Few things are as damaging as success. Too often we struggle for just another rung on that ladder—only to later realize it’s been propped against the wrong wall.
The year was roughly 800 B.C. Israel had experienced an unprecedented level of material and military success (you can actually read about this in 2 Kings 14:25-28; 2 Chron. 26:2, 6-15). Unfortunately, it was a level of success that had eroded the nation’s trust in God. As a result, the people of Israel turned from worshipping God to trusting in the various material idols of the day.
It may be unusual to think about such things on the day after Super Bowl Sunday. Don’t misunderstand me; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying the game or spending some time with family and friends. But surely you’d agree that there is always some measure of the event that reflects America’s sense of excess. Two writers call the event
“a national day of gluttony for Americans to unabashedly embrace the joys of advertising, consumerism and greasy foods… Football taps into our most violent, survival instincts. It repeatedly draws a line in the dirt and dares opponents to cross it. While it offers rules of engagement, often the meanest and nastiest prevail.…Football reminds us of who we are and how we got here, what battles had to be fought, what bodies had to be sacrificed to forge a nation.” (Craig Detweiler, Barry Taylor, A Matrix of Meanings)
Again, we don’t need to condemn televised sports in order to recognize that for millions of Americans, this event reflects and shapes what we worship. The Super Bowl—and the commercials that rival the importance of the game itself—reveals what our culture holds as ultimately valuable. It is a religion, pure and simple, one built on consumerism and sexuality.
Like most of the prophets, we don’t know much about Hosea.
“The word of the LORD that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.” (Hosea 1:1)
His name meant “He has saved,” meaning that God has saved His people. He was probably active sometime between 760-715 B.C.
God has a very unusual plan for Hosea. Through Hosea, God’s message would be more than merely words, but also a very specific action.
2 When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.” 3 So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. (Hosea 1:2-3)
What you worship, you become. Israel had been betrothed to God like a bride, but in their unfaithfulness they became a whore. Few stories are more shocking than the story of Hosea and Gomer. We know little about Gomer, other than she carried the kind of reputation that Israel would have easily known about. Hosea’s marriage served to underscore God’s message: when you worship other things, you become a lesser thing. God’s relationship to His people was as stable as Hosea’s relationship to a prostitute.
God’s judgment of His people would then be seen through the children of Hosea and Gomer. Each of their three kids revealed a little more about God’s character and fierce holiness.
4 And the LORD said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5 And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”
This may be confusing. Jezreel was the name of Hosea’s first son, but it was also the name of an Israelite town. In the previous century, the area had been the site of a radical slaughter by King Jehu (2 Kings 9:27-28; 10:12-31). Because the king had overstepped his bounds, the people would be punished.
- Lo-Ruhamah (“No Love/Mercy”)
6 She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. 7 But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”
Hosea’s second child—a daughter—would be named Lo-Ruhamah, which literally means “No Love” or “No Mercy.” Out of a deep commitment to Holiness, God would not show mercy to Israel in response to her sins.
- Lo-Ammi (“Not My People”)
8 When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. 9 And the LORD said, “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”
Hosea’s third child (second son) was named “Lo-Ammi” meaning “Not My People.” God would distance Himself from His chosen people. That was the magnitude of the separation that had taken place.
The only thing more staggering than the magnitude of God’s anger is the magnitude of God’s incredible grace. When we worship lesser gods, we endure suffering. We cannot claim to be walking in step with God’s character. But even in the midst of this passage, we find a promise given to us from God:
10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” 11 And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.
Jesus is the true and better Hosea. He united Himself with a wayward people so that “he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:27)
As we journey through Hosea, we learn more and more what it means to worship God and not the idols of the present world.