This Hosea is a real downer! One of the so-called “minor prophets” of the Old Testament, he lived in the eighth century BCE, hundreds of years before Jesus came along. He lived at a time when the nation of Israel was divided into two kingdoms, northern and southern, and was surrounded by much more powerful countries like Egypt and Assyria.
And that’s the problem: the religions of Israel’s neighbors, especially the fertility religion of the Canaanites, prove too much of a temptation, and before you know it, the Israelites have forgotten their own God and make idols, like a golden calf, that is supposed to bring them favorable weather and good harvests. That’s not the only thing they are doing wrong. All of Chapter 8 is a list of all the grievances God now has against them: they have broken the covenant; they have disregarded God’s laws; they have installed kings and princes against God’s wishes; and they have adopted rituals and religious practices from their neighboring countries despite God’s commandment that they shall not have other gods besides the God of Israel.
Most of Hosea’s short book is about how the Israelites has fallen short, and how God will punish them. It’s no accident that Hosea is often called the “Prophet of Doom” (that’s what Wikipedia says about him, anyway). You kind of have to wait until Chapter 14, the very last chapter, until you read about God’s mercy and forgiveness.
But there are two things here in Chapter 8 that do give us a glimmer of hope despite all the doom and gloom. First, we read about God’s covenant in the very first verse. That’s an important word. When you break a contract, the agreement is null and void. But when you break a covenant, which is a promise, the other party is still bound to it. God never breaks God’s promises, regardless of how often we mess up. Secondly, the very name Hosea points to God’s grace and mercy because in Hebrew, the name means salvation, he saves, he helps. So even in this chapter, even with the list of all the wrongdoings, we see God’s grace and forgiveness underneath the mountain of sin. Thanks be to God!
Josef Herz Lane is a 33-year-old young adult who has cerebral palsy but says that “my disability does not stop me.” He is a very active member of Christ the King, Cary, where he founded the Possibility Network, a ministry with and among people with disabilities, their families, and caregivers.
1. How are the sins of the Israelites in the time of Hosea like the shortcomings and wrongdoings of people in our own time? Do you see any parallels here?
2. Can you think of a time when you did something wrong but in the end found forgiveness and mercy?
Gracious God, thank you for your grace and mercy in our lives. Like the people in Hosea’s time, we keep breaking the covenant and doing things wrong. Yet you love us anyway even though we mess up. Guide us and lead us into a life that is pleasing to you and shows love to our neighbors. In Jesus’ name, Amen.