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Recap of Chapter 15-

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it does.  Israel sunk deeper and deeper into the cesspool of idolatry under the royal wickedness of Ahab and Jezebel.  They led the people further into idolatry and disregarded the God who had made them a nation. The people of promise had broken their promises.  But YHWH is a jealous God who would not sit idly on His heavenly throne and allow worthless non-gods and their followers to go unchecked.  So He called prophets who would speak on His behalf and demonstrate that there is no God but Himself.  Sounding the alarm, these prophets warned faithless Israel that her unbelief would march her right into captivity.

Elijah warned Ahab that Israel would experience a 3-year drought because of their worship of the pagan god, Baal.  The shriveled up land seemed a fitting picture of Israel’s desiccated hearts and shrunken worship. Ahab had gone so far as to build a temple for Baal in the capital city of Samaria.  Then, atop Mount Carmel, the supposed sacred dwelling place of Baal, Elijah challenged the idolaters to the ultimate smackdown—YHWH vs. Baal.  Baal failed to show up but the LORD made a dramatic statement when He consumed the water-logged sacrifice with fire.  Elijah then put to death the 450 prophets of Baal.  Ahab’ wife Jezebel, the Queen of Mean, threatened to kill him so Elijah fled into the desert.  Fatalistic, fearful and not without some Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Mount Horeb.  God revealed Himself there to Elijah, much like He had done nearly 600 years earlier to Moses at Sinai.  He told Elijah that he had kings and prophets to anoint – one of whom was his successor, Elisha.   Once again, as with Moses and Joshua, God was passing the baton to the next generation of leaders who would speak for Him.

While the two prophets were traveling together, Elijah parted the Jordan by striking the water with his cloak – another throwback to Moses.  As they continued on, a whirlwind took Elijah up to heaven in a chariot of fire.  The cloak fell to Elisha whose authority was confirmed when he too divided the Jordan.  Similar to Elijah before him, Elisha performed many miraculous feats for the benefit of the faithful remnant in Israel.  He promised a barren Shunammite woman a son. When the boy suddenly died years later, Elisha brought him back to life. When the Aramean king sent his troops to capture the man of God, Elisha prayed.  He asked God to open his servant’s eyes so he could see the angels who were standing guard around them, and to blind the Arameans.  The prophet then led his captives to Samaria where he asked the king of Israel to prepare a feast of friendship in lieu of execution. This unconventional act of grace established peace between Israel and Aram.

Even with the powerful ministries of Elijah and Elisha, the deeply embedded idolaters remained powerful, numerous and unrepentant in Israel.  God sent Amos, a herdsman from the southern kingdom of Judah, to warn the northern kingdom of Israel that her prosperity, injustice and sinful ways would soon be judged.  He promised them that if Israel did not repent, they would be taken captive. God also sent Hosea to Israel as a living object lesson of His faithfulness and Israel’s unfaithfulness.  Israel refused to hear the pleas of God to return to Him.

God’s holiness demands judgment against rebellious men, but His redemptive love always provides a way of escape.  Whether it’s a mountaintop showdown, a boy raised from the dead, a vision of guardian angels, or a prophet commanded to marry a woman who would become unfaithful, God is always telling His Upper Story of redemption and compassion through His messengers.

Hosea, A Living Object Lesson of God’s Loyal Love

An object lesson is supposed to be a powerful tool in teaching. There are times, however, that an object lesson can go very wrong. My friend back in seminary had children’s messages that he was supposed to deliver during the worship service. He brought in a plate brownies and displayed them before all the kids. He talked about wanting to give them a brownie and he was positive they would taste good, but…as he was preparing the batter he dropped the butter in the grass where the dog did his “business.” It may have touched the dog’s waste but it was only a little bit. He then asked if they wanted a brownie. He said just like the waste was a just a small bit, it still spoiled everything. Sin, even a little bit, spoils everything.

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It was an object lesson that no one forgot. Parents were in an uproar and kids were crying because they couldn’t eat a brownie. It was a “mess” of an object lesson that was burned into the minds of all who were present.

