Join us on Monday night at 6:30 PM for the 3rd annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day Celebration sponsored by The Milwaukee Declaration and hosted at Eastbrook Church. We will have a worship service led by multiple churches and pastors as we stand together across racial divides in our city for the goal of racial reconstruction in Milwaukee.
Also, listen to Dr. King’s statement from many years ago about the need to stand together as God’s people.
One of the pervasive themes in Hosea, chapters 1-3, is that God’s people have become like a promiscuous spouse through their idolatry. Like a harlot seeking after other lovers, God’s people turned to other gods, seeking good things in them as lovers, even though God is the source of every good thing they have.
This longing for other lovers shapes the way we worship, in particular what we are looking to find in the worship we offer. Worship that arises from a spiritually wayward heart, from the Baal worshiper, is self-focused and looks more to the satisfaction of our own desires than meeting with the Living God. To encounter the God of the Bible in worship means the displacement of ourselves and our desires from the center. It means we let God be God, speak what He wants to speak, and shape us the way He wants to shape us. This theme echoes throughout Scripture, as Eugene Peterson points out in his book The Jesus Way in a chapter on Elijah and the encounter with the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18.
‘Harlotry’ is the stock prophetic criticism of the worship of the people who are assimilated to Baalistic forms (Jer. 3:1ff.; 5:7; 13:27; 23:10; 23:14; Ezek. 16 and 23; Hos. 1:2ff. and 4:12; Amos 2:7; Mic. 1:7). While the prophetic accusation of ‘harlotry’ has a literal reference to the sacred prostitution of the Baal cult, it is also a metaphor that extends its meaning into the entire theology of worship, worship that seeks fulfillment through self-expression, worship that accepts the needs and desires and passions of the worshiper as its baseline. ‘Harlotry’ is worship that says, ‘I will give you satisfaction. You want religious feelings? I will give them to you. You want your needs fulfilled? I’ll do it in the form most arousing to you.’ A divine will that sets itself in opposition to the sin-tastes and self-preoccupations of humanity is incomprehensible in Baalism and so is impatiently discarded. Baalism reduces worship to the spiritual stature of the worshiper. Its canons are that it should be interesting, relevant, and exciting – that I ‘get something out of it.’
[From Eugene H. Peterson, The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways that Jesus is the Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007), 110.
One of the key interpretive issues in the book of Hosea is whether the account of Hosea’s family – his marriage to Gomer and three children – in chapters 1 and 3 is based in true events from the prophet’s life or whether it is a prophetic parable or allegory with a teaching purpose yet not based in real-life events.
James Luther Mays, in his commentary on Hosea writes, “Disagreement about the nature of this family narrative is as old as the interpretation of the early Church Fathers” (Mays, Hosea 23).
Claude Mariottini, with whom I studied the book of Hosea in seminary, catalogs the different views on Hosea’s family life, and the proponents of each view, as follows:
- Inconclusive – The prophetic symbolism behind the marriage makes reconstruction impossible (Gerhard von Rad)
- Historical – The marriage is an actual experience in the life of the prophet: Gomer was a prostitute before marriage (C. Hassell Bullock and James D. Newsome)
- Proleptic – Gomer lapsed into prostitution after marriage (Walter Harrelson)
- Cult functionary – Hosea married a sacred prostitute (Theodore H. Robinson)
- Idolatry – Gomer’s harlotry was spiritual unfaithfulness to God (Robert H. Pfeiffer)
- Gomer was not Hosea’s wife but only a concubine (Thomas Aquinas)
- Literary device – Hosea’s marriage was only a literary device to convey a message (Hugo Gressman)
- Vision – This marriage never occurred, but was only a vision or dream of the prophet (Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg)
- Parable – The marriage is only a parable to illustrate the sins of Israel (Jerome and John Calvin)
- Allegory – The marriage is only an allegory invented by Hosea to illustrate the love of God (various Jewish rabbis)
- Drama – The marriage of Hosea was a stage play (Yehezkel Kaufmann)
With all of these various views presented, the case could be made that at one level it makes no difference to the interpretation of Hosea which view we hold. However, I find James Luther Mays illuminating here. He writes:
Is the story an allegory whose only reality is the meaning, or do the marriage and births represent actual episodes in the life of Hosea? The majority of recent commentators agree that the latter is correct….The story reports the real. And yet it is not, indeed cannot be, approached as though it were biography. The interest is not in Hosea and the experiences of his life, and perhaps it was the recognition of this which led to the allegorical approach before prophetic symbolism was properly understood. There is a severe concentration on the divine word through the prophet’s family life….The narrative is kerygmatic, not biographical….The details of Hosea’s family life are hidden behind the word-function of the narrative.
As Mays suggest, Hosea’s prophecies in chapters 1 and 3 brings together real-life events, while presenting those events through a theological lens so that a specific message from God might be communicated.
