Hosea and Contemporary Christians

by Glen Penton

Hosea is a book in the Judeo-Christian Bible, and official Jewish and Christian teaching has always held that it is a message from God. Yet it is in the part of the Bible that most Christians call "old." It is a sad message about the sin and sorrows of a generation and culture far removed from ours. Why would God want Christians today to study it?

One key to our motivation to study the so-called "Old Testament" books like Hosea involves our perception of our relationship to the Family of Israel. Since the second century A. D., the traditional Christian viewpoint concerning Israel has held that the Jewish People are the "old" People of God. This mistaken viewpoint suggests that one day the "old" People of God sinned one time too many, so God broke all His promises and covenants with them, selected Himself a "new" people, and gave them a "New Testament". No wonder most Christians consider the Hebrew Scriptures obsolete! And no wonder Jews (including many who follow Yeshua) don't feel welcomed at church!

What I am about to say may sound blasphemous, but I do not intend it that way. It is offensive to me to write it, and may be offensive to you to read it; but it needs to be clearly communicated all the same: In the symbolism of the Book of Hosea, this "replacement" interpretation of God's People is, in effect, saying that God is divorced and remarried.

In modern times, a new and better hypothesis about God's People has emerged, one that takes the Scriptures themselves much more seriously. Technically called dispensationalism, this new perspective suggests that Israel and the Church are two unrelated Peoples of God, with different promises and commands, and used by God for His purposes at different times of history. This viewpoint is good in that it preserves the insight that God's love and His promises are both unconditional and irreversible. In Hosean terms, however, it still makes God out to be a bigamist (which, from a biblical but not a modern perspective, is better than being divorced and remarried, but far from ideal). And the part of the Bible written to the "other" People of God (including the Gospels!) is still treated as more-or-less irrelevant to Christians.

But a third perspective is available, which honors both God and His Word. According to one historical covenant view, there is only one Family of God, the People of Abraham, Isaac and Israel. Since the time of Joseph and his brothers, the majority of those born into the Family have always been in rebellion against the Father and under His wrath, but they are still family members and beloved for the sake of the patriarchs. And starting with Abraham himself, God has been adopting non-Jews into His Family, bringing them into all the rich heritage, and all the other privileges and responsibilities of being in the People of Israel.

And since those of us who are not Jewish by birth are naturalized by the King into His Kingdom, the Kingdom of Israel, we are no longer aliens and foreigners, no longer walled out of His holy Temple. The patriarchs are our new ancestors. The entire Bible is not only the Word of God but also our family album. To be sure, we are rejected by our new brothers and sisters who are still in rebellion, but the Father has accepted us fully, eternally and unconditionally as His very Own. We are grafted into the vine of Israel, which finds its true Roots and deepest Identity in the quintessential Jew, the Messiah Himself. And we long desperately for the dead branches around us to come into a living relationship with that truest and deepest Reality of Jewish identity.

From that perspective, the Book of Hosea can become living reality in our lives. God's wife, wayward now as then, is now our Mother, whom Messiah will soon bring into glorious renewal, a Bride without spot or wrinkle. The Land of Israel is our Land, where we will reign with our Father forever. The children are each of us Jews individually, whether born by natural birth into the Family or grafted in, and whether alive through vital trust in Him or spiritually dead and in need of that renewal. And just as we participate in the pain, sorrow, and confusion today of our Family's present dysfunctions, so much the more we will soon share in the eternal joy and consolation of restoration. Today He is beginning to bring Mom back home to the Land, and also bringing more and more of her children into right relationship with Him through faith in our Father and Elder Brother the dual-Nature Messiah. Tomorrow Mom's great Heart will be firmly, fully, finally, and forever turned back to her Magnificent Husband. Then death and sorrow will completely end; Heaven and earth will be one; and we will be there, loving each other and Him and her much more perfectly than we can today. And that is why Hosea's message is so important to you and me right now, regardless of our ethnic backgrounds.

For more on the subject of our heritage and standing as His children see the following articles:
The article on biblical history
What it means to be part of Israel
More about Israel as God's bride
Hosea and the Land
Here is an experiment to try: consider how each of the three perspectives discussed above would interpret the New Covenant.
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