An object lesson is a powerful teaching tool.  For the prophet Hosea, his whole life was to be an object lesson for the nation of Israel.  Like Hosea, our lives are to be the same.  It has often been said that you may be the only Bible someone else ever reads.  If that is true, what would others learn about Jesus simply by watching you?

I.       Hosea:  The Minister

A. The era of the prophets was a unique time in Biblical history.  Although by this time Israel had been prone toward idolatry since the golden calf at Mount Sinai, the nation’s unfaithfulness to the LORD and the spiritually corrupt priests compelled Him to call Israel back to Himself through these individuals or risk the tragic and severe consequences of judgment through captivity or death.

B. Both prophets Hosea and Amos proclaimed the failure of Israel to remain faithful to the covenant of the Law given by Moses and therefore judgment was coming.  Both prophets pled with Israel to repent and return to the Lord.

C. His Ministry:  Hosea began ministering during a period of great material prosperity and military success under the reign of King Jeroboam II in Israel and King Uzziah of Judah.  King Jeroboam II had expanded the borders of Israel through military successes and her economy was fattened right along side.  This led the people of Israel to feel very secure in their military and wealth.  They could not imagine that in thirty short years, they would be so utterly defeated that they would be taken captive.  He prophesied during the reigns of probably 11 kings in both the north and the south–more kings than any other prophet—although he does not mention all of them by name.

  1. Hosea did not date his prophecies, but from the names of the kings mentioned, we can be reasonably sure that his ministry spanned about fifty years, from about 760-710 BC.  Although the exile of Israel to Assyria will come in chapter 16 of The Story, Hosea’s ministry began well before the Assyrian exile in 722 BC and went beyond it by several years.  He was a contemporary of the prophets Amos, Isaiah, and Micah who describe similar conditions of prosperity, injustice and apostasy in the Northern Kingdom.

  2. Unlike Amos who was from the Southern Kingdom of Judah, Hosea was from the Northern Kingdom of Israel (7:5).

  3. Israel was marked by religious apostasy.  They had been in and out of Baalism for centuries, but King Ahab and Jezebel had nationalized it.  Baal was a Phoenician fertility god and could be considered the most perverse form of religion around.  Its worship promoted drunkenness, cultic prostitution, and even human sacrifice.  When Hosea accused Israel of “playing the harlot,” he meant it as more than a figure of speech.

II.       Hosea:  The Man

A. Probably no single book of the Bible paints a clearer picture of God’s redemptive love than the book of Hosea.  Through the life and message of Hosea, God shows us that He will never stop loving His prodigal people and graphically illustrates to us just how far He will go to bring us back to Himself and restore us to a right relationship, even in spite of our sin.

B. His Marriage:  The life of a prophet was never an easy one, but from the very beginning, God called Hosea to be a living object lesson to the faithless people of Israel.  Hosea was not the only prophet called to do bizarre things that would shock the Israelites into hearing the Word of God.  Isaiah went around naked and barefoot for 3 years (Isa. 20:1-4) and Ezekiel had to lay on his side for over a year near a model of Jerusalem under siege because of Judah’s sin (Ezek. 4:1-5:4).   But no prophet was asked to sacrifice himself more personally and more painfully than Hosea.  “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord.”  (Hos. 1:2 NIV)  The Message is even stronger, “Find a whore and marry her.  Make this whore the mother of your children.  Here’s why:  This whole country has become a whorehouse, unfaithful to me, God.”  (Hos. 1:2 Message)  Yes, you heard right!  God actually called Hosea to marry a woman who would become unfaithful to him after they got married and poor Hosea would know this beforehand.

