Hosea 1-3 Remarkable Love

The words of 2 Tim 3v16 are well known – “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”. But let’s be honest – some parts of the scriptures are much easier to understand than others!

We don’t have much difficulty imagining ourselves standing beside Jesus as he says to Peter “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. It’s easy for us to see the meaning there. When we venture into the Old Testament things often become harder. We are familiar with some passages like David and Goliath or Abraham taking his son Isaac to sacrifice him on mount Moriah. We can see in the latter case how God was testing Abraham, and at the last minute provided a ram for the sacrifice in place of Isaac, a divinely appointed substitute in his place.

Yet there are some parts of the Old Testament that are particularly hard to get to grips with, aren’t there?

We are starting a series looking at the Minor Prophets, those tricky little books squeezed together at the end of the Old Testament, forming a bridge into the New. It’s useful for us to consider the historical context in which they were written. 

So what is a prophet for?

Although it is common to think of prophecy as predicting the future, the Bible prophets actually do very little of this kind of prediction. What we normally see is the prophets bringing warnings to Gods people, warning them when they are straying from their covenant with God, and the consequences they face. They don’t get any pleasure from their predictions coming true. God’s most earnest desire is that the people would heed the warning, and turn from their self-destructive path and back to him (even when prophets such as Jonah would rather anything but happened!)

It is much like this – if you were walking along the street and saw someone about to step out in front of an oncoming car, you would shout out “Stop! Don’t step out or you’ll be hurt!”. You wouldn’t be satisfied to see them ignore your warning and get hit just like you foresaw, would you? The aim of shouting out the warning is that they might be saved from harm.

That is one of the chief roles of the prophet. Sadly, all too often their warning was not heeded and a prophet was used to proclaim Gods judgement on a faithless people who would not repent. 

There was a great TV advert by the guardian in 1986. It starts by showing a skinhead starting to run. Then it shows a different camera angle and you see the skinhead run up to a commuter and wrestle with him for his briefcase. Finally we get a long camera shot: the skinhead spots some crates on a crane come loose – he runs across to the man who is under the crates, grabs him and pushes him out of the way just in time.

Context is vital, to make sure that we really understand what is going on.

The key point at which we see the writing prophets first appear is after the Division of the Kingdom 930BC

Rehoboam, grandson of King David forms the Southern Kingdom with the tribe of Judah. Jeroboam splits off with the ten tribes of Israel to form the Northern kingdom. 

Over the next 209 years, the Northern kingdom is ruled by a succession of wicked and ungodly kings. They ignore the prophets that God sends to them, Amos & Hosea, and in the end God brings judgement through the Assyrian nation, who wipe out the Northern Kingdom in 722BC

The Southern kingdom lasts for 345 years and has a succession of kings in the line of David, some good and some bad. Prophets including Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, Micah, Habakkuk & Zephaniah are sent to them also, to warn them that they are straying from the covenant which they had made with God. They last longer than the Northern kingdom, but even here God’s patience has a limit and he warns that because of their rebellion they will be taken into exile for 70 years. 

136 years after the Northern kingdom is destroyed, God sends the Babylonians first making Judah a vassal in about 606 BC and then destroying Jerusalem and the temple in 586 BC.

In 538 BC the pagan king Cyrus decrees that they can return home (just as was prophesied by Isaiah). Over a period of years groups of people came back and the temple is gradually rebuilt, being finally dedicated in 515 BC, thus bringing to a close the 70 years of exile.

We then have  the last 85 years of old testament history where we hear the voices of Haggai, Zechariah and finally Malachi, who closes the old testament in 432 BC, 

Then there is a 400 year silence, until John the Baptist bursts onto the scene and we are in the New Testament.

So as we read any of the minor prophets, we can ask ourselves a few questions – who were they talking to? Northern Israel that was going to be destroyed by Assyria? Judah before the exile (or after the return)? Some other nation? It is also useful for us to know a little bit about the regional superpowers too… the fact that Assyria were the top dog nation for a long while, then Babylon became the top dog nation. What was the condition of Gods people at that time?

The big question is – what do these writing prophets have to say to us today? They tell us about God, and about the things which he considers important. They tell us about the relationships which people can have with God, they show us unfathomable glimpses of the majesty of God in language where the prophets clearly struggle to place into words the things they have seen. 

Moreover, the prophets were bringing to the attention of Gods people the words that God has left them for their guidance and instruction. Reminding them of Gods promises and warnings.

And you know – we hear some of these things each week, don’t we? Though the preaching of the scriptures, Sunday by Sunday we have the chance to find out what the Bible says and how it relates to our lives. We don’t come to hear trite blessed thoughts or collections of funny stories; we come to have an encounter with God. He spoke through his prophets then and he speaks still through them today.

Prophets:to Judahto Israelto Edomto Assyria
Before the Exile — In JudahJoelHoseaObadiahJonah




During the Exile — In BabylonEzekiel


After the Exile
— In Jerusalem



Today we are going to be looking at the first of these prophets, the man called Hosea

His book is a long one, but we are going to be focussing on chapters 1 and 3 because this sets out the illustration of the issues which are then elaborated on throughout the rest of the book. 

