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His circumstances were a nightmare.

Not only did he live in the land of whoredom, standing on the brink of national judgment, but his job seemed more like a sick joke than a divine commission. Go marry a prostitute and get her pregnant, God told Hosea,because I have a message to send my sinful people (Hosea 1:2).

No prophet of Israel received convenient instructions, but this was about as rough as it ever got. Not to mention, all this drama — this real-life theater — was for a faithless people. Israel had it good from God, until they coopted his blessing to serve Baal, doubling down their opulence, partying hard, and forgetting all about the One who had called them out of slavery.

The relationship between ancient Israel’s sin and their forgetfulness is not ironic. If sin makes people stupid (and it does), spiritual adultery makes us oblivious:

She did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal. . . . [Israel] went after her lovers and forget me, declares the Lord. (Hosea 2:84:610–12)

They were filled, and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot me. (Hosea 13:6)

I took them up by their arms, butthey did not know that I healed them. (Hosea 11:3)

Grace on the Edge

Now the time had come to reap God’s wrath — hence the prophetic work of Hosea. “I will punish them for their ways and repay them for their deeds” (Hosea 4:9). The charges had piled up. Judgment was breathing down their necks. Any day now, we’d be saying if we were there, and things are about to blow. Wholesale captivity is right around the corner, and before that, an invading Assyrian army.

But then there’s a call to repentance. The context is so pervasively negative, commentators have debated whether it’s serious or sarcasm.

Come, let us return to the Lᴏʀᴅ; 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. Let us know; let us press on to know the Lᴏʀᴅ; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth. (Hosea 6:1–3)

Hosea is for real. He means it. This book is laced with surprising words of grace; even in the midst of accusation, mercy is busting at the seams (Hosea [2:14]–23; 3:1–5[10:12]11:1–1212:914:1–9). In the rubble of Israel’s wickedness, in the aftermath of their apostasy, the plea still goes forth: Let us know him; Let us press on to know the Lord.

Mighty in His Mercy

It is a plea for us as much as for them.Know the Lord, Hosea says. Even in their mess, even in their shambled condition, when the icky-ness of their past sin is corroding the present, Hosea holds out the invitation: Today, would you turn? Will you press on to know him now?

Written by Jonathan Parnell
Read more at Desiring God

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