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    Aug 03, 2014

    Class 17: Hosea & Joel

    Series: Old Testament Overview

    Category: Core Seminars, Salvation, Grace and Mercy, The Love of God, The Wrath of God, Work of Christ, Repentance, The End Times / Return of Christ, Indwelling Sin, Nature of Sin




    Does history have meaning?  If it does, how do we learn its lessons?  Two weeks ago, we walked through almost 400 years of history in the books of 1-2 Kings.  Well, the prophets are God’s commentary on that history.  Both the history they’ve seen, and the history that’s yet to come.  So as we continue on with the prophets over the next several weeks, our goal will be to unravel the meaning of the history we looked at in Kings.


    In fact, go ahead and turn to the table of contents in your Bible.  Do you see where Isaiah is?  From Isaiah on, are what are called The Prophets.  The Prophets, in turn are divided into two sections.  The Major Prophets consist of Isaiah through Daniel.  And the Minor Prophets, which we begin studying today, are Hosea through Malachi.  Now, the reason some are called “Major” and some are called “Minor” is simply because the Major Prophets are, generally speaking, longer and the Minor ones shorter.   So short, in fact, that the Minor Prophets were traditionally placed together on a single scroll, referred to as one book, called “The Book of the Twelve.” 


    And this Book of Twelve is striking in its unity of message, despite the diversity of its human authors.  You might say that its general thrust is sin, judgment, mercy, and hope.  These prophets decry the sin and hypocrisy that we saw in both the Northern and Southern kingdoms.  They pronounce present-day and future judgment.  They declare mercy to God’s people through the promises of a coming King like David.  And they proclaim hope for a future restoration where the redeemed will dwell forever in God’s presence.


    Today: Hosea and Joel.






    Hosea 1:1 tells us the author: Hosea.  And it gives us the time period too: Hosea preached during from the reign of Uzziah up to the time of Hezekiah, kings in the South.  This makes Hosea a contemporary of Isaiah.  But unlike Isaiah, who ministered in the southern kingdom of Judah, Hosea prophesied to the northern kingdom of Israel.  It was a time of great economic prosperity, and in their comfort the people were worshipping foreign gods instead of Yahweh.






    In terms of an outline, the book of Hosea treats that central problem of idolatry in two main sections.  The first three chapters are an extended parable based on the life of Hosea, using his marriage to an unfaithful wife to depict Israel’s relationship with Yahweh.  And this image of a broken marriage provides a basic framework that runs through the entire Book of Twelve.  Israel has abandoned her covenant with the Lord, but, like a faithful husband, God will pursue his true people and restore them.


    Then, chapters 4-14 contain messages from God to his people.  With all the poetry and apocalyptic language, it’s very easy to get lost.  But if you look at your outline on the back of the handout, you’ll see that there’s a basic threefold cycle which is repeated three times.  Accusation in which God recites and condemns the sin of the people; judgment threatened if they do not repent; and finally mercy as God redeems his covenant people.  Knowing where you are in these cycles can help you keep track of the overall direction of Hosea’s prophecy


    How can we best summarize the themes of Hosea?  Because the gripping story of Hosea’s marriage provides the analogy for the people’s broken relationship with God, it’s most helpful to see Hosea as a prophecy about love.  Love – even God’s love – is greatly misunderstood today.  So let’s take a look at Hosea and see what it teaches us about what God’s love is really like.


    Though before we start, let’s put together what we already know from Genesis through Isaiah.  What do these books we’ve studied so far teach us about God’s love?  [ideally people will tell you a passage or event and what it tells us]


    Hosea 1-3


    Love’s Strange Story


    First, Love’s Strange Story.  Hosea’s book begins with two pictures that capture the message of all the minor prophets. 


    First picture: Hosea’s marriage to an unfaithful woman named Gomer.  Let’s read Hos. 1:2-3.


    2When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” 3So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.


    The rebellion of God’s people is so awful, and so personal, that Hosea describes it with the gut-wrenching image of adultery.  And not just any kind of adultery; Hosea uses the image of prostitution.  Take a look at 3:1-3.


    1And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” 2So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. 3And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.”


    Even though Gomer committed adultery, Hosea took her back.  And that symbolizes what’s been going on for generations on a much greater scale.  Israel has been playing the whore by worshipping other gods, but Yahweh has always been a faithful and forgiving husband. 

    But things are about to change: it’s time for Israel to endure the curses promised in the end of Deuteronomy for covenant-breakers.  The fact that God is loving does not mean he turns a blind eye to evil (2:13). 

    Will this punishment last forever?  God would be just if it did.  But the amazing message of Hosea is that God will show mercy to his people.  Take a look at 2:19-20:

    And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.  I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.


