Friday, 12 October 2012

Hosea the preacher

What was Hosea like as a preacher? Here are some suggestions from Hosea 1 and 2.
Before the word of the Lord spoke through Hosea (1:2), it had to come to Hosea (1:1). Obviously, this had to be true in a sequential sense, but it is also true from a proclaiming sense. A true preacher should not declare a message (1) that he has not received from God, (2) that has not spoken to him first, (3) that has not become part of his outlook.
The names of the kings in Hosea 1:1 inform the reader that changes in the political world did not cause Hosea to adjust the message he had received from God.
The changes also reveal that he was sent by God to the last generation of Israel (1:4 describes the collapse of the house of Jehu when Jeroboam II died, which set off a sequence of short reigns in Israel before it went into captivity in Assyria). The reigns of the mentioned kings was a time of great prosperity for some, but marked by oppression, injustice and poverty for others. Syncretism in religious worship was widespread. Political changes, social conflict and popular religious declension meant it was a difficult time for Hosea to be God’s servant.
Hosea’s lifestyle had to be in line with his God-given message. A servant of God must have divine authority for unexpected actions. Hosea probably had to endure lots of comments about his family life, even from pious people. In order to persevere, he needed clear divine guidance in his own mind.
Hosea as the Lord’s servant had to feel in measure what the Lord felt regarding the waywardness of his people when they wandered away.
It is also the case with Hosea that his message had to include references to the emotional experiences of God, especially with regard to how he felt at his people’s rejection of him. God was disappointed, angry, longing to forgive and to restore.
Hosea had to discover the awfulness of sin before he could declare his message. Sin, especially among God’s people, is the spiritual equivalent of infidelity (which stresses its heinousnes).
Eventually, after years of obedience to God’s requirements (performing obligations that indicated divine judgement), Hosea was given a great promise of future divine blessing (1:10-11). The fulfilment was far in the future, and came in a manner perhaps not anticipated by Hosea (Rom. 9:25-26).
The message Hosea was given about God, as far as chapter 1 is concerned, was that he is a God of justice who will punish sinners, that he is a God of sovereign mercy who chooses to forgive sinners (1:6-7).
God, in telling Hosea what to say, also tells him how he is to say it. In 2:2, God twice tells Hosea that his manner of preaching has to be pleading. Clearly, this is an Old Testament equivalent of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:20: ‘Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.’

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