The story of God’s covenant people from the reign of David through the exile is told in multiple layers, as though filling a bowl. The books of Kings and Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, are the large rocks that fill most of the space and have to go in first. Next comes a bucket of gravel – Isaiah and Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel fill in a lot of the gaps that the historical books leave, but not all of them. The twelve prophets are like fine sand, working alongside the chroniclers and more expansive prophets, and striking precisely at the issues the LORD wants to address. They don’t really make sense without the larger historical context, and they furthermore make that history more complete.
Hosea begins the twelve writings known popularly as the Minor Prophets. They are distinguished from the “Major” prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel – mostly by their brevity. You’ll also notice that almost every one of these twelve has a singular concern on which to focus, unlike their longer brethren. Many of them are contemporaries of prophets we’ve already read, and some of them, such as Haggai and Zechariah, are mentioned elsewhere.
Around 760 B.C. the word of the LORD came to Hosea, the son of Beeri. The opening sentence of his work tells us that he ministered during the days of Jeroboam II in the north, and a variety of kings in the South. Interestingly, though he outlives Jeroboam by at least 25 years, Hosea mentions none of the successors who warred over his throne.
And that opening sentence is the only time this reading will feel safe. Before you dive into the first chapter, I’m going to remind you of what we’ve seen in the prophets. In Isaiah, the prophet cycled through themes of idolatry, justice, worship, condemnation, and restoration. In Jeremiah, the prophet agonized with and for his people. In Ezekiel, the LORD commissioned vivid, living metaphors. And to Daniel, the LORD revealed wisdom that made him the envy of his peers.
These writings express the range and intensity of the LORD’s emotions. They reveal His passion for His covenant people and His determination to be known in all the earth. Keep all of this close as Hosea’s ministry begins with the LORD’s command: “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom.”
Our verses for this week are Psalm 37:4-5: Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act.
Hosea 1 through 3. Now let’s read it!
Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.