Should a Prophet Marry a Harlot? [Part 1]
Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.
Shalom, my name is Joseph Shulam and we are studying the prophets. We had two short introductions.
I’m going to start the study of the prophets with the 10 minor prophets that we have in the Bible. The reason is they’re shorter books, and they’re very interesting and in my opinion, they have a lot of important words for their generation. It is because I think that our generation, now, in the 21st century, has some of the same spiritual challenges that the prophets in the eighth century BC had in Israel, I chose to start with these prophets.
Hosea is the first one of the 10 minor prophets. He has 14 chapters of texts, not 66 chapters like Isaiah, or in the 50 chapters plus like Jeremiah, and, again, a lot of chapters of Ezekiel, the big prophets. But these minor prophets are not minor at all in the scope of their prophecy, and in the challenges that they faced from the people.
Hosea, interestingly, starts his book in a classical way. It starts:
“The words of the Lord that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, the kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam, the son of Jehoash, king of Israel.”
Interesting. He’s giving us the framework, the chronology of the period in which he prophesied. He prophesied for a long time. The days Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah ruled for many years as king of Judea, and Jeroboam, the son of Jehoash, king of Israel, Jeroboam.
Now, the word Hosea has the same root as the word Yeshua, it’s just a different form of the same root. The Hebrew language is based on three-letter words. And the root of Hosea and Yeshua are essentially the same roots.
Hosea prophesied, both in Judea and in to the 10 northern tribes, because Jeroboam, the son Jehoash, was king of the 10 northern tribes. The kingdom had split after the son of Solomon.
Hosea is a prophet that prophesies in Jerusalem and also to the northern tribes. And we find out a very important point; that he didn’t ask to be a prophet. Like Amos who said, “I’m not a prophet, or a son of the prophet. I’m a farmer,” cowboy, shepherd.
Hosea also said, “The word of the Lord came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah.” It came to him. He didn’t ask for it. God revealed Himself to Hosea, and commissioned him, called him.
The classical prophets were called to prophecy. They didn’t ask to be a prophet. They didn’t necessarily enjoy being prophets. Being prophets in Israel was a very serious problem, most of them paid high prices.
Some of them, like Jeremiah, were beaten, and slapped, and put in jail, and thrown into a well. And some people, like Isaiah, he and his family were ostracized for three years.
People in Jerusalem didn’t talk to him or to his family. It was not easy. You didn’t get a private jet for being a prophet in Israel in the days of the eighth century BC for these kings. Jewish, Israelite, Hebrew kings, supposedly God-fearing kings. But situation was not simple and not easy.
Here is the first prophecy that we see in Hosea:
“When the Lord began to speak with Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, ‘Go take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, for the land has committed great harlotry.’”
Woo-wee. Can you imagine this, my dear brothers and sisters? Here, we are reading the Bible. We’re reading of a man that God called, imposed on him to become a prophet. A man of God.
God told him, “Go get yourself a wife who’s a prostitute, and children, your children, who are children of a prostitute.” Why? Because the land that you are living on is a prostitute. The country you’re living on is a prostitute.
We live in Israel. In the last three years, we will have five elections. In two weeks from today. Today is what? Today is the 19th of October. In the 1st of November, 2022, we will have the fifth election in three years.
Yes, sir. And amorality, not only here, but in most of the world, of the governments, of the presidents, of the prime ministers, of the parliament members is visible without a microscope and without binoculars, with your naked eyes.
When Hosea walked the streets of Jerusalem, he didn’t get a pat on the back. He was cursed, ostracized, maybe spit upon. Didn’t get a Rolls Royce. Not even a Tesla. Because he said very harsh things.
“The land has committed great harlotry by departing from the Lord.”
They left the Lord. So, what did this Hosea do?
“He went and took as a wife, Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim. And she conceived and bore him a son. And the Lord said to him, ‘Call his name Jezreel, for in a little while, I will avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu. And bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.’”
This is amazing. I have actually, right now, having chills, goosebumps in my body, right now from reading this text.
Why? Because as an archaeologist, I know the stele, the relief on stone that was found in Babylon. Jehu, this same Jehu that is mentioned here. Jehu the race driver. The race car driver that drove his chariot so fast that the dust plume behind him reached the sky.
