s eyes that she seemed almost ashamed or afraid to be near him, which broke his heart all the more. Would his bride renew her intimacy with the prince? Would he feel her nearness once again?
Q21: How should this story end?
Happily Ever After (Hosea 11–14)
Everybody loves a happy ending. When we sit down to watch a “chick flick” movie, we usually know within the first 30 minutes how the movie is going to end, but we’ll gladly sit through the other 2 hours just to see the happy couple fall in love. The few times that a novel or movie has shocked me with a closing t–wist, keeping the star-crossed lovers separated forever, I found myself downright frustrated! Fictitious characters or no, everybody knows that any love story worth telling has to have a happy ending! (You can tell that Romeo and Juliet is not my favorite read.)
God must also love a happy ending, because the story of His love for His bride — as sordid and shocking as the bride’s behavior may be — ends with God’s redeeming love. As God shared His closing words to Israel and Judah in the Book of Hosea, we find strong glimmers of hope and encouraging words of love tucked between final proclamations of judgment. Just as God gave hope to Adam and Eve while in the process of punishing them on their way out of the garden, God offered restoration to His wayward bride in the midst of the heat of punishment. God laid bare His deep passion for His chosen people: “‘How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboyim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused’” (11:8). Admah and Zeboyim were locations associated with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. These were His beloved people God was talking to; He would not utterly destroy them as He did with Sodom and Gomorrah.
And why? Was God’s great love earned by His people? No, they were guilty before God. They had proven themselves to be multiple offenders of spiritual adultery. We also have not earned God’s love. God’s patience and mercy are not so much about who we are, but more about who He is. Just as God said through the prophet Malachi: “‘For I am the LORD, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob’” (3:6 NKJV). God is love.
Q22: God rescued Jacob’s descendants, the Israelite people, from Egyptian bondage in the days of Moses. How was God giving a foreshadowing of redemption in Hosea 11:1? Which other significant figure was called out of Egypt (Matthew 2:15)?
Q23: God made many accusations against His people for their evil alliances. God is jealous for us to rely upon Him supremely to rescue us from our enemies. How has God been Rescuer in your life?
Q24: What common phrase is found in Hosea 12:9 and 13:4? When did God become Lord in your life? Why would God mark this occasion as the time He became the Lord their God?
Q25: God said, “‘There is no Savior except Me’” (13:4). Many people have yet to find Jesus to be the one and only Savior who will redeem their souls. What is the testimony you could share with someone about how you have found Jesus to be the only true Savior?
Q26: Read 1 Samuel 8:4–20, the account of Israel’s demand for an earthly king. Compare this passage to Hosea 13:10–11. Why did the people originally desire a king in Samuel’s day? When you think about Jesus as King over your life, and as the King of kings who will reign forever, how has King Jesus shown His love and faithfulness to you?
Q27: Paul refers to Hosea 13:14 in 1 Corinthians 15:54–57. Read these verses. Below, write down five ways in which God has given you victory through Jesus Christ.
Q28: Hosea 14 offers a beautiful description of what happens when we accept God’s offer of restoration, and we repent and return to Him. God instructs us to come to Him with words when we’re ready to repent (v. 2). What words of repentance do you need to offer to God today?
Q29: Hosea 14:9 is the perfect ending to this sordid love story between a faithful Bridegroom and an unfaithful yet much cherished bride. God invites us to take the entire Book of Hosea and contextualize it to our own lives. What is the most important truth you needed to hear from the Book of Hosea
Q30: A love note — what fun! Have you ever received one? Have you ever written one? Write a “love note” to God. Pour out your love in words to your Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.
What a faithful Bridegroom we have in Jesus! Imagining our sins and flights of fancy as spiritual adultery helps us understand how serious our transgressions are against God, and how personally God takes our unfaithfulness. What could be so alluring as to entice us to be unfaithful to the One who has loved us with an everlasting love? God said of Israel, “‘They turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes’” (Hosea 3:1). Raisin cakes. Little momentary slices of pleasure. Confections for the mind, bite-sized gratification for the flesh. What are the raisin cakes in your life? Lay them at the foot of the cross.
Prayer: Precious Lord, You are worthy of my full attention, my faithfulness, and my love. You are worthy to be first in my life. You are my Lord, my Savior, my Redeemer, and my Friend. There is no one like You. I want to pledge myself to You as Your bride. I long to know You, my God. I want to bring honor to Your name. Your love for me is amazing. I praise You! Amen.
Journal for the Majors in My Life:
Q31: Write down your thoughts about what you’ve read.