Some have tried to suggest that the book of Jonah is either an allegory or a parable and that we are not meant to understand it as a report of actual historical events. But Jonah was an actual historical figure. He is mentioned by name in 2 Kings 14:25 as having lived in or before the days of Jeroboam II of Israel.
Speaking of Jeroboam II, the Bible says that he restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which He spoke through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath-hepher. (2 Kings 14:25).
Jonah is a book about God. Everyone and everything that God touches obeys...
Everyone obeyed except for the preacher. Have you ever told God, "No"? Perhaps you didnít do it on the outside, but if you were honest, you were saying, "No" on the inside.
JONAH 1 -- THE PROPHET WHO RAN FROM GOD
The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying,
Nineveh was the capital city of the Assyrian Empire. The Assyrians lived along the banks of the Tigris River as it flowed down from Upper Mesopotamia. Theirs was an ancient empire. But the Assyrians had not remained within the borders of their homeland. They were an aggressive, warrior race and they had often conducted raids southward to the very borders of Israel.
Jonahís mission was like a modern Jew being sent to Adolph Hitler or to Saddam Hussein. The Assyrians were the Nazis of the ancient world. They were known for their terror-tactics. They could conquer a city and gouge out eyes and cut off arms and legs and then they would get down to serious torture.
The Assyrians were a bad people. Even God said that. He said that "their wickedness has come up before Me."
This was the people to whom Jonah was sent. He was to speak to them about the Lord. This is a book with a missionary theme. It tells us that God has a heart for missions. He had one Son and He was a missionary. Jesus was the most cross-cultural missionary of all time. He crossed from heaven to earth.
The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying,
But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare, and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. (Jonah 1:1-3).
Jonah was told to go. He went, but he went in the wrong direction. Instead of heading to Nineveh, he got on a boat heading for Tarshish.
Jonah knew Godís will. But he did not obey it. There is a lesson here. It is that knowing Godís will is not enough. Having the correct theology is not enough. Knowing requires doing.
Here is the principle. Obey the obvious; trust the Lord for the obscure.
Jonah does the opposite. He goes down to Joppa and gets on a ship going to Tarshish. We arenít exactly sure where Tarshish was, but we do know that it was in the opposite direction. The Jews were landlubbers. For a Jew to get on a ship for ANY reason was serious business. There was only one people who avoided the ocean more than the Jews. It was the Assyrians. The Assyrian Empire crossed mountains and deserts, but they never crossed an ocean.
And the LORD hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up.
Did you ever notice how pagans get spiritual when they face troubled times? These sailors did that. They recognized that this storm was not normal. It had come about as a direct result of Jonahís sin.
There is a lesson here. It is that sin affects more than merely the sinner. A believer who is in sin brings grief to others. These sailors were in the midst of a storm only because of their association with a sinning believer named Jonah. This was illustrated in the case of Joshua and the Israelites at Ai. They suffered a great defeat because of the sin of one man.
And each man said to his mate, "Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us." So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. (Jonah 1:7).
Proverb 16:33 tells us that the lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD. This is not to say that God always honors such a method, but He did in this case.
Then they said to him, "Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?"
And he said to them, "I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land."
Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, "How could you do this?" For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. (Jonah 1:8-10).
Notice that the men knew of the fact that Jonah was fleeing from the presence of the LORD. Didnít he know about Godís omnipresence? Did he not know that it was impossible to escape from the presence of God? I think he did. But he was in a state of rebellion against God.
So they said to him, "What should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?"-- for the sea was becoming increasingly stormy.
And he said to them, "Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you." (Jonah 1:11-12).
It is doubtful that Jonah knew how to swim. He was planning to drown. He was prepared to die so that these men in the boat could live. In this he is a picture of Christ who died in our place. And as Jonah was three days and three nights in the fish, so also Christ was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:17).
Some have found this fish story a bit hard to swallow. But the God of the universe is able to do things much more difficult than that. Which is harder?
Deliver Jonah from the belly of a fish
Deliver Jesus from the grave
JONAH 2 -- IN THE BELLY OF THE FISH
The prayer of Jonah was not original. Most of it is taken from the Psalms. There are some lessons that we can learn from this prayer.