That same Jehu, we have a picture of him on his knees and elbows bowing down to the king of Babylon. Handing his arrows to the king of Babylon. Handing his weapons to the king of Babylon. Becoming a slave, a servant to the pagan king of Babylon. It says the land, in his days, has become a harlot. Departed from the Lord, rebelled against God.
The Torah already proclaimed this. The Torah already proclaimed in the book of Leviticus, chapter 26, that if you don’t do God’s will, if you don’t walk in the light, and you choose to walk in the darkness, this is going to happen to you.
And we are reading now, in the eighth century BC, that’s exactly what happened. Jehu, the race car driver, got on his hands and knees kissing the shoes of the king of Babylon. And we have it in a photograph. We have it carved on stone in a temple to a pagan God in Babylon. Yup.
Harsh prophecies. And this marriage of Jehu with Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, the prostitute, becomes a parable of Israel, of the Hebrew nation that was taken out of Egypt and given a land of milk and honey. Then they chose to prostitute, and worship idols, and depart from the ways of God.
Israel is a small country, small people. But great empires, even today, that call themselves Christian nations, are in the same place, or almost in the same place.
Making kosher everything that the Bible calls abomination. Whatever the Bible calls abomination, now, it’s made kosher by supreme courts of empires, both in the East and in the West. Empires who claim to be Christians; who, their prime ministers and their presidents go to church on Sunday, and send bombs to kill innocent civilians for their own wealth and profit.
And then Hosea has a child, God tells him, calls him in the Valley of Israel, to call his daughter “Lo-ruhamah.” Lo-ruhamah means you’re not going to receive grace. You’re not going to receive mercy. That’s what Lo-ruhamah means. That’s the name that he gave to his daughter by God’s command.
I had a friend in college, in Nashville, who called his first daughter Mary-Jane. That was his wife’s choice. But then he had a son and he called him Toy-Train. And I’m not joking. My friend’s name was Ken Wyatt, a great saxophonist musician in Nashville, classmate of mine in university. So, Mary-Jane, Toy-Train, and Aeroplane. Those are the names he gave to his children.
But here, God tells the prophet Hosea, you call your children, your daughter Lo-ruhamah, you’re not going to get any grace, any favor. Such a horrible state of affairs. And the prophets didn’t lick honey! He didn’t have an easy time. They didn’t become wealthy, powerful, or popular with their own TV shows, folks.
It was a high price to pay to be a prophet of the Lord. We’re not going to have time to study the whole book of Hosea. But he had another son. In verse nine of chapter one, and this time God tells him, “Give this name to your son, Lo-Ammi, not my people.” Powerful.
You’re not my people. Why not? You’re not obeying my commands. You’re not doing right. You’re abusing the poor. You’re taking advantage of the sick and of the crippled. And you are not feeding the least of these the way Yeshua said in the judgment scene in the end of Matthew. “As much as you don’t do it to the least of these, you don’t do it to me,”.
Prophecy and the prophets, they’re not playing games, folks. It’s a serious thing to hear from the Lord, to be commissioned from the Lord to stand in the gap, to warn the people. It’s not to hand them candy and donuts with coffee. It’s to hand them the bitterness of disobedience. The bitterness of rebellion against God.
Yes, you can go to church, you can sing songs. “How Great Thou Art”. “I Was Blind and Now I See”. “Amazing Grace”. But God looks into your hearts, into our hearts, and sometimes we are surprised when the judgment falls upon us. Lo-Ammi, that’s the name of your son. You’re not my people.
But God doesn’t let the prophets only give harsh things. He always gives us a sandwich. Harsh, sweet, harsh. Two pieces of bread that maybe, you know, with hot sauce. Not Tabasco. With malagueta peppers’ sauce; much higher in its sharpness and in its spiciness than Tabasco.
After He tells him to call his name Lo-Ammi, you are not my people, in verse 10, He says, “The number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea,” which he promised already to Abraham a long, long time ago, nearly 2000 years ago.
“It shall come to pass, in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people, Lo-Ammi,’ there, it shall be said to them, ‘You are sons of the living God.’”
“It all depends on your relationship with Me. You fix that relationship; you receive the grace that I offered you. Receive the salvation I’m offering you now, and all the bad will disappear.” Because God is faithful to keep His promises.
“Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together and appoint for themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land. For great will be the day of Jezreel.”
