Children of the Living God

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, “Childrenof the living God.” 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. — Hosea 1:10-11

Decisions, Decisions…

The names we give our children often carry a great deal of meaning. There are so many factors to consider when choosing names. Do we want a popular name or something unique? Are there any relatives we wish to honor by carrying on their name? Is there a significant meaning behind the name? Are there potentially dreadful nicknames we want to avoid? How will it sound when calling the children from across the playground?

When my husband and I chose names for our children, we wanted to give them each a unique name as well as a name to honor a family member. Each of our five children (2 sons and 3 daughters) have their “own” first name, and their middle name hearkens back to a grandparent, aunt, or uncle. Our youngest son has two middle names since we still had two family names we wanted to carry on. His name had been waiting in the wings through the births of three older sisters, and by the time Isaac William Wallace Kelly arrived, there was no need to make a decision about what to name him!

Just as Hosea had little choice in deciding whom to marry (the prostitute Gomer was his “match made in heaven”), there was no need to decide what they would name their children. God chose names that reiterated his message of judgement every time Hosea called his children from across the playground.

Names of Judgement

Their firstborn, a son, was named Jezreel, which literally meant “scattered,” but by way of word-association it meant “bloodshed,” and signified the Lord’s judgement on the line of kings who had taken the throne of Israel with bloodthirsty zeal. The failure of their kings to rule faithfully in obedience to God would result in Israel being scattered among the nations. The next two children borne by Gomer may not have been Hosea’s: a daughter named “No Mercy,” and a son named “Not My People.” The names of these children of unfaithfulness signified that God would no more have mercy on the house of Israel or forgive them at all; they were not his people and he was not their God.

These names not only held significant meanings and were worse than any nickname, but every time they were mentioned Hosea was reminding his neighbors of God’s righteous anger for their national apostasy. God had mercifully saved the Israelites and called them to be his own people, and their rejection of him was no small matter. They had broken his covenant by their unfaithfulness, and God would therefore be faithful to visit the covenant curses upon them in his wrath. Violence, bloodshed, scattered in exile, judgement without mercy, and rejection by their God were to be their reward for their adulterous apostasy. They wouldn’t only lose their homes; they would lose their identity.

Covenant Faithfulness

Hosea 1:2-9 is God’s prophetic introduction to the message of the entire book—Israel has sinned to the full, and God’s patience with them has reached its end. Judgment is coming. And yet, God gives them a peek at the Gospel when in his very next breath he says:

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, “Childrenof the living God.” 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. — Hosea 1:10-11

With these words, God reminds his people of his covenant promises. Even though their sin stretches back for generations, God declares that his faithfulness reaches further still: all the way back to his promise to Abraham. In spite of their sin, God will still give Abraham descendants “like the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered or measured” (Genesis 15:1-5).

Be Encouraged

God’s faithfulness to Abraham, expressed anew in Hosea 1:10-11, is based on a promise he made even earlier still, before history began:

he chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ — Ephesians 1:4-5

Hosea stands in the middle of history declaring to God’s people that the Lord’s eternal purposes will stand even though his people will fail—miserably—to keep their end of the bargain. From the wreckage of Israel’s unfaithfulness Hosea points forward to another Firstborn Son, the King of kings, who will shed his own blood in order to gather God’s scattered people and bestow his mercy upon them.

What Hosea foretold as future, Caiaphas the high priest unwittingly prophesied about the execution of Jesus Christ:

“… it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. — John 11:50-52

God’s judgment fell upon Jesus at the cross in bloody, merciless, wrathful rejection. As a result, his people, gathered into one as his children, escape judgment and receive the mercy of forgiveness.

God’s plan from before the foundation of the world has always been to gather together a people of his own under Christ, his Firstborn Son and the Living Head of the Church. The people of Israel in Hosea’s day show us the impossibility of accomplishing this goal without the atoning death of Christ and hearts changed by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Their unfaithfulness shows the greatness and necessity of God’s faithfulness to his covenant.

As I read Hosea and see the covenant connections woven throughout Scripture I am left breathless with gratitude for the magnitude of God’s love for me and every believer. My salvation in Christ is the result of an eternal master-plan, and no sin of mine is able to thwart God’s mercy. If you are a Christian the same is true for you! As a result of his great love we are gathered to him in Christ, his beloved children, and we will never perish or be separated from him!

Pray With Me

O, Father, through the cross, your eternal purpose in salvation overthrows the impossibility of my coming to you on my own. Because of your great love you have made me your child! Thank you for sending your Son to die in my place, for gathering me into Christ, and by your Holy Spirit making me holy and blameless before you.

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