The psalm presented in this chapter is one of the most humorous in the Scriptures. The humor comes from the fact that the standardized (even clicheic) language of Hebrew psalmody is now given a literal meaning.
JONAH 3 -- THE REPENTANCE OF NINEVEH
We have already provided a brief, four part outline of the book of Jonah. However at this point we should take note that Jonah can really be divided into two basic parts. It is a book in parallel. The first part of the book stands in parallel to the second part of the book. This is vividly illustrated in the following chart.
Jonah commissioned to go to Nineveh (1:1-3)
Jonah commissioned to go to Nineveh (3:1-3)
Jonah and the pagan sailors (1:4-16)
Jonah and the pagan Ninevites (3:3-10)
Jonahís prayer of repentance (1:17-2:10)
Jonahís prayer of complaint (4:1-5)
The Lordís Lesson for Jonah (4:5-11)
This is grace. God comes again to this rebellious and reluctant prophet and gives him another chance.
Winston Churchill was being interviewed by a reporter and Churchill mentioned that he had been twice through the tenth grade. "You failed the tenth grade?" asked the incredulous reporter. "No," replied Churchill, "I had a second opportunity to do well."
The grace of God is such that we are given an opportunity to return and to obey the Lord.
This literally reads: "Nineveh was a great city to Elohim from a walk of three days." It was suggested many years ago that the "walk of three days" was an indication of how long it took to walk around the city. However, Dr. Donald Wiseman suggested that it is a reference to the time usually taken for an official delegation to visit an important city.
Likewise, the reference to Elohim is not referring to its relationship with God, but rather to the fact that it was "titan" in its strength.
For this reason, the NIV has translated this passage: ...Nineveh was a very important city - a visit required three days.
Can you imagine the scene? The morning sun breaks over the Zagros Mountains to the east and casts its fiery light on the hundreds of great towers that line the city walls of Nineveh. The city gates are open to the morning traffic as soldiers and war chariots parade the streets that are already alive with merchants proclaiming the worth of their wares.
Amid the hustle and bustle, a stranger arrives, passing between the colossal winged bulls whose graven images impose a symbolic guard over the city gates. His clothes are worn with untold travels. Perhaps his hair and his beard and his skin bear the bleached marks of untold travel. He raises his voice and begins to call out a warning:
"Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown."
I cannot help but to wonder whether Jonah related to them the account of how he had witnessed the power of God in the storm and his experiences in the belly of the fish. Perhaps it is a mere coincidence that the name "Nineveh" is a transliteration of the Assyrian name Ninua, the Assyrian version of the goddess Ishtar whose name was written with the cuneiform sign of a fish within an enclosure.
The people of Nineveh call for a fast and outward actions to demonstrate their inward attitude of repentance.
The Biblical account does not tell us which king this was. Archaeology may give us some interesting hints.
The Assyrian Empire was in a state of decline at the end of the 9th century. Her foreign possessions were slipping from her grasp and revolt was in the air.
The reign of Adad-Nirari III (810-782 B.C.) is noted for the introduction of monotheism into Assyrian religion. It is notable that this king went on to attack the surrounding enemies of Israel (Damascus and Philistia).
"Who knows, God may turn and relent, and withdraw His burning anger so that we shall not perish?" (Jonah 3:9).
The phrase translated "burning anger" (Meharon Apu) is literally, "the snorting of his nostrils." God is pictured with all of the anger of a snorting bull that paws the ground and prepares to vent its wrath. One of our problems is that we tend to lose sight of the holy anger of God against sin.
JONAH 4 -- THE COMPASSION OF GOD
In the last chapter, Jonah had just seen the biggest revival in history. You would think that he would be ecstatic. But his experience is another reaction entirely.
But it greatly displeased Jonah, and he became angry. (Jonah 4:1).
Jonah was displeased. He wasnít merely displeased, he was GREATLY displeased. Why? Because he wanted to see the judgment of God upon the city. The last thing he wanted to see was salvation in Nineveh.
But it greatly displeased Jonah, and he became angry. 2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, "Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore, in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that Thou art a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. 3 Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life."
And the LORD said, "Do you have good reason to be angry?" (Jonah 4:1-4).