So, to the brethren, my people and your sister, mercy, is shown. First, He said, “Your daughter, call her No Mercy.” Now He says, “Ah, if you listen, if you walk, if you accept, if you believe, all the things that I did to bring you back, to draw you back, all the fences in which I’ve imprisoned you will be released and reversed. Your daughter, who’s called No Mercy, will be shown mercy.”
Yes, God is sending the prophets, especially, the classical prophets, to fix, to correct, to clean up, to encourage us to learn from the fact that somebody is in control of history; of world history, of history of your country, of your city, and of your family. Somebody’s in control.
And the challenge that we have when we study the prophets is to put ourself into the picture. Not to read it as something that happened eighth century BC. To see where we stand in this map of spiritual reality today.
That’s why we’re studying the prophets, dear brothers and sisters. We’re studying the prophets, not as an academic exercise. We’re studying the prophets as spiritual encouragement, vitamin, medicine, to enlighten our eyes and energize our spirits to return to the Lord, sincerely, with all of our hearts and with all of our minds.
Remember when I started in the previous session, I said somebody’s in control. Control of history, control of what’s happening, control of what is going to happen, because some of these things took hundreds of years to happen. And we in Israel today are living what prophets in the eighth century BC said would happen. Like Isaiah. We are returning home.
Gentiles are coming here, supporting Aliyah to bring the Jews back home after 2000 years of exile. It’s all been told and it’s all under control of the Almighty God who controlled the sun, the moon, the rain, the wind, the sea, and all that is in our world.
We are, the human beings, are the only animals that have been given free will; choices. Moses says, choose life, don’t choose death, choose life. The prophets.
Yes, Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, the wife of Hosea that came out of harlotry and brought children of harlotry. She conceived them and has behaved shamefully. Verse five of chapter two. “But I will go after my lovers who gave me bread and my water.”
That’s what Gomer says to her husband. “Oil and my drink. Therefore, behold, I will head you up.” He’s not divorcing her even though she’s a harlot. Even though she’s unfaithful, no he’s not. He fenced her in.
Because she can’t find her path. She’s lost, she will be chased.
“She will chase her lovers, but not overtake them, not catch them. Yet she will seek them, but not find them. She will say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband. I will return home to my faithful husband.’ For she did not know that I gave her the grain.”
Not the Baal, not the idols, not the bar rooms, not the brothels.
“…I gave her the grain. I gave her the new wine. I gave her the oil. I multiplied her silver and her gold, which they prepared for Baal, for the idols. Therefore, I will return and take away my grain, and my wine in its season, and will take back my wool, and my linen given to cover her nakedness, and I will uncover her.”
The whole world will see her. Her lovers will see her in her nakedness, in her ugliness.
But God’s love is above it all. And Gomer will finally come home, will realize there is nobody like my husband, God creator of the universe; father of all mankind that promised it to Abraham, Issac and Jacob, and his keeping his promises.
We didn’t progress with Hosea too much. And I’m not going to stop with Hosea. The next lesson will continue with Hosea, because there are some very, very important lessons and principles that we need to learn from this eighth century prophet, eighth century BC prophet, Hosea. And we’re going to plow through it to the end, because the end is very dramatic, very wonderful, and we all need it.
May God bless our brothers, bless Brad TV, and our brothers in Korea, and around the world. And let us learn how to walk faithfully with our God, and with our Savior, with Yeshua who died for us, so that we can have mercy, and grace, and be saved. God bless all of you. Amen.
Harlotry Enslaves the Heart [Part 2]
Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.
Shalom, my name is Joseph Shulam, and in partnership with Brad TV, we have started a series about the prophets of the Old Testament.
We started with Hosea, and had the first lesson talking about this strange command by God, for him to marry a woman by the name of Gomer, who is a prostitute, and Hosea marries her. Then all of chapter two is God’s description and reprimand for the immorality of Gomer. It’s a parable of how Israel is behaving as the bride, as the wife behaving toward her bridegroom, towards her husband, who is God.
See, the people of Israel thought that the oil, the wheat, the water, the food is coming from the neighbors, the pagan idol worshiping neighbors. Israel started to trust those neighbors and prostitute herself as a nation, in rebellion and unfaithfulness to her husband.
God does not divorce Israel. Even in the case of her unfaithfulness, He fences her in. He provides for her needs. He tells her, “It’s not your idol worshiping neighbors who are giving you all these good things. I am your God; I am your husband.” And that’s toward the end of chapter two. And here comes a text that is used in almost every Orthodox Jewish wedding.
