Hosea

So on Facebook the other night, I posted this status: “i’m tempted to highlight the entire book of Hosea while reading it tonite. it’s seriously so amazing.

A friend asked me to share why I wrote this status, so here goes.

As a prelude to my thoughts on Hosea, one of the reasons I chose to read Hosea (besides feeling led to it by the Holy Spirit) was that I wanted to read something where God was talking about himself within the narrative. You know, something in the text where it says, “The LORD says…”, and then he does. There’s plenty of that in Hosea!

This is the first set of verses from Hosea that grabbed my heart as I read:

“How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?
How can I make you like Zeboiim?
My heart is changed within me;
all my compassion is aroused.
I will not carry out my fierce anger,
nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim.
For I am God, and not man—
the Holy One among you.
I will not come in wrath.
They will follow the LORD;
he will roar like a lion.
When he roars,
his children will come trembling from the west.” Hosea 11:8-10

First of all, one of the obvious reasons I love this verse is the LORD says that he will roar like a lion, which reminds me of Aslan, who reminds me of Jesus and his strength. LOVE IT!

Secondly, I love the longing I sense in God’s voice in these verses, the passionate love God has for Israel (and for us) when he says that his heart is “changed” within him and that his compassion is aroused and he relents.

But thirdly, and more importantly, these verses (to me at least) reflect the entire book of Hosea, which is this amazing illustration of God’s character (his fully judgmental, wrathful nature and his fully compassionate, passionately loving nature).

There are times in Hosea when God says, “For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah. I will tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them. Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt” and “Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth; my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.” His fury and wrath against his people for turning away from him are complete and thorough.

Then other times he says, “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.” And then, in the verses I began with above, he talks about his compassion being aroused. God’s love, passion, and compassion for his people are complete and thorough.

Some people argue that the Old Testament of the Bible, which is where the book of Hosea is found, only shows the wrathful side of God’s character, because he “smites” people left and right in the Old Testament, whereas the New Testament only shows the loving side of God’s character because he doesn’t do much “smiting”. Now, just presenting a rebuttal to this argument could take up an entire blog post on its own, but I’m not going to go there right now.

My point here is that I love how strongly the book of Hosea itself SHATTERS that argument. I LOVE seeing the full extent (well at least as much as my natural mind can comprehend) of God’s character right there. Fully wrathful and fully loving.

And this is where I start to see things differently than I have in the past. Normally I struggle with understanding and being ok with the fact the God IS wrathful. It doesn’t seem fair, right? Why is he SO harsh and violent, it seems contrary to what would be loving and right, doesn’t it?

But for some reason (probably the Holy Spirit working in my heart), reading through Hosea this time, I’ve been able to see God’s wrath as pure and righteous and a bit awe inspiring really. And, of course, it’s easy to believe that his love and compassion are pure and righteous.

If I had to choose 1 thing from Hosea that I’ve learned while reading it, I would choose this verse from Hosea, “For I am God, and not man— the Holy One among you.” The LORD is the ONE and ONLY God. He created all things and for him all things were created. He IS righteous and HOLY (set apart) and PURE. His motives and any actions that flow out of those motives are righteous. When his fury rages against Israel and he acts out against them, he is RIGHT. When his heart is changed within him and his compassion is aroused and he relents and shows mercy, he is RIGHT. God is GOD and both his wrath and his mercy are PURE and RIGHT. Period.

I know that for the rest of my life, I will not understand this world and I will probably ask God many more times, “why?” Whether that why is regarding the horrible suffering I see, like the famine in east Africa right now, or about the enriched life I am privileged to be living when so many have so little, one thing I can rest in and build my foundation on is that God is RIGHT. Even if I don’t understand or don’t like the way things are, God is RIGHT. His motives and actions are RIGHT, PURE, HOLY and he is RIGHT for allowing things and/or causing things to be the way they are.

And here is the end, God’s own final words to close the book of Hosea. (Understand, I am not using these verses to endorse my own thoughts, I just love them because I am coming to understand them and believe that they are true). You’ll have to read Hosea for yourself to really get the full effect of what these final words are referencing.

“Who is wise? He will realize these things.
Who is discerning? He will understand them.
The ways of the LORD are right;
the righteous walk in them,
but the rebellious stumble in them.”

Props to BibleGateway.com for easy access to all the verses I posted. All verses are from the book of Hosea, NIV 1984 translation of the Bible.

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