This past weekend at Eastbrook, we continued our series, “God in the Ruins: The Message of the Minor Prophets.” My wife, Kelly, and I co-preached a message on the first three chapters of the prophet Hosea.
Hosea is an interesting book of the Bible, and one of the longest of these shorter prophetic books. Hosea spoke during the time of the divided kingdom, primarily addressing the northern kingdom of Israel from about 750-724 BC.
You can watch our message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities to connect.
I’m also including below a chart that I pulled together related to the kings of Israel that overlap with the ministry of Hosea.
|Jeroboam II||786-746||2 Kings 14:23-29|
|Zechariah||746-745||2 Kings 15:8-12|
|Shallum||745||2 Kings 15:13-16|
|Menahem||752-738||2 Kings 15:17-22|
|Pekahiah||738-737||2 Kings 15:23-26|
(may have co-ruled Gilead since 752)
|737-732||2 Kings 15:27-31|
|Hoshea||732-724||2 Kings 17:1-6|
|Fall of Samaria||722||2 Kings 17:7-23|
Our Creator and the Lover of our Souls,
You have called us to Yourself
by Your grace and truth
that we might know You, live for You,
and show You to the world.
We admit that we often fall into temptation and sin,
losing our way like an adulterous spouse,
straying in our hearts from You and Your love.
Thank You that, like a dedicated spouse and an ever-faithful lover,
You continue to pursue us.
Come now, Lord, and forgive us,
and restore us through Your steadfast love.
All this we pray, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord
to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit
be honor and glory, now and forever.
“The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.
“After Soleimani’s Death, Iran’s Christians Brace for ‘Tsunami of Disaster and Opportunity'” – Last week, most of the international attention was on the events and rising tensions between the US and Iran. One of the questions that rose in my mind immediately was, “What does this mean for the astounding movement of God, brining many Persian-background people to Christ both inside and outside Iran?” Well, it seems from this report by Christianity Today, it brings both potential disaster and opportunity. I hope you will join me both in reading this article and praying for our brothers and sisters.
“In-Depth Answers to Ten Big Questions About Spiritual Formation” – When I first surrendered my life to Christ, I pored over Scripture and any writer I could find who helped me understand the life with God better. I was so hungry for God that anything someone else recommended would immediately become a part of my discipleship practice or reading. I encountered Christ through the charismatic movement and so one influential stream of my spiritual life was charismatic Christianity. However, I grew up in a Presbyterian church so another one of the influential streams of my spiritual life was very Word-centered. Sometimes, these streams seemed to run in opposite directions, but when they converged it was a beautiful thing. It was Richard Foster, and those working with him with Renovaré, who first helped me see how valuable it could be to have different streams of Christian tradition come together in our lives as part of an overall spiritual formation trajectory with God. This article hosted at Dallas Willard’s website talks about the nature of spiritual formation in the Christian life around ten big questions we grapple with on that topic. Some of this may seem a bit dated, but it is still helpful in considering what is important in our growth with the Triune God.
“Notre Dame Cathedral ‘not saved yet’ and still at risk of collapse” – One of the biggest stories of last year in terms of architecture and church life was the devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in April 2019, as well as the billions of euros pledged to rebuilt it. This past week, however, the French general, Jean-Louis Georgelin, assigned to oversee the task of rebuilding said, “The cathedral is still in a state of peril.”
“United Methodist Church Announces Proposal to Split Over Gay Marriage” – Another monumental story in religion around the world came in March 2019, when the global gathering of the United Methodist Church, in a highly conflicted vote, affirmed the traditional view of marriage. Since that vote, discussions have arisen to part ways between the more progressive western church and the more traditional church in the rest of the world. This past week, plans emerged for a mutually agreed upon parting of ways that has widespread support from all parties, at least preliminarily, with more details to emerge on January 13. So long to the “United” Methodist Church as fault lines emerge in various denominational bodies over these sorts of issues.
“Funeral of Lois Evans, wife of Tony Evans, set for their Dallas church” – Lois Evans, wife of Bible teacher and pastor Tony Evans, passed away on December 30 after being diagnosed with biliary cancer. Lois Evans was married to Tony Evans for 49 years and was the founder of Pastors’ Wives Ministry, author of many books, and leader of Christian ministry in various settings. The celebration of Lois’ home-going is viewable online here, including many moving tributes and worship led by Kirk Franklin.
“Rabbi who survived machete attack has a unifying message” – From CNN: “The New York rabbi who survived an attack at his home during Hanukkah urged people to put aside differences and ‘work side by side to eradicate hatred.’ Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, leader of Congregation Netzach Yisroel, made his first public comments since the December 28 attack during a celebration on the seventh day of Hanukkah in the hamlet of Monsey. Five people were injured, including his son.”
[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]