How can I summarize this study of the book of Hosea? We spent 12 weeks mining the treasures of this book, and I still feel like there’s so much that we didn’t tap, so much still just out of reach.
We know that God is love. Last year we studied—deeply—the book of 1 John, in which we learned of the great love of God that moved him to give his one and only Son to save sinners and make them his children. If we study the ‘math’ of redemption long enough, at some point, it all adds up. We are sinners. Sinners cannot earn salvation. But, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). So Jesus came, lived a perfect life, paid for our sins by his death on the cross—the death we deserved—and all who believe in him by faith are forgiven their sins, clothed in his righteousness, and receive eternal life. This is the great and glorious truth of the gospel: the Great Exchange. When we grasp it, it makes sense, in a way. By God’s great love and mercy, sinners are saved.
But in Hosea we see the other side of the equation, and suddenly, our math is thrown all out of whack.
In Hosea we see the depth, depravity, and destructiveness of the sin in which we are living when God finds us. Yes, Paul tells us in Ephesians that “we were dead in the trespasses and sins in which we once walked, following the course of the world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:1-3). I can recite that all day long as justification for our inability to earn salvation and our need for God to intervene.
But in Hosea these trespasses and sins, these passions of our flesh, the desires of the body and the mind, are spelled out in horrifying technicolor. We see not only how destructive our sins are to ourselves and one another, but how absolutely offensive they are to our God. In Hosea we cannot escape the righteousness of God’s wrath against sinful mankind. The question becomes not, “Why I need God to save me,” but, “Why would he save me?”!
According to the Holy Spirit through the prophet Hosea:
- I played the whore and have acted shamefully, pursuing other lovers and assuming the good gifts given by God have come from the idols in whom I trusted (2:5-8).
- I was an adulteress who ran from my good God so far that I ended up on the auction block to be sold as a slave to pay my debts (3:1-2).
- I had no faithfulness, steadfast love, or knowledge of God and was destroyed by this lack of knowledge, increasing more and more in my sins against God, forsaking the LORD to cherish whoredom, worldly pleasures, and idolatry, stubborn as a heifer, and wrapped in the wings of the wind (4:1-19).
- I could not hide my sins from God, and my deeds did not permit me to return to him or know him. My pride caused me to stumble in my guilt, and no matter how I searched I could not find him because he had withdrawn from me for my attempts at faithless religious observance (5:1-7).
- I was desolate, dishonest, determined to go after filth, rotten to my core, seeking healing from all the wrong sources (5:8-13).
- My love was fleeting, superficial, and untrustworthy. Like my father Adam I was a transgressor of God’s covenant, dealing faithlessly with God, with murder, villainy, and whoredom defiling my heart (6:4-11).
- The unrelenting evil of my deeds never rested, but smoldered with my anger even when I was at rest. I was entirely ignorant of my peril before God and my pride was visible to him while it kept me from turning to him. I strayed and rebelled from God, speaking lies against him, regretting the consequences of my actions without repentance, treacherous and insolent, an object of derision and scorn (7:4-16).
- I willfully transgressed God’s covenant and rebelled against his law while claiming to know and serve him, spurning God himself, to set up my own rule and law through my chosen idols—to my own destruction, utterly incapable of innocence, sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind, fruitless, useless, multiplying my means of sinning while regarding God’s laws as strange and foreign, forgetting my Maker and constructing my own refuge (8:1-14).
- I mocked God’s word even as it warned me of my great iniquity, deeply corrupting myself, consecrating myself to shameful things, becoming detestable like the base things I loved (9:7-10).
- The more God blessed me with his common grace, the more I sinned. Not fearing the LORD, my words and oaths were untrustworthy, I feared and mourned for the removal of my shameful idols. I plowed iniquity, reaped injustice, and trusted in my own foolish way (10:1-6, 13).
- The more God called me, the more I ran away, for I was bent on turning from him (11:2,7).
