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Some of the most powerful words in the Bible are found in the writings of the Old Testament prophets. Sadly, these words are often torn from their original context by modern so-called prophets, and are used to reinforce their own dire warnings about our modern society.
But that’s the best way to miss the real message of the ancient prophets, and their message still applies to us today.
Let me show you what I mean. Look at the story of the prophet Hosea. God called Hosea to warn the ancient nation of Israel to turn from their sins and come back to him. To do this, he asked Hosea to make his family a living parable – that would illustrate God’s feelings about his chosen people being unfaithful.
He had Hosea marry a common prostitute named Gomer, and this in itself would have raised eyebrows and not gone un-scrutinized – because Hosea was an influential figure. The next chapter tells how Hosea and Gomer had three children, but regardless, Gomer continued to live out her promiscuous lifestyle. She eventually abandoned her family, and as so often happens, her promiscuity left her destitute, a slave at the mercy of whoever wanted to use her.
We would have understood if Hosea had given up on the marriage at this point. His wife seemed incorrigible. But God urged Hosea to find Gomer and buy her back. In ransoming this faithless and ungrateful woman from degradation, Hosea showed Gomer that he still loved and wanted her.
God uses this story as a powerful illustration of how he felt about his chosen people and their behavior towards him. They had consistently rejected and betrayed him, but he still loved them, and ultimately paid the price to get them back.
It serves as the “back story” to this Old Testament book that has many historical details and specific prophecies. But it’s a mistake to look through Hosea for clues to help us calculate the date of Jesus’ return by comparing it to the events of news today.
The prophecy itself was written for ancient Israel in the 7th century BC, not for us. But! – the message of God’s unconditional faithfulness to an unfaithful people was written for all people in all times.
Through Hosea and Gomer’s one-sided relationship, God was showing that even though our love for him is often fickle and treacherous, he never stops loving us. His love is unconditional, no matter how far we sink into sin. He has paid the price to get us back, and make us his own.
The book of Hosea anticipates the good news of the gospel–how in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, God has proven his unconditional and sacrificial love for us all.
I’m Joseph Tkach, speaking of life.