First, we consider God’s warning. The name of Hosea’s second child forewarns that God’s compassion was about to be withheld.
Soon Gomer became pregnant again and gave birth to a daughter. And the Lord said to Hosea, “Name your daughter Lo-ruhamah—‘Not loved’—for I will no longer show love to the people of Israel or forgive them. But I will show love to the people of Judah. I will free them from their enemies—not with weapons and armies or horses and charioteers, but by my power as the Lord their God.”
Hosea 1:6-7 (NLT)
Hosea 1:8 brings us to the birth of Hosea’s third child.
After Gomer had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she again became pregnant and gave birth to a second son. And the Lord said, “Name him Lo-ammi—‘Not my people’—for Israel is not my people, and I am not their God.
The second child was a daughter named Lo-ruhamah, which means “unpitied” or “not loved.” God had loved His people and proved it in many ways, but now He would withdraw that love and no longer show them mercy. The expression of God’s love is certainly unconditional, but our enjoyment of that love is conditional and depends on our faith and obedience. (See Deut. 7:6-12 and 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1) God would allow the Assyrians to swallow up the Northern Kingdom, but He would protect the Southern Kingdom of Judah (Isa. 36-37; 2 Kings 19).
Lo-ammi was the third child, a son, and his name means “not My people.” Not only would God remove His mercy from His people, but He would also renounce the covenant He had made with them. It was like a man divorcing his wife and turning his back on her, or like a father rejecting his own son (See Ex. 4:22 and Hosea 11:1).
A key point in these verses is the word ‘again’ (the force of which continues from verse 6 in the Hebrew). God will not again show compassion. Time and time again God had heard the cries of his people when they brought trouble upon themselves by their own sinfulness. But there may come a time when God says ‘Enough is enough’ and then it is ‘not possible to renew them again unto repentance’ (see Hebrews 6:6). Israel as a nation had reached this point, and Judah would reach it a century later.
It is possible for a relationship with God to become ‘dead’, at least for a time. When Hosea speaks of the relationship being restored he envisages not only a healing (6:1) but also a resurrection from the dead (6:2). For a while God’s relationship with northern Israel ‘died’, and northern Israel became an Assyrian province. Similarly, for a while, God’s relationship with Judah ‘died’ and they were banished from his presence in Babylon. Hosea’s children were given predictive names. The war with Assyria would be lost. God would refuse to rescue them this time. Eventually to the whole nation, Judah included, God would say, ‘Right now, you are not my people.’
Second, we consider God’s amazing promises concerning the future. Verses 1:10-2:1 are an astounding and striking contrast to the preceding verses. Sometimes God lets a relationship to him ‘die’ and then he raises it from the dead!
“Yet the time will come when Israel’s people will be like the sands of the seashore—too many to count! Then, at the place where they were told, ‘You are not my people,’ it will be said, ‘You are children of the living God.’ Then the people of Judah and Israel will unite together. They will choose one leader for themselves, and they will return from exile together. What a day that will be—the day of Jezreel—when God will again plant his people in his land.
Hosea 1:10-11 (NLT)
The New Names
Here is where the grace of God comes in, for God will one day change these names. “Not my people” will become “My people,” “unloved” will become “My loved one.” These new names reflect the nation’s new relationship to God, for all of them will be “the sons of the living God.” Judah and Israel will unite as one nation and will submit to God’s ruler, and the centuries’ old division will be healed.
Instead of “Jezreel” being a place of slaughter and judgment, it will be a place of sowing where God will joyfully sow His people in their own land and cause them to prosper. Today, the Jews are sown throughout the Gentile world (Zech. 10:9), but one day God will plant them in their own land and restore to them their glory. As God promised to Abraham, Israel will become like the sand on the seashore. (Gen. 22:17).
When will these gracious promises be fulfilled for the Jews?
When they recognize their Messiah at His return, trust Him, and experience His cleansing (Zech. 12:10-13:1). Then they will enter into their kingdom, and the promises of the prophets will be fulfilled (Isa. 11-12; 32; 35; Jer. 30-31; Ezek. 37; Amos 9:11-15).
Questions for reflection
- Can a church’s relationship to God temporarily die?
- How important are numbers in the Christian church?
- In the light of Hosea 1, how is Christian unity encouraged?