4 Reasons You Should Preach through Hosea
The most minor thing about the Minor Prophets is their place in the life of the church today. Many of our people have never waded through the prophets’ robust theology of the God who disciplines his children and calls them to repentance. As a result, the word-pictures and often dismal future leave people either confused or hopeless, wondering what God has for his Old Testament people—and subsequently, what he has for us.
This is a major reason why we should preach any of the Minor Prophets, and it certainly can be seen in the first of these mouthpieces of God—Hosea.
So, here are four reasons why every preacher should preach the prophecy of Hosea.
1. To see God’s long-suffering nature.
Having prophesied in the latter part of the 8th-century BC, Hosea directs his message to the northern kingdom of Israel. He depends heavily on earlier Scripture, particularly the covenant promises of Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 4:25–31, and Deuteronomy 28–32.
These all lead to the main message of Hosea, which centers on the spiritual matrimony God envisions between himself and his covenant people, and how the breaking of this covenant has led to the people’s ruin.
But from this message of judgment, the bright beam of God’s faithfulness breaks in.
When God calls Hosea to wed an unfaithful woman (1:2) and, post-adultery, to embrace her once more (3:1), we are given insight into God’s heart toward his people. Even amid the pronouncement of idolatry and the promise of exile, the preacher repeatedly draws out the gracious nature of the God who continues to plead with those who have gone after other lovers (4:12–13; 5:4; 6:10).
We regularly need to be reminded of this truth—for both ourselves and our relationships with others. Too often, we wonder why we continue to pursue wayward Christians or push forward in discipleship with those who seem stuck. Too often, like the disciples, we wonder how often we should forgive one another (Matthew 18:21–22). In these situations, Hosea reminds us of God’s nature. He is a pursuing God who goes after his people. At the same time, we’re confronted with the grievousness of sin and its consequences.
If Proverbs puts forward the principle that, “The Lord disciplines the one he loves” (Proverbs 3:12), then Hosea shows us what his loving discipline looks like. As Hosea 4–14 lays out God’s judgment against his people, we can thank him that he is merciful enough to show them the folly of their hearts. We can also thank him that he does the same for us, which leads to the second reason we should preach this prophecy.
2. To learn that we are all spiritual adulterers.
While many will be familiar with the story of Hosea’s marriage to the prostitute Gomer (Hosea 1–3), the expositor will have to work hoard to bringing that picture of marriage and adultery home.
While we rightly see marriage as a “parable of permanence,” Hosea’s life and testimony cast marriage as a “parable of perversion,” as Gomer repeatedly gives herself to other lovers. Hosea teaches us that we all, like Israel, are spiritual Gomers—we naturally give ourselves to other loves and idols of the heart.
Too often, we think of our sin as doing bad deeds or saying wrong words or thinking evil thoughts. But Hosea teaches us that the matter is chiefly in the heart—it is chiefly about our loves. As James Smith has rightly said, “Our wants and longings and desires are at the core of our identity, the wellspring from which our actions and behavior flow.”
Understanding ourselves as spiritual adulterers will help us understand the true nature of sin. The potential applications here are too many to count. No matter what a church member is wrestling with, all roads lead back to the heart. It matters not whether we’re fighting for sexual purity or against anger, for wisdom in our finances or against crippling anxiety, for godly parenting or against discontentment in singleness. In every situation, Hosea illustrates through the sin of Israel the truth confessed by David in Psalm 51:4: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight”
Hosea teaches us that our greatest need isn’t behavior modification or an attitude adjustment. Our greatest need is a heart transplant (4:1; 6:4, 6; 10:12).
And how might that come about? Through the wooing power of the Bridegroom’s love.
The answer to this question brings me to the third reason we should joyfully preach Hosea
3. To witness the wooing power of the bridegroom’s love.
The history of Israel makes it clear that the Lord is long-suffering. Israel sins; the Lord calls them to repentance. Israel sins; the Lord calls them to repentance. And on and on it goes.
And yet, even amid the constant cycle of sin and judgment, God’s words of wooing persist.
We have the first hints of it in Hosea 1, where God promises that those who were called “You are not my people” will one day be called “Children of the Living God” (1:10). This truth reappears again in the next chapter, as God plays the role of a bridegroom courting His true love:
Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. (2:14–15)
The call of God’s love doesn’t cease. Even as he pronounces judgment, his promised love beckons ever more (11:1–12:1)
This is perhaps the best way for Christ-centered preachers to chart their path from Hosea to Christ—for he is the true Bridegroom who calls his people unto himself.
Hosea must lay down his life for his adulterous bride. But Jesus does even more, laying down his life down to the point of death—and in doing so, he wins and woos his wayward bride. Through Christ, we experience the height and depth of God’s love. Through the cross of Christ, we see the height and depth of our sin—the cost of God’s love. And through the empty tomb, we experience what the Bridegroom’s love does for the wooed rebel.
By reading and preaching through this book, we see a heart-piercing angle on these gospel truths, which then leads us to our final reason we should preach Hosea.
4. To compel us to joyful submission to God.
At this point, you might be wondering what all these truths from Hosea should cause us to do. Thankfully, Hosea 14 leaves no question:
Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God,
for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
Take with you words
and return to the LORD;
say to him, “Take away all iniquity;
accept what is good,
and we will pay with bulls
the vows of our lips.
Assyria shall not save us;
we will not ride on horses;
and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’
to the work of our hands.
In you the orphan finds mercy.” (14:1–3)
These verses summarize what God has been promising throughout the prophecy. And what is its intended goal? To bring God’s people under God’s rule. To draw his people into loving submission.
Hosea’s message for Israel—and Hosea’s message to us—is not chiefly about doom and gloom, though the discipline of God is central. Instead, his message is meant to draw us to repentance and obedience.
In the end, Hosea leaves no question as to how we should respond to God. By preaching through the book, we as preachers have the great opportunity to call people to respond like those who have been courted by the Bridegroom and welcomed into his house. As we expose the idolatry of the human heart, we invite our hearers to find hope in the gospel and give their lives to the purpose of glorifying God through joyfully submitting to and obeying him.
For these four reasons, and so many more, pastors can use Hosea to point people to a renewed hope found only in Christ. As dreadful as Israel’s sin was, as rebellious as we are, it cannot quench God’s resilient pursuit and redeeming love for his Bride.
I recommend the three following commentaries:
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You can read the rest of the articles in this series here.