Lesson 1*March 30-April 5
Spiritual Adultery (Hosea)
Read for This Week‚Äôs Study: Hos. 1:1-3, Ezek. 4:1-6, Hos. 2:12-18, 4:1-3, James 5:1-7, Rev. 14:6-12.
Memory Text: "I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called "Not my loved one.‚ÄĚ I will say to those called "Not my people,""You are my people"; and they will say, "You are my God" (Hosea 2:23, NIV).
Key Thought: Even amid spiritual adultery and divine judgment, God‚Äôs love for His people never wavers.
The prophet Hosea ministered at the close of a very prosperous period in Israel‚Äôs history, just before the fall of the nation to the Assyrians in 722 B.C. At that time, God‚Äôs chosen people no longer worshiped the Lord alone but also served Baal, a Canaanite god.
Placed at the head of the Minor Prophets, Hosea‚Äôs book addresses the central question of the prophetic proclamation during this time of apostasy: Does God still love Israel, despite the spiritual harlotry? Does He still have a purpose for them despite their sins and the coming judgment?
Hosea‚Äôs personal story and prophecy are inseparably tied into his book. Just as the prophet had forgiven his unfaithful wife and was willing to take her back, God is willing to do the same for His people.
What can we learn from the experience of Hosea and the Lord‚Äôs way of dealing with wayward Israel?
*Study this week‚Äôs lesson to prepare for Sabbath, April 6.
Sunday March 31
A Strange Command
"When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, ‚ÄėGo, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord.‚Äô So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.‚ÄĚ (Hos. 1:2-3, NIV).
For centuries, students of the Bible have debated the nature of this command, asking questions such as: Was Gomer a prostitute or just an unfaithful spouse? Was she immoral before her marriage to Hosea, or did she become unfaithful afterward?
We do not know for certain. One thing, however, is sure: when the Lord spoke to Hosea and through him, He wanted to turn people‚Äôs attention from Hosea‚Äôs story to God‚Äôs love story with Israel. Because Gomer was an Israelite, the story of her marriage to the prophet blends with the story of God‚Äôs covenant with Israel.
There are important parallels between Hosea‚Äôs story and God‚Äôs experience with Israel. On a human level, Gomer was adulterous against Hosea; on the spiritual level, Israel was unfaithful to God. Just as Gomer‚Äôs immorality hurt her husband‚Äôs heart, so Israel‚Äôs idolatry grieved the great heart of God. Hosea was called to endure a broken heart and a broken marriage. He must have suffered public indignation and disgrace. Yet, the more he experienced Gomer‚Äôs unfaithfulness, the deeper was his understanding of God‚Äôs pain and frustration with Israel.
God often asked other prophets to do something beyond preaching.
Read the following passages and explain how the prophets‚Äô actions symbolized God‚Äôs dealings with His people. (Isa. 20:1-6, Jer. 27:1-7, Ezek. 4:1-6).
What kind of witness for the Lord are not just your words, but also your actions? What is it in your life that reveals not simply that you are a good person but that you are a follower of Jesus?
Monday April 1
When Hosea‚Äôs wife, Gomer, committed adultery against him, he suffered the agony of betrayal, humiliation, and shame. To the neighbors and friends who saw his pain, Hosea delivered a divine message through words and actions: Israel, God‚Äôs wife, was just like Gomer. The chosen people were committing spiritual adultery.
The prophet Jeremiah compared God‚Äôs unfaithful people to "a prostitute" who lived with many lovers despite everything that God provided for them (Jer. 3:1, NIV). In a similar way, the prophet Ezekiel called idolatrous Israel "an adulterous wife" who had departed from her true husband (Ezek. 16:32, NKJV). For this reason, idolatry in the Bible is viewed as spiritual adultery.
Read Hosea 2:8-13. What warning is given here? In what ways could we, as Seventh-day Adventists, be in danger of doing the same thing in principle?
The expression "grain, new wine and oil" also is used in the book of Deuteronomy (Deut. 7:12-14, NIV) to describe Israel‚Äôs staple produce that people enjoyed in abundance in accordance with God‚Äôs promises as given through Moses. In Hosea‚Äôs time, the people were so ungrateful to God, so wrapped up in the world around them, that they were presenting these gifts, originally given them by God, to their false idols. What a warning this should be to all of us that the gifts we have been given should be used in the service of the Lord, and not in ways that never were intended for them (Matt. 6:24).
"How does God regard our ingratitude and lack of appreciation of his blessings? When we see one slight or misuse our gifts, our hearts and hands are closed against him. But those who received God‚Äôs merciful gifts day after day, and year after year, misapply his bounties, and neglect the souls for whom Christ has given his life. The means which he has lent them to sustain his cause and build up his kingdom are invested in houses and lands, lavished on pride and self-indulgence, and the Giver is forgotten." - Ellen G. White, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, December 7, 1886.
Think about how easy it is to take the gifts given you by God and use them selfishly, or even in an idolatrous manner. What are practical ways of preventing this sin in our lives?
Tuesday April 2
A Promise of Restoration
Read Hosea 2. What is God's basic message to His people here? How is the gospel revealed in this chapter?
Hosea‚Äôs message presents the profound truth of God‚Äôs steadfast love for an undeserving people. Hosea 2 contains a lengthy speech by the Lord about Israel‚Äôs apostasy, which is then contrasted with God‚Äôs unfailing love for His people. After the punishment, the husband will lead the wife on a trip to the wilderness, where they will be remarried.
Thus, the chapter ends with a portrayal of a future time beyond the judgment when God will woo Israel to love Him as before (Hos. 2:12-15). The wild animals of the field will no longer devour the wife‚Äôs vines and fig trees, but will become partners in the new covenant (Hos. 2:18). In addition, all the children will be renamed, revealing again God‚Äôs willingness to heal and forgive the past transgressions of His people.
