Our readings in 2018 have taken us from Exodus to 1 Corinthians and now we return to the Old Testament where Israel’s on a collision course for destruction. God rescued Israel out of Egypt and brought them through the Red Sea, revealed himself at Mount Sinai, and gave them the Law. Israel professed obedience to God but then began the cycle of unfaithfulness to their promise, God’s divine judgment, and His faithful and redeeming rescue of them time and again. We journeyed through 1 Corinthians where Paul continued the message of God’s amazing faithfulness and love for both Israel and Gentiles, and His demand for a return to their first love of God alone. Paul presented the ultimate remedy for Israel’s unfaithfulness, and the Corinthian’s sin as the acceptance of Jesus, the Messiah who came once for all to save the world from sin.
As I read through these books of the Bible, I see myself as one of the Israelites or a Corinthian. I have good intentions of faithfulness, reading my Bible, speaking kindness to my family, worshiping God alone, and giving nothing in my life higher priority than Jesus. However, life and relationships creep in, fatigue ensues, selfishness and self-righteousness reign, and I forget my first love of God. I turn to others or my smartphone for acceptance and end up feeling empty or even coveting what they “appear” to have. The idols of health, control, and perfection consume my thoughts and time. Soon, my loss of focus leads to less intimacy with God and His people, or even enduring the consequences of my sin. However, God is still faithful and continually pursues me as his daughter, whispering or shouting, “Return to Me, beloved daughter. You are more sinful than you can believe, but you are more loved by Me than you can imagine.” I may not be a prostitute as we will read about in Hosea, but my forgetfulness of my worth as God’s Beloved or loss of devotion to Him as I pursue other “lovers” is just as distasteful to a Holy God.
“She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them. Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.’” ~Hosea 2:7
The books of Amos and Hosea will take us into the heart of Israel’s unfaithfulness and their pursuit of “lovers” other than God. God called numerous prophets to warn Israel and to call them out of their sin and turn toward the faithful God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Amos and Hosea were some of the final prophets God called to warn Israel and to some extent, Judah, of God’s impending judgment and destruction. These two prophets spoke and wrote around the same time frame (Amos: 760-755 BC | Hosea: 753-725 BC). Amos was a shepherd and prophet of Judah (southern kingdom) while Hosea was the only writing prophet of Israel (northern kingdom). Both directed their messages primarily to Israel who had squandered their faithfulness to God for idol worship, promiscuity, cruelty to the poor, murder, lying, cursing, and stealing.
Amos was a shepherd from Tekoa, a town just south of Jerusalem. God called Amos to travel north to the area of Israel and deliver His prophetic message. He challenged Israel to:
“Pursue good and not evil, so that you may live, and the Lord, the God of Armies will be with you as you have claimed.” ~Amos 5:14 (CSB)
His primary message to Israel was focused on God’s right to judge the earth, stressing no one is exempt from divine judgment (Amos 2:13-16). Amos tells the people of Israel some of the reasons for the divine judgment to come, including the maltreatment of the poor, disregard for the Sabbath, and the deceitful and dishonest business practices of the time.
“But let justice flow like water and righteousness, like an unfailing stream.” ~Amos 5:24 (CSB)
Amos does give some hope to Israel—God “will not totally destroy the house of Jacob” and in His perfect timing will raise up and restore the kingdom to its promised glory through the line of David (Amos 9:11-15). We now know this man was the God-man, Jesus Christ. Amos was clearly speaking to the nation of Israel, but in light of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, believers today have a hope in restoration from sin once and for all.
Hosea, whose name means “salvation,” was the only writing prophet from Israel. His ministry began around the same time as Amos and continued for nearly four decades. He focused on the degradation of Israel and their unfaithfulness to God. Hosea urged the people of Israel to stop their promiscuity and idolatry and return to God with humility and faithfulness. His message is even more personal as his marriage and family take on spiritual similarities, warnings, and significance to the moral degradation of the time. “Hosea’s life is a picture of God’s pursuit of undeserving people—it is about Him and us.” (She Reads Truth, Hosea: God’s Unrelenting Love, p. 3).
“I will take you to be my wife forever. I will take you to be my wife in righteousness, justice, love and compassion. I will take you to be my wife in faithfulness, and you will know the Lord.” ~Hosea 2:19-20 (CSB)
Ultimately, Hosea is longing for Israel to see their reflection in the mirror—it has become tainted by corruption, promiscuity, and sin. Hosea repeats over and over God’s desire for our full affections. He is a holy God. He is just and will bring judgment.
“For I desire faithful love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” ~Hosea 6:6 (CSB)
The book of Hosea speaks the truth about the unfaithfulness of Israel, but offers us hope today in God’s relentless pursuit of His people. The theme of God’s faithful and redeeming love for His people no matter how low they have fallen also is evident in his writings. Hosea, like Amos, promises the hope of restoration through a coming Savior (Hosea 11: 4-7).
Both Amos and Hosea preached messages of the “cycles of redemption” of Israel’s unfaithfulness, divine judgment, and God’s invitation for restoration. Despite the centuries that have elapsed since these texts were written, these cycles of redemption still occur today. However, God’s message of redeeming love for sinful people has been made even more available today through the person of Jesus Christ who has broken the cycle once and for all by paying the debt for our rebellion through his death of the cross.
Points to Ponder as you wander through the books of Amos & Hosea:
- Look for the cycles of redemption as you read these books: Israel’s unfaithfulness, God’s judgment, and His Restoration/redemption
- Examine your own heart and life for any “idols” standing in the way of complete worship and faithfulness to the Lord.
- Do you believe God loves you with a redemptive love?
- Hosea: God’s Unrelenting Love. (2016). She Reads Truth Study Guide book.
- Hosea & Amos. (2007). Deluxe edition Halley’s Bible Handbook with the New International Version (NIV). Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI.
- Hosea & Amos. (2008). ESV Study Bible. Crossway Bibles: Wheaton, IL.
- Hosea & Amos. (1991). Life Application Bible: New International Version (NIV). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.: Wheaton, IL and Zondervan Publishing House: Grand Rapids, MI.
- Hosea & Amos. (2017). She Reads Truth Bible. Christian Standard Bible (CSB). Holman Bible Publishers: Nashville, TN.
- Rivers, Francine. (1997). Redeeming Love. Multnomah Publishers: Sisters, OR.