Hosea’s Mugshots (Hosea 1:2-9)
Mugshots.com is a website that features nothing but mugshots. At one time the homepage read like this: “Three things you can count on in life: death, taxes and [messing] up. Don’t feel badly, though. Everyone does it, including your favorites from the worlds of business, television, music and film. And most likely, no one is looking up your photograph on the web to see how badly you messed up this time!” The site includes categories such as “Sport,” “Celebrity,” and “TV.”
What is so fascinating about a mugshot? Why do the media like to show mug shots when talking about a celebrity’s arrest–why not just use a stock photo? It has to do with the reality that mugshots portray. Mug shots aren’t airbrushed like other pictures. There’s no photo-enhancing software that’s used to make them look more appealing–they are totally real. Because they are totally real, mug shots capture people at their lowest. A mug shot is really a picture of humiliation. A mug shot is a story of someone down on his luck.
Hosea chapter one is really like a series of mug shots. You talk about reality, you talk about people down on their luck, that’s what this chapter is all about. Hosea, his wife, and his kids have got to be the most dysfunctional family in the world–they make Ozzy Osborne’s clan look like Ozzie and Harriet. And, that’s really the point of this whole text. God is quite quick to admit it, whether humans ever will or not. The relationship between God and His people had deteriorated greatly–it had become a quite dysfunctional relationship. God uses Hosea and his family to make the point of just how greatly the relationship had deteriorated.
The chapter reads quite quickly–it’s almost as if God is lining Hosea and his family up for their mug shots. Tonight, we want to take a close look at those mug shots.
Mug Shot One: Hosea
The Lord comes and tells Hosea: “Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry And children of harlotry, For the land has committed great harlotry By departing from the LORD” (Hosea 1:2).
Can you imagine the sensation that would cause today–a preacher who married a prostitute? Think Jimmy Swaggert, Oral Roberts, and amplify it. How would you feel if we had a guy in for a gospel meeting and he began to talk about his wife and he said that God had told him to go and marry a prostitute and she continues to practice her trade? That’s exactly what’s happening in this text!
Hosea’s mug shot–this picture of him at his lowest in going and marrying “a wife of harlotry”–tells us two stories:
The first story is one of God.
p>God is faithful, even though His people are not.
Throughout the Old Testament, God is viewed as the husband of Israel and thus any unfaithfulness on Israel’s part is viewed as harlotry. About Jerusalem, Isaiah writes, “How the faithful city has become a harlot! It was full of justice; Righteousness lodged in it, But now murderers” (Is 1:21). “The LORD said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: ‘Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot'” (Jer 3:6).
What a wonderful picture of God! We know, therefore, that no matter how long in the mire of sin we wallow, God is going to be faithful in His love! “In His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:25-26). “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9).
God says to Hosea: “Hosea, you put up with your unfaithful wife, just the way I’ve put up with my unfaithful people.
The second story here is one of Hosea.
Hosea faithfully does what God has told him to do. Guys, how would you feel if God came and told you to marry a prostitute? Guys, how would you react if you found out that your wife–the love of your life and the mother of your children–was a member of the world’s oldest profession? Would we react with anger, disappointment, unbelief? Yet, the text simply says that Hosea did what God said to do. No arguing, no complaining, no whining.
Is that not precisely what God expects of us? When Saul took spoil from the Amalekites, he justified his actions to Samuel by saying that he would sacrifice the loot to God. God, through Samuel, replies, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams” (1 Sam 15:22). God requires obedience regardless of the cost. When the Sanhedrin ordered the apostles not to preach in the name of Jesus, the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). How willing are we to obey God? Are we willing to obey God, no matter how hard that obedience, just like Hosea did?
Mug Shot Two: Gomer
This is a mug shot which really ought to convict us and bring us to our knees. Gomer is a prostitute, and Hosea is to marry her: “Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry And children of harlotry, For the land has committed great harlotry By departing from the LORD” (Hosea 1:2). Gomer has always spent her life engaging in immorality, finding enjoyment in the things of this world, and now she is called upon to commit herself to a different relationship. Gomer went right back to her adultery: “The LORD said to me, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the LORD for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans” (Hosea 3:1).
What a perfect picture of us! Gomer represents people who desire to serve God, but have a hard time in faithfulness. Notice what we read about Gomer–she represents the people of God. Hosea was to marry her, “for the land has committed great harlotry By departing from the LORD” (1:2). Hosea was to go and take Gomer back, “just like the love of the LORD for the children of Israel” (3:1).
How are we, like Gomer, giving in to the world around us? What is it, in other words, that has become our god, taking away our sole devotion from the true and living God? Is it in our spending? Is it the priority on our image? Is it in what we allow into our minds? Is it in giving too many hours to our careers? Is it in trying to keep up with the Jones’s? Where are our priorities? Where are our idols?
