Our first class for the Hosea Bible study has met at long last and it was such a joy to see so many women —may I say, Old and New?— in attendance! Familiar faces, new faces, each and every one of you are so welcome and such a blessing. I know I speak for both Jana and myself when I say that we anticipate sweet blessings to come from the Lord as we gather each week for the study of his word.
By way of introduction I quoted from the late James Montgomery Boice’s commentary on Hosea, where he calls the story of Hosea “the second greatest story in the Bible.” After the story of the incarnation, life, suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, Boice considers this book of prophecy the second greatest because “it is an anticipation in pageant form of Christ’s story.”
As a prophecy, Hosea’s marriage to Gomer was symbolic, an object lesson, to demonstrate the truth and living reality of God’s covenant love. Hosea would play the role of God, remaining faithful and steadfast in his love, pursuing his unfaithful wife, who represented Israel, redeeming her even from the auction block because of his unfailing love for her. The choice of a prostitute to portray Israel in this prophetic pageant displayed the depth of Israel’s sin—faithless, unclean, enslaved to her passions, seeking other lovers, betrayer of her wedding vows, forsaking her first love, disloyal, untrustworthy, a heartbreaker. And yet, as pointed out in our study guide, “God stands ready to forgive and restore those who turn to him, and he has provided the ransom from slavery through Jesus Christ.” Indeed, as our Heavenly Bridegroom:
Christ loved the church [Israel] and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present her to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish —Ephesians 5:25-27
Some have wondered if the story of Hosea’s marriage is merely allegorical, for surely God would not ask one of his people to enter into situation which would inevitably bring such misery as would this marriage to a prostitute. To this objection Boice replies:
Apart from the fact that the story of Hosea’s marriage is told as a real story and rings true, we must say that God does sometimes lead his children into situations that are parallel if not identical to this. We live in an age where everything good is interpreted in terms of happiness and success. So when we think of spiritual blessing we think of it in these terms. . . . This is shallow thinking and shallow Christianity, for God does not always lead his people into ways that we would naturally regard as happy or as filled with success. Was Jesus happy? He was undoubtedly filled with joy and all the other fruits of the Spirit. But he was also called “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Was Jesus successful? Not by our standards. . . . Let us put this down as a great principle: God sometimes leads his children to do things that afterward involve them in great distress. But because God does not think as we think, or act as we act, it is often in these situations that he accomplishes his greatest victories and brings the greatest blessing to his name.
If God has allowed tragedy to slip into your life, this does not necessarily mean that you were out of his will when you married that husband or wife, took that job, or made that commitment. He may be giving you a chance to show the love and the character of Christ in your situation.
Again, you may be able to learn something of God’s love for you through the difficulty. For what is the story of Hosea if it is not the story of ourselves as members of that body which is the bride of Christ? We are Gomer, and God is Hosea. He married us when we were unclean. He knew that we would prove unfaithful again and again. He knew that we would forsake him. Still he loved us and purchased us to himself through Christ’s atonement. If Hosea’s story cannot be real (because “God could not ask a man to marry an unfaithful woman”), then neither is the story of salvation real, because that is precisely what Christ has done for us. He has purchased us for himself to be a bride “without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:27), and he has done this even though he knew in advance that we would often prove faithless.
Awestruck. I am simply and utterly awestruck.
[For further background, see the ESV Study Bible, pages 1619-1622; available online at www.esvbible.org. Many of you have the ESV Reformation Study Bible with study notes by Ligonier ministries. This isn’t exactly the same as the original ESV Study Bible, but will undoubtedly be an excellent resource as well.]
Finally, I drew up a timeline on a whiteboard in order for us to see where in the Covenantal/ Redemptive history of Scripture Hosea is set. This ended up being helpful enough that I will attempt to draw something up to print out and give you in a future class. This is not my area of expertise (I have a love/hate relationship with Word), but I’ll do my best. I found myself having “aha moments” even as I went over the timeline in class, so it seems it may be worth the effort.
 James Montgomery Boice, The Minor Prophets, Vol. 1, An Expositional Commentary: Hosea – Jonah, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1983) 13-14.
 Lydia Brownback, Hosea, a 12-Week Study, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016) 8.
 Boice, 16-17. Emphasis mine.