God freely offers to pardon our sins. How much does forgiveness cost God? What was the personal cost of this lesson to Hosea? Hos. 3:1-2.
Growing up as a male in Israel, Hosea was destined to enjoy a privileged status in that patriarchal society. But this privilege came with a great responsibility. A man in ancient Israel would have had to make a tremendous effort to forgive and take back an unfaithful wife, not to mention accept as his own the children who may have been fathered by another man. To stand by his wife and her children and, thus, endure social rejection would have to have been one of the most difficult of life‚Äôs experiences.
Hosea, however, "bought" her back. God, in a sense, did the same thing for the human race, but the cost was the death of Jesus on the cross. Only by looking at the Cross, then, can we get a much clearer picture of what it cost God to buy us back from the ruin that sin has caused.
Wednesday April 3
The Case Against Israel
Hosea 4:1-3 presents God as one who brings a charge or a legal dispute (Hebrew r√ģb) against Israel. The chosen nation stood guilty before her God because the people had failed to live up to the terms of the covenant. Truth, mercy, and the knowledge of God were to be qualities of Israel‚Äôs unique relationship with Him. According to Hosea 2:18-20, these are gifts that God bestows on His people at the renewal of the covenant.
Due to sin, however, Israel‚Äôs life was devoid of these gifts of grace. The crimes listed by Hosea had brought the nation to the brink of anarchy. The religious leaders, priest and prophet alike, shared responsibility in the current deterioration of Israel‚Äôs life and were held accountable for it. Theirs was a heavy responsibility. If they did not confront the abuses and did not condemn the acts of injustice, they themselves would be condemned by God.
In the Old Testament, idol worship was considered to be the most serious sin because it denied the role of the Lord God in the lives of the nation and the individual. Due to the dry climate, rains in the land of Israel were a matter of life and death. The Israelites came to believe that their blessings, such as life-giving rain, were coming from Baal. Thus, they built shrines to foreign gods and began mixing immorality with worship.
At the same time, social injustice was rife in the land. The rich classes in Israel exploited the peasants in order to be able to pay tribute to Assyria. Many resorted to fraud and cheating (Hos.12:7-8). It was through this that the formerly peaceful and prosperous period led to a time of political and social turbulence. The country was at the brink of total chaos.
"Poor rich men, professing to serve God, are objects of pity. While they profess to know God, in works they deny Him. How great is the darkness of such! They profess faith in the truth, but their works do not correspond with their profession. The love of riches makes men selfish, exacting, and overbearing. Wealth is power; and frequently the love of it depraves and paralyzes all that is noble and godlike in man." - Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 682.
Read James 5:1-7. How do these words fit in with present truth as expressed in the three angels‚Äô messages of Revelation 14:6-12? Whatever our financial position, how can we protect ourselves from the dangers that money always presents to the followers of Christ?
Thursday April 4
A Call to Repentance
"And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (John 17:3, NKJV).
The name Hosea in Hebrew means "the Lord saves," and is related to the names Joshua, Isaiah and even Jesus. The prophet calls the people to reject sin and find refuge in their Lord God because He is their Creator and Redeemer. The purpose of the divine judgment was to remind the sinners that their life and strength come from the One to whom they must return. Thus, even amid all the warnings and pronouncements of judgment, Hosea‚Äôs book presents the themes of both human repentance and divine forgiveness.
The prophet urges the nation, which was perishing in sin "for lack of knowledge" (Hos. 4:6, NKJV), to press on to know God fully and live in harmony with His eternal principles. It was the people‚Äôs lack of knowledge, the knowledge of God, that led them to rebellion and eventually resulted in judgment.
In contrast, through faith and obedience they could come to know the Lord for themselves. This knowledge can be close and intimate too. That is precisely why, time and again, marriage is a symbol of the kind of relationship that the Lord wants with us.
That is also why the Christian life consists primarily of a relationship with the living God. That is why the Lord calls people to know Him and follow His will for their lives.
The sin problem brought a fearful separation between God and humanity. But, through the death of Jesus on the cross, a way has been made so that each one of us can have a close walk with the Lord. We can, indeed, know Him for ourselves.
What is the difference between our knowing about God versus our knowing God? How is this difference reflected in our everyday living? If someone were to ask you, How can I come to know God, what would you answer? What do the following passages teach about the importance of "knowing the Lord"?
1 John 2:4
Friday April 5
Further Study: "As time went by, Hosea became aware of the fact that his personal fate was a mirror of the divine pathos, that his sorrow echoed the sorrow of God. In this fellow suffering as an act of sympathy with the divine pathos the prophet probably saw the meaning of the marriage which he had contracted at the divine behest. . . .
"Only by living through in his own life what the divine Consort of Israel experienced, was the prophet able to attain sympathy for the divine situation. The marriage was a lesson, an illustration, rather than a symbol or a sacrament." - Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets (Mass.: Prince Press, 2001), p. 56.
"In symbolic language Hosea set before the ten tribes God‚Äôs plan of restoring to every penitent soul who would unite with His church on earth, the blessings granted Israel in the days of their loyalty to Him in the Promised Land. Referring to Israel as one to whom He longed to show mercy, the Lord declared, ‚ÄėI will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt." - Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 298.
We tend to think of idolatry as the bowing down to statues. In what ways can idolatry be something that is much more subtle and deceptive than that?
In class, further explore this idea of what it means to know God. If you say that you "know the Lord," what do you mean by that? How is this knowledge of God acquired?
Some ancient theologians argued that God is impassible, that is, He does not experience pain or pleasure due to the actions of other beings, such as humans. What might cause people to argue that position? Why do we, however, reject it?
Dwell more on the fact that our redemption is so costly. What does that tell us about what is our worth to God?