Mug Shot Three: Jezreel
“So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. Then 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. It shall come to pass in that day That I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel” (Hosea 1:3-5).
The name “Jezreel” literally means “God scatters.” Jezreel obviously reminds us of the blood massacre that took place there when Jehu became king (2 Ki 9-10). After Elisha anointed Jehu King of Israel, he went to Jezreel and massacred King Joram of Israel, King Ahaziah of Judah (who happened to be visiting Joram), Jezebel, Ahab’s descendants, the entire royal family of Judah who had come down with Ahaziah, and all the prophets of Baal. God commended Jehu for the slaughter of Ahab’s household: “Because you have done well in doing what is right in My sight, and have done to the house of Ahab all that was in My heart, your sons shall sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation” (2 Ki 10:30). However, the slaughter went far beyond what God intended, and that is what Hosea specifically mentions here.
The point of this text is twofold:
One: God does not forget sin.
It’s not as though God will forget some sin we’ve committed years ago and for which we have never repented. God knows all our sins, and we can hide nothing from Him: “I know your manifold transgressions And your mighty sins” (Amos 5:12).
Two: God punishes sin.
God was going to punish the house of Jezreel for their sins, and the picture here is that God will likewise deal with the house of Israel. He would scatter them. God will likewise punish those who persist in sin in this age. He will scatter the sinner: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31).
Mug Shot Four: Lo-Ruhamah
“And she conceived again and bore a daughter. Then God said to him: ‘Call her name Lo-Ruhamah, For I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel, But I will utterly take them away. Yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah, Will save them by the LORD their God, And will not save them by bow, Nor by sword or battle, By horses or horsemen” (Hosea 1:6-7).
This girl’s name in Hebrew was Lo-Ruhamah, which means no mercy. Can you imagine the reaction every time this little girl’s name was called? The picture here is a historical one: Israel would be destroyed in 722 BC by the Assyrians, while the southern kingdom of Judah would stand for more than another century. In fact, God says that He will not save them by bow or sword or war or horses or horsemen. Those were the means by which the kings of Israel attempted to save themselves. So, the kings were depending on the power of their armies instead of the power of God.
This isn’t a picture of God we want to see, is it? We want to see God as a loving, merciful Father. We know, of course, that He is. He is a gracious God who stands more than ready to forgive us of all our sins. It was He who gave His Son to die for the sins of mankind. That is, however, not the complete picture. God is also a God who calls people to account for their sins. “For those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Rom 2:8). Notice how Jude describes the false teachers of his day: Jude 12-13.
How about you? Are your sins covered in Jesus’ blood or are you going to be judged for your sins?
Mug Shut Five: Lo-Ammi
“Now when she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. Then God said: ‘Call his name Lo-Ammi, For you are not My people, And I will not be your God” (Hosea 1:8-9).
Lo-Ammi means “Not My People.”
Can you imagine the reaction every time this little boy’s name was called? A constant reminder that God had abandoned His people.
Yes, I understand saying that God had abandoned His people is strong language, but that’s precisely what had happened. God had called the Israelites as part of His promise: Deuteronomy 7:6-8. In this text, God declares that He had chosen the Israelites out of all the peoples of the earth. Now in Hosea, God rejects His people. In this text, God declares that he loves the Israelites. Now, He declares that they are not His people. In this text, Go declares that He is keeping the promise to the patriarchs. Now in Hosea, He declares that these are not His people.
We understand that God’s promises are conditional. The promise of God’s blessings in the Promised Land were conditional: Deuteronomy 11:13-17. The promises of God in the New Testament are similarly conditional: “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7).
This stands as a strong reminder that, while God would much rather forgive His people, He is more than willing to give up on His people when they rebel. God gave Israel chance and chance again to repent and turn back to Him. He sent prophets who admonished the people, from the royal family down to the servants. Yet, when they refused to repent, he sent the Assyrians against them in 722.
God will forgive each of us when we sin, but if we persist in sin without repentance, God will throw up His hands and say to us, “Lo-ammi!” We know that God did so with the pagans before the time of Christ. After detailing their idolatry, Paul writes: “God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (Rom 1:24-25). Notice what Jesus says to the church in Thyatira: Revelation 2:20-23. He gave Jezebel time to repent, but she refused to repent, and He had thrown up His hands and given up on her and it’s now time for judgment.
Because God will give up on those who live in sin, we need to heed the words of Hebrews 3:12-13. Have you been hardened by the deceitfulness of sin? Are you in danger of God’s giving up on you? Thomas Fuller once said, “You cannot repent too soon, because you do not know how soon it may become too late.”