To many, the Old Testament can be an odd place to go in order to study the gospel. We know there are a few prophecies about Jesus in Isaiah, but we assume the gospel is really just in the New Testament, while the Old Testament has all the history stuff that we get bored reading. However, this just isn’t the case. Jesus testifies multiple times that all of Scripture is about the gospel. In John 5, Jesus told his listeners, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me…” In Luke’s Gospel, when Jesus met two disciples on the road to Emmaus, just after his resurrection, Luke records that “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures.” All Scripture is about Jesus. Every part of the Bible points us to the cross.
The book of Hosea, found in the Minor Prophets (so named because those books are shorter than the Major Prophets, not from any reflection of importance), is easily overlooked and rarely studied. It is fairly straightforward in nature, being the record of God using Hosea to pronounce judgment on Israel and Judah and to call them to repentance. The first three chapters of Hosea, however, contain a surprising story. In summary, Hosea, the prophet of God, was commanded to marry a woman named Gomer. The problem? Gomer was a prostitute. Imagine the scandal that engulfed Hosea. Gomer gave Hosea three children, but she then left and returned to her old ways. When Hosea went to find her, she had been sold into slavery and Hosea was forced to buy her back in order to set her free. This series of events was used by God to demonstrate Israel’s unfaithfulness and to call them to repent, but it also points forward to Jesus, revealing facets of the gospel to us. Here are three things the story of Hosea can teach us about the gospel.
- The relationship between God and His people is like that of a bride and groom. – God uses a marriage between Hosea and Gomer to illustrate His relationship with Israel. He makes it even clearer in Hosea 2:19-20. Speaking of His future forgiveness and restoration of Israel, God says “I will take you (Israel) 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.” God loves Israel as a husband loves his wife. This same example is later applied to the church, the Bride of Christ. God loves His people wholly, completely, sacrificially, and unconditionally. The gospel is a perfect picture of this love.
- God is faithful to his people even when His people are unfaithful to Him. – “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go again; show love to a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, just as the Lord loves the Israelites though they turn to other gods…” (Hosea 3:1). Imagine being in Hosea’s shoes. You’ve already endured the scandal of marrying a prostitute. Then, after giving you three children, she leaves and returns to her old life. At that point, most of us would probably try to move on and forget Gomer. Many of us would respond with anger toward Gomer. In this instance, though, God told Hosea to pursue her. He sent Hosea out to find her. He did this to show the people of Israel that He still loved them despite their wanderings toward other gods. God was faithful to Israel and steadfast in keeping his promises to them, even when Israel was not faithful to keep their end of their covenant with God. This is the unconditional love described above. God’s love toward Israel didn’t depend on their works or their faithfulness. It depended on God’s promise and God’s faithfulness. This same concept is found in the gospel. God’s love for His people and His offer of eternal life does not depend on us, but on Him. We cannot earn His favor. In fact, humanity has done everything it can to reject God’s love. Even those who have surrendered their lives to Christ and are a part of God’s people cannot be perfectly faithful. Yet, God is always faithful to His people. Despite all of humanity’s sin and rejection of God’s rule, His offer of eternal life is still available. Despite the many sins that Christ-followers still fall into, He is still faithful to forgive and to redeem His people eternally.
- God’s redemption involves a cost. – When Hosea found Gomer, she had been sold into slavery. He had to buy what was rightfully his, purchasing his wife and the mother of his children for “fifteen shekels of silver and five bushels of barley.” (Hosea 3:2). Hosea redeemed his wife from her old life, but it cost him. Similarly, God’s plan of redemption for humanity involved a cost. The curse of sin demanded payment. Man’s rejection of God demanded justice. The cost of redemption, clearly spelled out in many Scriptures, was death. Only the shedding of blood could cover sin and only death could satisfy God’s justice. In his mercy, however, God sent His Son to bear the cost. The suffering and death that Christ experienced was rightfully ours to endure, but He bore it instead. And because He paid that cost and satisfied God’s wrath toward sin, we now have the opportunity to live not under the curse of sin, but under the grace of God’s redemption.
It would have been right for Hosea to leave Gomer to her fate. She made her decisions and the consequences were hers. It would have been right for God to leave us to suffer the consequences of our sinful hearts. But Hosea’s selfless and unconditional love for Gomer foreshadowed the much greater love of Christ. Instead of leaving us in our sins, which would have been right and fair, Christ sacrificed Himself to redeem us. This redemption is available to all who respond in faith to Christ and surrender their lives to Him. For those who don’t, the curse remains. The cost still has to be paid and eternal suffering awaits. But for those who do respond in faith to Christ, we now have the promise of eternal life with God through His unfailing, sacrificial love.