Hosea is a towering figure in Scripture, and his story and his message deserve our attention today, just as he deserved the attention of the people around him in his own day. He spoke of judgment, of the disciplining of the nation of Israel. He warned that God would send the Assyrian nation to kill and destroy the people. The people challenged him and accused him of characterizing God as a vengeful, angry deity.
Hosea tried to explain God’s love to them – that genuine love is also a tough love and disciplining love. This God of tough love wanted the people to see what they were doing to themselves. If the only way that He could get them to listen was to make life hard for them, He would do so. The people responded exactly as people respond today when they are told of God’s tough love – they blamed God and said, in effect,
“If God is really a God of love, then why does He allow things to get in such a mess?
How could a God of love ever send a ruthless enemy like the Assyrians down upon our land?
If God really loves us, He will excuse our sins, not discipline us.” Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
The book of Hosea begins with a title:
THE WORD of the Lord that came to Hosea son of Beeri in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam son of Joash king of Israel.
Hosea 1:1 (AMP)
The five kings highlight the varied situations of Hosea’s times.
Uzziah was famous for the easy, prosperous days in which he lived, and for his formal, inherited religion, his negligence of God’s ways, and his little achievement for God.
Jotham was famous for tinkering with small things while forgetting big things. The Assyrian threat was growing, but Jotham was refining the beauty of the temple (2 Kings 15:35-38), straining out a gnat but swallowing a camel.
Ahaz was an unbelieving man who failed to learn the lessons of history. He sank to as low a level as any king of Judah had ever sunk, when he gave his son in human sacrifice (2 Kings 16:2-3), and he turned to the immoral worship of northern Israel (2 Kings 16:4).
Hezekiah loved God, hated idols, and was willing to get involved in actually making progress with God and for God. He removed high places, and broke down the apparatus that had been used in pagan worship. He was willing to do things that had never been done before. ‘He trusted in the Lord God of Israel!’ (2 Kings 18:5).
Jeroboam was famous for a long, prosperous reign badly used. He continued the idolatry of the first Jeroboam (2 Kings 14:24). His days were days of crime, immorality and injustice. Sanctuaries were crowded with worshippers but gods of fertility were worshipped.
Decades of stability (790s to 750s) would be followed by decades of instability (750s to 720s) and the end of the nation. At the death of Jeroboam II (753 bc) the nation had only thirty years to survive. God did not want the nation to be totally exterminated without warning and gave them another generation to consider their ways. Jeroboam’s military success, like his economic success, was apt to promote self-confidence and nationalistic self-congratulation.
These were the situations in which Hosea proclaimed a God-given message.
God’s Spokesmen Rebuke Spiritual Adultery
The opening verse also mentions Hosea himself. His central message was to warn about spiritual adultery. He was a man who had learned by very painful experience. His traumatic marriage was used in his life to get him to feel the burden of the spiritual unfaithfulness of Israel.