In the West, it’s called vows; what the bridegroom and the bride exchange. In the old days, only the bridegroom vowed to the bride. And here we have these words, that are used in almost every Jewish wedding that I have attended; these words were used from Hosea.
I’m reading them in English from verse 19 of chapter 2:
“I betroth you to Me forever. Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness, in justice, in loving kindness, in mercy, in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord.”
The prophet continues,
“‘It shall come to pass in that day that I will answer,’ says the Lord. ‘I will answer the heaven and they shall answer the earth. The earth shall answer the grain with new wine, with oil. They shall answer Jezreel. And then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, and I will have mercy on her, who had not obtained mercy. Then I will say to those who were not My people, “You are My people,” and they shall say, “You are my God.”’”
Very interesting text.
It’s a beautiful oath that God takes here to His unfaithful bride. But at the end of that oath, He says something that would be called double meaning. “To those who were not My people,” who would betray Me, who prostituted with the idols, those who are not My people. “Now I will say, ‘You are My people,’ and they shall say, ‘You are my God.’”
I said that this text has a double meaning. It has a meaning with unfaithful Israel, becoming faithful. Like Paul and Isaiah and the other prophets prophesied numerous times, “All Israel will be saved.”
In Romans 11:25-26, Paul states it clearly, “All Israel will be saved.” In spite of our unfaithfulness, in spite of the fact that God caused the land of Israel, the land of Canaan, to cast us out into diaspora for 2,000 years. But there is so many numerous prophecies and promises of God that He will shine His face on us, and restore us back into the land.
It’s in Hosea and it’s in Amos. In fact, the one from Amos 9 is quoted by James the apostle (whose real name is Jacob) in all the other languages, except English. Only in English, you find “James” in the Bible at all.
And the reason is, King James paid for the translation, the King James translation, and he requested the translators to put his name in the Bible. So everywhere in the New Testament that there was a “Jacob,” Jacob, the brother of Jesus, Jacob, the apostle, every Jacob became James, only in the English.
Now we return here to Hosea, God says, “Those who are not My people, now, I’m going to make them My people.” And that takes us back to Deuteronomy 32, chapter 32, from verse 17 to 21 where it says that:
“Those who are not My people, are going to provoke My people that have betrayed Me, that have worshiped idols, to jealousy and restore them back in a kosher, pure, righteous holy relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers.”
The prophet is calling Israel to come back, back to God. Come back to the one who provides for her the wine, the oil, the grain, the sustenance of all good things.
Now, one thing about Hosea, Amos and all the prophets, not only the 10 minor prophets, but also the big prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, all of them are not only interested in spiritual things, and not only interested in the relationship between Israel and God. They are also, I would say, social warriors.
They’re against the injustice that is happening in the land, among the people. They’re against the rich people fleecing the poor people. They’re against the priest eating the fat of the sacrifices to God, and not being sensitive to the social conditions, to the poverty of the people.
So the prophet Hosea, is one of those major prophets. Minor prophet, but major prophets who are engaged in this care for the poor people, for the people who are being, I would use the word “persecuted”; financially at least, by the powerful and the rich people in the society. Yes, the prophets are social warriors, worried and concerned about the social and economic injustice of the people.
The time that Hosea is prophesying, is actually the middle of the eighth century BC, in the days of Jeroboam II, and in the days of the threat and the invasion of the Assyrians, Tiglath-Pileser in 743 BC. Tiglath-Pileser III,is a launching campaign against the land of Israel, against the people of Israel.
And so, it’s a time of war. It’s time of social injustice, and it is a time when Israel has fallen into idolatry, and essentially put the Lord God, the creator of the universe, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Israel, on the shelf; because they were so influenced by their powerful neighbors both from the north, Assyria, Babylon, and Egypt and from the south.
Israel has always been the hot dog in the middle of the sandwich. The sandwich is the northern empires and the southern empire, Egypt. These were strong and wealthy and powerful empires that fought with each other.
That’s why the valley of Jezreel is called Armageddon in the New Testament. It is Hebrew, spelled in Greek, the mound of Megiddo, and became Armageddon in Greek.
But it is a real place, it’s an archaeological site. It has 24 layers of different civilizations that have ruled that place.