  1. Why would God do such a thing?  The text tells us that Hosea’s marriage was to be a living object lesson to the people of Israel because of the nation’s “flagrant harlotry” toward God.  The covenant between God and Israel was a marriage-like covenant.  He expected Israel to love Him faithfully while Israel could depend upon the provision and protection of her Husband.
  2. That Hosea immediately took Gomer as his wife is a remarkable testimony about the man’s commitment to obey the will of God!  There is nothing to indicate that Hosea even for a moment hesitated or questioned the Lord.  Hosea was an Upper Story kind of guy!  He recognized that his Lower Story obedience would contribute to Israel’s (and our) understanding of God’ Upper Story of redemption.
  3. Just like Hosea’s marriage to an unfaithful woman illustrated God’s covenant faithfulness to an unfaithful Israel, so too did his redemption and restoration of his adulterous wife picture the love of God for Israel.  In Hosea 3, God told Hosea to continue to love his wife.  Gomer had chased after other men, and ended up on the auction block.  Humiliated Hosea had to buy her back—the quintessential picture of God’s redemption in Christ—for the price of a slave.  Because he loved her with a godly love, he informed Gomer that her adulterous lifestyle was over and shut her up for a while.  Hosea had to “save her from herself” so to speak, and cut off her temptations so that she would learn how to love her husband and only her husband.

C. His Children:  Even Hosea’s children were to be a living message to Israel of God’ love for His prodigal people.

  1. His son was named Jezreel to commemorate the bloodshed in the city of Jezreel. King Jehu had rightly killed Ahab and Jezebel’s descendents but he went too far and slaughtered others too.  Therefore Jehu’s dynasty would be judged.

  2. His daughter’s name was Lo-ruhamah, which means “she is not loved.”  The compassionate God who is willing to forgive sin, at times, says that He will no longer allow the guilty to continue to go unpunished.

  3. Gomer gave birth to another son and named him Lo-ammi, which means “not my people.”

III.       Hosea:  The Message

A. His main message to Israel, and to us, is that God’s love is loyal toward those who are His own.  God showed Israel, through the startling object lesson of Hosea and Gomer, that His faithfulness was sure even when they were unfaithful to Him time and time again.  He is a covenant-keeping God and His character is marked by faithfulness.

B. Hosea’s message to Israel stressed her sin, God’s judgment, God’s salvation and His loyal love for His prodigal people.

C. Hosea used very strong—even shocking—words to describe the spiritual adultery of Israel.

D. Israel’s unfaithfulness to God also caused her to be oppress the poor (12:7), participate in violent crimes (4:2, 6:9, 12:1), and live in selfish arrogance (13:6).  Consequently, Hosea gave 5 passages of judgment, but with each one He provided the hope of salvation upon repentance.

Gomer

Wife of Hosea

A prostitute

Chased after other men

Israel

Spiritual “wife” of God by covenant

A spiritual harlot (idolatry)

Chased after other gods

Hosea

Suffered because of Gomer’s adultery

Continued to love Gomer with loyal love

Did not divorce her

Purchased/redeemed her

Punished her

Restored and forgave her

YHWH, God of Israel

Suffered because of idolatry

Continued to love prodigals with loyal love

Has not forsaken His own

Purchased and redeemed

Punishes/disciplines His own

Restores and forgives

E. Gomer’s life story parallels that of Israel’s life story of sin, judgment and redemption.

IV.       Hosea:  The Message for Us (Applications and Implications)

A. The relationship between Israel and God is parallel to the relationship between Christ and the Church.  The Church is the “bride of Christ.” (Eph. 5:22-33)  The Church is the “bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:9, 22:17).  The Church is betrothed to one husband, Christ, and she is to be a pure virgin (2 Cor. 11:2).  Therefore, we are to put away sin and live righteously and faithfully in Christ.

B. Living like Gomer is painful to the LORD who loves you.  It distorts the relationship that God intended us to have with Him.

C. Marriage is God’s idea and our loyal, covenantal love for our spouse is to represent the loyal, covenantal love of Christ toward His bride, the Church.  God calls us to continue to be faithful and loyal even when our spouse does not deserve it.  Represent Him!

D. Any nation that rejects the LORD will also reject morality, justice and spiritual hope.

E. Outward forms of worship mean nothing unless we believe and obey.

F. The mature give up their rights.  Believers have opportunities to show people what God is really like and what the gospel is about by being a living picture or “object lesson.”  While we enjoy Christian liberty, God often calls us to set aside our freedoms to become a more effective witness for the benefit of others.  I can sacrifice personal comfort and ease to “preach the gospel without using words.”

