When one reads prophets like Hosea, the tendency may be to think that they are all doom and gloom. It’s almost like their message is a steady diet of negativity and judgement, offering very little if any hope. Someone might be tempted to say that if the overarching message of the Bible is that God is love, then it’s just not there in Hosea and if it is, then it is sporadic at best. Maybe that’s why there are very few sermons based on prophets like Hosea because his message doesn’t fit today’s culture. But is his message no longer relevant for the day we live in? What really is at the heart of his message?
Think of it like this. A young couple fall in love and decide that they want to be married. As they stand before one another, the congregation, and God they will make statements that reflect their love and commitment to one another. Their words are more than just expressions of love. They are a covenant that they declare to one another.
“I, ___, take you, ___, to be my wedded wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, and thereto I pledge you my faith.”
The covenant is their vow of promise, that regardless of what life throws their way, they will remain true to their vows and go the distance.
Then something can happen that drives a wedge between them, that has the potential to destroy this covenant relationship – adultery. Before the act of betrayal takes place, Jesus will speak of a hardness/a callousness that settles over the heart of either one or maybe both. That sacred covenant then becomes broken amid betrayal and broken promises. Maybe that’s why the writer of Proverbs will remind us to “guard our hearts, for everything we do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).
In the same way God made a covenant, a sacred promise to the people of Israel
In the book of Exodus (19:4-6), at Mount Sinai God instructs Moses to give this message to the people of Israel: “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you will be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
Joshua later affirms his covenant to God: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” In response the people affirm their loyalty to the covenant with these words, “The Lord our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey” (Joshua 24:15,24). There was always a major caveat in this, “Put away your foreign gods, which are among you.” But they chose to embrace the idolatry around them and worship and serve foreign gods.
Rather than seeing Hosea’s words as full of doom and gloom, consider it as a reflection of God’s broken heart and the lengths He will go to restore relationship. Hear both His words and His heart through the prophet: “I will betroth you to Me forever: in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy. I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord” (Hosea 2:19-20).
God’s message through the prophets is still relevant for this day. “Therefore tell the people: This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty. (Zechariah 1:3). There is always a way back but not without contrition and humility. He waits with open arms for those who are willing to seek the Lord, while He may yet be found!