The reason it’s so important, is because it guards the gateway to the Jezreel Valley, which was a natural arena for people that made war with horses and with chariots to fight, because it was a big flat mountain, an enclosed theater for war. So it received that reputation even for the eschatological war in the book of Revelation.
Back to this issue that is very, very important for all the prophets, and especially the minor 10, minor prophets. The men of God, chosen by God to represent God, to speak in His name, couldn’t speak in God’s name and ignore the social injustice in the country, in the community.
What do we have to learn from it? That God not only worried about our souls and about salvation eternally after our deaths. God is worried about the social condition of His people now.
Yes, that’s true in the New Testament too. It’s true for Paul who says to the churches in Macedonia and Acaia and in Rome, to contribute money for the poor saints in Judea. Romans 15:26-27, he says, “You owe it to them. If you have enjoyed the spiritual wealth of Israel, received the Messiah of Israel, received the covenants of Israel.”
According to Ephesians 2:10-12. “If you have done that, you owe it to your Jewish brothers in Jerusalem, to the saints of Jerusalem, to share your physical wealth.” It’s not my words.
In the TV, we don’t beg for money. We pray to God and He provides it through good brothers and sisters from Korea and from many other places around the world. He only provides what we need.
We are not in a case in which we received more than we needed, and we are not in a case ever, that we really needed something and God did not provide it. That’s our situation.
But we, as believers in the land of Israel, must be sensitive, aware, and do our best to bless the people of Israel, in Israel. If you live in Zimbabwe, in Zimbabwe. If you live in Kenya, in Kenya. If you living in Mauritania, Mauritania. If you come from Jamaica, help the Jamaicans. If you are from Haiti, help the people in Haiti. Wherever you are, we have to have social sensitivities.
Yeshua taught it very clearly in the judgment scene at the end of Matthew where people said, “We cast out demons in Your name. We praised in Your name; we did things in Your name. As much as you didn’t do it to one the least of these, you didn’t do it to Me.”
That’s Yeshua’s paradigm, but that’s also the prophetic paradigm of all the prophets, all the classical prophets. Not the popular prophets so much, but the classical prophets. All of them are worried and deal and command and instruct the leadership to be sensitive to the social condition of the people that they serve. And that’s true in Hosea, in Amos, in all the prophets.
And God is worried. God is worried and claims that this is one of the sins of the generation of Hosea, and Amos, and the other prophets; that they were willing to sell a poor person for a pair of shoes. That they didn’t lift a finger to help those that are less fortunate. And he calls that also, harlotry. I’m going to read to you a little bit more here from chapter 3, verse 11:
“Harlotry, wine, and new wine enslave the heart. My people ask counsel from their wooden idols and their staff informs them, for the spirit of harlotry has caused them to stray. They have played the harlot against their God. They offer sacrifices on the mountain tops and burn incense on the hills under oaks, poplars, and terebinths, because their shade is good…”
…the shade of these trees.
“Therefore, your daughters commit harlotry and your brides commit harlotry. I will not punish your daughters when they commit harlotry, nor your brides when they commit harlotry.”
No, I didn’t read that wrong; that’s the way it is written. Why didn’t I do it? Because that’s the normal reaction; somebody that sins, somebody that does terrible things, we punish them.
We think the punishment is going to fix them, but that’s not God’s way. Listen to what God says. Verse 14, chapter 3:
“I will not punish your daughters when they commit harlotry, nor your brides when they commit harlotry, for men themselves go apart with harlots, and offer sacrifices with ritual harlots. Therefore, people who do not understand will be trampled.”
Such a principle, such a wonderful principle for the men, for the husbands who are supposed to be the leaders of their home; supposed to be the teachers, the rabbis, the godly examples of their homes, and always blame the women.
God says, “No, I’m not going to punish the women. I’m going to punish you. You are responsible over your house, over your wife, over your daughters, over your children. And because you are the one that is responsible, you are going to be the one who I will punish.”
Yes, Hosea is a very strong prophet. He is a very strong moral prophet who God used and he was obedient. He listened to God, he married the harlot to be a parable, to be an example, to be a paradigm for Israel to understand the greatness of their sin.
I’m going now to the more forward chapters, because I think it’s essential for us to understand this complexity. And of course, I’m going now to chapter six of Hosea. Listen, after the punishment, after the wars, after the pillaging of Assyrian kings of the land of Israel, this is the reaction of Israel.
