Thursday, November 24, 2016

Reading Through Hosea

Hosea to MicahWe now move into the first book of the Minor Prophets, Hosea,  accompanied by The Minor Prophets vol. 1, The College Press NIV Commentary, by Harold Shank. Hosea views God’s relationship with Israel through the lens of a jilted husband and the father of a rebellious son.  I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Hosea 1-3 tells the story of the prophet's family as an allegory of God's relationship with Israel. Hosea's wife Gomer is a cult prostitute who will not stay faithful to her husband. This produces three children whose names indicate that God will overthrow the monarchy of the Northern Kingdom and break of his covenant with the nation. However, the purpose of this is repentance. Just as Hosea takes back his unfaithful wife, God will forgive, take back and bless the nation if they will repent and be exclusively committed to Him.

(Hosea) reveals the extent to which the LORD will go to maintain his relationship with Israel, explaining both the pain of the current unfaithfulness and the potential pleasure of faithfulness. Central to the allegory is the explanation that the impending punishment is not mere retribution for wrongdoing, but discipline aimed at drawing Israel homeHosea 1, 40

The God who had been betrayed (2:2, 5), ignored (2:8), and forgotten (2:13) now entices Israel to an isolated place to win her affection...Hosea 2:14–23 tells the story of the prodigal wife come home. In effect, Hosea’s text parallels Jesus’ story of the prodigal son (Luke 15). Hosea 2.14-23, 53–54

The LORD wants relationship (as in “my husband”), not simply submission to authority (as in “my master”). Many think that, in the Baal religion, the Israelite God the LORD was often called “Baal.” The LORD not only wants the Baal name dropped, but he also seeks a restored relationship (“my husband”) with them. Hosea 2.16-17, 54

Chapters 4-10 reflect on chapters 1-3 and how they apply to the nation of Israel. Israel is taken to "divorce court" with the charge that they have no faithfulness to the truth, no committed, passionate love for God (the husband), and no relational knowledge of Him. God wanted exclusive devotion to him, not mechanical responses of half-hearted obedience. The 1st section (4.1-6.10) condemns the priests for perverting the knowledge of God by combining it with Baalism. Israel will suffer as God removes his protection from them.

The judgment that God wants includes mercy and acknowledgment...Mercy’s unending, willful devotion to a relationship is contrasted with momentary sacrifice. Hosea’s key concept of knowledge joins mercy. Knowing includes both surface recognition and a willingness to be a part of and to obey. Here acknowledgment calls for the core of a person’s soul. Hosea 6.4-6, 81

The people cry out for help, but not to the right source and without the right heart, resulting in devastation. Hosea 7.13-16, 90

Israel showed their lack of faithfulness and trust in God by relying on kings, forts and foreign nations (Egypt, Assyria) for protection (6.11-8.10). So God gave them up to allow their inadequate protectors to protect them, which brought disaster. The people respond to Hosea's message by calling him a lunatic. Thus, they miss their opportunity and the Northern Kingdom of Israel and its monarchy is completely destroyed and the people are exiled in 722 BC (9-10).

The theme of the section is that worship does not lead to being right with God. Being right with God leads to worship. Israel worships frequently, but he has “forgotten his maker” (8:14). Hosea’s critique includes the difference between a religion of ritual and a faith of the heart, the incompatibility between religion done for what the worshiper gets and a faith lived out for what the worshiper can give, the incongruity between a people who flirt with every religious fad and those who know the true God. Israel is religious but has little faith. Hosea 8-10, 96

The name of Jezreel once predicted an end to the kingdom (Hos 1:4–5); the end of the monarchy itself is now predicted...The people had deceived themselves, believing in their own resources and power, ignoring the proffered resources and power of God. The result was their own destruction. Hosea 10.13-15, 114

The image in Hosea now changes from a jilted husband to a loving father of a rebellious child. The father knows he must discipline the child, and does it, but is always looking for ways to help and redeem the child. In the end, when the child chooses the wrong way the father must let him go to experience the full consequences of his actions. But Hosea ends by pointing out that the father's love for the child never changes. Repentance and restoration are always possible.

The LORD is now the altruistic father who loves and cares for the child, which has no parallel in the Baal faith. The materialism of the Baal worship, with its agricultural rewards resulting from its sensual worship, is set aside by the image of a father who gives himself totally to his child. While a betrayed husband takes punitive action against his unfaithful wife, the betrayed father chooses not to carry out his anger against his unfaithful son. Hosea 11, 115

The core of unfaithfulness is deceit and pride. The two feed one another, making the possessor unaware of their presence. Self-deception leads one to assume arrogantly that one’s status is of his or her own making and that no outside source, especially God, is needed. Hosea 12, 122

Hosea’s fourteen chapters become a program for the divine-human relationship at any moment in history, calling us to see his faithfulness, admit our unfaithfulness, and return to the LORD, acknowledging him and living in faithfulness, righteousness, mercy, and justice. Hosea 13-14, 137

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