This Sunday I will be teaching out of one of the most unusual books in the entire Bible. What makes the eighth century BC prophet Hosea so unusual is that God used the tragic circumstances of his personal life to teach Israel a lesson about their unfaithfulness. The book opens by explaining that Hosea's wife was unfaithful to him even to the extent that she became a prostitute. The prophet proclaimed that his own personal tragedy paralleled the disobedience and unfaithfulness of God's people. Although it was written eight centuries before the time of Jesus, the book is surprisingly relevant to us moderns. For instance, think of the circumstances surrounding Israel and Judah during the time of Hosea:
- Their relative prosperity resulted in a kind of ambivalence to biblical faith.
- As they embraced neighboring cultures and engaged in economic trade their sense of identity in traditional moral values gave way to foreign influences.
- Those foreign influences led to religious syncretism and acceptance of many different forms of religious expression as being equally valid to biblical faith.
God used Hosea to awaken His people to the perilous situation they were facing. The prophet warned them that just like his prostitute wife, they had left their true love in favor of substitute gods who would bring them only heartache and decline. Aside from some of the obvious cultural parallels to our own culture, there are some great personal applications here.
A couple of things stand out to me as I read Hosea.
First, the word used to describe the unfaithfulness of Gomer (Hosea's wife) in the original language is packed with meaning. It is the word "zanah" in Hebrew. The word is often translated as "prostitute" or "whore" or "whoring" in the Bible and almost always refers to promiscuous behavior.
Of course the obvious implication is that just as a spouse feels intense personal betrayal and dismay because of marital unfaithfulness, so God is heartbroken over our rebellion against him. It says something very profound to us about God's love for us. But it also says something very interesting to us about the nature of our sin.
Second, what makes this word particularly interesting is it's root meaning. At it's root the word means "highly fed".
How is it that a word that originally meant "highly fed" could come to mean adulterous or promiscuous behavior? The only plausible explanation is that the core of our sinful nature is our inability to say no to our own appetites. Our problem isn't so much bad desire for evil things as it is over desire for good things.
Contained within the root meaning of this word that is used to warn Israel of their unfaithfulness are many important principles that are helpful:
- Our biggest problem is our tendency to find satisfaction and meaning outside of His love and purpose.
- Always getting what we want is not necessarily the best thing for our soul. Just like never hearing the word "no" spoils a child, lack of discipline leads to a corrupt spirit.
- The more we believe we can satisfy the longings of our heart on our own, the less likely we are to depend on God's grace. Highly fed people do not hunger for righteousness. The most difficult people to reach with the gospel are the ones who believe they can get along just fine without God. The only way to truly find life is to deny self.
Posted on Wed, April 3, 2013
by Rick Thompson filed under