Now we see the real reason that Jonah ran away to Tarshish. It wasnít that he was afraid of the Assyrians or of hardship or of failure on the mission field. It was to short-circuit the mercy of God from being offered to Nineveh.
Jonah was prejudiced. He was afraid of success. He was afraid that the Assyrians would repent and become a part of Godís people. He wanted the judgment of God to fall upon the Assyrians. His attitude was representative of all of Israel. This is why this book was written. It is to show that God is a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity (4:2).
In verse 4, the Lord asks, "Do you have good reason to be angry?" (Jonah 4:1-4). The Lord is going to ask this same question of Jonah in verse 9.
Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city. 6 So the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. 7 But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day, and it attacked the plant and it withered. (Jonah 4:5-7).
God gives Jonah and object lesson. You may have gotten some of those from the Lord. They are the circumstances that are given to you to teach something.
We read in verse 6 that God appointed this plant. We see that three times in verses 6-8.
There is a lesson here. It is that God appoints the good things and He also appoints those things that seem to be anything but good. Why? In order to teach you a lesson. In this case, the lesson that God was teaching Jonah was one of COMPASSION.
Then the LORD said, "You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work, and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. 11 And should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?" (Jonah 4:10-11).
The book of Jonah ends with a question. Why does the book end the way it does? It is because God asks you the same question that He asks of Jonah. Have you identified with the compassion of God? What is your attitude toward people who are not like you?
The story doesnít end with Jonah. It ends with Jesus. As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, so also Jesus was three days and three nights in the earth. The reason was the same -- it was a sign of the compassion of God.
LESSONS FROM JONAH
1. God is the first cause of all things. He is the one who brought the storm, the fish, the plant, the worm and the east wind. He is the Sovereign Lord of this earth.
2. God is a Saving God. He is seen in this book as the Savior...
There are four similar names found in the Bible that must not be confused with one another:
Over the years, I have heard quite a number of well-known scholars and Bible Teachers. There are a few whom I have personally gotten to know. In nearly every case, this further level of acquaintance took place outside of the classroom.
You canít get to know a person very well in a classroom. Hosea must have known that lesson, for he takes us out of the classroom and into the privacy of his home. We get a glimpse of his home life and it is not necessarily a happy life. Hosea comes down from behind the pulpit and bares his soul.
When you learn how to do that, not for its shock value, but for its incarnational necessity, then you will learn how to be a pastor and a minister to real people.
DATE OF AUTHORSHIP
The word of the LORD which came to Hosea the son of Beeri, during the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. (Hosea 1:1).
The opening verse of Hosea states the date of its composition. This is a very long period stretching over a period of more than 50 years. Jeroboam came to the throne a few years prior to the accession of Uzziah.
In Hosea 1:4, Hosea prophesies that the Lord will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel. Jehu had taken the throne through assassination. Jeroboam II was Jehuís great grandson. Jeroboam would be succeeded by his son Zechariah who would reign only six months before ending the line of Jehu.
743 B.C. - Death of Jeroboam II
721 B.C. - Fall of Samaria and the Northern Kingdom
Hosea would have therefore been a contemporary of Amos and Isaiah.
STYLE OF WRITING
Hosea writes from the heart. His book is full of passion and emotion. As you read his words, you hear the sobs of a broken heart. While Jeremiah tells us that he is weeping, Hosea reflects this attitude in short, broken sentences.
As a result, there is a distinct absence of the normal rhythm and parallelism that is common to Hebrew writing. This makes it a bit harder for us to understand his message.
This is a book about the love of God and how Israel has rebuffed and ignored that love.
Hosea was one of the prophets to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. His day saw a great deal of prosperity in the land. What could not be readily seen apart from the prophetic message were the storm clouds on the horizon.
The reign of Jeroboam II (782-753 B.C.) saw the high water mark of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Jeroboam II extended his influence northward all the way to the borders of Hamath, making Israel almost as big as she had been in the days of Solomon (2nd Kings 14:25). With this vast military victory came a period of great economic prosperity.. This period of prosperity brought with it a corresponding social corruption. At the root of the issue was apostasy. The nation had long since abandoned the Lord to follow after idolatry.
Hosea and Amos both prophesied during this period. Their writings reflect the moral and religious decay of the Israelites during this time.
