SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Hosea 1:1 through 7:16
KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.” (Hosea 4:6)
Hosea was a prophet to the Northern Kingdom of Israel from around 760 to 715 B.C. While his contemporaries, Micah and Isaiah, carried their messages to the nation of Judah, Hosea (whose name means “salvation”) prophesied the judgment that was to come upon Israel for its idolatry.
Israel’s last six kings had been especially corrupt, and under the reign of Jeroboam II, the country had prospered materially but decayed morally. Jeroboam II was followed by a series of kings, and the political and social condition of the nation continued to plummet. Hosea saw Israel fall to Assyria in 722 B.C.
Hosea’s assignment was to show the idolatrous people of Israel how they had been unfaithful to God, and he was to accomplish this task by marrying Gomer, a woman who would be unfaithful to him (chapter 1). Later, he would redeem his wife out of prostitution and slavery and accept her back into his household (chapter 3). This “living parable” was incorporated into his prophecies in order to show that although judgment was coming upon Israel, God wanted to restore his people to a right relationship with Him.
Through the history of the Children of Israel, God has demonstrated to all mankind the great lengths He will go to in order to maintain or restore His covenant with His chosen people. Time after time, the Israelites violated their covenant vows, yet God continually wooed them back to His side through the voice of His prophets and by allowing painful circumstances to come their way.
The message of Hosea is still applicable today, because it shows God’s love for all people. His love includes those who have committed spiritual adultery, and He calls them back to Himself. He has paid the price for their freedom. Even though the actions of sin are so repulsive and sickening that one could hardly imagine why God would want the backslider to return, yet His love and forgiveness are extended.
SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
- The Book of Hosea begins with God asking the prophet Hosea to do a very difficult thing: he was to marry a woman that he knew would be unfaithful. It is hard to imagine Hosea’s thoughts and feelings when given such a command, but he was obedient to the Lord and married Gomer (Hosea 1:3). What are some ways people respond when God requires them to do something difficult or very painful in order to benefit others?
Ask your students to generate a list of possible responses. Ideas could include: agree, make excuses, run, suggest an alternative, give reasons why you can’t, ask for confirmation.
The point should be made that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His plans sometimes involve personal pain in order to accomplish a greater good. We cannot easily undergo a painful situation, but like Jesus at Gethsemane, we can learn to pray, “Not my will, but thine be done.”
- Gomer bore three children, and, under God’s direction, Hosea named these children Jezreel, Lo-ruhamah, and Lo-ammi (Hosea 1:4-9). What was the significance of these prophetic names?
Through the names of Gomer’s children, God was indicating that judgment was going to fall on the nation of Israel. King Jehu had massacred King Ahab and his family in the valley of Jezreel (2 Kings 10:1-11), so Hosea was announcing God’s judgment upon Jehu’s dynasty. His kingdom would come to an end in the valley of Jezreel, the very place where Ahab’s family was massacred. “Lo” is a negative prefix, so Lo-ruhamah means “no mercy” and Lo-ammi means “not my people.”
- In Hosea 2:5-8, God indicated that the nation of Israel had mistakenly thought that their material blessings (food, shelter, clothing) came from false gods (specifically Baal, the god of nature). They were ignorant of the fact that the God of Heaven was the true Author of these gifts. People are no different today. To whom or what do people give credit today for their prosperity?
Without acknowledging God, some people credit their prosperity to their hard work, their education, luck, good money management, or the right financial advisors. Discuss how the focus must be on God as the Giver of all blessings and abilities. What can be the end result of failing to properly acknowledge God for blessings and abilities?
- God is a God of both judgment and mercy. Chapters 1 and 2 of Hosea begin with pronouncements of God’s judgment upon Israel, but both end with a promise of restoration and God’s mercy (Hosea 1:10-11; 2:14-23). What judgment will come upon people today who do not heed God’s instructions? Give an example of how God’s mercy is demonstrated in our time.
Eternal death is the ultimate judgment for those who refuse God’s plan of salvation. At times, God may permit difficulties such as financial reverses, sicknesses, natural disasters. These are actually God’s mercy in action, because His purpose is to prod people toward repentance.
Ask your class to share their examples of how God has demonstrated mercy, and be prepared to share an example of your own.
- God commanded Hosea to do something extraordinary — instead of divorcing Gomer, he was to buy back his unrepentant, adulterous wife and bring her home. God’s love was illustrated in Hosea’s troubled marriage. What great lengths has God gone to in order to show us His amazing love?
Through the death of His Son on the Cross, God demonstrated a remarkable, amazing, sacrificial love. “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us. . .” (1 John 3:16). Even though He was persecuted and reviled, Jesus Christ willingly offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. When we focus our minds and hearts on Calvary, God’s great love should melt our hearts.
- After spelling out the sins of the nation of Israel (Hosea 4:1-3), the Lord counseled the people not to look for someone else to blame (Hosea 4:4). Why do you think people often blame others when confronted with their own faults or sins?
Sometimes people blame others because they wish to avoid punishment for their own wrongdoing. Sometimes they blame others because they wish to avoid thinking about and dealing with their own faults or sins.
What are some of the benefits of “owning up” to one’s faults or sins? Class discussion should zero in on having a conscience void of offense, the respect of peers, a good testimony before others, and an assurance of eternity.
- Because Ephraim was the most powerful of the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom, Hosea used the name Ephraim as a synonym for Israel. Hosea prophesied that Ephraim, or Israel, would refuse to repent and would fall due to pride (Hosea 5:3-5). Why does pride make repentance difficult?
In order to repent, we must first admit that we are guilty of wrongdoing. Pride, however, keeps us from acknowledging our sin and our need for God’s help and forgiveness. Pride causes us to harden our hearts and sear our conscience to the point that we no longer feel the need for repentance.
- What three visual images does God use to describe the nation of Israel? (Hosea 2:2, 5:13, 7:16) What images or metaphors might describe people’s relationships with God today?
Israel is compared to an unfaithful wife (Hosea 2:2), a sick person (Hosea 5:13), and a crooked bow (Hosea 7:16).
Here are some possible metaphors you can mention in response to the second question, if your students need help getting started: a tree, a yo-yo, a baby, a traveler, a leaky bucket, or a candle.
- Hosea used several visual metaphors to describe God: a husband and father (Hosea 2:1-5); a moth (Hosea 5:12); and rain (Hosea 6:3). What image would you use to describe God? Why?
Possible images or metaphors for God are: water, fire, a rock, wind, light, the sun, a bridegroom, a potter, or a king. Explain to your students that these images are only tools for us to use in order to begin to comprehend the glory and majesty of God.
Through the prophet Hosea, God used everyday objects and life events to communicate to the nation of Israel and to all people that would hear or read Hosea’s prophecy. As we live our “ordinary” lives and keep our hearts open before the Lord, He will reveal himself to us. “Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord. . .” (Hosea 6:3).