The Gospel According to Hosea

I originally wrote this series of devotions from the book of Hosea to be posted in June 2020 at Daily Treasures, the daily devotional for MarkInc Ministries which is written and edited by my friend Sharon Betters. I hope that these are a blessing to you here and now.

Christ loved the church [Israel] and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present her to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish —Ephesians 5:25-27

The Gospel

What is the Gospel? According to, among the meanings of “Gospel” we find that it is: something regarded as true and implicitly believed; a doctrine regarded as of prime importance; and glad tidings, especially concerning salvation and the kingdom of God as announced to the world by Christ.

For many years as a young Christian, I thought that the gospel was the message of salvation, and once I prayed the “sinner’s prayer,” I just needed to clean up my act, do the right things, avoid the wrong things, and live like a good Christian. The gospel was part of my life as an historical event, an important and life-changing event to be sure, but in my past. I had no idea that the death, burial, and resurrection of my Lord had any bearing on my day-to-day life. Nor did I realize that it was found anywhere else in the Bible than in the final pages of each of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But the more I read and study God’s Word, the more I began to see how very, blessedly, wrong I was.

Jesus made it clear that we will find the glad tidings of the gospel in all of the writings of the Old Testament, beginning with Moses and throughout the Prophets (Luke 24:27). Any study of Scripture, whether it be in the Old Testament or the New, is a study of things concerning our Lord Jesus Christ. In some places these glad tidings may be veiled by prophetic language and difficult to understand. But with hearts quickened by the Holy Spirit—and a little help from trustworthy theologians—we find that our hearts burn within us as we discover the good news of Jesus Christ blazing forth from every page of our Bibles.

And Yet, Hosea

And yet the book of Hosea doesn’t appear to begin with a Glorious Display of Glad Tidings, but rather the embarrassment of a shameful command from God to his prophet, Hosea.

“Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.”— Hosea 1:2

With a beginning like this, how in the world could this be a story of glad tidings? Why is it of prime importance that we understand the book of Hosea? And how could it be true that our holy God would command his prophet to enter such an unholy marriage?

The late James Montgomery Boice calls the story of Hosea “the second greatest story in the Bible.” After the story of the incarnation, life, suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, Boice considers this book of prophecy the second greatest because “it is an anticipation in pageant form of Christ’s story.”[1]

Hosea’s marriage to Gomer presents the pageantry of God’s love for his people, Israel. As a prophecy, this marriage is symbolic, an object lesson, to demonstrate the truth and living reality of God’s covenant love. Hosea plays the role of God, remaining faithful and steadfast in his love, pursuing his unfaithful wife, who represents Israel, redeeming her even from the auction block because of his unfailing love for her. The choice of a prostitute to portray Israel in this prophetic pageant displays the depth of Israel’s sin: faithless, unclean, enslaved to her passions, seeking other lovers, betraying her wedding vows, forsaking her first love, disloyal, untrustworthy, a heartbreaker.

But, God

This is a true picture not only of Israel, but of all humanity. And yet, despite all this, God’s steadfast, covenant, love endures to such a degree that he sent his Son to give his life as a ransom for his unfaithful, yet dearly beloved bride. Indeed, as our Heavenly Bridegroom,

Christ loved the church [Israel in the OT] and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present her to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish —Ephesians 5:25-27

But is the story of Hosea’s marriage really true? Surely God would not ask one of his people to enter into a situation which would inevitably bring such misery as would this marriage to a prostitute. To this objection Boice replies:

… what is the story of Hosea if it is not the story of ourselves as members of that body which is the bride of Christ? We are Gomer, and God is Hosea. He married us when we were unclean. He knew that we would prove unfaithful again and again. He knew that we would forsake him. Still he loved us and purchased us to himself through Christ’s atonement. If Hosea’s story cannot be real (because “God could not ask a man to marry an unfaithful woman”), then neither is the story of salvation real, because that is precisely what Christ has done for us.[2]

Be Encouraged

Dear Ones, the story of Hosea is the story of the God who loved sinners and sent his Son to redeem us. If you are a Christian this is your story! And yet, if you are like me, there are times when the darkness of your pre-faith past rises up to accuse you, or moments when you are ashamed by your unfaithful heart and wandering feet. I am keenly aware that I am: “Prone to wander … Prone to leave the God I love.”[3] I therefore rejoice, and I pray that you will too, in the gospel according to Hosea, because here the unchanging love of God shines most brilliantly in the Old Testament. Because of his love “Jesus sought me when a stranger, wand’ring from the fold of God: he, to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood.”

Pray With Me

O Lord, because of your great mercy and unfailing love you sought me, a faithless sinner, and redeemed me. Your gospel is not only an event in my past, but it is the truth of your life-giving love for me every moment of every day. Cause this good news to be my deepest source of joy, and use the glad tidings of your gospel to bind my heart ever more closely to you.

[1] James Montgomery Boice, The Minor Prophets, Vol. 1, An Expositional Commentary: Hosea – Jonah, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1983) 13-14.

[2] Boice, 17, emphasis mine

[3] Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, Robert Robinson, 1758

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