Hosea: Hope in the Midst of Heartbreak
Psalm 6:1–7 (CSB) — 1 LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger; do not discipline me in your wrath. 2 Be gracious to me, LORD, for I am weak; heal me, LORD, for my bones are shaking; 3 my whole being is shaken with terror. And you, LORD—how long? 4 Turn, LORD! Rescue me; save me because of your faithful love. 5 For there is no remembrance of you in death; who can thank you in Sheol? 6 I am weary from my groaning; with my tears I dampen my bed and drench my couch every night. 7 My eyes are swollen from grief; they grow old because of all my enemies.
This is a Psalm of ‘Lament’. Lament is different to sorrow. ‘Sadness’, in the Bible, is usually linked to circumstantial factors, but ‘lament’ is the language of sorrow that is deeply personal. Listen to the language of sorrow, recorded in the book of Lamentations, as Jerusalem laments her downfall.
Lamentations 1:1–3 (CSB) — 1 How she sits alone, the city once crowded with people! She who was great among the nations has become like a widow. The princess among the provinces has been put to forced labor. 2 She weeps bitterly during the night, with tears on her cheeks. There is no one to offer her comfort, not one from all her lovers. All her friends have betrayed her; they have become her enemies. 3 Judah has gone into exile following affliction and harsh slavery; she lives among the nations but finds no place to rest. All her pursuers have overtaken her in narrow places.
Have you been there? In that lonely room during the dark night of the soul? In a world that worships the ‘feel good pick-me-up’, Christians have bought into the lie of profit-driven posters and bumper-stickers — on none of which will you ever read about ‘bitter tears in the night’ or ‘weary moaning’.
But if you have lived any portion of life, you know the sorrow that leads to lament, even though you may not have had the language to express it. When you fall into that dark pit of despair, when your sin has piled up against you, when God seems distant, or worse—close but quiet—no amount of chanting ‘Jer. 29:11’ as though it were some secret spiritual mantra will deliver you.
In your despair, ‘lament’ is a good and proper response, but it isn’t where God wants you to remain. Even in lament, there is hope in the midst of heartbreak. Psalm 6 doesn’t end at verse 7:
Psalm 6:6–10 (CSB) — 6 I am weary from my groaning; with my tears I dampen my bed and drench my couch every night. 7 My eyes are swollen from grief; they grow old because of all my enemies. 8 Depart from me, all evildoers, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. 9 The LORD has heard my plea for help; the LORD accepts my prayer. 10 All my enemies will be ashamed and shake with terror; they will turn back and suddenly be disgraced.
…and Lamentations chapter 1 soon becomes Lamentations chapter 3.
Lamentations 3:16–24 (CSB) — 16 He ground my teeth with gravel and made me cower in the dust. 17 I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. 18 Then I thought, “My future is lost, as well as my hope from the LORD.” 19 Remember my affliction and my homelessness, the wormwood and the poison. 20 I continually remember them and have become depressed. 21 Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! 24 I say, “The LORD is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in him.”
So as Hosea begins, we see that despite the heartbreak, hope remains.
A Marriage With Meaning
The Lord was about to speak through Hosea by speaking to Hosea. It is important to notice not only what God asked Hosea to do, but why he asks him. Hosea’s broken marriage and abandoned affections demonstrated the ‘free love’ that the nation practiced with her neighbours and false gods. This would be a marriage with meaning. Hosea’s heartbreak was intended to be the stage on which God’s theatre of imminent judgement and ultimate hope would be performed.
Gomer: a wife of promiscuity
Gomer, within her time and culture, would have been a daughter of shame. When God said, “Marry a girl with a reputation”, Hosea knew who to go find. Nothing that was about to unfold would have come as a shock to anyone. Gomer was free with her love, free with her affections, and free with her ‘self’.
Gomer was an echo of Israel. Rather than seek security with God, Israel pursued relationships with those around her, thinking her political alliances would secure her safety. rather than find satisfaction in God, Israel chased after the gods of the nations around her, thinking that they would provide for her needs. As Gomer sold herself cheaply, so did Israel.
Jezreel: a son of judgement
The first of Gomer’s children was soon born. Each child named by the Hosea under the instruction of God. Each child a picture of what will be born of treating God with disdain. The eldest son, Jezreel, named after a valley of slaughter where God’s judgement was poured out on wickedness.
Jezreel was a reminder of the wickedness of God’s people and their blood-thirsty violence, even when trying to obey the command of God.
When Gomer’s first son was born, it was both a reminder of the nation’s sin, as well as of the judgement that was coming. The very place that Israel thought they were strongest was the very place that God would humble them (Hos 1:4-5)
Lo-ruhamah: a daughter unpitied
The literal meaning of her name is: ‘No Mercy’
What God was saying was, that he was known as a God ‘rich in mercy’, his mercy was about to dry up. His compassion was coming to an end. The northern kingdom of Israel was soon to be no more. Israel was all but completely destroyed—the bowl of God’s wrath was full and on the verge of spilling over the land. The constant abandonment of the people from God’s ways comes with severe consequence—utter destruction.
Lo-ammi: a son unclaimed
The literal meaning of his name is: ‘Not My People’
The abandonment of God for idols brings the devastating judgement of God: “Depart from me, I don’t know you. You are not mine, and I am not yours.” What an absolute tragedy this is.
Hope From Heartbreak
As Hosea makes a life with a wife who will not honour their vows, he walks under the scorn of public shame, with three children whose names shout, “Judgement is here. There will be no mercy. You are abandoned.”
No wonder we should fall to our knees with songs of lament. Our lives are no different to Israel’s. We are a people of fickle affections and wandering eyes. James says that with our mouth we “bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in God’s likeness. Blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, these things should not be this way.”
Chapter 1:10 begins with ‘yet’. Praise God for his relenting love found in the yet’s and but’s of the Bible! From them we hear the hope that springs from heartbreak.
A people accepted
From the place of utter destruction and desolation comes an image of uncountable blessing. And where ‘Lo-ammi (not my people) stood, they would hear, “You are sons and daughters of the Living God!”
A people reconciled
Where religious and political violence reigned, and brother was divided against brother, sister against sister, a new nation would rise under one King. Hostilities would end and peace would rule. Paul tells us in Ephesians that this has been fulfilled in Christ:
“At that time you were without Christ, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In his flesh, he made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that he might create in himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. He did this so that he might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross by which he put the hostility to death.” (Ephesians 2:12–16, CSB)
Sinners reconciled to God, and reconciled to each other, under one King—the Lord Jesus Christ.
A people loved
Here is the hope that rises out of heartbreak. In Christ, those who were once called, “Lo-ammi, not my people”, are now embraced in the arms of the Father and called, “My people.” Those once called, “Lo-ruhamah, no mercy”, are now dressed in the robes of acceptance and called, “Compassion—you have received mercy.” Listen to the worshipful tones of Peter’s letter to us:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9–10, CSB)
This is a story that allows the sighs of your lament to be turned to joyful songs of faithfulness. If you have lost hope. If all seems dark now and the path forward lost, then this is my prayer for you. I pray that you will see the light of Jesus face, that his grace would enrich your lament and transform it to joy.
“being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, so that you may have great endurance and patience, joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. In him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:11–14, CSB)