While the emphasis of Amos is upon social injustice, the emphasis of Hosea is upon spiritual unfaithfulness.
OUTLINE OF THE BOOK
Hosea is divided into two major parts. The first three chapters contain a living parable as Hosea is told to go and marry a wife of harlotry - a prostitute. He has children by her and then she is unfaithful to the marriage. This relationship illustrates the similar unfaithfulness of Israel in her relationship with the Lord.
The case of God's covenant lawsuit is set forth, showing how Israel has been an unfaithful bride
The remainder of the book consists of a large circuit that begins and ends with a Covenant Lawsuit. Both at the outset and at the close of this section the Covenant is specifically mentioned (Hosea 6:1, 7 with Hosea 12:1).
It has been suggested that Hosea can be outlined in the same way as the book of Deuteronomy. Both these books follow the Suzerain Treaty Format:
1. Preamble (Chapter 1).
2. Historical Prologue (Chapters 2-3).
3. Ethical Stipulations (Chapters 4-7).
4. Sanctions (Chapters 8-9).
5. Succession Arrangements (Chapters 10-14).
HOSEAíS FAMILY - A PROPHETIC PORTRAIT
When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, "Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry, and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD."
Hosea was told to do something that would have shocked him even as it shocks us. He was to go and marry a "wife of harlotry" (literally - a "woman of fornication"). Let me say for the record that Christians are not normally called to such a marriage. In Hoseaís case, he was called to play out the role of the Lord and His relationship to Israel. Hosea was to be like the Lord and his wife would demonstrate the same unfaithfulness that Israel had demonstrated.
There is a lesson here for us. It is that our marriages today are also to reflect the relationship of the Lord with His people. Husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her (Ephesians 5:25). Wives, you are to show the same submissive and respectful and loyal nature to your husbands that the church is to show toward the Lord (Ephesians 5:22).
Hosea was told to marry a woman who would reflect the same level of purity and devotion that Israel demonstrated toward God. He was to marry a prostitute as a picture of the people of the promise land who had prostituted their spiritual lives.
Hoseaís marriage would become a paradigm for Godís relationship with His people. By looking at Hoseaís unfaithful wife, they would see themselves.
∑Yahweh & Israel
∑Hosea & Gomer
∑Christ & The church
∑Husband & Wife
Hoseaís portrayal did not end with his relationship with his wife. He was also to give names to his children that would reflect spiritual truths.
The name of this first child was to be a reminder of a great evil that had taken place in Israelís political history. That evil took place at Jezreel. This is a bit like naming your child Alamo if you are a Texan or Dachau if you are from Germany. I had the opportunity to visit Dachau a number of years ago and to preach in a church that was just a few miles from that historic concentration camp where so many thousands of Jews were literally worked and starved to death.
Here was a child named Jezreel. What happened at Jezreel? That was where Jehu assassinated the both Ahaziah the king of Judah and Joram the king of Israel. Neither was a great loss, but Jehu also went on to have all 70 of the children of Jehu put to death.
This Valley of Jezreel thus becomes a symbol for the place where God balances His books. It is the place of judgment. We know it today by the name of one of its key cities - Megiddo. It is this city that has given rise to the popular name "Armageddon."
The Hebrew word
The Hebrew word am refers to "people." Hosea names this child, "Not my people." This is a stunning rebuke. The people of Israel had rightly thought of themselves as the people of God. But they had lost the right to consider themselves by such a name.
By these three names, the Lord is telling the Northern Kingdom of Israel that judgment is upon the horizon and that they will soon be judged for their sins. At the same time, there is given a promise of future hope.
10Yet the number of the sons of Israel
Will be like the sand of the sea,
Which cannot be measured or numbered;
And it will come about that, in the place
Where it is said to them, "You are not My people,"
It will be said to them, "You are the sons of the living God."
11And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together,
And they will appoint for themselves one leader,
And they will go up from the land,
For great will be the day of Jezreel. (Hosea 1:10-11)
There is a promise given for future hope. It is that there will in the future be a restoration of the people of God. Paul gives us a New Testament commentary on this passage:
What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.
As He says also in Hosea, "I will call those who were not My people, ĎMy people,í And her who was not beloved, Ďbeloved.í 26 And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, 'you are not My people,' There they shall be called sons of the living God." (Romans 9:22-26).