Chapter 6, verse 1:
“Come let us return to the Lord, for He has torn, but He will heal us. He has stricken us, but 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 in His sight. Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning. He will come to us like a rain, like the rain, like the latter and the former rain to the earth.”
Ah, what beautiful words, so beautiful. We pray these words many times during the holidays, especially the day of Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Atonement. Let us go back. Go back means repent. Return means repent here. It’s the same word in Hebrew for repentance.
“Come, let us return to the Lord, for He has torn, He has stricken us, but He will heal us. After two days, He will revive us. On the third day, He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight.”
It’s interesting, that Yeshua rose on the third day. On the third day, He will raise us up, and He will provide the early rain and the latter rain and water the land and make it green again. And now, our responsibility, dear brothers and sister, verse 3:
“Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning.”
That’s a very, simple truth; but very important.
“My people perish for a lack of knowledge,” said the apostle in the New Testament. If the Jews then and now, the Israelites then and now perish for lack of knowledge, what will I say? What will God say? What will the prophet say about the Christian world, about the pastors?
Almost every time I go to a new church somewhere in the world, I ask the pastors, the leaders, “How many times does the word Christian appear in the New Testament?” Most of them, by far, more than 90% know only one.
The disciples were first called Christianos in Antioch, in Assyria, not in Jerusalem, not in the land of Israel. Acts 11:26, most of the pastors know that one time, but they don’t know that there are more times that the word Christian appears in the New Testament; not many more times, a total of three. And I’m not going to tell you where they are, you find them for yourself. Because if you call yourself a Christian, you at least should know where in the Bible Christian is mentioned.
None of the apostles called themselves Christians. None of the elders called themselves Christians. None of the people in the churches called themselves Christians. Not the Jews in the land of Israel and not the Greeks in Athens or in Thessalonica, or in Beriah or in Corinth. What did they call themselves? Disciples. Disciples of the Messiah. Disciples of Yeshua, disciples of Jesus in Greek.
The prophet Hosea says, to the people after they repented:
“Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning. He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and the former rain to the earth.”
Dear brothers and sisters, studying the prophets can be painful for all of us, because all of us have fallen short from the glory of the Lord, in our actions, and sometimes with our mouth. We need this refreshing, hard, hard rain, (playing on the last text that I read), to revive us, to energize us, to make us not religious, but faithful disciples of Yeshua, our Lord.
God bless all of you, in Korea and around the world. Shalom from Jerusalem.
Do You Want to Bear Fruit? [Part 3]
Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.
Shalom from Jerusalem. My name is Joseph Shulam, and in partnership with Brad TV, we are continuing our study on the prophets.
We started with Hosea and this is the third last lesson on Hosea. And I just jumped to the last chapter of Hosea, Chapter 14, because you can’t talk about Hosea without talking in detail of the last chapter of Hosea because it has in it some very, very important principles that were not only valid in the eighth century BC for Israel, they’re extremely important for the 21st century for the Jewish and the Christian world.
We spoke in the first lessons about Hosea’s interest in the social climate and in the social behavior of Israel in relationship to the poor, to the sick, to the suffering. We spoke about Hosea’s attitude toward the neighbors of Israel and toward God and the relationship with Israel, which started in the book of Hosea on a terrible note, with Israel described as a harlot; a harlot wife of the bridegroom, of God himself.
So now we’re at the end of Hosea, chapter 14, and I’m going to start with verse 1:
“Oh, Israel, return to the Lord your God. For you have stumbled because of your inequity. Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him, ‘Take away all inequity. Receive us graciously for we will offer the sacrifices of our lips.’”
That’s verse 1 and 2 of Hosea chapter 14.
First of all, the word ‘return’ is ‘repent’ in English. Normal English is repent. Now in the Greek, in the Septuagint and in the New Testament, repent receives two Greek words. One is essentially in the New Testament. Both are in the New Testament. The one that’s essentially in the New Testament is metanoia, which means renewing your mind, changing your mind. And the other one is epistrepso which means take steps backwards, return.
And here, Hosea, in his last chapter, calls on Israel and says, “Return to the Lord your God”. Why? “You’ve stumbled because of your inequity. Take words with you and return to the Lord and say to him, ‘Take away our inequity. Receive us graciously’”. Why? “Because we are going to offer words of praise, words of sacrifice of our lips.”
