The First Testament prophetic writings are profoundly beautiful testimonies of God's steadfast lovingkindness for God's creation.
I spent my summer reading Jeremiah and absorbing the movement of its history, the personal growth of the writer, and letting the love of God pour into me.
I read Zechariah. I love the image of Joshua being accused by Satan as he stands in filthy clothes. Until God shows up rebuking Satan. "This one is mine!" God says. Take those dirty rags off him and give him a clean turban.
Yes. That is a good image. We are all Joshua standing accused.
We are all Joshua with God showing up saying, "This one is MINE!"
I spent the fall in some of the Minor Prophets. Zephaniah. Habakkuk.
And then I read Hosea. My beautiful Hosea. It struck my heart like never before.
I may never be the same, and I am glad for it.
I had read all these books before. Many times. Read and reread. Academically at times. In tears at others. Searching for what I could know of God, God's people, history, the church.
Who, what, where is God and what does it all mean for me.
But somehow I had never just let these words pour into me.
I confess I have no idea how God managed to get me quiet enough. Still enough this go round.
If it's been a while, go read Hosea 1-2 now. Take note of how intentionally the chapters are written. Pay attention to the names and what they mean. Let the movement of the plot become slowly apparent to you. Watch carefully what God is doing behind the scenes at every step.
It is astounding. It is delightful. It is deeply moving.
The book is likely written in the final days before Israel's exile during the rapid succession of kings (six in twenty-five years). God pled with God's people through many prophets, Hosea among them, to turn back from their idolatrous ways, to turn their faces back to God to avoid the cleansing God would bring through the exile.
In verse 1:2, Hosea is instructed by God to go take a wife from among to harlots. He is told to marry a prostitute and to have children with her. This is to be an analogy for the way Israel and Judah behave adulterously towards God.
Three children are born. The first is named Jezreel in reference to a massacre in 1 Kings 9-10.
The second child is a daughter named Lo-ruhamah, meaning "she has not obtained compassion." God tells Hosea to name the little innocent this for, "...I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I should ever forgive them" (1:6b).
Finally, a third child is born. Another son. His name means "not my people." Verse 1:9 reads:
And the Lord said, "Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God."
Chapter two opens with the two younger siblings Ammi and Ruhammah (My People and Compassion) being instructed to contend with their mother (Israel) for her harlotry.
The prophet Hosea writes of how the mother cheated on the children's father and warns the father will strip the mother naked and leave her exposed if she fails to repent of her adulterous ways. More than that, no compassion will be had for the woman's children.
But then, something beautiful happens in 2:6. The harlot's husband says something shocking!
He tells the children of prostitution that even as their mother pursues her lovers she will never overtake them, for he has put a hedge up along her way. He, God, has walled the paths so that she can run, but she cannot hide from God. She can seek her false lovers, but she will never find fulfillment with them.
Then she will say, "I will go back to my first husband, For it was better for me then than now!"
What the mother does not know is that it was God who provided for all her needs while she chased her false lovers. The grain, the new wine, the oil. Even the silver and gold which she and her lovers used for Baal were lavished upon the mother by the adulteress's husband, God.
Still, God says, she will be punished for her unfaithfulness. Even in the sight of her lovers the days of her adultery will be put to an end.
But then. Oh, then, declares the Lord, then "I will allure her..."
Did you hear that? God will allure his bride who has gone afar off after all her lovers, chasing them with God's own gold and silver, new wine and oil.
But God loves God's bride so deeply, so richly, so heavenly, that even the one called Not My People and She Has Not Obtained Compassion are worthy of God's alluring efforts.
"Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
Bring her into the wilderness,
And speak kindly to her" (2:14).
And so God does. This is the restoration of Israel out of exile foretold. After the adultery/idolatry is removed from the people by means of the destruction of the nation via exile, the people will be brought back to their own land. The bride will return to her first love.
"And it will come about in that day," declares the Lord, "That you will call Me Ishi [husband]" (2:16).
Hosea 2 finishes out as if it were a letter between two lovers as God tells God's bride how it will be when God returns Israel from exile. There will be no more false lovers, no more war. Israel will lie down in safety and will be betrothed to God forever in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion.
Indeed, 2:18-23 read almost like wedding vows.
God will betroth God's bride to himself in faithfulness and she will know the Lord.
And God will respond.
God will respond in the heavens a Israel will respond on the earth.
And the earth will respond with grain and wine and oil.
Finally, in grand triumph, the children return at the end of the chapter:
I will also have compassion on
her who had not obtained
And I will say to those who
were not My people,
'You are My people!'
And they will say, Thou art my God!' (2:23 b,c)
(Be still in that for a moment. Let the beauty of what just happened wash over you.)
As I read Hosea 1-2 a couple of months ago. As I have pondered it and read it again and again, what washes over me is that this is the story of God and Israel.
It is also my story.
It is my precious love story with God who allures me.
Yes. God strips me bare and uncovers my nakedness in front of my false gods.
Then God removes those unkind lovers from my lips and betroths me to God forever.
If you have not read Hosea 1-2 for a while, or even if you have, go enjoy it now.
Let God's lovingkindness and compassion wash over you.