Notice how Paul interprets the passage from Hosea. He points to the fulfillment in those whom God has called not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. Do you see it? The ultimate fulfillment of Godís promise to Hosea is seen in the CHURCH. We have been given the title of "sons of the living God."
At the same time, there is in Hoseaís writings a call for the recipients of HIS day to repent. This is seen as we enter into the dialogue of chapter 2.
1Say to your brothers, "Ammi," and to your sisters, "Ruhamah."
2Contend with your mother, contend,
For she is not my wife, and I am not her husband;
And let her put away her harlotry from her face,
And her adultery from between her breasts,
3Lest I strip her naked
And expose her as on the day when she was born.
I will also make her like a wilderness,
Make her like desert land, And slay her with thirst.
4Also, I will have no compassion on her children,
Because they are children of harlotry.
5For their mother has played the harlot;
She who conceived them has acted shamefully.
For she said, 'I will go after my lovers,
Who give me my bread and my water,
My wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.'
6Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns,
And I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths.
7And she will pursue her lovers, but she will not overtake them;
And she will seek them, but will not find them.
Then she will say, "I will go back to my first husband,
For it was better for me then than now!" (Hosea 2:1-7)
In verse 6 the Lord proposes to put a hedge of thorns around His unfaithful wife? That doesnít sound very nice. Thorns are sharp and they stick and they hurt. But this is for their own good. It is to build a wall so that the people will have no choice but to return to the Lord.
There is a lesson here. It is that God sometimes brings difficulties into our lives to drive us back to Himself.
the new wine, and the oil,
And lavished on her silver and gold,
Which they used for Baal.
9Therefore, I will take back My grain at harvest time
And My new wine in its season. I will also take away My wool and My flax
Given to cover her nakedness.
10And then I will uncover her lewdness In the sight of her lovers,
And no one will rescue her out of My hand.
11I will also put an end to all her gaiety,
Her feasts, her new moons, her sabbaths,
And all her festal assemblies.
12And I will destroy her vines and fig trees,
Of which she said, ĎThese are my wages which my lovers have given me.í
And I will make them a forest,
And the beasts of the field will devour them.
13And I will punish her for the days of the Baals
When she used to offer sacrifices to them
And adorn herself with her earrings and jewelry,
And follow her lovers, so that she forgot Me," declares the LORD. (Hosea 2:8-13).
Notice that one of the sins of Israel was that of ingratitude. Somewhere along the line, the people had forgotten that it is the Lord who had provided the prosperity of the land. As a result, He would begin to bring about economic hardships.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2000, televangelist Jerry Falwell came under a great deal of criticism when he publicly suggested that these events were Godís wake up call to Americans for the way they had ignored His teachings. Hoseaís message would have received the same sorts of criticisms.
In Hosea 3 we see the final chapter in Hoseaís family life. It is here that we see Hosea being told by the Lord to go and get back his wife.
Then the LORD said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes."
Hosea goes out to find his faithless bride. He finds her as a slave and purchases her for himself from the slave market. He brings her home where he can command her future faithfulness. This is a picture of what the Lord will do with His people.
For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, and without ephod or household idols.
We know from history what took place in the days after Hosea. First Israel and then Judah were taken into captivity. When the final return took place in the days of Zerubbabel and Ezra, the Jews never again went aside to worship the false gods of the Canaanites.
Notice finally in verse 5 that the promise is that the people would return to David their king. This is especially significant when we consider that this is addressed to the Northern Ten Tribes who had rejected the kingship of the descendants of David. It is a prophecy that is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus, the son of David.
THE COVENANT LAWSUIT
A closer examination of the central chapters of Hosea suggest the possibility of a chiastic order to those central chapters.
Statement of Godís Covenant Lawsuit (4:1)
You have rejected knowledge (4:2-10)
Spiritual prostitution (4:11 - 5:15).
Note the use of the term "harlotry."
Warning against insincere Repentance (6).
Case against Kings and Leaders (7).
Warning against insincere Repentance (8).
Spiritual prostitution (9-10).
Israel has "played the harlot."
Godís love and compassion rejected (11).
