Monday, February 18, 2013

The Love Story

Hosea:  1 Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for your sins have brought you down. 2 Bring your confessions (true repentance), and return to the Lord. Say to Him, “Forgive all our sins and graciously receive us, so that we may offer You our praises. . . . 9 Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those with discernment listen carefully. The paths of the Lord are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them. But in those (right) paths sinners stumble and fall. Hosea 14:1-2, 9 (NLT).

The Book of Hosea gives God’s special message of His love. Some biblical scholars have called the Book of Hosea “the second greatest love story in the Bible.” Of course, the first greatest love story in the Bible is the incarnation, life, suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Yet, the message of Hosea tells of God’s timeless love and gives humans a look into the very heart of God. Revelations of God's love, faithfulness, judgment, mercy, grace, jealous, and holiness are revealed in this story. Hosea’s name means “the Lord saves.” God repeatedly sought to save His people, Israel, from their sins. Today, God’s people are those who accept by faith and obedience Jesus Christ. These people are now called the church or the Israel of God and are composed of both Jews and Gentiles (Galatians 6:16; Ephesians 2:11-22).

The Book of Hosea centers around the prophet Hosea’s love and betrayal of an unfaithful wife called Gomer. Gomer was a prostitute and sought the love of other men and not her faithful husband, Hosea. However, the Book of Hosea has more to do with humankind’s unfaithfulness and adultery to the faithful and loving God. Just as Gomer was unfaithful, Israel was unfaithful like a prostitute by seeking and loving other gods. Hosea continued to seek and love Gomer, despite her unfaithfulness. But Hosea was also very anger with Gomer. Like Hosea, God persistently sought His people with love. Yet, God was also anger with the people because of their spiritual adultery against Him. Instead of the people responding to God with love and gratitude, the people pursued others gods and other nations. God’s holiness demanded divorce and judgment for unfaithfulness. In His love and mercy, God sought and promised to forgive His unfaithful people if they would only wholeheartedly turn to Him as their God.

Moreover, the Book of Hosea addresses a time of Israel’s prosperity in the northern kingdom, also called Ephraim. Israel was experiencing boundary expansion and some Israelites amassed great wealth. Yet, Israel had decayed spiritually. Israel supported heavy taxes and oppression of the poor. Even worse, Israel turned to pagan gods and away from the true and living God of Israel. Israel was only interested in God for His material blessings and benefits and not a close and genuine heart relationship with Him as their God. The hearts of the people were empty, religion was shallow, and corruption ran rampant throughout the nation. In particular, the law was manipulated to favor the rich and religion was really just a mere show. God had blessed Israel, but they lived only for pleasure. The people had abandoned hard work, integrity and morality and lived only to please themselves. All these behaviors reflected a negligence of love for God as well as for their fellow citizens.

The prophet Hosea sent a message to the northern kingdom of Israel to return to God for their help and security and away from other gods, foreign nations, and their wealth. Only the true and living God could heal, restore, and protect Israel. Hosea warned the people that unless they truly repented of their sin and turn their whole hearts back to God, they were headed for judgment and destruction (Deuteronomy 27-28). Sadly, Israel disregarded the prophet’s warnings of God’s judgment and continued to live in total disregard for God and His commands. Israel’s northern kingdom fell to Assyria invasion and destruction in 722 B.C. and Assyria carried the northern Israelites into captivity.

God has always wanted a close and personal relationship with His people.  Since the beginning of time, God had made a covenant with humankind to be their God (see e.g., Genesis 9:8-17; Genesis 15:9-21; Genesis 17; Exodus 19-24; 2 Samuel 7:5-16). As God of the universe, He promised His faithful love, blessings, and protection for His people only if they would walk humbly, mercifully and obediently with Him as their God (see e.g., Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8; Matthew 9:13). God is our loving Husband and Provider. He wants to give His intimate love to His people. God does not want to be one of many gods, but the only true and living God of our lives. We as humans are God’s bride (Isaiah 54:4-8; Ephesians 5:25-27Revelation 21:1-2). God does not want to share His bride with another god. He wants to provide everything we need as a loving Husband: food, clothing, land, peace, and security.

Sadly, sin and disobedience damage our close and personal relationship with God and breaks God’s heart. The message of Hosea teaches that as we neglect God we get into trouble (see also Proverbs 14:34). God is merciful and filled with loving kindness (e.g., Psalm 100:5; Psalm 103:13; Psalm 136). But even God and His presence will not endure if we insist on continual sin and disobedience. God may temporarily withdraw His Spirit to our sins and foolishness (Luke 15) and punish us to get our attention. But, God will always welcome us as we turn from sin and turn our whole hearts to Him. Even with His judgment of sin, God is merciful and will restore us as we truly repent and turn to Him as our God.

So, let us all reaffirm your complete devotion, commitment and love to God of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God wants our genuine, wholehearted love and allegiance to Him as the true and living God of the universe (Deuteronomy 6:4-6). Only God can truly satisfy the deep desires of our hearts and not money, possessions nor activities. All the more, only God can provide us true protection and safety, and not our wealth, military power nor foreign alliances. Like Israel, God promises to forgive our sins as we turn our whole hearts to Him in faith and belief. The Book of Hosea shows that God longs not to punish but to love us. Let everyone turn their hearts to God!

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God bless you! You are loved by God (Romans 5:5).