Now, this is a very novel idea. Normally when people talk about sacrifices in a religious context, they’re talking about going to the temple with your goat or with your sheep or with your bull, or with your calf, or with your two pigeons, or with your money, and offering blood of animals on the Lord’s altar. Not the normal use of the word sacrifice.
But here Hosea does something very, very novel, new. He says, “Come, repenting. Ask God to be gracious to you because you are going to offer sacrifices of your lips, words, songs, whatever comes out of your mouth”.
Why is that? Why did Hosea, in days where there were sacrifices, in days where there was a temple, in days where there were priests, in days where the smoke rose from the altars of Israel, Northern tribes and of Judah in Jerusalem?
Why does it say, offer the fruit of your lips, or the sacrifices of your lips instead of bulls, instead of goats, instead of sheep, instead of animals we will offer the fruit of the sacrifices of our lips?
This is the same paradigm as in Isaiah chapter 1. See, it’s easy to offer sacrifices. Essentially, you’re offering money or money’s worth. We see the relativity in the book of Leviticus, chapter 5, that if you are rich and you’ve sinned, you have to offer a bull.
A bull is several hundred pounds of beef, expensive. But if you’re not so rich, you can offer a sheep or a goat. And if you are still poor, you can offer two birds. And if you’re still more poor you can offer a handful of grain anointed with oil.
God is judging His citizens, His people, His worshipers, relatively according to their ability; financial, social ability. So if you’re poor, you can bring just grain anointed with oil and it’ll be as valuable for your repentance as the rich man’s bull.
Here, Hosea brings a similar paradigm, but very different. He says, “No, it’s easy for you guys to bring sacrifices; animals. You’ve shed their blood, you don’t care. You go to the temple, you worship, and then you come out of the temple and you sell your brother for a pair of shoes.”
Doesn’t hurt you a bit. You don’t have feelings for the animals that you sacrifice. It’s only the money’s worth for you.
But now what you really need to do is pour out your souls from your mouth, your sincerity from your mouth, your praise and gratitude from your mouth, from your lips. It’s more valuable to God because your mouth reveals your heart. That’s also a New Testament doctrine, that your mouth reveals your heart.
Hosea, in the last chapter of his book, is calling Israel to repentance, not to religious repentance, not to religiosity, but to exposure of your inside; through your mind, through your heart, and coming out of your lips. It’s much more valuable, although I can say that today, worship has become a little bit of Hollywood, in most evangelical churches, even in some synagogues, even though they worship acapella, without instruments, at least in Orthodox and in conservative synagogues. And the words have also lost their values in our 21st century with the icons and the emojis and all these things that young people correspond with.
But still, Hosea says, “Repent. Repent of your iniquity. Because if you don’t repent of your iniquity you are stumbling through life and your relationship with the Lord is unstable.” But in addition to this call of repentance, Hosea is addressing the political influence on the spiritual status of Israel in its day, then and now; the same problem.
And not only in Israel, it’s true for the West, for the Americas, North and South. It’s true for Europe, it’s true for most of the world, especially in the Christian world, but not only in the Christian world.
So in verse three, Hosea is addressing this seam, this connection, between politics and our faith in God. Verse 3 says:
“Assyria shall not save us. We will not ride on horses, nor will we say anymore to the works of our hands, ‘You are our gods.’”
Wow. Actually, right now I got goosebumps just thinking about this.
I could interpret this and say to Israel today and to Korea and to Japan and to the rest of the nations that are kind of leaning on the west, leaning on America. America will not save you, nor will their F-35’s and F-22’s and F-18’s, nor the tanks, nor the nuclear weapons that you have. It’s not going to save you.
And above all this, we will no longer call the works of our hands, “our gods” because we are in the post-industrial revolution, but still have the paradigm of the industrial revolution in which economic success, industrial success, electronic innovations, have become the things that we value more.
We value our jobs more than our synagogues and more than our churches. We trust our bosses and our job security more than we trust God.
That’s what Hosea is actually addressing in the last chapter of his prophecy. And it’s relevant for us today. Especially, we will no longer say any more to the works of our hands, “You are our gods”. For in you, the fatherless find mercy; you, in God, in Jehovah, in the Lord God of Israel the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You are the one that shows mercy to the fatherless to the widows and to the orphans and to the poor, and to the suffering. And you answer, Hosea is answering, is speaking the name of the people, but he’s also the announcer of God’s will, speaking the words of God.