     God’s love is not earned.  It’s not given because the subjects of his love are so lovely!  No, our role in this story is not that of Hosea, the loving, virtuous husband.  Nope: we play the part of Gomer.  And that means that for us, the fact that God’s love is free and gracious is good news indeed.  Something you could do to reflect on this story even this week would be to meditate on how the sin in your life is marital unfaithfulness to God.  And then rejoice in what he’s done to rescue you.


    But there’s another picture here to portrays God’s love, and it’s the names that God gives to Hosea’s children.  In 1:4, Hosea’s first child is named Jezreel – the name of the site of a terrible massacre that aroused God’s anger against Israel.  In 1:6, Gomer’s daughter is named Lo-Ruhamah, which means “not loved.”  In 1:9, Gomer’s second son is named “Lo-Ammi,” which means “not my people.”  The names get progressively more ominous, and the tragic point here is that God is casting Israel off as his people!  Judgment is coming.  But what will happen after that?  Hos. 2:23 gives the answer:  “I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’”  Now, these fearful names are reversed!  God shows mercy!   Who will receive this mercy?  Hos. 3:5 says it will be those who return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. 


    This is a fascinating verse, because as we saw earlier, Hosea prophesied during the reigns of kings who lived two hundred years after David!  So when he says that the people will seek “David” their king, he’s talking about the king who would rule God’s people in the last days – the king who would be a son of David – the Messiah.  When Paul explains in Romans 9:25 that Gentiles as well as Jews would know salvation through Christ, he quotes that verse from Hosea 2:23 about the reversal of the children’s names.  He’s showing us that not only Israel, but all of us, are estranged from God because of our sins, and we all deserve to be cast away from His presence for eternity.  But Jesus Christ has endured the wrath of God and brings us back into fellowship with him.


    And that’s love’s strange story – a story about a faithful God who calls his people back to him in spite of their unfaithfulness.  And as we survey the rest of Hosea, we’ll see how God’s love would be displayed to such a wayward bride.  And there are three specific themes that run through these chapters.


    Hosea 4-14


    Love’s Challenge: Sin


    First in this section, we see love’s challenge–the sin of God’s people that challenged his love.  Look at Hos. 4:1-2:


    Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel,
        for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.
    There is no faithfulness or steadfast love,
        and no knowledge of God in the land;
    there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;
        they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.


    Why such evil?  Hosea’s diagnosis: false worship.  Idolatry.  That’s the reason for the image of adultery in the early chapters of the book, because idolatry is in fact spiritual adultery.


    Hosea doesn’t use tame terms to talk about sin.  We shouldn’t either.  Disobeying the Lord is not the minor, inconsequential thing we often pretend it is.  It’s adultery!  And because of the people’s sin, God says that he will judge them.  And much of these chapters are filled with that judgment.


    Love’s Recovery: Repentance


    So if sin is the problem and it brings judgment, what’s the way back to God?  Hosea says that love’s recovery is found through repentance.  Where we find mercy amidst judgment.  Listen to this appeal the prophet gives in 6:1-2:


    “Come, let us return to the Lord;
        for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
        he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
    After two days he will revive us;
        on the third day he will raise us up,
        that we may live before him.


    Sin looks good in the dark; repentance brings sin into the light.  We should expose our sin, through reflection, prayer, confession, and meditating on God’s Word.


    Well, as it turns out, Israel ignored this call to repentance.  So as Hosea prophesied, the Assyrian Empire did come and destroy the kingdom of Israel a few years after his ministry.  But the promises and hope offered in this book still stood.  So much of these promises of mercy described unfolded in the time of Christ, and some will yet unfold.  That’s our ultimate hope: restoration.


    Love’s Hope: Restoration     


    Sin challenges love. Repentance offers recovery. And then the hope of those God loves is restoration – restoration of perfect fellowship with God.  As we saw earlier, Hosea redeemed his wife.  He literally bought her back from her prostitution in Chapter 3.  God would do the same thing.  Though he would judge all of Israel’s sin, he would purchase life for his true people and bring them back into his presence.  That’s what’s described in Hos. 13:14:  “Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol?  Shall I redeem them from Death?

    O Death, where are your plagues?  O Sheol, where is your sting?  Compassion is hidden from my eyes.”  Do those words sound familiar?  Paul quotes this exact verse in 1 Corinthians 15 where he explains the resurrection of Jesus!  Because Jesus rose from the grave, death has no power over those who believe.  God pays the ransom that his own justice requires by sacrificing his Son – and we who believe go free.


    And not only does Hosea tell us of the new life God grants to those he loves, he tells how those believers are restored to God’s loving presence.  God did banish sinful Israel from the land.  But through Hosea, God proclaimed hope for all who would listen.  11:8-11:


    My heart recoils within me;
        my compassion grows warm and tender.
    9I will not execute my burning anger;
        I will not again destroy Ephraim;
    for I am God and not a man,
        the Holy One in your midst,
        and I will not come in wrath.