  • God is realistic about us
  • God will redeem us

God’s is realistic about us  (1v1-2v1)

Being an old testament prophet is not a glorious job. They were not merely called to speak God’s words to the people as a warning. They were often told to be living illustrations of the message. Something that the bystanders would remember and talk about. 

It could be a tough job, and few as tough as the job given to Hosea. 

This message comes at a high point for the northern kingdom of Israel. They are prosperous and successful. 

Look at the instructions in v2. Because the nation of Israel is behaving like an adulterous woman, running away from God and bowing down at the idols of the surrounding nations, Hosea is to take as a wife someone very particular. 

His wife is not to be the wife of goodly character lauded at the end of Proverbs. 

His wife is to be “A promiscuous woman…  an adulterous wife”. Probably a prostitute.

So he marries Gomer, knowing full well what she is going to be like. She has three children and they are not given lovely, pretty names. We see that they are called Jezreel (meaning ‘God will scatter’ and named after a disastrous battle), Lo-Ruhamah (meaning ‘not-loved’) and Lo-Ammi (meaning ‘not my people’). Depending on how we read 2v4 some of these children might not even be Hosea’s own, they might be the ‘children of adultery’ as Gomer continued to run off after other men.

What must people have thought as they watched Hosea walk by with his family? The known adulteress and the kids called ‘hated’, ‘stranger’ and ‘pearl harbour’? I can only imagine the gossip and whispering that must have surrounded him. 

Why would God ask him to do such a thing?

Because it was an illustration of God’s life with Israel. 

Israel was his special, chosen, people. God wanted a special relationship with them but they continually ran away after other Gods. The southern kingdom of Judah blew hot and cold with God, but the northern kingdom? They were all-in with the foreign gods that surrounded them. 

Hosea is mocked because of the behaviour of his unfaithful wife. God is mocked because of the behaviour of his unfaithful people. 


This isn’t just a history lesson on the failings of Israel though. One of the most powerful and consistent images we see of the church in the new testament is as the bride of Christ. The church extends the blessings of God from Israel to all nations, calling us all in to be the bride of Christ. It’s a wonderful proposition! But what kind of bride is the church? Turns out we are not such promising material ourselves, if we are honest. 

James 4v1-4 gives us a stark warning as he writes to the church:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

Strong words… the church getting too ‘friendly’ with the world, looking to the world for emotional and practical needs instead of to her bridegroom, is us behaving just like Gomer. 

And yet… that’s not how the story is going to end. In v1:10-2:1 we can see that God anticipates a time when they will be his people, when they will be loved — and when the kingdoms of Judah and Israel will be reunited once more, under a great king.  

God will redeem us (3v1-5)

In chapter 3 we return to instructions to Hosea – to reconcile with his estranged wife. “Go, show your love to your wife again”.

She is currently living with someone else, but Hosea is told to go and find her, and bring her back once more. Hosea must have felt betrayed, unloved, distraught that his wife was living with someone else. How long has she been living with this other man and ignoring Hosea? We don’t know. 

And now he has to go and find her and somehow bring her back.

In v2 we see that he ‘bought her’ – the classic word we would use for this is he ‘redeemed’ her. Paying off her debts. 

I never liked Gomer very much… she seemed to be a thoroughly unlikable person, and not worthy of the love Hosea showed her. But my view was transformed by a song by Michael Card which speaks from her point of view. 

Don’t know what he sees in me
He is spirit, he is free
And I the wife of adultery
Gomer is my name

Simply more than I can see
How he keeps on forgiving me
How he keeps his sanity
Hosea, you’re a fool

A fool to love someone like me
A fool to suffer silently
Though sometimes
Through your eyes I see
I’d rather be a fool

The fondness of a father
The passion of a child
The gentleness of a loving friend
An understanding smile
All of this and so much more
You’ve lavished on a faithless whore
I’ve never known love like this before
Hosea, you’re a fool

A fool to love someone like me
A fool to suffer silently
Though sometimes
Through your eyes I see
I’d rather be a fool

This God of yours
Would not have told
To lift a love
That you couldn’t hold
And though time and time
Again I flee
I’m always glad to see
You coming after me

Simply more than I can see
How he keeps on forgiving me
The wife of adultery
Gomer is my name

“I don’t understand how he keeps on forgiving me”

This book isn’t really about Hosea and Gomer. It isn’t really about Israel’s failings either. 

It is about God. 

It is about forgiveness that reaches out time and time again. 

No matter how badly He has been treated, God has reached out to people. How much does he love us? He loves us so much that he decided that He would risk everything to win us back.

Gomer was redeemed with 15 shekels of silver and a 195kg of Barley. 

Jesus paid an awful lot more for us. His blood, shed on the cross, was the price that he was willing to pay for faithless people such as you and me. 

Even now, we’re not perfect people, and we won’t be perfect this side of heaven for sure. That’s why James had to give the stern warning which he did to the church in his letter which we referred to earlier. 

It matters how we behave – but if we remind ourselves of how much Jesus loves us… and again and again how he forgives us…  then perhaps it will help us to live as faithful people, a faithful church, honouring the one who has given so much for us. 

And if we are to be imitators of our Lord, then we should be prepared to love the unlovely… recognising that God loves them and we are the means by which his love is made known to people today. 

I’m often challenged by the stories of William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army who spent most of his life reaching out to the unlovely – the drunkards, the prostitutes, the criminals of the London East End.