Godís Covenant Lawsuit (12-13).
Both the beginning and the close of this section contain phrasing that is reminiscent of a covenant lawsuit. Before we talk about what is a covenant lawsuit, we ought to begin by familiarizing ourselves with the concept of the covenant.
You did not sign a covenant in those days. Instead you "cut" a covenant. This practice was so widespread that in later times, one could speak of entering into a covenant merely by speaking of how he "cut" with someone.
Other examples of this same phenomena is seen in the following passages:
Hosea 2:18 - In that day I will also make a covenant for them...
Haggai 2:5 says literally, "as for the word which I cut with you..."
Psalm 105:9 ("...that which He cut with Abraham").
I Kings 8:9 is literally, "where the Lord cut with the sons of Israel..."
The word translated "covenant" is beryith. The origin of the word is uncertain. It is thought by some to have come from the Akkadian birit, which relates to the Hebrew -- "between." Another suggestion points to the Akkadian root baru, "to bind or fetter." Both ideas are present in the covenant. It is a binding action and its initiatory rite also mandated an agreement made between the pieces of two animals.
This practice of "covenant-cutting" involved taking one or more sacrificial animals and putting them to death and then cutting the animal into two parts and walking between the pieces of the animals.
And I will give the men who have transgressed My covenant, who have not fulfilled the words of the covenant which they made before Me, when they cut the calf in two and passed between its parts --
As the makers of the covenant passed between the divided parts of the dead animal, they would recite the terms of the covenant. The implication was that if they broke the terms of the covenant, then may they also be killed and divided asunder as had been these animals.
The act of entering into a covenant involved in itself the symbolic death of the covenant maker. When the animals were cut, they represented the covenant-maker himself being cut and put to death.
Now we can better understand the words of Hosea when he tells Israel that they have transgressed the covenant.
Listen to the word of the LORD, O sons of Israel,
For the LORD has a case against the inhabitants of the land,
Because there is no faithfulness or kindness
Or knowledge of God in the land. (Hosea 4:1).
This is covenant language. The Lord brings His legal dispute against Israel for having broken their covenant obligations.
6For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice,
And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
7But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant;
There they have dealt treacherously against Me. (Hosea 6:6-7)
We have all gone the way of Adam. We have all sinned and have become covenant-breakers. The good news of the gospel is that God has made a New Covenant with men in which Christ Himself paid the penalty of a covenant-breaker on our behalf. We enter into this New Covenant through faith in Him so that His righteousness is credited to us.
It is exactly for this reason that Hosea is able to close his book upon a note of hope for the future. He calls for his readers to repent and to turn to the Lord.
1Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God,
For you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
2Take words with you and return to the LORD.
Say to Him, "Take away all iniquity,
And receive us graciously,
That we may present the fruit of our lips." (Hosea 14:1-2)
What is the result of such repentance? It is a restoration and a redemption.
4I will heal their apostasy,
I will love them freely,
For My anger has turned away from them.
5I will be like the dew to Israel;
He will blossom like the lily,
And he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon.
6His shoots will sprout,
And his beauty will be like the olive tree,
And his fragrance like the cedars of Lebanon.
7Those who live in his shadow
Will again raise grain,
And they will blossom like the vine.
His renown will be like the wine of Lebanon. (Hosea 14:4-7)
LESSONS FROM HOSEA
1. The Problem of Insincere Repentance.
What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
For your loyalty is like a morning cloud,
And like the dew which goes away early. (Hosea 6:4).
One of the qualities of true repentance is that is LASTS. It has been said that the problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar. Our problem is that todayís repentance is often forgotten by tomorrow.
The Lord presents this problem with the illustration of dew and a morning fog. They do not survive the heat of day.
Jesus also spoke about the necessity of enduring to the end. Endurance is the stuff of real faith. Saving faith is enduring faith. For this reason you are called to endure.
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ (Philippians 1:9-10).
2. The Problem of Social Injustice.
While the major problem that Hosea points out is that of spiritual unfaithfulness, this problem gives birth to social injustice. Hosea brings this to light when he describes...
A merchant, in whose hands are false balances,
He loves to oppress. (Hosea 12:7).
There is a lesson here. It is that bad theology will inevitably lead to bad living.