    10They shall go after the Lord;
        he will roar like a lion;
    when he roars,
        his children shall come trembling from the west;
    11they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt,
        and like doves from the land of Assyria,
        and I will return them to their homes, declares the Lord.


    What an amazing picture!  What hope!  Who says the prophets are just about judgment!  Of course, as we said earlier, the Old Covenant kingdom of Israel was destroyed – but God’s true people were not.  When Paul quotes from Hosea’s restoration passages in Romans, he’s showing us that Hosea’s prophecy would not be fulfilled some Middle-Eastern nation-state to come, but in the church. 


    And if you struggle to believe Hosea’s message of hope, remember it is Jesus who secures the restoration this book foretells.  As we conclude our look at this book, consider what Hosea says in 11:1.  “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”  God is talking about how he rescued Israel from slavery, even calling the nation his son because the relationship was that close.  But Israel challenged God’s love with their sin.  They would not recover God’s love through repentance like Hosea said.  Where could hope for such sinners come from?  It would come from a better Son – a perfect Israel.  That’s why, in a surprising demonstration of God’s inspiration of scripture, Matthew quotes that same verse from Hosea in 2:15.  “This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’” Now, what’s the fulfillment?  Not Israel as God’s son but the infant Jesus, as he returns from hiding in Egypt.  In other words, Jesus is the son that Israel never was.  He would perfectly kept God’s covenant like Israel never did.  He was the true Israelite.  And though all of us have committed spiritual adultery against God, Jesus never did.  He was always faithful.  So it is through the death and resurrection of Jesus that we are reconciled to God.  And that is a fitting place for us to close this overview of Hosea as a book about love.






    Context & Theme


    Well the theme of restoration, where we concluded Hosea, is an appropriate segue to the next section of the Book of Twelve: the book of Joel.  Flip the page from Hosea and you should be there.  The author is the prophet Joel.  Hosea introduced the notion of restoration at the last days – and now Joel spells out more of what the end of history will look like.  He describes, to use his term, the coming “Day of the Lord.”  Unlike Hosea, Joel prophesies to the Southern Kingdom, Judah.  We don’t know exactly when Joel prophesized.[1]  But we do know that Joel’s prophecy was motivated by a historical occurrence – a plague of locusts.  Like Hosea used marriage as a symbol of something greater, Joel points to this locust invasion as a foretaste of the God’s judgment if God’s people don’t repent.  If the people do not surrender to God, the “Day of the Lord” will be a day of horror; if they return to the Lord, it will be a day of celebration and blessing.    


    That idea—that future judgment should impact how we live today—is important for us too.  So before we get further into Joel, let’s think about that for a moment.  How should future judgment affect our living today?


    As you can see, the book of Joel contains just three chapters, and it falls into a fairly neat outline, which you can see on your handout.  Let’s dive in and walk through the book, keeping an eye on how Joel answers the question I just asked.


    Joel 1:1-2:11 – The Call to Lament


    Let’s look at Joel 1:2-4.


    Hear this, you elders;
        give ear, all inhabitants of the land!
    Has such a thing happened in your days,
        or in the days of your fathers?
    Tell your children of it,
        and let your children tell their children,
        and their children to another generation.

    What the cutting locust left,
        the swarming locust has eaten.
    What the swarming locust left,
        the hopping locust has eaten,
    and what the hopping locust left,
        the destroying locust has eaten.


    Can you imagine a plague of this magnitude?  Utter destruction.  How should the people respond to such ominous news?  Look at 1:14-15.


    Consecrate a fast;
        call a solemn assembly.
    Gather the elders
        and all the inhabitants of the land
    to the house of the Lord your God,
        and cry out to the Lord.

    Alas for the day!
    For the day of the Lord is near,
        and as destruction from the Almighty it comes.


    There is purpose to this plague!  It’s a divinely-ordained foretaste of a coming day – a day that will be far worse.  This verse is the first of many references to the Day of the Lord in the Minor Prophets.  These prophets are concerned that the people will experience disasters like this but still won’t turn in repentance.  And so they need to be warned that if they continue to ignore God, they will experience his even fuller wrath.  We too need to hear this warning, a reminder that one day God will bring an end to history and as it says in Romans 14:12, “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”  If the plague of locusts is like a mighty army, as Joel describes it early in chapter 2, then God’s army is far more powerful – as it says in 2:11.


    The Lord utters his voice
        before his army,
    for his camp is exceedingly great;
        he who executes his word is powerful.
    For the day of the Lord is great and very awesome;
        who can endure it?