So when God hears this repentance that Hosea is suggesting to the people of Israel, God’s answer is,
“I will be like the dew to Israel. He will grow like the lily, and lengthen his roots like the Lebanon. His branches shall spread, his beauty shall be like an olive tree.”
“And his fragrance like the Lebanon.”
These three verses, there’s 4, 5, 6, Hosea 14, have so many illusions that have influenced the New Testament. Especially the one that I want to point out is,
“His branches shall be spread, they will be healthy, they will be spreading out, and his beauty shall be like an olive tree.”
This influenced Paul in Romans chapter 11, verse 18 on, where he says that there are two olive trees. One, a cultured olive tree, a fruitful olive tree. And one a wild olive tree that grows in the forest unattended, and the branches of the wild olive tree are cut off the wild olive tree and grafted into the natural olive tree, which is Israel, in Paul’s teaching in Romans 11.
Now, these wild branches are sucking life from the root, from the root of Jesse, from the Messiah, from King David, sucking life. The root gives life to the branches, not the other way around.
So Hosea says, “When you repent,” when Israel repents, “it’ll be like dew, refreshing, and it’ll be like the lily, like the rose, the lily rose, and the roots will be as deep as the Lebanon.” Lengthened, like the Lebanon, its branches will spread, the beauty will be like an olive tree and the fragrance like the Lebanon.
Those who dwell under the shadow of this olive tree, those who dwell under the shadow of the olive tree that is repented, renovated, cultured. Those who repent, they shall be revived like grain and grow like the vine. Their scent, their smell, shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
“Ephraim shall say, ‘What have I to do anymore with idols? I have heard and observed him. I am like a green cypress tree now. Your fruit is found in me.’”
God’s fruit is found in us. What an ending for this very, very harsh prophecies of Hosea.
Hosea is one of the harshest books. He calls Israel a prostitute, an unfaithful wife, an idol-worshiping wife that rejects her husband that provides all the wealth and all the wine and all the oil and all the food and all the blessings to Israel and goes to worship, strange, unfaithful, dishonest lovers; the Baals and the Asherah’s and Marduk and the gods of the nations. And verse 8, “Your fruit is found in me.”
God says to Israel, “You want to be fruitful? You want to have fruit? Where are you going to find your fruit? In me.” In God. “That’s where your real fruit is going to be found. The good fruit is going to be found in Me,” God says, and then He turns in verse 9 and says, “Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them for the ways of the Lord are right, the righteous walk in them but the transgressors stumble on them.”
How true is this last verse, verse nine of chapter 14 of Hosea, the last verse of Hosea? What the world thinks foolishness, is the wisdom of God. What the world thinks stupid, is what saves humanity. What the world thinks rubbish, is the heavenly gold, the heavenly presence of God in people’s lives.
That’s what makes them fruitful, it makes them clean, it makes them righteous, it makes them productive, with fruit and with heavenly taste and smell.
I’m going to read verse 9 again and end with this. Who is wise? Are you wise? Am I wise? Are we wise? You better understand this principle, Hosea says, if you’re prudent, which is more than wise, practically wise, you better know what I’m talking about, Hosea says:
“For the ways of the Lord are righteous. And the righteous people live and walk in the ways of the Lord, but the transgressors, they stumble on them.”
They fail and fall because they raise their nose up. They think they’re smarter than God, who created us. They think they know better than the word of God that is living in us through the Holy Spirit. They know these things. They make fun of believers.
I grew up in a home where my father made fun of religion and of religious people. And if he could harm a religious person, he did it. He would get on the bus, and if there was an Orthodox Jew sitting there, and there is an empty seat behind him, my father would sit behind him.
He would tie his tassel, his tzitzit, on the pipe of the chair and move to another chair and watch while the Orthodox gets up, how he falls back down because he is tied to the chair, to his tzitzit, and gives it a yank and tears his tzitzit. And under his mustache, my father would snicker; until he became a believer and repented of his attitude.
Yes, the foolish stumble on God’s word. They stumble on God’s commandments but the wise live by them.
Be wise, my brothers and sisters. Take God’s word seriously and live by it. It’s good and righteous. It’s like a rose, like a lily, and it is like a treasure to guide your life and make it fruitful. In Yeshua’s name.
God bless all of you. Amen.