- I fed on and pursued worthless and fruitless things all day long, multiplying falsehood and violence, and preferring the enemies of my soul over the good, loving, wise, and merciful God who offered me all that I sought and so much more, offering him instead bitter provocation and disgraceful deeds (12:1, 14).
- I incurred guilt before God and died spiritually in my sin, and yet continued sinning more and more, foolishly crafting my own means of worship and religious observance, becoming proud through the very gifts graciously given by God, unwisely rejecting his one and only way to salvation through Jesus Christ, and therefore bearing my own guilt before the holy God against whom I had brazenly rebelled (13:1-2, 16).
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us:
- Made me his child and gathered me into his people, the church, under Christ, our head, promising me resurrection and eternal life because of Jesus’ shed blood (1:10-11).
- Hedged up my way and mercifully prevented me from sinning to my fullest capacity for sin, allured my by the beauty of the gospel and spoke tenderly to me, giving me blessings beyond measure, taking my troubles upon himself at the cross in order to open for me the door of hope and deliverance from bondage in sin, betrothing me to himself forever in righteousness and justice, in steadfast love and mercy and faithfulness, so that I should know him (2:6, 14-20).
- Redeemed me from my wretched plight in sin and misery and made me his own beloved bride, paying my ransom at great cost to himself—by the death of his Son (3:2-3).
- Like a lion he tore me so that he may heal me, he struck me down so that he would bind me up, he revived me and promised me resurrection in Christ, and by his Holy Spirit he enables me to know him and to press on in growing in my knowledge of him, and his assurance of his faithfulness is refreshment to my soul. He does not demand sacrifices from me, but desires steadfast love and faithfulness and knowledge of him (6:1-3).
- Disciplines me for my good, with the purpose of turning me back to himself in true repentance and love, that I would take his easy yoke upon me and break up the patterns of sin in my heart, sowing instead righteousness and reaping steadfast love in search of the LORD’s blessings (10:10-12).
- Even before he saved me, he loved me, taught me to walk, took me up in his arms, healed me, led me with cords of kindness and bands of love, eased the yoke, bent down and fed me. His warm and tender compassion was unrelenting in the face of my sin and he pledged not to execute his burning anger against me, but withheld his holy wrath, and brought me trembling to himself (11:1-4, 8-11).
- He saves me entirely by his grace, and gives me faith not only to believe, but also to persevere through trials, through doubts, through the desert places, and he speaks to me through his word, helping me to return to him with my questions and fears, to hold fast to his love and justice, and wait continually for him. He is my Deliverer, Shepherd, Protector, and Refuge (12:4-6, 13).
- He doesn’t wait for me to find him, but he makes himself known to me, the LORD my God who delivers me and is my only Savior. He ransoms me from the power of the grave, he redeems me from death, and he removes the plague and the sting from death (13:14).
- And he grants me repentance, turning my apostasy to adoration through adoption in Christ, loving me without the hindrance of my sin or the oppression of impending judgement, bringing the beauty and life of the gospel to fruition in me and making me beautiful in return, causing me to dwell in his safety, abiding in Christ, flourishing and growing in the faith and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, answering and looking after me, and causing me to bear fruit for his glory (14:1-8).
This, my friends, is the magnificence of Hosea. By showing us the inescapable and hopeless darkness of our plight, the glory of God’s grace in salvation shines all the brighter. And thus Paul, writing of the grace that was given him to preach “the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things,” in his next breath shares that the purpose of the gospel is “that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Eph. 3:8-11). God did not look at us in our sin and see “potential.” He didn’t see an atom of deserving. He didn’t see a “darling wretch.” He saw a rebel. An enemy. A Whore. We are therefore trophies of God’s grace, and through our salvation his bewildering and compassionate wisdom is displayed to all the universe, and the angels and the demons stand amazed. Saving a wretch like me, and like you, is always and everywhere “to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:14).
And so, now that we have explored the depth and offense of the sins and the magnificence of the glorious grace by which God has saved everyone to whom he gives faith to believe in his Son, Jesus Christ, I pray, with the apostle Paul—
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. — Ephesians 1:17-23