    Joel 2:12-17 – The Call to Repent


    That verse should make us ask: is there any hope to escape this end-of-time-judgment, this cataclysmic catastrophe?  Yes.  Look ahead to our next section, Joel 2:12-13.


    “Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
        “return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
         and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
    Return to the Lord your God,
        for he is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
        and he relents over disaster.


    Like in Hosea, the way of escape is repentance.  The people must turn back to Yahweh.  Isn’t that interesting - Yahweh is the One bringing the destruction, yet He is also their only hope for safety!  Who else can protect from God’s wrath but God? 


    Once again, we’re reminded of the gospel.  Only Jesus Christ, who is fully man and fully God, can possibly save sinners from God’s own wrath.  As 2:11 asked, “Who can endure” the day of the Lord?  The answer to that question is Jesus!  Only Jesus, God incarnate, could possibly endure the wrath of God and emerge a Savior.


    Joel 2:18-32 – The Promise of Salvation


    This call to repentance is now followed in our next section by a promise of salvation for God’s people.  And it’s interesting to see the Lord’s motive for why He saves them.  Look at verse 17, the last verse in the previous section:   “Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”


    Joel’s concern is that the nations will mock the Lord if His people are destroyed.  Therefore, to vindicate His own glory, look at the very next verse.  “Then the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people.”  Out of concern for His name, fame, and global reputation, Yahweh saves His people.  Then the whole universe will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is their God, as it says in verse 27.  “You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is no none else,  Andy my people shall never again be put to shame.”


    So what we’re seeing is that for those who rebel against Yahweh, the Day of the Lord is a time of reckoning and justice.  But for those who repent and gladly submit to Him, it is a day of mercy and joy. 


    But is the Day of the Lord merely about the end of the world?  Let’s look at another passage together: Joel 2:28-31.


    “And it shall come to pass afterward,
        that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
    your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
        your old men shall dream dreams,
        and your young men shall see visions.
    Even on the male and female servants
        in those days I will pour out my Spirit.


    “And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.


    The Day of the Lord.  But way more complex than just the end of time.  In fact, this passage is a good example of how many prophecies in the Old Testament are fulfilled in multiple stages.  Two things are described together, and no mention is made of the time interval between them.  As one author writes, “It’s like looking at a mountain range from a great distance, where all the mountains appear to stand next to one another. But drive into the mountains and you find that great distances separate them.”[2] 


    The first “mountain” here is the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit.  That would be the day of Pentecost, when Peter quoted these verses to explain what was happening around him.  But the second mountain is one that we haven’t reached yet – it won’t be fulfilled until Jesus returns.  That’s the description of the un-creation of the cosmos depicted here in the wonders in the heavens, the darkening of the sun, the turning of the moon to blood.  The Day of the Lord is both already and not yet.   It already dawned in Jesus’ first visit to earth, but it awaits completion when He comes again. 


    Joel 3:1-16 – The Promise of Justice


    And that’s what we see as Joel concludes in chapter 3, with the prophet looking ahead to that final fulfillment of the Day of the Lord.  First, God promises to show justice to the nations that had sinfully tormented his people.  Look at 3:1-2. 


    “For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel…”


    Joel 3:17-21 – The Promise of Restoration


    Then, the closing verses of the book promise how Judah will be restored in its relationship with Yahweh, never again to taste the bitter fruits of sin again.  We see in 3:18 an amazing picture of the new heavens and the new earth where God will dwell with his people.

    “in that day
    the mountains shall drip sweet wine,
        and the hills shall flow with milk,
    and all the streambeds of Judah
        shall flow with water;
    and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord
        and water the Valley of Shittim.”


    This language shows us that the whole universe will be renewed.  This should remind us that the Bible doesn’t merely describe salvation negatively, as deliverance from God’s punishment.  It primarily describes it positively, as God restoring his people to himself and his own presence.






    Well, we’ve completed the first two books of the Minor Prophets today.  I hope you’ve seen that whether the illustration is a broken marriage or an invasion of locusts, the burden of this Book of Twelve does two things.  It reveals the Lord’s indignation against sin.  And it proclaims mercy and restoration to those who, as Joel says “rend their hearts” in repentance (2:13) and put their faith in the perfect Son of God foretold in Hosea 11:1.  By trusting in Jesus, we come to know God as a gracious husband and we look forward with hope and faith to the Day of the Lord when we will be with him forever.   




    [1] Scholars disagree on the dating of Joel – see Intro to OT (Longman & Dillard) pp. 411-414.  Its inclusion right before Amos is probably a thematic, rather than chronological link.  No need to mention this during the class unless someone has a very specific question on it.

    [2] Dever, Message of the Old Testament, 710.