Living Testimonies

God called Hosea to give up his right to a faithful wife and happy marriage (Lower Story Life) to show Israel her own infidelity and portray God’ redemptive love (Upper Story life).  Do you have examples of people you know or know of whose lives are living testimonies of God’s love.  How do those “living testimonies” impact you?  What effect does that person have on your understanding of the character of God?  How can you be a living testimony right now in your life?

Elijah and Elisha, “God’s Messengers” are introduced in chapter 15 of THE STORY.  Their efforts to warn the kings, and to herd the people toward God, were a struggle.  Many miracles and acts of kindness are attributed to the prophet Elisha as he walked among the people.  Whatever hospitality was shown to him must have blessed and refreshed him.  Hospitality has always been an attribute of God’s followers. Before going to Shunen, where he met the gracious Shunammite woman, Elisha had experienced some stressful events.

 

I. Elisha experiences hospitality.  2 Kings 2:23; 3— 4:1-10

1.  What kind of treatment did he receive as he went up to Bethel? (2:23-25)

2.  Who did he have to contend with next? (3:9-13)

3.  How did he help the widow of one of the prophets? (4:1-7)

Elisha was a servant of God who handled disrespectful young men, powerful kings, and suffering individuals.  But the Shunammite woman was not asking for anything, she was offering something.

4.  How is the Shunammite woman described? (4:8a)

5.  Why did Elisha stop there when he was traveling through the area? (4:8b)

6.  What did she offer Elisha? (4:9-10)

7.  What would have been the cost of this hospitality to the Shunammite woman?

8.  What did her attitude seem to be toward any burden her hospitality might have been?

II. Hospitality in the Bible.

The Old Testament examples of hospitality are plentiful; the New Testament includes examples as well as commands to be hospitable.  From the following examples what kind of care and cost was required to extend hospitality?  What kinds of blessings result from godly hospitality?

Genesis 18:2—8, 16.

Genesis 19:1—8.

Luke 10:7.

Hebrews 13:2.

 

III. The Shunammite woman experiences blessing. 2 Kings 4:11-37; 8:1-6

Of course the cost and the risk of hospitality can sometimes be burdensome.  Imagine, however, what it would have cost the Shunammite woman if she hadn’t offered hospitality to the prophet Elisha.

1.  What caused Elisha offer a blessing to the woman? (4:11-13a)

2.  With what kind of attitude did the woman respond? (4:13)

3. What surprising gift did Elisha give her? ((4:14-17)

4. What was the ultimate gift that followed?  (4:18-37)

5.  What warning and help did Elisha later give to the Shunammite and her family?  (8:1-6)

IV. Hospitality as a picture of God.

Significant blessings come to the one who offers hospitality and to the one who receives hospitality.  Hospitality is about relationship.  Christians receive the gracious hospitality of God as he invites us into relationship with him.  In turn, we bless God by opening our lives as the gracious invitation of a spiritual home to others who have not yet experienced God as their Father.

1.  Jesus said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  How is this a picture of hospitality?

2. Analyze these instructions about hospitality:

Matthew 25:41-46.

1 Peter 4:9.

3 John 5—8

The Shunammite woman went out of her way to show hospitality to Elisha when he needed it.  Because of the friendship that developed between them, Elisha went out of his way to bless her when she needed it.  This kind of godly hospitality is almost a lost art, but those who conform to the biblical model of hospitality experience much of the same kind of blessing.

3.  What has happened to the custom of hospitality in our culture?

4.  What are the hindrances to practicing this act of grace?

5.  Share how showing hospitality has been a blessing to you or to others?

6.  Whom should we consider as our guest each time we open our homes to others? (Matthew 25:45)

Key Question:  How will you show Christian hospitality to a servant of God who would be blessed by your kindness?

For additional reflection:

Meditate on the following passages about the kinds of hospitality Jesus and the Apostles received.  What can we learn from each of these occasions?

Luke 2:4-7           Matthew 10:8-15            Luke 7:36-35           Luke 10:25-37              Luke 14:1-12            Luke 19:7

Acts 10: 23, 24-48                Acts 16:13-15

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